In 1799, he was for some weeks a Minister of the war department, from which his incapacity caused him to be dismissed. When Bonaparte intended to seize the reins of State, he consulted Bernadotte, who spoke as an implacable Jacobin until a douceur of three hundred thousand livres—calmed him a little, and convinced him that the Jacobins were not infallible or their government the best of all possible governments. In 1801, he was made the commander-in-chief in the Western Department, where he exercised the greatest barbarities against the inhabitants, whom he accused of being still chouans and royalists.
With Augereau and Massena, Bernadotte is a merciless plunderer. In the summer, 1796, he summoned the magistrates of the free and neutral city of Nuremberg to bring him, under pain of military execution, within twenty-four hours, two millions of livres. With much difficulty this sum was collected. The day after he had received it, he insisted upon another sum to the same amount within another twenty-four hours, menacing in case of disobedience to give the city up to a general pillage by his troops. Fortunately, a column of Austrians advanced and delivered them from the execution of his threats. The troops under him were, both in Italy and in Germany, the terror of the inhabitants, and when defeated were, from their pillage and murder, hunted like wild beasts. Bernadotte has by these means within ten years become master of a fortune of ten millions of livres.
Many have considered Bernadotte a revolutionary fanatic, but they are in the wrong. Money engaged him in the cause of the Revolution, where the first crimes he had perpetrated fixed him. The many massacres under Jourdan the cut-throat, committed by him in the Court at Venaigin, no doubt display a most sanguinary character. A lady, however, in whose house in La Vendee he was quartered six months, has assured me that, to judge from his conversation, he is not naturally cruel, but that his imagination is continually tormented with the fear of gibbets which he knows that his crimes have merited, and that, therefore, when he stabs others, he thinks it commanded by the necessity of preventing others from stabbing him. Were he sure of impunity, he would, perhaps, show humanity as well as justice. Bernadotte is not, only a grand officer of the Legion of Honour, but a knight of the Royal Prussian Order of the Black Eagle.
Paris, September, 1805.
My lord:—Bonaparte has taken advantage of the remark of Voltaire, in his “Life of Louis XIV.,” that this Prince owed much of his celebrity to the well—distributed pensions among men of letters in France and in foreign countries. According to a list shown me by Fontanes, the president of the legislative corps and a director of literary pensions, even in your country and in Ireland he has nine literary pensioners. Though the names of