Joseph Fouché

Last updated

The Duke of Otranto

Portrait of Joseph Fouche.jpg
President of the Executive Commission
In office
22 June 1815 7 July 1815
Monarch Napoleon II
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded byOffice abolished
(Talleyrand as Prime Minister)
Minister of Police
In office
20 July 1799 3 June 1810
Preceded byClaude Sébastien Bourguignon-Dumolard
Succeeded by Anne Jean Marie René Savary
In office
20 March 1815 22 June 1815
Preceded by Jules Anglès
Succeeded byJean, comte Pelet de la Lozère
In office
7 July 1815 26 September 1815
Preceded byJean, comte Pelet de la Lozère
Succeeded by Élie, duc Decazes
Deputy of the National Convention
In office
20 September 1792 2 November 1795
Constituency Nantes
Personal details
Born(1759-05-21)21 May 1759
Le Pellerin, France
Died26 December 1820(1820-12-26) (aged 61)
Trieste, Austrian Empire
Nationality French
Political party Jacobin (1789–1795)
Girondist (1792–1793)
Montagnard (1793–1794)
Thermidorian (1794–1799)
Bonapartist (1799–1814)

Joseph Fouché, 1st Duc d'Otrante, 1st Comte Fouché (21 May 1759 – 25 December 1820) was a French statesman and Minister of Police under First Consul Bonaparte, who later became Emperor Napoleon. He was particularly known for his ferocity with which he suppressed the Lyon insurrection during the Revolution in 1793 and for being minister of police under the Directory, the Consulate, and the Empire. In English texts, his title is often translated as Duke of Otranto.

France Republic in Europe with several non-European regions

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

The revolt of Lyon against the National Convention was a counter-revolutionary movement in the city of Lyon during the time of the French Revolution. It was a revolt of moderates against the more radical National Convention, the third government during the French Revolution. It broke out in June 1793 and was put down in December of the same year, after government forces had besieged the city.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.



Fouché was born in Le Pellerin, a small village near Nantes. His mother was Marie Françoise Croizet (1720–1793), and his father was Julien Joseph Fouché (1719–1771). He was educated at the college of the Oratorians at Nantes, and showed aptitude for literary and scientific studies. Wanting to become a teacher, he was sent to an institution kept by brethren of the same order in Paris. There he made rapid progress, and was soon appointed to tutorial duties at the colleges of Niort, Saumur, Vendôme, Juilly and Arras. There he was initiated into Freemasonry at "Sophie Mademlaine" lodge in 1788. [1] [2] At Arras he had had some encounters with Maximilien Robespierre both before the revolution and in the early days of the French Revolution (1789).

Le Pellerin Commune in Pays de la Loire, France

Le Pellerin is a commune in the Loire-Atlantique department in western France.

Nantes Prefecture and commune in Pays de la Loire, France

Nantes is a city in Loire-Atlantique on the Loire, 50 km (31 mi) from the Atlantic coast. The city is the sixth-largest in France, with a population of 303,382 in Nantes and a metropolitan area of nearly 950,000 inhabitants. With Saint-Nazaire, a seaport on the Loire estuary, Nantes forms the main north-western French metropolis.

Oratory of Jesus Catholic society of apostolic life

The Congregation of the Oratory of Jesus and Mary Immaculate, best known as the French Oratory, is a Catholic Society of apostolic life of Catholic priests founded in 1611 in Paris, France, by Pierre de Bérulle (1575–1629), later a cardinal of the Catholic Church. They are known as Bérullians or Oratorians. The French Oratory had a determinant influence on the French school of spirituality throughout the 17th century. It is separate and distinct from the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, which served as its inspiration.

In October 1790, he was transferred by the Oratorians to their college at Nantes, in an attempt to control his advocacy of revolutionary principles - however, Fouché became even more of a democrat. His talents and anti-clericalism brought him into favour with the population of Nantes, especially after he became a leading member of the local Jacobin Club. When the college of the Oratorians was dissolved in May 1792, Fouché gave up the church, whose major vows he had not taken.

Democracy system of government in which citizens vote directly in or elect representatives to form a governing body, sometimes called "rule of the majority"

Democracy is a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation. Who people are and how authority is shared among them are core issues for democratic development and constitution. Some cornerstones of these issues are freedom of assembly and speech, inclusiveness and equality, membership, consent, voting, right to life and minority rights.

