History of Napoleon Bonaparte John Abbott

Saint Helena — (concluded)



DECEMBER 10, 1815.  The Emperor was this day conducted to his new residence at Longwood.  In cheerful spirits he rode on horseback along the rugged path of barren volcanic rocks, a distance of two miles, until he arrived at his final prison-house.  Here he found, in the midst of bleak, storm-washed crags, a long, low, one-story house, rudely put together, but far too small for the accommodation of the few yet devoted friends who had come to share his captivity.  The Emperor examined his prison with serenity and good-nature, seeming to think more of the comfort of his companions than of his own.

About a mile from Longwood, on the road to the Briars, there was a small hovel, called Hut’s Gate, which General Bertrand, with his wife and son, was permitted to occupy.  General Gourgaud and Count Las Cases eagerly solicited permission to sleep in teats, rather than remain in Jamestown, apart from the Emperor.  A tent under the windows of the Emperor, was pitched for General Gourgaud ;  and an unfinished room was hastily prepared for Las Cases.  Dr. O’Meara was also under the necessity of dwelling in a tent.  In process of time a room was prepared for each of these gentlemen.  For the subsistence of the imperial captive and his exiled court, the British Ministry appropriated sixty thousand dollars a year.  This was a small sum, considering the enormous expense of provisions, and of every comfort, upon that distant and barren rock.  The followers of the Emperor resolutely persisted in treating him with all that deference and respect which were due to his illustrious character and to his past achievements.  They refused to acquiesce in the insult cast upon France, upon them, and upon Napoleon, by addressing him as if he had been but a successful general, who, by the energies of the sword, had usurped sovereign power.

The accompanying view of the house at Longwood, with the plan of the rooms, will give an idea of the accommodation prepared for the Emperor and his party of twenty-two individuals.  The Emperor immediately established himself in his ordinary habits of industry.  He did every thing in his power to cheer his companions, and to promote kindly feelings throughout his household.  Through the remaining monotonous and melancholy years of captivity, sickness, and death, he was by far the most cheerful and uncomplaining of the whole number.*

The Emperor often invited the children of General Bertrand and General Montholon into his room.  They were always delighted with this privilege.  They came rushing to Napoleon with their playthings, shouting and laughing in a perfect tumult of joy, and appealing to him as the arbiter of their discussions.  The Emperor entered heartily into their sports, and surrendered himself to all the fun and the frolic.  “How happy they are,” said the Emperor one day, “when I send for them or play with them.  All their wishes are satisfied.  Passions have not yet approached their hearts.  They feel the plenitude of existence.  Let them enjoy it.  At their age I thought and felt as they do.  But what storms since.  How much that little Hortensia grows and improves.  If she lives, of how many young élégans will she not disturb the repose.  I shall then be no more.”

At one time he took a deep interest in his little garden, and, with his affectionate companions, beguiled many weary hours with the spade and the hoe.  He planted shrubbery and flowers, and raised peas and beans.

He had a basin constructed on the grounds for a fish pond.  Some fishes were obtained, which Napoleon was desirous of placing in the water with his own hand.  He wished all the children of Longwood to accompany him, that he might enjoy their happiness.  The little group, buoyant with hope and pleasure, were soon gathered around the Emperor whom they so dearly loved.  The gloom of Longwood was relieved by this gleam of sunshine, as Napoleon, with his retinue of artless prattlers, went to the water and watched the arrowy movements of the fishes in its crystal depths.

A picture of his son had been placed in a box of books transmitted to him from Europe.  Tears gushed into the eyes of Napoleon as he gazed upon it.  The attendants, moved by this outburst of parental love, stopped their work of opening the packages, and stood in an attitude of sympathy.  “Dear boy !” exclaimed the Emperor;  “if he does not fall a victim to some political atrocity, he will not be unworthy of his father.”

The annoyances and mental tortures to which the Emperor was exposed were innumerable.  Las Cases was torn from him, and then his physician, O’Meara.  For a long time the Emperor was slowly sinking into the grave without any medical attendance, as he resolutely refused to see any agent of his insulting jailer, Sir Hudson Lowe.

In the year 1819 the British government consented that the friends of Napoleon should send to him from Europe another physician.  On the 19th of September of that year, Doctor Antommarchi, who had been selected, arrived at St. Helena.  Two ecclesiastics accompanied Dr. Antommarchi, as Napoleon had expressed reiterated and very earnest desires that the ordinances of religion might be regularly administered to his household at St. Helena.  One of these, the Abbé Buonavita, was an aged prelate, who had been chaplain to Napoleon’s mother at Elba, and also to the Princess Pauline at Rome.  The other was a young man, the Abbé Vignali, who was also a physician.

Sept. 22, 1819.  Dr. Antommarchi had his first interview with Napoleon.  He found him in bed, in a small, dark room, very meanly furnished.  It was a quarter past two o’clock in the afternoon.  The room was so dark that when the Doctor first entered he could not see Napoleon.  The Emperor perceiving this, in gentle tones requested him to approach.  He questioned him very minutely respecting his parentage, his past history, his motives for consenting to come to such a miserable rock, and his medical education.  Satisfied with his replies, the Emperor entered into a frank and touching conversation respecting his friends in Europe.

He then saw the two Abbés.  At the close of a confiding and an affecting interview, the Emperor said, in the tones of a man upon the verge of the grave :

“We have been too long deprived of the ordinances of religion not to be eager to enjoy them immediately, now that they are within our power.  Hereafter we will have the communion service every Sabbath, and we will observe the sacred days recognized by the Concordat.  I wish to establish at St. Helena the religious ceremonies which are celebrated in France.  On these occasions we will erect a movable altar in the dining-room.  You, Mons. Abbé, are aged and infirm.  I will select the hour which will be most convenient for you.  You may officiate between nine and ten o’clock in the morning.”

