Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK FIRST.: Napoleon Bonaparte. - The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. I
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BOOK FIRST.: Napoleon Bonaparte. - Hippolyte Taine, The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. I 
The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. 1, trans. John Durand (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1890).
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Historical importance of his character and genius.—I. He is of another race and another century.—Origin of his paternal family.—Transplanted to Corsica.—His maternal family.—Lætitia Ramolino.—Persistence of Corsican souvenirs in Napoleon’s mind.—His youthful sentiments regarding Corsica and France.—Indications found in his early compositions and in his style.—Current monarchical or democratic ideas have no hold on him.—His impressions of the 10th of June and 10th of August after the 31st of May.—His associations with Robespierre and Barras without committing himself.—His sentiments and the side he takes Vendémiaire 13th.—The great Condottière.—His character and conduct in Italy.—Description of him morally and physically in 1798.—His precocious and sudden ascendency.—Analogous in spirit and character to his Italian ancestors of the XVth century.—II. Intelligence during the Italian Renaissance and at the present day.—Integrity of Bonaparte’s mental machinery.—Flexibility, force, and tenacity of his attention.—Another difference between Napoleon’s intellect and that of his contemporaries.—He thinks objects and not words.—His antipathy to Ideology.—Little or no literary or philosophical education.—Self-taught through direct observation and technical instruction.—His fondness for details.—His inward vision of physical objects and places.—His mental portrayal of positions, distances, and quantities.—His psychological faculty and way of getting at the thought and feeling of others.—His self-analysis.—How he imagines a general situation by a particular case, also the invisible inward by the visible outward.—Originality and superiority of his style and discourse.—His adaptation of these to his hearers and to circumstances.—His notation and calculation of serviceable motives.—His three atlases.—Their scale and completeness.—His constructive imagination.—His projects and dreams.—Manifestation of the master faculty and its excesses.
In trying to explain to ourselves the meaning of an edifice we must take into account whatever has opposed or favored its construction, the kind and quality of its available materials, the time, the opportunity, and the demand for it; but, still more important, we must consider the genius and taste of the architect, especially whether he is the proprietor, whether he built it to live in himself, and, once installed in it, whether he took pains to adapt it to his own way of living, to his own necessities, to his own use.—Such is the social edifice erected by Napoleon Bonaparte, its architect, proprietor, and principal occupant from 1799 to 1814; it is he who has made modern France; never was an individual character so profoundly stamped on any collective work, so that, to comprehend the work, we must first study the character of the man.1
Disproportionate in all things, but, stranger still, he is not only out of the common run, but there is no standard of measurement for him; through his temperament, instincts, faculties, imagination, passions, and moral constitution he seems cast in a special mould, composed of another metal than that which enters into the composition of his fellows and contemporaries. Evidently he is not a Frenchman, nor a man of the eighteenth century; he belongs to another race and another epoch;2 we detect in him, at the first glance, the foreigner, the Italian,3 and something more, apart and beyond these, surpassing all similitude or analogy.—Italian he was through blood and lineage; first, through his paternal family, which is Tuscan,1 and which we can follow down from the twelfth century, at Florence, then at San Miniato; next at Sarzana, a small, backward, remote town in the state of Genoa, where, from father to son, it vegetates obscurely in provincial isolation, through a long line of notaries and municipal syndics. “My origin,” says Napoleon himself,2 “has made all Italians regard me as a compatriot. . . . When the question of the marriage of my sister Pauline with Prince Borghèse came up there was but one voice in Rome and in Tuscany, in that family, and with all its connections: ‘It will do,’ said all of them, ‘it’s amongst ourselves, it’s one of our own families.’ ” When the Pope hesitated about coming to Paris to crown Napoleon, “the Italian party in the Conclave prevailed against the Austrian party by supporting political arguments with the following slight tribute to national amour propre: ‘After all, we are imposing an Italian family on the barbarians, to govern them. We are revenging ourselves on the Gauls.” This significant expression throws light into the depths of the Italian nature, the eldest daughter of modern civilization, imbued with its right of primogeniture, persistent in its grudge against the transalpines, the rancorous inheritor of Roman pride and of antique patriotism.3
From Sarzana, a Bonaparte emigrates to Corsica, where he establishes himself and lives after 1529. The following year Florence is taken and completely subjugated; henceforth, in Tuscany, under Alexander de Medici, then under Cosmo I. and his successors, in all Italy under Spanish rule, municipal independence, private feuds, the great exploits of political adventures and successful usurpations, the system of ephemeral principalities, based on force and fraud, all give way to permanent repression, monarchical discipline, external order, and a certain species of public tranquillity. Thus, just at the time when the energy and ambition, the vigorous and free sap of the Middle Ages begins to run down and then dry up in the shriveled trunk,1 a small detached branch takes root in an island, not less Italian but almost barbarous, amidst institutions, customs, and passions belonging to the primitive mediæval epoch,2 and in a social atmosphere sufficiently rude for the maintenance of all its vigor and harshness.—Grafted, moreover, by frequent marriages, on the wild stock of the island, Napoleon, on the maternal side, through his grandmother and mother, is wholly indigenous. His grandmother, a Pietra-Santa, belonged to Sartène,3 a Corsican canton par excellence where, in 1800, hereditary vendettas still maintained the régime of the eleventh century; where the permanent strife of inimical families was suspended only by truces; where, in many villages, nobody stirred out of doors except in armed bodies, and where the houses were crenellated like fortresses. His mother, Lætitia Ramolini, from whom, in character and in will, he derived much more than from his father,4 is a primitive soul on which civilization has taken no hold; simple, all of a piece, unsuited to the refinements, charms, and graces of a worldly life; indifferent to comforts, without literary culture, as parsimonious as any peasant woman, but as energetic as the leader of a band; powerful, physically and spiritually, accustomed to danger, ready in desperate resolutions; in short, a “rustic Cornelia,” who conceived and gave birth to her son amidst the risks of battle and of defeat, in the thickest of the French invasion, amidst mountain rides on horseback, nocturnal surprises, and volleys of musketry.1 “Losses, privations, and fatigue,” says Napoleon, “she endured all and braved all. Hers was a man’s head on a woman’s shoulders.”—Thus fashioned and brought into the world, he felt that, from first to the last, he was of his race and country.
“Everything was better there,” said he, at Saint Helena,2 “even the very smell of the soil, which he could have detected with his eyes shut; nowhere had he found the same thing. He imagined himself there again in early infancy, and lived over again the days of his youth, amidst precipices, traversing lofty peaks, deep valleys, and narrow defiles, enjoying the honors and pleasures of hospitality,” treated everywhere as a brother and compatriot, “without any accident or insult ever suggesting to him that his confidence was not well grounded.” At Bocognano,1 where his mother, pregnant with him, had taken refuge, “where hatred and vengeance extended to the seventh degree of relationship, and where the dowry of a young girl was estimated by the number of her cousins, I was feasted and made welcome, and everybody would have died for me.” Forced to become a Frenchman, transplanted to France, educated at the expense of the king in a French school, he became rigid in his insular patriotism, and loudly extolled Paoli, the liberator, against whom his relations had declared themselves. “Paoli,” said he, at the dinner table,2 “was a great man. He loved his country. My father was his adjutant, and never will I forgive him for having aided in the union of Corsica with France. He should have followed her fortunes and have succumbed only with her.” Throughout his youth he is at heart anti-French, morose, “bitter, liking very few and very little liked, brooding over resentment,” like a vanquished man, always moody and compelled to work against the grain. At Brienne, he keeps aloof from his comrades, takes no part in their sports, shuts himself in the library, and unbosoms himself only to Bourrienne in explosions of hatred: “I will do you Frenchmen all the harm I can!”—“Corsican by nation and character,” wrote his professor of history in the Military Academy, “he will go far if circumstances favor him.”3 —Leaving the Academy, and in garrison at Valence and Auxonne, he remains always hostile, denationalized; his old bitterness returns, and, addressing his letters to Paoli, he says: “I was born when our country perished. Thirty thousand Frenchmen vomited on our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in floods of blood—such was the odious spectacle on which my eyes first opened! The groans of the dying, the shrieks of the oppressed, tears of despair, surrounded my cradle from my birth. . . . I will blacken those who betrayed the common cause with the brush of infamy . . . vile, sordid souls corrupted by gain!”1 A little later, his letter to Buttafuoco, deputy in the Constituent Assembly and principal agent in the annexation to France, is one long strain of renewed, concentrated hatred, which, after at first trying to restrain it within the bounds of cold sarcasm, ends in boiling over, like red-hot lava, in a torrent of scorching invective.—From the age of fifteen, at the Academy and afterwards in his regiment, he finds refuge in imagination in the past of his island;2 he recounts its history, his mind dwells upon it for many years, and he dedicates his work to Paoli. Unable to get it published, he abridges it, and dedicates the abridgment to Abbé Raynal, recapitulating in a strained style, with warm, vibrating sympathy, the annals of his small community, its revolts and deliverances, its heroic and sanguinary outbreaks, its public and domestic tragedies, ambuscades, betrayals, revenges, loves, and murders,—in short, a history similar to that of the Scottish highlanders, while the style, still more than the sympathies, denotes the foreigner. Undoubtedly, in this work, as in other youthful writings, he follows as well as he can the authors in vogue—Rousseau, and especially Raynal; he gives a schoolboy imitation of their tirades, their sentimental declamation, and their humanitarian grandiloquence. But these borrowed clothes, which incommode him, do not fit him; they are too tight, and the cloth is too fine; they require too much circumspection in walking; he does not know how to put them on, and they rip at every seam. Not only has he never learned how to spell, but he does not know the true meaning, connections, and relations of words, the propriety or impropriety of phrases, the exact significance of imagery;1 he strides on impetuously athwart a pell-mell of incongruities, incoherences, Italianisms, and barbarisms, undoubtedly stumbling along through awkwardness and inexperience, but also through excess of ardor and of heat;2 his jerking, eruptive thought, overcharged with passion, indicates the depth and temperature of its source. Already, at the Academy, the professor of belles-lettres3 notes down that “in the strange and incorrect grandeur of his amplifications he seems to see granite fused in a volcano.” However original in mind and in sensibility, ill-adapted as he is to the society around him, different from his comrades, it is clear beforehand that the current ideas which take such hold on them will obtain no hold on him.
Of the two dominant and opposite ideas which clash with each other, it might be supposed that he would lean either to one or to the other, although accepting neither.—Pensioner of the king, who supported him at Brienne, and afterwards in the Military Academy; who also supported his sister at St. Cyr; who, for twenty years, is the benefactor of his family; to whom, at this very time, he addresses entreating or grateful letters over his mother’s signature—he does not regard him as his born general; it does not enter his mind to take sides and draw his sword in his patron’s behalf; in vain is he a gentleman, to whom d’Hozier has certified; reared in a school of noble cadets, he has no noble or monarchical traditions.1 —Poor and tormented by ambition, a reader of Rousseau, patronized by Raynal, and tacking together sentences of philosophic fustian about equality, if he speaks the jargon of the day, it is without any belief in it; the phrases in vogue form a decent, academical drapery for his ideas, or serve him as a red cap for the club; he is not bewildered by democratic illusions, and entertains no other feeling than disgust for the revolution and the sovereignty of the populace.—At Paris, in April, 1792, when the struggle between the monarchists and the revolutionists is at its height, he tries to find “some successful speculation,”2 and thinks he will hire and sublet houses at a profit. On the 20th of June he witnesses, only as a matter of curiosity, the invasion of the Tuileries, and, on seeing the king at a window place the red cap on his head, exclaims, so as to be heard, “Che Coglione!” Immediately after this: “How could they let that rabble enter! Mow down four or five hundred of them with cannon-balls and the rest would run away.” On August 10, when the tocsin sounds, he regards the people and the king with equal contempt; he rushes to a friend’s house on the Carrousel and there, still as a looker-on, views at his ease all the occurrences of the day;3 finally, the chateau is forced and he strolls through the Tuileries, looks in at the neighboring cafés, and that is all: he is not disposed to take sides, he has no Jacobin or royalist impulse. His features, even, are so calm as to provoke many hostile remarks, “and distrustful, as if unknown and suspicious.”—Similarly, after the 31st of May and the 2d of June, his “Souper de Beaucaire” shows that if he condemns the departmental insurrection it is mainly because he deems it fruitless; on the side of the insurgents, a defeated army, no position tenable, no cavalry, raw artillerymen, Marseilles reduced to its own troops, full of hostile sans-culottes and sore besieged, taken and pillaged; chances are against it. “Poor sections of the country, the people of Vivaris, of the Cevennes, of Corsica, may fight to the last extremity, but you lose a battle and the fruit of a thousand years of fatigue, hardship, economy, and happiness become the soldier’s prey.”1 And this for the conversion of the Girondists!—None of the political or social convictions which then exercise such control over men’s minds have any hold on him. Before the 9th of Thermidor he seemed to be a “republican montagnard,” and we follow him for months in Provence “the favorite and confidential adviser of young Robespierre,” “admirer” of the elder Robespierre,2 intimate at Nice with Charlotte Robespierre. After the 9th of Thermidor has passed, he frees himself with bombast from this compromising friendship: “I thought him sincere,” says he of the younger Robespierre, in a letter intended to be shown, “but were he my father and had aimed at tyranny, I would have stabbed him myself.” On returning to Paris, after having knocked at several doors, he takes Barras for a patron. Barras, the most brazen of the corrupt, Barras, who has overthrown and contrived the death of his two former protectors.3 Among the contending parties and fanaticisms which succeed each other he keeps cool and free to dispose of himself as he pleases, indifferent to every cause and concerning himself only with his own interests.—On the evening of the 12th of Vendémiaire, on leaving the Feydeau theatre, and noticing the preparations of the sectionists,1 he said to Junot, “Ah, if the sections would only let me lead them! I would guarantee to place them in the Tuileries in two hours and have all those Convention rascals driven out!” Five hours later, denounced by Barras and the Conventionalists, he takes “three minutes” to make up his mind, and, instead of “blowing up the representatives,” he shoots down the Parisians like any other good condottière, who, holding himself in reserve, inclines to the first that offers and then to who offers the most, except to back out afterwards, and finally, seizing the opportunity, grabs anything.—Likewise, a veritable condottière, that is to say, leader of a band, more and more independent, pretending to submit under the pretext of the public good, looking out solely for his own interest, centering all on himself, general on his own account and for his own advantage in his Italian campaign before and after the 18th of Fructidor,2 but a condottière of the first class, already aspiring to the loftiest summits, “with no stopping-place but the throne or the scaffold,”3 “determined4 to master France, also Europe through France, ever occupied with his own plans, and without distraction, sleeping three hours during the night,” making playthings of ideas, people, religions, and governments, managing mankind with incomparable dexterity and brutality, in the choice of means as of ends, a superior artist, inexhaustible in prestiges, seductions, corruption, and intimidation, wonderful, and yet more terrible than any wild beast suddenly turned in on a herd of browsing cattle. The expression is not too strong and was uttered by an eye-witness, almost at this very date, a friend and a competent diplomat: “You know that, while I am very fond of the dear general, I call him to myself the little tiger, so as to properly characterize his figure, tenacity, and courage, the rapidity of his movements, and all that he has in him which may be fairly regarded in that sense.”1
At this very date, previous to official adulation and the adoption of a recognized type, we see him face to face in two portraits drawn from life, one physical, by a truthful painter, Guérin, and the other moral, by a superior woman, Madame de Staël, who to the best European culture added tact and worldly perspicacity. Both portraits agree so perfectly that each seems to interpret and complete the other. “I saw him for the first time,”2 says Madame de Staël, “on his return to France after the treaty of Campo-Formio. After recovering from the first excitement of admiration there succeeded to this a decided sentiment of fear.” And yet, “at this time he had no power, for it was even then supposed that the Directory looked upon him with a good deal of suspicion.” People regarded him sympathetically, and were even prepossessed in his favor; “thus the fear he inspired was simply due to the singular effect of his person on almost all who approached him. I had met men worthy of respect and had likewise met men of ferocious character; but nothing in the impression which Bonaparte produced on me reminded me of either. I soon found, in the various opportunities I had of meeting him during his stay in Paris, that his character was not to be described in terms commonly employed; he was neither mild nor violent, nor gentle nor cruel, like certain personages one happens to know. A being like him, wholly unlike anybody else, could neither feel nor excite sympathy; he was both more and less than a man; his figure, intellect, and language bore the impress of a foreign nationality . . . . far from being reassured on seeing Bonaparte oftener, he intimidated me more and more every day. I had a confused impression that he was not to be influenced by any emotion of sympathy or affection. He regards a human being as a fact, an object, and not as a fellow-creature. He neither hates nor loves, he exists for himself alone; the rest of humanity are so many ciphers. The force of his will consists in the imperturbable calculation of his egoism; he is a skillful player who has the human species for an antagonist, and whom he proposes to checkmate. . . . Every time that I heard him talk I was struck with his superiority; it bore no resemblance to that of men informed and cultivated through study and social intercourse, such as we find in France and England; his conversation indicated the tact of circumstances, like that of the hunter in pursuit of his prey. His spirit seemed a cold, keen sword-blade, which freezes while it wounds. I felt a profound irony in his mind, which nothing great or beautiful could escape, not even his own fame, for he despised the nation whose suffrages he sought.”—“With him, everything was means to ends; the involuntary, whether for good or for evil, was entirely absent.” No law, no ideal and abstract rule, existed for him; “he examined things only with reference to their immediate usefulness; a general principle was repugnant to him, either as so much nonsense or as an enemy.”
Now, contemplate in Guérin1 the spare body, those narrow shoulders under the uniform wrinkled by sudden movements, that neck swathed in its high twisted cravat, those temples covered by long, smooth, straight hair, exposing only the mask, the hard features intensified through strong contrasts of light and shade, the cheeks hollow up to the inner angle of the eye, the projecting cheek-bones, the massive, protuberant jaw, the sinuous, mobile lips, pressed together as if attentive, the large, clear eyes, deeply sunk under the broad, arched eyebrows, the fixed, oblique look, as penetrating as a rapier, and the two creases which extend from the base of the nose to the brow, as if in a frown of suppressed anger and determined will. Add to this the accounts of his contemporaries1 who saw or heard the curt accent or the sharp, abrupt gesture, the interrogating, imperious, absolute tone of voice, and we comprehend how, the moment they accosted him, they felt the dominating hand which seizes them, presses them down, holds them firmly and never relaxes its grasp.
Already, at the receptions of the Directory, when conversing with men, or even with ladies, he puts questions “which prove the superiority of the questioner to those who have to answer them.”2 “Are you married?” says he to this one, and “How many children have you?” to another. To that one, “When did you come here?” or, again, “When are you going away?” He places himself in front of a French lady, well known for her beauty and wit and the vivacity of her opinions, “like the stiffest of German generals, and says: ‘Madame, I don’t like women who meddle with politics!’ ” Equality, ease, and familiarity—all fellowship vanishes at his approach. Eighteen months before this, on his appointment as commander-in-chief of the army in Italy, Admiral Decrès, who had known him well at Paris,3 learns that he is to pass through Toulon:
“I at once propose to my comrades to introduce them, venturing to do so on my acquaintance with him in Paris. Full of eagerness and joy, I start off. The door opens and I am about to press forwards,” he afterwards wrote, “when the attitude, the look, and the tone of voice suffice to arrest me. And yet there was nothing offensive about him; still, this was enough. I never tried after that to overstep the line thus imposed on me.” A few days later, at Alberga,4 certain generals of division, and among them Augereau, a vulgar, heroic old soldier, vain of his tall figure and courage, arrive at headquarters, not well disposed toward the little parvenu sent out to them from Paris. Recalling the description of him which had been given to them, Augereau is abusive and insubordinate beforehand. “One of Barras’s favorites! The Vendémiaire general! A street general! Never in action! Hasn’t a friend! Looks like a bear because he always thinks for himself! An insignificant figure! He is said to be a mathematician and dreamer!”1 They enter, and Bonaparte keeps them waiting. At last he appears, with his sword and belt on, explains the disposition of the forces, gives them his orders, and dismisses them. Augereau is thunderstruck. Only when he gets out of doors does he recover himself and fall back on his accustomed oaths. He agrees with Massena that “that little——of a general frightened him.” He cannot comprehend the ascendency “which overawes him at the first glance.”2
Extraordinary and superior, made for command3 and for conquest, singular and of an unique species, is the feeling of all his contemporaries; those who are most familiar with the histories of other nations, Madame de Staël and, after her, Stendhal, go back to the right sources to comprehend him, to the “petty Italian tyrants of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,” to Castruccio-Castracani, to the Braccio of Mantua, to the Piccinino, the Malatestas of Rimini, and the Sforzas of Milan. In their opinion, however, it is only a chance analogy, a psychological resemblance. Really, however, and historically it is a positive relationship. He is a descendant of the great Italians, the men of action of the year 1400, the military adventurers, usurpers, and founders of life-governments; he inherits in direct affiliation their blood and inward organization, mental and moral.1 A sprout has been transplanted from their forest, before the age of refinement, impoverishment, and decay, to a similar and remote nursery, where the tragic and militant régime is permanently established; the primitive germ is preserved there intact and transmitted from one generation to another, renewed and invigorated by interbreeding. Finally, at the last stage of its growth, it springs out of the ground and develops magnificently, blooming the same as ever, and producing the same fruit as on the original stem; modern cultivation and French gardening have pruned away but very few of its branches and blunted a few of its thorns: its original texture, inmost substance, and spontaneous development have not changed. The soil of France and of Europe, however, broken up by revolutionary tempests, is more favorable to its roots than the worn-out fields of the Middle Ages; and there it grows by itself, without being subject, like its Italian ancestors, to rivalry with its own species; nothing checks the growth; it may absorb all the juices of the ground, all the air and sunshine of the region, and become the Colossus which the ancient plants, equally deep-rooted and certainly as absorbent, but born in a less friable soil and more crowded together, could not provide.
“The man-plant,” says Alfieri, “is in no country born more vigorous than in Italy”; and never, in Italy, was it so vigorous as from 1300 to 1500, from the contemporaries of Dante down to those of Michael Angelo, Cæsar Borgia, Julius II., and Macchiavelli.1 The first distinguishing mark of a man of those times is the integrity of his mental instrument. Nowadays, after three hundred years of service, ours has lost somewhat of its temper, sharpness, and suppleness; in general, a compulsory, special application of it has rendered it one-sided; the multiplication, besides, of ready-made ideas and acquired methods incrusts it and reduces its play to a sort of routine; finally, it is much worn through excess of cerebral action, weakened by the continuity of sedentary habits. It is just the opposite with those impulsive spirits of new blood and of a new race.
