March 20 1815: Adams Misses Napoleon’s Return

On March 20 1815, John Quincy Adams is in Paris and writes in his diary.

20th. Mr. Beale came in and told me that the King and royal family were gone. They left the Palace of the Tuileries at one o’clock this morning, and took the road to Beauvais. It was but last Thursday that the King, at the Seance Royale, talked before the two legislative chambers of dying in defence of the country. Between one and two o’clock I went out, first to Mr. Smith’s. Most of the shops in the streets were shut, it being the Monday of Passion-week. There was a great crowd of people upon the Boulevards, but the cries of “Vive l’Empereur!” had already been substituted for those of “Vive le Roi!” I had received a letter from Mr. Beasley, with the account of the arrival in England of the ratification of our Ghent Treaty. The Favorite corvette, in which Mr. Carroll and Mr. Baker went out, has returned. She arrived on the nth instant, at Plymouth, after a passage of seventeen days from New York. She had a passage of thirty-seven days from Plymouth to that place, and arrived there the 9th of February. The treaty was received at Washington the 14th, and was ratified the 17th of February. The President’s proclamation was issued on the 18th, and the Favorite sailed from New York with the ratification the 22d. The ratifications were exchanged at eleven o’clock at night on the 17th. The American ratification was received by Lord Castlereagh in the evening of 13th March, and the event was immediately communicated by him to the Lord Mayor of London, and received after ten at night. Lord Fitzroy Somerset, the British Minister here, wrote a note to Mr. Crawford on Saturday morning, to inform him that he had received an official communication of the event. Mr. Beasley enclosed to me a slip of an American newspaper, with General Jackson’s report of the defence of New Orleans, and the defeat of the British in their attack upon that place, on the 8th of January. I went to the Hotel de l’Empire to show Beasley’s letter, and the enclosure, to Messrs. Bayard and Gallatin. But Mr. Bayard was asleep, and Mr. Gallatin was gone out.

I then took the papers to Mr. Crawford, and there met a Mr. Lormery, a Frenchman, who had been a fellow-passenger with him from America. Mr. Crawford had the Moniteur of this day, containing the King’s proclamation on leaving Paris. He says that Divine Providence, after restoring him to the throne of his ancestors, now permitted it to be shaken, by the defection of a part of the army who had sworn to defend it; that he had determined to avoid the calamities which might result from an ineffectual attempt to defend the capital, and to retire to a part of the kingdom more favorably situated for defence. The session of the two legislative chambers is declared to be closed, and they are convoked anew, to meet at the time and place to be hereafter notified. The King is satisfied with the attachment and devotion to him of the immense majority of the people of Paris, and promises to return very shortly to them again. Mr. Crawford told me that he had received an official notice that the Court was to be removed to Lille, whither any of the foreign Ministers who should think fit might repair; but those to whom that would be inconvenient would be at liberty to return to their own respective Governments. Mr. Crawford said he understood the foreign Ministers had for the last week had meetings together every day; that this morning they were to meet at the Turkish Minister’s, and General Waltersdorff, the Danish Minister, had promised to communicate to him the result of their meeting. But, he said, he had determined for himself what to do. He should answer the notice he had received by saying that he had already received permission to return to the United States, and had been for some time determined to embark this spring. He should not go to Lille. I left Mr. Crawford’s after four o’clock. It was said that Napoleon was to enter Paris by the Porte St. Antoine at that hour. I walked on the Boulevards until half-past five. The crowd waiting for him there was very great. Two or three troops of horse of his company came in before him. The cries of “Vive l’Empereur!” were repeated wherever they passed, but the general conversation of almost all the persons whom I overheard consisted of remarks upon the inconstancy of the populace, and the facility with which they shouted in favor of whoever was the ruling power of the day. There was a printseller, who had spread upon the ground the prints of the King and royal family, and was crying, “Allons, Messieurs—a dix sols la piece.” The faces of Napoleon, Marie Louise, and the King of Rome had taken the place at all the print-shops of the family of Bourbon. I heard a man call out to one of the troopers to enquire how long it would be before he (Napoleon) would come in. He said it would be three-quarters of an hour. I then came home and dined, and immediately returned to the Boulevard. The people were all dispersing, and there was no expectation of his entering Paris by that way. I went to the Theatre Francais, first into the parterre, but seeing Mr. Gallatin in the balcon, I went and joined him there. They had announced “Le Cid” and ” La fausse Agnes.” They performed ” L’Ecole des Femmes” and ” L’Esprit de Contradiction.” The house was almost empty, the performances languid and spiritless. Firmin, one of the actors, appeared with the three-colored cockade in his hat, and was clapped by two or three persons. There was no other manifestation of public sentiment. Mr. Todd, who came into the box for a few minutes, told me that the Emperor was to make his entry at noon to-morrow. As I came home, I found the columns of the Palais Royal covered with Napoleon’s proclamations, one to the French people and the other to the army, issued on the first of this month, at the Gulf Juan, the day of his landing at Cannes. And in the garden of the Palais Royal there was a great bonfire burning, of all the addresses, proclamations, appeals to the people, and inflammatory handbills which have been loading every column for the last fortnight, many of which had been posted up this morning. The crowd of people in the arches and gardens was considerable, and the cries of “Vive l’Empereur!” frequent, and sometimes accompanied by cries of “A bas les Calotins!” But, although the Palais Royal is not a quarter of a mile distant from the Tuileries, I did not know that Napoleon had actually arrived while I was at the theatre.

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