Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Napoleon and Lafayette

Lafayette in 1824
From author Shannon Selin:
In 1797, the Directory instructed then General Napoleon Bonaparte to negotiate the release of the prisoners at Olmütz as part of the Treaty of Campo Formio. This Napoleon did, earning Lafayette’s gratitude. Lafayette’s view of Napoleon was not entirely rosy, however. In October 1799, not long before Napoleon’s coup d’état of 18 Brumaire, Lafayette wrote to a friend:
Bonaparte thinks only of his own ambition, and until now has not found glory in serving liberty…. He will risk no personal advantage for the sake of liberty; he has proved that his soul could quite happily watch and even cooperate in its violation. If, however, his fame and his ambition demand that he put himself forward in defence of the cause, he will do so. His wish must be to establish the Republic on a solid foundation of liberty and justice. (1)
Lafayette and Napoleon met several times when Napoleon was First Consul. They had an extended conversation at Joseph Bonaparte’s estate on October 2, 1800, during a party to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Mortefontaine between France and the United States. Part of the discussion reportedly went as follows:
Napoleon: ‘You must have found the French looking very coldly upon liberty.’
Lafayette: ‘Yes, but they are in a condition to receive it.’
Napoleon: ‘They are much disgusted, the Parisians, for example. The shopkeepers want no more of it.’
Lafayette: ‘It’s not lightly, General, that I’ve used this expression. I do not ignore the effect of the crimes and follies which have profaned the name of liberty; but the French are, perhaps, more than ever in a state to receive it. It is for you to give it; it is from you that it is expected.’ (2)
By now you will have gathered that liberty was a bit of sticking point between Napoleon and Lafayette. Still, they remained on friendly terms. As Napoleon gradually began to admit exiles back into France, Lafayette asked for the names of his friends and relatives to be removed from the list of proscribed persons, a request that Napoleon granted. Napoleon also (through intermediaries) invited Lafayette to join the Senate and offered him the position of ambassador to the United States, but Lafayette refused. (Read more.)

1 comment:

julygirl said...

Did not know their lives intersected so much on that level. My historical knowledge on Lafayette is very much lacking. Thank you for this post.