1807 | France

Letters of the Law

Napoleon keeps tabs.

August 28
Minister of Police Fouché,

Have articles written bringing the conduct of the king of Sweden, who has shamefully abandoned one of his towns to the enemy, into strong relief. The articles must be conceived in a serious tone, and must make it evident that to surrender a town and leave it to the enemy’s mercy is not only an action unworthy of a prince, but a violation of his duty to the people, even in a conquered country; that to give up pieces of artillery and a town, the counterscarp of which has not been crossed, nor even a breach made in the walls, is to disgrace his arms and be false to his honor. You must have long articles, which develop these two ideas and faithfully depict the king of Sweden’s weakness, inconsistency, and folly. You must have one especially long article that will be a sort of indictment of him.


September 1
M. Fouché,

That man Partarieux of Bordeaux has been long noted as a worthless fellow. I know the police commissary’s reports are not very much to be depended on, because of the well-known enmity between the two men. You must write to the president, to the imperial commissary, and to the mayor, and get me their opinion of the man, and about the incident of the blood on the emperor’s bust, and the still more important one of his having refused to take the oath, and having torn up the voting paper. If either of these two facts be true, he must be arrested and taken to Paris, under a police warrant.

You will have the man Dufour, aide-de-camp to Georges, arrested, together with the two brothers Lalande, and Geslin and Beauchamp. These five persons will be arrested at the same time, and sent with courier horses to the Temple that very day. Whether they are guilty or not of the act they are now accused of, I have been displeased with them for a long time.

Last winter certain individuals in the Morbihan, the Côtes-du-Nord, and Ille-et-Vilaine showed themselves ill-disposed. Make out a list of some score of those who seemed most inclined to disturbance.

The Hermit and Sleeping Angelica, by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1628. © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna / Bridgeman Images.

The Hermit and Sleeping Angelica, by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1628. © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna / Bridgeman Images.

September 7
M. Fouché,

I see by your report that a certain Frémont, a priest in the department of Seine-et-Marne, exercises his functions without having made his submission, in the village of Bois-le-Roi. Have him arrested; have him examined by my procurator general at the criminal court, and let me see everything relating to this priest, so that I may go on to decide what should be done about him. A priest who performs his functions without his bishop’s cognizance revolts against the state and must be punished. Let the imperial procurator understand that you are employing him, in this case, on a confidential mission and not an official one. Make him acquainted with my principles on the subject.

Give orders to have Mr. Kuhn, the American consul at Genoa, put under arrest, for wearing a Cross of Malta given him by the English, and as being an English agent. His papers will be seized, and an abstract of them made, and he will be kept in secret confinement until you have made your report to me. This man, having received a foreign decoration, ceases to be an American. I am sorry, by the way, you should have communicated with the ambassador of the United States. My police knows no ambassadors. I am master in my own house. If I suspect a man, I have him arrested. I would even have the ambassador of Austria arrested, if he was hatching anything against the state.

I see in your report, one from the police commissary at Bordeaux, to the effect that the nobility did not attend the ball given by Senator Lamartinière. I wish for details on the subject, and desire to be informed, family by family, as to the persons referred to in this document, and to know whether they were in Bordeaux; for, at this fine season, they might have been in the country, and, in that case, the commissary general does wrong to impute this fact to them as a crime.


September 29
M. Fouché,

You must make sure whether M. Lahaye, formerly a deputy, is settled at Antwerp. If he is, you will have him arrested and taken to the Temple, and you will have his papers seized.

Order the goods of the Abbé Ratel to be sequestered. I am informed he still has something left under other people’s names.

Some members of La Haye-Saint-Hilaire’s family have come from Rennes to Paris to sue my mercy for that wretch. Order them not to venture into my presence. They should hide their faces for shame at having produced such a monster.


Napoleon Bonaparte

From letters to Joseph Fouché. In 1804, after an assassination plot against Bonaparte was discovered, Fouché advised that the best way to discourage conspiracy would be to declare France a hereditary empire, which Bonaparte did later that year. Fouché ran the country’s secret-police program using an extensive network of spies, who also helped him keep a dossier on the emperor himself. After Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and abdicated the throne in 1815, Fouché supported the restoration of monarchy.