The Trial and Escape of Count Marie Lavalette: 16 November 1815 - 2 January 1816
By Susan Howard
These articles are taken from the archives of the The Times of London of 1815. They are mainly translations from the French newspapers with some private correspondence and leader articles. The articles were printed uncensored, though possibly shortened. There are places where the translation is clumsy: they were usually translated and printed within 24 hours of the papers being received from France. Some of the print quality is poor and I have had to guess at some words; where I have been unable to do this, I have marked them [illegible]. I have preserved the archaic punctuation and inconsistent spelling but have altered the layout to make it easier to read - the original wascompressed into narrow columns. Any notes of mine are in italics in square brackets: all other italics are in the text.
Paris November 16
On the 20th, Lavalette will be brough to judgement before the Court of Assize. Impartial men acknowledge, that independently of the conspiracy of which he certainly was an accomplice, the simple fact of his having violently taken possession of the Post-Office on the 20th of March, at seven in the morning, renders him guilty of high treason; since his Majesty's government was still existing, and in fact the Chambers were not dissolved until mid-day. This is the difficulty, apparently insuperable, which his Advocate, Tripper, will have to combat; he professes loudly his hope of procuring the acquittal of his client, while the relations of Madame Lavalette, and all the adherents of the Beauharnois, are maKing incredible efforts in his favour. Lavalette possesses considerable administrative talents, and abounds in repartee, observation, and shrewdness; he has proved himself devotedly attached to the Usurper.
The President said, You will hear the charges brought against you, as they are stated in the indictment.
The clerk then read the indictment, which charged the prisoner in substance as follows.
On the 20th of March, at nine in the morning, M. Lavalette repaired to the Post Office, and on entering the hall pronounced these words: - I take possession of the Posts in the name of the emperor. He afterwards asked whether Count Ferrand, the Director-General, was still in the office: and on informing him he had come to replace him, said he would give him time for removing his papers and private property, Lavalette regarding himself as from that moment installed; his first act was to write to Buonaparte, who was then at Fontainebleau, what he had done. It has been learned from a witness that Buonaparte, on receiving the dispatch, let a smile escape him, and said - So! So! they expect me at Paris!
The indictment accusing him of high treason was then read, and the Advocate General stated shortly the nature of the charges.
The President then put the following questions to he accused.
President - You have in your interrogatories acknowledged that you wrote to Buonaparte at Elba, but that it was to wish him a happy new year, and long quiet. Was not the letter dated the end of November? Lavalette - Yes.
Q. Why did you write so long before the new year? - A. Because the person to whom I trusted the letter did not quit Paris immediately, and was to remain some time on the road.
Count Ferrand was then called in. He deposed to Lavalette's having taken possesion of the Post-office on the 20th of March.
Lavalette then observed, after a warm tribute of gratitude to M.Ferrand for his conduct to him, "I arrived on the 20th March. I met in the morning, on the boulevards, M.Sebastiani in his cabriolet. he told me the news. I said to him, I have a mind to go the the Post and see what is passing. He accompanied me. We found a M. Macarel, I asked him in a mild tone, whether M.Ferrand was there? He said that he was gone out, and I remained walKing in the Audience chamber. It was said, I believe, that I had presented myself in a commanding attitude, saying, I take possession in the name of the Emperor. This is false - I was near the chimney when M.Ferrand returned. I advanced to him and said, "Sir" - He opened the door of his cabinet without replying to me, and hence I remained in the Hall.
Passing to other points, M. Lavalette said,
It has been declared that I formed one of several criminal assemblages at the Duke de Bassano's, the Duchess of St Leu's [Hortense], and Madame Hamelin's. I never set foot in Madame Hamelin's house. I never saw her at Paris. I never was intimate with the Duke of Bassano. Madame St Leu (and here, gentlemen, I own that my heart is wrung at seeing an unhappy woman, who, on foreign ground, is still pursued by calumny), Madame the Duchess of St Leu saw none but the King's friends; she had been overwhelmed with his benefits; she knew Buonaparte wuld not forgive her for accepting them. The return of Buonaparte gave her the severest grief; she has been miserable from that time. We must not, Sir, add too much faith to public clamour.
Q Why were you concealed in the house of Madame St Leu during the last days that preceded the King's departure?
A. I retired thither because she was not there.
Court of Assizes of Paris
This trial collected an immense crowd. At eight o'clock the doors were besieged. The clearest orders had been given to the officers of the staff of the national guard, charged with the police of the hall. The advocates, foreigners of distinction, and the most diligent of the curious, had their places secured, everthing was regulated, and the opening of the Session at eleven o'clock was anxiously expected. It was remarked that the picture of Prudhon, which had been over the President, was removed, and replaced by a green cloth. The bench of the accused was covered by blue serge. On the seats placed below the Court, we distinguished General Driesen, who commanded at Mittau during the residence of the King in that city.
At eleven o'clock the Jury entered the hall; some minutes afterwards the Court took its place; the Chevalier Chollot presided and M. Hus, Advocate-General, performed the duties of public accuser.
Count Lavalette was conducted to the bench of the accused between two subalterns of gendarmerie; he was dressed in black, wearing on his waistcoat the grand cordon of the Legion of Honour, and at the button- hole of his coat, the decoration of the Legion of Honour, of the orders of the Union and Iron Crown. Being asked by the President, his name, surname, &c. he answered in a firm tone - "My name is Marie Chamant Lavalette; of no profession."
M.Heron de Villeforce, Foreman of the Jury, and all other Members, took after him the solemn oath, which reminds them of the importance of their noble functions.
After the jury had been sworn, the Clerk, by command of the President, read the Order of the Court, placing M. de Lavalette in a state of accusation, and the act of accusation drawn up by the Attorney-General.
By this act the Count de Lavalette, Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, Commander of that of Re-union, a native of Paris, aged 46 years, is charged -
(Signed) "Count LAVALETTE,
"Counsellor of State, Director-General of the Posts."
