ON MARCH 18, 1817.


"I approve these Observations. I desire that they may be placed before the eyes of the Sovereign and of the People of England."


Longwood, 9th Oct. 1817.






(See the Morning Chronicle of the 19th of March, 1817.)

"That the Noble Mover could not discuss with a due degree of impartiality the restrictions imposed upon this prisoner, while he conceived restrictions of what kind soever to be inhuman and unjustifiable." (1)

1. THE Bill of the parliament of England of the 11th April, 1816, is neither a law nor a judgment. A law determines only on general objects. The characteristics of a judgment are, the competency of the tribunal; information, hearing of witnesses, confrontation, and argument. This bill is an act of proscription, similar to those of Sylla and of Marius; as necessary, as just, but more barbarous ! Sylla and Marius, as consuls or dictators of the Republic, had an unquestionable jurisdiction over the Romans. Neither the king of England, nor his people, had or have any over Napoleon: they are fifteen millions of men, oppressing one man in time of peace, because he directed and commanded armies. against them in time of war. But Sylla and Marius signed those acts of proscription with the still ensanguined point of the sword, amidst the tumults and the violence of camps. The bill of the 11th of April was signed in a time of peace, with the sceptre of a great people, in the sanctuary of the law. How will the members of the English parliament dare, henceforward, to blame those who proscribed Charles I. and Louis XVI.? Those princes perished at least by a death which was prompt, and without agony !

This bill declares, 1st, that Napoleon shall be treated as if he were a prisoner of war;-2dly, that the English government shall have the right of making all the restrictions which it shall

judge necessary. By the former stipulation, that prince has been placed under the protection of the law of nations, which being founded on the principle of reciprocity, is not a guarantee in time of peace; the latter stipulation destroys even the semblance of the guarantee which might appear to have been intended by the former. The English bill, after violating every thing, in order to seize the person of this prince, at that time the illustrious guest of England, immediately and precipitately delivers him up to all the fury of his personal enemies, who are animated by the basest passions. A legislative senate, which abandons an individual to arbitrary power, were he even the lowest of the human species, is wanting to itself, and misunderstands its sacred character.

It was asked, what need had ministers to be invested with the right of making restrictions, since the law of nations was to be their rule? One of them answered, that it was in order that they might feel authorised in ordaining a more liberal treatment than was customary towards prisoners of war. Observers were not thus misled; they foresaw the secret views of the cabinet; they were grieved for the honor of their nation; results have justified, and daily continue to justify, their conjectures. This great man is dying upon a rock; he is dying a death sufficiently slow to be apparently natural :-an excess of cruelty hitherto unknown among nations. This bill is more barbarous than if, like those of Sylla, it had caused to be severed, at one blow, the head of this high enemy !

The right of making restrictions has been conferred by the bill, on the government, and the latter cannot delegate it. The restrictions ought to be invested with the forms of an act of government, passed in council, and signed by the prince. A single minister, therefore, cannot exercise it; yet thus it is, that the four restrictions have been adopted and published, which were printed at the time. They have been communicated at St. Helena only partially and verbally; some articles in writing, extracted from the correspondence of the minister, and as a simple act of his administration. These restrictions are:

1. The detention at St. Helena.

2. The name imposed of General Bonaparte.

3. The prohibition from going abroad, upon the rock of St. Helena, otherwise than accompanied by an officer.

4. The obligation, first, of writing none but open letters, to be transmitted to the officer appointed to guard St. Helena; and se condly, of receiving none but opened letters which have passed under the eye of the minister.

These four restrictions are contrary to the law of nations. It



was not therefore for the sake of ameliorating the lot of the detained persons that ministers caused themselves to be invested with the right of making restrictions. No instance will be cited in the history of Great Britain or of France, in which prisoners of war were sent away to be in a state of detention in another hemisphere, and on an isolated rock in the midst of the seas. If the security of the detention had been the only object in view, there was no want of castles or of houses in England; but it was the devouring climate of the tropic which was required!

