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WAS NAPOLEON BONAPARTE WORTHY OF THE ADMIRATION OF THE
FRENCH PEOPLE ?
In considering the question under discus- efforts. To become great, it is essential sion, we have need to guard against national that a man should be able to control events, prejudice. We require, as judges, to put to master circumstances. Every one who ourselves in the position of the French would rise above a merely mechanical existpeople. We should take liberal views of ence, must break this chain.
of character, and of that which constitutes will, and strength of character, Napoleon is national glory and renown. We presume, a striking illustration, and, we may add, a however, that the readers of this periodical noble example. His character is so far will possess the wisdom to judge of Napoléon worthy of the admiration of the world. He as public men are generally judged, in shows us what powers man might put forth. relation to the condition of things in which We may be assured also, that moral strength they live, and not according to that high was Napoleon's unfailing impultion of this; ideal, which the lives of most of those who without it, he would have manifested only : pretend to reach it, painfully belie. Judging little energy, and then speedily have sunk of Napoleon's character by the standard amidst the contempt of Europe. which existed around him, and by the na- From early life Napoleon displayed that tional characteristics of the French, we do energy of will to which we have referred. not hesitate to affirm that that character is He had that firmness, and courage, and worthy of the admiration which France, by generally those mysterious qualities which many pregnant proofs, has bestowed upon it. single out some men, even in retirement, or It will require, indeed, overwhelming testi- while limited to the studies of early life
. mony to show that the French were wrong But he manifested something far higher
. in paying that devotion to Napoleon which The more candid of our opponents will they did when he was alive, and at so con- acknowledge that at first he was, at least siderable a distance of time, and after so apparently, actuated by noble and generous much national disaster, in calling to the motives. chief power of the State, so unanimously, Napoleon saved the liberty of France, one bearing his name. It would be as which was likely to have fallen a prey to the difficult to show that Great Britain was degraded monsters of the Republic, or to the altogether blind and foolish in the admira- despotism of foreign invasion.
He gave & tion which she has felt for the character of proper direction to the cause of freedom, one Wellington. That France, so liberal, so which it long retained. We will attempt noble, and so generous, finds, even now, in to show this, however, more in detail. The the Napoleon dynasty, her refuge from des- Directory of the Republic, from their want of potism and anarchy, is a standing fact, the capacity, and the disordered condition of the import of which can scarcely be misunder- national finances, had left the army in Italy stood. In condemning Napoleon's character, without a proper supply of clothing or of we virtually condemn the French. Napoleon food. Intense were the sufferings of the was the servant, as well as the master of French in Italy; but, animated as they France. He was allowed to rule because he became by the enthusiasm of the youthfal laboured for the good of the State, both in warrior, they triumphed over every obstacle. its internal affairs, and in maintaining its That success which it was of vast importance nationality. France made him what he was. for France now to show, was accomplished
The multitude of men are mere machines. by Napoleon. Then came the Egyptian Their wills are weak, and they do not possess campaign. The jealousy of the Directory at those aspirations which prompt extraordinary the rising fortunes of the future Emperor,
which they feared would prove subversive of withal so sad in many of its incidents—was their own ignoble authority—a jealousy brought to a termination, partly by the large natural to the men of mere mediocrity, army of Napoleon, and in some measure from a whom the Revolution had called to a promi- conviction of the hopelessness of the cause of nence for which they were unfitted-prompted royalty, and also from the growing conviction them to throw every barrier in his way. of the justice of Napoleon's measures, and But without openly setting them altogether the promised stability of his reign. Clemency at defiance, he gradually advanced in power. was shown to those who surrendered. They The Directory came to an end. France had were welcomed with enthusiasm; and the been brought to the brink of ruin. At this nation became outwardly at least united. time, the success of Napoleon's arms at once in his foreign relations, Napoleon was equally made him universally regarded as one who skilful, if not quite so successful. Russia, could occupy an influential part in the Austria, Prussia, and England, had pregovernment of the kingdom. He was viously leagued together to promote the cause elected one of the three provisional consuls of the Bourbons. The three powers. first who, on the fall of the Directory, were named were wedded to absolutism : on no selected for the office of government, and account would they accept and acknowledge the preparation of a constitution. Bonaparte the government of Napoleon. England had virtually assumed the chief authority Mr. Pitt for its prime minister, and he was amongst his colleagues. The plan of a personally averse to anything short of the constitution had been for years elaborated restoration of the Bourbons. Toryism, that by Sieyes, one of the three consuls. Napo- villainous compound, was then rampant in leon, however, made many alterations in it, the United Kingdom. Napoleon was comand undertook the task of active govern- pelled to go to war; but, before doing so, he ment. Meanwhile, he gradually restored appealed in the humblest manner to England France to a condition of prosperity. The and Germany; but his fervent entreaties combined activity and skill which he dis- were in vain. played in his military movements, were On England we mainly throw the blame carried into the civil government of that of the commencement and prolonged continukingdom. The enumeration of his remedial ance of the great European war. Had it not measures, both before the adoption of the been for her alliance with despotism, there constitution, and after it had become law, would not have been war. Let not England would carry us beyond our limits. He ap- brand the character of Napoleon. She it pointed the ablest men to the public service. was who roused within his breast the miliIt was bis habit to select men to high offices tary spirit which had lain dormant since the who were opposed to his reign, thus gradually campaigns of Italy and Egypt.