After the indictment had been read, the Advocate-General addressed the Court, and recapitulated the different Charges against the accused. He said, you have heard the statement of the facts which form the basis of the Indictment, they are few in number, and all included within the space of one day, the 20th of March, that day so fatally memorable, which was an epoch of misfortunes, as it had been an epoch of crimes, and which seemed intended to prove, that even the momentary success of such an offence ought to be attended by disasters in order to confirm mankind in their moral duties, and to warn, by terrible examples, those who might be tempted to doubt the operation of divine justice. The question submitted to you is simple. There are cases in which the existence of an offence cannot be the subject of doubt. For instance, a man has been killed; but what is the degree of crime arising from this fact? How shall it be denominated? What punishment applied to it? These questions resolve into that of the intention of the offender. To discover, therefore, whether the prisoner, Lavalettte, usurped an office which did not belong to him, and to ascertain whether, in exercising its functions, he rendered himself guilty of an offence against the Prince and the Country, constitutes this process.
You will probably not have to seek far to ascertain whether the prisoner usurped on the 20th of March the functions of Director-General of the Posts. That fact is capable of being proved. You will find that the usurpation of a public function is a consequence of possession being taken, which fact is proved by the orders given in virtue of the character assumed. These orders are material in the question which you have to consider, and they have been avowed and recognised by the prisoner.
With respect to acts committed after his usurpation of office, you will find that he stopped the circulation of the official journals, containing the King's Proclamation, Ministerial Letters, and circulars of the Prefect of Paris. You will find that he sent a dispatch to Napoleon Buonaparte at Fontainebleau. What did that dispatch contain? I know not; but it appears that it was agreeable to him who received it: for Buonaparte on reading it smiled, and said to the courier - "Very well," - after which he added - "They expect me then at Paris!"
Having gone over the different heads of the indictment, the Advocate-General concluded thus - Our difficulties are great, but you have not to take them into consideration. The accused ought to have to support only the ordinary weight of a crime without the adition of the fatal effects which have resulted from it. In these times a man would be too unfortunate, had he to defend himself against even legitimate passions. The Laws speak, and you are their worthy interpreters. You ought to listen only to them. Thus in pronouncing your verdict, without hatred and without fear, you will fulfil your duty and satisfy your consciences.
The names of the witnesses were then called over, and they were inclosed in a separate apartment.
The President addressed the prisoner, - In your examination you admitted that you had written to Buonaparte in the Island of Elba, to wish him a good new year and long happiness. was not your letter dated in the end of November? A. Yes; it was towards the end of November.
Q. If that was the only object of your letter, how did it happen that you wrote it at a period so distant from the new year? A. The traveller to whom I entrusted it did not immediately leave Paris, and was to stop some time on the road. I requested him to put the letter in the post office at -------. It was an opportunity which I embraced.
The first witness called was M. Ferrand, Peer of France, and former Director of the Posts, who deposed as follows :-
M. Ferrand afterwards added, that he knew that in his department there were many clerks, whose sentiments were not favourable to the government; but he thought, like the other Ministers of the King, that indulgence might produce a better disposition in those persons, and, in consequence, he had not thought it right to remove them.
Returning to what related to M. Lavalette; M. Ferrand said, that the Council of Ministers were informed, that meetings were held at the houses of the Duchess of St Leu, Madame Hamelin, and the Duke of Bassano; that M. Lavalette attended these meetings; and for this reason he had been placed upon the list of seven or eight persons who were to be apprehended.
After this deposition, the accused was invited by the President to make his observations. He began by declaring that he had the highest respect for Count Ferrand; that he never had any idea of usurping his place; but that in the state in which things were on the 20th of March, a very natural presumption led him to suppose that M.Ferrand could not be any longer charged with the superintendance of the posts; that if he went to the hotel of the general direction it was only out of curiosity or zeal; that he never said he was come to take upon himself, in the Emperor's name, the administration of the posts; that at that time he was rather in a state of dejection than in spirits; that he had refused to give M.Ferrand a pass, because he had no right to do so, and that if he at length yielded to the entreaties of Madame Ferrand, it was because she had expressed such anxiety for the safety of her husband.
The accused animadvered [sic] with severity on some parts of Count Ferrand's deposition.
On the subject of the charge of having attended unlawful meetings, M. de Lavalette replied: "I have not seen Madame Hamelin these eighteen years past when I met her in Italy. I had none but official relations with the Duke of Bassano, and was never at this house in the evening. I do not deny that I was one of the company who met at the house of the Duchess de St Leu, who is now as calumniated as she is unfortunate; but I can affirm, that all the persons whom she received were devotedly attached to the King; that the Duchess herself never spoke of our Princes but with gratitude and respect; that she was thunderstruck when she heard of the arrival of Buonaparte, because she justly feared that the latter would never forgive her for having accepted favours from the King."
President. - What was your object in going to the house of Count Ferrand?
M. de Lavalette. - Expecting to resume the direction-general of the posts on that or the following day, I was desirous to have some conversation with him on the subject. I knew he was borne down by infirmities. I thought I might be serviceable to him and his family; and if he had only condescended to grant me the audience I solicited, I should not now have been upon the bench of the accused. Count Ferrand has spoken of his own suspicions and of those communicated to him by M. Laine, respecting my having correspondence with the Isle of Elba, through the medium of the mail-couriers. I have been these four months in prison; Government has not failed to arrest and interrogate these couriers; nothing has thence resulted against me. Count Ferrand then must be mistaken.
The President. - Count Ferrand being at the Post-Office when you went, what business had you to remain there?
The accused. - I repeat, - the first motive that brought me to the post-office was curiosity. I asked a clerk, - has the Count given any orders? He answered in the negative. I left the hotel at 10 o'clock. M. Ferrand remained Director. Every body obeyed him till the moment of his departure. I made no changes in his relations with the clerks.