In the evening the Emperor was alone with Count Montholon.  The Count was not a religious man.  He has frankly said, “In the midst of camps I forgot religion.”  Napoleon, with great joy, informed Montholon of his intention to attend mass the next day.  He then uttered the following remarkable confession :

“Upon the throne, surrounded by generals far from devout, yes, I will not deny it, I had too much regard for public opinion, and far too much timidity, and perhaps I did not dare to say aloud, ‘I am a believer.’  I said, ‘Religion is a power—a political engine.’  But, even then, if any one had questioned me directly, I should have replied, ‘Yes !  I am a Christian.’  And if it had been necessary to confess my faith at the price of martyrdom, I should have found all my firmness.  Yes !  I should have endured it rather than deny my religion.  But now that I am at St. Helena, why should I dissemble that which I believe at the bottom of my heart ?  Here I live for myself.  I wish for a priest, I desire the communion of the Lord’s Supper, and to confess what I believe.  I will go to the mass.  I will not force any one to accompany me there.  But those who love me will follow me.”

General Bertrand was an avowed unbeliever, and often displeased Napoleon by speaking disrespectfully of sacred things.  The Emperor was one day, about this time, conversing with him upon the subject of atheism.

“Your spirit,” said he, “is it the same as the spirit of the herdsman, whom you see in the valley below feeding his flocks ?  Is there not as great a distance between you and him, as between a horse and a man ?  But how do you know this ?  You have never seen his spirit.  No !  the spirit of a beast has the endowment of being invisible.  It has that privilege equally with the spirit of the most exalted genius.  “But you have talked with the herdsman ;  you have examined his countenance ;  you have questioned him, and his responses have told you what he is.  You judge, then, the cause from the effects ;  and you judge correctly.  Certainly your reason, your intelligence, your faculties are vastly above those of the herdsman.  Very well ;  I judge in the same way.  Divine effects compel me to believe in a Divine Cause.  Yes !  there is a Divine Cause, a Sovereign Reason, an Infinite Being.  That Cause is the cause of causes.  That Reason is the reason creative of intelligence.  There exists an Infinite Being, compared with whom you, General Bertrand, are but an atom ;  compared with whom I, Napoleon, with all my genius, am truly nothing—a pure nothing ;  do you understand ?  I perceive him, God ;  I see him ;  have need of him ;  I believe in him.  If you do not perceive him ;  if you do not believe in him ;  very well, so much the worse for you.  But you will, General Bertrand, yet believe in God.  I can pardon many things ;  but I have a horror of an atheist and a materialist.  Think you that I can have any sympathies in common with the man who does not believe in the existence of the soul ?  who believes that he is but a lump of clay, and who wishes that I may also be like him, a lump of clay ?”

General Montholon, after his return to Europe, said to M. de Beauterne :

“Yes; the Emperor was a Christian.  With him faith was a natural, a fundamental principle.  The religious sentiment was immediately roused when in the slightest degree summoned by an exterior sensation or an incidental thought.  When any thing cruel or irreligious presented itself, it seemed to do violence to his deepest feelings ;  he could not restrain himself.  He protested, opposed, and was indignant.  Such was his natural character.  I have seen it, yes, I have seen it ;  and I, a man of camps, who had forgotten my religion—I confess it—who did not practice it, I at first was astonished ;  but then I received thoughts and impressions which still continue with me the subjects of profound reflection.  I have seen the Emperor religious, and I have said to myself, ‘He died a Christian, in the fear of God.’ I can not forget that old age is upon me, that I must soon die, and I wish to die like the Emperor.  I do not doubt even that General Bertrand often recalls, as I do, the religious conversations and the death of the Emperor.  The General, perhaps, may finish his career like his master and his friend.”[2]

The conversation at St. Helena very frequently turned upon the subject of religion.  One day Napoleon was speaking of the Divinity of Christ, General Bertrand said :

“I can not conceive, Sire, how a great man like you can believe that the Supreme Being ever exhibited himself to men under a human form, with a body, a face, mouth, and eyes.  Let Jesus be whatever you please—the highest intelligence, the purest heart, the most profound legislator, and, in all respects, the most singular being who has ever existed.  I grant it.  Still he was simply a man, who taught his disciples, and deluded credulous people, as did Orpheus, Confucius, Brahma.  Jesus caused himself to be adored, because his predecessors, Isis and Osiris, Jupiter and Juno, had proudly made themselves objects of worship.  The ascendency of Jesus over his time, was like the ascendency of the gods and the heroes of fable.  If Jesus has impassioned and attached to his chariot the multitude—if he has revolutionized the world—I see in that only the power of genius, and the action of a commanding spirit, which vanquishes the world, as so many conquerors have done—Alexander, Caesar, you, Sire, and Mohammed with a sword.”

Napoleon replied :

“I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man.  Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions.  That resemblance does not exist.  There is between Christianity and whatever other religion the distance of infinity.

“We can say to the authors of every other religion, ‘You are neither gods nor the agents of the Deity.  You are but missionaries of falsehood, moulded from the same clay with the rest of mortals.  You are made with all the passions and vices inseparable from them.  Your temples and your priests proclaim your origin.  Such will be the judgment, the cry of conscience, of whoever examines the gods and the temples of paganism.