Anti-clericalism is opposition to religious authority, typically in social or political matters. Historical anti-clericalism has mainly been opposed to the influence of Roman Catholicism. Anti-clericalism is related to secularism, which seeks to remove the church from all aspects of public and political life, and its involvement in the everyday life of the citizen.

A revolutionary republican

After the downfall of the monarchy on 10 August 1792 (following the storming of the royal Tuileries Palace), he was elected as deputy for the département of the Loire-Inférieure to the National Convention—which proclaimed the French Republic on 22 September.

In the administrative divisions of France, the department is one of the three levels of government below the national level, between the administrative regions and the commune. Ninety-five departments are in metropolitan France, and five are overseas departments, which are also classified as regions. Departments are further subdivided into 334 arrondissements, themselves divided into cantons; the last two have no autonomy, and are used for the organisation of police, fire departments, and sometimes, elections.

Loire-Atlantique Department of France

Loire-Atlantique is a department in Pays de la Loire on the west coast of France named after the Loire River and the Atlantic Ocean.

National Convention Single-chamber assembly in France from 21 September 1792 to 26 October 1795

The National Convention was the first government of the French Revolution, following the two-year National Constituent Assembly and the one-year Legislative Assembly. Created after the great insurrection of 10 August 1792, it was the first French government organized as a republic, abandoning the monarchy altogether. The Convention sat as a single-chamber assembly from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795.

Fouché's interests brought him into contact with the Marquis de Condorcet and the Girondists, and he became a Girondist himself. However, their lack of support for the trial and execution of King Louis XVI (December 1792 - 21 January 1793) led him to join the Jacobins, the more decided partisans of revolutionary doctrine. Fouché was strongly in favor of the king's immediate execution, and denounced those who wavered.

Marquis de Condorcet French philosopher, mathematician, and political scientist

Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis of Condorcet, known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher and mathematician. His ideas, including support for a liberal economy, free and equal public instruction, constitutional government, and equal rights for women and people of all races, have been said to embody the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and Enlightenment rationalism. He died in prison after a period of flight from French Revolutionary authorities.

Louis XVI of France King of France

Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was the last king of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.

The crisis that resulted from the declaration of war by the Convention against Great Britain and the Dutch Republic (1 February 1793, see French Revolutionary Wars ), and a little later against Spain, made Fouché famous as one of the Jacobin radicals holding power in Paris. While the armies of the First Coalition threatened the north-east of France, a revolt of the Royalist peasants in Brittany and La Vendée menaced the Convention on the west. That body sent Fouché with a colleague, Villers, as representatives on mission invested with almost dictatorial powers for the crushing of the revolt of "the whites" (the royalist colour). The vigour with which he carried out these duties earned him a reputation, and he soon held the post of commissioner of the republic in the département of the Nièvre.

Kingdom of Great Britain Constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707 and 1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 1 January 1801. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". Since its inception the kingdom was in legislative and personal union with Ireland and after the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or simply United Provinces, and commonly referred to historiographically as the Dutch Republic, was a confederal republic formally established from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first fully independent Dutch nation state.

French Revolutionary Wars series of conflicts fought between the French Republic and several European monarchies from 1792 to 1802

The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted France against Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and several other monarchies. They are divided in two periods: the War of the First Coalition (1792–97) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). Initially confined to Europe, the fighting gradually assumed a global dimension. After a decade of constant warfare and aggressive diplomacy, France had conquered a wide array of territories, from the Italian Peninsula and the Low Countries in Europe to the Louisiana Territory in North America. French success in these conflicts ensured the spread of revolutionary principles over much of Europe.