Roederer, a competent and independent judge, who, at the beginning of the consular government, sees Bonaparte daily at the meetings of the Council of State, and who notes down every evening the impressions of the day, is carried away with admiration.2 “Punctual at every sitting, prolonging the session five or six hours, discussing before and afterwards the subjects brought forward, always returning to two questions, ‘Is that just?’ ‘Is that useful?’ examining each question in itself, under both relations, after having subjected it to a most exact and elaborate analysis; next, consulting the best authorities, the times, experience, and obtaining information about bygone jurisprudence, the laws of Louis XIV. and of Frederick the Great. . . . Never did the council adjourn without its members knowing more than the day before; if not through knowledge derived from him, at least through the researches he obliged them to make. Never did the members of the Senate and the Corps Législatif, or of the tribunals, pay their respects to him without being rewarded for their homage by valuable instructions. He cannot be surrounded by public men without being the statesman, all forming for him a council of state.” “What characterizes him above them all,” is not alone the penetration and universality of his comprehension, but likewise and especially “the force, flexibility, and constancy of his attention. He can work eighteen hours at a stretch, on one or on several subjects. I never saw him tired. I never found his mind lacking in inspiration, even when weary in body, nor when violently exercised, nor when angry. I never saw him diverted from one matter by another, turning from that under discussion to one he had just finished or was about to take up. The news, good or bad, he received from Egypt, did not divert his mind from the civil code, nor the civil code from the combinations which the safety of Egypt required. Never did man more wholly devote himself to the work in hand, nor better devote his time to what he had to do. Never did mind more inflexibly set aside the occupation or thought which did not come at the right day or hour, never was one more ardent in seeking it, more alert in its pursuit, more capable of fixing it when the time came to take it up.”—He himself said later on:1 “Various subjects and affairs are stowed away in my brain as in a chest of drawers. When I want to take up any special business I shut one drawer and open another. None of them ever get mixed, and never does this incommode me or fatigue me. If I feel sleepy I shut all the drawers and go to sleep.” Never has brain so disciplined and under such control been seen, one so ready at all times for any task, so capable of immediate and absolute concentration. Its flexibility1 is wonderful, “in the instant application of every faculty and energy, and bringing them all to bear at once on any object that concerns him, on a mite as well as on an elephant, on any given individual as well as on an enemy’s army. . . . When specially occupied, other things do not exist for him; it is a sort of chase from which nothing diverts him.” And this hot pursuit, which nothing arrests save capture, this tenacious hunt, this headlong course by one to whom the goal is never other than a fresh starting-point, is the spontaneous gait, the natural, even pace which his mind prefers. “I am always at work,” says he to Roederer.2 “I meditate a great deal. If I seem always equal to the occasion, ready to face what comes, it is because I have thought the matter over a long time before undertaking it. I have anticipated whatever might happen. It is no genius which suddenly reveals to me what I ought to do or say in any unlooked-for circumstance, but my own reflection, my own meditation. . . . I work all the time, at dinner, in the theatre. I wake up at night in order to resume my work. I got up last night at two o’clock. I stretched myself on my couch before the fire to examine the army reports sent to me by the Minister of War. I found twenty mistakes in them, and made notes which I have this morning sent to the minister, who is now engaged with his clerks in rectifying them.” His fellow-workmen break down and sink under the burden imposed on them and which he supports without feeling the weight. When Consul,3 “he sometimes presides at special meetings of the section of the interior from ten o’clock in the evening until five o’clock in the morning. . . . Often, at Saint-Cloud, he keeps the counsellors of state from nine o’clock in the morning until five in the evening, with fifteen minutes’ intermission, and seems no more fatigued at the close of the session than when it began.” During the night sessions “many of the members succumb through lassitude, while the Minister of War falls asleep”; he gives them a shake and wakes them up, “Come, come, citizens, let us bestir ourselves, it is only two o’clock and we must earn the money the French people pay us.” Consul or Emperor,1 “he demands of each minister an account of the smallest details. It is not rare to see them leaving the council room overcome with fatigue, due to the long interrogatories to which he has subjected them; he disdains to take any notice of this, and talks about the day’s work simply as a relaxation which has scarcely given his mind exercise.” And what is worse, “it often happens that on returning home they find a dozen of his letters requiring immediate answer, for which the whole night scarcely suffices.” The quantity of facts he is able to retain and store away, the quantity of ideas he elaborates and produces, seems to surpass human capacity, and this insatiable, inexhaustible, unmovable brain thus keeps on working uninterruptedly for thirty years.
Through another result of the same mental organization, it demands material to work on; and this, at the present day, is our great danger. For the past three hundred years we have more and more lost sight of the exact and direct meaning of things; subject to the constraints of a domestic, many-sided, and prolonged education we fix our attention on the symbols of objects rather than on the objects themselves; instead of on the ground itself, on a map of it; instead of on animals struggling for existence,1 on nomenclatures and classifications, or, at best, on stuffed specimens displayed in a museum; instead of on men who feel and act, on statistics, codes, histories, literatures, and philosophies; in short, on printed words, and, worse still, on abstract terms, which from century to century have become more abstract and therefore further removed from experience, more difficult to understand, less adaptable and more deceptive, especially in all that relates to human life and society. In this domain, owing to extended governments, to the multiplication of services, to the entanglement of interests, the object, indefinitely expanded and complex, now eludes our grasp; our vague, incomplete, incorrect idea of it badly corresponds with it, or does not correspond at all; in nine minds out of ten, or perhaps ninety-nine out of a hundred, it is but little more than a word; the rest, if they desire some significant indication of what society actually is beyond the teachings of books, require ten or fifteen years of close observation and study to re-think the phrases with which these have filled their memory, to interpret them anew, to make clear their meaning, to get at and verify their sense, to substitute for the more or less empty and indefinite term the fullness and precision of a personal impression. We have seen how ideas of Society, State, Government, Sovereignty, Rights, Liberty, the most important of all ideas, were, at the close of the eighteenth century, curtailed and falsified; how, in most minds, simple verbal reasoning combined them together in dogmas and axioms; what an offspring these metaphysical simulacra gave birth to, how many lifeless and grotesque abortions, how many monstrous and destructive chimeras. There is no place for any of these chimeras in the mind of Bonaparte; they cannot arise in it, nor find access to it; his aversion to the unsubstantial phantoms of political abstraction extends beyond disdain, even to disgust;1 the ideology of that day, as it is called, is his particular bugbear; he loathes it not alone through calculation, but still more through an instinctive demand for what is real, as a practical man and statesman, always keeping in mind, like the great Catherine, “that he is operating, not on paper, but on the human hide, which is ticklish.” Every idea entertained by him had its origin in his personal observation, and it was his personal observation which controlled it.
If books are useful to him it is to suggest questions, which he never answers but through his own experience. He read very little, and hastily;2 his classical education was rudimentary; in the way of Latin, he remained in the lower class. The instruction he got at the Military Academy as well as at Brienne was below mediocrity, while, after Brienne, it is stated that “for the languages and belles-lettres, he had no taste.” Next to this, the literature of elegance and refinement, the philosophy of the closet and drawing-room, with which his contemporaries are imbued, glided over his intellect as over a rock; none but mathematical truths and positive notions about geography and history found their way into his mind and deeply impressed it. Everything else, as with his predecessors of the fifteenth century, comes to him through the original, direct action of his faculties in contact with men and things, through his prompt and sure tact, his indefatigable and minute attention, his indefinitely repeated and rectified divinations during long hours of solitude and silence. Practice, and not speculation, is the source of his instruction, the same as with a mechanic brought up amongst machinery. “There is nothing relating to warfare that I cannot make myself. If nobody knows how to make gunpowder, I do. I can construct guncarriages. If cannon must be cast, I will see that it is done properly. If tactical details must be taught, I will teach them.”1 Hence his competency at the outset—general in the artillery, major-general, diplomatist, financier and administrator, all at once and in every direction. Thanks to this fecund apprenticeship, beginning with the Consulate, he shows cabinet clerks and veteran ministers who send in their reports to him what to do. “I am a better administrator than they are;2 when one has been obliged to rack his brains to find out how to feed, maintain, control, and animate with the same spirit and will two or three hundred thousand men, a long distance from their country, one soon gets at the secrets of administration.” He takes in at a glance every part of the human machine he fashions and manipulates, each in its proper place and function; the generators of power, the organs of its transmission, the extra working gear, the composite action, the speed which ensues, the final result, the complete effect, the net product; never is he content with a superficial and summary inspection; he penetrates into obscure corners and to the lowest depths “through the technical precision of his questions,” with the lucidity of a specialist, and in this way, borrowing an expression from the philosophers, his idea is found adequate to its object.
Hence his eagerness for details, for these form the body and substance of the object; the hand that has not grasped these, or lets them go, retains only the shell, an envelope. With respect to these his curiosity is “insatiable.”1 In each ministerial department he knows more than the ministers, and in each bureau he knows as much as the clerks. “On his table2 lie reports of the positions of his forces on land and on water; he has furnished the plans of these, and fresh ones are issued every month”; such is the daily reading he likes best. “I have my reports on positions always at hand; my memory for an Alexandrine is not good, but I never forget a syllable of my reports on positions. I shall find them in my room this evening, and I shall not go to bed until I have read them.” He always knows “his position” on land and at sea better than is known in the War and Navy departments; better even than his staff-officers the number, size, and qualities of his ships in or out of port, the present and future state of vessels under construction, the composition and strength of their crews, the formation, organization, staff of officers, material, stations, and enlistments, past and to come, of each army corps and of each regiment.
It is the same in the financial and diplomatic services, in every branch of the adminstration, laic or ecclesiastical, in the physical order and in the moral order. His topographical memory and his geographical conception of countries, places, ground, and obstacles culminate in an inward vision which he evokes at will, and which, years afterwards, revives as fresh as on the first day. His calculation of distances, marches, and manœuvres is so rigid a mathematical operation that, frequently, at a distance of two or four hundred leagues, his military foresight, calculated two or four months ahead, turns out correct, almost on the day named, and precisely on the spot designated.1 Add to this one other faculty, and the rarest of all; for, if things turn out as he foresaw they would, it is because, as with famous chess-players, he has accurately measured not alone the mechanical moves of the pieces, but the character and talent of his adversary, “sounded his draft of water,” and divined his probable mistakes; he has added the calculation of physical quantities and probabilities to the calculation of moral quantities and probabilities, thus showing himself as great a psychologist as he is an accomplished strategist. In fact, no one has surpassed him in the art of defining the various states and impulses of one or of many minds, either prolonged or for the time being, which impel or restrain man in general, or this or that individual in particular; what springs of action may be touched, and the kind and degree of pressure that may be applied to them. This central faculty rules all the others, and in the art of mastering man his genius is found supreme.
No faculty is more precious for a political engineer; for the forces he acts upon are never other than human passions. But how, except through divination, can these passions, which grow out of the deepest sentiments, be reached; and how, save by conjecture, can forces be estimated which seem to defy all measurement? On this dark and uncertain ground, where one has to grope one’s way, Napoleon moves with almost absolute certainty; he moves promptly, and, first of all, he studies himself; indeed, to find one’s way into another’s soul requires, preliminarily, that one should dive deep into one’s own.1 “I have always delighted in analysis,” said he, one day, “and should I ever fall seriously in love I would take my sentiment to pieces. Why and How are such important questions one cannot put them to one’s self too often.” “It is certain,” writes an observer, “that he, of all men, is the one who has most meditated on the why which controls human actions.” His method, that of the experimental sciences, consists in testing every hypothesis or deduction by some positive fact, observed by him under definite conditions; a physical force being ascertained and accurately measured through the deviation of a needle, or through the rise and fall of a fluid, this or that invisible moral force can likewise be ascertained and approximately measured through some emotional sign, some decisive manifestation, consisting of a certain word, tone, or gesture. It is these words, tones, and gestures which he dwells on; he detects inward sentiments by the outward expression; he figures to himself the internal by the external, by some physiognomical trait, some striking attitude, some summary and topical circumstance, so pertinent and with such particulars as will afford a complete indication of the innumerable series of analogous cases. In this way, the vague, fleeting object is suddenly arrested, brought to bear, and then gauged and weighed, like some impalpable gas collected and kept in a graduated transparent glass tube.—Accordingly, at the Council of State, while the others, either legists or administrators, adduce abstractions, articles of the code and precedents, he looks into natures as they are—the Frenchman’s, the Italian’s, the German’s; that of the peasant, the workman, the bourgeois, the noble, the returned emigré,1 the soldier, the officer and the functionary—everywhere the individual man as he is, the man who ploughs, manufactures, fights, marries, generates, toils, enjoys himself, and dies.
Nothing is more striking than the contrast between the dull, grave arguments advanced by the wise official editor, and Napoleon’s own words caught on the wing, at the moment, vibrating and teeming with illustrations and imagery.2 Apropos of divorce, the principle of which he wishes to maintain: “Consult, now, national manners and customs. Adultery is no phenomenon; it is common enough—une affaire de canapé. . . . There must be some curb on women who commit adultery for trinkets, poetry, Apollo, and the muses, etc.” But if divorce be allowed for incompatibility of temper you undermine marriage; the fragility of the bond will be apparent the moment the obligation is contracted; “it is just as if a man said to himself, ‘I am going to marry until I feel different.’ ” Nullity of marriage must not be too often allowed; once a marriage is made it is a serious matter to undo it. “Suppose that, in marrying my cousin just arrived from the Indies, I wed an adventuress. She bears me children, and I then discover she is not my cousin—is that marriage valid? Does not public morality demand that it should be so considered? There has been a mutual exchange of souls, of transpiration.” On the right of children to be supported and fed although of age, he says: “Will you allow a father to drive a girl of fifteen out of his house? A father worth 60,000 francs a year might say to his son, ‘You are stout and fat; go and turn ploughman.’ The children of a rich father, or of one in good circumstances, are always entitled to the paternal porridge. Strike out their right to be fed, and you compel children to murder their parents.”—As to adoption: “You regard this as law-makers and not as statesmen. It is not a civil contract nor a judicial contract. The analysis (of the jurist) leads to vicious results. Man is governed by imagination only; without imagination he is a brute. It is not for five cents a day, simply to distinguish himself, that a man consents to be killed; if you want to electrify him touch his heart. A notary, who is paid a fee of twelve francs for his services, cannot do that. It requires some other process, a legislative act. Adoption, what is that? An imitation by which society tries to counterfeit nature. It is a new kind of sacrament. . . . Society ordains that the bones and blood of one being shall be changed into the bones and blood of another. It is the greatest of all legal acts. It gives the sentiments of a son to one who never had them, and reciprocally those of a parent. Where ought this to originate? Above, like a clap of thunder!”
All his expressions are bright flashes one after another.1 Nobody, since Voltaire and Galiani, has launched forth such a profusion of them; some of them, like those of Montesquieu, on society, laws, government, France and the French, penetrate to and suddenly illuminate the darkest recesses; he does not hammer them out laboriously, but they burst forth, the outpourings of his intellect, its natural, involuntary, constant action. And what adds to their value is that, outside of councils and private conversations, he abstains from them, employing them only in the service of thought; at other times he subordinates them to the end he has in view, which is always the practical effect; ordinarily, he writes and speaks in a different language, in a language suited to his audience; he retrenches the singularities, the fits and starts of the imagination and of improvisation, the outbursts of genius and inspiration. All that he retains and allows himself the use of are merely those which are intended to impress the personage whom he wishes to dazzle with a great idea of himself, a Pius VII., or the Emperor Alexander; in this case, his conversational tone is that of a caressing, expansive, amiable familiarity; he is then before the footlights, and when he acts he can play all parts, tragedy or comedy, with the same life and spirit whether he fulminates, insinuates, or even affects simplicity. When with his generals, ministers, and head clerks, he falls back on the concise, positive, technical business style; any other would interfere with that; the impassioned soul reveals itself only through the brevity and imperious strength and rudeness of the accent. For his armies and the common run of men, he has his proclamations and bulletins, that is to say, sonorous phrases composed for effect, a statement of facts purposely simplified and falsified,1 in short, an excellent effervescent wine, good for exciting enthusiasm, and an equally excellent narcotic for maintaining credulity,2 a sort of popular mixture retailed out by him just at the proper time, and whose ingredients are so well proportioned that the public drinks it with delight, and becomes at once intoxicated. His style on every occasion, whether affected or spontaneous, shows his wonderful knowledge of the masses and of individuals; except in two or three cases, on one exalted domain, of which he always remains ignorant, he has ever hit the mark, applying the appropriate lever, giving just the push, weight, and degree of impulsion which best accomplishes his purpose. A series of brief, accurate memoranda, corrected daily, enables him to frame for himself a sort of psychological tablet whereon he notes down and sums up, in almost numerical valuation, the mental and moral dispositions, characters, faculties, passions, and aptitudes, the strong or weak points, of the innumerable human beings, near or remote, on whom he acts.
Let us try for a moment to form some idea of the grasp and capacity of this intellect; we should probably have to recur to Cæsar to find its counterpart; but, for lack of documents, we have nothing of Cæsar but general features—a summary outline; of Napoleon we have, besides the perfect outline, the features in detail. Read his correspondence, day by day, then chapter by chapter;3 for example, in 1806, after the battle of Austerlitz, or, still better, in 1809, after his return from Spain, up to the peace of Vienna; whatever our technical shortcomings may be, we shall find that his mind, in its comprehensiveness and amplitude, largely surpasses all known or even credible proportions.
He has mentally within him three principal atlases, always at hand, each composed of “about twenty note-books,” each distinct and each regularly posted up.—The first one is military, forming a vast collection of topographical charts as minute as those of an état-major, with detailed plans of every stronghold, also specific indications and the local distribution of all forces on sea and on land—crews, regiments, batteries, arsenals, storehouses, present and future resources in supplies of men, horses, vehicles, arms, munitions, food, and clothing. The second, which is civil, resembles the heavy, thick volumes published every year, in which we now read the state of the budget, and comprehend, first, the innumerable items of ordinary and extraordinary receipt and expenditure, internal taxes, foreign contributions, the products of the domains in France and out of France, the fiscal services, pensions, public works, and the rest; next, all administrative statistics, the hierarchy of functions and of functionaries, senators, deputies, ministers, prefects, bishops, professors, judges, and those under their orders, each where he resides, with his rank, jurisdiction, and salary.—The third is a vast biographical and moral dictionary, in which, as in the pigeon-holes of the Chief of Police, each notable personage and local group, each professional or social body, and even each population, has its label, along with a brief note on its situation, needs, and antecedents, and, therefore, its demonstrated character, eventual disposition, and probable conduct. Each label, card, or strip of paper has its summing-up; all these partial summaries, methodically classified, terminate in totals, and the totals of the three atlases, combined together, thus furnish their possessor with an estimate of his disposable forces.—Now, in 1809, however full these atlases, they are clearly imprinted on Napoleon’s mind; he knows not only the total and the partial summaries, but also the slightest details; he reads them readily and at every hour; he comprehends in a mass, and in all particulars, the various nations he governs directly, or through some one else; that is to say, 60,000,000 men, the different countries he has conquered or overrun, consisting of 70,000 square miles; at first, France increased by the addition of Belgium and Piedmont; next Spain, from which he is just returned, and where he has placed his brother Joseph; southern Italy, where, after Joseph, he has placed Murat; central Italy, where he occupies Rome; northern Italy, where Eugène is his delegate; Dalmatia and Istria, which he has joined to his empire; Austria, which he invades for the second time; the Confederation of the Rhine, which he has made and which he directs; Westphalia and Holland, where his brother sare only his lieutenants; Prussia, which he has subdued and mutilated and which he oppresses, and the strongholds of which he still retains; and, add a last mental tableau, that which represents the northern seas, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, all the fleets of the continent at sea and in port from Dantzic to Flessingen and Bayonne, from Cadiz to Toulon and Gaëta, from Tarentum to Venice, Corfu, and Constantinople.1 —On the psychological and moral atlas, besides a primitive gap which he will never fill up, because this is a characteristic trait, there are some estimates which are wrong, especially with regard to the Pope and to Catholic conscience; in like manner he rates the energy of national sentiment in Spain and Germany too low; he rates too high his own prestige in France and in the countries annexed to her, the balance of confidence and zeal on which he may rely. But these errors are rather the product of his will than of his intelligence, he recognizes them at intervals; if he has illusions it is because he forges them; left to himself his good sense would rest infallible, it is only his passions which blurred the lucidity of his intellect. As to the other two atlases, the topographical and the military, they are as complete and as exact as ever; it is in vain that the reality which they present to him has become swollen and complex; however monstrous at this date, they correspond to it in their fulness and precision, trait for trait.
But this multitude of notations forms only the smallest portion of the mental population swarming in this immense brain; for, on his idea of the real, germinate and swarm his conceptions of the possible; without these conceptions there would be no way to handle and transform things, and that he did handle and transform them we all know. Before acting, he has decided on his plan, and if this plan is adopted, it is one among several others,1 after examining, comparing, and giving it the preference; he has accordingly thought over all the others. Behind each combination adopted by him we detect those he has rejected; there are dozens of them behind each of his decisions, each manœuvre effected, each treaty signed, each decree promulgated, each order issued, and I venture to say, behind almost every improvised action or word spoken; for calculation enters into everything he does, even into his seeming expansiveness, also into his outbursts when in earnest; if he gives way to these, it is on purpose, foreseeing the effect, with a view to intimidate or to dazzle; he turns everything in others as well as in himself to account—his passion, his vehemence, his weaknesses, his fondness for talking out, and all for the advancement of the edifice he is constructing.1 Certainly among his diverse faculties, however great, that of the constructive imagination is the most powerful. At the very beginning we feel its heat and boiling intensity beneath the coolness and rigidity of his technical and positive instructions. “When I plan a battle,” said he to Roederer, “no man is more pusillanimous than I am. I magnify to myself all the dangers and all the evils that are possible under the circumstances. I am in a state of agitation that is really painful. But this does not prevent me from appearing quite composed to people around me; I am like a woman giving birth to a child.”2 Passionately, in the throes of the creator, he is thus absorbed with his coming creation; he already anticipates and enjoys living in his imaginary edifice. “General,” said Madame de Clermont-Tonnerre to him, one day, “you are building behind a scaffolding which you will take down when you have done with it.” “Yes, madame, that’s it,” replied Bonaparte; “you are right. I am always living two years in advance.”3 His response came with “incredible vivacity,” as if a sudden inspiration, that of a soul stirred in its innermost fibre. Accordingly, on this side, the power, alertness, fecundity, play, and jet of his thought seem illimitable. What he has accomplished is astonishing, but what he has undertaken is more so; and whatever he may have undertaken is far surpassed by what he has imagined. However vigorous his practical faculty, his poetical faculty is stronger; it is even too vigorous for a statesman; its grandeur is exaggerated into enormity, and its enormity degenerates into madness. In Italy, after the 18th of Fructidor, he said to Bourrienne: “Europe is a molehill; never have there been great empires and great revolutions, except in the Orient, with its 600,000,000 of men.”1 The following year at St. Jean d’Acre, on the eve of the last assault, he added: “If I succeed I shall find in the town the pacha’s treasure and arms for 300,000 men. I stir up and arm all Syria. . . . I march on Damascus and Aleppo; as I advance in the country my army will increase with the discontented. I proclaim to the people the abolition of slavery, and of the tyrannical government of the pachas. I reach Constantinople with armed masses. I overthrow the Turkish Empire; I found in the East a new and grand empire, which fixes my place with posterity, and perhaps I return to Paris by the way of Adrianople, or by Vienna, after having annihilated the house of Austria.”2
Become consul, and then emperor, he often recurs to this happy period, when, “rid of the restraints of a troublesome civilization,” he could imagine at will and construct at pleasure.3 —“I created a religion; I saw myself on the road to Asia, mounted on an elephant, with a turban on my head, and in my hand a new Koran, which I composed to suit myself.”—Confined to Europe, he thinks, after 1804, that he will reorganize Charlemagne’s empire. “The French Empire will become the mother country of other sovereignties. . . . I mean that every king in Europe shall build a grand palace at Paris for his own use; on the coronation of the Emperor of the French these kings will come and occupy it; they will grace this imposing ceremony with their presence, and honor it with their salutations.”1 The Pope will come; he came to the first one; he must necessarily return to Paris, and fix himself there permanently. Where could the Holy See be better off than in the new capital of Christianity, under Napoleon, heir to Charlemagne, and temporal sovereign of the Sovereign Pontiff? Through the temporal the emperor will control the spiritual,2 and through the Pope, consciences.” In November, 1811, unusually excited, he says to De Pradt: “In five years I shall be master of the world; only Russia will remain, but I will crush her.3 . . . Paris will extend out to St. Cloud.” To render Paris the physical capital of Europe is, through his own confession, “one of his constant dreams.” “At times,” he says,4 “I would like to see her a city of two, three, four millions of inhabitants, something fabulous, colossal, unknown down to our day, and its public establishments adequate to its population. . . . Archimedes proposed to lift the world if he could be allowed to place his lever; for myself, I would have changed it wherever I could have been allowed to exercise my energy, perseverance, and budgets.” At all events, he believes so; for however lofty and badly supported the next story of his structure may be, he has always ready a new story, loftier and more unsteady, to put above it. A few months before launching himself, with all Europe at his back, against Russia, he said to Narbonne:1 “After all, my dear sir, this long road is the road to India. Alexander started as far off as Moscow to reach the Ganges; this has occurred to me since St. Jean d’Acre. . . . To reach England to-day I need the extremity of Europe, from which to take Asia in the rear. . . . Suppose Moscow taken, Russia subdued, the czar reconciled, or dead through some court conspiracy, perhaps another and dependent throne, and tell me whether it is not possible for a French army, with its auxiliaries, setting out from Tiflis, to get as far as the Ganges, where it needs only a thrust of the French sword to bring down the whole of that grand commercial scaffolding throughout India. It would be the most gigantic expedition, I admit, but practicable in the nineteenth century. Through it France, at one stroke, would secure the independence of the West and the freedom of the seas.”
While uttering this his eyes shone with strange brilliancy, and he keeps on accumulating motive after motive, in calculating obstacles, means, and chances: the inspiration is under full headway, and he gives himself up to it. The master faculty finds itself suddenly free, and it takes flight; the artist,2 sheathed in the political scabbard, has escaped from it; he is creating out of the ideal and the impossible. We take him for what he is, a posthumous brother of Dante and Michael Angelo; in the clear outlines of his vision, in the intensity, coherency, and inward logic of his reverie, in the profundity of his meditations, in the superhuman grandeur of his conceptions, he is, indeed, their fellow and their equal. His genius is of the same stature and the same structure; he is one of the three sovereign minds of the Italian Renaissance. Only, while the first two operated on paper and on marble, the latter operates on the living being, on the sensitive and suffering flesh of humanity.