The President. - You nevertheless signed an order in quality of Director?
The accused. - That is true, but it was at the Faubourg St. Germain.
The President. - What certainty had you of resuming the functions of Director-General of the posts?
The accused. - I had a well-grounded presumption. For 15 years I had held that office, and I believe irreproachably.
The President. - In the absence of the director, could not the administrators have acted?
The accused. - No, Sir.
The President. - In all other public offices the absence of the head my be supplied.
The accused. - Pardon me; here, the administrator cannot sign but under the Director-General. Had M. Ferrand delegated his powers to one of the adminiistrators, that one would have been the director, and I should not have acted.
The President desired the different orders given by the prisoner on the 20th of March, and enumerated in the indictment, to be handed to him.
The accused admitted that they had really been given on that day, the second time that he went to the office, between two and four o'clock; but that he gave them on the verbal reports which were made to him by several heads of the department. "One of them observed to me," said he, "that there were not hands enough for the dispatch of the journals," - my order was to defer the conveyance of them, and it was general, I thought no more of the Moniteur , containing the King's declaration, than I did of the Nain Jaune which had already espoused the cause of Buonaparte. Another clerk told me, that the dispatches for Lyons had stopped for several days; I gave orders to re-establish the intercourse with that city. With regard to the charge of having kept back the Ministerial correspondence, it was without an object, as the Ministers had all set out on the preceding evening, or in the night with the King. "I declare," continued the prisoner, "that I ought not to have signed these orders till next day. Those gentlemen who depose that I signed them on the 20th, and who have to-day so delicate a conscience, were not so delicate on the 20th of March. They drew up these orders, and presented them for signature. Yet they had all taken the oaths to the King, and were almost all decorated - but they did not make a single observation to me."
As to the circular to the postmasters, dated the 20th, at half past 4 in afternoon, he confessed it was his. "My motives were," he added, "because the couriers might have said on their route, that all was in combustion in the capital, that Paris was a scene of blood and conflagration: I wished above all to prevent civil war: Will that be imputed to me as a crime?"
The accused added, by way of observation, that he had been for three months Director-General of the posts. He knew that the minutes brought against him were in existence, and he might have destroyed them. "The Secretary-General of the Administration said to me, some days before my functions ceased, will you carry off your correspondence? Certain minutes? No, I replied, I have done nothing reprehensible."
The President then read an order signed, and which the accused ackowledged. This order forbid the Director of post-horses to give any horses, without an order from the Director General or a Minister, and was dated the 20th March.
Another order related to foreign diplomatic agents.
The accused. - This order originated at the Thuileries. I signed it as Director General. It may be objected to me, that I thus shut up the road to Lille. No, that was not my intention; I had a more effectual mode of doing that, which was, by prohibiting the post-masters at the two first stages on the Lille road to give horses. If I did so, it can be proved.
The second witness introduced was the Marquis de Frondeville, Peer of France, who deposed as follows; -
The President asked the accused what he had to answer.
M de Lavalette replied: - The tumult at Moulins was not excited by the courier, who probably kept himself back in the carriage, but by the driver, who cried "Vive l'Empereur!" without having received any order to that effect. I repeat, that it was only with a view to prevent civil war that I wrote that unfortunate letter."
Lieutenant General Dessolles, the third witness, declared, that on the 20th, at nine in the morning, General Sebastiani came to his hotel and applied in the name of M de Lavalette for a detachment of the national guard to take care of the chests of the administration of the posts.
The accused - The statement is correct, I was afraid of a movement, of the pillage of the post office chests, which might contain considerable sums. The detachment came; the object was accomplished; but I gave no orders for the distribution of the detachment or the placing of the sentinels.
Madame Ferrand was then heard, - She confirmed the depositions of her husband, relative to the intreaties which she was obliged to use with M. de Lavalette, in order to obtain a passport for Orleans. On this point there was a good deal of cross-examination. - A M.Villars, who held an office in the department of the posts, was also examined. He said that at 10 o'clock he went to take M.Ferrand's orders respecting the posts. He told witness that he had no order to give, as M. Lavalette had taken possession of the post-office. M. Villars also affirmed, that he asked a passport from the accused for M.Ferrand.
The accused. - Take care, M.Villars, the point at issue is a very important one. I assert, upon my honour, that M.Villars never spoke to me of this passport.
The President to M.Villars. - Were you informed by any one, that M.Ferrand could not depart?
M.Villars. - By no one.
The President. - Did you then obtain a passport for Orleans?
M.Villars. - It was M. Ferrand who applied to me to procure this passport; it was refused to me.
The President. - On what grounds?
M.Villars. - On the ground that M.Ferrand had nothing to fear in Paris. I was not far from Madame Ferrand when the passport was at last granted. I gave it to M.Macarel, who handed it to M.Ferrand, who was already in his carriage.
President. - I ask you what obstacle opposed the departure of M.Ferrand?
M.Villars. - I know of none.
A Juryman. - I should wish to know in what position M.Ferrand was, when he demanded a passport. Was he in his carriage?
M.Ferrand answered in the negative.
The accused. - I would ask what use M.Ferrand made of this passport?
M.Ferrand. - It remained in my pocket.
The accused. - There was then no obstacle?
M.Ferrand. - Should I have asked a passport had there been no obstacle?
The accused. - State the obstacle; say of what nature it was; whether it was of my causing?
M.Ferrand - You know well that you alone could throw an obstacle in the way of my departure.
Accused. - I repeat that I never threw any: it is for you to prove it, if any existed.
The President. - One point certain is, that M. Ferrand thought a passport necessary.
The accused. - I have already explained, that yielding merely to the solicitations of Madame Ferrand, I gave the passport, though I did not think it necessary.
