1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Daru, Pierre Antoine Noël Bruno, Count
DARU, PIERRE ANTOINE NOËL BRUNO, Count (1767–1829), French soldier and statesman, was born at Montpellier on the 12th of January 1767. He was educated at the military school of Tournon, conducted by the Oratorians, and entered the artillery at an early age. His fondness for literature, however, soon made itself felt, and he published several slight pieces, until the outbreak of the French Revolution called him to a sterner occupation. In 1793 he became commissary to the army, protecting the coasts of Brittany from projected descents of the British, or of French royalists. Thrown into prison on a frivolous charge of friendliness to the royalists and England, he was released after the fall of Robespierre in the summer of 1794, and rose in the service until, in 1799, he became chief commissary to the French army serving under Masséna in the north of Switzerland. In that position he won repute for his organizing capacity, great power of work and unswerving probity—the last of which qualities was none too common in the French armies at that time. These exacting tasks did not absorb all his energies. He found time, even during the campaign, to translate part of Horace and to compose two poems, the Poème des Alpes and the Chant de guerre. The latter celebrated in indignant strains the murder of the French envoys to the congress of Rastadt.
The accession of Napoleon Bonaparte to power in November 1799 led to the employment of Daru as chief commissary to the Army of Reserve intended for North Italy, and commanded nominally by Berthier, but really by the First Consul. Conjointly with Berthier and Dejean, he signed the armistice with the Austrians which closed the campaign in North Italy in June 1800. Daru now returned, for a time, mainly to civil life, and entered the tribunate, where he ably maintained the principles of democratic liberty. On the renewal of war with England, in May 1803, he again resumed his duties as chief commissary for the army on the northern coasts. It was afterwards asserted that, on Napoleon’s resolve to turn the army of England against Austria, Daru had set down at the emperor’s dictation all the details of the campaign which culminated at Ulm. The story is apocryphal; but Napoleon’s confidence in him was evinced by his being appointed to similar duties in the Grand Army, which in the autumn of 1805 overthrew the armies of Austria and Russia. After the battle of Austerlitz, he took part in the drafting of the treaty of Presburg. At this time, too, he became intendant-general of the military household of Napoleon. In the campaigns of 1806–1807 he served, in his usual capacity, in the army which overthrew the forces of Russia and Prussia; and he had a share in drawing up the treaty of Tilsit (7th of July 1807). After this he supervised the administrative and financial duties in connexion with the French army which occupied the principal fortresses of Prussia, and was one of the chief agents through whom Napoleon pressed hard on that land. At the congress of Erfurt, Daru had the privilege of being present at the interview between Goethe and Napoleon, and interposed tactful references to the works of the great poet. Daru fulfilled his usual duties in the campaign of 1809 against Austria. Afterwards, when the subject of the divorce of Josephine and the choice of a Russian or of an Austrian princess came to be discussed, Daru, on being consulted by Napoleon, is said boldly to have counselled his marriage with a French lady; and Napoleon, who admired his frankness and honesty, took the reply in good part.
In 1811 he became secretary of state in succession to Maret, duc de Bassano, and showed his usual ability in the administration of the vast and complex affairs of the French empire, including the arrangements connected with the civil list and the imperial domains. But neither his devotion to civic duty nor to the administration of the affairs of the Grand Army could ward off disaster. Late in the year 1813 he took up the portfolio of military affairs. After the first abdication of Napoleon in 1814, Daru retired into private life, but aided Napoleon during the Hundred Days. After the second Restoration he became a member of the Chamber of Peers, in which he ably defended the cause of popular liberty against the attacks of the ultra-royalists. He died at Meulan on the 5th of September 1829.
Few men of the Napoleonic empire have been more generally admired and respected than Daru. On one occasion when he expressed a fear that he lacked all the gifts of a courtier, Napoleon replied, “Courtiers! They are common enough about me; I shall never be in want of them. What I want is an enlightened, firm and vigilant administrator; and that is why I have chosen you.” At another time Napoleon said, “Daru is good on all sides; he has good judgment, a good intellect, a great power for work, and a body and mind of iron.” The only occasion on which he is known to have sunk beneath the weight of his duties was in the course of writing letters at the emperor’s dictation for the third night in succession.
Of Daru’s literary works may be mentioned his Histoire de Venise, published at Paris in 7 vols. in 1819; the Histoire de Bretagne, in 3 vols. (Paris, 1826); a poetical translation of Horace (of which Le Brun remarked: “Je ne lis point Daru, j’aime trop mon Horace”); Discours en vers sur les facultés de l’homme (Paris, 1825), and Astronomie, a didactic poem in six cantos (Paris, 1820).
See the “Notice” by Viennet prefixed to the fourth edition of Daru’s Histoire de la république de Venise (9 vols., 1853), and three articles by Sainte-Beuve in Causeries du lundi, vol. ix. For the many letters of Napoleon to Daru see the Correspondance de Napoléon Ier (32 vols., Paris, 1858–1870). (J. Hl. R.)