I. Great men of the Italian Renaissance and of the present time.—Intensity of the passions in Bonaparte.—His impulsive sensibility.—Violent outbursts.—His impatience, readiness, and need of expressing himself.—His temperament, nervous system, and sinking-fits.—II. Bonaparte’s dominant passion.—His lucid, calculating mind.—Source and power of the Will.—Early evidences of an active, absorbing egoism.—His education derived from the lessons of things.—In Corsica.—In France during the Revolution.—In Italy.—In Egypt.—His idea of Society and of Right.—Maturing after the 18th of Brumaire.—His idea of Man.—It conforms to his character.—III. His mastery of the will of others.—Degree of submission required by him.—His mode of appreciating others and of profiting by them.—Tone of command and of conversation.—IV. His bearing in Society.—His deportment toward Women.—His disdain of Politeness.—V. His tone and bearing toward Sovereigns.—His Policy.—His means and ends.—After Sovereigns he sets populations against him.—Final opinion of Europe.—VI. Inward principle of his outward deportment.—The State subordinated to him instead of his subordination to the State.—Effects of this.—His work merely a life-interest.—It is ephemeral.—Injurious.—The number of lives it cost.—The mutilation of France.—Vice of construction in his European edifice.—Analogous vice in his French edifice.
On taking a near view of the contemporaries of Dante and Michael Angelo, we find that they differ from us more in character than in intellect.1 With us, three hundred years of police and of courts of justice, of social discipline and peaceful habits, of hereditary civilization, have diminished the force and violence of the passions natural to man; in Italy, in the Renaissance epoch, they were still intact; human emotions at that time were keener and more profound than at the present day; the appetites were ardent and more unbridled; man’s will was more impetuous and more tenacious; whatever motive inspired him, whether pride, ambition, jealousy, hatred, love, envy, or sensuality, the inward spring strained with an energy and relaxed with a violence that has now disappeared. All these energies reappear in this great survivor of the fifteenth century; in him the play of the nervous machine is the same as with his Italian ancestors; never was there, even with the Malatestas and the Borgias, a more sensitive and more impulsive intellect, one capable of such electric shocks and explosions, in which the roar and flashes of the tempest lasted longer and of which the effects were more irresistible. In his mind no idea remains speculative and pure; none is a simple transcript of the real, or a simple picture of the possible; each is an internal eruption, which suddenly and spontaneously spends itself in action; each darts forth to its goal and would reach it without stopping were it not kept back and restrained by force.1 Sometimes, the eruption is so sudden that the restraint does not come soon enough. One day, in Egypt,2 on entertaining a number of French ladies at dinner, he has one of them, who was very pretty and whose husband he had just sent off to France, placed alongside of him; suddenly, as if accidentally, he overturns a pitcher of water on her, and, under the pretence of enabling her to rearrange her wet dress, he leads her into another room where he remains with her a long time, too long, while the other guests seated at the table wait quietly and exchange glances. Another day, at Paris, toward the epoch of the Concordat,1 he says to Senator Volney: “France wants a religion.” Volney replies in a frank, sententious way, “France wants the Bourbons.” Whereupon he gives Volney a kick in the stomach and he falls unconscious; on being conveyed to a friend’s house, he remains there ill in bed for several days.—No man is more irritable, so soon in a passion; and all the more because he purposely gives way to his irritation; for, doing this just at the right moment, and especially before witnesses, it strikes terror; it enables him to extort concessions and maintain obedience, while his explosions of anger, half-calculated, half-involuntary, serve him quite as much as they relieve him, in public as well as in private, with strangers as with intimates, before constituted bodies, with the Pope, with cardinals, with ambassadors, with Talleyrand, with Beugnot, with anybody that comes along,2 whenever he wishes to set an example or “keep the people around him on the alert.” The public and the army regard him as impassible; but, apart from the battles in which he wears a mask of bronze, apart from the official ceremonies in which he assumes a necessarily dignified air, impression and expression with him are almost always confounded, the inward overflowing in the outward, the action, like a blow, getting the better of him. At Saint Cloud, caught by Josephine in an act of gallantry, he springs after the unlucky interrupter in such a way that “she barely has time to escape”;1 and again, that evening, keeping up his fury so as to put her down completely, “he treats her in the most outrageous manner, smashing every piece of furniture that comes in his way.” A little before the Empire, Talleyrand, a great mystifier, tells Berthier that the First Consul wanted to assume the title of king. Berthier, in eager haste, crosses the drawing-room full of company, accosts the master of the house and, with a beaming smile, “congratulates him.”2 At the word king, Bonaparte’s eyes flash. Grasping Berthier by the throat, he pushes him back against the wall, exclaiming, “You fool! who told you to come here and stir up my bile in this way? Another time don’t come on such errands.”—Such is the first impulse, the instinctive action, to pounce on people and seize them by the throat; we divine under each sentence, and on every page he writes, outbursts and assaults of this description, the physiognomy and intonation of a man who rushes forward and knocks people down. Accordingly, when dictating in his cabinet, “he strides up and down the room,” and, “if excited,” which is often the case, “his language consists of violent imprecations, and even of oaths, which are suppressed in what is written.”3 But these are not always suppressed, for those who have seen the original minutes of his correspondence on ecclesiastical affairs find dozens of them of the coarsest kind.4
Never was there such impatient sensibility. “When dressing himself,1 he throws on the floor or into the fire any part of his attire which does not suit him. . . . On gala-days and on grand ceremonial occasions his valets are obliged to agree together when they shall seize the right moment to put something on him. . . . He tears off or breaks whatever causes him the slightest discomfort, while the poor valet who has been the means of it meets with a violent and positive proof of his anger.”—No thought was ever more carried away by its own speed. “His handwriting,” when he tries to write, “is a mass of disconnected and undecipherable signs;2 the words lack one-half of their letters.” On reading it over himself, he cannot tell what it means. At last, he becomes almost incapable of writing an autograph letter, while his signature is a mere scrawl. He accordingly dictates, but so fast that his secretaries can scarcely keep pace with him: on their first attempt the perspiration flows freely and they succeed in noting down only the half of what he says. Bourrienne, de Meneval, and Maret invent a stenography of their own, for he never repeats any of his phrases; so much the worse for the pen if it lags behind, and so much the better if a volley of exclamations or of oaths gives it a chance to catch up.—Never did speech flow and overflow in such torrents, often without either discretion or prudence, even when the outburst is neither useful nor creditable: the reason is that both spirit and intellect are charged to excess; subject to this inward pressure the improvisator and polemic, under full headway,3 take the place of the man of business and the statesman. “With him,” says a good observer,1 “talking is a prime necessity, and, assuredly, among the prerogatives of high rank, he ranks first that of speaking without interruption.” Even at the Council of State he allows himself to run on, forgetting the business before the meeting; he starts off right and left with some digression or demonstration, some invective or other, for two or three hours at a stretch,2 insisting over and over again, bent on convincing or prevailing, and ending in demanding of the others if he is not right, “and, in this case, never failing to find that all have yielded to the force of his arguments.” On reflection, he knows the value of an assent thus obtained, and, pointing to his chair, he observes: “It must be admitted that in that seat one thinks with facility!” Nevertheless he has enjoyed his intellectual exercise and given way to his passion, which controls him far more than he controls it.
“My nerves are very irritable,” he said of himself, “and when in this state were my pulse not always regular I should risk going crazy.”3 The tension of accumulated impressions is often too great, and it ends in a physical break-down. Strangely enough in so great a warrior and with such a statesman, “it is not infrequent, when excited, to see him shed tears.” He who has looked upon thousand of dying men, and who has had thousands of men slaughtered, “sobs,” after Wagram and after Bautzen,1 at the couch of a dying comrade. “I saw him,” says his valet, “weep while eating his breakfast, after coming from Marshal Lannes’s bedside; big tears rolled down his cheeks and fell on his plate.” It is not alone the physical sensation, the sight of a bleeding, mangled body, which thus moves him acutely and deeply; for a word, a simple idea, stings and penetrates almost as far. Before the emotion of Dandolo, who pleads for Venice his country, which is sold to Austria, he is agitated and his eyes moisten.2 Speaking of the capitulation of Baylen, at a full meeting of the Council of State,3 his voice trembles, and “he gives way to his grief, his eyes even filling with tears.” In 1806, setting out for the army and on taking leave of Josephine, he has a nervous attack which is so severe as to bring on vomiting.4 “We had to make him sit down,” says an eye-witness, “and swallow some orange water; he shed tears, and this lasted a quarter of an hour.” The same nervous and stomachic crisis came on in 1808, on deciding on the divorce; he tosses about a whole night, and laments like a woman; he melts, and embraces Josephine; he is weaker than she is: “My poor Josephine, I can never leave you!” Folding her in his arms, he declares that she shall not quit him; he abandons himself wholly to the sensation of the moment; she must undress at once, sleep alongside of him, and he weeps over her; “literally,” she says, “he soaked the bed with his tears.”
Evidently, in such an organism, however powerful the superimposed regulator, there is a risk of the equilibrium being destroyed. He is aware of this, for he knows himself well; he is afraid of his own nervous sensibility, the same as of an easily frightened horse; at critical moments, at Berezina, he refuses to receive the bad news which might excite this, and, on the informer’s insisting on it, he asks him again,1 “Why, sir, do you want to disturb me?”—Nevertheless, in spite of his precautions, he is twice taken unawares, at times when the peril was alarming and of a new kind; he, so clear-headed and so cool under fire, the boldest of military heroes and the most audacious of political adventurers, quails twice in a parliamentary storm and again in a popular crisis. On the 18th of Brumaire, in the Corps Législatif, “he turned pale, trembled, and seemed to lose his head at the shouts of outlawry . . . . they had to drag him out . . . . they even thought for a moment that he was going to faint.”2 After the abdication at Fontainebleau, on encountering the rage and imprecations which greeted him in Provence, he seemed for some days to be morally shattered; the animal instincts assert their supremacy; he is afraid and makes no attempt at concealment.3 After borrowing the uniform of an Austrian colonel, the casque of a Prussian quartermaster, and the cloak of the Russian quartermaster, he still considers that he is not sufficiently disguised. In the inn at Calade, “he starts and changes color at the slightest noise”; the commissaries, who repeatedly enter his room, “find him always in tears.” “He wearies them with his anxieties and irresolution”; he says that the French government would like to have him assassinated on the road, refuses to eat for fear of poison, and thinks that he might escape by jumping out of the window. And yet he gives vent to his feelings and lets his tongue run on about himself without stopping, concerning his past, his character, unreservedly, indelicately, trivially, like a cynic and one who is half-crazy; his ideas run loose and crowd each other like the anarchical gatherings of a tumultuous mob; he does not recover his mastery of them until he reaches Fréjus, the end of his journey, where he feels himself safe and protected from any highway assault; then only do they return within ordinary limits and fall back in regular line under the control of the sovereign intellect which, after sinking for a time, revives and resumes its ascendency.
There is nothing in him so extraordinary as this almost perpetual domination of the lucid, calculating reason: the power of the will, therefore, is still more formidable than the power of the intellect; before it can obtain the mastery of others it must be master at home. To measure its power, it does not suffice to note its fascinations; to enumerate the millions of souls it captivates, to estimate the vastness of the obstacles it overcomes, we must again, and especially, represent to ourselves the energy and depth of the passions it keeps in check and urges on like a team of prancing, rearing horses; it is the driver who, bracing his arms, constantly restrains the almost ungovernable steeds, who controls their excitement, who regulates their bounds, who takes advantage even of their viciousness to guide his noisy vehicle over precipices as it rushes on with thundering speed. If the pure ideas of the reasoning brain thus maintain their daily supremacy it is due to the vital flow which nourishes them; their roots are deep in his heart and temperament, and those roots which give them their vigorous sap constitute a primordial instinct more powerful than intellect, more powerful even than his will, the instinct which leads him to centre everything on himself, in other words egoism,1 one that is not passive, but active and encroaching, proportionate to the energy and compass of the faculties developed by education and circumstances, exaggerated by success and omnipotence even to the erection in society of a monstrous colossal I, which unceasingly expands the circle of its tenacious and rapacious grasping, which regards all resistance as offensive, which all independence annoys, and which, on the boundless domain it assigns to itself, is intolerant of anybody that does not become either an appendix or a tool.—The germ of this absorbing personality is already apparent in the youth and even in the infant. “Character—dominating, imperious, and stubborn,” says the record at Brienne;2 “extremely inclined to egoism,” add the notes of the Military Academy;3 “possessing a good deal of self-love, ambitious, aspiring in all directions, fond of solitude,” undoubtedly because he is not master in a group of equals and is ill at ease when he cannot rule. “I lived apart from my comrades,” he says at a later date.4 “I had selected a little corner in the playgrounds, where I used to go and sit down and indulge my fancies. When my comrades were disposed to drive me out of this corner I defended it with all my might. My instinct already told me that my will should prevail against other wills, and that whatever pleased me ought to belong to me.” Referring to his early years under the paternal roof at Corsica, he depicts himself as a little mischievous savage, rebelling against every sort of restraint, and without any conscience.1 “I respected nothing and feared nobody; I beat one and scratched another; I made everybody afraid of me. I beat my brother Joseph; I bit him and complained of him almost before he knew what he was about.” A clever trick, and one which he was not slow to repeat. His talent for improvising useful falsehoods is innate; later on, at maturity, he is proud of this; he makes it the index and measure of “political superiority,” and “delights in calling to mind one of his uncles who, in his infancy, prognosticated to him that he would govern the world because he was fond of lying.”2
Remark this observation of the uncle’s—it sums up the experiences of a man of his time and of his country; it is what social life in Corsica inculcated; morals and manners there adapted themselves to each other through an unfailing connection. The moral law, indeed, is such because similar customs prevail in all countries and at all times where the police is powerless, where justice cannot be obtained, where public interests are in the hands of whoever can lay hold of them, where private warfare is pitiless and not repressed, where every man goes armed, where every sort of weapon is fair, and where dissimulation, fraud, and trickery, as well as gun or poniard, are allowed, which was the case in Corsica in the eighteenth century, as in Italy in the fifteenth century.—Hence the early impressions of Bonaparte similar to those of the Borgias and of Machiavelli; hence, in his case, that first stratum of half-thought which, later on, serves as the basis of complete thought; hence, the whole foundation of his future mental edifice and of the conceptions he subsequently entertains of human society. Afterwards, on leaving the French schools and every time he returns to them and spends any time in them, the same impressions, often renewed, intensify in his mind the same final conclusion. In this country, report the French commissioners,1 “the people have no idea of principle in the abstract,” nor of social interest or justice. “Justice does not exist; one hundred and thirty assassinations have occurred in ten years. . . . The institution of juries has deprived the country of all the means for punishing crime; never do the strongest proofs, the clearest evidence, lead a jury composed of men of the same party, or of the same family as the accused, to convict him; and, if the accused is of the opposite party, the juries likewise acquit him, so as not to incur the risk of revenge, “slow perhaps but always sure.” “Public spirit is unknown.” There is no social body, except “any number of small parties inimical to each other. . . . One is not a Corsican without belonging to some family, and consequently attached to some party; he who would serve none, would be detested by all. . . . All the leaders have the same end in view, that of getting money no matter by what means, and their first care is to surround themselves with creatures entirely devoted to them and to whom they give all the offices. . . . The elections are held under arms, and all with violence. . . . The victorious party uses its authority to avenge itself of that which is beaten, and multiplies vexations and outrages. . . . The leaders form aristocratic leagues with each other. . . . and mutually tolerate abuses. They impose no assessment or collection (of taxes) to curry favor with electors through party spirit and relationships. . . . Customs-duties serve simply to compensate friends and relatives. . . . Salaries never reach those for whom they are intended. The rural districts are uninhabitable for lack of security. The peasants carry guns even when at the plough. One cannot take a step without an escort; a detachment of five or six men is often sent to carry a letter from one post-office to another.”
Interpret this general statement by the thousands of facts of which it is the summary; imagine these little daily occurrences narrated with all their material accompaniments, and with sympathetic or angry comments by interested neighbors, and we have the moral lessons taught to young Bonaparte.1 At table, the child has listened to the conversation of his elders, and at a word uttered, for instance, by his uncle, or at a physiognomical expression, a sign of approbation, a shrug of the shoulders, he has divined that the ordinary march of society is not that of peace but of war; he sees by what ruses one maintains one’s-self, by what acts of violence one makes one’s way, by what sort of help one mounts upward. Left to himself the rest of the day, to the nurse Ilaria, or to Saveria the housekeeper, or to the common people amongst whom he strays at will, he listens to the conversation of sailors or of shepherds assembled on the public square, and their simple exclamations, their frank admiration of well-planned ambuscades and lucky surprises, impress more profoundly on him, often repeated with so much energy, the lessons which he has already learned at home. These are the lessons taught by things. At this tender age they sink deep, especially when the disposition is favorable, and in this case the heart sanctions them beforehand, because education finds its confederate in instinct. Accordingly, at the outbreak of the Revolution, on revisiting Corsica, he takes life at once as he finds it there, a combat with any sort of weapon, and, on this small arena, he acts unscrupulously, going farther than anybody.2 If he respects justice and law, it is only in words, and even here ironically; in his eyes, law is a term of the code, justice a book term, while might makes right.
A second blow of the coining-press gives another impression of the same stamp on this character already so decided, while French anarchy forces maxims into the mind of the young man, already traced in the child’s mind by Corsican anarchy; the lessons of things provided by a society going to pieces are the same as those of a society which is not yet formed.—His sharp eyes, at a very early period, see through the flourish of theory and the parade of phrases; they detect the real foundation of the Revolution, namely, the sovereignty of unbridled passions and the conquest of the majority by the minority; conquering or conquered, a choice must be made between these two extreme conditions; there is no middle course. After the 9th of Thermidor, the last veils are torn away, and the instincts of license and domination, the ambitions of individuals, fully display themselves; there is no concern for public interests or for the rights of the people; it is clear that the rulers form a band, that France is their prey, and that they intend to hold on to it for and against everybody, by every possible means, including bayonets. Under this civil régime, a clean sweep of the broom at the centre makes it necessary to be on the side of numbers.—In the armies, especially in the army of Italy, republican faith and patriotic abnegation, since the territory became free, have given way to natural appetites and military passions.1 Barefoot, in rags, with four ounces of bread a day, paid in assignats which are not current in the markets, both officers and men desire above all things to be relieved of their misery; “the poor fellows, after three years of longing on the summits of the Alps, reach the promised land, and want to enjoy it.”2 Another spur consists in the pride which is stimulated by the imagination and by success; add to this the necessity for self-expansion, the steam and high pressure of youth; nearly all are very young men, who regard life, in Gallic or French fashion, as a party of pleasure and as a duel. But to feel brave and to prove that one is so, to face bullets for amusement and defiantly, to abandon a successful adventure for a battle and a battle for a ball, to enjoy one’s-self and take risks to excess, without dissimulating, and with no other object than the sensation of the moment,1 to revel in excitement through emulation and danger, is no longer self-devotion, but giving one’s-self up to one’s fancies; and, for all who are not harebrained, to give one’s-self up to one’s fancies means to make one’s way, obtain promotion, pillage so as to become rich, like Massena, and conquer so as to become powerful, like Bonaparte.—All this is understood between the general and his army from the very first,2 and, after one year’s experience, the understanding is perfect. One moral is derived from their common acts, vague in the army, precise in the general; what the army only half sees, he sees clearly; if he urges his comrades on, it is because they follow their own inclination. He simply has the start of them, and quicker makes up his mind that the world is a grand banquet, free to the first-comer, but at which, to be well served, one must have long arms, be the first to get helped, and let the rest take what is left.
So natural does this seem to him, he says so openly and to men who are not his intimates; to Miot, a diplomat, and to Melzi, a foreigner. “Do you suppose,” says he to them,1 after the preliminaries of Leoben, “that to make great men out of Directory lawyers, the Carnots and the Barras, I triumph in Italy? Do you suppose also that it is for the establishment of a republic? What an idea! A republic of thirty million men! With our customs, our vices, how is that possible? It is a delusion which the French are infatuated with and which will vanish along with so many others. What they want is glory, the gratification of vanity—they know nothing about liberty. Look at the army! Our successes just obtained, our triumphs have already brought out the true character of the French soldier. I am all for him. Let the Directory deprive me of the command and it will see if it is master. The nation needs a chief, one who is famous though his exploits, and not theories of government, phrases and speeches by ideologists, which Frenchmen do not comprehend. . . . As to your country, Monsieur de Melzi, it has still fewer elements of republicanism than France, and much less ceremony is essential with it than with any other. . . . In other respects, I have no idea of coming to terms so promptly with Austria. It is not for my interest to make peace. You see what I am, what I can do in Italy. If peace is brought about, if I am no longer at the head of this army which has become attached to me, I must give up this power, this high position I have reached, and go and pay court to lawyers in the Luxembourg. I should not like to quit Italy for France except to play a part there similar to that which I play here, and the time for that has not yet come—the pear is not ripe.”
To wait until the pear is ripe, but not to allow anybody else to gather it, is the true motive of his political fealty and of his Jacobin proclamations. “A party in favor of the Bourbons is raising its head; I have no desire to help it along. One of these days I shall weaken the republican party, but I shall do it for my own advantage and not for that of the old dynasty. Meanwhile, it is necessary to march with the Republicans,” along with the worst, and the scoundrels about to purge the Five Hundred, the Ancients, and the Directory itself, and then re-establish in France the Reign of Terror.—In effect, he contributes to the 18th of Fructidor, and, the blow struck, he explains very clearly why he took part in it: “Do not believe1 I did it in conformity with the ideas entertained by those with whom I acted. I did not want a return of the Bourbons, and especially if brought back by Moreau’s army and by Pichegru. . . . Finally, I will not take the part of Monk, I will not play it, and I will not have others play it. . . . As for myself, my dear Miot, I declare to you that I can no longer obey; I have tasted command and I cannot give it up. My mind is made up. If I cannot be master I will leave France.”
There is no middle course for him between the two alternatives. On returning to Paris he thinks of “overthrowing the Directory,2 dissolving the councils and of making himself dictator”; but, having satisfied himself that there was but little chance of succeeding, “he postpones his design” and falls back on the second course. “This is the only motive of his expedition into Egypt.”3 —That, in the actual condition of France and of Europe, the expedition is opposed to public interests, that France deprives itself of its best army and offers its best fleet to almost certain destruction, is of little consequence provided, in this vast and gratuitous adventure, Bonaparte finds the employment he wants, a large field of action and famous victories which, like the blasts of a trumpet, will swell beyond the seas and renew his prestige: in his eyes, the fleet, the army, France, and humanity exist only for him and are created only for his service.—If, in confirmation of this persuasion, another lesson in things is still necessary, it will be furnished by Egypt. Here, absolute sovereign, free of any restraint, contending with an inferior order of humanity, he acts the sultan and accustoms himself to playing the part.1 His last scruples in relation to the human species disappear; “I became disgusted with Rousseau”; he is to say, later on, “After seeing the Orient, the savage man is a dog,”2 and, in the civilized man, the savage is just beneath the skin; if the intellect has become somewhat polished, there is no change in his instincts. A master is as necessary to one as to the other—a magician who subjugates his imagination, disciplines him, keeps him from biting without occasion, ties him up, cares for him, and takes him out hunting. He is born to obey, does not deserve any better lot, and has no other right.