M.Marcarel, one of the clerks of the office, was next examined, and deposed, that at seven o'clock in the morning, being in the hall of audience, he heard some person strike on the floor, and say with a loud voice: In the name of the Emperor I take possession of the Post-office. M. Lavalette immediately presented himself, and asked if M.Ferrand was visible. Witness went in to M.Ferrand, and in about half an hour returned, supporting and conducting him to his closet. The prisoner followed them thither, placed his arm on the chair where M.Ferrand sat, and stammered out some words, which witness said were very polite; the prisoner said to M.Ferrand, "take your papers," and then he retired into the secretary's office.
The accused. - I absolutely deny the words ascribed to me: In the name of the Emperor &c. Whoever knows my calm, placid and polite character, will feel it was impossible I could have used the expressions ascribed to me. I repeat I was in a temper of mind more bordering upon dejection than high spirits.
Witness persisted in his deposition.
The accused. - Somedays after the 20th March, you wrote me a letter of excuse, and solicited an audience. I granted it, and I venture to say you had no reason to complain of me.
Witness. - I acknowledge it; but I have promised to speak the truth.
Prisoner. - And I also.
M.Forie, one of the administrators of the post-office, deposed that he received a letter of convocation, dated 20th march, and signed Courvjolles, announcing that M. Lavalette had resumed the functions of Director General: witness went to his post at the accustomed hour: M. Lavalette came at 3 o'clock to the place of their sittings, and addressed to the witness personally some warm reproaches for the reinstatement of a certain inspector: he presented himself as Director General.
The accused. - I must except against these reproaches being considered as establishing that i considered myself Director general on the 20th of March. I made them, it is true, with some warmth; but I must say, the point in discussion was the reinstatement of an inspector who had been expelled, because his name was a disgrace, because he had dishonoured it.
The President remarked to the prisoner, that these details had no connection with the trial.
The President then asked of witness, what the administrators would have done, if the Director General, dying sudenly, the sovereign authority had not time to fill his situation.
M.Forie. - I have been in the administration 37 years: no such case ever occurred: the administrators never encroached on the functions of the Director General.
The Advocate-General. - If the Director-General had not come, would the usual service of the posts have been executed?
Witness. - Yes, we are charged with the mechanism of the office, the departure of the couriers, &c.&c.
The President. - If M.Ferrand having departed, M. Lavalette had not come, what would you have done?
Witness. - We should have done all that belongs to our functions.
The accused. -- If you had not received the letter of convocation should you have come?
Witness. - Yes.
Accused. - If you would have come without M. Courvjolles letter, then that letter did not bring you.
Witness. - It induced us to conclude that you were Director-General.
Accused. -Certainly it was not my intention that day to preside at any sitting; M.Courvjolles must have believed that he received an order from me which I did not give; we were chatting together.
The President to the prisoner. - The witness has declared that the absence of the director did not prevent the usual service, but that as to extraordinary matters, the administrators in no case interfered; do you admit this distinction?
The prisoner. - I do not fully admit it. At eleven o'clock these gentlemen came, M.Ferrand was there; he was the director. The case of a sudden death has been supposed, but this was not like it. M.Ferrand was just retiring; the administrators knew it; they might have asked his orders.
The President. - Admitting all this, was a stranger authorised to act as Director?
The prisoner. - I acted for the public interest; every one did the same. M.Ferrand retired without leaving any orders; I associated myself with their labours.
The President. - The usual service was going on; you introduced yourself, and the service was changed. It was going on for the national benefit, doubtless, but it was turned to the benefit of the Usurper.
The prisoner. - The public service would have gone on as usual, though perhaps not altogether. I know the Gentlemen Administrators, they are very respectabl;e people, but a little timid, who think of tomorrow like all men, and particularly placemen. They would have remained at home, or retired when their signatures were asked.
As to the business stopped, - it was of two kinds; 1st, the ministerial letters, they issued from the Ministers, but I do not regard them as Ministerial. had they been important, the Ministers would have expedited them before their own departure. 2d, The letters of the Prefect of the Seine were not stopped by me but his jurisdiction is circumscribed, and the stoppage could not be important. In fine, with regard to the journals stopped, I did not stop the Moniteur because it contained the King's Proclamation. there was no distinction made, the service was overcharged; I merely said : we must postpone the journals till tomorrow, and that proclamation inserted in the Moniteur, why was it not expedited by estafette?
M.de Fergonot, head of a division, deposed, that the prisoner observed to him while passing into the Audience hall, that "the King set out last night, and the Emperor will arrive to day."
In respect to the orders given by M. Lavalette, immediately after his arrival at the Post Office, M.Lagrand, Secretary General of the department, and some of the under-Clerks, bore testimony to them. the authority of the new Director General was so well recognised that several persons having applied to Count Ferrand, from nine to ten o'clock in the morning, he told them he had not any further orders to give. According to M. Bellvalse, one of the witnesses, Count Lavalette took the place of President of the Board of Administrators, and gave orders as Director-General.
In respect to the orders written or signed by M de Lavalette on 20th March, M.le Grand, the Secretary-general, M.Dailey, the Director of Post-horses, and several other persons employed in the departments who had copied or received them, agreed in recognizing them and certifying their identity with those annexed in the process. The general result was, that these different orders had been given in the interval between two o'clock and half past four.
Several couriers, directors of posts, and persons dispatched express, gave testimony respecting the circular of M. Lavalette, and his correspondence with Buonaparte on the morning ofthe 20th.
The result of all was, that M. Lavalette himself drew up the circular, which was copied by order in the under offices, and the copies, with his signature affixed, distributed among the couriers as they set out in their different directions. It appeared that there was a special order to send a copy to each of the Postmasters in the several great towns.
The courier Gerard, dispatched at eight A.M. by M. Lavalette to Buonaparte, who was still at Fontainebleau, deposed, that Buonaparte said to him, after having read the letter that he brought - "Tell Lavalette, that I will be at Paris this evening, and that they are now putting the horses to the carriage. Tell every where that I am following you."