She it was foiling opposition, and promoting the best who incited the desire of conquest, of aggraninterests of the nation. This was the case dizement, which she so falsely points out as with the chiefs of La Vendée; and while it one of the chief features of the French chawas a bold and fearless policy, it also dis- racter; and she, the conqueress of the Indies, played a generous spirit. " The proscriptive has chosen all along to frown upon the conmeasures of the Directory were annulled. queror of Europe, as if his acts were those of The desecration of the ancient altars of a demon, and hers those of a saint! The France by that infidelity which, had it long reason is obvious. Napoleon prepared the continued, would have utterly destroyed nations for liberty. Napoleon punished both the morality and the outward prosperity England for her restless ambition. True he of the kingdom, was brought to a close, and was ultimately overthrown; but not till after the clerical orders generally allied themselves a long war, and after entailing on to the constitution. Although certain re-country a heavy burden of taxation : this strictions were laid on the press, the nation is the secret of our national hatred to enjoyed a substantial freedom, which it did Napoleon. He defended France against the not possess during the reign of the Directory. despotic hordes which threatened to destroy The war of La Vendée for the restoration of her nationality. He raised her to the rank
a war so destructive to the of a great military power whose very name repose of France-while so romantic, and long inspired the oppressed millions of Europe
with the desire for freedom from the oppres- ( higher offices of the army. The simple but sive monarchies whose yoke had been for touching prize of the Cross of the Legion of ages submitted to silently. He aided the Honour, with its accompanying meagre penEuropean nations in their struggles for sion, was bestowed on those in every rank of liberty, and broke the spell which had so life who had acted with courage and with long enchained them. So gloomy indeed magnanimity. The circumstance that the were the prospects of liberty in England, efforts of Napoleon to protect France from when Napoleon appeared on the European the overwhelming forces of her enemies, stage, that by many of our countrymen he were for a time defeated, could not be was regarded as one sent to deliver them expected to diminish the admiration of the from tyranny, and his landing on our shores French for Napoleon's character.
He did would have been hailed with satisfaction by not forget France in his reverses and mismillions of the sons of Britain. It is well fortunes. Witness his escape from Elba; known that Ireland watched the struggle his deliverance of his beloved land from the with intense anxiety, and longed for the day sway of the Bourbons; and the gigantic when he should set her free from the grasp energies which he put forth to prevent the of England. Napoleon believed, and doubt- French nationality from being overthrown. less for good reasons, that if he could have France could not forget him, when enduring reached England, he would have been op- the tortures which England inflicted upon posed merely by the Government and the the victim of her cruel and selfish policy at military. He proposed to give us a new St. Helena. She could not but cherish his constitution; one which, unlike the old des- memory during the long period in which she potic constitution, would have recognized had to suffer the tyranny of the restored the rights, and enthroned the power of the Bourbons, or that of the treacherous Iouis people. Before going farther, we contend Philippe. The example of Napoleon led her that we have shown ample reason, not to throw off both of these yokes. The merely for the admiration which France argument which we understand some men to entertained for Napoleon, but for enshrining use, that, because Napoleon was ultimately his name amongst the noblest heroes of the unsuccessful, his character is therefore unworld. It would bave been an act of na- worthy of admiration by the French, we tional ingratitude, for which we should have think altogether groundless. Not alone, been the first to blame them, had the French however, for his devotion to France, is his not cherished the name, and revered the memory revered, but still more because he is memory, of one who did so much for them. regarded as an ideal of humanity as the The Frenchman cannot look round upon the manifestation of views adverse to hereditary capital of his country, the centre of civiliza- tyranny, which recognize in some measure tion and of liberty, without beholding reasons the worth of man as man; views, which in to venerate Napoleon's memory. No opera- one form or another, will ere long be triumtion was too vast for him ; no task, however phant over the globe. At all events, it is small, that could minister to the happiness evident that the admiration of France for of France was neglected by him. From the Napoleon was a deep and absorbing passion; centre to the circumference, we see every one which, except on the presumption that where the evidences of his vast and benignant he was worthy of it, must be inexplicable to reign. Not only does Paris owe to Napoleon every true philosopher. her noblest buildings, but he promoted public French mind is so superficial and so weak, works