French politician. Born 1759 in Nantes. Died 1820.
As a member of Robespierre's cohort in 1792-93, Fouché drummed up support for the Jacobins in the provinces and achieved a certain measure of notoriety for his (and Collot-d’Herbois') harshness at Lyons.
"Maignet, at Orange in the South; Lebon, at Arras in the North, become world's wonders. Jacobin Popular Tribunal, with its National Representative, perhaps where Girondin Popular Tribunal had lately been, rises here and rises there; wheresoever needed. Fouchés, Maignets, Barrases, Frérons scour the Southern Departments; like reapers, with their guillotine-sickle. Many are the labourers, great is the harvest. By the hundred and the thousand, men's lives are cropt; cast like brands into the burning."
- Thomas Carlyle : The French Revolution, 3.5.III
When (in 1794) Robespierre came up with the idea of the cult of the Supreme Being, Fouché reacted with disgust and contempt, and turned on Robespierre. Helping Tallien to overthrow Robespierre (July 27, 1794, or "9th Thermidor"), Fouché found himself in the orbit of Barras, under the Directory.
In July 1799, Fouché became Minister of Police. Although he was previously informed of Napoleon's plan to seize power, he deliberately did nothing, and allowed Napoleon's coup d'état of November 9, 1799 (the "18th Brumaire") to proceed without interference. Napoleon was properly appreciative, and kept Fouché in office until 1802.
So pervasive and efficient was Fouché's system of internal spies and informants that Napoleon recalled him to the office in 1804 (and simultaneously made him Minister of the Interior. In 1806, Napoleon created Fouché Duke of Otranto.
Four years later (1810), in the wake of accusations of illicit contacts with Britain, Fouché was forced to resign. Whether the accusations were true is still the subject of debate. Fouché retired to his estate, but his tricky mind kept working, interrupted only by the death of his first wife, Bonne-Jeanne, in 1812. In 1813, he secured an appointment as governor of Illyria.
When Napoleon fell, in 1814, Fouché promptly offered his services to Louis XVIII. Apparently, his offer was considered seriously, but he chose to withdraw it at the last moment - and Napoleon returned from exile on Elba.
For a third time, Fouché was Minister of Police, during the Hundred Days. No stranger to intrigue, he hedged his bets through backchannel contacts with Metternich and Louis XVIII. With the Bourbon Restoration, he briefly remained Minister of Police, then was appointed ambassador to Saxony. However, he had barely arrived at Dresden when news came that he had been dismissed and sentenced to perpetual banishment.
Fouché's final years were spent in exile, accompanied by his second wife Ernestine, and he died of tuberculosis in Trieste, in 1820, after first burning all his papers, save his memoirs. These memoirs, as subsequently published (pub. 1824, English transl. 1825), show some signs of having been tampered with - compiled and edited by some unknown later hand.
"His story is chiefly interesting for what he does not tell, and for its general indications of the twisted politics of the period."
- Vincent J. Esposito and John Robert Elting : A Military Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars, appendix