JEAN-JACQUES-RÉGIS DE COMBACÉRÈS sat quietly in his study in his childhood home of Montpellier, France. He was an old man, but an old man with a remarkable history of achievement. His life had by no means been devoid of either reward or challenge. Certainly, there had been grand highs and depressing lows, but on balance, life had been good. Now, his time was short.

Most of his life he had spent as a jurist. Since his modest but privileged beginnings as a lawyer in a legal family, his star had risen (and occasionally fallen) precipitously. At age 39, he was elected to the Convention and voted at the trial of Louis XVI. He was a member of the Council of Five Hundred. In 1799 he was appointed Minister ...

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