“I conjure you, then, citizen minister, to avoid extending your researches too far, and not always to spy out new persons who might be compromised by this horrible machine. Must France, which has been held in terror by so many executions, have to sigh over new victims? Is it not much more important to appease the minds of the people than to excite them by new terrors? Finally, would it not be advisable, so soon as the originators of this awful crime are captured, to have compassion and mercy upon subordinate persons who may have been entangled in it through dangerous sophisms and fanatical sentiments?
“Barely vested with the supreme authority, ought not the first consul study to win the hearts rather than to make slaves of his people? Moderate, therefore, by your advice, where in his first excitement he may be too severe. To punish is, alas, too often necessary! To pardon is, I trust, still more. In a word, be a protector to the unfortunate who, through their confession or repentance, have already made in part penance for their guilt.
“As I myself, without any fault on my part, nearly lost my life in the revolution, you can easily understand that I take an interest in those who can perhaps be saved without thereby endangering my husband’s life, which is so precious to me and to France. I therefore earnestly desire that you will make a distinction between the leaders of this conspiracy and those who, from fear or weakness, have been seduced into bringing upon themselves a portion of the guilt. As a woman, a wife, a mother, I can readily feel for all the heart-rending agonies of those families which appeal to me.
“Do what you possibly can, citizen minister, to diminish their numbers; you will thereby spare me much anxiety. I can never be deaf to the cries of distress from the needy; but in this matter you can do a great deal more than I can, and therefore pardon what may seem strange in my pleadings with you.
“Believe in my gratitude and loyalty of sentiment.
“Josephine.” [Footnote: Ducrest, “Memoires,” vol. iii., p. 231.]
In the Tuileries the first consul, with his wife, resided in all the pomp and dignity of his new office. There he was the sovereign, the commander; there he ruled, and, like a king, all bowed to him; the people humbled themselves and recognized him as their master.
In the Tuileries etiquette and the stiff pomp of a princely court prevailed more and more. Bonaparte required of his wife that she should there represent the dignity and the grandeur of her new position; that she should appear as the first, the most exalted, and the most unapproachable of women. In the Tuileries there were no more evenings of pleasant social gatherings, of joyous conversation with friends whom affection made equals, and who, in love and admiration, recognizing Bonaparte’s ascendency, brought him of their own free choice their esteem and high consideration. Now, it was all honor and duty; now, the friends of the past wore servants who, for duty’s sake, had to be subservient to their master, and abide by the rules of etiquette, otherwise the frown on their lofty ruler’s brow would bring them back within their bounds.