of great utility throughout the country. that it is naturally led astray by gilded His sleepless energy prevented France from hypocrisy, and vain ambition in its rulers, is falling a prey to the tergiversation and cor- to arraign that Power who has bestowed on ruption which have crept, in the old mon- the nations their various mental and moral archies, into all the departments of the characteristics. State. Merit was rewarded, that in England It is not our present intention to reply to would have met with cold neglect. Talent the article of “ Sigma.” We beg leave, howand worth were regarded as the only requi- ever, to thank him for the second and fourth sites for Government appointment. The paragraphs. He shows forcibly from what private soldier was not excluded from the terrible evils Napoleon rescued France; that
To say that the he was called to the office of Consul by families have tyrannized over Europe for the unanimous voice of the people; and ages; families destitute of moral worth or he makes general admissions regarding Na- intellectual capacity. Indeed, all governpoleon's talent which go far in our favour. ments are more or less arbitrary. The Presuming that it was proper for the French French could not tolerate the Bourbons; to confer on Napoleon the powers which they the Republic, as previously existing, had did, it is evident that he possessed those shown itself a grosser tyranny than any qualifications which entitled him to aspire to consulate could be ; and the nation was the chief office in the State. What woulử threatened by eign invasion. On these have been a mere indication of vanity in grounds we contend that France acted wisely others, was natural and justifiable in Napo- in her choice of Napoleon, first as Consul, leon. He was born to command, to direct the and afterwards as Emperor.
It is said, destinies of nations. We have not space to add however, he was actuated merely by ambition anything to the remarks of “Sigma,” on in accepting the chief power of the State; the subject of Napoleon's greatness and but this we dispute. Where is the evidence clearness of intellect, his perseverance, in- of mere ambition in the young warrior who dustry, and the simplicity of his habits. Mr. gained the fresh laurels of Italy, and susEmerson, in a few graphic pages, presents a tained the fierce fight of Egypt ! Was portrait of Napoleon with reference to such Napoleon ambitious, because, when France characteristics. Even in the unfavourable was on the brink of ruin, he came forward view which he takes of Napoleon's character as her deliverer amidst the plaudits of he shows that the latter does not merit the the people; and passed a life of hardship odium which so generally covers it. Refer- and toil in protecting her nationality, and ring to the two classes,-conservatives and spreading the light of freedom throughout democrats,-into which society is divided, enslaved Europe. The fact is that this he says,* the second class is that “ of business accusation has arisen from mere prejudice. men in America; in England, in France, and The world has taken up the cry of ambition throughout Europe, the class of industry and —at first circulated by the enemies of skill; Napoleon is its representative. The France—without inquiring whether it had instinct of active, brave, able men, through the least justice in it. The same calumny out the middle class everywhere, has pointed was uttered for centuries against Cromwell; out Napoleon as the incarnate democrat. but men begin to regard him as a hero, and He had their virtues and their vices: above the Protectorate as the greatest glory of our all, he had their spirit or aim.” Attend to history. Future ages, as the vast influences this
, ye money loving men, who complacently of Napoleon's career are developed throughtake up the talk of a pseudo morality, and out Europe, will do justice to his character. asperse the character of Napoleon. We do This bugbear of ambition will not stagger not grudge you your well known industry the judgment, or prevent general admiration. and skill, but we contend that Napoleon's is We would here, in passing, afford a specimen a far higher and nobler character than your or two of the manner in which Napoleon's own; but even were it not so, we should character has been treated. Bourrienne* readmire it as displaying the same essential lates that Leon Aune, a sergeant, having been
We maintain that France was included in the first presentation of sabres by guilty of no error in calling on Napoleon to the First Consul, wrote to Napoleon, thanking fill the office of Consul; in committing her- him for the gift, on which he received a letter self to the dominion of a single individual, in reply, eulogising the soldier in the warmest one who had shown' himself to be possessed manner. Bourrienne adds—“This cajolery to
powers fitted for so important a trust. a soldier answered well the purpose which His was an arbitrary government, but one Bonaparte
proposed. The letter to Aune could which the necessities of the times demanded. not fail of circulating through the whole army. Even in constitutional monarchies, nations Only think of the First Consul, the greatest are practically ruled by a few. Single general of France, calling a sergeant his
Emerson's “ Representative Men"—Lecture,
“Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte," by Bourrienne.
