On This Day in Napoleonic History – 9 August 1794

9Napoleon is arrested

Napoleon was close to Maximilien Robespierre’s younger brother Augustine, which naturally put him under suspicion after Robespierre’s fall. Napoleon was arrested at his lodgings in Nice. He spent a day in a fortress there before being transferred to Fort CarrΓ© in Antibes. He was familiar with both fortresses, having inspected them officially earlier in his career. Napoleon would remain a prisoner for ten days.

Out of self-preservation Antoine Christophe Saliceti did nothing to help his protΓ©gΓ©, going as far as ransacking Napoleon’s papers in search of evidence of treachery. ‘He barely deigned to look at me from the mighty height of his greatness,’ said Napoleon, who was in grave danger.

During those dark days of the Revolution, innocence didn’t protect from guillotine. Even Napoleon’s proven heroism fighting for the Republic couldn’t save him. ‘Men can be unjust towards me, my dear Junot,’ he wrote to his faithful aide-de-camp, ‘but it suffices to be innocent. My conscience is the tribunal before which I call my conduct.’

Although Junot was ready to break Napoleon out of jail, Napoleon said to him, ‘Do nothing. It will only compromise me.’ The Thermidorians were not as bloodthirsty and ruthless as the Jacobins, however, and the future Emperor of the French was released for lack of evidence on August 20th.

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