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The Modern Regime, Volume 1 [Napoleon] The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 5 by Hippolyte A. Taine

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The Modern Regime, Volume 1 [Napoleon]
The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 5
by Hippolyte A. Taine^M



BOOK FIRST. Napoleon Bonaparte.

Chapter I. Historical Importance of his Character and Genius.

Chapter II. His Ideas, Passions and Intelligence.

BOOK SECOND. Formation and Character of the New State.

Chapter I. The Institution of Government.

Chapter II. Use and Abuse of Government Services.

Chapter III. The New Government Organization.

BOOK THIRD. Object and Merits of the System.

Chapter I. Recovery of Social Order.

Chapter II. Taxation and Conscription.

Chapter III. Ambition and Self-esteem.

BOOK FOURTH. Defect and Effects of the System.

Chapter I. Local Society.

Chapter II. Local society since 1830.



The following third and last part of the Origins of Contemporary
France is to consist of two volumes. After the present volume, the
second is to treat of the Church, the School and the Family, describe
the modern milieu and note the facilities and obstacles which a
society like our own encounters in this new milieu: here, the past and
the present meet, and the work already done is continued by the work
which is going on under our eyes. - -The undertaking is hazardous and
more difficult than with the two preceding parts. For the Ancient
Régime and the Revolution are henceforth complete and finished
periods; we have seen the end of both and are thus able to comprehend
their entire course. On the contrary, the end of the ulterior period
is still wanting ; the great institutions which date from the
Consulate and the Empire, either consolidation or dissolution, have
not yet reached their historic term: since 1800, the social order of
things, notwithstanding eight changes of political form, has remained
almost intact. Our children or grandchildren will know whether it
will finally succeed or miscarry; witnesses of the denouement, they
will have fuller light by which to judge of the entire drama. Thus
far four acts only have been played; of the fifth act, we have simply
a presentiment. - On the other hand, by dint of living under this
social system, we have become accustomed to it; it no longer excites
our wonder; however artificial it may be it seems to us natural. We
can scarcely conceive of another that is healthier; and what is much
worse, it is repugnant to us to do so. For, such a conception would
soon lead to comparisons and hence to a judgment and, on many points,
to an unfavorable judgment, one which would be a censure, not only of
our institutions but of ourselves. The machine of the year VIII,[1]
applied to us for three generations, has permanently shaped and fixed
us as we are, for better or for worse. If, for a century, it sustains
us, it represses us for a century. We have contracted the infirmities
it imports - stoppage of development, instability of internal balance,
disorders of the intellect and of the will, fixed ideas and ideas that
are false. These ideas are ours; therefore we hold on to them, or,
rather, they have taken hold of us. To get rid of them, to impose the
necessary recoil on our mind, to transport us to a distance and place
us at a critical point of view, where we can study ourselves, our
ideas and our institutions as scientific objects, requires a great
effort on our part, many precautions, and long reflection. - Hence,
the delays of this study; the reader will pardon them on considering
that an ordinary opinion, caught on the wing, on such a subject, does
not suffice. In any event, when one presents an opinion on such a
subject one is bound to believe it. I can believe in my own only when
it has become precise and seems to me proven.

Menthon Saint-Bernard, September, 1890.



CHAPTER I. Historical Importance of his Character and Genius.

If you want to comprehend a building, you have to imagine the
circumstances, I mean the difficulties and the means, the kind and
quality of its available materials, the moment, the opportunity, and
the urgency of the demand for it. But, still more important, we must
consider the genius and taste of the architect, especially whether he
is the proprietor, whether he built it to live in himself, and, once
installed in it, whether he took pains to adapt it to how own way of
living, to his own necessities, to his own use. - Such is the social
edifice erected by Napoleon Bonaparte, its architect, proprietor, and
principal occupant from 1799 to 1814. It is he who has made modern
France; never was an individual character so profoundly stamped on any
collective work, so that, to comprehend the work, we must first study
the character of the Man.[2]

I. Napoleon's Past and Personality.

He is of another race and another century. - Origin of his paternal
family. - Transplanted to Corsica. - His maternal family. -
Laetitia Ramolino. - Persistence of Corsican souvenirs in Napoleon's
mind. - His youthful sentiments regarding Corsica and France. -
Indications found in his early compositions and in his style. -
Current monarchical or democratic ideas have no hold on him. - His
impressions of the 20th of June and 10th of August after the 31st of
May. - His associations with Robespierre and Barras without
committing himself. - His sentiments and the side he takes Vendémiaire
13th. - The great Condottière. - His character and conduct in Italy.
- Description of him morally and physically in 1798. - The early and
sudden ascendancy which he exerts. Analogous in spirit and character
to his Italian ancestors of the XVth century.

