NAPOLEON BONAPARTE (1769-1821). Signed letter of grace, granted to "Robert Eisenmann, soldier in the Ist Swiss Regiment", in Fontainebleau, Tuesday, September 7, 1807.
In-plano (420 x 530 mm), printed on vellum with handwritten annotations and corrections. The letter presents the autograph signatures of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès, Arch-chancellor of the Empire (1753-1824), Claude Ambroise Régnier, Duke of Massa and then Grand Judge and Minister of Justice (1736-1814) and Hugues-Bernard Maret, Minister Secretary of State (1763-1839). Large dry seal with the imperial coat of arms. Presented framed under glass. Very few marginal lacks, some wear and tear.
Rare letter of grace, printed on vellum and bearing Napoleon's autograph signature. When he came to power, Napoleon chose to restore the Helvetic Confederation, giving back to the cantons an influence that had been lost under his predecessors who had favoured a centralized system. In return, Switzerland was to provide him with four regiments of line infantry, each with 4,000 men, committed for four years. The 1st Swiss Regiment, from which Robert Eisenmann, the recipient of this letter of grace, came, was created by imperial decree on 15 March 1805.
The decree of 19 Vendémiaire year XII (10 October 1803) provided for a ten-year sentence of ten years' imprisonment and a fine of 1,500 francs for deserters. The letter of clemency here indicates a sentence of twelve years, which suggests that our prisoner had deserted with comrades, while he was on the faction or on the front line (Article LXX). The order also details the conditions of detention: the convicts were dragging "a ball of eight, attached to an iron chain two and a half meters long". They had to work eight hours a day from December to March, 10 hours the rest of the year, in isolated workshops, had only clogs for shoes and could neither cut nor shave their beards. Every year, the detainees were reviewed by a delegated inspector, who, in his report to the Minister of War, indicated "those who appear to have titles at the Government's indulgence. Our convict was probably pardoned as a result of one of these reviews.
The pardon does not mean freedom and a return to civilian life: the order in fact provides that the pardoned person is, from the day of his pardon, "at the disposal of the Government for eight years", and must be placed in a troop corps as a simple recruit (Article LXXXIII).
Letters of pardon signed by Napoleon are very rare on the market, and even more so in such a pleasant condition as this one. We have only found one comparable copy at public auction, sold for €15,000 in 2014.
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