MR. BENJAMIN DISRAELI won many friends, and softened the animosity of some enemies, by a sentence in the Preface to his edition of his father’s writings : “ My father was wont to say, that the best monument to an author was a good edition of his works ; it is my purpose that he should possess this memorial.” The pious intention was worthily executed, and the edition will remain, as long as men care for curious odds and ends of knowledge, a monument both to father and son.
The Bonapartes owed such a tribute to the memory of the head of their family ; for, however the account may finally stand between Napoleon Bonaparte and mankind, no one can deny that to him his relations owe the whole of their importance in the world. He was ever mindful of what is due to kindred ; he was fatally generous to his family ; and it was not for them to regard his fame merely as part of their inheritance, to be expended or husbanded according to their convenience or caprice. Moreover, a good and complete edition of the writings of Napoleon Bonaparte — who was at least the consummate specimen of his kind of man, and as such worthy of attentive study —would have been a boon so precious and interesting, that it would have atoned for much which his present representatives have done amiss. The work would have been dearly purchased, but it would have remained a solid addition to our means of knowing one another.
In the issue of costly works there is usually, in these times, a publisher and an editor; and few literary workmen have been so blessed in their career as not to know what it is to have, in the back office, veiled from the general view, a timid or an embarrassed publisher, who shrinks from liberal expenditure and trembles when one subscriber writes a fault-finding letter. The editor of this collection is Prince Jerome, who was aided by a corps of assistants. These gentlemen appear to have done their work with fidelity, giving the text with exactness, and avoiding all elucidation except such as they alone possessed the means of affording. The copy before us, which was sent for in the ordinary way, contains a large number of minute corrections with the pen, and there are many other indications, too trifling for mention, tending to show that the editors have done their duty as well as they were permitted to do it.
But they had a publisher, that “ halfscared literary man,” who is called Napoleon III. He appears to have bothered the zealous but irresponsible editors extremely. They had no throne to lose, no necks in danger of the guillotine. The issue of the letters, which was begun in 1858, came to an abrupt conclusion in 1869, with the publication of volume twenty-eighth, which is only half as thick as the others. The twenty-seventh volume fell short a hundred and twenty pages, but the twenty-eighth is so thin as to destroy the uniformity of the set, and gives a rather ridiculous dwindling appearance to it, not without significance to the minds of the Irreconcilables. The last utterance of Napoleon given in this collection is the famous Protest, dated August 4, 1815, written on board the Bellerophon, against his detention as a captive by the British government. But we learn from a “ Report to the Emperor,” prefixed to volume twentieth, that as late as 1867 Prince Jerome expected and intended to include the letters and documents dictated at St. Helena. He had calculated that the productions of the Emperor in exile “ would form only three or four volumes,” which would be given to the world by the end of the year 1869. But they did not appear. After a pause of some months, a New Series is announced, to consist only of the letters written in exile, and these volumes are now issuing. We shall not wait for them, however; for, besides the fact that we do not need more material for our purpose, there is no knowing what other change of plan may occur in the councils of a family now more than “half-scared.”
The publisher has unmercifully scrimped the editors in point of expenditure ; for not only is the paper cheap and fluffy, but the publication has been continually retarded by want of money. “ If,” explains Prince Jerome, “ our task has not proceeded more rapidly, it is because we believed it our duty to institute researches in the archives of Germany, England, Spain, Italy, Portugal. These researches, little as they have cost, have so lessened the fund at our disposal, that we have found it out of our power to bear the expense of printing a greater number of volumes without going beyond our allowance..... The time afforded us by the slenderness of our resources we have turned to account in examining documents beyond the period reached in the volumes given to the printer, thus diminishing our general expenditures.” One toilet the less in a week for Eugénie would have relieved the editor’s embarrassment.
In all these volumes, though they average more than six hundred pages each, and contain twenty-two thousand and sixty-seven letters and documents, there is revealed no fact so remarkable as the one intimated in the passage just quoted, namely, that the letters of Napoleon Bonaparte, published by his family half a century after his death, in twenty-eight volumes, sold at seven francs a volume, did not pay expenses ! Little as our grandfathers, who saw him at the summit of his power, the terror of the world and the delirium of France, may have believed in the duration of his throne, few among them would have hazarded the prediction that the mere curiosity of the world with regard to him would have so nearly died out in fifty years. These volumes, whatever their defects and omissions may be, do really admit the reader behind the scenes of the most startling, rapid, and tremendous melodrama ever played with real fire and real cannon, real kings and real emperors’ daughters ; and yet they do not sell, and we find the custodians of some of our most important libraries hesitating whether it is worth while to add them to their store. This is the more strange from the evident intention of the persons interested to publish the work on strict business principles. It is cheaply edited ; it is sold at a fair booksellers’ price ; and the public are twice notified in each volume that the rights of translation and of republication are reserved, or that every one infringing will be prosecuted. Carlyle has lived to see his prediction of forty years ago fulfilled in good part: “ The time may come when Napoleon himself will be better known for his laws than for his battles, and the victory of Waterloo prove less momentous than the opening of the first Mechanics’ Institute.” This was a bold remark to utter in 1829, under the very nose of Wellington. How commonplace it seems in 1870! The prophecy would have been already fulfilled to the letter, if it had read thus : “The time may come when Napoleon himself will be more esteemed for his laws than for his battles, and the victory of Waterloo prove less momentous than the founding of the first Workingmen’s Protective Union.”
There is, very naturally, a distrust of this publication in France. Frenchmen know very well who the publisher in the back office is ; what he is ; what his motive was in issuing the work ; and whether he would be likely to give the world a sight of a document calculated to weaken the spell of Napoleon’s name in France. People of our race, we think, need not share this distrust: for the family concerned in publishing the correspondence of Napoleon, much as they might wish and intend to make his fame subservient to their interests, would not know how to present him in the most favorable light to the outside world. They would be as likely to suppress passages honorable to him as passages dishonorable. They would be likely to glory in some letters that would offend an American, English, or German reader. When a whole family have been eating garlic, they may gather after dinner about the head of the house, and the children may climb into his lap, and hug him close around the neck, and none of them will be able to discover anything wrong in his breath. To us these volumes exhibit the man, Napoleon Bonaparte. We may believe Prince Jerome when he says : "Let your Majesty be pleased to remark to what a proof we submit the memory of Napoleon I. We place in the clearest light all the acts of his government; we reveal the secret of his inmost thoughts. . . . . We have faith in the public reason.” Doubtless the editor felt himself justified in commending the work to “the judgment of enlightened men ” as a “loyal publication.”
Certainly there is enough of detail and minutiæ to satisfy the most ravenous collector. Letter No. 8089, addressed to Berthier, is to this effect : “ My cousin, the words of my writing which you cannot make out are bataillon d'élite suisse.” No. 20093, to the Empress Marie-Louise, is: “Madame and dear Friend, I have received the letter in which you say that you received the Archchancellor in bed. It is my desire that, in no circumstances and under no pretext, you receive any one in bed, whosoever he may be. It is not permitted to a woman under thirty.” No 21591, written at Elba, to an officer of the household : “ I think it will be necessary for all the books asked for Leghorn to be rebound. Order that, if possible, an N shall be put upon each.” There are hundreds of notes as brief and trivial as these, as well as a vast number of the answers scrawled upon the notes of ministers submitting minor questions of administration to the master. Napoleon Bonaparte is within the covers of these volumes, and he can be extracted from them by those who will take the trouble.