Disproportionate in all things, but, stranger still, he is not only
out of the common run, but there is no standard of measurement for
him; through his temperament, instincts, faculties, imagination,
passions, and moral constitution he seems cast in a special mould,
composed of another metal than that which enters into the composition
of his fellows and contemporaries. Evidently he is not a Frenchman,
nor a man of the eighteenth century; he belongs to another race and
another epoch.[3] We detect in him, at the first glance, the
foreigner, the Italian,[4] and something more, apart and beyond these,
surpassing all similitude or analogy.-Italian he was through blood and
lineage; first, through his paternal family, which is Tuscan,[5] and
which we can follow down from the twelfth century, at Florence, then
at San Miniato ; next at Sarzana, a small, backward, remote town in
the state of Genoa, where, from father to son, it vegetates obscurely
in provincial isolation, through a long line of notaries and municipal
syndics. "My origin," says Napoleon himself,[6] " has made all
Italians regard me as a compatriot. . . . When the question of the
marriage of my sister Pauline with Prince Borghése came up there was
but one voice in Rome and in Tuscany, in that family, and with all its
connections: 'It will do,' said all of them, 'it's amongst ourselves,
it is one of our own families...'" When the Pope later hesitated about
coming to Paris to crown Napoleon, "the Italian party in the Conclave
prevailed against the Austrian party by supporting political arguments
with the following slight tribute to national amour propre: 'After all
we are imposing an Italian family on the barbarians, to govern them.
We are revenging ourselves on the Gauls.'" Significant words, which
will one day throw light upon the depths of the Italian nature, the
eldest daughter of modern civilization, imbued with her right of
primogeniture, persisting in her grudge against the transalpines, the
rancorous inheritor of Roman pride and of antique patriotism.[7]

From Sarzana, a Bonaparte emigrates to Corsica, where he establishes
himself and lives after 1529. The following year Florence is taken
and subjugated for good. Henceforth, in Tuscany, under Alexander de
Medici, then under Cosmo I. and his successors, in all Italy under
Spanish rule, municipal independence, private feuds, the great
exploits of political adventures and successful usurpations, the
system of ephemeral principalities, based on force and fraud, all give
way to permanent repression, monarchical discipline, external order,
and a certain species of public tranquility. Thus, just at the time
when the energy and ambition, the vigorous and free sap of the Middle
Ages begins to run down and then dry up in the shriveled trunk,[8] a
small detached branch takes root in an island, not less Italian but
almost barbarous, amidst institutions, customs, and passions belonging
to the primitive medieval epoch,[9] and in a social atmosphere
sufficiently rude for the maintenance of all its vigor and harshness.
- Grafted, moreover, by frequent marriages, on the wild stock of the
island, Napoleon, on the maternal side, through his grandmother and
mother, is wholly indigenous. His grandmother, a Pietra-Santa,
belonged to Sarténe,[10] a Corsican canton par excellence where, in
1800, hereditary vendettas still maintained the system of the eleventh
century; where the permanent strife of inimical families was suspended
only by truces; where, in many villages, nobody stirred out of doors
except in armed bodies, and where the houses were crenellated like
fortresses. His mother, Laetitia Ramolini, from whom, in character
and in will, he derived much more than from his father,[11] is a
primitive soul on which Civilization has taken no hold. She is
simple, all of a piece, unsuited to the refinements, charms, and
graces of a worldly life; indifferent to comforts, without literary
culture, as parsimonious as any peasant woman, but as energetic as the
leader of a band. She is powerful, physically and spiritually,
accustomed to danger, ready in desperate resolutions. She is, in
short, a "rural Cornelia," who conceived and gave birth to her son
amidst the risks of battle and of defeat, in the thickest of the
French invasion, amidst mountain rides on horseback, nocturnal
surprises, and volleys of musketry.[12]

"Losses, privations, and fatigue," says Napoleon, "she endured all and
braved all. Hers was a man's head on a woman's shoulders."