“Paganism was never accepted, as truth, by the wise men of Greece ;  neither by Socrates, Pythagoras, Plato, Anaxagoras, or Pericles.  On the other side, the loftiest intellects, since the advent of Christianity, have had faith, a living faith, a practical faith, in the mysteries and the doctrines of the gospel ;  not only Bossuet and Fenelon, who were preachers, but Descartes and Newton, Leibnitz and Pascal, Corneille and Racine, Charlemagne and Louis XIV.

“Paganism is the work of man.  One can here read but our imbecility.  What do these gods, so boastful, know more than other mortals ?  these legislators, Greek or Roman, this Numa, this Lycurgus, these priests of India or of Memphis, this Confucius, this Mohammed ?  Absolutely nothing.  They have made a perfect chaos of morals.  There is not one among them all who has said any thing new in reference to our future destiny, to the soul, to the essence of God, to the creation.  Enter the sanctuaries of paganism.  You there find perfect chaos, a thousand contradictions, war between the gods, the immobility of sculpture, the division and the rending of unity, the parceling out of the divine attributes mutilated or denied in their essence, the sophisms of ignorance and presumption, polluted fétes, impurity and abomination adored, all sorts of corruption festering in the thick shades, with the rotten wood, the idol, and his priest.  Does this honor God, or does it dishonor him ?  Are these religions and these gods to be compared with Christianity ?

“As for me, I say no.  I summon entire Olympus to my tribunal.  I judge the gods, but am far from prostrating myself before their vain images.  The gods, the legislators of India and of China, of Rome and of Athens, have nothing which can overawe me.  Not that I am unjust to them !  No ;  I appreciate them, because I know their value.  Undeniably princes, whose existence is fixed in the memory as an image of order and of power, as the ideal of force and beauty, such princes were no ordinary men.

“I see in Lycurgus, Numa, and Mohammed only legislators, who, having the first rank in the State, have sought the best solution of the social problem ;  but I see nothing there which reveals divinity.  They themselves have never raised their pretensions so high.  As for me, I recognize the gods and these great men as beings like myself.  They have performed a lofty part in their times, as I have done.  Nothing announces them divine.  On the contrary, there are numerous resemblances between them and myself ;  foibles and errors which ally them to me and to humanity.

“It is not so with Christ.  Every thing in him astonishes me.  His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me.  Between him and whoever else in the world there is no possible term of comparison.  He is truly a being by himself.  His ideas and his sentiments, the truths which he announces, his manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things.

“His birth, and the history of his life ;  the profundity of his doctrine, which grapples the mightiest difficulties, and which is of those difficulties the most admirable solution ;  his gospel, his apparition, his empire, his march across the ages and the realms—every thing is, for me, a prodigy, a mystery insoluble, which plunges me into a reverie from which I can not escape—a mystery which is there before my eyes—a mystery which I can neither deny nor explain.  Here I see nothing human.

“The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, every thing is above me—every thing remains grand, of a grandeur which overpowers.  His religion is a revelation from an intelligence, which certainly is not that of man.  There is there a profound originality, which has created a series of words and of maxims before unknown.  Jesus borrowed nothing from our sciences.  One can absolutely find nowhere, but in him alone, the imitation or the example of his life.  He is not a philosopher, since he advances by miracles, and from the commencement his disciples worshiped him.  He persuades them far more by an appeal to the heart than by any display of method and of logic.  Neither did he impose upon them any preliminary studies, or any knowledge of letters.  All his religion consists in believing.

“In fact, the sciences and philosophy avail nothing for salvation ;  and Jesus came into the world to reveal the mysteries of heaven and the laws of the spirit.  Also, he has nothing to do but with the soul, and to that alone he brings his gospel.  The soul is sufficient for him, as he is sufficient for the soul.  Before him the soul was nothing.  Matter and time were the masters of the world.  At his voice every thing returns to order.  Science and philosophy become secondary.  The soul has reconquered its sovereignty.  All the scholastic scaffolding falls, as an edifice ruined, before one single word—Faith.

“What a master, and what a word, which can effect such a revolution !  With what authority does he teach men to pray !  He imposes his belief.  And no one, thus far, has been able to contradict him ;  first, because the gospel contains the purest morality, and also because the doctrine which it contains of obscurity, is only the proclamation and the truth of that which exists where no eye can see, and no reason can penetrate.  Who is the insensate who will say No to the intrepid voyager who recounts the marvels of the icy peaks which he alone has had the boldness to visit ?  Christ is that bold voyager.  One can doubtless remain incredulous.  But no one can venture to say, It is not so.

“Moreover, consult the philosophers upon those mysterious questions which relate to the essence of man, and the essence of religion.  What is their response ?  Where is the man of good sense who has ever learned any thing from the system of metaphysics, ancient or modern, which is not truly a vain and pompous ideology, without any connection with our domestic life, with our passions ?  Unquestionably, with skill in thinking, one can seize the key of the philosophy of Socrates and Plato.  But to do this, it is necessary to be a metaphysician ;  and moreover, with years of study, one must possess special aptitude.  But good sense alone, the heart, an honest spirit, are sufficient to comprehend Christianity.

“The Christian religion is neither ideology nor metaphysics, but a practical rule, which directs the actions of man, corrects him, counsels him, and assists him in all his conduct.  The Bible contains a complete series of facts and of historical men, to explain time and eternity, such as no other religion has to offer.  If this is not the true religion, one is very excusable in being deceived ;  for every thing in it is grand and worthy of God.  I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or any thing which can approach the gospel.  Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature offer me any thing with which I am able to compare it or to explain it.  Here every thing is extraordinary.  The more I consider the gospel, the more I am assured that there is nothing there which is not beyond the march of events, and above the human mind.  Even the impious themselves have never dared to deny the sublimity of the gospel, which inspires them with a sort of compulsory veneration.  What happiness that book procures for those who believe it !  What marvels those admire there who reflect upon it !

