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November 23 1812: Napoleon Contemplates Being Captured


On November 23, 1812, Philip de Segur, overhears a conversation between Napoleon and some of his minsters: 

It was getting late; Napoleon had gone to bed. Duroc and Daru, who remained in his chamber, fancying that he was asleep, were giving way, in whispers, to the most gloomy conjectures; he overheard them, however, and the word "prisoner of state," coming to his ear, "How!" exclaimed he, "do you believe they would dare?" Daru, after his first surprise, immediately answered, "that if we were compelled to surrender, we must be prepared for every thing; that he had no reliance on an enemy's generosity; that we knew too well that great state-policy considered itself identified with morality, and was regulated by no law." "But France," said the Emperor, "what would France say?" "Oh, as to France," continued Daru, "we are at liberty to make a thousand conjectures more or less disagreeable, but none of us can know what will take place there." And he then added, "that for the sake of the Emperor's chief officers, as well as the Emperor himself, the most fortunate thing would be, if by the air or otherwise, as the earth was closed upon us, the Emperor could reach France, from whence he could much more certainly provide for their safety, than by remaining among them!" "Then I suppose I am in your way?" replied the Emperor, smiling. "Yes, Sire." "And you have no wish to be a prisoner of state?" Daru replied in the same tone, "that it was enough for him to be a prisoner of war." On which the Emperor remained for some time in a profound silence; then with a more serious air: "Are all the reports of my ministers burnt?" "Sire, hitherto you would not allow that to be done." "Very well, go and destroy them; for it must be confessed, we are in a most melancholy position." This was the sole avowal which it wrested from him, and on that idea he went to sleep, knowing, when it was necessary, how to postpone every thing to the next day.

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