Nor has the second restriction any relation to the security of the detention; it has the effect of aggravating the condition of this prince. Prisoners of war, when they fall into the power of the enemy, are legitimated by the title which they bore at home. But the Bourbons ceased not to reign in France; the Republic and the fourth dynasty were not legitimate governments. On what are these new principles founded? If the English government acknowledge that the Bourbons reigned in France at the time of the peace of Amiens, in 1802, they acknowledge that Cardinal York reigned in England at the treaty of Paris, in 1783; that Charles XIII. does not reign in Sweden. To sanction these principles, is to throw all thrones into disorder; it is to propagate the germs of revolution among all nations.

It was well known that the Emperor ought not, could not, and never would avail himself of the condition contained in the third restriction. Therefore, it was calculated that he would not go out of an unwholesome dwelling. What relation could this restriction have to the security of the detention, on a precipitous rock, six hundred leagues from any continent, around which several brigs are cruising, where there is only a single anchorage, and the circumference of which may moreover be guarded by ten or twelve posts of infantry?

It was equally well known, that in order not to submit to the humiliation prescribed in the fourth restriction, he would not receive or write any letter. The correspondence between this remote island and Europe, may take place at most twice a-year; eight or nine months must elapse before an answer arrives: how can a correspondence of this kind have any influence on the security of the detention, or on the tranquillity of Europe? But it takes away all moral consolation. It is to the soul what this frightful clinate is to the body. The end in view is approached by two ways at once.

The officer commanding at St. Helena, could be charged only with the guard, and with the execution of the restrictions: but this is not the case; he alone makes, unmakes, and remakes all the regulations and the restrictions, according to his own fancy

precipitately, and in forms illegal and obscure. No limits have been prescribed to the discretion, no resource against the passion, the caprice, and the folly of a single man. There is no council, no

magistrate, no lawyer, no public opinion on this rock.

Does the minister then believe it to be impossible, that an officer appointed to guard St. Helena, will be guilty of abuse? But when he chooses him ad hoc from among men of a character which was ascertained from preceding missions, is it not probable that he will commit abuse? And when he tells him, "if the detained person escape, your honor and your fortune are lost;" is not this as much as telling him to commit abuse? Is it not interesting him in it, by all that is dearest to man? A jailor in Europe cannot impose restrictions, even upon criminals, according to the measure of his alarm, his caprice, or his passion; he refers these points to magistrates of the administrative, or judiciary order, who determine upon them, and protect his responsibility: if such were not the case, there would be no dungeons safe enough in the eyes of the man responsible for the detention. For, after all, prisoners shut up in towers, fettered and manacled, have found means to escape. In whatever situation living men are placed, they have always certain chances, more or less numerous, of regaining their liberty. Do you seek for a place in which to inclose a man, without any chance of freeing himself, without even a single chance in a thousand, you will find only one-a coffin !

If the problem be proposed of contriving a set of instructions, to give to the officer charged with the guard of St. Helena, so that the detained persons may be exposed to every kind of vexation and caprice, which may satisfy the most implacable hatred, without obliging it to unmask itself, and display its odious countenance : after a man has been chosen, whose character and opinions are well known, he will be told "you are to take all necessary mea sures to ensure the detention; there will be no magistrate on the spot to receive complaints that may be made against you, nor can any arrive but through your channel, and in open letters, to a minister at the distance of two thousand leagues; yourself alone, both judge and party, will prepare the information; that information will be secret; but, at the same time, if the detained person escape, your honor and your fortune are lost." The problem will have been solved, but certainly by an abandonment of all idea of justice, and of every humane feeling; by destroying the bill, or at least its literal and public sense. The savages who believe they have a right to devour their prisoners, would disclaim this excess of cruelty!

When the purpose has been to conceal the ultimate object, for which St. Helena was chosen, it has been said, such choice was

« ElőzőTovább »