“All the words there are imbedded and joined one upon another, like the stones of an edifice.  The spirit which binds these words together is a divine cement, which now reveals the sense, and again vails it from the mind.  Each phrase has a sense complete, which traces the perfection of unity and the profundity of the whole.  Book unique, where the mind finds a moral beauty before unknown, and an idea of the Supreme superior even to that which creation suggests.  Who, but God, could produce that type, that idea of perfection, equally exclusive and original ?

“Christ, having but a few weak disciples, was condemned to death.  He died the object of the wrath of the Jewish priests, and of the contempt of the nation, and abandoned and denied by his own disciples.

“They are about to take me, and to crucify me, said he.  I shall be abandoned of all the world.  My chief disciple will deny me at the commencement of my punishment.  I shall be left to the wicked.  But then, divine justice being satisfied, original sin being expiated by my sufferings, the bond of man to God will be renewed, and my death will be the life of my disciples.  Then they will be more strong without me than with me ;  for they will see me rise again.  I shall ascend to the skies ;  and I shall send to them, from heaven, a Spirit who will instruct them.  The spirit of the cross will enable them to understand my gospel.  In time, they will believe it ;  they will preach it ;  and they will convert the world.

“And this strange promise, so aptly called by Paul the ‘foolishness of the cross,’ this prediction of one miserably crucified, is literally accomplished.  And the mode of the accomplishment is perhaps more prodigious than the promise.

“It is not a day, nor a battle which has decided it.  Is it the lifetime of a man ?  No !  It is a war, a long combat of three hundred years, commenced by the apostles and continued by their successors and by succeeding generations of Christians.  In this conflict all the kings and all the forces of the earth were arrayed on one side.  Upon the other I see no army, but a mysterious energy ;  individuals scattered here and there, in all parts of the globe, having no other rallying sign than a common faith in the mysteries of the cross.

“What a mysterious symbol !  the instrument of the punishment of the Man-God.  His disciples were armed with it.  ‘The Christ,’ they said, ‘God has died for the salvation of men.’  What a strife, what a tempest these simple words have raised around the humble standard of the punishment of the Man-God !  On the one side, we see rage and all the furies of hatred and violence.  On the other, there is gentleness, moral courage, infinite resignation.  For three hundred years spirit struggled against the brutality of sense, conscience against despotism, the soul against the body, virtue against all the vices.  The blood of Christians flowed in torrents.  They died kissing the hand which slew them.  The soul alone protested, while the body surrendered itself to all tortures.  Every where Christians fell, and every where they triumphed.

“You speak of Caesar, of Alexander ;  of their conquests, and of the enthusiasm which they enkindled in the hearts of their soldiers.  But can you conceive of a dead man making conquests, with an army faithful and entirely devoted to his memory.  My armies have forgotten me, even while living, as the Carthaginian army forgot Hannibal.  Such is our power!  A single battle lost crushes us, and adversity scatters our friends.

“Can you conceive of Cæsar as the eternal emperor of the Roman senate, and from the depths of his mausoleum governing the empire, watching over the destinies of Rome ?  Such is the history of the invasion and conquest of the world by Christianity.  Such is the power of the God of the Christians ;  and such is the perpetual miracle of the progress of the faith and of the government of His church.  Nations pass away, thrones crumble, but the church remains.  What is then the power which has protected this church, thus assailed by the furious billows of rage and the hostility of ages ?  Whose is the arm which, for eighteen hundred years, has protected the church from so many storms which have threatened to engulf it ?

“Alexander, Cæsar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires.  But upon what did we rest the creations of our genius ?  Upon force.  Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love ;  and at this hour millions of men would die for him.

“In every other existence but that of Christ, how many imperfections ?  Where is the character which has not yielded, vanquished by obstacles ?  Where is the individual who has never been governed by circumstances or places, who has never succumbed to the influence of the times, who has never compounded with any customs or passions ?  From the first day to the last he is the same, always the same ;  majestic and simple, infinitely firm and infinitely gentle.

“Truth should embrace the universe.  Such is Christianity, the only religion which destroys sectional prejudice, the only one which proclaims the unity and the absolute brotherhood of the whole human family, the only one which is purely spiritual ;  in fine, the only one which assigns to all, without distinction, for a true country, the bosom of the Creator, God.  Christ proved that he was the son of the Eternal, by his disregard of time.  All his doctrines signify one only, and the same thing, Eternity.

“It is true that Christ proposes to our faith a series of mysteries.  He commands, with authority, that we should believe them, giving no other reason than those tremendous words, ‘I am God.’  He declares it.  What an abyss he creates, by that declaration, between himself and all the fabricators of religion.  What audacity, what sacrilege, what blasphemy, if it were not true !  I say more ;  the universal triumph of an affirmation of that kind, if the triumph were not really that of God himself, would be a plausible excuse, and the proof of atheism.

“Moreover, in propounding mysteries Christ is harmonious with nature, which is profoundly mysterious.  From whence do I come ?  whither do I go ?  who am I ?  Human life is a mystery in its origin, its organization, and its end.  In man and out of man, in nature, every thing is mysterious.  And can one wish that religion should not be mysterious ?  The creation and the destiny of the world are an unfathomable abyss, as also is the creation and the destiny of each individual.  Christianity at least does not evade these great questions.  It meets them boldly.  And our doctrines are a solution of them for every one who believes.

“The gospel possesses a secret virtue, a mysterious efficacy, a warmth which penetrates and soothes the heart.  One finds, in meditating upon it, that which one experiences in contemplating the heavens.  The gospel is not a book ;  it is a living being, with an action, a power, which invades every thing which opposes its extension.  Behold it upon this table, this book surpassing all others (here the Emperor deferentially placed his hand upon it);  I never omit to read it, and every day with the same pleasure.

