Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV: Of the Entry of the Allies into Paris, and the Different Parties Which Then Existed in France. - Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.)
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CHAPTER IV: Of the Entry of the Allies into Paris, and the Different Parties Which Then Existed in France. - Germaine de Staël, Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.) 
Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution, newly revised translation of the 1818 English edition, edited, with an introduction and notes by Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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Of the Entry of the Allies into Paris, and the Different Parties Which Then Existed in France.
The four great powers, England, Austria, Russia, and Prussia, who formed a coalition in 1813 to repel the aggressions of Bonaparte, had never before acted in union, and no Continental state was able to resist such a mass of force. The French nation might perhaps have still been capable of defending itself before despotism had compressed all its energy; but as the struggle on the part of France was to be sustained only by soldiers, army against army, the balance of numbers was entirely, and beyond all proportion, in favor of the foreigners. The sovereigns who led on these troops, amounting, as well regulars as militia, to nearly eight hundred thousand men, displayed a bravery that gives them an inextinguishable right to the affection of their people; but amidst these great personages we must specially mention the Emperor of Russia, who contributed most eminently to the success of the coalition of 1813.
Far from thinking that the merit of the Emperor Alexander is exaggerated by flattery, I would almost say that sufficient justice is not done him, because, like all the friends of liberty, he labors under the preconception existing against the way of thinking in what is called the good company of Europe. People are always attributing his political views to personal calculations, as if in our days disinterested sentiments could no longer enter the human heart. Doubtless, it is of high importance to Russia that France should not be crushed, and France can be restored only by the aid of a constitutional government supported by the assent of the nation. But was the Emperor Alexander actuated by selfish thoughts when he conferred on the part of Poland ceded to him by the last treaties those rights which human reason at present calls for in all directions? Some wish to reproach him with the admiration which he testified during a time for Bonaparte; but was it not natural that great military talents should dazzle a young sovereign of a warlike spirit? Was it possible that he, distant as he was from France, should penetrate, like us, through the artifices of which Bonaparte made a frequent use, in preference even to all the other means at his command? When the Emperor Alexander acquired a thorough knowledge of the enemy with whom he had to contend, what resistance did he not oppose to him? One of his capitals was taken: still he refused that peace which Napoléon offered him with extreme eagerness. After the troops of Bonaparte were driven from Russia, Alexander carried all his force into Germany to aid in the deliverance of that country; and when the remembrance of the French power still caused hesitation in regard to the plan of campaign proper to be followed, he decided that it was indispensable to march to Paris;1 and all the successes of Europe are connected with the boldness of that resolution. It would be painful to me, I confess, to render homage to this determination, had not the Emperor Alexander in 1814 acted a generous part toward France; and had not he, in the advice that he gave, constantly respected the honor and liberty of the nation. The liberal side is that which he has supported on every occasion;2 and if he has not made it triumph so much as might have been wished, ought we not at least to be surprised that such an instinct for what is noble, such a love of what is just, should have been born in his heart, like a flower of heaven, in the midst of so many obstacles?
I have had the honor of conversing several times with the Emperor Alexander at St. Petersburg and at Paris, at the time of his reverses as at the time of his triumph.3 Equally unaffected, equally calm in either situation, his mind, penetrating, judicious, and wise, has ever been consistent. His conversation is wholly unlike what is commonly called an official conversation; no insignificant question, no mutual embarrassment condemns those who approach him to those Chinese phrases, if we may so express ourselves, which are more like bows than words. The love of humanity inspires the Emperor Alexander with the desire of knowing the true sentiments of others, and of treating, with those whom he thinks worthy of the discussion, on the great views which may be conducive to the progress of social order. On his first entrance into Paris, he discoursed with Frenchmen of different opinions like a man who can venture to enter the lists of conversation without reserve.
In war his conduct is equally courageous and humane; and of all lives it is only his own that he exposes without reflection. We are justified in expecting from him that he will be eager to do his country all the good which the state of its knowledge admits. Although he keeps on foot a great armed force, we should do wrong to consider him in Europe as an ambitious monarch. His opinions have more sway with him than his passions; and it is not, so far as I can judge, at conquest that he aims; a representative government, religious toleration, the improvement of mankind by liberty and the Christian religion are no chimeras in his eyes. If he accomplishes his designs, posterity will award him all the honors of genius; but if the circumstances by which he is surrounded, if the difficulty of finding instruments to second him, do not permit of his realizing his wishes, those who shall have known him will at least be apprised that he had conceived the most elevated views.
It was at the time of the invasion of Russia by the French that the Emperor Alexander saw the Prince Royal of Sweden, formerly General Bernadotte, in the town of Abo, on the borders of the Baltic.4 Bonaparte had made every effort to prevail on that prince to join him in his attack against Russia: he had made him the tempting offer of Finland, so lately taken from Sweden, and so bitterly regretted by the Swedes. Bernadotte, from respect to Alexander and from hatred to the tyranny which Bonaparte exercised over France and Europe, joined the coalition and refused the proposals of Napoléon, which consisted principally in a permission granted to Sweden to take or re-take all that might suit her, either among her neighbors or her allies.