Together with Pierre Gaspard Chaumette, he helped to initiate the dechristianization movement in the autumn of 1793. In the Nièvre department, Fouché ransacked churches, sent their valuables to the treasury, and helped establish the Cult of Reason. He ordered the words "Death is an eternal sleep" to be inscribed over the gates to cemeteries. He also fought luxury and wealth, wanting to abolish the use of currency. The new cult was inaugurated at Notre Dame de Paris by "The Festival of Reason". It was here that Fouché gave "the most famous example of its [dechristianization] early phase". [3] Ironically enough, it was only a year previous that Fouché had been "an advocate of the role of the clergy in education," yet he was now "abandoning the role of religion in society altogether in favour of 'the revolutionary and clearly philosophical spirit' he had first wanted for education." [4] Overall, the dechristianization movement "reflected the wholesale transformation that Jacobin and radical leaders were beginning to see as necessary for the survival of the Republic, and the creation of a republican citizenry." [5]

Fouche in Lyon, January 1794 Fouche a Lyon drawn by Raffet 1834.png
Fouché in Lyon, January 1794

Fouché went on to Lyon in November with Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois to execute the reprisals of the Convention. Lyon had revolted against the Convention. Lyon, on 23 November, was declared to be in a "state of revolutionary war" by Collot and Fouché. The two men then formed the Temporary Commission for Republican Supervision. He inaugurated his mission with a festival notable for its obscene parody of religious rites. Fouché and Collot then brought in "a contingent of almost two thousand of the Parisian Revolutionary Army" to begin their terrorizing. [6] "On 4 December, 60 men, chained together, were blasted with grapeshot on the plain de Brotteaux outside the city, and 211 more the following day. [7] Grotesquely ineffective, these mitraillades resulted in heaps of mutilated, screaming, half-dead victims, who were finished off with sabres and musket fire by soldiers physically sickened at the task." [8] Events like this made Fouché infamous as "The Executioner of Lyons." [9] The Commission was not happy with the methods used for killing the rebels so, soon after, "more normal firing squads supplemented the guillotine." These methods led to the carrying out of "over 1800 executions in the coming months." [8] Fouché, claiming that "Terror, salutary terror, is now the order of the day here... We are causing much impure blood to flow, but it is our duty to do so, it is for humanity's sake," called for the execution of 1,905 citizens. [9] As Napoleon's biographer Alan Schom has written: [9]

Alas, Fouché's enthusiasm had proved a little too effective, for when the blood from the mass executions in the center of Lyons gushed from severed heads and bodies into the streets, drenching the gutters of the Rue Lafont, the vile-smelling red flow nauseated the local residents, who irately complained to Fouché and demanded payment for damages. Fouché, sensitive to their outcry, obliged them by ordering the executions moved out of the city to the Brotteaux field, along the Rhône.

From late 1793 until spring 1794, every day "batch after batch of bankers, scholars, aristocrats, priests, nuns, and wealthy merchants and their wives, mistresses, and children" were taken from the city jails to Brotteaux field, tied to stakes, and dispatched by firing squads or mobs. [9] Outwardly, Fouché's conduct was marked by the utmost rigour, and on his return to Paris early in April 1794, he thus characterised his policy: "The blood of criminals fertilises the soil of liberty and establishes power on sure foundations".

Conflict with Robespierre

Robespierre was appalled by the atrocities committed by him while on mission. In addition, early in June 1794, at the time of the "Festival of the Supreme Being", Fouché ventured to mock the theistic revival. A sharp exchange took place between him and Robespierre, and Robespierre tried to expel Fouché from the Jacobin Club on 14 July 1794. Fouché, however, was working with his usual energy and plotted Robespierre's overthrow from behind the scenes while in hiding in Paris. Because Robespierre was losing his influence and because Fouché was under the protection of Barras, Fouché ultimately survived this expulsion.

Remaining ultraleftists (Collot d'Herbois, Billaud-Varenne) and moderates (Bourdon de l'Oise, Fréron), who had won the support of the nonaligned majority of the Convention (Marais), also opposed Robespierre. Fouché engineered Robespierre's overthrow, culminating in the dramatic Coup of the 9th Thermidor on 28 July 1794. Fouché is reported to have worked furiously on the overthrow:

Rising at early morn he would run round till night calling on deputies of all shades of opinion, saying to each and every one, "You perish tomorrow if he [Robespierre] does not". [8]

Fouché describes his activities in this way in his memoirs:

Being recalled to Paris, I dared to call upon [Robespierre] from the tribune, to make good his accusation. He caused me to be expelled from the Jacobins, of whom he was the high-priest; this was for me equivalent to a decree of proscription. I did not trifle in contending for my head, nor in long and secret deliberations with such of my colleagues as were threatened with my own fate. I merely said to them... 'You are on the list, you are on the list as well as myself; I am certain of it!' [8]

Fouché, as both a ruthless suppressor of Federalist rebellion and one of the proponents of Robespierre's overthrow, demonstrated the mercilessness that politics took on in France during the period.