It was remarked to this witness, that in his written deposition he had attributed these words to Buonaparte, "Then they expect me at Paris." he declared that he did not recollect them. According to M. Rennee, who was employed in the post department, M. Lavalette said to the courier, on dispatching him - You are going to meet the Emperor, and to tell him that I am at my post. But this expression was disclaimed by the accused and by the courier Gerard.
The hearing of the witnesses, to the number of 37, being closed at six o'clock, p.m. the sitting was prerogued to nine, the next morning, for the hearing of the witnesses for the defence, ten in number.
Sitting of Tuesday, Nov.21.
[If there was a morning sitting I missed it]
The sitting resumed at half-past two o'clock.
M.the Baron Pasquier, the first witness for the defendant, was introduced. He justified M. the Count Lavalette against the charge of having held intelligence with Buonaparte, and declared, that he considered him a stranger to the return of the Usurper.
M.Saivret, employed in the post (this witness being one of the royal volunteers), declared, that he was maintained in his place by M. the Count Lavalette, who refused the list of dismissal which was presented to him, and who, at the time of signing the Constitutional Acts, required of the employed, promised, by a circular, that no man should be disturbed for hs opinion.
The third witness, named Boileau, a courier, declared, that he was never charged with any message for Napoleon, on the part of the accused, during his stay at Lyons.
The fourth witness, named Premel, Inspector General of the Post, confirmed the depostion of the courier Boileau.
The Sieur Jacquesou, the fifth witness, inspector of the Post for Horses, declared, that he was charged with a confidential mission by M. the Count Ferrand; that this correspondence fell into the hands of the accused, who displayed no resentment for this act, and who, at the time of the required oath, was not replaced in his functions.
The President deposited in the hands of M. Tripier a declaration made by M--------, in announcing with benevolence that the Jury, partaKing of the confidence of the court in the advocate, would entirely trust to the use which he should think proper to make of it.
M.Hua, Advocate general, commenced his speech. he addressed a noble and touching exordium to the accused, promising him the utmost impartiality.
The Jury, said he, will know how to remain alone in the middle of this assembly; they will not be influenced by the passions, for those die in the breast of judges; they will banish every recollection of those evils which we all deplore. He traced with a vigorous pencil the usurpation of Buonaparte. There are, said the Advocate-general, moments when providence appears to be dumb. He followed Napoleon in his audacious march; he painted that man speaking falsehood as his natural language; and he demonstrated, that it was impossible that his return was not prepared and assisted. He drew a touching picture of the happy, but too fleeting, days which the Bourbons restored to us. But, said he, let us not confound those who occasioned the commotion with those who followed it. he examined whether the facts imputed to the accused were proved, afterwards, whether they were criminal; and finally, whether they were auxiliary to the return of Buonaparte.
The advocate-general examined the motive of the retreat of the accused with Madame Saint-Leu. What could have been the fear of the accused? The King had loaded him with kindness. Passing to the entry of the accused into the Post-office, he reviewed the acts of power exercised by the new Director. He expedites a courier to Buonaparte; he gives orders, assembles the administrators, and censures them; he stops the journals, and ministerial letters; prohibits horses to travellers, addresses that famous circular, and finally prevents M. Ferrand from following the King, and assigns to him a retreat, or rather a banishment.
M.Ferrand, continued M. Hua, yielded to a moral force, which commenced by confounding, and finished with overpowering him. He afterwards examined whether the accused thought that the post could not proceed for twenty-four hours without a Director-general. Was not the public good a constant cover for the disturbers of the public repose? The Administrator-general remained; the whole service was insured; nothing that had happened would have taken place. A man was wanting to make the administration subservient to his poliicy; it was necessary to employ opinion, which is stronger than the arms it raises. the Usurper knew this, and the soldiers, his first victims, are a striking proof of it. It was thus that the Director-general was enabled to co-operate with the invasion.
Here, Gentlemen, said M. Hua. I shall cease to argue; I will read the Acts. He read the three orders concerning the Journal, the Ministerial Letters, the re-establishment of the service of the mails on the road to Lyon, the order given to the Master of the Post at Paris. To yield to force, we must be under an iron yoke. The accused sent to demand the orders of the Usurper; was not that to associate himself with the usurpations? The accused will say that everything was prepared for his return; but what gave him that confidence of action? Was it not by some communications which had already been given to him? Either the accused acted from orders, or he acted by himself. Whether he obeyed, or whether he commanded, he was equally criminal. What the Usurper could have commanded his agent to do, the agent performed of his own accord. Has he executed the wishes of his master, or has he anticipated them?
The Advocate General considered it useless to examine in what manner the accused entered into the Post-office; the fact was, that he entered into it while the Director-General was still there; that the latter yielded to force; that violence, moral at least, if not physical, had alone torn Mons. the Count Ferrand from his functions.
M. Hua examined in what quality the accused convoked the administrators, the order of convocation, the place which he occupied in that assembly, the order of dismission which he gave, and which was carried into execution. Every act betrayed the master, every act disclosed the usurper of a power which did not belong to him.
The Advocate-general, after resting for a short time, rejected as ridiculous and inadmissable the system of denial of the accused: what kind of chief, he asked, is this, who pretends to give only counsel to the subalterns who were masters? and yet all the orders bear the quality of Director-general of the Posts. Was it from habit that the protocol was found at the head of those orders? One of those orders is entirely from his hand. was he Director-general on the 21st only? It was on the 20th that all was executed. Was not the circular dated on the 20th, whch reached Beauvais and Auxerre on the night of the 21st; that accusatory circular,which carried to the provinces the most inflammatory falsehoods. "The capital is in the greatest enthusiasm." Was there an error in the date? Was it the 20th of March or the 8th of July? Ah! on this last day enthusiasm was at its height: never did the most affectionate family, which had been forced to lose its adored parent, return more lively thanks to Heaven for his restoration. On the 20th of March [stupor?] was in every countenance. Buonaparte himself was afraid of it. He received the salutations of his people, but a people collected together by his palace. The object of this circular cannot be doubted, it was to paralyse all loyal movement. Could it prevent civil war? But it would have made it burst out at Moulins, without the noble firmness of the Marquis of Frondeville, the Prefect of that city.