brave comrade!” Again, Bourrienne states, slavery, and to promote that French influence that there had been brought from Italy a which he and France believed to be essential bust of Brutus, who had sacrificed tyrants. to the good of Europe. In doing so, he is “ This,” says the biographer, “was the very surely worthy of the admiration of the thing wanted; and David received instruc- French; and he cannot be justly accused of tions to place Junius Brutus in the gallery mere ambition. No; his devotion to France, of the Tuilleries. What more convincing and the consequent devotion of France to proof of a horror of tyranny ?". Thus, him, are the great facts of his history, and instead of regarding those acts as sincere, present the true solution of his character. the attempt is artfully made to turn them In proof, however, of Napoleon's personal against Napoleon's character, Thus slender ambition, “Sigma” refers to the division which are the threads which, artfully woven he made of his newly acquired territories together by Napoleon's detracters, present to amongst members of his family, and among the eyes of the world a woof of hypocrisy his generals. Who does not see that it was and ambition. Upon principles like these, necessary to ally these nations to France, the character of no one would be safe. and that this was the most effectual means These remarks are particularly true regard- of doing so? There is here no personal ing Napoleon's alleged ambition. Because ambition. Who denies to our statesmen a he accepted the office of Consul, it is in- real patriotism because there are certain sinuated that he was actuated by ambition; offices which they distribute for personal or from the same motive he would insult an political purposes ? But even if personal ambassador, and then rush into a war. ambition was his chief motive, Napoleon's
Admitting for a moment, however, that character is worthy of the admiration of ambition was Napoleon's ruling passion, it France. To what a large extent does ambiwas not an ambition simply to promote his tion influence the conduct of other rulers, family aggrandizement and power. France and of public men generally, whose services called him to the offices which he filled; he we are ready to recognize ! Although devoted his life to her service. He saved ambition has sometimes proved baneful to her from the Jacobins; from the Bourbons; the world, to it also is owing to a large extent from the combined powers of Europe, which the energy and skill which are put forth in would have crushed her, as Russia did public life. Even if Napoleon's great aim Poland. True, he saved her at an immense was to dwell in the Tuilleries, and to wear cost of human life; but the nationality of the crown of France, of what should the France was worth the sacrifice. Better was people complain ? were they not justified it that her sons should perish on the plains in their admiration, if
-as we contendof Egypt, or be wrapped in the winding his power was used for the benefit of the sheet of the Russian snows, than that France State? Napoleon certainly believed he was should be crushed beneath the fetters of raised up for an important work; that he Austrian absolutism, or English oligarchy. was guided by some mysterious star. “They When we are told of the loss of human life charge me,” he observed, “ with the commisin the European wars, let us not charge it sion of great crimes: men of my stamp do on Napoleon. Let us remember too that not commit crimes. Nothing has been more there are worse things even than death; and simple than my elevation; 'tis in vain to let us ask ourselves the question—had Na- ascribe it to intrigue or crime; it was owing poleon not arisen, what would have been the to the peculiarity of the times, and to my condition of Europe? Liberty might have reputation of having fought well against the slumbered for ages; or the millions might enemies of my country:
I have always have begun a struggle against their despotic marched with the opinions of great masses, monarchies, which, without the potent leader and of events. Of what use then would ship of Napoleon, would have ended by crimes be to me?” Great allowance must be riveting more firmly the chains of despotism. made for men, who, like Cromwell and
But we must pause. Tell us not that Napoleon, believed themselves to be combecause Napoleon invaded other nations he missioned to perform some important part of was therefore personally ambitious. He the theatre of public life. They were urged sought, by doing so, to rescue them from on by a mysterious impulse ; and the barriers