Thus fashioned and brought into the world, he felt that, from first to
the last, he was of his people and country.

"Everything was better there," said he, at Saint Helena,[13] "even the
very smell of the soil, which he could have detected with his eyes
shut; nowhere had he found the same thing. He imagined himself there
again in early infancy, and lived over again the days of his youth,
amidst precipices, traversing lofty peaks, deep valleys, and narrow
defiles, enjoying the honors and pleasures of hospitality," treated
everywhere as a brother and compatriot," without any accident or
insult ever suggesting to him that his confidence was not well
grounded." At Bocognano,[14] where his mother, pregnant with him, had
taken refuge, "where hatred and vengeance extended to the seventh
degree of relationship, and where the dowry of a young girl was
estimated by the number of her Cousins, I was feasted and made
welcome, and everybody would have died for me." Forced to become a
Frenchman, transplanted to France, educated at the expense of the king
in a French school, he became rigid in his insular patriotism, and
loudly extolled Paoli, the liberator, against whom his relations had
declared themselves. "Paoli," said he, at the dinner table,[15]" was
a great man. He loved his country. My father was his adjutant, and
never will I forgive him for having aided in the union of Corsica with
France. He should have followed her fortunes and have succumbed only
with her." Throughout his youth he is at heart anti-French, morose,
"bitter, liking very few and very little liked, brooding over
resentment," like a vanquished man, always moody and compelled to work
against the grain. At Brienne, he keeps aloof from his comrades,
takes no part in their sports, shuts himself in the library, and opens
himself up only to Bourrienne in explosions of hatred: "I will do you
Frenchmen all the harm I can! - "Corsican by nation and character,"
wrote his professor of history in the Military Academy, "he will go
far if circumstances favor him."[16] - Leaving the Academy, and in
garrison at Valence and Auxonne, he remains always hostile,
denationalized; his old bitterness returns, and, addressing his
letters to Paoli, he says: "I was born when our country perished.
Thirty thousand Frenchmen vomited on our shores, drowning the throne
of liberty in floods of blood -such was the odious spectacle on which
my eyes first opened! The groans of the dying, the shrieks of the
oppressed, tears of despair, surrounded my cradle from my birth. . .
I will blacken those who betrayed the common cause with the brush of
infamy. . . . vile, sordid souls corrupted by gain!"[17] A little
later, his letter to Buttafuoco, deputy in the Constituent Assembly
and principal agent in the annexation to France, is one long strain of
renewed, concentrated hatred, which, after at first trying to restrain
it within the bounds of cold sarcasm, ends in boiling over, like red-
hot lava, in a torrent of scorching invective. - From the age of
fifteen, at the Academy and afterwards in his regiment, he finds
refuge in imagination in the past of his island;[18] he recounts its
history, his mind dwells upon it for many years, and he dedicates his
work to Paoli. Unable to get it published, he abridges it, and
dedicates the abridgment to Abbé Raynal, recapitulating in a strained
style, with warm, vibrating sympathy, the annals of his small
community, its revolts and deliverances, its heroic and sanguinary
outbreaks, its public and domestic tragedies, ambuscades, betrayals,
revenges, loves, and murders, - in short, a history similar to that of
the Scottish highlanders, while the style, still more than the
sympathies, denotes the foreigner. Undoubtedly, in this work, as in
other youthful writings, he follows as well as he can the authors in
vogue - Rousseau, and especially Raynal; he gives a schoolboy
imitation of their tirades, their sentimental declamation, and their
humanitarian grandiloquence. But these borrowed clothes, which
incommode him, do not fit him; they are too tight, and the cloth is
too fine; they require too much circumspection in walking; he does not
know how to put them on, and they rip at every seam. Not only has he
never learned how to spell, but he does not know the true meaning,
connections, and relations of words, the propriety or impropriety of
phrases, the exact significance of imagery;[19] he strides on
impetuously athwart a pell-mell of incongruities, incoherencies,
Italianisms, and barbarisms, undoubtedly stumbling along through
awkwardness and inexperience, but also through excess of ardor and of
heat;[20] his jerking, eruptive thought, overcharged with passion,
indicates the depth and temperature of its source. Already, at the
Academy, the professor of belles-lettres[21] notes down that "in the
strange and incorrect grandeur of his amplifications he seems to see
granite fused in a volcano." However original in mind and in
sensibility, ill-adapted as he is to the society around him, different
from his comrades, it is clear beforehand that the current ideas which
take such hold on them will obtain no hold on him.