Upon turning over the first volume,— which begins with the siege of Toulon and includes the conquest of Italy, — we are struck at once with the maturity of mind and character exhibited by the artillery officer of twenty-four. He seems to have been completely formed before he had held a command. He never equalled, as Emperor, the exploits of the young general. We see in his earliest letters every trait that distinguished him afterwards, and we see him also employing the methods and devices which marked his policy when he gave laws to a continent. These first letters give the impression that at twenty-four he could have fought Austerlitz as well as he did at thirty-five, and Waterloo better than at forty-six. The young man is betrayed, here and there, by a tendency to moralize, and a habit of uttering neat generalities, such as : “ It is artillery that takes places, — infantry can only help ” ; or, “ Three fourths of men occupy themselves with necessary things only when they feel the need of them or, “In artillery, the most difficult operation is the formation of a siege-train.” But, generally speaking, the mature Napoleon is exhibited, and the whole of his career is foreshadowed in the few letters relating to his capture of Toulon in 1793. We see in them, what we see in all his military achievements, first, that the sure way of doing the thing was revealed to him at a glance ; that that sure way was so simple that, when pointed out, every man not an absolute fool saw it as plainly as he did, and wondered why no one had thought of it before ; that then he executed his plan with the precision of mathematics ; and, finally, that he knew how to relate what he had done so as to intoxicate Frenchmen, and concentrate their admiration on himself. He had no sooner surveyed the situation at Toulon, than he perceived a point from which a few pieces of cannon could force the English fleet from the roads. But there were no cannon at command. Then he writes clear, masterly letters to the government, begging cannon. After two months of letterwriting and intense effort in camp, the cannon are placed in position, and all falls out exactly as the young officer had predicted.
From that time, by the mere natural ascendency of genius over ordinary mortals, Napoleon Bonaparte was the ruling mind of the French Republic. Sitting quietly at his desk in a government office in Paris, he evidently provided the Committee of Public Safety with whatever they had of continental policy and administrative skill. He suggested their plans ; he wrote their important letters; he gave away some of their good places. Already he had acquired the habit of surveying the whole scene of European politics, and of seeking vulnerable points in the enemies’ line at a great distance from the actual seat of war. Just as the Emperor fought England in Spain and Russia, so now the officer of artillery proposed to make a diversion in flavor of beleaguered France by going to Constantinople and rousing Turkey to arms against allied Russia and Austria. Before he had suppressed the riots in Paris in 1795, before he had held an independent command of any kind ; before his name was generally known in France, he could write to his brother Joseph : “ I am attached at this moment to the Topographical Bureau of the Committee of Public Safety. . . . . If I ask it, I shall be despatched to Turkey as General of Artillery, sent by the government to organize the artillery of the Grand Seigneur, with a handsome allowance and a very flattering title of envoy. I shall name you consul, and Villeneuve engineer, to go with me.” And in the same note, he tells his brother that he is charged by the committee with the direction of the armies and the formation of plans of campaign. Who governs a country in time of war, if not he who suggests its foreign policy and devises its plans of campaign ?
These letters, written before his fame existed, show him to us in a light wholly amiable and admirable. He is in love with Josephine, and tells Joseph that it is not impossible “the folly may seize him to marry,” and asks his brother’s advice. The following passage, written to Joseph in September, 1795, a month before the “whiff of grapeshot” from General Bonaparte’s field guns terminated the Revolution, is a pleasing specimen of his family epistles of the time. He is looking out for a good post for Joseph : “ I shall remain in Paris specially for your affair. You ought not, whatever happens, to fear for me. I have for friends all the people of worth, of whatever party or opinion they may be. Mariette” (conservative member of the Committee of Safety) “is extremely zealous for me; you know his opinion. Doulcet ” (member of the convention of moderate politics) “ I am closely allied with. You know my other friends of opposite views. . . . . I am content with (brother) Louis. He fulfils my hope, and the expectation I had formed of him. He is a good fellow ; but, at the same time, one after my own heart ; warmth, intelligence, health, talent, straightforwardness, good-nature, — all are united in him. You know, my dear brother, that I live only by the pleasure I give my relations. If my hopes are seconded by that good fortune which never abandons me in my enterprises, I shall be able to make you happy, and fulfil your desires. . . . . To-morrow I shall have three horses, which will permit me to ride a little in a cab, and enable me to attend to all my affairs. Adieu, my dear fellow ; amuse yourself; all goes well ; be gay. Think of my affair, for I long to have a house of my own.”
All his letters to Joseph at this happy, hopeful time are in the same tone. He appears in them the virtuous young man, distinguished in his profession, honestly in love, and looking forward to the possession of a home, devoted to his brothers and sisters, and striving to benefit them, writing to Joseph his oldest brother every day, the life, stay, and boast of his family. He was a good Republican, too, although of the more conservative wing. “ The government,” he writes to Joseph, September 12, 1795, " is to be organized at once; a tranquil clay dawns upon the destinies of France. There is a primary assembly which has asked for a king. That has provoked laughter.” Doubtless he joined in the laughter ; for, so far as we can judge front his letters, he heartily accepted the Revolution, and valued himself upon his political orthodoxy. “ Passions are inflamed,” he wrote a few days after ; “ the moment appears critical ; but the genius of liberty never abandons its defenders. All our armies triumph.”
When next he wrote to the head of the family, it was to announce to him the event which put him directly upon the road to his great fortune, — the dispersion of the mob at the Tuileries, October 6, 1795. “ At length,” he began, “ all is finished ; my first thought is to give you the news.” The brief note ends : “We have disarmed the sections, and all is calm. As usual, I have not a scratch.” Five months after, we find him on the same day announcing his marriage to the Directory, and, setting off to take command of the French army in the native land of his ancestors, Italy.
Persons who remain during long periods of time the idols of a multitude usually possess, along with other gifts, a keen eye for effect, a histrionic talent which enables them, in a pleasing and striking manner, to exhibit and exaggerate their own good qualities. This wonderful being was not a hypocrite ; nor, at this part of his career, was he, in any vulgar sense, an actor ; but he possessed naturally an acute sense of the decorous and the becoming ; and now, on his way to Italy, he gave a proof of it. The earliest letter of his which we have seen in print is one written to his mother, when he was a boy of sixteen ; and it is signed, “ Napoleone di Buonaparte.” Just before leaving Paris for Italy he signed his marriage contract with Josephine, in the presence of a notary, thus: “Napolione Buonaparte ”; and his previous letters in this collection are all signed in the Italian form, “ Buonaparte.” But now, being at Toulon within a few miles of the beautiful land of his fathers, which he was about to overrun and pillage, he appears to have awakened to the impropriety of spoiling Italy while bearing an Italian name. At Toulon, for the first time in his public career, he spells his name “Bonaparte ” ; a form from which he never after departed. It is significant, that the very page which shows this new spelling contains the proclamation offering fair Italy to the hunger and rapacity of French troops : “ Soldiers : You are naked, ill-fed. The government owes you much, it can give you nothing. The patience, the courage you have shown in the midst of these rocks are admirable ; but they procure you no glory : no lustre from them is reflected upon you. I desire to lead you into the most fertile plains of the world. Wealthy provinces, great cities, will be in your power. You will find in them honor, glory, riches. Soldiers of Italy, will you be wanting in courage or in constancy ?” Certainly we must approve the taste of a man of Italian lineage in Frenchifying his name a little before issuing such a proclamation.