“Nowhere is to be found such a series of beautiful ideas, admirable moral maxims, which pass before us like the battalions of a celestial army, and which produce in our soul the same emotion which one experiences in contemplating the infinite expanse of the skies, resplendent in a summer’s night, with all the brilliance of the stars.  Not only is our mind absorbed, it is controlled, and the soul can never go astray with this book for its guide.  Once master of our spirit, the faithful gospel loves us.  God even is our friend, our father, and truly our God.  The mother has no greater care for the infant whom she nurses.

“What a proof of the divinity of Christ !  With an empire so absolute, he has but one single end, the spiritual melioration of individuals, the purity of conscience, the union to that which is true, the holiness of the soul.

“Christ speaks, and at once generations become his by stricter, closer ties than those of blood ;  by the most sacred, the most indissoluble of all unions.  He lights up the flame of a love which consumes self-love, which prevails over every other love.  The founders of other religions never conceived of this mystical love, which is the essence of Christianity, and is beautifully called charity.  In every attempt to effect this thing, namely, to make himself beloved, man deeply feels his own impotence.  So that Christ’s greatest miracle undoubtedly is, the reign of charity.

“I have so inspired multitudes that they would die for me.  God forbid that I should form any comparison between the enthusiasm of the soldier and Christian charity, which are as unlike as their cause.

“But, after all, my presence was necessary ;  the lightning of my eye, my voice, a word from me ;  then the sacred fire was kindled in their hearts.  I do indeed possess the secret of this magical power, which lifts the soul, but I could never impart it to any one.  None of my generals ever learnt it from me.  Nor have I the means of perpetuating my name and love for me, in the hearts of men, and to effect these things without physical means.

“Now that I am at St. Helena ;  now that I am alone chained upon this rock, who fights and wins empires for me ?  who are the courtiers of my misfortune ?  who thinks of me ?  who makes efforts for me in Europe ?  where are my friends ?  Yes, two or three, whom your fidelity immortalizes, you share, you console my exile.”


Here the voice of the Emperor trembled with emotion, and for a moment he was silent.  He then continued :


“Yes, our life once shone with all the brilliance of the diadem and the throne ;  and yours, Bertrand, reflected that splendor, as the dome of the Invalides, gilt by us, reflects the rays of the sun.  But disasters came ;  the gold gradually became dim.  The rain of misfortune and outrage with which I am daily deluged has effaced all the brightness.  We are mere lead now, General Bertrand, and soon I shall be in my grave.

“Such is the fate of great men !  So it was with Caesar and Alexander.  And I, too, am forgotten.  And the name of a conqueror and an emperor is a college theme !  Our exploits are tasks given to pupils by their tutor, who sit in judgment upon us, awarding us censure or praise.  And mark what is soon to become of me ;  assassinated by the English oligarchy, I die before my time ;  and my dead body, too, must return to the earth, to become food for worms.  Behold the destiny, near at hand, of him who has been called the great Napoleon.  What an abyss between my deep misery and the eternal reign of Christ, which is proclaimed, loved, adored, and which is extending over all the earth.  Is this to die ?  Is it not rather to live ?  The death of Christ !  It is the death of God.”


For a moment the Emperor was silent.  As General Bertrand made no reply, he solemnly added, “If you do not perceive that Jesus Christ is God, very well, then I did wrong to make you a general.”

During the spring months of the year 1821, the Emperor, whose health had been long declining, was evidently approaching death.  The British government had now finished a more comfortable residence for Napoleon than the old house at Longwood ;  but he was too feeble to hear the fatigue and exposure of removal, and it was never occupied by him.  A brief journal will record the pathetic scenes of his last days.

April 21.  “The Emperor,” says Montholon, has again spoken to me of his will.  His imagination is unceasingly employed in seeking to find resources from which to gratify his liberality.  Each day brings to his mind the remembrance of some other old servant whom he would wish to remunerate.”

April 25.  The Emperor slept quietly most of the night.  Count Montholon sat at his bedside.  At 4 o’clock in the morning, Napoleon started up and exclaimed, in dreamy delirium, “I have just seen my good Josephine.  She disappeared at the moment when I was about to take her in my arms.  She was seated there.  It seemed to me that I had seen her yesterday evening.  She is not changed.  She is still the same, full of devotion to me.  She told me that we were about to see each other again, never more to part.  Did you see her ?”  He soon again fell asleep.

In the morning General Bertrand read to him from an English journal, he happened to fall upon a very atrocious libel against Caulaincourt and Savary, as being peculiar culprits in what the English called the assassination of the Duke d’Enghien.  The magnanimity of Napoleon revolted at the idea of allowing the odium of any of the unpopular acts of his reign to be laid upon his friends.  “This is shameful,” said the Emperor, and then, turning to Montholon, he added “bring me my will.”  Without saying another word he opened the will and interlined the following declaration :

“I caused the Duke d’Enghein to be arrested and tried, because that step was essential to the safety, interest, and honor of the French people, when the Count d’Artois was maintaining, by his own confession, sixty assassins at Paris.  Under similar circumstances I would act in the same way.”

Having written these few lines, without adding a word he handed hack the will to Montholon.  There is something very remarkable in this declaration.  In the first place, Napoleon solemnly assumes all the responsibility of the act.  He takes upon himself whatever may be attached to it which is blameworthy.  In the second place, he is very accurate in his statement.  He says, “I caused the Duke d’Enghien to be arrested and tried.”  The evidence is very conclusive that Napoleon, notwithstanding the undeniable proof of the treason of the Duke, intended to have pardoned him.  His execution Napoleon deeply deplored.  He, however, would ask for no abatement of censure on that score, but held himself answerable for the acts which occurred under his reign.  The Emperor then dictated the letter which was to announce his death to Sir Hudson Lowe.