Become consul and afterward emperor, he applies the theory on a grand scale, and, in his hands, experience daily furnishes fresh verifications of the theory. At his first nod the French prostrate themselves obediently, and there remain, as in a natural position; the lower class, the peasants and the soldiers, with animal fidelity, and the upper class, the dignitaries and the functionaries, with Byzantine servility.—The republicans, on their side, make no resistance; on the contrary, among these he has found his best governing instruments—senators, deputies, state councillors, judges, and administrators of every grade.3 He has at once detected behind their sermonizing on liberty and equality, their despotic instincts, their craving for command, for leadership, even as subordinates; and, in addition to this, with most of them, the appetite for money or for sensual gratifications. The difference between the delegate of the Committee of Public Safety and the minister, prefect, or subprefect under the Empire is small; it is the same individual in two costumes; at first in the carmagnole, and next in the embroidered coat. If a rude, poor Puritan, like Cambon or Baudot, refuses to don the official uniform, if two or three Jacobin generals, like Lecourbe and Delmas, grumble at the coronation parade, Napoleon, who knows their mental grasp, regards them as ignoramuses, limited to and rigid in a fixed idea.—As to the cultivated and intelligent liberals of 1789, he consigns them with a word to the place where they belong; they are “ideologists”; in other words, their pretended knowledge is mere drawing-room prejudice and the imagination of the closet; “Lafayette is a political ninny,” the eternal “dupe of men and of things.”1 With Lafayette and some others, one embarrassing detail remains; namely, proven disinterestedness, constant solicitude for the public good, respect for others, the authority of conscience, loyalty, and good faith; in short, noble and pure motives. Napoleon does not accept the denial thus given to his theory; in addressing people personally, he disputes with them to their faces about their moral nobleness. “General Dumas,”2 said he, abruptly, to Mathieu Dumas, “you were one of the imbeciles who believed in liberty?” “Yes, sire, and I was and am still one of that class.” “And you, like the rest, took part in the Revolution through ambition?” “No, sire, I should have calculated badly, for I am now precisely where I stood in 1790.” “You were not sufficiently aware of the motives which prompted you; you cannot be different from other people; it is all personal interest. Now, take Massena. He has glory and honors enough; but he is not content. He wants to be a prince, like Murat and like Bernadotte. He would risk being shot to-morrow to be a prince. That is the incentive of Frenchmen.”—His system is based on this. The most competent witnesses, and those who were most familiar with him, aver to his fixed idea on this point. “His opinions on men,” writes M. de Metternich,1 “centred on one idea, which, unfortunately for him, had acquired in his mind the force of an axiom; he was persuaded that no man who was induced to appear on the public stage, or who was merely engaged in the active pursuits of life, governed himself, or was governed, otherwise than by his interest.” According to him, man is held through his egoistic passions, fear, cupidity, sensuality, self-esteem, and emulation; these are the mainsprings when he is not under excitement, when he reasons. Moreover, it is not difficult to turn the brain of man; for he is imaginative, credulous, and subject to being carried away; stimulate his pride or vanity, provide him with an extreme and false opinion of himself and of his fellow-men, and you can start him off head downward wherever you please.2 —None of these motives is entitled to much respect, and beings thus fashioned form the natural material for an absolute government, the mass of clay awaiting the potter’s hand to shape it. If parts of this mass are obdurate, the potter has only to crush and pound them and mix them thoroughly.
Such is the final conception on which Napoleon has anchored himself, and into which he sinks deeper and deeper, no matter how directly and violently he may be contradicted by palpable facts; nothing will dislodge him; neither the stubborn energy of the English, nor the inflexible gentleness of the Pope, nor the declared insurrection of the Spaniards, nor the mute insurrection of the Germans, nor the resistance of Catholic consciences, nor the gradual disaffection of the French; the reason is, that his conception is imposed on him by his character;1 he sees man as he needs to see him.
We at last confront his dominant passion, the inward abyss into which instinct, education, reflection, and theory have plunged him, and which is to engulf the proud edifice of his fortune—I mean, his ambition. It is the prime motor of his soul and the permanent substance of his will, so profound that he no longer distinguishes between it and himself, and of which he is sometimes unconscious. “I,” said he to Roederer,2 “I have no ambition,” and then, recollecting himself, he adds, with his ordinary lucidity, “or, if I have any, it is so natural to me, so innate, so intimately associated with my existence, that it is like the blood which flows in my veins and the atmosphere I breathe.”—Still more profoundly, he likens it to that involuntary, savage, and irresistible sentiment which underlies all feeling; those tremors of the entire animal and moral nature, those keen and terrible transports which compose the passion of love. “I have but one passion,3 one mistress, and that is France. I sleep with her. She has never been false to me. She lavishes her blood and treasures on me; if I need 500,000 men, she gives them to me.” Let no one come between him and her. Let Joseph, in relation to the coronation, abstain from claiming his place, even secondary and prospective, in the new empire; let him not put forth his fraternal rights.1 “It is to wound me in the tenderest spot.” This he does, and, “Nothing can efface that from my souvenirs. It is as if he had told an impassioned lover that he had slept with his mistress, or merely that he hoped to succeed with her. My mistress is power. I have worked too hard to obtain her, to let her be ravished from me, or even suffer anybody to covet her.” This ambition, as avid as it is jealous, which becomes exasperated at the very idea of a rival, feels hampered by the mere idea of setting a limit to it; however vast the acquired power, he would like to have it still more vast; on quitting the most copious banquet, he still remains insatiate. On the day after the coronation he said to Decrès:2 “I come too late, there is no longer anything great to accomplish. I admit that my career is brilliant and that I have made my way successfully. But what a difference alongside of antiquity! Take Alexander! After having conquered Asia, and proclaimed himself to the people as the son of Jupiter, with the exception of Olympias, who knew what all this meant, and Aristotle, and a few Athenian pedants, the entire Orient believed him. Very well, should I now declare that I was the son of God Almighty, and proclaim that I am going to worship him under this title, there is not an old beldame that would not hoot at me as I walked along the streets. People nowadays know too much. Nothing is left to do.” And yet, even on this secluded, elevated domain, and which twenty centuries of civilization keeps inaccessible, he still encroaches, and to the utmost, in a roundabout way, by laying his hand on the Church, and next on the Pope; here, as elsewhere, he takes all he can get. Nothing in his eyes, is more natural; he has a right to it, because he is the only capable one. “My Italian people3 must know me well enough not to forget that there is more in my little finger than in all their brains put together.” Alongside of him, they are children, “minors,” the French also, and likewise the rest of mankind. A diplomat, who often saw him and studied him under all aspects, sums up his character in one conclusive phrase: “He considered himself an isolated being in this world, made to govern and direct all minds as he pleased.”1
Hence, whoever has anything to do with him, must abandon his own will and become a governing instrument. “That terrible man,” often exclaimed Decrès,2 “has subjugated us all! He holds all our imaginations in his hands, now of steel and now of velvet, but whether one or the other during the day nobody knows, and there is no way to escape from them; whatever they seize on they never let go!” Independence of any kind, even eventual and merely possible, puts him out of humor; intellectual or moral superiority is of this order, and he gradually gets rid of it;[a] toward the last he no longer tolerates alongside of him any but subject or captive spirits; his principal servants are machines or fanatics, a devout worshipper, like Maret, a gendarme, like Savary,3 ready to do his bidding. From the outset, he has reduced his ministers to the condition of clerks; for he is administrator as well as ruler, and in each department he watches details as closely as the entire mass; accordingly, he requires simply for head men active scribes, mute executors, docile and special hands, no honest and free advisers. “I should not know what to do with them,” he said, “if they were not to a certain extent mediocre in mind and character.” As to his generals, he admits himself that “he likes to award fame only to those who cannot stand it.” In any event, “he must be sole master in making or marring reputations,” according to his personal requirements; too brilliant a soldier would become too important; a subordinate should never be tempted to be less submissive. To this end he studies what he will omit in his bulletins, what alterations and what changes shall be made in them. “It is convenient to keep silent about certain victories, or to convert the defeat of this or that marshal into a success. Sometimes a general learns by a bulletin of an action that he was never in and of a speech that he never made.” If he complains, he is notified to keep still, or by way of recompense he is allowed to pillage, levy contributions, and enrich himself. On becoming duke or hereditary prince, with half a million or a million of revenue from his estate, he is not less held in subjection, for the creator has taken precautions against his own creations. “Some people there,”1 said he, “I have made independent, but I know when to lay my hand on them and keep them from being ungrateful.” In effect, if he has endowed them magnificently it is with domains assigned to them in conquered countries, which insures their fortune being his fortune. Besides, in order that they may not enjoy any pecuniary stability, he expressly encourages them and all his grand dignitaries to make extravagant outlays; thus, through their financial embarrassments he holds them in a leash. “We have seen most of his marshals, constantly pressed by their creditors, come to him for assistance, which he has given as he fancied, or as he found it for his interest to attach some one to him.”2
Thus, beyond the universal ascendency which his power and genius have conferred on him, he craves a personal, supplementary, and irresistible hold on everybody. Consequently,3 “he carefully cultivates all the bad passions . . . . he is glad to find the bad side in a man, so as to get him in his power”; the thirst for money in Savary, the Jacobin defects of Fouché, the vanity and sensuality of Cambacérès, the careless cynicism and “the easy immorality” of Talleyrand, the “dry bluntness” of Duroc, the courtier-like insipidity of Maret, “the silliness” of Berthier; he brings this out, diverts himself with it, and profits by it. “Where he sees no vice, he encourages weaknesses, and, in default of anything better, he provokes fear, so that he may be ever and continually the strongest. . . . He dreads ties of affection, and strives to alienate people from each other. . . . He sells his favors only by arousing anxiety; he thinks that the best way to attach individuals to him is to compromise them, and often, even, to ruin them in public opinion.” “If Caulaincourt is compromised,” said he, after the murder of the Duc d’Enghien, “it is no great matter, he will serve me all the better.”
Once that the creature is in his clutches, let him not imagine that he can escape or withhold anything of his own accord; all that he has belongs to him. Zeal and success in the performance of duty, punctual obedience within limits previously designated, is not enough; behind the functionary he claims the man. “All that may well be,” he replies, to whatever may be said in praise of him,1 “but he does not belong to me as I would like.” It is devotion which he exacts, and, by devotion, he means the irrevocable and complete surrender “of the entire person, in all his sentiments and opinions.” According to him, writes a witness, “one must abandon every old habit, even the most trifling, and be governed by one thought alone, that of his will and interests.”2 For greater security, his servitors ought to extinguish in themselves the critical sense. “What he fears the most is that, close to him or far off, the faculty of judging should be applied or even preserved.”—“His idea is a marble groove,” out of which no mind should diverge.3 Especially as no two minds could think of diverging at the same time, and on the same side, their concurrence, even when passive, their common understanding, even if kept to themselves, their whispers, almost inaudible, constitute a league, a faction, and, if they are functionaries, “a conspiracy.” On his return from Spain he declares, with a terrible explosion of wrath and threats,1 “that the ministers and high dignitaries whom he has created must stop expressing their opinions and thoughts freely, that they cannot be otherwise than his organs, that treason has already begun when they begin to doubt, and that it is under full headway when, from doubt, they proceed to dissent.” If, against his constant encroachments, they strive to preserve a last refuge, if they refuse to abandon their conscience to him, their faith as Catholics or their honor as honest men, he is surprised and gets irritated. In reply to the Bishop of Ghent, who, in the most respectful manner, excuses himself for not taking a second oath that is against his conscience, he rudely turns his back, and says, “Very well, sir, your conscience is a blockhead!”2 Portalis, director of the publishing office,3 having received a papal brief from his cousin, the Abbé d’Astros, respected a confidential communication; he simply recommended his cousin to keep this document secret, and declared that, if it were made public, he would prohibit its circulation; by way of extra precaution he notified the prefect of police. But he did not specially denounce his cousin, have the man arrested and the document seized. On the strength of this, the Emperor, in full council of state, apostrophises him to his face, and, “with one of those looks which go straight through one,”4 declares that he has committed “the vilest of perfidies”; he bestows on him for half an hour a hailstorm of reproaches and insults, and then orders him out of the room as if a lackey who had been guilty of a theft. Whether he keeps within his function or not, the functionary must be content to do whatever is demanded of him, and readily anticipate every commission. If his scruples arrest him, if he alleges personal obligations, if he had rather not fail in delicacy, or even in common loyalty, he incurs the risk of offending or losing the favor of the master, which is the case with M. de Rémusat,1 who is unwilling to become his spy, reporter, and denunciator for the Faubourg Saint Germain, who does not offer, at Vienna, to pump out of Madame d’André the address of her husband so that M. d’André may be taken and immediately shot; Savary, who was the negotiator for his being given up, kept constantly telling M. de Rémusat, “You are going against your interest—I must say that I do not comprehend you!” And yet Savary, himself minister of the police, executor of most important services, head manager of the murder of the Duc d’Enghien and of the ambuscade at Bayonne, counterfeiter of Austrian banknotes for the campaign of 1809 and of Russian banknotes for that of 1812,2 Savary ends in getting weary; he is charged with too many dirty jobs; however hardened his conscience it has a tender spot; he discovers at last that he has scruples. It is with great repugnance that, in February, 1814, he executes the order to have a small infernal machine prepared, moving by clock-work, so as to blow up the Bourbons on their return into France.3 “Ah,” said he, giving himself a blow on the forehead, “it must be admitted that the Emperor is sometimes hard to serve!”
If he exacts so much from the human creature, it is because, in playing the game he has to play, he must absorb everything; in the situation in which he has placed himself, caution is unnecessary. “Is a statesman,” said he, “made to have feeling? Is he not wholly an eccentric personage, always alone by himself, he on one side and the world on the other?”4 In this duel without truce or mercy, people interest him only as they are useful to him; their value depends on what he can make out of them; his sole business is to squeeze them, to extract to the last drop whatever is available in them. “I find very little satisfaction in useless sentiments,” said he again,1 “and Berthier is so mediocre that I do not know why I waste my time on him. And yet when I am not set against him, I am not sure that I do not like him.” He goes no further. According to him, this indifference is necessary in a statesman. The glass he looks through is that of his own policy;2 he must take care that it does not magnify or diminish objects.—Therefore, outside of explosions of nervous sensibility, “he has no consideration for men other than that of a foreman for his workmen,”3 or, more precisely, for his tools; once the tool is worn out, little does he care whether it rusts away in a corner or is cast aside on a heap of scrap-iron. “Portalis, Minister of Justice,4 enters his room one day with a downcast look and his eyes filled with tears. ‘What’s the matter with you, Portalis?’ inquired Napoleon, ‘are you ill?’ ‘No, sire, but very wretched. The poor Archbishop of Tours, my old schoolmate— . . .’ ‘Eh, well, what has happened to him?’ ‘Alas, sire, he has just died.’ ‘What do I care? he was no longer good for anything.’ ” Owning and making the most of men and of things, of bodies and of souls, using and abusing them at discretion, even to exhaustion, without being responsible to any one, he reaches that point after a few years where he can say as glibly and more despotically than Louis XIV. himself, “My armies, my fleets, my cardinals, my councils, my senate, my populations, my empire.”5 Addressing an army corps about to rush into battle: “Soldiers, I need your lives, and you owe them to me.” He says to General Dorsenne and to the grenadiers of the guard:1 “I hear that you complain that you want to return to Paris, to your mistresses. Undeceive yourselves. I shall keep you under arms until you are eighty. You were born to the bivouac, and you shall die there.”—How he treats his brothers and relations who have become kings; how he reins them in; how he applies the spur and the whip and makes them trot and jump fences and ditches, may be found in his correspondence; every tendency to take the lead, even when justified by unforeseen urgency and the most evident good intention, is regarded as shying off, and is arrested with a brusque roughness which strains the loins and weakens the knees of the delinquent. The amiable Prince Eugene, so obedient and so loyal,2 is thus warned: “If you want orders or advice from His Majesty in the alteration of the ceiling of your room you should wait till you get them; were Milan burning and you asked orders for putting out the fire, you should let Milan burn until you got them. . . His Majesty is displeased, and very much displeased, with you; you must never attempt to do his work. Never does he like this, and he will never forgive it.” This enables us to judge of his tone with subalterns. The French battalions are refused admission into certain places in Holland:3 “Declare to the King of Holland, that if his ministers have acted on their own responsibility, I will have them arrested and all their heads cut off.”—He says to M. de Ségur, member of the Academy commission which had just accepted M. de Chateaubriand’s discourse:4 “You, and M. de Fontaines, as state councillor and grand master, I ought to put in Vincennes. . . . Tell the second class of the Institute that I will have no political subjects treated at its meetings. . . . If it disobeys, I will break it up as a club nuisance.”—Even when not angry or scolding, when the claws are drawn in, one feels the clutch.1 He says to Beugnot, whom he has just berated, scandalously and unjustly,—conscious of having done him injustice and with a view to produce an effect on the bystanders,—“Well, you great imbecile, you have got back your brains?” On this, Beugnot, tall as a drum-major, bows very low, while the smaller man, raising his hand, seizes him by the ear, “a transporting mark of favor,” says Beugnot, a sign of familiarity and of returning good humor. And better yet, the master deigns to lecture Beugnot on his personal tastes, on his regrets, on his wish to return to France. “What would I want to have? To be his minister in Paris? Judging by what he saw of me the other day I should not be there very long; I should die of application before the end of the month. He has already killed Portalis, Cretet, and almost Treilhard, who, however, was tough; he could no longer urinate, nor the others either. The same thing would have happened to me, if not worse. . . . Stay here . . . . after which you will be old, or rather we all shall be old, and I will send you to the Senate to drivel at your ease.”2 Evidently, the nearer one is to his person the more disagreeable life becomes.3 “Admirably served, promptly obeyed to the minute, he still delights in keeping everybody around him in terror concerning the details of all that goes on in his palace.” Has any difficult task been accomplished? He expresses no thanks, never or scarcely ever praises, and, which happens but once, in the case of M. de Champagny, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is praised for having finished the treaty of Vienna in one night, and with unexpected advantages;4 this time, the Emperor has thought aloud, is taken by surprise; “ordinarily, he manifests approbation only by his silence.”—When M. de Rémusat, prefect of the palace, has arranged “one of those magnificent fêtes in which all the arts minister to his enjoyment,” economically, correctly, with splendor and success, his wife never asks her husband1 if the Emperor is satisfied, but whether he has scolded more or less. “His leading general principle, which he applies in every way, in great things as well as in small ones, is that a man’s zeal depends upon his anxiety.” How insupportable the constraint he exercises, with what crushing weight his absolutism bears down on the most tried devotion and on the most pliable characters, with what excess he tramples on and wounds the best dispositions, up to what point he represses and stifles the respiration of the human being, he knows as well as anybody. He was heard to say, “The lucky man is he who hides away from me in the depths of some province.” And, another day, having asked M. de Ségur what people would say of him after his death, the latter enlarged on the regrets which would be universally expressed. “Not at all,” replied the Emperor; and then, drawing in his breath in a significant manner indicative of universal relief, he replied, “They’ll say, ‘Ouf!’ ”2
There are very few monarchs, even absolute, who persistently, and from morning to night, maintain a despotic attitude; generally, and especially in France, the sovereign makes two divisions of his time, one for business and the other for social duties, and, in the latter case, while always head of the State, he is also head of his house; for he welcomes visitors, entertains his guests, and, that his guests may not be automatons, he tries to put them at their ease.—Such was the rule with Louis XIV.3 —polite to everybody, always affable with men, and sometimes gracious, always courteous with women, and sometimes gallant, carefully avoiding brusqueness, ostentation, and sarcasms, never allowing himself to use an offensive word, never making people feel their inferiority and dependence, but, on the contrary, encouraging them to express opinions, and even to converse, tolerating in conversation a semblance of equality, smiling at a repartee, playfully telling a story—such was his drawing-room constitution. The drawing-room as well as every human society needs one, and a liberal one; otherwise life dies out. Accordingly, the observance of this constitution in by-gone society is known by the phrase savoir-vivre, and, more rigidly than anybody else, Louis XIV. submitted himself to this code of proprieties. Traditionally, and through education, he had consideration for others, at least for the people around him; his courtiers becoming his guests without ceasing to be his subjects.
There is nothing of this sort with Napoleon. He preserves nothing of the etiquette he borrows from the old court but its rigid discipline and its pompous parade. “The ceremonial system,” says an eye-witness, “was carried out as if it had been regulated by the tap of a drum; everything was done, in a certain sense, ‘double-quick.’1 . . . This air of precipitation, this constant anxiety which it inspires,” puts an end to all comfort, all ease, all entertainment, all agreeable intercourse; there is no common bond but that of command and obedience. “The few individuals he singles out, Savary, Duroc, Maret, keep silent and simply transmit orders. . . . We did not appear to them, in doing what we were ordered to do, and we did not appear to ourselves, other than veritable machines, all resembling, or but little short of it, the elegant gilded arm-chairs with which the palaces of St. Cloud and the Tuileries had just been embellished.”
For a machine to work well it is important that the machinist should overhaul it frequently, which this one never fails to do, especially after a long absence. Whilst he is on his way from Tilsit, “everybody anxiously examines his conscience to ascertain what he has done that this rigid master will find fault with on his return. Whether spouse, family, or grand dignitary, each is more or less disturbed; while the Empress, who knows him better than any one, naïvely says, ‘As the Emperor is so fortunate it is certain that he will do a deal of scolding!’ ”1 In effect, he has scarcely arrived when he gives a rude and vigorous wrench of the bolt; and then, “satisfied at having excited terror all around, he appears to have forgotten what has passed and resumes the usual tenor of his life.” “Through calculation as well as from taste,2 he never relaxes in his royalty”; hence, “a mute, frigid court . . . . more dismal than dignified; every countenance wears an expression of uneasiness . . . . a silence both dull and constrained.” At Fontainebleau, “amidst splendors and pleasures,” there is no real enjoyment nor anything agreeable, not even for himself. “I pity you,” said M. de Talleyrand to M. de Rémusat, “you have to amuse the unamusable.” At the theatre he is abstracted or yawns. Applause is interdicted; the court, sitting out “the file of eternal tragedies, is mortally bored . . . . the young ladies fall asleep, people leave the theatre, gloomy and discontented.”—There is the same constraint in the drawing-room. “He did not know how to appear at ease, and I believe that he never wanted anybody else to be so, afraid of the slightest approach to familiarity, and inspiring each with a fear of saying something offensive to his neighbor before witnesses. . . . During the quadrille, he moves around amongst the rows of ladies, addressing them with some trifling or disagreeable remark,” and never does he accost them otherwise than “awkwardly and ill at his ease.” At bottom, he distrusts them and is ill-disposed toward them.3 It is because “the power they have acquired in society seems to him an intolerable usurpation.”—“Never did he utter to a woman a graceful or even a well-turned compliment, although the effort to find one was often apparent on his face and in the tone of his voice. . . . . He talks to them only of their toilet, of which he declares himself a severe and minute judge, and on which he indulges in not very delicate jests; or again, on the number of their children, demanding of them in rude language whether they nurse them themselves; or again, lecturing them on their social relations.”1 Hence, “there is not one who does not rejoice when he moves off.”2 He would often amuse himself by putting them out of countenance, scandalizing and bantering them to their faces, driving them into a corner the same as a colonel worries his canteen women. “Yes, ladies, you furnish the good people of the Faubourg Saint Germain with something to talk about. It is said, Madame A——, that you are intimate with Monsieur B——, and you Madame C——with Monsieur D——.” On any intrigue chancing to appear in the police reports, “he loses no time in informing the husband of what is going on.” He is no less indiscreet in relation to his own freaks;3 when the affair is over he divulges the fact and gives the name; furthermore, he informs Josephine of its details and will not listen to any reproach: “I have a right to answer all your objections with an eternal moi!”
This term, indeed, answers to everything, and he explains it by adding: “I stand apart from other men. I accept nobody’s conditions,” nor any species of obligation, no code whatever, not even the common code of outward civility, which, diminishing or dissimulating primitive brutality, allows men to associate together without clashing. He does not comprehend it, and he repudiates it. “I have little liking,”4 he says, “for that vague, leveling word politeness (convenances), which you people fling out every chance you get. It is an invention of fools who want to pass for clever men; a kind of social muzzle which annoys the strong and is useful only to the mediocre. . . . Ah, good taste! Another classic expression which I do not accept.” “It is your personal enemy”; says Talleyrand to him, one day, “if you could have shot it away with bullets, it would have disappeared long ago!”—It is because good taste is the highest attainment of civilization, the innermost vestment which drapes human nudity, which best fits the person, the last garment retained after the others have been cast off, and which delicate tissue continues to hamper Napoleon; he throws it off instinctively, because it interferes with his natural gesticulation, with the uncurbed, dominating, savage ways of the vanquisher who knocks down his adversary and treats him as he pleases.