Such, Gentlemen of the Jury, are the charges against the accused. My task was to convince, not to move you, and I speak to your consciences; ask them, and judge accordingly.
M. the Cont Lavalette asked permission of the Court to acquaint his Judges with the history of his life since 1789. "I was, said the Count: at the day of the 10th of Agust: Although I [illegible] great repugnance to speak of myself, my course of life was as follows. I served with the army of the Rhine: with the army of Italy. I was Aid-de-Camp of General Baraguay d'Hilliers: it was to him I owe my military fortune. Aide-de-Camp of General Buonaparte, I was secretary to the Treaty of Peace of Leoben. I was four months at the Congress of Rastadt. I there acquired the esteem of a great number of persons. I made the campaigns of Egypt and Syria. I owed to the friendship of Buonaparte the hand of Mdlle. Beauharnois. Such has been my conduct; I appeal for proofs of it to my brethren in arms; I have always passionately loved my country; and my conscience has never reproached me."
M Tripier then spoke; he rapidly traced the picture of France, happy under its Kings; and entering upon his subject by an adroit transition, he examined whether the charge of conspiracy brought against Count de Lavalette was not a chimera, without support or justification. Where are the proofs? The conspirators are not known, the bonds of union are not pointed out, the correspondence is not forthcoming. The advocate adverted to the deposition of a witness, who spoke of a list of conspirators, in which was the name of the accused, and who designated the Hotel Saint-Leu as the place of meeting; the accused never frequented the Hotel Rovigo. If he visited Madame de St Leu, he belonged to her by ties of blood. What motive, then, placed the name of Lavalette in the ordonance of the 24th of July? Rumours imprudently circulated, without foundation and without proof. What was the conduct of Count Lavalette? Instead of concealing his person, he wrote on the 14th of July to the Council of ministers; he called for the charges against him; he begged that his prison might be assigned to him; he implored a trial; he surrendered himself to the prefecture of police: he underwent two interrogations; the simplicity of his answers, the picture of his conduct, soon caused to disappear all the charges heaped upon him by calumny and levity. if he appears before you, gentlemen, it is upon his formal demand. Of 72 witnesses heard in the course of the preliminary process, 35 only have appeared before you. all these have declared, that it was false and impossible that Count Lavalette had ever been, or could have been, in correspondence witht the Emperor of the Isle of Elba.
After having in this first part of his pleadings done away with the charges resulting from anterior suspicions, the Advocate [concontered?] the accusation in the fact which took place on the 20th of March.
The first fact relates to the pretended occupation of the Post-office. One single witness deposes to this fact, and yet two young men of the office were in the ante-room, immediately adjoining the hall of audience, where M.Marcarel was. The silence of these two young men, the absence of General Sebastiani, who could not repeat before you the disavowal which appears in his written deposition; the improbabilty out of the hall where a single individual was stationed; all tend to reject this first fact.
The second fact is the entrance of the accused into the cabinet of M.Ferrand. Marcarel and Formeau depose to this fact differently from M.Ferrand himself. he declared, that the accused did not enter his cabinet.
The third fact related to the dispatch of the courier. this fact in itself would belong to the second part of the defence; but the two circumstances which accompanied it, separated themselves. The witness Ruinet deposed to having heard Lavalette say to some one "Tell the Emperor that I am at my post." The courier Gerard, called to htis point did not repeat it. As for the answer of Buonaparte, his smile on reading the letter of the accused to this purport, "Then they expect me at Paris?" The Courier Gerard, who at the instant of his arrival would have a more perfect recollection than some weeks afterwards, said nothing regarding this answer. In the assembly of the Administrators, he gave an account of his message,and not one of the Administrators depose to the fact. The habit of Buonaparte to interrogate all who came to him, and the desire of giving pleasure to his master, might lead to an answer which would not apply personally to the accused.
The fourth fact respects the pretended obstruction given by the accused to the departure of the Count Ferrand. I believed, said M. Tripier, that all the world ought to be convinced of the non-existence of this obstruction. The horses were in the carriage. M. and Mad. Ferrand knew nothing of this obstacle, but from the recital of M. de Villars. The witness has been heard; he denies that he spoke of any obstacle. What determined M. Ferrand to require a permission de poste could only be an excessive precaution which occasioned unnecessary alarm. This permission was useless, and M. Ferrand never employed it. In refusing this permission to Mad. Ferrand, accompanied by M.de Montplaisir, her nephew, did the accused speak of exisitng authority? Mad. Ferrand would also have heard it, but she knows nothing of it.
The fifth fact embraces (continued the Advocate) the understanding which existed between the accused and the administrators of the posts. I would say the convocation. The only officers who asked for the accused were Messrs. Legrand and Coursol. The convocation was unnecessary, because the administrators were in the practice of coming every day to the office, and without the summons thay would have been there of their own accord.
Passing to the second portion of his pleadings, the Advocate examined the morality, (i.e. the criminality) of the acts proceeding from the accused. M.Tripier touched upon those points, to vindicate Lavalette from the imputation of being an accomplice. He examined in what way these acts could have promoted the return of the Usurper.
On the morning of the 20th of March, nothing remained to oppose the bold march of Buonaparte. Was not the paternal soul of his Majesty himself anxious to spare the effusion of blood? Did not the King forbid all resistance; all contest that could spill the blood of Frenchmen? How, then, on the occupation of the posts by M. Lavalette, could he have assisted Buonaparte in a march which nothing could oppose? Of what consequence was it at that time what situation the accused occupied. Count Lavalette then did not exert himself for the entrance of Buonaparte, and he could have done nothing at that time to resist him.
