Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete

Author: Various


PARIS, September, 1805.

MY LORD:—The reciprocal jealousy and even interest of Austria, France, and Russia have hitherto prevented the tottering Turkish Empire from being partitioned, like Poland, or seized, like Italy; to serve as indemnities, like the German empire; or to be shared, as reward to the allies, like the Empire of Mysore.

When we consider the anarchy that prevails, both in the Government and among the subjects, as well in the capital as in the provinces of the Ottoman Porte; when we reflect on the mutiny and cowardice of its armies and navy, the ignorance and incapacity of its officers and military and naval commanders, it is surprising, indeed, as I have heard Talleyrand often declare, that more foreign political intrigues should be carried on at Constantinople alone than in all other capitals of Europe taken together. These intrigues, however, instead of doing honour to the, sagacity and patriotism of the members of the Divan, expose only their corruption and imbecility; and, instead of indicating a dread of the strength of the Sublime Sultan, show a knowledge of his weakness, of which the gold of the most wealthy, and the craft of the most subtle, by turns are striving to profit.

Beyond a doubt the enmity of the Ottoman Porte can do more mischief than its friendship can do service. Its neutrality is always useful, while its alliance becomes frequently a burden, and its support of no advantage. It is, therefore, more from a view of preventing evils than from expectation of profit, that all other Powers plot, cabal, and bribe. The map of the Turkish Empire explains what maybe though absurd or nugatory in this assertion.

As soon as a war with Austria was resolved on by the Brissot faction in 1792, emissaries were despatched to Constantinople to engage the Divan to invade the provinces of Austria and Russia, thereby to create a diversion in favour of this country. Our Ambassador in Turkey at that time, Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, though an admirer of the Revolution, was not a republican, and, therefore, secretly counteracted what he officially seemed to wish to effect. The Imperial Court succeeded, therefore, in establishing a neutrality of the Ottoman Porte, but Comte de Choiseul was proscribed by the Convention. As academician, he was, however, at St. Petersburg, liberally recompensed by Catherine II. for the services the Ambassador had performed at Constantinople.

In May, 1793, the Committee of Public Safety determined to expedite another embassy to the Grand. Seignior, at the head of which was the famous intriguer, De Semonville, whose revolutionary diplomacy had, within three years, alarmed the Courts of Madrid, Naples, and Turin, as well as the republican Government of Genoa. His career towards Turkey was stopped in the Grisons Republic, on the 25th of July following, where he, with sixteen other persons of his suite, was arrested, and sent a prisoner, first to Milan, and afterwards to Mantua. He carried with him presents of immense value, which were all seized by the Austrians. Among them were four superb coaches, highly finished, varnished, and gilt; what is iron or brass in common carriages was here gold or silver-gilt. Two large chests were filled with stuff of gold brocade, India gold muslins, and shawls and laces of very great value. Eighty thousand louis d’or in ready money; a service of gold plate of twenty covers, which formerly belonged to the Kings of France; two small boxes full of diamonds and brilliants, the intrinsic worth of which was estimated at forty-eight millions of livres—and a great number of jewels; among others, the crown diamond, called here the Regents’, and in your country the Pitt Diamond, fell, with other riches, into the hands of the captors. Notwithstanding this loss and this disappointment, we contrived in vain to purchase the hostility of the Turks against our enemies, though with the sacrifice of no less a sum (according to the report of Saint Just, in June, 1794,) than seventy millions of livres: These official statements prove the means which our so often extolled economical and moral republican Governments have employed in their negotiations.

After the invasion of Egypt, in time of peace, by Bonaparte, the Sultan became at last convinced of the sincerity of our professions of friendship, which he returned with a declaration of war. The preliminaries of peace with your country, in October, 1801, were, however, soon followed with a renewal of our former friendly intercourse with the Ottoman Porte. The voyage of Sebastiani into Egypt and Syria, in the autumn of 1802, showed that our tenderness for the inhabitants of these countries had not diminished, and that we soon intended to bestow on them new hugs of fraternity. Your pretensions to Malta impeded our prospects in the East, and your obstinacy obliged us to postpone our so well planned schemes of encroachments. It was then that Bonaparte first selected for his representative to the Grand Seignior, General Brune, commonly called by Moreau, Macdonald, and other competent judges of military merit, an intriguer at the head of armies, and a warrior in time of peace when seated in the Council chamber.

This Brune was, before the Revolution, a journeyman printer, and married to a washerwoman, whose industry and labour alone prevented him from starving, for he was as vicious as idle. The money he gained when he chose to work was generally squandered away in brothels, among prostitutes. To supply his excesses he had even recourse to dishonest means, and was shut up in the prison of Bicetre for robbing his master of types and of paper.