The ensuing movement in favour of more merciful methods of government threatened to sweep away the group of politicians who had been mainly instrumental in carrying through the coup d'état . Nonetheless, largely because of Fouché's intrigues, they remained in power for a time after July. This also brought divisions in the Thermidor group, which soon became almost isolated, with Fouché spending all his energy on countering the attacks of the moderates. He was himself denounced by François Antoine de Boissy d'Anglas on 9 August 1795, which caused his arrest, but the Royalist rebellion of 13 Vendémiaire Year IV aborted his execution, and he was released in the amnesty which followed the proclamation of the Constitution of 5 Fructidor.

In the ensuing Directory government (1795–1799), Fouché remained at first in obscurity, but the relations he had with the far left, once headed by Chaumette and now by François-Noël Babeuf, helped him to rise once more. He is said to have betrayed to the Director Paul Barras Babeuf's plot of 1796, however, recent research has tended to throw doubt on the assertion.

His rise from poverty was slow, but in 1797 he gained an appointment dealing with military supplies, which offered considerable opportunities for making money. After first offering his services to the Royalists, whose movement was then gathering force, he again decided to support the Jacobins and Barras. In Pierre François Charles Augereau's anti-Royalist coup d'état of Fructidor 1797, Fouché offered his services to Barras, who in 1798 appointed him French ambassador to the Cisalpine Republic. In Milan, he was judged so high-handed that he was removed, but he was able for a time to hold his own and to intrigue successfully against his successor.

Early in 1799, he returned to Paris, and after a brief stint as ambassador at The Hague, he became minister of police at Paris on 20 July 1799. The newly elected director, Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, wanted to curb the excesses of the Jacobins, who had recently reopened their club. Fouché closed the Jacobin Club in a daring manner, hunting down those pamphleteers and editors, whether Jacobins or Royalists, who were influential critics of the government, so that at the time of the return of general Napoleon Bonaparte from the Egyptian campaign (October 1799), the ex-Jacobin was one of the most powerful men in France.

In Napoleon's service

Knowing the unpopularity of the Directors, Fouché joined Bonaparte and Sieyès, who were plotting the Directory's overthrow. His activity in furthering the 18 Brumaire coup (November 9–10, 1799) ensured him the favor of Bonaparte, who kept him in office.

In the ensuing French Consulate (1799–1804), Fouché efficiently countered the opposition to Bonaparte. He helped increase centralization and efficiency of the police in both Paris and the provinces. [10] Fouché was careful to temper Napoleon's more arbitrary actions, which at times won him the gratitude even of the royalists. While exposing an unrealistic intrigue in which the duchesse de Guiche Ida d'Orsay was the chief agent, Fouché took care that she should escape.

Equally skilful was his action in the so-called Aréna-Ceracchi plot (Conspiration des poignards), in which agents provocateurs of the police were believed to have played a sinister part. The chief "conspirators" were easily ensnared and were executed when the Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise (December 1800) enabled Bonaparte to act with rigour. This far more serious attempt (in which conspirators exploded a bomb near the First Consul's carriage with results disastrous to the bystanders) was soon seen by Fouché as the work of Royalists. When Napoleon showed himself eager to blame the still powerful Jacobins, Fouché firmly declared that he would not only assert but would prove that the outrage was the work of Royalists. However, his efforts failed to avert the Bonaparte-led repression of the leading Jacobins.

In other matters (especially in that known as the Plot of the Placards in the spring of 1802), Fouché was thought to have saved the Jacobins from the vengeance of the Consulate, and Bonaparte decided to rid himself of a man who had too much power to be desirable as a subordinate. On the proclamation of Bonaparte as First Consul for life (1 August 1802) Fouché was deprived of his office, a blow softened by the suppression of the ministry of police and by the attribution of most of its duties to an extended Ministry of Justice. Napoleon was, in fact, so intimidated by his minister of police that he did not dismiss the man personally, sending instead a servant with the information that – in addition to getting 35,000 yearly francs income as a senator and a piece of land worth 30,000 francs a year – he would also receive over a million francs from the reserve funds of the police.