After an interval of a quarter of an hour, the Court was resumed, and M.Tripier continued his address. There yet remained to him to discuss the personal merit of the three orders given by Lavalette. before he proceeded to this subject, he replied to the public accuser, who supposed that the accused could have no other motive in taking the direction of the posts than that of serving Napoleon. Was it not possible that Count Lavalette might be induced by the interest of the thing itself? Might he not be deemed responsible for the preservation of an administration, over which he had presided for 13 years. Had his motive been private interest, he would not have been criminal. The acts done by Count Lavalette at the Post-office, are nothing more; they are merely irregular; that irregularity was excused by a number of circumstances that it was unnecessary to go over for the second time. The advocate enquired whether he had used violence, either moral or physical, to enter his functions. - No such charge could be brought against the accused.
The advocate of the accused, adverting to the two first orders, those of stopping the newspapers, and obstructing the departure of official letters, justified them on the same grounds. The order applied equally to all the papers, and there was, therefore, no distinct intention to stop the Moniteur, in which the proclamation of the King was inserted. the motive for this order was, in fact, nothing more than the absenceof certain officers, which rendered it impossible to perform what was to be done before the time of departure. (Our impartiality compels me to state, that M.Dancourt, superintendant of the division of the departure, contradicts this assertion of the advocate of the accused; and this witness declared, that many packets were already tied up, and he was obliged to undo them to take out the newspapers.)
As to the third order, concerning the re-establishment of the mails for the Lyons road, the suspension had become unnecessary, because Buonaparte had arrived there.
The order not to give horses to the post of Paris was solicited by the Post-master himself.
The circular to the Directors of the posts on the roads of Provence appeared to the Advocate a mere note, not intended for general publication; since, on all the road from Paris to Bourdeaux only five copies were delivered. The advocate laboured much to justify the contents of this circular.
Such was the justification from the charges resulting from the orders given by the accused. We leave it to our readers to appreciate its merit.
Many instances of justice and of watchfulness on the part of the Director General with respect to those employed, who enrolled themselves as royal volunteers, concluded a very long address, in which M.Tripier displayed all the resources of his talents, and the acuteness of his logic.
The President adjourned the sitting until five o'clock in the afternoon, for the purpose of resuming the discussion at that hour.
At half past six, the Court resumed its sitting, and the debate being over, the audience waited in religious silence the summing up of the President.
He expressed himself in these terms:-
(Here the Reporter of the Journal de Paris passes an eulogium on the President for this description of the duties of jurymen.)
The President then, after remarking on the letter written to Buonaparte in November (the only letter proved to have been written by the accused before the 20th of March), and on his taking refuge at Mme St Leu's - after renumerating his conduct at the Post-office in the morning of the 20th, and observing that, at least, one fact was evident, that "M.Ferrand could not leave the office because his carriage was stopped,", - then adverted to the circular and the .....
[end of available extract - Lavalette was convicted and condemned to death.]
The appeal of Lavalette was to come before the court of Cassation on Thursday, the 14th (to-morrow).
Paris December 20
It has been generally believed for some days past, that the severity of the law would, by Royal Prerogative, be mitigated in favour of M. Lavalette, but the following circumstance will shew there was little foundation for such belief: - Madame Lavalette presented herself at the Thuileries on Monday last, accompanied by the Duc de Ragusa, through whose protection she got introduced into the Salle des Marechaux, where she awaited the arrival of the King. Immediately on the appearance of his Majesty, Madame Lavalette threw herself at his feet, imploring the royal clemency in favour of her husband. The King, with all that grace and dignity peculiar to him, replied "Je suis bien fache, madame, que ma clemence ne puisse pas s'accorder avec mon devoir." * [I am very sorry, madame, that my clemency cannot agree with my duty] His Majesty had no sooner ceased speaking than the salle resounded with the unanimous cry of Vive le Roi.
It is necessary I should mention one circumstance which, I understand called forth the marked disapprobation of his Majesty, namely, the conduct of the Duc de Ragusa, who, for the purpose of introducing Madame Lavalette into the Salle de Marechaux, forced the consigne.
* These were the exact and literal words of the King.
Paris December 21
After having stated to you in my letter of yesterday, the answer of the King to Madame Lavalette, who had invoked the Royal clemency in favour of her husband, I expected to have announced to you today, that the sentence of the law with respect to him had been carried into execution; instead of which I have to inform you, that he made his escape from prison yesterday evening. The Minister of Justice was to have ordered the execution of Lavalette on Monday evening.
It was supposed that Lavalette had taken the road to St Quintin after he had quitted Paris, as the gendarmes were at Louvre, six leagues form Paris, at three o'clock in the moring in pursuit of him. The Minister of Police was apprised of his escape a few hours after he had quitted his prison, which was supposed to be between six and seven o'clock yesterday evening.
Two of the officers on guard at the Thuileries have been sent to the prison of the Abbaye for having suffered their consigne to be forced by Marmont and Madame Lavalette.
Thursday Morning December 21
I have this moment learnt that Lavalette escaped last night from the Conciergerie. The barriers have been since closed: no person is allowed to leave the town. Several British officers, returning to their country quarters, were obliged to take up their abode for the night in the metropolis.
I transmit to you from the highest authority, the following details concerning the evasion of Lavalette. This interesting event I briefly communicated to you in three lines this morning by the post.