Ways of this kind render society impossible, especially among the independent and armed personages known as nations or States; hence, in politics and in diplomacy, they are interdicted; every head of a State or representative of a country, carefully and on principle, abstains from them, at least with his compeers. He is bound to treat these as his equals, humor their susceptibilities, and, accordingly, not to give way to the irritation of the moment or to personal feeling; in short, to exercise self-control and measure his words. To this is due the tone of manifestos, protocols, despatches, and other public documents, the formal language of legations, so cold, dry, and elaborated, those expressions purposely attenuated and smoothed down, those long phrases apparently spun out mechanically and always after the same pattern, a sort of soft wadding or international buffer interposed between contestants to lessen the shocks of collision. The reciprocal irritations between States are already too great; there are ever too many unavoidable and regrettable encounters, too many causes of conflict, the consequences of which are too serious; it is unnecessary to add to the wounds of interest the wounds of imagination and of amour-propre; and above all, it is unnecessary to add to these gratuitously, at the risk of increasing the resistances of to-day and the resentments of to-morrow.—Just the reverse with Napoleon. His attitude, even at pacific interviews, remains aggressive and militant; purposely or involuntarily, he raises his hand and the blow is felt to be coming, while, in the mean time, he insults. In his correspondence with sovereigns, in his official proclamations, in his deliberations with ambassadors, and even at public audiences,1 he provokes, threatens, and defies;2 he treats his adversary with a lofty air, insults him often to his face, and charges him with the most disgraceful imputations;3 he divulges the secrets of his life in private, of his closet, and of his bed; he defames or calumniates his ministers, his court, and his wife;4 he purposely stabs him in the most sensitive part; he tells one that he is a dupe, a betrayed husband; another that he is an abettor of assassination; he assumes the air of a judge condemning a criminal, or the tone of a superior reprimanding an inferior, or, at best, that of a teacher taking a scholar to task. With a smile of pity, he points out mistakes, weak points, and incapacity, and shows him beforehand that he must be defeated. On receiving the envoy of the Emperor Alexander at Wilna,1 he says to him: “Russia does not want this war; none of the European powers are in favor of it; England herself does not want it, for she foresees the harm it will do to Russia, and even, perhaps, the greatest. . . . I know as well as yourself, and perhaps even better, how many troops you have. Your infantry in all amounts to 120,000 men and your cavalry to about 60,000 or 70,000; I have three times as many. . . . The Emperor Alexander is badly advised. How can he tolerate such vile people around him—an Armfeld, an intriguing, depraved, rascally fellow, a ruined debauchee, who is known only by his crimes and who is the enemy of Russia; a Stein, driven from his country like an outcast, a miscreant with a price on his head; a Bennigsen, who, it is said, has some military talent, of which I know nothing, but whose hands are steeped in blood?2 . . . . Let him surround himself with the Russians and I will say nothing. . . . Have you no Russian gentlemen among you who are certainly more attached to him than these mercenaries? Does he imagine that they are fond of him personally? Let him put Armfeld in command in Finland and I have nothing to say; but to have him about his person, for shame! . . . . What a superb perspective opened out to the Emperor Alexander at Tilsit, and especially at Erfurt! . . . . He has spoilt the finest reign Russia ever saw. . . . How can he admit to his society such men as a Stein, an Armfeld, a Vinzingerode? Say to the Emperor Alexander, that as he gathers around him my personal enemies it means a desire to insult me personally, and, consequently, that I must do the same to him. I will drive all his Baden, Wurtemburg, and Weimar relations out of Germany. Let him provide a refuge for them in Russia!”
Note what he means by personal insult,1 how he intends to avenge himself by reprisals of the worst kind, to what excess he carries his interference, how he enters the cabinets of foreign sovereigns, forcibly and burglariously, to drive out their councillors and control their meetings, the same as the Roman senate with an Antiochus or a Prusias, or the same as an English Resident with the King of Oude or of Lahore. With others as at home, he cannot abstain from acting as master. “The aspiration for universal dominion is in his very nature; it may be modified, kept in check, but never can it be completely stifled.”2
It declares itself on the organization of the Consulate. It explains why the peace of Amiens could not last; apart from the diplomatic discussions and behind his alleged grievances, his character, his exactions, his avowed plans, and the use he intends making of his forces form the real and true causes of the rupture. He tells the English, in the main, and sometimes expressly: Expel the Bourbons from your island and shut the mouths of your journalists. If this is against your constitution so much the worse for it, or so much the worse for you; “there are general principles of international law to which the (special) laws of states must give way.”3 Change your fundamental laws. Suppress the freedom of the press and the right of asylum on your soil, the same as I have done. “I have a very poor opinion of a government which is not strong enough to interdict things objectionable to foreign governments.”1 As to mine, my interference with my neighbors, my late acquisitions of territory, that does not concern you: “I suppose that you want to talk about Piedmont and Switzerland? These are trifles.”2 “Europe recognizes that Holland, Italy, and Switzerland are at the disposition of France.3 On the other hand, Spain submits to me and through her I hold Portugal. Thus, from Amsterdam to Bordeaux, from Lisbon to Cadiz and Genoa, from Leghorn to Naples and to Tarentum, I can close every port to you: no treaty of commerce between us. Any treaty that I might grant to you would be ridiculous; for each million of merchandise that you would send into France a million of French merchandise would be exported;4 in other words, you would be subject to an open or concealed continental blockade, which would cause you as much distress in peace as if you were at war.” Meanwhile, my eyes are fixed on Egypt; “six thousand Frenchmen would now suffice to reconquer it”;5 forcibly, or otherwise, I shall return there; opportunities will not be lacking, and I shall be on the watch for them; “sooner or later she will belong to France, either through the dissolution of the Ottoman empire, or through some arrangement with the Porte.”1 Evacuate Malta so that the Mediterranean may become a French lake; I must rule on sea as on land, and dispose of the Orient as of the Occident. In sum, “with my France, England must naturally end in becoming simply an appendix: nature has made her one of our islands, the same as Oleron or Corsica.”2 Naturally, with such a perspective before them, the English keep Malta and recommence the war. He has anticipated such an occurrence, and his resolution is taken; at a glance, he perceives and measures the career open to him; with his usual clearsightedness he has comprehended, and he announces that English resistance “forces him to conquer Europe.”3
“The First Consul is only thirty-three and has thus far destroyed only the second-class governments. Who knows how much time he will require to again change the face of Europe and resuscitate the empire of the West?”
To subjugate the Continent in order to form a coalition against England, such, henceforth, are his means, which are as violent as the end in view, while the means, like the end, are prescribed to him by his character. Too imperious and too impatient to wait or to manage others, he is incapable of yielding to their will except through constraint, and his co-workers are never aught else to him than subjects under the name of allies.—Later, at St. Helena, with his indestructible imaginative energy and power of illusion, he plays on the public with his humanitarian reveries;4 but, as he himself avows, the accomplishment of his retrospective dream required beforehand the entire submission of all Europe; a liberal sovereign and pacificator, “a crowned Washington, yes,” he used to say, “but I could not reasonably attain this point, except through a universal dictatorship, which I aimed at.”5 —In vain does common sense demonstrate to him that such an enterprise inevitably rallies the Continent to the side of England, and that his means divert him from the end. In vain is it repeatedly represented to him that he needs one sure great ally on the Continent;1 that to obtain this he must conciliate Austria; that he must not drive her to despair, but rather win her over and compensate her on the side of the Orient; place her in permanent conflict with Russia, and attach her to the new French Empire by a community of vital interests. In vain does he, after Tilsit, make a bargain of this kind with Russia. This bargain cannot hold, because in this arrangement Napoleon, as usual with him, always encroaching, threatening, and attacking, wants to reduce Alexander to the rôle of a subordinate and a dupe.2 No clear-sighted witness can doubt this. In 1809, a diplomat writes: “The French system, which is now triumphant, is directed against the whole body of great states,”3 not alone against England, Prussia, and Austria, but against Russia, against every power capable of maintaining its independence; for, if she remains independent, she may become hostile, and as a precautionary step Napoleon crushes in her a probable enemy.
All the more so because this course once entered upon he cannot stop; at the same time his character and the situation in which he has placed himself impels him on while his past hurries him along to his future.4 —At the moment of the rupture of the treaty of Amiens he is already so strong and so aggressive that his neighbors are obliged, for their own security, to form an alliance with England; this leads him to break down all the old monarchies that are still intact, to conquer Naples, to mutilate Austria the first time, to dismember and cut up Prussia, to mutilate Austria the second time, to manufacture kingdoms for his brothers at Naples, in Holland and in Westphalia.—At this same date, all the ports of his empire are closed against the English, which leads him to close against them all the ports of the Continent, to organize against them the continental blockade, to proclaim against them an European crusade, to prevent the neutrality of sovereigns like the Pope, of lukewarm subalterns like his brother Louis, of doubtful collaborators or inadequate, like the Braganzas of Portugal and the Bourbons of Spain, and therefore to get hold of Portugal, Spain, the Pontifical States, and Holland, and next of the Hanseatic towns and the duchy of Oldenburg, to extending along the entire coast, from the mouths of the Cattaro and Trieste to Hamburg and Dantzic, his cordon of military chiefs, prefects, and custom-houses, a sort of net of which he draws the meshes tighter and tighter every day, even stifling not alone his home consumer, but the producer and the merchant.1 —And all this sometimes by a simple decree, with no other alleged motive than his interest, his convenience, or his pleasure,2 brusquely and arbitrarily, and with violations of international law, humanity, and hospitality, with what abuses of power, by what a tissue of brutalities and knaveries,3 with what oppression of the ally and despoiling of the vanquished, by what military brigandage exercised over populations in time of war, by what systematic exactions practiced on them in times of peace,1 it would take volumes to describe.
Accordingly, after 1808, these populations rise against him. He has so deeply injured them in their interests, and hurt their feelings to such an extent,2 he has so trodden them down, ransomed, and forced them into his service, he has destroyed, apart from French lives, so many Spanish, Italian, Austrian, Prussian, Swiss, Bavarian, Saxon, and Dutch lives, he has slain so many men as enemies, he has enlisted such numbers at home, and slain so many under his own banners as auxiliaries, that nations are still more hostile to him than sovereigns. Unquestionably, with such a character nobody can live; his genius is too vast, too baneful, and all the more because it is so vast. War will last as long as he reigns; it is in vain to reduce him, to confine him at home, to drive him back within the ancient frontiers of France; no barrier will restrain him; no treaty will bind him; peace with him will never be other than a truce; he will use it simply to recover himself, and, as soon as he has done this, he will begin again;1 he is in his very essence anti-social. The mind of Europe in this respect is made up definitely and unshakably. One petty detail alone shows how unanimous and profound this conviction was. On the 7th of March the news reached Vienna that he had escaped from the island of Elba, without its being yet known where he would land. M. de Metternich2 brings the news to the Emperor of Austria before eight o’clock in the morning, who says to him, “Lose no time in finding the King of Prussia and the Emperor of Russia, and tell them that I am ready to order my army to march at once for France.” At a quarter past eight M. de Metternich is with the Czar, and at half-past eight, with the King of Prussia; both of them reply instantly in the same manner. “At nine o’clock,” says M. de Metternich, “I was back. At ten o’clock aids flew in every direction countermanding army orders. . . . Thus was war declared in less than an hour.”
Other heads of states have thus passed their lives in doing violence to mankind; but it was for something that was likely to last, and for a national interest. What they deemed the public good was not a phantom of the brain, a chimerical poem due to a caprice of the imagination, to personal passions, to their own peculiar ambition and pride. Outside of themselves and the coinage of their brain a real and substantial object of prime importance existed, namely, the State, the great body of society, the vast organism which lasts indefinitely through the long series of interlinked and responsible generations. If they drew blood from the passing generation it was for the benefit of coming generations, to preserve them from civil war or from foreign domination.1 They have acted generally like able surgeons, if not through virtue, at least through dynastic sentiment and family traditions; having practiced from father to son, they had acquired the professional conscience; their first and only aim was the safety and health of their patient. It is for this reason that they have not recklessly undertaken extravagant, bloody, and over-risky operations; rarely have they given way to temptation through a desire to display their skill, through the need of dazzling and astonishing the world, through the novelty, keenness, and success of their saws and scalpels. They felt that a longer and superior existence to their own was imposed upon them; they looked beyond themselves as far as their sight would reach, and so took measures that the State after them might do without them, live on intact, remain independent, vigorous, and respected athwart the vicissitudes of European conflict and the uncertain problems of coming history. Such, under the ancient régime, was what were called reasons of state; these had prevailed in the councils of princes for eight hundred years; along with unavoidable failures and after temporary deviations, these had become for the time being and remained the preponderating motive. Undoubtedly they excused or authorized many breaches of faith, many outrages, and, to come to the word, many crimes; but, in the political order of things, especially in the management of external affairs, they furnished a governing and a salutary principle. Under its constant influence thirty monarchs had labored, and it is thus that, province after province, they had solidly and enduringly built up France, by ways and means beyond the reach of individuals but available to the heads of States.
Now, this principle is lacking with their improvised successor. On the throne as in the camp, whether general, consul, or emperor, he remains the military adventurer, and cares only for his own advancement. Owing to the great defect in the education of both conscience and sentiments, instead of subordinating himself to the State, he subordinates the State to him; he does not look beyond his own brief physical existence to the nation which is to survive him; consequently, he sacrifices the future to the present, and his work is not to be enduring. After him the deluge! Little does he care who utters this terrible phrase; and worse still, he earnestly wishes, from the bottom of his heart that everybody should utter it. “My brother,” said Joseph, in 1803,1 “desires that the necessity of his existence should be so strongly felt, and the benefit of this considered so great, that nobody could look beyond it without shuddering.” He knows, and he feels it, that he reigns through this idea rather than through force or gratitude. If to-morrow, or on any day, it could be said, ‘Here is a tranquil, established order of things, here is a known successor; Bonaparte might die without fear of change or disturbance,’ my brother would no longer think himself secure. . . . Such is the principle which governs him.” In vain do years glide by—never does he think of putting France in a way to subsist without him; on the contrary, he jeopardizes lasting acquisitions by exaggerated annexations, and it is evident from the very first day that the Empire will end with the Emperor. In 1805, the five per cents being at eighty, his Minister of the Finances, Gaudin, observes to him that this is a reasonable rate.2 “No complaint can now be made, since these funds are an annuity on Your Majesty’s life.” “What do you mean by that?” “I mean that the Empire has become so great as to be ungovernable without you.” “If my successor is a fool so much the worse for him!” “Yes, but so much the worse for France!” Two years later, M. de Metternich, by way of a political summing up, expresses his general opinion: “It is remarkable that Napoleon, constantly disturbing and modifying the relations of all Europe, has not yet taken a single step toward ensuring the maintenance of his successors.”1 In 1809, adds the same diplomat:2 “His death will be the signal for a new and frightful upheaval; so many divided elements all tend to combine. Deposed sovereigns will be recalled by former subjects; new princes will have new crowns to defend. A veritable civil war will rage for half a century over the vast empire of the continent the day when the iron arms shall be turned into dust.” In 1811, “everybody is convinced3 that on the disappearance of Napoleon, the master in whose hands all power is concentrated, the first inevitable consequence will be a revolution.” At home, in France, at this same date, his own servitors begin to comprehend that his empire is not merely a life-interest and will not last after he is gone, but that the Empire is ephemeral and will not last during his life; for he is constantly raising his edifice higher and higher, while all that his building gains in elevation it loses in stability. “The Emperor is crazy,” said Decrès to Marmont,4 “completely crazy. He will ruin us all, numerous as we are, and all will end in some frightful catastrophe.” In effect, he is pushing France on to the abyss, forcibly and by deceiving her, through a breach of trust which willfully, and by his fault, grows worse and worse just as his own interests, as he comprehends these, diverge from those of the public from year to year.
At the treaty of Luneville and before the rupture of the peace of Amiens,1 this variance was already considerable. It becomes manifest at the treaty of Presbourg and still more evident at the treaty of Tilsit. It is glaring in 1808, after the deposition of the Spanish Bourbons; it becomes scandalous and monstrous in 1812, when the war with Russia took place. Napoleon himself admits that this war is against the interests of France and yet he undertakes it.2 Later, at St. Helena, he falls into a melting mood over “the French people whom he loved so dearly.”3 The truth is, he loves it as a rider loves his horse; as he makes it rear and prance and show off its paces, when he flatters and caresses it; it is not for the advantage of the animal but for his own purposes, on account of its usefulness to him; to be spurred on until exhausted, to jump ditches growing wider and wider, and leap fences growing higher and higher; one ditch more, and still another fence, the last obstacle which seems to be the last, succeeded by others, while, in any event, the horse remains forcibly and forever, what it already is, namely, a beast of burden and broken down.—For, on this Russian expedition, instead of frightful disasters, suppose a brilliant success, a victory at Smolensk equal to that of Friedland, a treaty of Moscow more advantageous than that of Tilsit, the Czar put down, and see what follows,—the Czar probably strangled or dethroned, a patriotic insurrection in Russia as in Spain, two lasting wars, at the two extremities of the Continent, against religious fanaticism, more irreconcilable than positive interests, and against a scattered barbarism more indomitable than a concentrated civilization; at best, a European empire secretly mined by European resistance; an exterior France forcibly superposed on the enslaved Continent;1 French residents and commanders at St. Petersburg and Riga as at Dantzic, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Trieste; every able-bodied Frenchman that can be employed from Cadiz to Moscow in maintaining and administering the conquest all the able-bodied youth annually seized by the conscription, and, if they have escaped this, recaught by decrees;2 the entire male population devoted to works of constraint, nothing else in prospect for either the cultivated or the uncultivated, no military or civil career other than a prolonged faction, threatened and threatening, as soldier, customs-inspector, or gendarme, as prefect, sub-prefect, or commissioner of police, that is to say, as subaltern myrmidons and petty tyrants for restraining subjects and raising contributions, confiscating and burning merchandise, seizing grumblers, and making the refractory toe the mark.3 In 1810, one hundred and sixty thousand of the refractory were already condemned by name, and, moreover, penalties were imposed on their families to the amount of one hundred and seventy millions of francs. In 1811 and 1812 the roving columns which tracked fugitives gathered sixty thousand of them, and drove them along the coast from the Adour to the Niemen; on reaching the frontier, they were enrolled in the grand army; but they desert the very first month, they and their chained companions, at the rate of four or five thousand a day.1 Should England be conquered, garrisons would have to be maintained there, and of soldiers equally zealous. Such is the dark future which this system opens to the French, even with the best of good luck. It turns out that the luck is bad, and at the end of 1812 the grand army is freezing in the snow; Napoleon’s horse has let him tumble. Fortunately, the animal has simply foundered; “His Majesty’s health was never better”;2 nothing has happened to the rider; he gets up on his legs, and what concerns him at this moment is not the sufferings of his broken-down steed, but his own mishap; his reputation as a horseman is compromised; the effect on the public, the hootings of the audience, is what troubles him, the comedy of a perilous leap, announced with such a flourish of trumpets and ending in such a disgraceful fall. On reaching Warsaw3 he says to himself, ten times over: “Only a step from the sublime to the ridiculous.” The following year, at Dresden, he exposes still more shamefully, openly, and nakedly his master passion, the motives which determine him, the immensity and ferocity of his pitiless self-love. “What do they want of me?” said he to M. de Metternich.1 “Do they want me to dishonor myself? Never! I can die, but never will I yield an inch of territory! Your sovereigns, born on the throne, may be beaten twenty times over and yet return to their capitals: I cannot do this, because I am a parvenu soldier. My domination will not survive the day when I shall have ceased to be strong, and, consequently, feared.” In effect, his despotism in France is founded on his European omnipotence; if he does not remain master of the Continent, “he must settle with the corps législatif.”2 Rather than descend to an inferior position, rather than be a constitutional monarch, controlled by parliamentary chambers, he plays double or quits, and will risk losing everything. “I have seen your soldiers,” says Metternich to him, “they are children. When this army of boys is gone, what will you do then?” At these words, which touch his heart, he grows pale, his features contract, and his rage overcomes him; like a wounded man who has made a false step and exposes himself, he says violently to Metternich: “You are not a soldier! You do not know the impulses of a soldier’s breast! I have grown up on the battle-field, and a man like me does not care a———for the lives of a million men!”3 His imperial chimera has devoured many more. Between 1804 and 1815 he has had slaughtered 1,700,000 Frenchmen, born within the boundaries of ancient France,1 to which must be added, probably, 2,000,000 of men born outside of these limits, and slain for him, under the title of allies, or slain by him under the title of enemies. All that the poor, enthusiastic, and credulous Gauls have gained by entrusting their public welfare to him is two invasions; all that he bequeaths to them as a reward for their devotion, after this prodigious waste of their blood and the blood of others, is a France shorn of fifteen departments acquired by the republic, deprived of Savoy, of the left bank of the Rhine and of Belgium, despoiled of the northeast angle by which it completed its boundaries, fortified its most vulnerable point, and, using the words of Vauban, “made its field square,” separated from 4,000,000 of new Frenchmen which it had assimilated after twenty years of life in common, and, worse still, thrown back within the frontiers of 1789, alone, diminished in the midst of its aggrandized neighbors, suspected by all Europe, and lastingly surrounded by a threatening circle of distrust and rancor.
Such is the political work of Napoleon, the work of egoism served by genius. In his European structure as in his French structure this sovereign egoism has introduced a vice of construction. This fundamental vice is manifest at the outset in the European edifice, and, at the expiration of fifteen years, it brings about a sudden downfall: in the French edifice it is equally serious but not so apparent; only at the end of half a century, or even a whole century, is it to be made clearly visible; but its gradual and slow effects will be equally pernicious and they are no less sure.
The main authority is, of course, the “Correspondance de l’Empereur Napoléon I.,” in thirty-two volumes. This “Correspondance,” unfortunately, is still incomplete, while, after the sixth volume, it must not be forgotten that much of it has been purposely stricken out. “In general,” say the editors (xvi., p. 4), “we have been governed simply by this plain rule, that we were required to publish only what the Emperor himself would have given to the public had he survived himself, and, anticipating the verdict of time, exposed to posterity his own personality and system.”—The savant who has the most carefully examined this correspondence, entire in the French archives, estimates that it comprises about 80,000 pieces, of which 30,000 have been published in the collection referred to; passages in 20,000 of the others have been stricken out on account of previous publication, and about 30,000 more, through considerations of propriety or policy. For example, but little more than one-half of the letters from Napoleon to Bigot de Préameneu on ecclesiastical matters have been published; many of these omitted letters, all important and characteristic, may be found in “L’Église romaine et le Premier Empire,” by M. d’Haussonville.[See also Appendix note.]
“Mémorial de Sainte Hélène,” by Las Casas (May 29, 1816).—“In Corsica, Paoli, on a horseback excursion, explained the positions to him, the places where liberty found resistance or triumphed. Estimating the character of Napoleon by what he saw of it through personal observation, Paoli said to him, “Oh, Napoleon, there is nothing modern in you, you belong wholly to Plutarch!”—Antonomarchi, “Mémoires,” Oct. 25, 1819. The same account, slightly different, is there given: “Oh, Napoleon,” said Paoli to me, “you do not belong to this century; you talk like one of Plutarch’s characters. Courage, you will take flight yet!”
De Ségur, “Histoire et Mémoires,” i., 150. (Narrative by Pontécoulant, member of the Committee in the war, June, 1795.) “Boissy d’Anglas told him that he had seen the evening before a little Italian, pale, slender, and puny, but singularly audacious in his views and in the vigor of his expressions.”—The next day, Bonaparte calls on Pontécoulant, “Attitude rigid through a morbid pride, poor exterior, long visage, hollow and bronzed. . . . He is just from the army and talks like one who knows what he is talking about.”
Coston, “Biographie des premières années de Napoléon Buonaparte,” 2 vols. (1840), passim.—Yung, “Bonaparte et son Temps,” i., 300, 302. (Pièces généalogiques.)—King Joseph, “Mémoires,” i., 109, 111. (On the various branches and distinguished men of the Bonaparte family.)—Miot de Melito, “Mémoires,” ii., 30. (Documents on the Bonaparte family, collected on the spot by the author in 1801.)
“Mémorial,” May 6, 1816.—Miot de Melito, ii., 30. (On the Bonapartes of San Miniato): “The last offshoot of this branch was a canon then still living in this same town of San Miniato, and visited by Bonaparte in the year iv, when he came to Florence.”
“Correspondance de l’Empereur Napoléon I.” (Letter of Bonaparte, Sept. 29, 1797, in relation to Italy): “A people at bottom inimical to the French through the prejudices, character, and customs of centuries.”
Miot de Melito, i., 126, (1796): “Florence, for two centuries and a half, had lost that antique energy which, in the stormy times of the Republic, distinguished this city. Indolence was the dominant spirit of all classes. . . . Almost everywhere I saw only men lulled to rest by the charms of the most exquisite climate, occupied solely with the details of a monotonous existence, and tranquilly vegetating under its beneficent sky.”—(On Milan, in 1796, cf. Stendhal, introduction to the “Chartreuse de Parme.”)
“Miot de Melito, i., 131: “Having just left one of the most civilized cities in Italy, it was not without some emotion that I found myself suddenly transported to a country (Corsica) which, in its savage aspect, its rugged mountains, and its inhabitants uniformly dressed in coarse brown cloth, contrasted so strongly with the rich and smiling landscape of Tuscany, and with the comfort, I should almost say elegance, of costume worn by the happy cultivators of that fertile soil.”
Miot de Melito, ii., 30: “Of a not very important family of Sartène.”—ii., 143. (On the canton of Sartène and the Vendettas of 1796).—Coston, i., 4: “The family of Madame Lætitia, sprung from the counts of Cotalto, came originally from Italy.”