After 1802, he went back to freemasonry, attending "Les Citoyens réunis" lodge in Melun. Cambacérès who was Deputy Grand Master of Grand Orient de France, helped him becoming Conservator of the "Grande Loge symbolique Générale" attached to the Supreme Council of France, where he would be in charge of Masonic Justice. There he could find a valuable source of information on Freemasons throughout the empire. [11]

Fouché did become a senator and took half of the reserve funds of the police which had accumulated during his tenure of office. He continued, however, to intrigue through his spies, who tended to have more information than that of the new minister of police, and competed successfully for the favor of Napoleon at the time of the Georges Cadoudal-Charles Pichegru conspiracy (February–March 1804), becoming instrumental in the arrest of the Duc d'Enghien. Fouché would later say of Enghien's subsequent execution, "It was worse than a crime; it was a mistake" (a remark also frequently attributed to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord). [12]

After the proclamation of the First French Empire, Fouché again became head of the re-constituted ministry of police (July 1804), and later of Internal Affairs, with activities as important as those carried out under the Consulate. His police agents were omnipresent, and the terror which Napoleon and Fouché inspired partly accounts for the absence of conspiracies after 1804. After the Battle of Austerlitz (December 1805), Fouché uttered the famous words: "Sire, Austerlitz has shattered the old aristocracy; the Faubourg Saint-Germain no longer conspires".

Nevertheless, Napoleon did retain feelings of distrust, or even of fear, towards Fouché, as was proven by his conduct in the early days of 1808. While engaged in the campaign of Spain, the emperor heard rumours that Fouché and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, once bitter enemies, were having meetings in Paris during which Joachim Murat, King of Naples, had been approached. At once he hurried to Paris, but found nothing to incriminate Fouché. In that year Fouché received the title of Duke of Otranto, which Bonaparte created—under the French name Otrante—a duché grand-fief (a rare, hereditary, but nominal honor) in the satellite Kingdom of Naples.

When, during the absence of Napoleon in the Austrian campaign of 1809, the British Walcheren expedition threatened the safety of Antwerp, Fouché issued an order to the préfet of the northern départements of the Empire for the mobilization of 60,000 National Guards, adding to the order this statement: "Let us prove to Europe that although the genius of Napoleon can throw lustre on France, his presence is not necessary to enable us to repulse the enemy". The emperor's approval of the measure was no less marked than his disapproval of Fouché's words.

The next months brought further friction between emperor and minister. The latter, knowing Napoleon's desire for peace at the close of 1809, undertook to make secret overtures to the British cabinet of Spencer Perceval. Napoleon opened negotiations only to find that Fouché had forestalled him. His rage against his minister was extreme, and on 3 June 1810 he dismissed him from his office. However, Napoleon never completely disgraced a man who might again be useful, and Fouché received the governorship of the Rome département. At the moment of his departure, Fouché took the risk of not surrendering to Napoleon all of certain important documents of his former ministry (falsely declaring that the some had been destroyed); the emperor's anger was renewed, and Fouché, on learning of this after his arrival to Florence, prepared to sail to the United States.

Compelled by the weather and intense sea-sickness to put back into port, he found a mediator in Elisa Bonaparte, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, thanks to whom he was allowed to settle in Aix-en-Provence. [13] He eventually returned to his domain of Point Carré. In 1812 he attempted in vain to turn Napoleon from the projected invasion of Russia, and on the return of the emperor in haste from Smarhoń to Paris at the close of that year, the ex-minister of police was suspected of involvement in the conspiracy of Claude François de Malet, which had been unexpectedly successful.

Fouché cleared his name and gave the emperor useful advice concerning internal affairs and the diplomatic situation. Nevertheless, the emperor, still distrustful, ordered him to undertake the government of the Illyrian provinces. On the break-up of the Napoleonic system in Germany (October 1813), Fouché was ordered on missions to Rome and thence to Naples, in order to watch the movements of Joachim Murat. Before Fouché arrived in Naples, Murat invaded the Roman territory, whereupon Fouché received orders to return to France. He arrived in Paris on 10 April 1814 at the time when Napoleon was being constrained by his marshals to abdicate.

