Графични страници
PDF файл


doors ;

sion that your confidence was reposed in me, my actions were as prompt as my thoughts.”

History is full, down to this day, of the imbecility of kings and governors. They are a class of persons much to be pitied; for they know not what they should do. The weavers strike for bread; and the king and his ministers, not knowing what to do, meet them with bayonets. But Napoleon understood his business. Here was a man who in each moment and emergency knew what to do next. It is an immense, comfort and refreshment to the spirits, not only of kings, but of citizens. Few men have any next; they live from hand to mouth, without plan, and are ever at the end of their line, and, after each action, wait for an impulse from abroad. Napoleon had been the first man of the world if his ends had been purely public. As he is, he inspires confidence and vigor by the extraordinary unity of his action.

He is firin, sure, self-denying, self-postponing, sacrificing every thing to his aim, money, troops, generals, and his own safety also, to his aim; not misled, like common adventurers, by the splendor of his own

“ Incidents ought not to govern policy,” he said, “ but policy incidents.”

“ To be hurried away by every event is to have no political system at all.” His victories were only so many

and he never for a moment lost sight of his way onward in the dazzle and uproar of the present circunstance. He knew what to do, and he flew to his mark. He would shorten a straight line to come at his object. Horrible anecdotes may no doubt be collected from his history, of the price at which he bought his successes : but he must not therefore be set down as cruel, but only as one who knew no impediment to his will ; not bloodthirsty, not cruel; but woe to what thing or person stood in his way! Not bloodthirsty, but not sparing of blood, and pitiless. only the object: the obstacle must give way. Sire, Gen. Clarke can not combine with Gen. Junot for the dreadful fire of the Austrian battery." “ Let him carry the battery !” – “Sire, every regiment that approaches the heavy artillery is sacrificed. Sire, what orders ?" Forward, forward!” Seruzier, a colonel of artillery, gives in his “ Military Memoirs” the following sketch of a scene after the battle of Austerlitz: 6 At the moment in which the Russian army was making its retreat, painfully, but in good order, on the ice of the lake, the Emperor Napoleon came riding at full speed toward the artillery. You are losing time,' he cried. • Fire upon those masses ! they must be ingulfed : fire upon the ice!! The order remained unexecuted for ten minutes. In vain several officers and myself were placed on the slope of a hill to produce the effect: their balls and mine rolled upon the ice without breaking it up. Seeing that, I tried a simple method of elevating light howitzers. The almost perpendicular fall of the

He saw


heavy projectiles produced the desired effect. My inethod was immediately followed by the adjoining batteries; and in less than no time we buried ” some * 6 thousands of Russians and Austrians under the waters of the lake.

In the plenitude of his resources, every obstacle seemed to vanish. “ There shall be no Alps,” he said; and he built his perfect roads, climbing by graded galleries their steepest precipices, until Italy was as open to Paris as any town in France. He laid his bones to, and wrought for his crown. Having decided what was to be done, he did that with might and main. He put out all his strength. He risked every thing, and spared nothing, — neither ammunition nor money nor troops nor generals nor himself.

We like to see every thing do its office after its kind, whether it be a milch-cow or a rattle-snake; and, if fighting be the best mode of adjusting national differences (as large majorities of men seem to agree), certainly Bonaparte was right in making it thorough. "The grand principle of war," he said, “was, that an army ought always to be ready, by day and by night, and at all hours, to make all the resistance it is capable of making." He never economized his ammunition, but on a hostile position rained a torrent of iron — shells, balls, grape-shot — to annibilate all defense. On any point of resistance, he concentrated squadron on squadron in overwhelming numbers, until it was swept out of existence. To a regiment of horse-chasseurs at Lobenstein, two days before the battle of Jena, Napoleon saie!, “ My lads, you must not fear death: when soldiers brave death, they drive him into the enemy's ranks.” In the fury of assault, he no more spared himself. He went to the edge of his possibility. It is plain that in Italy he did what he could, and all that he could. He came several times within an inch of ruin; and his own person was all but lost. He was fung into the marsh at Arcola. The Austrians were between him and his troops in the mêlée, and he was brought off with desperate efforts. At Lonato, and at other places, he was on the point of being taken prisoner. He fought sixty battles. He had never enough. Each victory was a new weapon.

My power would fall were I not to support it by new achievements. Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.

He felt, with every wise man, that as much life is needed for conservation as for creation. We are always in peril, always in a bad plight, just on the edge of destruction, and only to be saved by invention and courage.

This vigor was guarded and tempered by the coldest prudence and punctuality. A thunderbolt in the attack, he was found in


* As I quote at second-hand, and can not procure Seruzier, I dare not adopt the high figure I find.


[ocr errors]

6 Be

vulnerable in his intrenchments. His very attack was never the inspiration of courage, but the result of calculation. His idea of the best defense consists in being still the attacking party.

My ambition,” he says, was great, but was of a cold nature." In one of his conversations with Las Casas, he remarked, “ As to moral courage, I have rarely met with the two-o'clock-in-themorning kind: I mean unprepared courage; that which is necessary on an unexpected occasion, and which, in spite of the most unforeseen events, leaves full freedom of judgment and decision.” And he did not hesitate to declare that he was himself eminently endowed with this “two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage, and that he had met with few persons equal to himself in this respect.”