His father, Charles Bonaparte, weak and even frivolous, “too fond of pleasure to care about his children,” and to see to his affairs, tolerably learned and an indifferent head of a family, died at the age of thirty-nine of a cancer in the stomach, which seems to be the only bequest he made to his son Napoleon.—His mother, on the contrary, serious, authoritative, the true head of a family, was, said Napoleon, “hard in her affections: she punished and rewarded without distinction, good or bad; she made us all feel it.”—On becoming head of the household, “she was too parsimonious—even ridiculously so. This was due to excess of foresight on her part; she had known want, and her terrible sufferings were never out of her mind. . . . Paoli had tried persuasion with her before resorting to force. . . . Madame replied heroically, as a Cornelia would have done. . . . From twelve to fifteen thousand peasants poured down from the mountains of Ajaccio; our house was pillaged and burnt, our vines destroyed, and our flocks. . . . In other respects, this woman, from whom it would have been so difficult to extract five francs, would have given up everything to secure my return from Elba, and after Waterloo she offered me all she possessed to restore my affairs.” (“Mémorial,” May 29, 1816, and “Mémoires d’Antonomarchi,” Nov. 18, 1819.—On the ideas and ways of Bonaparte’s mother, read her “Conversation” in “Journal et Mémoires,” vol. iv., by Stanislas Girardin.) Duchesse d’Abrantès, “Mèmoires,” ii., 318, 319. “Avaricious out of all reason except on a few grave occasions. . . . No knowledge whatever of the usages of society. . . . Very ignorant, not alone of our literature, but of her own.”—Stendhal, “Vie de Napoléon”: “The character of her son is to be explained by the perfectly Italian character of Madame Laetitia.”
The French conquest is effected by armed force between July 30, 1768, and May 22, 1769. The Bonaparte family submitted May 23, 1769, and Napoleon was born on the following 15th of August.
Antonomarchi, “Mémoires,” October 4, 1819. “Mémorial,” May 29, 1816.
Miot de Melito, ii., 33: “The day I arrived at Bocognano two men lost their lives through private vengeance. About eight years before this one of the inhabitants of the canton had killed a neighbor, the father of two children. . . . On reaching the age of sixteen or seventeen years these children left the country in order to dog the steps of the murderer, who kept on the watch, not daring to go far from his village. . . . Finding him playing cards under a tree, they fired at and killed him, and besides this accidentally shot another man who was asleep a few paces off. The relatives on both sides pronounced the act justifiable and according to rule.” Ibid., i., 143: “On reaching Bastia from Ajaccio the two principal families of the place, the Peraldi and the Visuldi, fired at each other, in disputing over the honor of entertaining me.”
Bourrienne, “Mémoires,” i., 18, 19.
De Ségur, “Histoire et Mémoires,” i., 74.
Yung, i., 195. (Letter of Bonaparte to Paoli, June 12, 1789); i., 250 (Letter of Bonaparte to Buttafuoco, January 23, 1790).
Yung, i., 107 (Letter of Napoleon to his father, Sept. 12, 1784); i., 163 (Letter of Napoleon to Abbé Raynal, July, 1786); i., 197 (Letter of Napoleon to Paoli, June 12, 1789). The three letters on the history of Corsica are dedicated to Abbé Raynal in a letter of June 24, 1790, and may be found in Yung, i., 434.
Read especially his essay “On the Truths and Sentiments most important to inculcate on Men for their Welfare” (a subject proposed by the Academy of Lyons in 1790). “Some bold men impulsed by genius. . . . Perfection grows out of reason as fruit out of a tree. . . . Reason’s eyes guard man from the precipice of the passions. . . . The spectacle of the strength of virtue was what the Lacedæmonians principally felt. . . . Must men then be lucky in the means by which they are led on to happiness? . . . . My rights (to property) are renewed along with my transpiration, circulate in my blood, are written on my nerves, on my heart. . . . Proclaim to the rich—your wealth is your misfortune, withdrawn within the latitude of your senses. . . . Let the enemies of nature at thy voice keep silence and swallow their rabid serpents’ tongues. . . . The wretched shun the society of men, the tapestry of gayety turns to mourning. . . . Such, gentlemen, are the sentiments which, in animal relations, mankind should have taught it for its welfare.”
Yung, i., 252 (Letter to Buttafuoco). “Dripping with the blood of his brethren, sullied by every species of crime, he presents himself with confidence under his vest of a general, the sole reward of his criminalities.”—i., 192 (Letter to the Corsican Intendant, April 2, 1879). “Cultivation is what ruins us”.—See various manuscript letters, copied by Yung, for innumerable and gross mistakes in French.—Miot de Melito, i., 84 (July, 1796). “He spoke curtly and, at this time, very incorrectly.”—Madame de Rémusat, i., 104. “Whatever language he spoke it never seemed familiar to him; he appeared to force himself in expressing his ideas.”[See also Appendix note.]
De Ségur, i., 174.
Cf. the “Mémoires” of Marshal Marmont, i., 15, for the ordinary sentiments of the young nobility. “In 1792 I had a sentiment for the person of the king, difficult to define, of which I recovered the trace, and to some extent the power, twenty-two years later; a sentiment of devotion almost religious in character, an innate respect as if due to a being of a superior order. The word King then possessed a magic, a force, which nothing had changed in pure and honest breasts. . . . This religion of royalty still existed in the mass of the nation, and especially amongst the well-born, who, sufficiently remote from power, were rather struck with its brilliancy than with its imperfections. . . . This love became a sort of worship.”
Bourrienne, “Mémoires,” i. 27.—Ségur, i. 445. In 1795, at Paris, Bonaparte, being out of military employment, enters upon several commercial speculations, amongst which is a bookstore, which does not succeed. (Stated by Sebastiani and many others.)
“Mémorial,” Aug. 3, 1816.
Bourrienne, i., 171. (Original text of the “Souper de Beaucaire.”)
Yung, ii., 430, 431. (Words of Charlotte Robespierre.) Bonaparte, asa souvenir of his acquaintance with her, granted her a pension, under the consulate, of 3600 francs.—Ibid. (Letter of Tilly, chargé d’affaires at Genoa, to Buchot, commissioner of foreign affairs.)—Cf. in the “Mémorial,” Napoleon’s favorable judgment of Robespierre.
Yung, ii., 455. (Letter from Bonaparte to Tilly, Aug. 7, 1794.) Ibid., iii., 120. (Memoirs of Lucien.) “Barras has charge of Josephine’s dowry, which is the command of the army in Italy.” Ibid., ii., 477. (Grading of general officers, notes by Schérer on Bonaparte.) “He knows all about artillery, but is rather too ambitious, and too intriguing for promotion.”
De Ségur, i., 162.—La Fayette, “Mémoires,” ii., 215. “Mémorial” (note dictated by Napoleon). He states the reasons for and against, and adds, speaking of himself: “These sentiments, twenty-five years of age, confidence in his strength, his destiny, determined him.” Bourrienne, i., 51: “It is certain that he has always bemoaned that day; he has often said to me that he would give years of his life to efface that page of his history.”
“Mémorial,” i., Sept 6, 1815. “It is only after Lodi that the idea came to me that I might, after all, become a decisive actor on our political stage. Then the first spark of lofty ambition gleamed out.” On his aim and conduct in the Italian campaign of Sybel, “Histoire de l’Europe pendant la Révolution Française” (Dosquet translation), vol. iv., books ii. and iii., especially pp. 182, 199, 334, 335, 406, 420, 475, 489.
Yung, iii., 213. (Letter of M. de Sucy, August 4, 1797.)
Ibid., iii., 214. (Report of d’Entraigues to M. de Mowikinoff, Sept., 1797.) “If there was any king in France which was not himself, he would like to have been his creator, with his rights at the end of his sword, this sword never to be parted with, so that he might plunge it in the king’s bosom if he ever ceased to be submissive to him.”—Miot de Melito, i., 154. (Bonaparte to Montebello, before Miot and Melzi, June, 1797.) Ibid, i., 184. (Bonaparte to Miot, Nov. 18, 1797, at Turin.)
D’Haussonville, “L’Église Romaine et la Premier Empire,” i., 405. (Words of M. Cacault, signer of the Treaty of Tolentino, and French Secretary of Legation at Rome, at the commencement of negotiations for the Concordat.) M. Cacault says that he used this expression, “After the scenes of Tolentino and of Leghorn, and the fright of Manfredini, and Matéi threatened, and so many other vivacities.”
Madame de Staël, “Considérations sur la Révolution Française,” 3d part, ch. xxvi., and 4th part, ch. xviii.
Portrait of Bonaparte in the “Cabinet des Etampes,” “drawn by Guérin, engraved by Fiesinger, deposited in the National Library, Vendémiaire 29, year vii.”
Madame de Rémusat, “Mémoires,” i., 104.—Miot de Melito, i., 84.
Madame de Staël, “Considérations,” etc., 3d part, ch. xxv.—Madame de Rémusat, ii., 77.
Stendhal, “Mémoires sur Napoléon,” narration of Admiral Decrès.—Same narration in the “Mémorial.”
De Ségur, i., 193.
Roederer, “Œuvres Complètes,” ii., 560. (Conversations with General Lasalle in 1809, and Lasalle’s judgment on the débuts of Napoleon).
Another instance of this commanding influence is found in the case of General Vandamme, an old revolutionary soldier still more brutal and energetic than Augereau. In 1815, Vandamme said to Marshal d’Ornano, one day, on ascending the staircase of the Tuileries together: “My dear fellow, that devil of a man (speaking of the Emperor) fascinates me in a way I cannot account for. I, who don’t fear either God or the devil, when I approach him I tremble like a child. He would make me dash through the eye of a needle into the fire!” (“Le Général Vandamme,” by du Casse, ii., 385).
Roederer, iii., 356. (Napoleon himself says, February 11, 1809): “I, military! I am so, because I was born so; it is my habit, my very existence. Wherever I have been I have always had command. I commanded at twenty-three, at the siege of Toulon; I commanded at Paris in Vendémiaire; I won over the soldiers in Italy the moment I presented myself. I was born for that.”
Observe various traits of the same mental and moral structure among different members of the family. (Speaking of his brothers and sisters in the “Mémorial” Napoleon says): “What family as numerous presents such a splendid combination?”—“Mémoires” (unpublished), by M. X——, fourteen manuscript volumes, vol. ii., 543. (This author, a young magistrate under Louis XVI., a high functionary under the Empire, an important political personage under the restoration and the July monarchy, is probably the best informed and most judicious of eye-witnesses during the first half of our century.) “Their vices and virtues surpass ordinary proportions and have a physiognomy of their own. But what especially distinguishes them is a stubborn will, and inflexible resolution. . . . All possessed the instinct of their greatness.” They readily accepted “the highest positions; they even got to believing that their elevation was inevitable. . . . Nothing in the incredible good fortune of Joseph astonished him; often in January, 1814, I heard him say over and over again that if his brother had not meddled with his affairs after the second entry into Madrid, he would still be on the throne of Spain. As to determined obstinacy we have only to refer to the resignation of Louis, the retirement of Lucien, and the resistances of Fesch; they alone could stem the will of Napoleon and sometimes break a lance with him.—Passion, sensuality, the habit of considering themselves outside of rules, and self-confidence combined with talent, superabound among the women, as in the fifteenth century. Elisa, in Tuscany, had a vigorous brain, was high spirited and a genuine sovereign, notwithstanding the disorders of her private life, in which even appearances were not sufficiently maintained.” Caroline at Naples, “without being more scrupulous than her sisters,” better observed the proprieties; none of the others so much resembled the Emperor; “with her, all tastes succumbed to ambition”; it was she who advised and prevailed upon her husband, Murat, to desert Napoleon in 1824. As to Pauline, the most beautiful woman of her epoch, “no wife, since that of the Emperor Claude, surpassed her in the use she dared make of her charms; nothing could stop her, not even a malady attributed to her dissipation and for which we have so often seen her borne in a litter.”—Jerome, “in spite of the uncommon boldness of his debaucheries, maintained his ascendancy over his wife to the last.”—On the “pressing efforts and attempts” of Joseph on Maria Louise in 1814, M. X——, after Savary’s papers and the evidence of M. de Saint-Aignan, gives extraordinary details. (Vol. iv., 112.)[See also Appendix note.]
Roederer, iii., 380 (1802).
De Pradt, “Histoire de l’Ambassade dans la grande-duché de Varsovie en 1812,” preface, p. x, and 5.
Roederer, iii., 544 (February 24, 1809). Cf. Meneval, “Napoléon et Marie-Louise, souvenirs historiques,” i., 210-213.
Pelet de la Lozère, “Opinions de Napoléon au conseil d’état,” p.8.—Roederer, iii., 380.
Mollien, “Mémoires,” i., 379; ii., 230—Roederer, iii., 434. “He is at the head of all things. He governs, administrates, negotiates, works eighteen hours a day, with the clearest and best organized head; he has governed more in three years than kings in a hundred years.”—Lavalette, “Mémoires,” ii., 75. (The words of Napoleon’s secretary on Napoleon’s labor in Paris, after Leipsic): “He retires at eleven, but gets up at three o’clock in the morning, and until the evening there is not a moment he does not devote to work. It is time this stopped, for he will be used up, and myself before he is.”—Gaudin, Duc de Gaëte, “Mémoires,” iii. (supplement), p. 75. Account of an evening in which, from eight o’clock to three in the morning, Napoleon examines with Gaudin his general budget, during seven consecutive hours, without stopping a minute.—Sir Neil Campbell, “Napoléon at Fontainebleau and at Elbe,” p. 243. “Journal de Sir Neil Campbell à l’Ile d’Elbe”: “I never saw any man, in any station in life, so personally active and so persistent in his activity. He seems to take pleasure in perpetual motion and in seeing those who accompany him completely tired out, which frequently happened in my case when I accompanied him. . . . Yesterday, after having been on his legs from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon, visiting the frigates and transports, even to going down to the lower compartments among the horses, he rode on horseback for three hours, and, as he afterwards said to me, to rest himself.”
The starting-point of the great discoveries of Darwin is the physical, circumstantial fact of which he has made account in his study of animals and plants, as living, during the whole course of life, subject to innumerable difficulties and to such rude competition; this study is wholly lacking in the ordinary zoologist or botanist, whose mind is busy only with anatomical preparations or collections of plants. In every science, the difficulty lies in arriving at a reduction in brief of the real object through significant specimens, just as it exists before us, and its true history. Claude Bernard one day remarked to me, “We shall know physiology when we are able to follow step by step a molecule of carbon or azote in the body of a dog, give its history, and describe its passage from its entrance to its exit.”
Thibaudeau, “Mémoires sur le Consulat,” 204. (Apropos of the tribunate): “They consist of a dozen or fifteen metaphysicians who ought to be flung into the water; they crawl all over me like vermin.”
Madame de Rémusat, i., 115: “He is really ignorant, having read very little and always hastily.”—Stendhal, “Mémoires sur Napoléon”: “His education was very defective. . . . He knew nothing of the great principles discovered within the past one hundred years,” and just those which concern man or society. “For example, he had not read Montesquieu as this writer ought to be read, that is to say, in a way to accept or decidedly reject each of the thirty-one books of the ‘Esprit des lois.’ He had not thus read Bayle’s Dictionary nor the Essay on the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. This ignorance of the Emperor’s was not perceptible in conversation, and first, because he led in conversation, and next, because with Italian finesse no question put by him, or careless supposition thrown out, ever betrayed that ignorance.”—Bourrienne, i., 19,21: At Brienne, “unfortunately for us, the monks to whom the education of youth was confided knew nothing, and were too poor to pay good foreign teachers. . . . It is inconceivable how any capable man ever graduated from this educational institution.”—Yung, i., 125 (Notes made by him on Bonaparte, when he left the Military Academy): “Very fond of the abstract sciences, indifferent to others, well grounded in mathematics and geography.”
Roederer, iii., 544 (March 6, 1809), 26, 563 (Jan. 23, 1811, and Nov. 12, 1813).
Mollien, i., 348 (a short time before the rupture of the peace of Amiens), iii., 16: “It was at the end of January, 1809, that he wanted a full report of the financial situation on the 31st of December, 1808. . . . This report was to be ready in two days.”—iii., 34: “A complete balance sheet of the public treasury for the first six months of 1812 was under Napoleon’s eyes at Witepsk, the 11th of August, eleven days after the close of these first six months. What is truly wonderful is, that amidst so many different occupations and preoccupations . . . . he could preserve such an accurate run of the proceedings and methods of the administrative branches about which he wanted to know at any moment. Nobody had any excuse for not answering him, for each was questioned in his own terms; it is that singular aptitude of the head of the State, and the technical precision of his questions, which alone explains how he could maintain such a remarkable ensemble in an administrative system of which the smallest threads centred in himself.”
An expression of Mollien.
Meneval, i., 210, 213.—Roederer, iii., 537, 545 (February and March, 1889): Words of Napoleon: “At this moment it was nearly midnight.” Ibid., iv., 55 (November, 1809). Read the admirable examination of Roederer by Napoleon on the Kingdom of Naples. His queries form a vast systematic and concise network, embracing the entire subject, leaving no physical or moral data, no useful circumstance not seized upon.—Ségur, ii., 231: M. de Ségur, ordered to inspect every part of the coast-line, had sent in his report: “ ‘I have seen your reports,’ said the First Consul to me, ‘and they are exact. Nevertheless, you forgot two cannon at Ostend,’ and he pointed out the place. ‘in a road behind the town.’ I went out overwhelmed with astonishment that among thousands of cannon distributed among the mounted batteries or light artillery on the coast, two pieces should not have escaped his recollection.”—“Correspondance,” letter to King Joseph, August 6, 1806: “The admirable condition of my armies is due to this, that I give attention to them every day for an hour or two, and, when the monthly reports come in, to the state of my troops and fleets, all forming about twenty large volumes. I leave every other occupation to read them over in detail, to see what difference there is between one month and another. I take more pleasure in reading those than any young girl does in a novel.”—Cadet de Gassicourt, “Voyage en Autriche” (1809). On his reviews at Schoenbrunn and his verification of the contents of a pontoon-wagon, taken as an example.
Bourrienne, ii., 116; iv., 238: “He had not a good memory for proper names, words, and dates, but it was prodigious for facts and localities. I remember that, on the way from Paris to Toulon, he called my attention to ten places suitable for giving battle. . . . It was a souvenir of his youthful travels, and he described to me the lay of the ground, designating the positions he would have taken even before we were on the spot.” March 17, 1800, puncturing a card with a pin, he shows Bourrienne the place where he intends to beat Mélas, at San Juliano. “Four months after this I found myself at San Juliano with his portfolio and despatches, and, that very evening, at Torre-di-Gafolo, a league off, I wrote the bulletin of the battle under his dictation” (of Marengo).—De Ségur, ii., 30 (Narrative of M. Daru to M. de Ségur: Aug. 13, 1805, at the headquarters of La Manche, Napoleon dictates to M. Daru the complete plan of the campaign against Austria): “Order of marches, their duration, places of convergence or meeting of the columns, attacks in full force, the various movements and mistakes of the enemy, all, in this rapid dictation, was foreseen two months beforehand and at a distance of two hundred leagues. . . . The battle-field, the victories, and even the very days on which we were to enter Munich and Vienna were then announced and written down as it all turned out. . . . Daru saw these oracles fulfilled on the designated days up to our entry into Munich; if there were any differences of time and not of results between Munich and Vienna, they were all in our favor.”—M. de La Vallette, “Mémoires,” ii., p. 35. (He was postmaster-general): “It often happened to me that I was not as certain as he was of distances and of many details in my administration on which he was able to set me straight.”—On returning from the camp at Bologna, Napoleon encounters a squad of soldiers who had got lost, asks what regiment they belong to, calculates the day they left, the road they took, what distance they should have marched. and then tells them, “You will find your battalion at such a halting place.”—At this time, “the army numbered 200,000 men.”
Madame de Rémusat, i., 103, 268.
Thibaudeau, p. 25, 1 (on the Jacobin survivors): “They are nothing but common artisans, painters, etc., with lively imaginations, a little better instructed than the people, living amongst the people and exercising influence over them.”—Madame de Rémusat, i., 271 (on the royalist party): “It is very easy to deceive that party because its starting-point is not what it is, but what it would like to have.”—i., 337: “The Bourbons will never see anything except through the Œil de Bœuf.”—Thibaudeau, p. 46: “Insurrections and emigrations are skin diseases; terrorism is an internal malady.” Ibid., 75: “What now keeps the spirit of the army up is the idea soldiers have that they occupy the places of former nobles.”
Thibaudeau, pp. 419 to 452. (Both texts are given in separate columns.) And passim, for instance, p. 84, the following portrayal of the decadal system of worship under the Republic: “It was imagined that citizens could be got together in churches, to freeze with cold and hear, read, and study laws, in which there was already but little fun for those who executed them.” Another example of the way in which his ideas expressed themselves through imagery (Pelet de la Lozère, p. 242): “I am not satisfied with the customs regulations on the Alps. They show no life. We don’t hear the rattle of crown pieces pouring into the public treasury.” To appreciate the vividness of Napoleon’s expressions and thought the reader must consult, especially, the five or six long conversations, noted on the very evening of the day they occurred by Roederer; the two or three conversations likewise noted by Miot de Melito; the scenes narrated by Beugnot; the notes of Pelet de la Lozère and by Stanislas de Girardin, and nearly the entire volume by Thibaudeau.
Pelet de la Lozère, 63, 64. (On the physiological differences between the English and the French.)—Madame de Rémusat, i., 273, 392: “You, Frenchmen, are not in earnest about anything, except, perhaps, equality, and even here you would gladly give this up if you were sure of being the foremost. . . . The hope of advancement in the world should be cherished by everybody. . . . Keep your vanity always alive. The severity of the republican government would have worried you to death. What started the Revolution? Vanity. What will end it? Vanity, again. Liberty is merely a pretext.”—iii., 153: “Liberty is the craving of a small and privileged class by nature, with faculties superior to the common run of men; this class, therefore, may be put under restraint with impunity; equality, on the contrary, catches the multitude.”—Thibaudeau, 99: “What do I care for the opinions and cackle of the drawing-room? I never heed it. I pay attention only to what rude peasants say.” His estimates of certain situations are masterpieces of picturesque concision. “Why did I stop and sign the preliminaries of Leoben? Because I played vingt-et-un and was satisfied with twenty.” His insight into (dramatic) character is that of the most sagacious critic. “The ‘Mahomet’ of Voltaire is neither a prophet nor an Arab, only an impostor graduated out of the École Polytechnique.”—“Madame de Genlis tries to define virtue as if she were the discoverer of it.”—(On Madame de Staël): “This woman teaches people to think who never took to it, or have forgotten how.”—(On Chateaubriand, one of whose relations had just been shot): “He will write a few pathetic pages and read them aloud in the faubourg Saint-Germain; pretty women will shed tears, and that will console him.”—(On Abbé Delille): “He is wit in its dotage.”—(On Pasquier and Molé): “I make the most of one, and made the other.”—Madame de Rémusat, ii., 389, 391, 394, 399, 402; iii., 67.
Bourrienne, ii., 281, 342: “It pained me to write official statements under his dictation, of which each was an imposture.” He always answered: “My dear sir, you are a simpleton—you understand nothing!”—Madame de Rémusat, ii., 205, 209.
See especially the campaign bulletins for 1807, so insulting to the king and queen of Prussia, but, owing to that fact, so well calculated to excite the contemptuous laughter and jeers of the soldiers.
In “La Correspondance de Napoléon,” published in thirty-two volumes, the letters are arranged under dates.—In his “Correspondance avec Eugène, vice-roi d’Italie,” they are arranged under chapters; also with Joseph, King of Naples and after of Spain. It is easy to compose other chapters not less instructive; one on foreign affairs (letters to M. de Champagny, M. de Talleyrand, and M. de Bassano); another on the finances (letters to M. Gaudin and to M. Mollien); another on the navy (letters to Admiral Decrès); another on military administration (letters to General Clarke); another on the affairs of the Church (letters to M. Portalis and to M. Bigot de Préameneu); another on the Police (letters to Fouché), etc. Finally, by dividing and distributing his letters according as they relate to this or that grand enterprise, especially to this or that military compaign, a third classification could be made. In this way we can form a conception of the vastness of his positive information, also of the ordinary play of his intellect. Cf. especially the following letters to Prince Eugène, June 11, 1806 (on the supplies and expenses of the Italian army); June 1 and 18, 1806 (on the occupation of Dalmatia, and on the military situation, offensive and defensive). To Gen. Dejean, April 28, 1806 (on the war supplies); June 27, 1806 (on the fortifications of Peschiera); July 20, 1806 (on the fortifications of Wesel and of Juliers).[See also Appendix note.]