Fouché's conduct in this crisis was characteristic. As senator he advised the Senate to send a deputation to Charles, comte d'Artois, brother of Louis XVIII, with a view to a reconciliation between the monarchy and the nation. A little later he addressed to Napoleon, then banished to Elba, a letter begging him in the interests of peace and of France to withdraw to the United States. To the new sovereign Louis XVIII he sent an appeal in favour of liberty, and recommending the adoption of measures which would conciliate all interests.

The response was unsatisfactory, and when he found that there were no hopes of advancement, he entered into relations with conspirators who sought the overthrow of the Bourbons. The Marquis de Lafayette and Louis Nicolas Davout were involved in the issue, but their refusal to take the course desired by Fouché and others led to nothing being done.

Hundred Days and Bourbon restoration

Soon Napoleon escaped from Elba and made his way in triumph to Paris. Shortly before his arrival in Paris (19 March 1815), Louis XVIII sent Fouché an offer of the ministry of police, which he declined: "It is too late; the only plan to adopt is to retreat". He then foiled an attempt by Royalists to arrest him, and on the arrival of Napoleon he received for the third time the portfolio of police. That, however, did not prevent him from entering into secret relations with the Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna, his aim being to prepare for all eventualities. Meanwhile, he used all his powers to induce the emperor to democratize his rule, and he is said to have caused the insertion of the words: "the sovereignty resides in the people—it is the source of power" in the declaration of the Conseil d'État . But the autocratic tendencies of Napoleon could not be overridden, and Fouché, seeing the fall of the emperor to be imminent, took measures to expedite it and secure his own interests.

In 1814, Fouché had joined the invading allies and conspired against Napoleon. However, he joined Napoléon again during his return and was police minister during the latter's short-lived reign, the Hundred Days. After Napoléon's ultimate defeat in the Battle of Waterloo, Fouché again started plotting against Napoleon and joined the opposition of the parliament. He headed the provisional government and tried to negotiate with the allies. He probably also aimed at establishing a republic with himself as head of state, with the help of some Republican freemasons. [11] These plans were never realised, and the Bourbons regained power in July 1815. And again, Fouché's services were necessary: as Talleyrand, another notorious intrigant, became the prime minister of the Kingdom of France, Fouché was named his minister of police: so he was a minister of King Louis XVIII, the brother of Louis XVI.

Ironically, Fouché had voted for the death sentence on Louis XVI. Thus, he belonged to the regicides , and ultra-royalists both within the cabinet and outside could hardly tolerate him as a member of the royal cabinet. Fouché, once a revolutionary using extreme terror against the Bourbon supporters, now initiated a campaign of White Terror against real and imaginary enemies of the Royalist restoration (officially directed against those who had plotted and supported Napoléon's return to power). Even Prime Minister Talleyrand disapproved of such practices, including the useless death sentence on Michel Ney and compiling proscription lists of other military people and former republican politicians. Famous, or rather infamous, is the conversation between Fouché and Lazare Carnot, who had been interior minister during the Hundred Days:

Fouché was soon relegated to the post of French ambassador in Saxony; Talleyrand himself lost his portfolio soon after, having been Prime Minister from 9 July to 26 September 1815. In 1816, the royalist authorities found Fouché's further services useless, and he was proscribed. He died in exile in Trieste in 1820.


Fouché wrote some political pamphlets and reports, the chief of which are:


Joseph Fouché, 1st Duc d'Otrante, was a son of Julien Joseph Fouché (1719 – 1771) and wife Marie Françoise Croizet (1720 – 1793).

By his first marriage to Bonne Jeanne Coiquaud (1 April 1763 – 8 October 1812), he had seven children:

By his second marriage to Ernestine de Castellane-Majastres (5 July 1788 – 4 May 1850), he had no children.

In literature and on screen

Related Research Articles

Lucien Bonaparte 1St Prince of Canino and Musignano

Lucien Bonaparte, Prince Français, 1st Prince of Canino and Musignano, the third surviving son of Carlo Bonaparte and his wife Letizia Ramolino, was a French statesman, who served as the final President of the Council of Five Hundred at the end of the French Revolution.

