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Among the courtiers who, ever since Buonaparte was made First Consul, has maintained a great ascendancy over him, is the present grand marshal of his court, the general of division, Duroc. With some parts, but greater presumption, this young man is destined by his master to occupy the most confidential places near his person; and to his care are entrusted the most difficult and secret missions at foreign courts. When he is absent from France, the liberty of the continent is in danger; and when in the Thuileries, or at St. Cloud, Buonapatte thinks himself always safe. Gerard Christophe Michel Duroc was born at Ponta-Mousson, in the department of Meurthe, on the 25th of October, 1772, of poor but honest parents. His father kept a petty chandler's shop; but by the interest and generosity of Abbe Duroc, a distant relation, he was so well educated, that in March, 1792, he became a sub-lieutenant of the artillery. In 1796 he served in Italy, as a captain, under General Andreossy, by whom he was recommended to General l’Espinasse, then commander of the artillery qf the army of Italy, who made him an aide-de-camp.– In that situation Buonaparte remarked his activity, and was pleased with his manners, and therefore attached him as an aidede-camp to himself. Duroc soon became a favourite with his chief, and, notwithstanding the intrigues of his rivals, he has continued to be so to this day. It has been asserted, by his enemies, no doubt, that by implicit obedience to his general’s orders, by an unresisting compla– cency, and by executing, without hesitation, the most cruel mandates of his superior, he has fixed himself so firmly in his good opinion, that he is irremoveable. It has also been stated that it was Duroc who commanded the drowning and burying alive of the wounded French soldiers in Italy in 1797; and that it was he who inspected their poisoning in Syria in 1799, where he was wounded during the siege of St. Jean d’Acre. He was among the few officers whom Buonaparte selected for his companions, when he quitted the army of Egypt, and landed with him in France in October, 1799. Hitherto Duroc had only shown himself a brave soldier and obedient officer; but after the revolution which made Buonaparte
a First Consul, he entered upon another career. He was then, for the first time, employed in a diplomatic mission to Berlin, where he so far insinuated himself into the good graces of their Prussian Majesties, that the King admitted him to the royal table, and on the parade at Potsdam presented him to his generals and officers, as an aide-de-camp du filus grand homme que je connois ; whilst the Queen gave him a scarf, knitted by her own fair hands. The fortunate result of Duroc's intrigues in Prussia, in 1799, encouraged Buonaparte to dispatch him, in 1801, to Russia; where Alexander I. received him with that noble condecension, So natural to this great and good prince. He succeeded at St. Petersburgh in arranging the political and commercial difficulties and disagreements between France and Russia; but his proposal for a defensive alliance was declined. An anecdote is related of his political campaign in the North, upon the barren banks of the Neva, which, in causing much entertainment to the inhabitants of the fertile banks of the Seine, has not a little displeased the military diplomatist. Among Talleyrand's female agents, sent to cajole Paul I. during the latter part of his reign, was a Madame Bonoeil, whose real name is de l' When this unfortunate prince was no more, most of the French male and female intriguers in Russia thought it necessary to shift their quarters, and to expect, on the territory of neutral Prussia, further instructions from Paris, where and how to proceed. Madame Bonoeil had removed to Koenigsberg. In the second week of May, 1801, when Duroc passed through that town for St. Petersburgh, he visited this lady, according to the orders of Buonaparte, and obtained from her a list of the names of the principal persons, who were inclined to be serviceable to France, and might be trusted by him upon the present occasion. By inattention or mistake she had mis-spelled the name of one of the most trusty and active adherents of Buonaparte; and Duroc, therefore, instead of addressing himself to the Polish Count de S–lz, went to the Polish Count de S tz. This latter was as much flattered as surprised, upon seeing an aid-de-camp and envoy of the First Consul of France enter his apartments, seldom visited before but by usurers, game
sters, and creditors; and on hearing the object of this visit, began to think either the envoy mad or himself dreaming. Understanding, however, that money would be of little consideration, if the point desired by the First Consul could be carried, he determined to take advantage of this fortunate hit, and invited Duroc to sup with him the same evening; when he promised him he should meet with persons who could do his business, provided his pecuniary resources were as ample as he had stated. This Count de S tz was one of the most extravagant and profligate subjects that Russia had acquired by the partition of Poland. After squandering away his own patrimony, he had ruined his mother and two sisters, and subsisted now entirely by gambling and borrowing. Among his associates, in similar circumstances with himself, was a Chevalier de Gausac, a French adventurer, pretending to be an emigrant from the vicinity of Thoulouse. To him was communicated what had happened in the morning; and his advice was asked how to act in the evening. It was soon settled, that