With regard to those Italian campaigns, to which the first three volumes of this work are chiefly devoted, the correspondence of the commanding general confirms what military men have often remarked, that they were Napoleon’s greatest. The dash, the brilliancy, the rapidity of his operations are less apparent when the mind is detained by fifteen hundred pages of orders, letters, and documents ; but we see more clearly than ever what a master of his art he was. In fifteen days after setting foot upon Italian soil he had given the world assurance of a general. There was then in Europe no general but himself, and nothing remained but for him to continue his method until the continent was his own. A great artist is not apt to talk much about the processes by which he produces his great effects, and, accordingly, there are not many passages in these letters upon the art of winning victories. The reader can see Napoleon winning them ; but it is only at long intervals that we meet a sentence that betrays the master’s method. One such as this : “The enemy, in the Austrian manner, will make three attacks ; by the Levante, by Novi, and by Montonotte : refuse two of those attacks, and direct all your forces upon the third.” This is another : “In military operations, hours decide success and campaigns.” This is another : “ One bad general is better than two good ones. War, like government, is an affair of tact.” And this another: “ If the English attack you, and you experience vicissitudes, always bear in mind these three things : reunion of forces, activity, and firm resolution to perish with glory. These are the three great principles of the military art which have rendered fortune favorable to me in all my operations. Death is nothing ; but to live vanquished and without glory is to die every day.” In the spirit of this last passage his Italian campaigns were conducted ; especially when, after a long series of triumphs, his lines were broken and his hold upon Italy endangered. The celerity with which his scattered forces were reunited and hurled upon the enemy, and the personal daring of the young general, restored his fortunes before the news of his disaster had crossed the Alps. For the benefit of young soldiers, however, who may think that victories can be won by following maxims, we must add one of Napoleon’s own comments upon the general opposed to him in Italy: “He has the audacity of fury, not that of genius.”
It was in Italy that General Bonaparte exhibited his talents and revealed his moral defects. We have seen that he roused his ragged and hungry soldiers by appealing to their vanity, appetite, and avarice. They took him at his word. No sooner had he given them victory in the wealthy provinces of Italy, and possession of some of its rich towns, than they proceeded to do precisely what he had invited them to do “ The soldier without bread,” he writes, a few days after entering Italy, “yields to such excesses of fury as make me blush to be a man. . . . . I am going to make some terrible examples. I shall restore order, or I shall cease to command these brigands. . . . . To-morrow we shoot some soldiers and a corporal who stole vases from a church.” When next he addressed his soldiers, he began by recounting to them, that in fifteen days they had won six victories, taken twenty-one flags and fifty-five cannons, conquered the best part of Piedmont, captured fifteen thousand prisoners, and killed or wounded ten thousand men ; but he ended by saying: “I shall not permit brigands to soil our laurels. . . . . Pillagers shall be shot without mercy ; several have been already.” And he assured the people of Italy, in the same proclamation, that the French army had come only to break their chains ; that the French were friends of every people ; and that their property, their religion, and their usages should be respected. “ We make war as generous enemies ; hos tile only to the tyrants who abase you.”
All of which signified that General Bonaparte meant to have an army, instead of a horde of robbers, and that he reserved to himself the right to plunder.
Probably no revelation of these volumes will more surprise the general reader than the prodigious extent of his spoliation of the “property” of his countrymen in Italy; especially that portion of their property which the world regards as sacred, and which really was and is most proper to that beautiful land, — pictures, statuary, and other treasures of art. That the kingdoms, states, and cities of conquered Italy should be laid under contribution and compelled to disgorge, each its proportion of millions, was to have been expected; at least, might have been forgiven. But the reader of the correspondence feels that in that wholesale picture-stealing Bonaparte fell far below the natural level of his character. It might have been pardoned in a Masséna, but it was infinitely beneath Napoleon Bonaparte, — the man of intellect and breeding, whose ancestors had contributed something to what constitutes the sole glory of modern Italy, its art and literature. He knew better; for at Milan the young conqueror had written to an astronomer of the university : “ The sciences which honor the human mind, the arts that embellish life and transmit great deeds to posterity, ought to be especially honored by free governments. All men of genius, all those who have obtained an eminent rank in the republic of letters, are Frenchmen, in whatever country they may have been born.” When these brave words were penned he had already sent to Paris for a corps of artists to come and select the works of art best worth stealing.
From the mass of letters relating to the systematic plunder of Italy we select a few sentences showing how General Bonaparte squeezed the Pope. We copy from the Armistice of June 6, 1796, only premising that the Pope fared no worse than his neighbors : “ Art. 8. The Pope will deliver to the French Republic one hundred pictures, vases, or statues, to be chosen by the commissioners who will be sent to Rome ; among which will be comprised, for certain, the bronze bust of Junius Brutus and the one in marble of Marcus Brutus, both from the Capitol; and five hundred manuscripts, at the choice of the commissioners. Art. 9. The Pope will pay to the French Republic twenty-one millions of francs,
. . . . independent of the contributions which will be raised in Bologna, Ferrara, and Faenza.” This large sum was to be all paid in three months. Nor did the conqueror remain content with the hundred works of art demanded in the Armistice. We find at the end of volume third of the correspondence a catalogue, drawn up in form and signed by the French commissioners, of the works of art selected by them at Rome, and sent to Paris “in the year VI. of the French Republic one and indivisible,” which we style 1797. The list comprises about eight hundred objects ; among which are six colossal statues and six groups of statuary. The rest are statues, busts, fragments, bronzes, medallions, and vases. The readers of this interesting catalogue may be excused for not comprehending what such spoliation of Roman churches and galleries had in common with delivering Italy from its tyrants. The tyrants were squeezed and left ; it was the works of art from which Italy was delivered.
At a later period of the negotiations we observe that the insatiable conqueror demanded more of the precious manuscripts of the Vatican than the number named in the Article. In recounting to the Directory the treasures extracted from the Papal dominions he remarks : “ The Papal commissioners yielded with a good grace everything except the manuscripts, which they were unwilling to give up; and we have had to reduce our demand from two or three thousand to five hundred.” His letter to the Directory (No. 685, Vol. I. p. 431), in which he exults over the plunder of the Pope, is more bandit-like than any other in the collection. We learn from it that, besides the works of art already mentioned, and besides retaining some of the Pope’s best provinces, he obtained from him in all thirty-four million seven hundred thousand francs. He also informs the Directory that he would have wrung from him a few millions more, if he had not been interfered with by their commissioners. “ I am consoled,” he adds, “by the fact that what we have got surpasses the terms of your instructions.”
Was there ever such a godsend to an unpopular government as this young general was to the Directory of 1796? Victory alone would have sufficed ; but here was a general, who, besides sending home the most thrilling bulletins, kept consigning to a drained treasury whole wagon-trains of wealth. “Twenty-four wagon-loads,” he wrote from Bologna in July, 1796, “of hemp and silk set out to-day for Nice. . . . . I am getting together at Tortona all the silver plate and jewels, which I shall send to Paris by Chambéry. I hope that convoy alone will be worth five or six millions. I shall add as much in money.” But what should he do with the plunder of Rome ? “ The statues can only be transported by sea, and it would be imprudent to trust them that way. We must box them up, then, and leave them at Rome.”