Committee of Public Safety De facto executive government in France (1793–1794)

The Committee of Public Safety, created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the de facto, interim, and executive government in France during the Reign of Terror (1793–1794), a stage of the French Revolution. The Committee of Public Safety succeeded the previous Committee of General Defence and assumed its role of protecting the newly established republic against foreign attacks and internal rebellion. As a wartime measure, the Committee—composed at first of nine and later of twelve members—was given broad supervisory powers over military, judicial and legislative efforts. It was formed as an administrative body to supervise and expedite the work of the executive bodies of the Convention and of the government ministers appointed by the Convention. As the Committee tried to meet the dangers of a coalition of European nations and counter-revolutionary forces within the country, it became more and more powerful.

Paul Barras French politician

Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras, commonly known as Paul Barras, was a French politician of the French Revolution, and the main executive leader of the Directory regime of 1795–1799.

French Directory Executive power of the French Constitution of 1795-1799

The Directory or Directorate was a five-member committee that governed France from 2 November 1795, when it replaced the Committee of Public Safety, until 9 November 1799, when it was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Coup of 18 Brumaire, and replaced by the French Consulate. It gave its name to the final four years of the French Revolution. On the other hand, according to the mainstream historiography - for example F. Furet and D. Richet in “French Revolution” - with the aforementioned terms is indicated also the regime and the period from the dissolution of the National Convention of Tuileries Palace on 26 October 1795, which was superseded by the two new elected Councils, and the coup d’état by Napoleon. Only in 1798 the Council of Five Hundred moved to the Palais Bourbon.

Jacobin The more radical constitutional reform group in the French Revolution

The Society of the Friends of the Constitution, after 1792 renamed Society of the Jacobins, Friends of Freedom and Equality, commonly known as the Jacobin Club or simply the Jacobins, became the most influential political club during the French Revolution of 1789 and following. The period of their political ascendency includes the Reign of Terror, during which time well over ten thousand people were put on trial and executed in France, many for political crimes.

Timeline of the French Revolution timeline

The following is a timeline of the French Revolution.

French Consulate former government of France

The Consulate was the top-level Government of France from the fall of the Directory in the coup of Brumaire on 10 November 1799 until the start of the Napoleonic Empire on 18 May 1804. By extension, the term The Consulate also refers to this period of French history.

Jacques-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne French revolutionary leader

Jacques-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne, also known as Jean Nicolas, was a French personality of the Revolutionary period. Though not one of the most well known figures of the French Revolution, Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne was an instrumental figure of the period known as the Reign of Terror. Billaud-Varenne climbed his way up the ladder of power during that period, becoming one of the most militant members of the Committee of Public Safety. He was recognized and worked with French Revolution figures Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre, and is often considered one of the key architects of The Terror. "No, we will not step backward, our zeal will only be smothered in the tomb; either the Revolution will triumph or we will all die."

The Thermidorian Reaction is the common term, in the historiography of the French Revolution, for the period between the ousting of Maximilien Robespierre on 9 Thermidor II, or 27 July 1794, to the inauguration of the French Directory on 1 November 1795. The "Thermidorian Reaction" was named after the month in which the coup took place, and was the latter part of the National Convention's rule of France. It was marked by the end of the Reign of Terror, decentralization of executive powers from the Committee of Public Safety, and a turn from the radical leftist policies of the Montagnard Convention to more conservative and moderate positions. Economic and general populism, Dechristianization and harsh wartime measures were largely abandoned, as the members of the Convention, disillusioned and frightened of the centralized government of the Terror, preferred a more stable political order, aimed to assuage the affluent classes. The Reaction saw the Left suppressed by brutal force, including lynch acts which the authorities turned a blind eye to, the Jacobin Club disbanded, the sans-culottes dispersed and Montagnard ideology renounced.

Jean-Lambert Tallien French political figure of the revolutionary period

Jean-Lambert Tallien was a French political figure of the revolutionary period.

Coup of 18 Brumaire coup that brought Napoleon to power

The Coup of 18 Brumaire brought General Napoleon Bonaparte to power as First Consul of France and in the view of most historians ended the French Revolution. This bloodless coup d'état overthrew the Directory, replacing it with the French Consulate. This occurred on 9 November 1799, which was 18 Brumaire, Year VIII under the French Republican Calendar.

Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien Duke of Enghien

Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien was a relative of the Bourbon monarchs of France. More famous for his death than for his life, he was executed on charges of aiding Britain and plotting against France. Royalty across Europe were shocked and dismayed at his execution. Tsar Alexander I of Russia was especially alarmed, and decided to curb Napoleon's power.