April 28.  The prostration of the Emperor was extreme.  He spoke of his approaching dissolution with great composure.  “After my death,” said he, “which can not he far distant, I desire that you will open my body.  I insist also that you promise that no English medical man shall touch me.  If, however, the assistance of one should be indispensable, Doctor Arnott is the only one whom you have permission to employ.  I further desire that you will take my heart, put it in spirits of wine, and carry it to Parma to my dear Maria Louisa.  You will tell her that I tenderly loved her, that I never ceased to love her.  You will relate to her all you have seen, and every particular respecting my situation and death.  I particularly recommend to you carefully to examine my stomach, and to make a precise and detailed report of the state in which you may find it ;  which report you will give to my son.  The vomitings which succeed each other, almost without interruption, lead me to suppose that the stomach is, of all my organs, the most diseased.  I am inclined to believe that it is attacked with the same disorder that killed my father, I mean a scirrhosis in the pylorus.  I began to suspect that such was the case as soon as I saw the frequency and obstinate recurrence of the vomitings.  I beg that you will be very particular in your examination, that, when you see my son, you may be able to communicate your observations to him, and point out to him the most proper medicines to use.  When I am no more you will go to Rome.  You will see my mother and my family, and will relate to them all you have observed concerning my situation, my disorder, and my death, upon this dreary and miserable rock.  You will tell them that the great Napoleon expired in the most deplorable state, deprived of every thing, abandoned to himself and to his glory, and that he bequeathed, with his dying breath, to all the reigning families of Europe, the horror and opprobrium of his last moments.”

From this effort he soon sank down in complete exhaustion, and deliriously murmured broken and incoherent sentences.

April 29.  The Emperor passed a very restless night, suffering from a raging fever.  Being unable to sleep, at four o’clock in the morning he requested Montholon to bring a table to his bedside ;  and then occupied himself for a couple of hours, in dictating two projects, one on the destination of the palace of Versailles, and the other on the organization of the National Guard for the defense of Paris.  “Astonishment,” says Montholon, “has often been felt at the great faculties of the Emperor, which permitted him, on the eve of, or the day after a battle, which was either about to decide, had decided the fate of a throne, to sign decrees, and occupy himself with matters purely administrative.  But these facts are far inferior to the one which we here attest.  But five days later, all that remained of this sublime genius was a corpse.  And yet his thoughts were still constantly directed toward the happiness and future prospects of France.”

When Dr. Antommarchi came in, he found the Emperor, though manifestly fast sinking, calm and rational.  Napoleon spoke again of the cancer in the stomach, with which he had supposed that he was afflicted, and said to the Doctor,

“I recommend to you once more to examine my pylorus with the greatest care.  Write down your observations, and deliver them to my son.  I wish, at least, to preserve him from the disease.”

Antommarchi suggested the substitution of a blister for the plaster which he had applied to the epigastric region.  “Since you wish it,” said the Emperor, “be it so.  Not that I expect the least benefit from it.  But my end is approaching, and I am desirous of showing, by my resignation, my gratitude for your care and attention.  Apply, therefore, the blister.”

The feverish state of his stomach induced him to drink much cold water.  With characteristic gratitude he exclaimed, “If fate had decreed that I should recover, I would erect a monument upon the spot where the water flows, and would crown the fountain, in testimony of the relief which it has afforded me.  If I die, and my body, proscribed as my person has been, should be denied a little earth, I desire that my remains may be deposited in the cathedral of Ajaccio, in Corsica.  And if it should not be permitted me to rest where I was horn, let me he buried near the limpid stream of this pure water.”

May 2.  The Emperor was in a raging fever during the night, and quite delirious.  His wandering spirit retraced the scenes of the past, visited again his beloved France, hovered affectionately over his idolized son, and held familiar converse with the companions of his toil and his glory.  Again the lurid storm of war beat upon his disturbed fancy, as his unrelenting assailants combined anew for his destruction.  Wildly he exclaimed, “Steingel, Dessaix, Massena !  Ah !  victory is declaring.  Run, hasten, press the charge !  They are ours !”  Suddenly collecting his strength, in his eagerness he sprang from the bed ;  but his limbs failed him, and he fell prostrate upon the floor.

At nine o’clock in the morning the fever abated, and reason returned to her throne.  Calling the Doctor to his bedside, he said to him earnestly, “Recollect what I have directed you to do after my death.  Proceed very carefully to the anatomical examination of my stomach.  I wish it, that I may save my son from this cruel disease.  You will see him, Doctor, and you will point out to him what is best to be done, and will save him from the cruel sufferings I now experience.  This is the last service I ask of you.”

At noon the violence of the disease returned, and Napoleon, looking steadfastly and silently upon the Doctor for a few moments, said, “Doctor, I am very ill.  I feel that I am going to die.”  He immediately sank away into insensibility.  All the inmates of Longwood were unremitting in their attentions to the beloved sufferer.  He was to them all, from the highest to the lowest, a father whom they almost adored.  The zeal and solicitude they manifested deeply moved the sensibilities of the Emperor.  He spoke to them in grateful words, and remembered them all in his will.

As he recovered from this insensibility he spoke faintly to his companions, enjoining it upon them to be particularly careful in attending to the comforts of the humbler members of his household after he should be gone.  “And my poor Chinese,” said he, “do not let them be forgotten.  Let them have a few scores of Napoleons.  I must take leave of them also.”  It is refreshing to meet such recognitions of the brotherhood of man.