The Pope, we repeat, fared no worse than the other princes of Italy. From Milan an amazing booty was sent to Paris ; the first instalment being, as the General remarked, “twenty superb pictures, chief of which is the celebrated St. Jerome of Correggio, which has been sold, they tell me, for two hundred thousand francs.” Another item —again to translate from the General’s joyous despatch —was “ two millions in jewelry and ingots, the proceeds of different contributions.” Other letters announce to the Directory the coming of rare plants from the public gardens of Italy, of a fine collection of serpents from a museum, and other natural curiosities. He is so considerate as to send them “a hundred of the finest carriage horses of Lombardy,” to replace “ the ordinary horses that draw your carriages.” But enough of larceny, grand and petit. Let us come to the volumes which show how kingdoms were stolen, and how poor France was kept reeling drunk while her lifeblood was drained.
At St Helena, in conversation with the companions of his exile, Napoleon designated the moment when he first felt the stirrings of lawless ambition. “ It was not till after Lodi,” he said, “that I was struck with the possibility of my becoming a decided actor on the scene of political events. Then was enkindled the first spark of a lofty ambition.” Having a lively recollection of this sentence, which we read long ago in Mr. Abbott’s entertaining volume upon Napoleon at St. Helena, we had the curiosity to turn to the letters written by General Bonaparte at the time, to see if there was anything in them to confirm his statement. Yes: just after Lodi, for the first time he begins to protest and swear that his only ambition is to serve France in any capacity which the Directory may be pleased to assign him. Five days after his troops had given him, at the bridge of Lodi, that surprising proof of devotion, he writes to his patron, Carnot: “Whether I make war here or elsewhere is indifferent to me. To serve my country, to deserve from posterity one leaf of our history, to give the government proofs of my attachment and devotion, — this is all my ambition.” It is a touch worthy of Shakespeare. Thus might the great dramatist have indicated the birth of an ambition.
It was after Lodi, too, that he showed his eager promptitude to reward those who served him, and his tact in adapting the reward to the nature of the case. The battle of Lodi was won by the column that rushed across the bridge in the face of thirty pieces of cannon and the fire of infantry. The General caused a printed list of the names of the men composing the column to be posted in every district of France where any one of them resided ! Could any reward have been more thrilling to the men or more promotive of the next conscription ? At a later day it became a custom with him to have such lists posted upon the parish churches of the soldiers whom he desired to honor. But when once a priest presumed to read the list to his parishioners in the church, the master wrote from Vienna to the minister of police to forbid the repetition of the act; because, said he, in substance, if priests may announce victories, they may comment upon them, and if bad news should arrive, they may comment upon that. “ Priests must be used with civility, but not made too much of.”
From Italy the young conqueror, after a short interval of busy preparation at Paris, betakes himself to Egypt, in pursuance of his policy of striking England through her dependencies and allies. No one, with this correspondence before him, can say that he was sant to Egypt by the Directory, in order to get him out of the way. It was his own conception. He was master of France almost as much in 1798 as he was in 1805 ; and the tone of his letters in 1798 is as much the tone of the master as in 1805. The very order assigning him to the command of the army destined for Egypt was penned by himself; and in preparing the expedition, the Directory did nothing but sign what he dictated. His object was to dispossess the English of their Indian empire, using Egypt as a base of operations ; and he spoke of the enterprise, in a confidential letter, as “the greatest ever executed among men.” Only it was not “executed!” Nelson destroyed the French fleet at the battle of the Nile, and blockaded Egypt with such sleepless vigilance that General Bonaparte and his army were, in effect, prisoners of war. The General himself informed the Directory that, during the eighteen months of his residence in Egypt, he only heard from Paris once ; and then he received part of his despatches, snatched by the courier from his grounded boat a moment before his English pursuers clutched it. It was an error to land a French army in Egypt while the English were masters of the sea ; but it is evident from the correspondence that General Bonaparte really believed the French fleet a match for the English. He was not aware that in Horatio Nelson the English possessed an admiral who trebled the force of every fleet that he commanded.
The correspondence, reticent as it is concerning whatever tends to exhibit Napoleon vulnerable, shows plainly enough that it was Nelson who destroyed him. Nelson hit him two blows, — Nile and Trafalgar. By the battle of the Nile he penned him in Egypt, killed his Indian projects, and reduced him to absolute paralysis for a year and a half. By Trafalgar he again destroyed the French naval power, made invasion of England impossible, and compelled Napoleon to continue his policy of fighting England upon the territories of her allies. In other words, he penned him in the continent of Europe. This led to that prodigious extension of his operations, until he had vast armies in Spain, Italy, Prussia, Russia, and France, and had so distended his “empire,” that ten cold nights in Russia at the time when his power seemed greatest caused his ruin. This was Nelson’s work, and well Napoleon knew it; for there is not in all these volumes one allusion to the battle of Trafalgar. It is a telltale silence. Amid the bulletins of Austerlitz, few except the master knew what had happened upon the ocean; and except himself perhaps no one comprehended its importance.
But to glean a trait or two from the Egyptian letters. The mighty man of war, it seems, was subject to sea-sickness. “ Have a good bed prepared for me,” he writes to Admiral Brueys before leaving Paris, “as for a man who will be sick during the whole passage.” In Egypt, where he was absolute master, he had an opportunity to rehearse the drama of the French Empire, and he displayed all the devices of the emperor which the scene admitted. Despising all religions, he showed that he could flatter, use, and laugh at any religion that chanced to be available for his purpose. At Malta, on his way to Egypt, wishing to employ the bishop to conciliate the people of the island, he wrote to him : “ I know of no character more respectable or more worthy of the veneration of men, than a priest who, full of the true spirit of the Gospel, is persuaded that it is his duty to obey the temporal power, and to maintain peace, tranquillity, and union in the midst of his diocese.” A few days after he issued to his troops the proclamation in which he enjoined them to pay respect to “ the Egyptian Muftis and Imams, as you have to rabbis and bishops,” He continued thus : “ Show the same tolerance for the ceremonies prescribed by the Koran as you have for convents, for synagogues, for the religion of Moses and of Jesus Christ. The Roman legions protected all religions.” He went himself far beyond the letter of this order ; for he celebrated the religious festivals of the Mohammedans with all the emphasis and splendor possible in the circumstances. From Cairo he wrote to one of his generals : “ We celebrated here the feast of the Prophet with a pomp and fervor which have almost merited for me the title of Saint” ; and he ordered commanders of ports and garrisons to do the same.