Hugues-Bernard Maret, duc de Bassano French statesman and journalist

Hugues-Bernard Maret, 1st Duc de Bassano, was a French statesman, diplomat and journalist.

Cult of Reason religion

The Cult of Reason was France's first established state-sponsored atheistic religion, intended as a replacement for Catholicism during the French Revolution. After holding sway for barely a year, in 1794 it was officially replaced by the rival Cult of the Supreme Being, promoted by Robespierre. Both cults were officially banned in 1801 by Napoleon Bonaparte with his Law on Cults of 18 Germinal, Year X.

Edmond Louis Alexis Dubois-Crancé French soldier and politician

Edmond Louis Alexis Dubois-Crancé was a French soldier and politician.

Plot of the rue Saint-Nicaise

The Plot of the rue Saint-Nicaise, also known as the Machine infernale plot, was an assassination attempt on the life of the First Consul of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, in Paris on 24 December 1800. It followed the conspiration des poignards of 10 October 1800, and was one of many Royalist and Catholic plots.

Maximilien Robespierre French revolutionary lawyer and politician

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French lawyer and politician who was one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. As a member of the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club, he campaigned for universal manhood suffrage, and the abolition both of celibacy for the clergy and of slavery. Robespierre was an outspoken advocate for the citizens without a voice, for their unrestricted admission to the National Guard, to public offices, and for the right to carry arms in self-defence. He played an important part in the agitation which brought about the fall of the French monarchy in August 1792 and the summoning of a National Convention.

Duke of Otranto French Empire nobility title

Duke of Otranto is a hereditary title in the nobility of the First French Empire which was bestowed in 1809 by Emperor Napoleon I upon Joseph Fouché (1759-1820), a French statesman and Minister of Police. Fouché had been made a Count of the French Empire previously.

<i>Le souper de Beaucaire</i> book by Napoleon Bonaparte

Le souper de Beaucaire was a political pamphlet written by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1793. With the French Revolution into its fourth year, civil war had spread across France between various rival political factions. Napoleon was involved in military action, on the government's side, against some rebellious cities of southern France. It was during these events, in 1793, that he spoke with four merchants from the Midi and heard their views. As a loyal soldier of the Republic he responded in turn, set on dispelling the fears of the merchants and discouraging their beliefs. He later wrote about his conversation in the form of a pamphlet, calling for an end to the civil war.

Jacques-Alexis Thuriot de la Rosière French noble

Jacques-Alexis Thuriot, known as Thuriot de la Rosière, and later as chevalier Thuriot de la Rosière, chevalier de l'Empire was an important French statesman of the French Revolution, and a minor figure under the French Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte.


  1. Dictionnaire universelle de la Franc-Maçonnerie, page 298 (Marc de Jode, Monique Cara and Jean-Marc Cara, ed. Larousse, 2011)
  2. Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie, page 456 (Daniel Ligou, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006)
  3. David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), 239.
  4. David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), 203.
  5. David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), 204
  6. David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), 237
  7. Hanson, P.R. (2003) The Jacobin Republic Under Fire. The Federalist Revolt in the French Revolution, p. 193.
  8. 1 2 3 4 David Andress, The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), 237.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Schom, Alan (1997). "Fouche's Police". Napoleon Bonaparte. HarperCollins Publishers, New York. pp. 253–255. ISBN   0-06-092958-8.
  10. Haine, Scott. The History of France (1st ed.). Greenwood Press. p. 91. ISBN   0-313-30328-2.
  11. 1 2 Dictionnaire universelle de la Franc-Maçonnerie, page 299 (Marc de Jode, Monique Cara and Jean-Marc Cara, ed. Larousse, 2011)
  12. John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 10th ed (1919)
  13. de Waresquiel, Emmanuel (2014). Fouché: Les silences de la pieuvre . Paris: Tallandier. pp. 483–490. ISBN   9782847347807. OCLC   893420007 . Retrieved March 30, 2016 via
  14. French : « Où veux-tu que j’aille, traître ? » « Où tu voudras, imbecile ! »
  15. Delors, Catherine (2010). "For The King". Dutton. Retrieved 2010-07-09.

Further reading