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CHAPTER XIII: Of the Means Employed by Bonaparte to Attack England. - Germaine de Staël, Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.) 
Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution, newly revised translation of the 1818 English edition, edited, with an introduction and notes by Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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Of the Means Employed by Bonaparte to Attack England.
If there is any glimpse of a plan in the truly incoherent proceedings of Bonaparte toward foreign nations, it was that of establishing a universal monarchy, of which he was to be declared the head, giving kingdoms and duchies as fiefs, and re-instituting the feudal system as it was formerly established by conquest. It does not even appear that he meant to limit himself to the boundaries of Europe, and his views certainly reached as far as Asia. In short, his inclination was to march constantly forward, as long as he met with no obstacles; but he had not calculated that, in so vast an enterprise, an obstacle might not only arrest his progress but entirely destroy the edifice of an unnatural prosperity, which would be annihilated the moment that it ceased to ascend.
To make the French nation support war, which, like all nations, desired peace—to oblige foreign troops to follow the banners of France, a motive was necessary which might in appearance, at least, connect itself with the public good. We have endeavored to show in the preceding chapter that, if Napoléon had taken the liberty of nations for his standard, he would have aroused Europe without employing the means of terror; but his imperial power would have gained nothing, and he certainly was not a man to conduct himself by disinterested sentiments. He wanted a rallying word which might make people believe that he had the advantage and independence of Europe in view, and he chose the freedom of the seas. The perseverance and financial resources of the English were without doubt obstacles to his projects, and he had besides a natural aversion to their free institutions and the haughtiness of their character. But what was particularly convenient for him was to replace the doctrine of representative government, founded on the respect due to nations, with mercantile and commercial interests, on which men may speak without end, reason without limits, and never attain the object. The motto of the unfortunate periods of the French revolution, Liberty and Equality, gave the people an impulse which could not be agreeable to Bonaparte; but the motto of his banner—The Liberty of the Seas—conducted him wherever he wished, and made the voyage to the Indies as necessary as the most reasonable peace, if such a peace should be suddenly for his advantage. Lastly, he had in these rallying words the singular advantage of animating the mind without directing it against power. M. de Gentz1 and M. A. W. de Schlegel,2 in their writings upon the Continental system, have treated completely of the advantages and disadvantages of the maritime ascendancy of England when Europe is in its ordinary situation. But it is at least certain that this ascendancy, a few years ago, was the only balance to the dominion of Bonaparte, and that there would not have remained perhaps a single corner of the earth in which a sufferer could have escaped from his tyranny if the English ocean had not encircled the Continent with its protecting arms.
But, it will be said, though we admire the English, yet France must always be the rival of their power; and at all times her leaders have endeavored to combat them. There is only one way of being the equal of England, and that is by imitating her. If Bonaparte, instead of planning that ridiculous farce of an invasion, which has only served as a subject for English caricatures, and that Continental blockade, a measure more serious, but likewise more fatal; if Bonaparte had wished only to become superior to England in her constitution and her industry, France would now be in possession of a commerce founded upon credit, and of a credit founded upon a national representation and upon the stability which such a representation gives. But the English ministry is unfortunately too well aware that a constitutional monarchy is the sole means of securing durable prosperity to France. When Louis XIV struggled successfully at sea against the English fleets, the financial riches of the two countries were then nearly the same; but since liberty has been consolidated in England for eighty or a hundred years, France cannot bring herself into equilibrium with her rival except by legal securities of the same nature. Instead of taking this truth for his compass, what did Bonaparte do?
The gigantic idea of the Continental blockade was like a species of European crusade against England, of which Napoléon’s scepter was the rallying sign. But if, in the interior, the exclusion of English merchandise gave some encouragement to manufacturers, the ports were deserted and commerce annihilated. Nothing rendered Napoléon more unpopular than that increase in the price of sugar and coffee which affected the daily habits of all classes. By burning in the cities which were subject to him, from Hamburg to Naples, the productions of English industry, he disgusted every witness of these autos-da-fé in honor of despotism. In the public square at Geneva, I saw some poor women throw themselves on their knees before the pile on which the merchandise was burning, with supplications that they might be allowed to snatch in time from the flames some pieces of cotton or woollen stuff to clothe their infants in misery. Such scenes must have occurred everywhere; and though statesmen, in an ironical style, then said that they were of no consequence, they were the living picture of a tyrannical absurdity—the Continental system. What has been the result of the terrible anathema of Bonaparte? The power of England has increased in the four quarters of the globe, her influence over foreign governments has been unlimited; and it ought to be so, considering the magnitude of the evil from which she preserved Europe. Bonaparte, whom the world persists in calling able, has, however, found the awkward art of multiplying everywhere the resources of his adversaries, and in particular of so augmenting those of England that he has not been able to succeed in doing her more perhaps than one single injury (though that one perhaps is the greatest of all)—the injury of increasing her military forces to such a degree that apprehensions might be entertained for her freedom were it not that confidence may be placed in her public spirit.
It cannot be denied that it is very natural for France to envy the prosperity of England; and this sentiment has caused her to allow herself to be deceived with respect to Bonaparte’s attempts to raise her industry to a level with that of England. But is it by armed prohibitions that riches are created? The will of sovereigns can no longer direct the system of commerce and industry among nations: they must be left to their natural development, and their interests must be supported according to their own wishes.3 As a woman does not procure more homage to herself by being angry at that which is offered to her rival, so a nation can succeed in commerce and industry only by finding means of attracting voluntary tributes, and not by proscribing competition.
The official gazette writers were ordered to insult the English nation and government. In the daily papers, absurd appellations, such as perfidious islanders, avaricious merchants, were incessantly repeated, with occasional variations which never deviated too far from the text. In some writings the authors went back as far as William the Conqueror to characterize the battle of Hastings4 as a revolt, and ignorance rendered it easy for baseness to propagate the most pitiful calumnies. Bonaparte’s journalists, to whom no one could reply, disfigured the history, the institutions, and the character of the English nation. This too is one of the scourges arising from the slavery of the press: France has undergone them all.
As Bonaparte had more respect for himself than for those who were under him, he sometimes in conversation allowed himself to say much good of England, either because he wished to prepare men’s minds for a situation in which it would be convenient for him to treat with England, or rather because he wished to escape for a moment from the false language which he imposed upon his servants. It was as much as to say, Let us make our people lie.
[1. ] Friedrich von Gentz (1764–1832), prominent conservative German political thinker, translator of Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, and adviser to Metternich.
[2. ] August Wilhelm von Schlegel (1767–1845) was a prominent German Romantic writer and friend of Madame de Staël.
[3. ] Economic liberalism has always had an uncertain existence in France. During the last decade of his life, Benjamin Constant, Madame de Staël’s close friend, published a number of important articles in which he touched on the relationship between economic freedom and political liberty. See Constant, De la liberté chez les modernes, 543–70, 596–602; and Constant, Commentaire sur l’ouvrage de Filangeri, pt. II, 105–224.
[4. ] On October 14, 1066.