May 3.  At two o’clock in the afternoon the Emperor revived for a moment, and said to those who were appointed the executors of his will, and who were at his bedside,

“I am about to die, and you are to return to Europe.  You have shared my exile.  You will be faithful to my memory.  I have sanctioned all good principles, and have infused them into my laws and my acts.  I have not omitted a single one.  Unfortunately, however, the circumstances in which I was placed were arduous, and I was obliged to act with severity, and to postpone the execution of my plans.  Our reverses occurred.  I could not unbend the bow ;  and France has been deprived of the liberal institutions which I intended to give her.  She judges me with indulgence.  She feels grateful for my intentions.  She cherishes my name and my victories.  Imitate her example.  Be faithful to the opinions we have defended, and to the glory we have acquired.  Any other course can only lead to shame and confusion.”

He then sent for the Abbé Vignali.  A movable altar was placed at the Emperor’s bedside.  All retired except the Abbé.  Napoleon then, in silence and solitude, upon his dying bed, received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  After the solemn ordinance Count Montholon returned to the room.  The tranquil tones of the Emperor’s voice, and the placid expression of his countenance, indicated the serenity of his spirit.  He conversed a few moments upon religious subjects, and peacefully fell asleep.  As he awoke in the morning he said to his valet, “Open the window, Marchand ;  open it wide, that I may breathe the air, the good air, which the good God has made.”

May 5.  The night of the 4th of May, dark, cheerless, and tempestuous, enveloped St. Helena in even unwonted gloom.  The rain fell in torrents.  A tornado of frightful violence swept the bleak rocks.  Every tree which Napoleon had cherished was torn up by the roots, and laid prostrate in the mud.  The dying Emperor, unconscious of every thing which was passing around him, tossed restlessly upon his pillow.

And now occurred the most affecting scene which had yet been witnessed in this chamber of suffering.  The children of the family were introduced, to look, for the last time, upon their friend, now insensible, and breathing heavily in death.  They had not seen him for more than a month.  Shocked at the change which had taken place in that countenance, which had ever been accustomed to contemplate them with so much benignity and affection, they for a moment gazed upon the pallid and emaciate features with hesitation and terror.  Then, with flooded eyes and loud sobbings, they rushed to the bedside, seized the hands of the Emperor, and covered them with kisses and with tears.

All present were overpowered with emotion and the heavy breathing of the dying was drowned in the irrepressible lamentations of the mourners.  Young Napoleon Bertrand was so overcome by the heart-rending scene that he fainted, and fell senseless upon the floor.  In the midst of this death-drama one of the servants, who had been sick for forty-eight days, rose from his bed, and emaciate, pallid, delirious, and with disordered dress, entered the room.  In fevered dreams he imagined that the Emperor was in trouble, and had called to him for help.  The delirious and dying servant stood tottering by the side of his delirious and dying master, wildly exclaiming, “I will not leave the Emperor.  I will fight and perish with him !

The dying hours lingered slowly away, during which inarticulate murmurs were occasionally heard from the lips of the illustrious sufferer.  “Twice I thought,” says Montholon, “that I distinguished the unconnected words, ‘France— army—head of the army—Josephine.’  This was at six o’clock in the morning.  During the rest of the day, until six o’clock in the evening, he was lying upon his back, with his right hand out of the bed, and his eyes fixed, seemingly absorbed in deep meditation, and without any appearance of suffering.  A pleasant and placid expression was spread over his features, as if he were sweetly sleeping.

A dark and tempestuous night succeeded the stormy day.  The gale, with increasing fury, swept the ocean and the black rocks, and wailed as mournful a dirge as could fall on mortal ears.  The very island seemed to shake before the gigantic billows, hurled against its craggy cliffs by the spirit of the storm.  In the midnight darkness of that terrific elemental war the spirit of Napoleon passed the earthly vail, and entered the dread unknown.

Isle of Elba—Napoleon,” were the last words of the gentle and loving Josephine.  “France—the army—Josephine,” were the last images which lingered in the heart, and the last words which trembled upon the lips of the dying Emperor.

Napoleon had earnestly expressed the wish that his body might be buried on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of the French people whom he loved so well.  But if that privilege were denied his remains, he prayed that his body might be taken to his native island, and deposited in the tomb of his father at Ajaccio.  But if the English government declined also that request, he entreated his friends to bury him in a secluded spot, which he had selected, at St. Helena, beneath a weeping willow, which overshadowed the limpid spring from which Napoleon had received so many refreshing draughts of cold water.  With his glowing affections he loved this spring as if it had been his personal friend.

Application was immediately made to Sir Hudson Lowe for permission to remove the remains to Europe.  He informed the friends of Napoleon that the orders of his government were imperative, that the body of Napoleon was to remain at St. Helena.  He, however, gave the assurance that it was quite a matter of indifference to him in what part of the island Napoleon was buried.  They entreated him almost with tears, for permission to take the body home to his relatives and friends.  But Sir Hudson Lowe, obedient to the requisitions of his government, was necessarily inexorable.  He could not consent, notwithstanding the most affecting supplications and entreaties on the part of Madame Bertrand, to allow even the stomach and the heart to be removed.

After a very careful post mortem examination the body was prepared for its burial.  The valet de chambre dressed the Emperor, as he was usually dressed in life, with white waistcoat and breeches, black cravat, long boots, and cocked hat.  He was thus placed upon the bed, in his small bedroom, which was shrouded in black.  The cloak which Napoleon had worn at Marengo was spread over his feet.  A silver crucifix was placed upon his chest.  Behind his head was an altar, where the Abbé Vignali stood, reciting the prayers of the church.

