BONAPARTE Joseph - Autograph Letter Signed 1815 to an Englishman during the Hundred Days
Joseph BONAPARTE (1768-1844)Autograph Letter Signed (“joseph”) to “Milord”, expressing his friendship and his hopes for harmony between their two countries during the Hundred Days.
1 page 4to in French with integral blank leaf, Paris, 26 April 1815.
Trans: “You gave me a homeland when my own rejected me, and that new homeland was a free country; today, when I have returned to my country, how could I forget your noble work on my behalf, how could I fail to beg you to accept my tremendous gratitude, to ask Lord Cornwallis to accept it, for I doubt not that your concern and the memory of his worthy father would have impelled him to do everything in his power to help me. Today, I pray for harmony between our two nations, which will give me the opportunity of seeing you here again and even going to see you . . . “
The identity of Joseph’s correspondent is unclear, though the reference to Lord Cornwallis and the appellation “Milord” implies that he was certainly British.
Following Napoleon’s first abdication, Joseph retired to a chateau in Switzerland where he lived a tranquil life with his family. However, the close proximity to the French border made many in the new government, including Talleyrand, nervous and suspicious. Their suspicions were very likely unfounded, until Napoleon’s return from Elba when Joseph answered his brother’s call for support.
The Hundred Days involved not only a military campaign, but also a heated debate in Paris, especially at this period, over the structure of the new government. Joseph, always more liberal than his brother, would quite likely have been happy to see an English-style constitutional monarchy, obviously with his brother at the head.
Joseph had come to know and like the Marquess Cornwallis, who had earlier served in America and India, when they met for the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. Indeed, it is said that, after they had both signed the Treaty, they embraced warmly. The Lord Cornwallis mentioned in this letter is his son, as the 1st Marquess Cornwallis had died in 1805.
Following the defeat at Waterloo, there was much discussion among the brothers – not only Joseph and Napoleon but also Lucien, Louis and Jerome – of going into exile in the United States, as well as the possibility of spending their remaining years in England, where Lucien had been a prisoner, in a rather loose way, for some years. Joseph entertained the hope of retiring to America with Napoleon, or even helping Napoleon to escape to America disguised as himself, as the two brothers bore a striking resemblance to each other. Eventually, only Joseph went to the United States, where he spent many, evidently very happy, years in New Jersey, just across the state border from Philadelphia, living under the name of the Comte de Survilliers.
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