de Gausac should be transformed into a Russian Count de W-, a nephew and confidential secretary of the chancellor of the same name; and that one Caumartin, another French adventurer, who taught fencing at St. Petersburgh, should act the part of Prince M–, an aid-de-camp of the emperor; and that all three together should strip Duroc, and share the spoil. At the appointed hour Buonaparte's agent arrived, and was completely the dupe of these adventurers, who plundered him of twelve hundred thousand livres, 50,000l. Though not many days passed before he discovered the imposition, prudence prevented him from denouncing the impostors; and this blunder would have remained a secret between himself, Buonaparte, and Talleyrand, had not the unusual expenses of Caumartin excited. the suspicion of the Russian police minister, who soon discovered: the source from which they had flowed. De Gausac had the imprudence to return to this capital last spring, and is now shut up in the Temple, where he probably will be forgotten. t As this loss was more ascribed to the negligence of Madame Bondeil, than to the mismanagement of Duroc, or his want of penetration, his reception at the Thuileries, though not so gracious as on his return from Berlin, nineteen months before, was however such as convinced him, that if he had not increased, he had at the same time not lessened, the confidence of his master:
and indeed, shortly afterwards, Buonaparte created him first pre
fect of iis palace, and procured him for a wife the only daughter of a rich Spanish banker. Rumour, however, says, that Buonaparte was not quite disinterested, when he commanded and concluded this match, and that the fortune of Madame Duroc has paid for the expensive supper of her husband with Count de S–tz at St. Petersburgh.
THOUGH the treaty of Luneville will probably soon be buried in the rubbish of the treaty of Amiens, the influence of their parents in the cabinet of St. Cloud is as great as ever: I say their parents, because the crafty ex-bishop, Talleyrand, foreseeing the short existence of these bastard diplomatic acts, took care to compliment the innocent Joseph Buonaparte with a share in the parentage, although they were his own exclusive offspring.
Joseph Buonaparte, who, in 1797, from an attorney’s clerk, at Ajaccio, in Corsica, was at once transformed into an ambassador at the court of Rome, had hardly read a treaty, or seen a dispatch written, before he was himself to conclude the one, and to dictate the other. Had he not been supported by able secretaries, government would soon have been convinced, that it is as impossible to confer talents, as it is easy to give places to men to whom nature has refused parts, and on whom a scanty or neglected education has bestowed no improvements. Deep and reserved, like a true Indian, but vain and ambitious, like his brothers, under the character of a statesman, he has only been the political puppet of Talleyrand. If he has sometimes been applauded upon the stages where he has been placed, he is also exposed to the hooting and hisses of the suffering multitude ; while the minister pockets undisturbed all the entrance-money, and conceals his wickedness
and art under the cloak of Joseph; which protects him besides
against the anger and fury of Napoleone. No negotiation of any consequence is undertaken, no diplomatic arrangements are under consideration, but Joseph is always consulted, and Napoleone informed of the consultation. Hence none of Buonaparte's ministers has suffered less from his violence and resentment than Talleyrand, who, in the political department, governs him who governs France and Italy. As early as 1800, Talleyrand determined to throw the odium of his own outrages against the law of nations upon the brother of his master. Lucien Buonaparte was that year sent ambassador to Spain, but not sharing with the minister the large profits of his appointment, his diplomatic career was but short. Joseph is as greedy and as ravenous as Lucien, but not so frank or indiscreet. Whether he knew or not of Talleyrand's immense gain by the pacification at Luneville in February, 1801, he did not neglect his own individual interest. The day previous to the signature of this treaty, he dispatched a courier to the rich army contractor, Collet, acquainting him, in secret, of the issue of the negotiation, and ordering him, at the same time, to purchase six millions of livres, 250,000l. in the stocks, on his account. On Joseph’s arrival at Paris, Collet sent him the state bonds for the sum ordered, together with a very polite letter; but though he waited on the grand pacificator several times afterwards, all admittance was refused, until a douceur of one million of livres, nearly 42,000l. of Collet’s private profit, opened the door. In return, during the discussion between France and England in the summer of 1801, and in the spring of 1802, Collet was continued Joseph’s private agent, and shared with his patron, within twelve months, a clear gain of thirty-two millions of livres. Some of the secret articles of the treaty of Luneville gave Aus. tria, during the insurrection in Switzerland, in the autumn of 1802, an opportunity and a right to make representations against the interference of France ; a circumstance which greatly dis
pleased Buonaparte, who reproached Talleyrand for his want of
foresight, and of having been outwitted by the cabinet of Vienna. The minister, on the very next day, laid before his master the correspondence that had passed between him and Joseph Buonaparte, during the negotiation, concerning these secret articles.