In Egypt as in Italy, he would permit no one to plunder but himself; and it was here that he put in practice the only device for preventing pillage which has ever answered its purpose. It consisted in holding each division of an army responsible for the misconduct of the individuals composing it. A theft or an act of violence having been committed, the perpetrators, if discovered, were to make good the damage, or pay the forfeit with their lives. If they were not discovered, then their company was assessed to make up the amount. If the company could not be ascertained, then the regiment, brigade, or division. This was a masterly device, and it has become part of the military code of nations. But the plunder of Egypt, on system, by the orders of the General commanding, was great and continuous ; for the French army, severed from the world without, had no resource but to subsist upon the fertile province upon which it had descended. It will not exalt the world’s opinion of the Commanding General to discover, in his correspondence, such notes as the following : “ Citizen Poussielgue, General Dumas ” (father of the novelist) “ knows the house of a bey where there is a buried treasure. Arrange with him for the digging necessary to find it.” Another engaging epistle begins thus :
“ You did well, citizen general, in having the five villagers shot who revolted. I desire much to learn that you have mounted your cavalry. The shortest way, I believe, will be this : Order each village to furnish you two good horses. Do not accept any bad ones ; and make the villages which do not furnish theirs in five days pay a fine of one thousand talari. This is an infallible means of having the six hundred horses you require. . . . . Demand bridles and saddles as well.”
He found leisure to establish an Institute in Egypt, on the model of that of France. At the first sitting the Commanding General proposed the following questions : Are our army bread-ovens susceptible of improvement ? Is there any substitute in Egypt for the hop in making beer? How is the water of the Nile cleared and kept cool ? Which is best for us at Cairo, to construct water-mills or wind-mills ? Can gunpowder be made in Egypt ? What is the condition in Egypt of jurisprudence, the judiciary, and education, and what improvements in either are possible, and desired by the people of the country? He was making himself very much at home in Egypt, evidently meant to stay there, had sent to Paris for a troop of comedians, and was meditating vast plans for the improvement of the country.
But in August, 1799, a package of English newspapers, of which the most recent was nine weeks old, fell into the General’s hands, and gave him information that made him willing to risk capture in order to get to France: Italy lost! The French beaten in Germany in two pitched battles, and compelled to recross the Rhine ! The Russians marching to join the coalition ! The English blockading every port, and lording it on every sea ! The Directory distrusted, inactive, imbecile ! France beleaguered on every side, and threatened with dissolution ! His mind was made up on the instant. In eleven days he was ready to go. His paper of secret instructions to Kleber, whom he left in command, betrays his perfect satisfaction with what he had done in Egypt, his entire conviction of the right of the French to possess and hold the country. “Accustomed,” he says, “ to look for the reward of my pains and labors in the opinion of posterity, I abandon Egypt with the keenest regret.” Another sentence is significant: “ You will find subjoined a cipher for your correspondence with the government, and another for your correspondence with me.”
In three months General Bonaparte and the “government” were one and the same. The very company of comedians which he had written for as General Bonaparte he sent to Egypt as First Consul. He was absolute master of France, a fact which he announced to the people in the following neat and epigrammatic manner : “ Citizens, the Revolution is fixed in the principles that began it. IT IS FINISHED.” Yes ; it was finished, and it was General Bonaparte who gave it the finishing blow. Whether he could have saved it can never be known, because he did not try ; and his talents were so prodigious that it is impossible to say what he might or might not have done, if he had had the “lofty ambition ” to help the French govern themselves. There was so much that was large and generous in this man, that we cannot always resist the impression that he was capable of something much better than the tawdry role into which he lapsed. But human nature is so limited a thing, that there is not room in an individual for more than one decided talent; and that talent, when it is eminent, is apt to bewilder, mislead, and dominate the possessor of it. The successes of this sublime adventurer, besides being rapid and immense, were of the very kind that most dazzle and mislead. He found France impoverished, misgoverned, anarchic, without an ally, defeated, discouraged, with powerful foes on every side, on land and sea. In two years what a change ! Internal tranquillity, universal joy and exultation, enemies signally beaten, territories enlarged, the treasury replenished, and peace restored! In 1799 he might have risen to the height of the great citizen ; he might have fought in the service of France, and when he had delivered her from her enemies, he might have lent his great administrative abilities to the restoration of internal peace and prosperity, without despoiling her of that hope of liberty cherished through so many years of suffering and blood. This was possible in 1799, but not in 1801.
But how marvellously well he enacted the part of the ruler of a free people! How adroitly this foreigner flattered the amiable and generous people whom he had subjugated ! In announcing the peace of 1801, he played upon their vanity and their patriotism with singular skill, throwing upon them all the glory of his achievements in the field : “ Frenchmen, you enjoy at length that entire peace which you have merited by efforts so long continued and so generous. The world contains for you only friendly nations, and upon every sea hospitable ports are open to your ships. . . . . Let us perfect, but, above all, let us teach the rising generation to cherish, our institutions and our laws. Let them grow up to promote civil equality, public liberty, national prosperity. Let us carry into the workshop, the farm, the studio, that ardor, that constancy, that patience, which have astonished Europe in all our difficulties. . . . . Let us be the support and example of the peoples who surround us. Let the foreigner, whom curiosity draws into our midst, linger among us attached by the charm of our manners, the spectacle of our union, the attraction of our pleasures ; let him return to his country more friendly to us than he came, a wiser and a better man.” Soon after appeared the first of his annual messages, his “Exposé de la Situation de la République,” modelled closely (as to the form only) upon the messages of our Presidents, although longer than those of Washington, Adams, or Jefferson ; — a message without a legislature which could act upon it ! “It is with sweet satisfaction that the government offers to the nation a view of public affairs during the year that has passed.” The government was a general of the French army, and his message was ingenious, intoxicating flattery of the most susceptible people in the world.
Was all this mere coarse, conscious hypocrisy on the part of General Bonaparte ? We think not. Great histrionic personages, like Napoleon Bonaparte, appear sometimes to dazzle and deceive themselves. Men familiar with Brigham Young tell us that that stupendous American Turk is one tenth sincere ; and it is the fraction of sincerity which gives him his power over his followers. There are pages in these volumes that exhibit Napoleon to us in the threefold character of hero, actor, and spectator ; as though David Garrick should play Richard III., be Richard III., and see Richard III., all on the same evening; himself lost in the marvels of the scene, deceived by his own acting, and dazzled by his own exploits. We cannot believe that this delirious Exposé was a thing contrived to deceive and captivate the French people. He had seen such striking things done at the word of command, that he seems to have supposed all things possible to a great soldier. He appears to have thought that national institutions, industries, lyceums, colleges, universities, durable alliances, and national welfare could be summoned into being at the tap of the drum. “Thirty lyceums,” said he, “wisely distributed over the territory of the Republic, will embrace all its extent by their influence, will shed upon every part of it the lustre of their acquisitions and their triumphs, will strike foreigners with admiration, and will be for them what some celebrated schools of Germany and England once were for us, what some famous universities were which, seen from a distance, commanded the admiration and respect of Europe.” The whole message is in this taste. Poor man ! Poor France !
The great question of the reign of Napoleon is : Which was to blame for breaking the peace of Amiens, the English government or the French ? This correspondence confirms the constant assertion of French historians, that the responsibility is to be laid at England’s door. Bonaparte wanted peace: that is plain. Peace was his interest: that is undeniable. England had agreed to evacuate Malta, and when the time came refused to give it up: that also is certain. England should have frankly accepted Napoleon as head of the French government, and forborne to give a pretext for breaking the peace to a man so exquisitely skilled in the use of deadly weapons. On the other hand, what absurdity more complete than for France to go to war with Great Britain for a little distant island in which neither of them had any rights ? We cannot dwell upon this point, although there is no volume of the correspondence in which Napoleon’s talents are more brilliantly exhibited than in the one which contains his letters and instructions previous to the declaration of war in 1802. He had the advantage of being technically in the right; and England labored under the disadvantage of putting forward a pretext, instead of the real grievance. Napoleon’s matchless skill in the use of deadly weapons was the real grievance. The peace was broken, coalitions were formed and renewed, because four crowned persons in Europe felt that they were not safe while such a man controlled the resources and commanded the armies of France.