Of the two dominant and opposite ideas which clash with each other, it
might be supposed that he would lean either to one or to the other,
although accepting neither. - Pensioner of the king, who supported
him at Brienne, and afterwards in the Military Academy; who also
supported his sister at Saint-Cyr; who, for twenty years, is the
benefactor of his family; to whom, at this very time, he addresses
entreating or grateful letters over his mother's signature - he does
not regard him as his born general; it does not enter his mind to take
sides and draw his sword in his patron's behalf;' in vain is he a
gentleman, to whom, d'Hozier has certified; reared in a school of
noble cadets, he has no noble or monarchical traditions.[22] - Poor
and tormented by ambition, a reader of Rousseau, patronized by Raynal,
and tacking together sentences of philosophic fustian about equality,
if he speaks the jargon of the day, it is without any belief in it.
The phrases in vogue form a decent, academical drapery for his ideas,
or serve him as a red cap for the club; he is not bewildered by
democratic illusions, and entertains no other feeling than disgust for
the revolution and the sovereignty of the populace. - At Paris, in
April,1792, when the struggle between the monarchists and the
revolutionaries is at its height, he tries to find "some successful
speculation,"[23] and thinks he will hire and sublet houses at a
profit. On the 20th of June he witnesses, only as a matter of
curiosity, the invasion of the Tuileries, and, on seeing the king at a
window place the red cap on his head, exclaims, so as to be heard, "
Che Caglione!" Immediately after this: "How could they let that rabble
enter! Mow down four or five hundred of them with cannons and the rest
would run away." On August 10, when the tocsin sounds, he regards the
people and the king with equal contempt; he rushes to a friend's house
on the Carrousel and there, still as a looker-on, views at his ease
all the occurrences of the day.[24] Finally, the chateau is forced
and he strolls through the Tuileries, looks in at the neighboring
cafés, and that is all: he is not disposed to take sides, he has no
Jacobin or royalist inclination. His features, even, are so calm "as
to provoke many hostile and distrustful stares, as someone who is
unknown and suspicious." - Similarly, after the 31st of May and the
2nd of June, his "Souper de Beaucaire" shows that if he condemns the
departmental insurrection it is mainly because he deems it futile: on
the side of the insurgents, a defeated army, no position tenable, no
cavalry, raw artillerymen, Marseilles reduced to its own troops, full
of hostile sans-culottes and so besieged, taken and pillaged. Chances
are against it: "Let the impoverished regions, the inhabitants of
Vivaris, of the Cevennes, of Corsica, fight to the last extremity, but
if you lose a battle and the fruit of a thousand years of fatigue,
hardship, economy, and happiness become the soldier's prey."[25] Here
was something with which the Girondists could be converted! - None of
the political or social convictions which then exercised such control
over men's minds have any hold on him. Before the 9th of Thermidor he
seemed to be a "republican montagnard," and we follow him for months
in Provence. "the favorite and confidential adviser of young
Robespierre," "admirer" of the elder Robespierre,[26] intimate at Nice
with Charlotte Robespierre. After the 9th of Thermidor has passed, he
frees himself with bombast from this compromising friendship: "I
thought him sincere," says he of the younger Robespierre, in a letter
intended to be shown, "but were he my father and had aimed at tyranny,
I would have stabbed him myself." On returning to Paris, after having
knocked at several doors, he takes Barras for a patron. Barras, the
most brazen of the corrupt, Barras, who has overthrown and contrived
the death of his two former protectors.[27] Among the contending
parties and fanaticisms which succeed each other he keeps cool and
free to dispose of himself as he pleases, indifferent to every cause
and concerning himself only with his own interests. - On the evening
of the 12th of Vendémiaire, on leaving the Feydeau theatre, and
noticing the preparations of the sectionists,[28] he said to Junot:

"Ah, if the sections put me in command, I would guarantee to place
them in
the Tuileries in two hours and have all those Convention rascals
driven out! "

Five hours later, summoned by Barras and the Conventionalists, he
takes "three minutes" to make up his mind, and, instead of "blowing up
the representatives," he mows down the Parisians. Like a good
condottière, he does not commit himself, considers the first that
offers and then the one who offers the most, only to back out
afterwards, and finally, seizing the opportunity, to grab everything.
- He will more and more become a true condottière, that is to say,
leader of a band, increasingly independent, pretending to submit under
the pretext of the public good, looking out only for his own interest,
self-centered, general on his own account and for his own advantage in
his Italian campaign before and after the 18th of Fructidor.[29] He
is, however, a condottière of the first class, already aspiring to the
loftiest summits, "with no stopping-place but the throne or the
scaffold,"[30] "determined[31] to master France, and through France
Europe. Without distraction, sleeping only three hours during the
night," he plays with ideas, men, religions, and governments,
exploiting people with incomparable dexterity and brutality. He is,
in the choice of means as of ends, a superior artist, inexhaustible in
glamour, seductions, corruption, and intimidation, fascinating, and
yet more terrible than any wild beast suddenly released among a herd
of browsing cattle. The expression is not too strong and was uttered
by an eye-witness, almost at this very date, a friend and a competent
diplomat: "You know that, while I am very fond of the dear general, I
call him to myself the little tiger, so as to properly characterize
his figure, tenacity, and courage, the rapidity of his movements, and
all that he has in him which maybe fairly regarded in that sense."[32]

At this very date, previous to official adulation and the adoption of
a recognized type, we see him face to face in two portraits drawn from
life, one physical, by a truthful painter, Guérin, and the other
moral, by a superior woman, Madame de Staël, who to the best European
culture added tact and worldly perspicacity. Both portraits agree so
perfectly that each seems to interpret and complete the other. "I saw
him for the first time,"[33] says Madame de Staël, "on his return to
France after the treaty of Campo-Formio. After recovering from the
first excitement of admiration there succeeded to this a decided
sentiment of fear." And yet, "at this time he had no power, for it was
even then supposed that the Directory looked upon him with a good deal
of suspicion." People regarded him sympathetically, and were even
prepossessed in his favor;

"thus the fear he inspired was simply due to the singular effect of
his person on almost all who approached him. I had met men worthy of
respect and had likewise met men of ferocious character; but nothing
in the impression which Bonaparte produced on me reminded me of
either. I soon found, in the various opportunities I had of meeting
him during his stay in Paris, that his character was not to be
described in terms commonly employed; he was neither mild nor)violent,
nor gentle nor cruel, like certain personages one happens to know. A
being like him, wholly unlike anybody else, could neither feel nor
excite sympathy; he was both more and less than a man; his figure,
intellect, and language bore the imprint of a foreign nationality . .
. . far from being reassured on seeing Bonaparte oftener, he
intimidated me more and more every day. I had a confused impression
that he was not to be influenced by any emotion of sympathy or
affection. He regards a human being as a fact, an object, and not as
a fellow-creature. He neither hates nor loves, he exists for himself
alone; the rest of humanity are so many ciphers. The force of his
will consists in the imperturbable calculation of his egoism. He is a
skillful player who has the human species for an antagonist, and whom
he proposes to checkmate. . . Every time that I heard him talk I
was struck with his superiority; it bore no resemblance to that of men
informed and cultivated through study and social intercourse, such as
we find in France and England. His conversation indicated the tact of
circumstances, like that of the hunter in pursuit of his prey. His
spirit seemed a cold, keen sword-blade, which freezes while it wounds.
I felt a profound irony in his mind, which nothing great or beautiful
could escape, not even his own fame, for he despised the nation whose
suffrages he sought. . . " - "With him, everything was means or
aims; spontaneity, whether for good or for evil, was entirely absent."

No law, no ideal and abstract rule, existed for him;

"he examined things only with reference to their immediate
usefulness; a general principle was repugnant to him, either as so
much nonsense or as an enemy."