Madame de Lavalette's health has been, as you know, very seriously impaired by all her late sufferings. For several weeks past, in order to avoid the movement of her carriage, she has used her sedan-chair; she has been accustomed to be carried in this vehicle into the prison, when it is constantly deposited in the passage of the under turnkey's room; thence passing through a door, the yard and corridor lead to the prisoner's apartment. At four yesterday afternoon, Madame de Lavalette arrived as usual, with a bonnet a la Francaise and a large veil, acompanied by her daughter, a young lady eleven years old. She was assisted upstairs and dined with her husband. About half-past five M. de Lavalette, arrayed in her clothes, taking his daughter by the arm, and supported by one of the turnkeys, slowly descended to the chair. No uncommon circumstance occurring to excite suspicion, he passed before all the Inspectors and Guardians of that horrible abode, and at the unbarring of the last gate was restored to the fresh air, to his friends and liberty. In the mean time Mad. de Lavalette, who had thrown over her the large cloak of her husband, was seated, breathless, in his armchair, with a book in her hand, and the candle burning behind her on a table. At half past 6 a gaoler entering the room, spoke to her, but met with no reply; he repeated the question, and astonished at the continued silence, he approached nearer to the Lady, when, with a smile, succeeded by strong convulsions, she exclaimed "Il est parti" - you may imagine the confusion. The Prefect of Police was acquainted with the event at a quarter before seven; estafettes were dispatched in every direction, and the barriers closed. It was at first rumoured the Ministers themselves had concurred in his evasion; that an English gentleman had conducted him away in his carriage, which was waiting at the end of the street for him; that one of the turnkeys had fled with him, &c. The first of these reports is absurd, the others I am neither able to confirm nor contradict.
The Police traced the chair two streets distant; there, it appears, M.de Lavalette alighted and stepped into the carriage that was there in readiness for him. It is conjectured he will fly into Bavaria, where his intimate friend and relation Prince Beauharnois will receive him with open arms, and the influence of that distinguished character is so great with the King, that should he reach his territories, there can be little doubt of his future safety. This well conducted plan was executed with peculiar felicity, and at the decisive moment; for M.Barbe Marbois, after several invitations, was reluctantly obliged to send yesterday evening to his Majesty's Attorney-General, the papers which ex-officio passed through his hands from the Cour de Cassation. It is said, he has in some degree committed himself by keeping these important documents full two days longer than the law authorises, in his possession. The Attorney-General must have done his duty immediately, and Lavalette would have been tonight a headless trunk.
Madame de Lavalette slept in prison. You would with difficulty conceive the interest she has everywhere inspired. On quitting the King with Marshal Marmont, she threw herself at the feet of the Duchess d'Angouleme, and the courtiers disengaging her hands from the gown of the Princess, vociferated Vive le Roi.
Times 2nd Jan. 1816
To the Editor of the Journal de Paris
"Paris , December .6 [sic: possibly 26?]
[Letter written by the son of the gaoler]
"The account which you have given of the escape of M. Lavalette is correct, with the exception of two circumstances.
"You stated, that the Minister of general Police and the Prefect of Police went to the prison, and immediately ordered the arrest of the gaoler. You should have stated, that six minutes precisely after the escape of M. Lavalette, the gaoler, after having ordered the keepers and myself (and it was I who stopped the sedan chair on the Quai des Orlevres) to go in pursuit, proceded himself to the Prefect of Police to inform him of the disastrous event. It was then that the Prefect sent my father to the prison of the depot of the Prefecture. Now is it probable that if the gaoler had been guilty, he would have given an account so soon to the Prefect of Police and placed himself at his mercy? Would he not have concealed the escape until next day, nay even disappeared himself before it was known?
"Several journalists have said that the gaoler seemed to be guilty of negligence: No, Sir, he has not. The gaoler was present in the front lodge when M. Lavalette went out, disguised in his wife's clothes, supported by his daughter and an old servant, all three sobbing and crying, which appeared to him quite natural. It has been said, why was not the handkerchief taken from his face? But I ask those who put this question, would they have done so themselves, to a female in the last agonies of grief and despair, at seeing her husband for the last time previous to his ascending the scaffold? Would not such conduct have been an insult and a cruelty, with which the gaoler might be justly charged?
"It has been said, why was it not discovered at the various wickets, that a man and not a woman was going out? In answer to this it may be said, that Madame Lavalette, every time she came to see her husband, was covered with a large fur cloak, which seemed to accord with her sickly condition, and under which her shape was completely disguised.
"If my father had been capable of selling his honour, he would have accepted the offers made him by Madame Ney, to save her husband - offers of which I can even now give an account from a conversation of which I took notes immediately after my father reported it to me.
"On the 17th of Nov. at seven o'clock in the evening, Madame Ney came into the Lodges where I was; she said to my father that she was desirous of speaking to him in private - I retired into the front Lodge.
After both were seated she spoke as follows: M. Rocquette, I know that nothing but the misfortunes you experienced at St Domingo reduced you to the necessity of becoming a gaoler - you have a large family, it may be possible, if you wish it, to place them in opulence.
'How so, Madame?'
'A victim is wanted and my husband is marked out; it depends on you to save him; set off with him - nothing can happen to you - depend upon it my fortune is considerable - I offer you half, nay the whole, if you wish it.'
'What Madame, do you propose to me to [illegible] my honour?'
'Sir, honour is not affected when it is necessary to save an unfortunate person.'
' No Madame, nothing can make me traffic with my duty. Your grief affects me, but I beseech you instantly to cease speaKing of a proposal which hurts me beyond measure.'
'What! will nothing in the world move you on behalf of an unfortunate family?'
' I participate in your grief, but I can do no more.'
'Then give me your word of honour that you will not mention what I have said to you to the Marshal, who is ignorant of my proposal.'
He made her the promise, and rose to put an end to a conversation which was disagreeable to him.
She said to him on going away, 'Will you think of it? Will you reflect on what I have said?'
'Madame, all my reflections are finished; I beseech you to think no more of the subject yourself.' From this moment, he avoided being alone with Madame Ney, lest she should renew the proposal."
I have the honour to be &c.
(Signed) "Rocquette de Kerguida, Jun"
Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2006
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