The Emperor of Russia, in his conference with the Prince Royal of Sweden, asked his advice as to the means that ought to be employed against the invasion of the French. Bernadotte explained them like an able general who had formerly defended France against foreigners, and his confidence in the final result of the war had considerable weight. Another circumstance does great honor to the sagacity of the Crown Prince of Sweden. When news was brought to him that the French had entered Moscow, the envoys of the different powers who were then in his palace at Stockholm were thunderstruck; he alone declared firmly that from the date of that event, the campaign was lost to the conquerors; and addressing himself to the Austrian envoy at a time when the troops of that power still formed a part of the army of Napoléon: “You may,” he said, “write to your Emperor that Napoléon is lost, although the capture of Moscow seems the greatest exploit in his military career.” I was near him when he expressed himself in this way, and did not, I confess, put entire faith in his predictions. But his profound knowledge of the art of war disclosed to him an event at that time least expected by others. In the vicissitudes of the ensuing year, Bernadotte rendered eminent services to the coalition, as well by participating, with activity and intelligence, in the war at moments of the greatest difficulty, as in keeping up the hopes of the Allies when, after the battles gained in Germany by the new army raised, as if from the earth, by the voice of Bonaparte they began once more to consider the French as invincible.
Yet Bernadotte has enemies in Europe, because he did not enter France with his troops at the time that the Allies, after their triumph at Leipzig, passed the Rhine and marched on Paris. It is, I believe, very easy to justify his conduct on this occasion. Had the interest of Sweden required the invasion of France, it would have been incumbent on him, in making the attack, to forget that he was a Frenchman, as he had accepted the honor of being the head of another state; but Sweden was interested only in the deliverance of Germany; to bring France into a state of subjugation is incompatible with the security of the northern powers. It was therefore allowable to General Bernadotte to stop short on reaching the frontiers of his native land; to decline bearing arms against that country to which he was indebted for his existence and his fame. It has been pretended that he was ambitious to succeed Bonaparte;5 no one knows what an ardent man may imagine in respect to fame; but it is at least certain that by not rejoining the Allies with his troops, he deprived himself of every chance of success through their means. Bernadotte therefore showed on this occasion only an honorable feeling, without being able to flatter himself with deriving from it any personal advantage.
A singular anecdote relative to the Prince Royal of Sweden deserves to be put on record. Bonaparte, far from wishing him to be chosen by the Swedish nation, was very dissatisfied at it, and Bernadotte had reason to fear that he would not allow him to quit France. In the field Bernadotte has considerable boldness, but in all that relates to politics he is prudent; and knowing perfectly how to feel his ground, he marches with force only toward that point of which fortune opens to him the path. For several years back he had dexterously kept himself in a middle state between the good and bad graces of the Emperor of France; but having too much talent to be ranked among the officers formed for blind obedience, he was always more or less suspected by Napoléon, who did not like to find a saber and an independent mind in the same man. Bernadotte, on relating to Napoléon in what manner his election had just taken place in Sweden, looked at him with those dark and piercing eyes which give something very singular to the expression of his features. Bonaparte walked beside him and stated objections which Bernadotte refuted as tranquilly as possible, endeavoring to conceal the keenness of his wishes; finally, after an hour’s conversation, Napoléon said suddenly to him: “Well, let fate be fulfilled!” Bernadotte soon caught the words, but to be the more assured of his good fortune, he repeated them as if he had not understood their meaning: “Let fate be fulfilled,” said Napoléon once more, and Bernadotte departed to reign over Sweden. There are some examples of points being gained in conversation with Bonaparte, in contradiction to his interest; but it is one of those chances, connected with his temper, on which no one can count.
Bonaparte’s campaign against the allies in the winter of 1814 is generally admitted to have been very able; and even those Frenchmen whom he had proscribed forever could not themselves avoid wishing that he should succeed in saving the independence of their country. What a fatal combination, and how unprecedented in history! A despot was then defending the cause of liberty by endeavoring to repulse the foreigners whom his ambition had brought on the French territory! He did not deserve of Providence the honor of repairing the mischief that he had done. The French nation remained neutral in the great struggle about to decide its fate; that nation formerly so animated, so vehement, was ground to dust by fifteen years of tyranny. Those who knew the country were well aware that life remained at the bottom of those paralyzed souls, and union in the midst of the apparent diversity produced by discontent. But one would have said that, during his reign, Bonaparte had covered the eyes of France like those of a falcon who is kept hood-winked until let loose on his prey. People did not know where the country was; they would no longer hear of Bonaparte, nor of any of the governments whose names were mentioned. The moderate conduct of the European powers prevented them from being considered as enemies, without its being possible, however, to welcome them as allies. France, in this condition, underwent the yoke of foreigners because she had not redeemed herself from that of Bonaparte; from what evils would she have escaped if, as in the early days of the Revolution, she had preserved in her heart a sacred horror of despotism!
