By a treaty of 2 August 1815, the European powers, including France, were invited to send commissioners to the place to be chosen for Napoleon's detention, which the British had already decided was to be St Helena. The Royal Court of France, the Imperial Courts of Austria and of Russia, and the Royal Court of Prussia, were 'to appoint Commissioners to proceed to and abide at the place which the Government of his Britannic Majesty shall have assigned for the residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, and who without being responsible for his custody will assure themselves of his presence'. It was the function of the commissioners to watch and report on the English jailers quite as much as on the French prisoners. The reports of Count Balmain are infinitely superior in value and interest to those from France and Austria, they are very witty and interesting - witty, perhaps, because Balmain took vast pains to make them so, because he knew his emperor would read them carefully!& #xD; Count Balmain never met Napoleon, and all of his reports in this respect are all second-hand, but notwithstanding this, Balmain sent a vast amount of information back to Russia, much of it of interest from the social and gossipy nature of his narration. This book contains a wealth of information regarding life on St Helena, the British, the garrison the inhabitants, and of course the small French community surrounding Napoleon.
Alexandre Antonovich, Comte de Balmain, was descended from a Scottish family, the Ramsays of Balmain, which had left Scotland in 1685 and emigrated to Russia. His father had occupied the high post of governor-general of the Kursk Government. In 1801, aged twenty but already a captain, Balmain was dismissed from his cavalry regiment for having struck a policeman in a street row, but, restored to imperial favour a few days afterward when Tsar Alexander suddenly came to the throne, he elected for the diplomatic service. There is where, no doubt, he belonged, for he was clever, somewhat unscrupulous, ambitious, fond of society, which soon became fond of him. During his missions at Naples, Vienna, and London, he did very little work, but already, in his fourth decade, he felt physically tired out from the occupations of a homeless, idle, diplomatic career, and morally from his elegant, easy-going scepticism. It was rather becoming to him, and he seems to have increased the pose; for one thing, he knew that it pleased women. In 1813 he re-entered the army and saw active service culminating at Waterloo. As a reward he was offered the post of commissioner to St. Helena. Professor Julian Park, (1888-1965) was the first dean of Arts and Sciences (1919-1954) of The University at Buffalo, and served as the University's first historian (1959-1965). He served as French Consul for Western New York; served on the council of the American Association of University Professors; was president of the Buffalo Assoc. of the Sons of the Revolution. He was lecturer; Geneva School of International Studies; appointed Chevelier (knight) of the Legion of Honor; director of the Pan-American League Against Cancer; and even ran for a seat in the US Congress on the Demoratic ticket in 1942, saying it had always seemed to me that we who teach and preach politics ought to get a practical taste of it. He was promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor by the President of France for his contributions to strengthen the bonds of friendship between France and the US. From 1955-1959 he was President of the Buffalo Historical Society and presented the prestigious Red Jacket Award from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.