Behold him now at the summit of his power. The volumes devoted to this part of his career are precious to the French people at the present moment, when they are preparing to expel the Bonaparte intruders from their territory. If, on the one hand, they show him a very great general, on the other, they reveal so clearly the essential littleness of the man, and expose so fully the artifices by which he ruled, that the spell conjured up in France by his very bones twenty years ago can never be conjured up again. This publication kills Napoleonism past resurrection. It shows to an attentive reader that Napoleon’s personal ambition was not “ lofty,” as he termed it, but personal, i. e. low and small ; and that the means by which he gratified it were often base, often despicable, often ridiculous. The desire of this man’s heart was to be admitted to the circle of European kings, and then to be the most powerful of them all. We could only make this clear to the reader by going carefully over the whole of his dealings with the reigning families of Europe, which would more than exhaust our space. The truth shines out in hundreds of passages, and it excludes him forever from the rank of the great, whose ambition is to become eminent by serving their kind. He was so little superior in moral discernment to the ordinary mortal, that he thought it grander to be the Frederick William of a country than its Bismarck; to be a George III. than a Nelson or a Chatham. So little had he reflected upon men and governments, that he did not know the proper place of a man of great talent ; which is not at the head of a nation, but in a place subordinate.
The proper head of a nation is a sound average man, — one whom the average citizen can recognize as a man and a brother ; one who will keep the brilliant minister, the great general, always in mind of the homely material with which governments have to deal ; one who will embody and represent the vis inertiæ of things. Bismarck, firmly astride of Prussia, would ride that great kingdom to the Devil ; as Bonaparte did France; as Hamilton might the United States, if average human nature had not stood in his way, represented in the august person of George Washington. It is mankind whom the head of a government should represent. The exceptionally gifted individual who serves under him needs his restraining slowness and caution, as much as the chief needs the light and help of minds specially endowed.
Of all this Napoleon knew nothing. His poor ambition was to reign. “ For the Pope,” said he, “ I am Charlemagne, because I reunite the crown of France to that of the Lombards ” ; and he told his brother Joseph, when he put him up as king of Naples, that he wished his “blood” to reign in Naples as long as in France, for “ the kingdom of Naples was necessary to him.” It is at once ludicrous and affecting to see such a man so infatuated with the part he was playing, to read in his letters to kings, emperors, and popes such expressions as, “my house,” “the princes of my house,” “my capital ” (meaning Paris), “my good city of Lyons,” “my armies,” “my fleet,” “my peoples,” “my empire,” “my kingdom of Italy”; and to read elaborate papers rearranging states and nations in which everything was considered, except the will of the people inhabiting them.
Nothing will astound the reader of these volumes more than the bulletins, dictated by Napoleon on the field, and published in the Moniteur by his command. It was those bulletins that kept France in a state of delirium, and drew to distant fields of carnage the flower of her youth and the annual harvest of her educated talent. He was accustomed to send every day or two from the seat of war, when anything extraordinary had occurred, chatty, anecdotical bulletins, designed chiefly to keep up the martial frenzy of the French ; but he inserted also many paragraphs intended to sow dissension among his enemies ; knowing well that these documents would be closely scanned at every court, club, and headquarters in Europe. Those anecdotes of the devotion of the troops to the Emperor, which figure in so many biographies and histories, here they are, where they originated, in the bulletins dictated by Napoleon’s mouth, corrected by his hand, and published by his command in the official newspaper of his empire, and now given to the world as part of his correspondence by the head of his family! The following are passages from the Austerlitz bulletins : — “ On the 10th ” (the day before the battle), “ the Emperor, from the height of his bivouac, perceived, with joy unutterable the Russians beginning, at two cannon fires’ distance from his advanced posts, a flank movement to turn his right. Then was it that he saw to what a point presumption and ignorance of the art of war had led astray the counsels of that brave army. Several times the Emperor said : ‘ Before to-morrow night that army is mine.' ”
“ In the evening he wished to visit on foot and incognito all the bivouacs ; but scarcely had he gone a few steps than he was recognized. It would be impossible to depict the enthusiasm of the soldiers when they saw him. In an instant bundles of straw were placed at the end of thousands of poles, and eighty thousand men presented themselves before the Emperor, saluting him with acclamations ; some complimenting him on the anniversary of his coronation ; others saying that the army would present its bouquet to the Emperor to-morrow.”
To any one who ever saw an army of even ten thousand men in the field, the entire and absolute falsehood of all this will be apparent. The imperial reporter proceeds : —
“ One of the oldest grenadiers approached him, and said : ' You will have no need to expose yourself. I promise you, in the name of the grenadiers of the army, that you will have to fight only with your eyes, and that we will bring you to-morrow the flags and artillery of the Russian array by way of celebrating the anniversary of your coronation.’ The Emperor said, upon entering his bivouac, which consisted of a sorry straw cabin without a roof, which his grenadiers had made for him :
‘ This is the most beautiful evening of my life ; but it saddens me to think that I shall lose a good number of those brave fellows. I become sensible, from the grief which this reflection causes me, that they are truly my children ; and, indeed, I sometimes reproach myself for indulging this sentiment, fearing it will render me at last unskilful in making war.’
“At the moment of sunrise the orders were given, and each marshal rejoined his command at full gallop. While passing along the front of several regiments, the Emperor said : 'Soldiers, we must end this campaign by a thunderbolt which will confound the pride of our enemies’ ; and immediately, hats at the end of bayonets and cries of Vive l' Empereur ! were the veritable signal of battle ! ”
“ This day will cost tears of blood at St. Petersburg. May it cause them to throw back with indignation the gold of England, and may that young prince, whom so many virtues call to be the father of his subjects, snatch himself from the influence of those thirty coxcombs whom England artfully seduces into her services, and whose impertinences obscure his good intentions, lose him the love of his soldiers, and throw him into operations the most erroneous. Nature, in endowing him with great qualities, called him to be the consoler of Europe. . . . . Never was there a more horrible field of battle. . . . . May so much bloodshed, may so many miseries, fall at length upon the perfidious islanders who are the cause of them ! May the base oligarchs of London bear the anguish of so many calamities ! ”
“ The Emperor of Germany” (in his interview with the Emperor) “ did not conceal the contempt which the conduct of England had given both himself and the Emperor of Russia. ‘ They are shop-keepers,’ he said more than once, ‘ who set the Continent in flames in order to secure for themselves the commerce of the world.’ . . . . Several times the Emperor of Germany repeated : ‘ There is no doubt that France is in the right in her quarrel with England.’ . . . . They say that the Emperor said to the Emperor of Germany, as he invited him to come nearer the fire of his bivouac : ‘ I receive you in the only palace I have inhabited these two months.’ To this the Emperor of Germany replied, laughing: ‘You turn habitations of this kind to such good account that they ought to please you.’ At least, this is what those present thought they overheard. The numerous suite of the two princes was not so far off that they could not hear several things !