Cf. in the “Correspondance” the letters dated at Schoenbrunn near Vienna, during August and September, 1809, and especially: 1st, the great number of letters and orders relating to the English expeditions to Walcheren; 2d, the letters to chief-judge Regnier and to the arch-chancellor Cambacérès on expropriations for public benefit (Aug. 21, Sept. 7 and 29); 3d, the letters and orders to M. de Champagny to treat with Austria (Aug. 19, and Sept. 10, 15, 18, 22, and 23); 4th, the letters to Admirable Decrès, to despatch naval expeditions to the colonies (Aug. 17 and Sept. 26); 5th, the letter to Mollien on the budget of expenditure (Aug. 8); 6th, the letter to Clarke on the statement of guns in store throughout the empire (Sept. 14).—Other letters, ordering the preparation of two treatises on military art (Oct. 1), two works on the history and encroachments of the Holy See (Oct. 3), prohibiting conferences at Saint-Sulpice (Sept. 15), and forbidding priests to preach outside the churches (Sept. 24).—From Schoenbrunn, he watches the details of public works in France and Italy; for instance, the letters to M. le Montalivet (Sept. 30), to send an auditor post to Parma, to have a dyke repaired at once, and (Oct. 8) to hasten the building of several bridges and quays at Lyons.
He says himself: “I pose my theme always in many ways.”
Madame de Rémusat, i., 117, 120. “I heard M. de Talleyrand exclaim one day, some what out of humor, ‘This devil of a man misleads you in all directions. Even his passion, escape you, for he finds some way to counterfeit them, although they really exist.’ ” Thus, just as he was about to confer with Lord Whitworth, and the violent scene took place which put an end to the treaty of Amiens, he was chatting and amusing himself with the women and the infant Napoleon, his nephew, in the gayest and most unconcerned manner: “He is suddenly told that the company had assembled. His countenance changes like that of an actor when the scene shifts. He seems to turn pale at will and his features contract”; he rises, steps up precipitately to the English ambassador, and fulminates for two hours before two hundred persons. (Hansard’s Parliamentary History, vol. xxvi, despatches of Lord Whitworth, pp. 1798, 1302, 1310.)—“He often observes that the politician should calculate every advantage that could be gained by his defects.” One day, after an explosion he says to Abbé de Pradt: “You thought me angry! you are mistaken. Anger with me never mounts higher than here (pointing to his neck).”
Roederer, iii. (The first days of Brumaire, year viii.)
Bourrienne, iii., 114.
Bourrienne, ii., 228. (Conversation with Bourrienne in the park at Passeriano.)
Ibid., ii., 331. (Written down by Bourrienne the same evening.)
Madame de Rémusat, i., 274.—De Ségur, ii., 459. (Napoleon’s own words on the eve of the battle of Austerlitz): “Yes, if I had taken Acre, I would have assumed the turban, I would have put the army in loose breeches; I would no longer have exposed it, except at the last extremity; I would have made it my sacred battalion, my immortals. It is with Arabs, Greeks, and Armenians that I would have ended the war against the Turks. Instead of one battle in Moravia I would have gained a battle of Issus; I would have made myself emperor of the East, and returned to Paris by the way of Constantinople.”—De Pradt, p. 19 (Napoleon’s own words at Mayence, September, 1804): “Since two hundred years there is nothing more to do in Europe; it is only in the East that things can be carried out on a grand scale.”[See also Appendix note.]
Madame de Rémusat, i., 407.—Miot de Melito, ii., 214 (a few weeks after his coronation): “There will be no repose in Europe until it is under one head, under an Emperor, whose officers would be kings, who would distribute kingdoms to his lieutenants, who would make one of them King of Italy, another King of Bavaria, here a landmann of Switzerland, and here a stadtholder of Holland, etc.”
“Correspondance de Napoléon I.,” vol. xxx., 550, 558. (Memoirs dictated by Napoleon at Saint Hélène.)—Miot de Melito, ii., 290.—D’Haussonville, “l’Église Romaine et le Premier Empire,” passim.—“Mémorial.” “Paris would become the capital of the Christian world, and I would have governed the religious world as well as the political world.”
De Pradt, 23.
“Mémoires et Mémorial.” “It was essential that Paris should become the unique capital, not to be compared with other capitals. The masterpieces of science and of art, the museums, all that had illustrated past centuries, were to be collected there. Napoleon regretted that he could not transport St. Peter’s to Paris; the meanness of Notre Dame dissatisfied him.”
Villemain, “Souvenir contemporaines,” i., 175. Napoleon’s statement to M. de Narbonne early in March, 1812, and repeated by him to Villemain an hour afterwards. The wording is at second hand and merely a very good imitation, while the ideas are substantially Napoleon’s. Cf. his reveries about Italy and the Mediterranean, equally exaggerated (“Correspondance,” xxx., 548), and an admirable improvisation on Spain and the colonies at Bayonne.—De Pradt, “Mémoires sur les révolutions d’Espagne,” p. 130: “Therefore Napoleon talked, or rather poetized; he Ossianized for a long time, . . . . like a man full of a sentiment which oppressed him, in an animated, picturesque style, and with the impetuosity, imagery, and originality which were familiar to him, . . . . on the vast throne of Mexico and Peru, on the greatness of the sovereigns who should possess them . . . . and on the results which these great foundations would have on the universe. I had often heard him, but under no circumstances had I ever heard him develop such a wealth and compass of imagination. Whether it was the richness of his subject, or whether his faculties had become excited by the scene he conjured up, and all the chords of the instrument vibrated at once, he was sublime.”
Roederer, iii., 541 (February 2, 1809): “I love power. But I love it as an artist. . . . . I love it as a musician loves his violin, for the tones, chords, and harmonies he can get out of it.”[See also Appendix note.]
See my “Philosophy of Art” for texts and facts, Part II., ch. iv.—Other analogies, which are too long for development here, may be found, especially in all that concerns the imagination and love. “He was disposed to accept the marvellous, presentiments, and even certain mysterious communications between beings. . . . I have seen him excited by the rustling of the wind, speak enthusiastically of the roar of the sea, and sometimes inclined to believe in nocturnal apparitions; in short, leaning to certain superstitions.” (Madame de Rémusat, i., 102, and iii., 164.)—Meneval (iii., 114) notes his “crossing himself involuntarily on the occurrence of some great danger, on the discovery of some important fact.” During the consulate, in the evening, in a circle of ladies, he sometimes improvised and declaimed tragic “tales,” Italian fashion, quite worthy of the story-tellers of the XVth and XVIth centuries. (Bourrienne, vi., 387, gives one of his improvisations. Cf. Madame de Rémusat, i., 102.)—As to love, his letters to Josephine during the Italian campaign form one of the best examples of Italian passion and “in most piquant contrast with the temperate and graceful elegance of his predecessor M. de Beauharnais.” (Madame de Rémusat, i., 143).—His other amours, simply physical, are too difficult to deal with; I have gathered some details orally on this subject which are almost from first hands and perfectly authentic. It is sufficient to cite one text already published: “According to Josephine, he had no moral principle whatever; did he not seduce his sisters one after the other?” “I am not a man like other men,” he said of himself, “and moral laws and those of propriety do not apply to me.” (Madame de Rémusat, i., 204, 206.)—Note again (ii., 350) his proposals to Croisart.—Always the sentiments, customs, and morality of the great Italian personages of about the year 1500.
De Pradt, “Histoire de l’ambassade dans le grand-duché de Varsovie,” p. 96. “With the Emperor, desire springs out of thinking; his idea becomes passion in the act of birth.”
Bourrienne, ii., 298.—De Ségur, i., 426.
Bodin, “Recherches sur l’Anjou,” ii., 325.—“Souvenirs d’un nonagénaire,” by Besnard.—Sainte-Beuve, “Causeries du Lundi,” article on Volney.—Miot de Melito, i., 297. He wanted to adopt Louis’s son, and make him King of Italy. Louis refused, alleging that “this marked favor would give new life to the reports spread about at one time in relation to this child.” Thereupon, Napoleon, exasperated, “seized Prince Louis by the waist and pushed him violently out of the room.”—“Mémorial,” Oct. 10, 1816. Napoleon relates that at the last conference of Campo-Fermio, to put an end to the resistance of the Austrian plenipotentiary, he suddenly arose, seized a set of porcelain on a stand near him and dashed it to the floor, exclaiming, “Thus will I shatter your monarchy before a month is over!” (Bourrienne questions this story.)
Varnhagen von Ense, “Ausgewählte Schriften,” iii., 77 (public reception of July 22, 1810). Napoleon first speaks to the Austrian Ambassador and next to the Russian Ambassador with a constrained air, forcing himself to be polite, in which he cannot persist. “Treating with I do not know what unknown personage, he interrogated him, reprimanded him, threatened him, and kept him for a sufficiently long time in a state of painful dismay. Those who stood by, and not witnessing this outburst without some feeling, afterwards stated that there was nothing to provoke such fury, that the Emperor had only sought an opportunity to vent his ill-humor; that he did it purposely on some poor devil so as to inspire fear in others and to put down in advance any tendency to opposition.” Cf. Beugnot, “Mémoires,” i., 380, 386, 387.—This mixture of anger and calculation likewise explains his conduct at Sainte Hélène with Sir Hudson Lowe, his unbridled diatribes and insults bestowed on the governor like so many slaps in the face. (W. Forsyth, “History of the Captivity of Napoleon at Saint Helena, from the letters and journals of Sir Hudson Lowe,” iii., 306.)
Madame de Rémusat, ii., 46.
“Les Cahiers de Coignat,” 191. “At Posen, already, I saw him mount his horse in such a fury as to land on the other side and then give his groom a cut of the whip.”
Madame de Rémusat, i., 222.
Especially the letters addressed to Cardinal Consalvi and to the Préfet of Montenotte (I am indebted to M. d’Haussonville for this information).—Besides, he is lavish of the same expressions in conversation. On a tour through Normandy, he sends for the bishop of Séez and thus publicly addresses him: “Instead of fusing parties together, you distinguish between constitutionalists and non-constitutionalists. Wretch! . . . You are a base fellow—hand in your resignation at once!”—To the grand-vicars he says, “Which of you governs your bishop—who is at best a fool?”—As M. Legallois is pointed out to him, who had of late been absent. “F——, where were you then?” “With my family.” “With a bishop who is merely a——fool, why are you so often away, etc.?” (D’Haussonville, iv., 176, and Roederer, vol. iii.)
Madame de Rémusat, i., 101; ii., 338.
Ibid., i., 224.—M. de Meneval, i., 112, 347; iii., 120: “On account of the extraordinary event of his marriage, he sent an autograph letter to his future father-in-law (the Emperor of Austria). It was a grand affair for him. Finally, after a great effort, he succeeded in penning a letter that was readable.”—Meneval, nevertheless, was obliged “to correct the defective letters without letting the corrections be too plainly seen.”
For example, at Bayonne and at Warsaw (De Pradt); the outrageous and never-to-be forgotten scene which, on his return from Spain, occurred with Talleyrand (“Mémoires,” unpublished, of M. X—, ii., 365); the gratuitous insult of M. de Metternich, in 1813, the last word of their interview (“Souvenirs du feu duc de Broglie,” i., 230).—Cf. his not less gratuitous and hazardous confidential communications to Miot de Melito, in 1797, and his five conversations with Sir Hudson Lowe, immediately recorded by a witness, Major Gorrequer. (W. Forsyth, i., 161, 200, 247.)
De Pradt, preface x.
Pelet de la Lozère, p. 7.—Mollien, “Mémoires,” ii., 222.—“Souvenirs du feu duc de Broglie,” i., 66, 69.
“Madame de Rémusat,” i., 121: “I have it from Corvisart that the pulsations of his arteries are fewer than is usual with men. He never experienced what is commonly called giddiness.” With him, the nervous apparatus is perfect in all its functions, incomparable for receiving, recording, registering, combining, and reflecting. But other organs suffer a reaction and are very sensitive.” (De Ségur, vi., 15 and 16, note of Drs. Yvan and Mestivier, his physicians.) “To preserve the equilibrium it was necessary with him that the skin should always fulfill its functions; as soon as the tissues were affected by any moral or atmospheric cause . . . . irritation, cough, ischury.” Hence his need of frequent prolonged and very hot baths. “The spasm was generally shared by the stomach and the bladder. If in the stomach, he had a nervous cough which exhausted his moral and physical energies.” Such was the case between the eve of the battle of Moskowa and the morning after his entry into Moscow: “a constant dry cough, difficult and intermittent breathing; the pulse sluggish, weak, and irregular; the urine thick and sedimentary, drop by drop and painful; the lower part of the legs and the feet extremely œdematous.” Already, in 1806, at Warsaw, “after violent convulsions in the stomach,” he declared to the Count de Loban, “that he bore within him the germs of a premature death, and that he would die of the same disease as his father’s.” (De Ségur, iv., 82.) After the victory of Dresden, having eaten a ragout containing garlic, he is seized with such violent gripings as to make him think he was poisoned, and he makes a retrograde movement, which causes the loss of Vandamme’s division, and, consequently, the ruin of 1813. (“Mémoires,” in manuscript of M. X——, narrative of Daru, an eye-witness).—This susceptibility of the nerves and stomach is hereditary with him and shows itself in early youth. “One day, at Brienne, obliged to drop on his knees, as a punishment, on the sill of the refectory, he is seized with sudden vomiting and a violent nervous attack.” De Ségur, i., 71.—It is well known that he died of a cancer in the stomach, like his father Charles Bonaparte; his grandfather Joseph Bonaparte, his uncle Fesch, his brother Lucien, and his sister Caroline died of the same, or of an analogous disease.
Meneval, i., 269. Constant, “Mémoires,” v., 62. De Ségur, vi., 114, 117.
Marshal Marmont, “Mémoires,” i., 306. Bourrienne, ii., 119: “When off the political field he was sensitive, kind, open to pity.”
Pelet de la Lozère, p. 7. De Champagny, “Souvenirs,” p. 103. At first, the emotion was much stronger. “He had the fatal news for nearly three hours; he had given vent to his despair alone by himself. He summoned me . . . . plaintive cries involuntarily escaped him.”
Madame de Rémusat, i., 121, 342; ii., 50; iii., 61, 294, 312.
De Ségur, v., 348.
Yung, ii., 329, 331. (Narrated by Lucien, and report to Louis XVIII.)
“Nouvelle relation de l’Itinéraire de Napoléon, de Fontainebleau à l’Ile de l’Elbe,” by Count Waldberg-Truchsees, Prussian commissioner (1885), pp. 22, 24, 25, 26, 30, 32, 34, 37.—The violent scenes, probably, of the abdication and the attempt at Fontainebleau to poison himself had already disturbed his balance. On reaching Elba, he says to the Austrian commissioner, Koller, “As to you, my dear general, I have let you see my bare rump.”—Cf. in “Madame de Rémusat,” i., 108, one of his confessions to Talleyrand: he crudely points out in himself the distance between natural instinct and studied courage.—Here and elsewhere, we obtain a glimpse of the actor and even of the Italian buffoon; M. de Pradt called him “Jupiter Scapin.” Read his reflections before M. de Pradt, on his return from Russia, in which he appears in the light of a comedian who, having played badly and failed in his part, retires behind the scenes, runs down the piece, and criticises the imperfections of the audience. (De Pradt, p. 219.)
The reader may find his comprehension of the author’s meaning strengthened by the following translation of a passage from his essay on Jouffroy (Philosophes classiques du XIXth Siècle,” 3d ed.):
Bourrienne, i., 21.
Yung, i., 125.
Madame de Rémusat, i., 267.—Yung, ii., 109. On his return to Corsica he takes upon himself the government of the whole family. “Nobody could discuss with him, says his brother Lucien; he took offence at the slightest observation and got in a passion at the slightest resistance. Joseph (the eldest) dared not even reply to his brother.”
Mémorial, August 27-31, 1815.
“Madame de Rémusat,” i., 105.—Never was there an abler and more persevering sophist, more persuasive, more eloquent, in order to make it appear that he was right. Hence his dictations at St. Helena; his proclamations, messages, and diplomatic correspondence; his ascendency in talking as great as through his arms, over his subject and over his adversaries; also his posthumous ascendency over posterity. He is as great a lawyer as he is a captain and administrator. The peculiarity of this disposition is never submitting to truth, but always to speak or write with reference to an audience, to plead a cause. Through this talent one creates phantoms which dupe the audience; on the other hand, as the author himself forms part of the audience, he ends in not alone leading others into error but likewise himself, which is the case with Napoleon.
Yung, ii., 111. (Report by Volney, Corsican commissioner, 1791.)—ii., 287. (Mémorial, giving a true account of the political and military state of Corsica in December, 1790.)—ii., 270. (Despatch of the representative Lacombe Saint-Michel, Sept. 10, 1793.)—Miot de Melito i. 131, and following pages. (He is peace commissioner in Corsica in 1797 and 1801.)
Miot de Melito, ii., 2. “The partisans of the First Consul’s family . . . . regarded me simply as the instrument of their passions, of use only to rid them of their enemies, so as to centre all favors on their protégés.”
Yung., i., 220. (Manifest of October 31, 1789.)—i., 265. (Loan on the seminary funds obtained by force, June 23, 1790.)—i., 267, 269. (Arrest of M. de la Jaille and other officers; plan for taking the citadel of Ajaccio.)—ii., 115. (letter to Paoli, February 17, 1792.) “Laws are like the statues of certain divinities—veiled on certain occasions.”—ii., 125. (Election of Bonaparte as lieutenant-colonel of a battalion of volunteers, April 1, 1792.) The evening before he had Murati, one of the three departmental commissioners, carried off by an armed band from the house of the Peraldi, his adversaries, where he lodged. Murati, seized unawares, is brought back by force and locked up in Bonaparte’s house, who gravely says to him: “I wanted you to be free, entirely at liberty; you were not so with the Peraldi.”—His Corsican biographer (Nasica, “Mémoires cur la jeunesse et l’enfance de Napoléon,”) considers this a very praiseworthy action.
Cf. on this point, the Memoirs of Marshal Marmont, i., 180, 196; the Memoirs of Stendhal, on Napoleon; the Report of d’Antraigues (Yung, iii., 170, 171); the “Mercure Britannique” of Mallet-Dupan, and the first chapter of “La Chartreuse de Parme,” by Stendhal.
“Correspondance de Napoléon,” i. (Letter of Napoleon to the Directory, April 26, 1796.)—Proclamation of the same date: “You have made forced marches barefoot, bivouacked without brandy, and often without bread.”
Stendhal, “Vie de Napoléon,” p. 151. “The commonest officers were crazy with delight at having white linen and fine new boots. All were fond of music; many walked a league in the rain to secure a seat in the La Scala Theatre. . . . In the sad plight in which the army found itself before Castiglione and Arcole, everybody, except the knowing officers, was disposed to attempt the impossible so as not to quit Italy.”—“Marmont,” i., 296: “We were all of us very young, . . . all aglow with strength and health, and enthusiastic for glory. . . . This variety of our occupations and pleasures, this excessive employment of body and mind gave value to existence, and made time pass with extraordinary rapidity.”
“Correspondance de Napoléon,” i. Proclamation of March 27, 1796: “Soldiers, you are naked and poorly fed. The government is vastly indebted to you; it has nothing to give you. . . . I am going to lead you to the most fertile plains in the world; rich provinces, large cities will be in your power; you will then obtain honor, glory, and wealth.”—Proclamation of April 26, 1796: “Friends, I guarantee that conquest to you!”—Cf. in Marmont’s memoirs the way in which Bonaparte plays the part of tempter in offering Marmont, who refuses, an opportunity to rob a treasury chest.
Miot de Melito, i., 154. (June, 1797, in the gardens of Montebello.) “Such are substantially the most remarkable expressions in this long discourse which I have recorded and preserved.”
Miot de Melito, i. 184. (Conversation with Bonaparte, November 18, 1797, at Turin.) “I remained an hour with the general tête-à-tête. I shall relate the conversation exactly as it occurred, according to my notes, made at the time.”
Mathieu Dumas, “Mémoires,” iii., 156. “It is certain that he thought of it from this moment and seriously studied the obstacles, means, and chances of success.” (Mathieu Dumas cites the testimony of Desaix, who was engaged in the enterprise): “It seems that all was ready, when Bonaparte judged that things were not yet ripe, nor the means sufficient.”—Hence his departure. “He wanted to get out of the way of the rule and caprices of these contemptible dictators, while the latter wanted to get rid of him because his military fame and influence in the army were obnoxious to them.”
Larevellière-Lepaux (one of the five directors on duty), “Mémoires,” ii., 340. “All that is truly grand in this enterprise, as well as all that is bold and extravagant, either in its conception or execution, belongs wholly to Bonaparte. The idea of it never occurred to the Directory nor to any of its members. . . . His ambition and his pride could not endure the alternative of no longer being prominent or of accepting a post which, however eminent, would have always subjected him to the orders of the Directory.”
Madame de Rémusat, i., 142. “Josephine laid great stress on the Egyptian expedition as the cause of his change of temper and of the daily despotism which made her suffer so much.”[See also Appendix note.]
Roederer, iii., 461 (Jan. 12, 1803).
Cf. “The Revolution,” ii., 381. (Note i., on the situation, in 1806, of the Conventionalists who had survived the revolution.) For instance, Fouché is minister; Jeane Bon St. André, prefect; Drouet (de Varennes), sub-prefect; Chepy (of Grenoble), commissary-general of the police at Brest; 131 regicides are functionaries, among whom we find twenty-one prefects and forty-two magistrates. Occasionally, a chance document that has been preserved allows one to catch “folly as it flies.” (“Bulletins hebdomadaires de la censure, 1810 and 1814,” published by M. Thurot, in the Revue Critique, 1871): “Seizure of 240 copies of an indecent work printed for account of M, Palloy, the author. This Palloy enjoyed some celebrity during the Revolution, being one of the famous patriots of the Faubourg Saint Antoine. The Constituent Assembly had conceded to him the ownership of the site of the Bastile, of which he distributed its stones among all the Communes. He is a bon vivant, who took it into his head to write out in a very bad style the filthy story of his amours with a prostitute of the Palais-Royal. He was quite willing that the book should be seized on condition that he might retain a few copies of his jovial production. He professes high admiration for, and strong attachment to His Majesty’s person, and expresses his sentiments piquantly, in the style of 1709.”
“Mémorial,” June 12, 1816.
Mathieu Dumas, iii., 363 (July 4, 1809, a few days before Wagram).—Madame de Rémusat,” i., 105: “I have never heard him express any admiration or comprehension of a noble action.”—i., 179: On Augustus’s clemency and his saying, “Let us be friends, Cinna,” the following is his interpretation of it: “I understand this action simply as the feint of a tyrant, and approve as calculation what I find puerile as sentiment.”[See also Appendix note.]
M. de Metternich, “Mémoires,” i., 241. “Madame de Rémusat,” i., 93: “That man has been such a traducer (assommateur) of all virtue.” Madame de Staël, “Considérations sur la Revolution Française,” 4th part, ch. 18. (Napoleon’s conduct with M. de Melzi, to destroy him in public opinion in Milan, in 1805.)
Madame de Rémusat, i., 106; ii., 247, 336: “His means for governing man were all derived from those which tend to debase him. . . . He tolerated virtue only when he could cover it with ridicule.”
Nearly all his false calculations are due to this defect, combined with an excess of constructive imagination.—Cf. De Pradt, p. 94: “The Emperor is all system, all illusion, as one cannot fail to be when one is all imagination. Whoever has watched his course has noticed his creating for himself an imaginary Spain, an imaginary Catholicism, an imaginary England, an imaginary financial state, an imaginary noblesse, and still more an imaginary France, and, in late times, an imaginary congress.”
Roederer, iii., 495. (March 8, 1804.)
Ibid., iii., 537. (February 11, 1809.)
Roederer, iii., 514. (November 4, 1804.)
Marmont, ii., 242.
“Correspondance de Napoléon,” i. (Letter to Prince Eugène, April 14, 1806.)
M. de Metternich, i., 284.
Mollien, iii., 427.
“Mémoires inédits de M. X——,” ii., 49. (Admirable portraiture of his principal agents, Cambacérès, Talleyrand, Maret, Cretet, Réal, etc.) Lacuée, director of the conscription, is a perfect type of the imperial functionary. Having received the broad ribbon of the Légion d’Honneur, he exclaimed, at the height of his enthusiasm: “What will not France become under such a man? To what degree of happiness and glory will it not ascend, always provided the conscription furnishes him with 200,000 men a year! And, indeed, that will not be difficult, considering the extent of the empire.”—And likewise with Merlin de Douai: “I never knew a man less endowed with the sentiment of the just and the unjust; everything seems to him right and good, as the consequences of a legal text. He was even endowed with a kind of satanic smile which involuntarily rose to his lips . . . . every time the opportunity occurred, when, in applying his odious science, he reached the conclusion that severity is necessary or some condemnation.”—The same with Defermon, in fiscal matters.
Madame de Rémusat, ii., 278; ii., 175.
Ibid., iii., 275, ii., 45. (Apropos of Savary, his most intimate agent.) “He is a man who must be constantly corrupted.”
Ibid., i., 109; ii., 247; iii., 366.