Napoleon had won the respect and affection of all the inhabitants of that bleak rock.  There was no one at St. Helena, save Sir Hudson Lowe, who did not speak in his favor.  Rapidly the tidings of his death spread to every individual.  An immense crowd was soon assembled at Longwood.  During the afternoon of the 6th, and the whole of the 7th, an unending procession passed slowly and solemnly through the room, gazing in silent and religious awe upon the lifeless remains.  Even Sir Hudson Lowe said, in this sad hour, “He was England’s greatest enemy, and mine too, but I forgive him.”

The morning of the 8th of May dawned with unusual brilliance.  A perfect calm had succeeded the storm, and not a cloud obscured the brightness of the sun.  At an early hour all the inhabitants of the island were directing their steps toward Longwood, to pay their last tribute of respect to the remains of the Emperor.  At half past twelve o’clock the grenadiers placed the coffin upon the hearse.  The funeral car was drawn by four horses, richly caparisoned, and each led by a groom.  The faded cloak he wore at Marengo was his fitting shroud.  Four of his devoted friends held the corners of the pall.  Twelve grenadiers walked by the side of the hearse, to carry the coffin, where the bad condition of the path along the crags prevented the wheels from advancing.  The Emperor’s horse, caparisoned in black, was led by a groom.

The household of Longwood, dressed in deep mourning, followed sadly behind, weeping, with heart-rending grief ;  as children at the grave of a father.  Next after them came the Admiral and the Governor, on horseback, accompanied by the officers of the staff.  In long procession the inhabitants of the island, men, women, and children, reverently joined the funeral train.  The garrison, two thousand five hundred in number, which had been stationed upon the island to guard the Emperor, lined the whole of the left side of the road from Longwood nearly to the grave.  Bands of music, at appointed intervals, breathed their requiems over the crags bathed in the silent sunlight.  As the procession passed along, the soldiers, two by two, fell into the line, and with reversed arms solemnly paced the dead march to the grave.  The roar of the ocean was hushed.  Not a leaf trembled upon the gum-wood trees.  And not a sound, save the death dirge, fell upon the listening ear, as the burial train moved slowly amidst the blackened crags.  The whole career of Napoleon constitutes the wildest romance which imagination can conceive.  But no events during that wondrous history are more touching and sublime than his death and burial on this lone, barren isle.

At length the hearse stopped.  Huge blocks of blackened lava, precipices, and towering crags obstructed the further advance of the wheels.  Twelve grenadiers with difficulty took upon their shoulders the remains, in the heavy triple coffin of tin, lead, and mahogany, and carried them along a narrow path, which had been constructed on the side of the rugged mountain, to the place of burial.  The booming of minute guns, from the Admiral’s ship in the harbor, reverberated from pinnacle to pinnacle of this gloomy rock, adding inconceivable sublimity to the scene.  Every heart was vanquished by uncontrollable emotion.  The coffin was placed on the verge of the grave.  The Abbé Vignali recited the burial service.  As the body was then lowered to its resting place, three successive volleys from a battery of fifteen cannon discharged over the grave, resounded in thunder peals along the crags of St. Helena.  This was responded to by a simultaneous discharge from the ships in the harbor and every fort upon the island. The grave was then filled in, carefully closed with masonry, and a guard of honor placed over it.

The officers of the Emperor, upon the day of his death, had ordered a stone to he prepared, to rest upon his grave, with this simple inscription :

NAPOLEON.
BORN AT AJACCIO
The 15th of August, 1769.
DIED AT ST. HELENA
The 5th of May, 1821.

The graver had already cut the inscription, when Sir Hudson Lowe informed them that the orders of the British government were imperative ;  that no inscription could be allowed upon the tomb, but simply the words General Bonaparte.  It was a cruel insult, thus to pursue their victim even into the grave.  Remonstrances were unavailing.  The French gentlemen at last obtained the poor boon of having a stone cover the grave without any inscription whatever.  The willows which overhung the tomb were immediately stripped of their foliage, as every individual wished to carry away some souvenir of the most extraordinary man this world has ever known.

On the 27th of May the household of Napoleon sadly embarked for Europe.  The day before their departure they went in a body to the tomb of the Emperor, and covered it with flowers and bathed it with their tears.  They then embarked on board an English ship, and waved a last adieu to that dreary rock, where they had endured five and a half years of exile and of woe ;  but where they had also won the homage of the world by their devotion to greatness and goodness in adversity.

One of their number, Sergeant Hubert, in the enthusiasm of his deathless devotion, refused to abandon even the grave of his Emperor.  For nineteen years he continued at St. Helena, daily guarding the solitary tomb.  And when, at the united voice of France, that tomb gave up its sacred relics, and they were removed to repose upon the banks of the Seine, beneath the dome of the Invalides, among the people he had loved so well, this faithful servant followed them to their final resting-place.  Napoleon now sleeps in the bosom of France, enthroned, as monarch was never enthroned before, in the hearts of his countrymen.  France has reared for him a mausoleum which is a nation’s pride.  Through all coming ages, travelers from all lands will, with religions awe, visit the tomb of Napoleon.  The voice of obloquy is fast dying away, and will soon be hushed forever.


 

* A more full account of the Emperor’s imprisonment, of his joys, his griefs, and his remarkable conversations, will be given in the “History of Napoleon,” by the author of these articles, soon to be issued from the press, in two volumes.

2 Sentiment de Napoleon sur le Chriatianisme :  Conversatiens religieuses, recueillies Sainte Helene par M. le General Comte de Montholon, par M. le Chevalier de Beauterne, p. 21.