“The corpses have been counted. The totals are, eighteen thousand Russians killed, six hundred Austrians, and nine hundred French. Seven thousand wounded Russians are on our hands. All told, we have three thousand French wounded. General Roger Valhubert is dead of his wounds. An hour before he breathed his last he wrote to the Emperor : ‘ I could have wished to do more for you. I die in an hour. The loss of my life I do not regret, since I have participated in a victory which assures you a happy reign. As often as you shall think of the brave men who were devoted to you, remember me. It is sufficient for me merely to tell you that I have a family; I need not recommend them to your care.’ ”
From the whole of the bulletins we could gather, perhaps, two hundred anecdotes similar in character and purpose to those we have given ; and we do not believe that ten of them are the exact statements of fact. They were fictions coined to make France willing to bleed. Interspersed with the bulletins are quiet, business-like notes to the Minister of War and others, the burden of which is : Conscripts, conscripts, conscripts ; send me conscripts ; armed or unarmed, in uniform or in peasants' rags, no matter ; send forward conscripts !
Appended to the bulletins are decrees giving pensions to the widows of every man who fell in the last battle,— six thousand francs to a general’s widow, and two hundred to a private’s. After Austerlitz, a decree was published which was as captivating to delirious France as it was unjust to the army in general: " We adopt all the children of the generals, officers, and soldiers who fell at the battle of Austerlitz. They will be maintained and reared at our expense,— the boys at our imperial palace of Rambouillet, and the girls at our imperial palace of Saint Germain. The boys will be placed in situations, and the girls dowered, by us. To their baptismal and family names they will have the right to add that of Napoleon.” No man ever displayed such art in rousing a nation to frenzy, and silencing its reason. If space allowed, we could give a catalogue of at least one hundred different devices of his fertile mind to reward and signalize soldiers who served him with conspicuous devotion. Many of these —such as orders, medals, flattering mention, and inscribing the names of fallen soldiers upon Pompey’s pillar — were of a costless and sentimental nature. Others—such as gifts of money, pensions, promotion — were of a solid and practical character. Sometimes he would order a picture painted of a feat of arms, and decree that the uniform of the soldiers depicted should be that of the corps which performed the act. Nor was he lavish of rewards and honors ; but in this, as in all things relating to war, he acted upon system, and preserved perfect coolness of judgment.
And while by these various arts this Corsican kept average France in delirium, the superior mind and judgment of France were denied all utterance. We have marked dozens of passages in the correspondence showing this. While he had writers in England in his pay for the purpose of embarrassing the Ministry and making friends for himself by their articles in English newspapers, he would not permit so much as a woman to live in France whom he suspected of having escaped the prevailing madness. Three times he orders back Madame de Staël, — “ that bird of evil omen,” as he styles her, — when he heard she had approached or crossed the frontiers. “ It is the intention of the government,” he wrote in 1803, “that this intriguing foreigner shall not remain in France, where her family has done harm enough.” Again, in 1807, he speaks of her with contemptuous fury, as a “ crow ” whose approach foreboded mischief, and repeats his command that she be kept from the soil of France. Nor was she the only lady whom he feared and exiled, because he saw her sane in the midst of lunatics. As to the press, not a paragraph was allowed to appear calculated to recall Frenchmen to themselves ; and not a line escaped his vigilant distrust, if it provoked Frenchmen to ask why their countrymen should be slaughtered by thousands in Poland, in Spain, in Russia, in Austria, in Prussia, for a quarrel about Malta,—an island of no interest to France, except as the source of Maltese cats.
For military men we must find room for a curious order addressed to Marshal Berthier at Boulogne, in 1805, just as Napoleon was about to begin that swift, silent march across Europe which ended at Austerlitz. It shows how little magic there was in his proceedings, and by what homely, plodding labors the most brilliant results are produced. "My cousin ” (he called all his marshals cousin), “ I desire you to have two portable boxes made, with compartments ; one for me and the other for yourself. The compartments will be arranged in such a way that, with the aid of written cards, we can know at a glance the movements of all the Austrian troops, regiment by regiment, batallion by batallion, even to detachments of any considerable magnitude. You will divide the compartments into as many divisions as there are Austrian armies, and you will reserve some pigeon-holes for the troops which the Emperor of Germany has in Hungary, in Bohemia, and in the interior of his states. Every fifteen days you will send me a statement of the changes that have taken place during the preceding fifteen days ; availing yourself for this purpose, not only of the German and Italian newspapers, but of all the information which my minister for foreign affairs may send you ; with whom you will correspond for this object. Employ the same individual to change the cards and to draw up the statement of the situation of the Austrian armies every fifteen days. P. S. you must intrust this business to a man who will have nothing else to do, who knows German well, and who will take all the German and Italian papers, and make the changes which they indicate.”
Before leaving the volumes, which exhibit him in the plenitude of his power and glory, we offer for the reader’s amusement the most characteristic letter, perhaps, of the whole collection ; one written in 1807, to that good Louis whom young General Bonaparte had so cordially praised a few years before as a lad after his own heart. Louis was now called King of Holland ; and trouble enough he had between his own amiable dream of being a good to Holland and the determination of his brother to regard Holland only in the light of so much war material. Was ever a monarch so lectured, bullied, berated, and insulted as poor Louis was in this epistle ?
“I have received your letter of the 24th of March. You say that you have twenty thousand men at the Grand Army. You do not believe it yourself; there are not ten thousand ; and what men ! It is not marshals, chevaliers, and counts that we want; we want soldiers. If you go on so, you will render me ridiculous in Holland.
“You govern that nation too much like a capuchin. The goodness of a king ought always to be majestic, and not that of a monk. Nothing is worse than that great number of journeys which you make to the Hague, unless it be the contribution made by your order in your kingdom. A king commands, and asks nothing of any one ; he is deemed to be the source of all power, and to have no need to recur to the purse of others. These niceties, you feel them not.
“ Some notions occur to me concerning the re-establishment of your nobility, upon which I wait to be enlightened. Have you lost your senses to that point, and would you forget to such a degree what you owe me ? You speak always in your letters of respect and obedience ; but it is deeds, not words, that I require. Respect and obedience consist in not precipitating measures so important ; for Europe cannot imagine you to be so wanting in a sense of duty as to do certain things without my consent. I shall be obliged to disavow you. I have asked for the document relating to the re-establishment of the nobility. Prepare yourself for a public mark of my excessive dissatisfaction.
“ Despatch no maritime expedition ; the season is passed. Raise national guards to defend your country. Pay my troops. Raise plenty of national conscripts. A prince who, the first year of his reign, is thought to be so good, is a prince who will be ridiculed in the second. The love which kings inspire ought to be a masculine love, mingled with a respectful fear and a great opinion of their merit. When people say of a king that he is a good man, his reign is a failure. How can a merely good man, or a good father, if you please, sustain the charges of the throne, suppress the malevolent, and conduct affairs so that the passions of men shall be hushed, or march in the direction he wishes ? The first thing you ought to have done, and I advised you to do it, was to establish the conscription. What can be done without an army ? For, can one call a mass of deserters an army ? How could you avoid feeling (the condition of your army being what it is) that the creation of marshals was a thing unsuitable and ridiculous ? The king of Naples has none. I have none in my kingdom of Italy. Do you believe that if forty French vessels should be united to five or six Dutch barks, that Admiral Ver Huell, for example, in his quality of marshal, could command them? There are no marshals in the minor kingdoms ; there are none in Bavaria, in Sweden. You overwhelm men with honors who have not merited them. You go too fast and without advice ; I have offered you mine ; you respond by fine compliments, and you continue to commit follies.