In the beginning of the Revolution, his very crimes made him an acceptable associate of Marat, who, with the money advanced by the Orleans faction, bought him a printing-office, and he printed the so dreadfully well-known journal, called ’L’Amie du Peuple’. From the principles of this atrocious paper, and from those of his sanguinary patron, he formed his own political creed. He distinguished himself frequently at the clubs of the Cordeliers, and of the Jacobins, by his extravagant motions, and by provoking laws of proscription against a wealth he did not possess, and against a rank he would have dishonoured, but did not see without envy. On the 30th of June, 1791, he said, in the former of these clubs:

"We hear everywhere complaints of poverty; were not our eyes so often disgusted with the sight of unnatural riches, our hearts would not so often be shocked at the unnatural sufferings of humanity. The blessings of our Revolution will never be felt by the world, until we in France are on a level, with regard to rank as well as to fortune. I, for my part, know too well the dignity of human nature ever to bow to a superior; but, brothers and friends, it is not enough that we are all politically equal, we must also be all equally rich or equally poor—we must either all strive to become men of property, or reduce men of property to become sans-culottes. Believe me, the aristocracy of property is more dangerous than the aristocracy of prerogative or fanaticism, because it is more common. Here is a list sent to ’L’ Amie du People’, but of which prudence yet prohibits the publication. It contains the names of all the men of property of Paris, and of the Department of the Seine, the amount of their fortunes, and a proposal how to reduce and divide it among our patriots. Of its great utility in the moment when we have been striking our grand blows, nobody dares doubt; I, therefore, move that a brotherly letter be sent to every society of our brothers and friends in the provinces, inviting each of them to compose one of similar contents and of similar tendency, in their own districts, with what remarks they think proper to affix, and to forward them to us, to be deposited, in the mother club, after taking copies of them for the archives of their own society."

His motion was decreed.

Two days afterwards, he again ascended the tribune. "You approved," said he, "of the measures I lately proposed against the aristocracy of property; I will now tell you of another aristocracy which we must also crush—I mean that of religion, and of the clergy. Their supports are folly, cowardice, and ignorance. All priests are to be proscribed as criminals, and despised as impostors or idiots; and all altars must be reduced to dust as unnecessary. To prepare the public mind for such events, we must enlighten it; which can only be done by disseminating extracts from ’L’ Amie du People’, and other philosophical publications. I have here some ballads of my own composition, which have been sung in my quarter; where all superstitious persons have already trembled, and all fanatics are raving. If you think proper, I will, for a mere trifle, print twenty thousand copies of them, to be distributed and disseminated gratis all over France."

After some discussion, the treasurer of the club was ordered to advance Citizen Brune the sum required, and the secretary to transmit the ballads to the fraternal societies in the provinces.

Brune put on his first regimentals as an aide-decamp to General Santerre in December, 1792, after having given proofs of his military prowess the preceding September, in the massacre of the prisoners in the Abbey. In 1793 he was appointed a colonel in the revolutionary army, which, during the Reign of Terror, laid waste the departments of the Gironde, where he was often seen commanding his corps, with a human head fixed on his sword. On the day when he entered Bordeaux with his troops, a new-born child occupied the same place, to the great horror of the inhabitants. During this brilliant expedition he laid the first foundation of his present fortune, having pillaged in a most unmerciful manner, and arrested or shot every suspected person who could not, or would not, exchange property for life. On his return to Paris, his patriotism was recompensed with a commission of a general of brigade. On the death of Robespierre, he was arrested as a terrorist, but, after some months’ imprisonment, again released.

In October, 1795, he assisted Napoleon Bonaparte in the massacre of the Parisians, and obtained for it, from the director Barras, the rank of a general of division. Though occupying, in time of war, such a high military rank, he had hitherto never seen an enemy, or witnessed an engagement.

After Bonaparte had planned the invasion and pillage of Switzerland, Brune was charged to execute this unjust outrage against the law of nations. His capacity to intrigue procured him this distinction, and he did honour to the choice of his employers. You have no doubt read that, after lulling the Government of Berne into security by repeated proposals of accommodation, he attacked the Swiss and Bernese troops during a truce, and obtained by treachery successes which his valour did not promise him. The pillage, robberies, and devastations in Helvetia added several more millions to his previously great riches.

It was after his campaign in Holland, during the autumn of 1799, that he first began to claim some military glory. He owed, however, his successes to the superior number of his troops, and to the talents of the generals and officers serving under him. Being made a Counsellor of State by Bonaparte, he was entrusted with the command of the army against the Chouans. Here he again seduced by his promises, and duped by his intrigues, acted infamously—but was successful.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Various, "Letter XXXVIII.," Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809 in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed October 4, 2023,

MLA: Various. "Letter XXXVIII." Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809, in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 4 Oct. 2023.

Harvard: Various, 'Letter XXXVIII.' in Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 4 October 2023, from