Every thing depended on the nicety of his combinations; and the stars were not more punctual than his arithmetic. His personal attention descended to the smallest particulars. 66 At Montebello, I ordered Kellermann to attack with eight hundred horse; and with these he separated the six thousand Hungarian grenadiers before the very eyes of the Austrian cavalry. This cavalry was half a league off, and required a quarter of an hour to arrive on the field of action; and I have observed that it is always these quarters of an hour that decide the fate of a battle.” fore he fought a battle, Bonaparte thought little about what he should do in case of success, but a great deal about what he should do in case of a reverse of fortune.” The same prudence and good sense mark all his behavior. His instructions to his secretary at the Tuileries are worth remembering: “During the night, enter my chamber as seldom as possible. Do not awake me when you have any good news to communicate; with that there is no hurry: but, when you bring bad news, rouse me instantly; for then there is not a moment to be lost.” It was a whimsical economy of the same kind which dictated his practice, when general in Italy, in regard to his burdensome correspond

He directed Bourrienne to leave all letters unopened for three weeks, and then observed with satisfaction how large a part of the correspondence had thus disposed of itself, and no longer required an answer. His achievement of business was immense, and enlarges the known powers of man.

There have been many working kings from Ulysses to William of Orange, but none who accomplished a tithe of this man's performance.

To these gifts of Nature Napoleon added the advantage of having been born to a private and humble fortune. In his later days, he had the weakness of wishing to add to his crowns and badges the prescription of aristocracy ; but he knew his debt to his austere education, and made no secret of his contempt for the born kings, and for "the hereditary asses," as he coarsely styled the Bourbons. He said, that "in their exile they had learned



nothing, and forgot nothing." Bonaparte had passed through all the degrees of military service; but also was citizen before he was emperor, and so has the key to citizenship. His remarks and estimates discover the information and justness of measurement of the middle class. Those who had to deal with him found that he was not to be imposed upon, but could cipher as well as another


appears in all parts of his Memoirs, dictated at St. Helena. When the expenses of the empress, of his household, of his palaces, had accumulated great debts, Napoleon examined the bills of the creditors himself, detected overcharges and errors, and reduced the claims by considerable sums.

His grand weapon — namely, the millions whom he directed — he owed to the representative character which clothed him. He interests us as he stands for France and for Europe; and he exists as captain and king only as far as the Revolution, or the interest of the industrious masses, found an organ and a leader in him. In the social interests, he knew the meaning and value of labor, and threw himself naturally on that side. I like an incident mentioned by one of his biographers at St. Helena : “When walking with Mrs. Balcombe, some servants, carrying heavy boxes, passed by on the road; and Mrs. Balcombe desired them, in rather an angry tone, to keep back. Napoleon interfered, saying, 'Respect the burden, madam.'” In the time of the empire, he directed attention to the improvement and embellishment of the markets of the capital. “The market-place," he said, " is the Louvre of the common people.” The principal works that have survived him are his magnificent roads.

He filled the troops with his spirit; and a sort of freedom and companionship grew up between him and them, which the forms of his court never permitted between the officers and himself. They performed under his eye that which no others could do. The best document of his relation to his troops is the order of the day on the morning of the battle of Austerlitz, in which Napoleon promises the troops that he will keep his person out of reach of fire. This declaration, which is the reverse of that ordinarily made by generals and sovereigns on the eve of a battle, sufficiently explains the devotion of the army to their leader.

But, though there is in particulars this identity between Napoleon and the mass of the people, his real strength lay in their conviction that he was their representative in his genius and aims, not only when he courted, but when he controlled and even when he decimated them by his conscriptions. He knew, as well as any Jacobin in France, how to philosophize on liberty and equality ; and when allusion was made to the precious blood of centuries, which was spilled by the killing of the Duc d'Enghien, he suggested, “Neither is my blood ditch-water.” The people felt that

no longer the throne was occupied, and the land sucked of its nourishment, by a small class of legitimates secluded froin all community with the children of the soil, and holding the ideas and superstitions of a long-forgotten state of society. Instead of that vampire, a man of themselves held in the Tuileries knowledge and ideas like their own; opening of course, to them and their children, all places of power and trust. The day of sleepy, selfish policy, ever narrowing the means and opportunities of young men, was ended; and a day of expansion and demand was come. A market for all the powers and productions of man was opened; brilliant prizes glittered in the eyes of youth and talent. The old, iron-bound, feudal France was changed into a young Ohio or New York; and those who smarted under the immediate rigors of the new monarch pardoned them as the necessary severities of the military system which had driven out the oppressor. And, even when the majority of the people had begun to ask whether they had really gained any thing under the exhausting levies of men and money of the new master, the whole talent of the country, in every rank and kindred, took his part, and defended him as its natural patron. In 1814, when advised to rely on the higher classes, Napoleon said to those around him, “ Gentlemen, in the situation in which I stand, my only nobility is the rabble of the faubourgs.”

Napoleon met this natural expectation. The necessity of his position required a hospitality to every sort of talent, and its appointment to trusts; and his feeling went along with this policy. Like every superior person, he undoubtedly felt a desire for men and compeers, and a wish to measure his power with other masters, and an impatience of fools and underlings. In Italy, he sought for men, and found none. “Good God !” he said, “how rare men are! There are eighteen millions in Italy, and I have with difficulty found two, Dandolo and Melzi." with larger experience, his respect for mankind was not increased. In a moment of bitterness, he said to one of his oldest friends, “ Men deserve the contempt with which they inspire me. I have only to put some gold lace on the coat of my virtuous republicans, and they immediately become just what I wish them.” This impatience at levity was, however, an oblique tribute of respect to those able persons who commanded his regard, not only when he found them friends and coadjutors, but also when they resisted his will. He could not confound Fox and Pitt, Carnot, Lafayette, and Bernadotte, with the danglers of his court; and, in spite of the detraction which his systematic egotism dictated toward the great captains who conquered with and for him, ample acknowledgments are made by him to Lannes, Duroc, Kleber, Dessaix, Massena, Murat, Ney, and Augereau. If he felt him

In later years,

« ПредишнаНапред »