“Madame de Rémusat,” ii., 142, 167, 245. (Napoleon’s own words.) “If I ordered Savary to rid himself of his wife and children, I am sure he would not hesitate.”—Marmont, ii., 194: “We were at Vienna in 1809. Davoust said, speaking of his own and Maret’s devotion: “If the Emperor should say to us both, ‘My political interests require the destruction of Paris without any one escaping,’ Maret would keep the secret, I am sure; but nevertheless he could not help letting it be known by getting his own family out. I, rather than reveal it, would leave my wife and children there.” (These are bravado expressions, wordy exaggerations, but significant.)
Madame de Rémusat, ii., 379.
“Souvenirs du feu duc de Broglie,” i., 230. (Words of Maret, at Dresden, in 1813; he probably repeats one of Napoleon’s figures.)
Mollien, ii., 9.
D’Haussonville, “L’Église Romaine et le premier Empire,” iv., 190, and passim.
Ibid., iii., 460-473. Cf. on the same scene, “Mémoires inédits de M. X——.” (He was both witness and actor.)
An expression of Cambacérès. M. de Lavalette, ii., 154.
Madame de Rémusat, iii., 184.
“Mémoires inédits de M. X——, iii., 320. Details of the manufacture of counterfeit money, by order of Savary, in an isolated building on the plain of Montrouge.—Metternich, ii., 358. (Words of Napoleon to M. de Metternich): “I had 300 millions of banknotes of the Bank of Vienna all ready and was going to flood you with them.” Ibid., Correspondence of M. de Metternich with M. de Champagny on this subject (June, 1810).
“Mémoires inédits de M. X——, iv., 11.
Madame de Rémusat, ii., 335.
Madame de Rémusat, i., 231.
Ibid., i., 335.
M. de Metternich, i., 284. “One of those to whom he seemed the most attached was Duroc. ‘He loves me the same as a dog loves his master,’ is the phrase he made use of in speaking of him to me. He compared Berthier’s sentiment for his person to that of a child’s nurse. Far from being opposed to his theory of the motives influencing men these sentiments were its natural consequence; whenever he came across sentiments to which he could not apply the theory of calculation based on cold interest, he sought the cause of it in a kind of instinct.”
Beugnot, “Mémoires,” ii., 59.
“Mémorial.” “If I had returned victorious from Moscow, I would have brought the Pope not to regret temporal power; I would have converted him into an idol. . . . I would have directed the religious world as well as the political world. . . . My councils would have represented Christianity, and the Pope would have only been president of them.”
De Ségur, iii., 312. (In Spain, 1809.)
“Mémoires du Prince Eugène.” (Letters of Napoleon, August, 1806.)
Letter of Napoleon to Fouché, March 3, 1810. (Left out in the “Correspondance de Napoléon I.,” and published by M. Thiers in “Histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire,” xii., p. 115.)
De Ségur, iii., 459.
Words of Napoleon to Marmont, who, after three months in the hospital, returns to him in Spain with a broken arm and his hand in a black sling: “You hold on to that rag then?” Sainte-Beuve, who loves the truth as it really is, gives the crude text, which Marmont dared not reproduce. (Causeries du Lundi, vi., 16.) “Mémoires inédits de M. X——”: M. de Champagny having been dismissed and replaced, a courageous friend defended him and insisted on his merit: “You are right,” said the Emperor, “he had some when I took him; but by cramming him too full, I have made him stupid.”
Beugnot, i., 456, 464.
Mme. de Rémusat, ii., 272.
M. de Champagny, “Souvenirs,” 117.
Madame de Rémusat, i., 125.
De Ségur, iii., 456.
“The Ancient Régime,” p. 125.—“Œuvres de Louis XIV.,” 191: “If there is any peculiar characteristic of this monarchy, it is the free and easy access of the subjects to the king; it it an egalité de justice between both, and which, so to say, maintains both in a genial and honest companionship, in spite of the almost infinite distance in birth, rank, and power. This agreeable society, which enables persons of the Court to associate familiarly with us, impresses them and charms them more than one can tell.”
Madame de Rémusat, ii., 32, 39.
Madame de Rémusat, iii., 169.
Ibid., ii., 32, 223, 240, 259; iii., 169.
Ibid., i., 112; ii., 77.
M. de Metternich, i., 286.—“It would be difficult to imagine any greater awkwardness than that of Napoleon in a drawing-room.—Varnhagen von Ense, “Ausgewählte Schriften,” iii., 177. (Audience of July 10, 1810): “I never heard a harsher voice, one so inflexible. When he smiled, it was only with the mouth and a portion of the cheeks; the brow and eyes remained immovably sombre. . . . This compound of a smile with seriousness had in it something terrible and frightful.”—On one occasion, at St. Cloud, Varnhagen heard him exclaim over and over again, twenty times, before a group of ladies, “How hot!”
Mme. de Rémusat, ii., 77, 169.—Thibaudeau, “Mémoires sur le Consulat,” p. 18: “He sometimes pays them left-handed compliments on their toilet or adventures, which was his way of censuring morals.”[See also Appendix note.]
Madame de Rémusat, i., 114, 122, 206; ii., 110, 112.
Ibid., i., 277.
“Hansard’s Parliamentary History,” vol. xxxvi., p. 310. Lord Whitworth’s despatch to Lord Hawkesbury, March 14, 1803, and account of the scene with Napoleon. “All this took place loud enough for the two hundred persons present to hear it.”—Lord Whitworth (despatch of March 17) complains of this to Talleyrand and informs him that he shall discontinue his visits to the Tuileries unless he is assured that similar scenes shall not occur again.—Lord Hawkesbury approves of this (despatch of March 27), and declares that the proceeding is improper and offensive to the King of England.—Similar scenes, the same conceit and intemperate language, with M. de Metternich, at Paris, in 1809, also at Dresden, in 1813: again with Prince Korsakof, at Paris, in 1812; with Mde. Balachof, at Wilna, in 1812, and with Prince Cardito, at Milan, in 1805.
Before the rupture of the peace of Amiens (“Moniteur,” Aug. 8, 1802): The French government is now more firmly established than the English government.”—(“Moniteur” Sept. 10, 1802): “What a difference between a people which conquers for love of glory and a people of traders who happen to become conquerors!”—(“Moniteur,” Feb. 20, 1803): “The government declares with a just pride that England cannot now contend against France.”—Campaign of 1805, 9th bulletin, words of Napoleon in the presence of Mack’s staff: “I recommend my brother the Emperor of Germany to make peace as quick as he can! Now is the time to remember that all empires come to an end; the idea that an end might come to the house of Lorraine ought to alarm him.”—Letter to the Queen of Naples, January 2, 1805: “Let your Majesty listen to what I predict. On the first war breaking out, of which she might be the cause, she and her children will have ceased to reign; her children would go wandering about among the different countries of Europe begging help from their relations.”
37th bulletin, announcing the march of an army on Naples “to punish the Queen’s treachery and cast from the throne that criminal woman, who, with such shamelessness, has violated all that men hold sacred.”—Proclamation of May 13, 1809: “Vienna, which the princes of the house of Lorraine have abandoned, not as honorable soldiers yielding to circumstances and the chances of war, but as perjurers pursued by remorse. . . . In flying from Vienna their adieus to its inhabitants consisted of murder and fire. Like Medea, they have sacrificed their children with their own hands.”—13th bulletin: “The rage of the house of Lorraine against the city of Vienna.”
Letter to the King of Spain, Sept. 18, 1803, and a note to the Spanish minister of foreign affairs, on the Prince de la Paix: “This favorite, who has succeeded by the most criminal ways to a degree unheard of in the annals of history. . . . Let Your Majesty put away a man who, maintaining in his rank the low passions of his character, has lived wholly on his vices.”—After the battle of Jéna, 9th, 17th, 18th, and 19th bulletins, comparison of the Queen of Prussia with Lady Hamilton, open and repeated insinuations, imputing to her an intrigue with the Emperor Alexander. “Everybody admits that the Queen of Prussia is the author of the evils the Prussian nation suffers. This is heard everywhere. How changed she is since that fatal interview with the Emperor Alexander! . . . . The portrait of the Emperor Alexander, presented to her by the Prince, was found in the apartment of the Queen at Potsdam.”
“La Guerre patriotique” (1812-1815), according to the letters of contemporaries, by Doubravine (in Russian). The Report of the Russian envoy, M. de Balachof, is in French.
An allusion to the murder of Paul I.
Stanislas de Girardin, “Mémoires,” iii., 249. (Reception of Nivose 12, year x.) The First Consul addresses the Senate: “Citizens, I warn you that I regard the nomination of Daunou to the senate as a personal insult, and you know that I have never put up with one.”—“Correspondance de Napoléon I.” (Letter of Sept. 23, 1809, to M. de Champagny): “The Emperor Francis insulted me in writing to me that I cede nothing to him, when, out of consideration for him, I have reduced my demands nearly one-half.” (Instead of 2,750,000 Austrian subjects he demanded only 1,600,000.)—Roederer, iii., 377. (Jan. 24, 1801): “The French people must put up with my defects if they find I am of service to them; it is my fault that I cannot endure insults.”
M. de Metternich, ii., 378. (Letter to the Emperor of Austria, July 28, 1810.)
Note presented by the French ambassador, Otto, Aug. 17, 1802.
Stanislas Girardin, iii., 296. (Words of the First Consul, Floréal 24, year xi.): “I had proposed to the British minister, for several months, to make an arrangement by which a law should be passed in France and in England prohibiting newspapers and the members of the government from expressing either good or ill of foreign governments. He never would consent to it.”—St. Girardin: “He could not.”—Bonaparte: “Why?”—St. Girardin: “Because an agreement of that sort would have been opposed to the fundamental law of the country.” Bonaparte: “I have a poor opinion,” etc.
Hansard, vol. xxxvi., p. 1298. (Despatch of Lord Whitworth, Feb. 21, 1803, conversation with the First Consul at the Tuileries.)—Seeley, “A Short History of Napoleon the First.” “Trifles” is a softened expression, Lord Whitworth adds in a parenthesis which has never been printed; “the expression he made use of is too insignificant and too low to have a place in a despatch or anywhere else, save in the mouth of a hack-driver.”
Lanfrey, “Histoire de Napoléon,” ii., 482. (Words of the First Consul to the Swiss delegates, conference of January 29, 1803.)
Sir Neil Campbell, “Napoleon at Fontainebleau and Elba,” p. 201. (The words of Napoleon to Sir Neil Campbell and to the other commissioners.)—The Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène mentions the same plan in almost identical terms.—Pelet de la Lozère, “Opinions de Napoléon au conseil d’etat,” p. 238 (session of March 4, 1806): “Within forty-eight hours after peace with England, I shall interdict foreign commodities and promulgate a navigation act forbidding any other than French vessels entering our ports, built of French timber, and with the crews two-thirds French. Even coal and English ‘milords’ shall land only under the French flag.”—Ibid., 32.
Moniteur, January 30, 1803 (Sebastiani).
Hansard, vol. xxxvi., p. 1298. (Lord Whitworth’s despatch, Feb. 21, 1803, the First Consul’s words to Lord Whitworth.)
“Mémorial.” (Napoleon’s own words, March 24, 1806.)
Lanfrey, ii., 476. (Note to Otto, October 23, 1802.)—Thiers, iv., 249.
Letter to Clarke, Minister of War, Jan. 18, 1814. “If, at Leipsic, I had had 30,000 cannon balls to fire off on the evening of the 18th, I should to-day be master of the world.”
“Memorial,” Nov. 30, 1815.
Lanfrey, iii., 339, 399. Letters of Talleyrand, October 11 and 27, 1805, and memorial addressed to Napoleon.
At the council held in relation to the future marriage of Napoleon, Cambacérès vainly supported an alliance with the Russians. The following week, he says to M. X——: “When one has only one good reason to give and it cannot possibly be given, it is natural that one should be beaten. . . . You will see that it is so good that one phrase suffices to make its force fully understood. I am morally certain that in two years we shall have a war with the power of which the Emperor does not espouse the daughter. Now a war with Austria does not cause me any uneasiness, and I tremble at a war with Russia. The consequences are incalculable.” (“Mémoires,” manuscript, of M. X——, ii., 463.)
M. de Metternich, ii., 305. (Letter to the Emperor of Austria, Aug. 10, 1809.)—Ibid., 403. (Letter of Jan. 11, 1811.) “My appreciation of Napoleon’s plans and projects, at bottom, has never varied. The monstrous purpose of the complete subjection of the continent under one head was, and is still, his object.”
“Correspondance de Napoléon I.” (Letter to the King of Wurtemberg, April 2, 1814): “The war will take place in spite of him (the Emperor Alexander), in spite of me, in spite of the interests of France and those of Russia. Having already seen this so often, it is my past experience which enables me to unveil the future.”
Mollien, iii., 135, 190.—In 1810 “prices have increased 400 per cent. on sugar, and 100 per cent. on cotton and dye stuffs.”—“More than 20,000 custom-house officers were employed on the frontier against more than 100,000 smugglers, in constant activity and favored by the population.”—“Mémoires,” unpublished, of M. X——, iii., 284.—There were licenses for importing colonial products, but on condition of exporting a proportionate quantity of French manufactures; now, England refused to receive them. Consequently, “not being allowed to bring these articles back to France, they were thrown overboard.”—“They began at first by devoting the refuse of manufactures to this trade, and then ended by manufacturing articles without other destination; for example, at Lyons, taffetas and satins.”
Proclamation of Dec. 27, 1805: “The Naples dynasty has ceased to reign. Its existence is incompatible with the repose of Europe and the honor of my crown.”—Message to the Senate, Dec. 10, 1810: “Fresh guarantees having become necessary, the annexation to the Empire of the mouths of the Escaut, the Meuse, the Rhine, the Ems, the Weser, and the Elbe, seemed to me to be the first and most important. . . . The annexation of the Valais is an anticipated result of the vast works I have undertaken for the past ten years in that section of the Alps.”
We are familiar with the Spanish affair. His treatment of Portugal is anterior and of the same order.—“Correspondance.” (Letter to Junot, Oct. 31, 1807): “I have already informed you, that in authorizing you to enter as an auxiliary, it was to enable you to possess yourself of the (Portuguese) fleet, but my mind was made up to take Portugal.”—(Letter to Junot, Dec. 23, 1807): “Disarm the country. Send all the Portuguese troops to France. . . . I want them out of the country. Have all princes, ministers, and other men who serve as rallying points, sent to France.”—(Decree of Dec. 23, 1807): “An extra contribution of 100 million francs shall be imposed on the kingdom of Portugal, to redeem all property, of whatever denomination, belonging to private parties. . . . All property belonging to the Queen of Portugal, to the prince-regent, and to princes in appanage; . . . all the possessions of the nobles who have followed the king, on his abandoning the country, and who had not returned to the kingdom before February 1, shall be put under sequestration.”—Cf. M. d’Haussonville, “L’Église Romaine et le premier Empire,” 5 vols. (especially the last volume). No other work enables one to see into Napoleon’s object and proceedings better nor more closely.
“Souvenirs du feu duc de Broglie,” p. 143. (As a specimen of steps taken in time of war, see the register of Marshal Bessières’s orders, commandant at Valladolid from April 11 to July 15, 1811.)—“Correspondance du Roi Jérome,” letter of Jerome to Napoleon, Dec. 5, 1811. (Showing the situation of a vanquished people in times of peace): “If war should break out, all countries between the Rhine and the Oder will become the centre of a vast and active insurrection. The mighty cause of this dangerous movement is not merely hatred of the French, and impatience of a foreign yoke, but rather in the misfortunes of the day, in the total ruin of all classes, in over-taxation, consisting of war levies, the maintenance of troops, soldiers traversing the country, and every sort of constantly renewed vexation. . . . At Hanover, Magdebourg, and in the principal towns of my kingdom, owners of property are abandoning their dwellings and vainly trying to dispose of them at the lowest prices. . . . Misery everywhere presses on families; capital is exhausted; the noble, the peasant, the bourgeois, are crushed with debt and want. . . . The despair of populations no longer having anything to lose, because all has been taken away, is to be feared.”—De Pradt, p. 73. (Specimen of military proceedings in allied countries.) At Wolburch, in the Bishop of Cujavie’s chateau, “I found his secretary, canon of Cujavie, decorated with the ribbon and cross of his order, who showed me his jaw, broken by the vigorous blows administered to him the previous evening by General Count Vandamme, because he had refused to serve Tokay wine, imperiously demanded by the general; he was told that the King of Westphalia had lodged in the castle the day before, and had carted away all this wine.”
Fievée, “Correspondance et relations avec Bonaparte, de 1802 à 1813,” iii., 82. (Dec. 1811), (On the populations annexed or conquered): “There is no hesitation in depriving them of their patrimony, their language, their legislatures, in disturbing all their habits, and that without any warrant but throwing a bulletin des lois at their heads (inapplicable). . . . How could they be expected to recognize this, or even become resigned to it? . . . Is it possible not to feel that one no longer has a country, that one is under constraint, wounded in feeling and humiliated? . . . Prussia, and a large part of Germany, has been so impoverished that there is more to gain by taking a pitchfork to kill a man than to stir up a pile of manure.”
“Correspondance,” letter to King Joseph, Feb. 18, 1814. “If I had signed the treaty reducing France to its ancient limits, I should have gone to war two years after.—Marmont, v., 133 (1813): “Napoleon, in the last years of his reign, always preferred to lose all than yield anything.”
M. de Metternich, ii., 205.
Words of Richelieu on his death-bed: “Behold my judge,” said he, pointing to the Host, “the judge who will soon pronounce his verdict. I pray that he will condemn me, if, during my ministry, I have proposed to myself aught else than the good of religion and of the State.”
Miot de Melito, “Mémoires,” ii., 48, 152.
“Souvenirs,” by Gaudin, duc de Gaëte (3d vol. of the “Mémoires,” p. 67).
M. de Metternich, ii., 120. (Letter to Stadion, July 26, 1807.)
Ibid., ii., 291. (Letter of April 11, 1809.)
Ibid., ii., 400. (Letter of Jan. 17, 1811.) In lucid moments, Napoleon takes the same view. Cf. Pelet de la Lozère, “Opinions de Napoléon au conseil d’état,” p. 15: “That will last as long as I do. After me, however, my son will deem himself fortunate if he has 40,000 francs a year.”—(De Ségur, “Histoire et Mémoires,” iii., 155): “How often at this time (1811) was he heard to foretell that the weight of his empire would crush his heir!” “Poor child,” said he, regarding the King of Rome, “what an entanglement I shall leave to you!” From the beginning he frequently passed judgment on himself and foresaw the effect of his action in history. “On reaching the isle of Poplars, the First Consul stopped at Rousseau’s grave, and said: ‘It would have been better for the repose of France, if that man had never existed.’ ‘And why, citizen Consul?’ ‘He is the man who made the French revolution.’ ‘It seems to me that you need not complain of the French revolution!’ ‘Well, the future must decide whether it would not have been better for the repose of the whole world if neither myself nor Rousseau had ever lived.’ He then resumed his promenade in a revery.”[See also Appendix note.]
Marmont, “Mémoires,” iii., 337. (On returning from Wagram.)
On this initial discord, cf. Armand Lefèvre, “Histoire des Cabinets de l’Europe,” vol. iv.
“Correspondance de Napoléon I.” (Letter to the King of Wurtemberg, April 2, 1811.)
Testament of April 25, 1821: “It is my desire that my remains rest on the banks of the Seine, amidst that French people I have so dearly loved.”
“Correspondance de Napoléon I.,” xxii., 119. (Note by Napoleon, April, 1811.) “There will always be at Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck from 8000 to 10,000 Frenchmen, either as employees or as gendarmes, in the custom-houses and warehouses.”
“Mémoires,” unpublished, by M. X——, iii., 571, and following pages: “During the year 1813, from Jan. 11 to Oct. 7, 840,000 men had already been drafted from imperial France and they had to be furnished.”—Other decrees in December, placing at the disposition of the government 300,000 conscripts for the years 1806 to 1814 inclusive.—Another decree in November organizing 140,000 men of the national guard in cohorts, intended for the defence of strongholds.—In all, 1,300,000 men summoned in one year. “Never has any nation been thus asked to let itself be voluntarily led in a mass to the slaughterhouse.—Ibid., iii., 489. Senatus-consulte, and order of council for raising 10,000 young men, exempt or redeemed from conscription, as the prefects might choose, arbitrarily, from amongst the highest classes in society. The purpose was plainly “to secure hostages in every family of doubtful loyalty. No measure created for Napoleon more irreconcilable enemies.”—Cf. De Ségur, ii., 34. (He was charged with organizing and commanding a division of young men.) Many were sons of Vendéans or of Conventionalists, some torn from their wives the day after their marriage, or from the bedside of a wife in her confinement, of a dying father, or of a sick son; “some looked so feeble that they seemed dying.” One half perished in the campaign of 1814.—“Correspondance,” letter to Clarke, Minister of War, Oct. 23, 1813 (in relation to the new levies): “I rely on 100,000 refractory conscripts.”
“Archives nationales,” A F., iv., 1297. (Documents 206 to 210.) (Report to the Emperor by Count Dumas, April 10, 1810.) Besides the 170 millions of penalties 1,675,457 francs of penalty were inflicted on 2335 individuals, “abettors or accomplices.”—Ibid., A F., iv., 1051. (Report of Gen. Lacoste on the department of Haute-Loire, Oct. 13, 1808.) “He always calculated in this department on the desertion of one-half of the conscripts. . . . . In most of the cantons the gendarmes traffic with the conscription shamefully; certain conscripts pension them to show them favors.”—Ibid., A F., iv., 1052. (Report by Pelet, Jan. 12, 1812.) “The operation of the conscription has improved (in the Hérault); the contingents of 1811 have been furnished. There remained 1800 refractory, or deserters of the previous classes; 1600 have been arrested or made to surrender by the flying column; 200 have still to be pursued.” Faber, “Notice (1807) sur l’intérieur de la France,” p. 141: “Desertion, especially on the frontiers, is occasionally frightful; 80 deserters out of 160 have sometimes been arrested.”—Ibid., p. 149: “It has been stated in the public journals that in 1801 the court in session at Lille had condemned 135 refractory out of the annual conscription, and that which holds its sittings at Ghent had condemned 70. Now, 200 conscripts form the maximum of what an arrondissement in a department could furnish.”—Ibid., p. 145. “France resembles a vast house of detention where everybody is suspicious of his neighbor, where each avoids the other. . . . One often sees a young man with a gendarme at his heels; oftentimes, on looking closely, this young man’s hands are found tied, or he is handcuffed.”—Mathien Dumas, iii., 507 (After the battle of Dresden, in the Dresden hospitals): “I observed, with sorrow, that many of these men were slightly wounded: most of them, young conscripts just arrived in the army, had not been wounded by the enemy’s fire, but they had mutilated each other’s feet and hands. Antecedents of this kind, of equally bad augury, had already been remarked in the campaign of 1809.”
De Ségur, iii., 474.—Thiers, xiv., 159. (One month after crossing the Niemen one hundred and fifty thousand men had dropped out of the ranks.)
Bulletin 29 (December 3, 1812).
De Pradt, “Histoire de l’Ambassade de Varsovie,” p. 219.
M. de Metternich, i., 147.—Fain, “Manuscript,” of 1813, ii., 26. (Napoleon’s address to his generals.) “What we want is a complete triumph. To abandon this or that province is not the question; our political superiority and our existence depend on it.”—ii., 41, 42. (Words of Napoleon to Metternich.) “And it is my father-in-law who favors such a project! And he sends you! In what attitude does he wish to place me before the French people? He is strangely deluded if he thinks that a mutilated throne can offer an asylum to his daughter and grandson. . . . Ah, Metternich, how much has England given you to make you play this part against me?” (This last phrase, omitted in Metternich’s narrative, is a characteristic trait; Napoleon, at this decisive moment, remains insulting and aggressive, gratuitously and even to his own destruction.)
“Souvenirs du feu duc de Broglie,” i., 235.
Ibid., i., 230. Some days before Napoleon had said to M. de Narbonne, who told me that very evening: “After all, what has this (the Russian campaign) cost me? 300,000 men, among whom, again, were a good many Germans.”—“Mémoires,” unpublished, by M. X——, v., 615. (Apropos of the Frankfurt basis, and accepted by Napoleon when too late.) “What characterizes this mistake is that it was committed much more against the interests of France than against his own. . . . He sacrificed her to the perplexities of his personal situation, to the mauvaise honte of his own ambition, to the difficulty he finds in standing alone to a certain extent before a nation which had done everything for him and which could justly reproach him with having sacrificed so much treasure and spilled so much blood on enterprises proved to have been foolish and impracticable.”
Léonce de Lavergne, “Economie rurale de la France,” p. 40. (According to the former director of the conscription under the Empire.)