Alexander entered Paris almost alone, without guards, without any precautions; the people were pleased at this generous confidence, the crowd pressed around his horse, and the French, so long victorious, did not yet feel themselves humiliated in the first moments of their defeat. Every party hoped for a deliverer in the Emperor of Russia, and certainly he carried that wish in his breast. He stopped at the house of M. de Talleyrand, who having, throughout all the stages of the Revolution, preserved the reputation of a man of much talent, was capable of giving him correct information on every point. But, as we have already mentioned, M. de Talleyrand considers politics as a maneuver to be regulated by the prevailing winds, and stability of opinion is by no means his characteristic. This is called cleverness, and something of this cleverness is perhaps necessary to veer on thus to the end of a mortal life; but the fate of a country should be guided by men whose principles are invariable; and in times of trouble, above all, that flexibility which seems the height of political art plunges public affairs into insurmountable difficulties. Be this as it may, M. de Talleyrand is, when he aims at pleasing, the most agreeable man whom the old government produced; it was chance that placed him amidst popular dissensions; he brought to them the manners of a court; and those graces which ought to be suspected by the spirit of democracy have often seduced men of coarse dispositions, who felt themselves captivated without knowing how. Nations which aim at liberty should beware of choosing such defenders; those poor nations without armies, and without treasure, inspire attachment only to conscientious minds.
A government proclaimed in Paris by the victorious armies of Europe was an event of high interest to the world; whatever that government might be, it could not be concealed that the circumstances which led to its establishment rendered its position very difficult; no people possessed of a spirit of pride can bear the intervention of foreigners in its interior affairs. In vain will these foreigners do whatever is reasonable and wise; their influence is sufficient to pervert even happiness itself. The Emperor of Russia, impressed with the importance of public opinion, did all that was in his power to leave to that opinion as much liberty as circumstances allowed. The army was desirous of a regency, in the hope that, under the minority of the son of Napoléon, the same government and the same military employments would be kept up. The nation wished that which it will always wish—the maintenance of constitutional principles. Some individuals believed that the Duke of Orléans,6 a man of talent, a sincere friend of liberty, and a soldier in the cause of France at Jemmappes, would serve as a mediator between the different interests; but at that time he had hardly lived in France, and his name was indicative rather of a treaty than of a party. The impulse of the allied sovereigns was naturally in favor of the old dynasty; it was called for by the clergy, the nobles, and the adherents whom they were collecting in some departments of the south and west. But at the same time, the army contained scarcely any officers or soldiers reared in obedience to princes absent for so many years. The interests accumulated by the Revolution, the suppression of tithes and feudal rights, the sale of national lands, the extinction of the privileges of the nobility and clergy; all that constitutes the wealth and greatness of the mass of the people rendered it necessarily inimical to the partisans of the old government, who came forward as the exclusive defenders of the royal family; and until the constitutional charter had given proof of the moderation and enlightened wisdom of Louis XVIII, it was natural that the return of the Bourbons should excite an apprehension of all the inconveniences attendant on the restoration of the Stuarts in England.
The Emperor Alexander estimated all those circumstances, as would have been done by an enlightened Frenchman, and was of the opinion that a compact ought to be concluded, or rather renewed, between the nation and the king. For if in former ages the barons assigned limits to the throne and required of the monarch the maintenance of their privileges, it was fair that France, which now formed only one people, should, by its representatives, possess those rights which the nobles enjoyed formerly, and enjoy still in several countries of Europe. Besides, Louis XVIII having returned to France only by the support of foreigners, it was of importance to draw a veil over that sad circumstance by voluntary and mutual securities between Frenchmen and their king. Policy as well as equity recommended this system; and if Henri IV, after a long civil war, submitted to the necessity of adopting the creed of the majority of the French, a man of so much judgment as Louis XVIII might well conquer such a kingdom as France by accepting a situation similar to that of the king of England: in truth it is not so much to be disdained.
[1. ] On March 24, 1814.
[2. ] In reality, Tsar Alexander I endorsed a number of illiberal policies after 1812 and did not introduce representative institutions in Russia, as Madame de Staël had hoped he would.
[3. ] Madame de Staël met the tsar for the first time on August 17, 1812. She recounted her conversations and impressions in Ten Years of Exile, pt. II, chap. xvii, 201–5. For more information about her sojourn in Russia, see Fairweather, Madame de Staël, 391–415.
[4. ] August 27–30, 1812.
[5. ] Bernadotte stopped his advance at Liège in late February 1814. His ambition was to succeed Napoléon with the aid of Tsar Alexander I.
[6. ] The future King Louis-Philippe I (r. 1830–48).