Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I. - The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. I
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CHAPTER I. - 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.
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.]