“Your quarrels with the queen reach the public ear. Have at home that paternal and effeminate character which you exhibit in the government, and in public affairs practise that rigor which you show in domestic matters. You treat a young wife as one would lead a regiment. Distrust the persons who surround you ; you are only surrounded by nobles. The opinion of those people is always diametrically opposite to that of the public. Beware of them ; you begin to be no longer popular either at Rotterdam or Amsterdam. The Catholics begin to be afraid of you. Why do you employ none of them ? Ought you not to protect your religion ? All that shows little force of character. You pay court too much to a part of your nation : you offend the rest. What have the chevaliers done to whom you have given decorations ? Where are the wounds which they have received for their country, the distinguished talents which recommend them,
I do not say of all, but of three fourths of them ? Many of them have done service to the English party, and are the cause of the misfortunes of their country. Was it necessary to ill treat them ? No, but to conciliate all. I also have some émigrés in office ; but I do not let them go too far, and when they think they are near carrying a point, they are further from it than when they were in a foreign country : because I govern by system, and not by weakness.
“ You have the best and the most virtuous of wives, and you render her unhappy. Let her dance as much as she wishes ; it belongs to her time of life.
I have a wife forty years old ; from the battle-field I write to her to go to balls ; and do you wish that a wife of twenty years, who sees her life passing, who has all of life’s illusions, should live in a cloister? should be like a nurse, always washing her baby ? You attend too much to your domestic affairs, and not enough to your administration. I should not say all this to you, but for the interest I take in your welfare. Make the mother of your children happy. You have only one means of doing so ; it is to show her much esteem and confidence. Unfortunately, you have a too virtuous wife. If you had a coquette, she would lead you by the end of the nose. But you have a wife who respects herself, whom the mere idea that you could have a bad opinion of her revolts and afflicts. You should have had a wife like some I know of in Paris. She would have played you false, and kept you at her knees. It is not my fault, for I have often said as much to your wife.
“ For the rest, you can commit follies in your own kingdom ; very well ; but I shall see to it that you commit none in mine. You offer your decorations to everybody ; many persons have written to me who have no title to them. I am sorry that you did not feel that you were wanting in proper consideration towards me. I am resolved that no one shall wear those decorations near me, being determined not to wear them myself. If you ask me the reason, I shall reply, that you have as yet done nothing to merit that men should wear your portrait ; that, besides, you have instituted the order without my permission ; and that, finally, you give them away too lavishly. And what have all those people done who surround you to whom you give them ? ”
This it was to be one of Napoleon’s kings ! He lectures Joseph, Jerome, Lucien, his sisters, and even his uncle, Cardinal Fesch ; not always with such severity, but always in the tone of the master. To Cardinal Fesch, his ambassador of Rome, he once wrote : “ I find all your reflections upon Cardinal Ruffo small and puerile. You are in Rome like a woman. . . . . Don’t med-
dle in affairs you don’t understand.” This it was to be a cardinal of Napoleon’s making.
The suddenness of the collapse of this showy mockery of an empire is exhibited in the correspondence in a manner truly affecting. It was the freezing to death of thirty thousand horses that destroyed the “ Grand Army,” and tumbled the empire into chaos. Burnt out of Moscow on the 14th of September, 1812, the Emperor was inconvenienced certainly, but felt still so much at ease, that he sent a note, sixteen days after, to his librarian at Paris, scolding him for not keeping him better supplied with the new publications ; and he continued for another month to direct even the police of Paris from the vicinity of the burnt capital. A bulletin written on the homeward march, October 23, is all glowing with victory, and recounts the burning of Moscow only as a disaster and shame to Russia! It ends thus: “ The people of Russia do not remember such weather as we have had here during the last twenty days. We enjoy the sun of the beautiful days of our excursions to Fontainebleau. The army is in a country extremely rich, which can compare with the best provinces of France and Germany.”
This was written on the 23d of October, and published in Paris November 16th. As late as November 3d, still the Emperor wrote to one of his ministers : “ The weather continues to be very fine ; a circumstance extremely favorable to us.” Three days after, namely, November 6, 1812, the icy blast swept down from the North and chilled the army to the marrow. Ten nights of sudden, premature cold killed or disabled nearly all the horses ; which compelled the abandonment or destruction of all the provisions that the men could not carry. Clouds of Cossacks hovered about the track of the gaunt and weary troops. Napoleon was twenty days without hearing from Paris. The Grand Army perished, and the empire was no more !
He died game. He was himself to the last. As soon as he had reached a point from which a courier could be safely despatched to Paris, he sent an aide-de-camp and a bulletin to break the news to Europe. He would not trust any one to write the paragraph which he ordered the aid to have inserted in German journals on his way to Paris, but gave it to him written by his own hand. On the 2d of December, from the midst of the wreck and ruin of his army, with ghastly pallor and rigid death on every side, this great histrionic genius wrote the following orders to the aide-de-camp charged with his despatches : —
“He will announce everywhere the arrival of ten thousand Russian prisoners, and the victory won upon the Beresina in which we took six thousand Russian prisoners, eight flags, and twelve pieces of cannon..... He will cause to be inserted everywhere in the Gazettes : ' M. de Montesquiou, aide-decamp, etc., has passed through, bearing the news of the victory of Beresina won by the Emperor over the united armies of Admiral Tchitchakof and General Wittgenstein. He carries to Paris eight flags taken in that battle, at which also six thousand prisoners were captured and twelve pieces of cannon. When this officer left, the Emperor’s health was excellent.’ M. de Montesquiou will see to it that this paragraph is published in the Mayence journal. The Duc de Bassano will cause it to be put into the Vilna papers and will write in the same strain to Vienna. M. de Montesquiou will travel with the utmost speed in order to contradict everywhere the false reports which may have been spread abroad. He will explain that those two (Russian) corps meant to cut our line in two, but that the army routed them utterly, and has arrived at Vilna, where it finds numerous depots, which will at once end the sufferings which it has experienced.”
This was for Prussia, Austria, England. But it would not do for France, which must instantly supply new armies. This same aide-de-camp carried a bulletin for the Moniteur, — long, detailed, artful, — which, with mitigations, acquainted the French people that “ a frightful calamity” had befallen them. They rallied gallantly to the support of the man who had flattered them with such transcendent ability, and they fought for him with much of the old courage and devotion. It did not suffice. Elba, the Hundred Days, Waterloo, the Bellerophon, complete the story. The last line of his published correspondence charges England with having extended to a fallen foe a hospitable hand, and then, when he had given himself up in good faith, " she immolated him,” — elle l'immola ! But in 1806, when he dethroned the king of Naples, he wrote thus to his brother Joseph : " The king of Naples will never ascend his throne again. You will explain that this is necessary to the repose of the Continent; since he has twice disturbed it.”
- Correspondance de Napoléon 1er, publiée par Ordre de l’Empereur Napoléon III. Paris. 1858-1860.↩