Now, if we contemplate Guérin's portrait,[34] we see a spare body,
whose narrow shoulders under the uniform wrinkled by sudden movements,
the neck swathed in its high twisted cravat, the temples covered by
long, smooth, straight hair, exposing only the mask, the hard features
intensified through strong contrasts of light and shade, the cheeks
hollow up to the inner angle of the eye, the projecting cheek-bones,
the massive, protuberant jaw, the sinuous, mobile lips, pressed
together as if attentive, the large, clear eyes, deeply sunk under the
broad, arched eyebrows, the fixed, oblique look, as penetrating as a
rapier, and the two creases which extend from the base of the nose to
the brow, as if in a frown of suppressed anger and determined will.
Add to this the accounts of his contemporaries[35] who saw or heard
the curt accent or the sharp, abrupt gesture, the interrogating,
imperious, absolute tone of voice, and we comprehend how, the moment
they accosted him, they felt the dominating hand which seizes them,
presses them down, holds them firmly and never relaxes its grasp.

Already, at the receptions of the Directory, when conversing with men,
or even with ladies, he puts questions "which prove the superiority of
the questioner to those who have to answer them."[36] "Are you
married?" says he to this one, and "How many children have you? "to
another. To that one, "When did you come here?" or, again, "When are
you going away ? He places himself in front of a French lady, well-
known for her beauty and wit and the vivacity of her opinions, "like
the stiffest of German generals, and says : 'Madame, I don't like
women who meddle with politics!'" Equality, ease, familiarity and
companionship, vanish at his approach. Eighteen months before this,
on his appointment as commander-in-chief of the army in Italy, Admiral
Decrès, who had known him well at Paris,[37] learns that he is to pass
through Toulon: "I at once propose to my comrades to introduce them,
venturing to do so on my acquaintance with him in Paris. Full of
eagerness and joy, I start off. The door opens and I am about to
press forwards," he afterwards wrote, "when the attitude, the look,
and the tone of voice suffice to arrest me. And yet there was nothing
offensive about him; still, this was enough. I never tried after that
to overstep the line thus imposed on me." A few days later, at
Albenga,[38] certain generals of division, and among them Augereau, a
vulgar, heroic old soldier, vain of his tall figure and courage,
arrive at headquarters, not well disposed toward the little parvenu
sent out to them from Paris. Recalling the description of him which
had been given to them, Augereau is abusive and insubordinate
beforehand: one of Barras' favorites, the Vendémiaire general, a
street general, "not yet tried out on the field of battle,[39] hasn't
a friend, considered a loner because he is the only one who can thinks
for himself, looking peaky, said to be a mathematician and a dreamer!"
They enter, and Bonaparte keeps them waiting. At last he appears,
with his sword and belt on, explains the disposition of the forces,
gives them his orders, and dismisses them. Augereau has remained
silent; It is only when he gets out of doors does he recover himself
and fall back on his accustomed oaths. He admits to Massena that
"that little bastard of a general frightened him." He cannot
"comprehend the ascendancy which made him feel crushed right

Extraordinary and superior, made for command[41] and for conquest,
singular and of an unique species, is the feeling of all his
contemporaries. Those who are most familiar with the histories of
other nations, Madame de Staël and, after her, Stendhal, go back to
the right sources to comprehend him, to the "petty Italian tyrants of
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries," to Castruccio-Castracani, to
the Braccio of Mantua, to the Piccinino, the Malatestas of Rimini, and
the Sforzas of Milan. In their opinion, however, it is only a chance
analogy, a psychological resemblance. Really, however,
and)historically it is a positive relationship. He is a descendant of
the great Italians, the men of action of the year 1400, the military
adventurers, usurpers, and founders of governments lasting their life-
time. He inherits in direct affiliation their blood and inward
organization, mental and moral.[42] A bud, collected in their forest,
before the age of refinement, impoverishment, and decay, has been
transported into a similar and remote nursery, where a tragic and
militant régime is permanently established. There the primitive germ
is preserved intact and transmitted from one generation to another,
renewed and invigorated by interbreeding. Finally, at the last stage
of its growth, it springs out of the ground and develops
magnificently, blooming the same as ever, and producing the same fruit
as on the original stem. Modern cultivation and French gardening have
pruned away but very few of its branches and blunted a few of its
thorns: its original texture, inmost substance, and spontaneous
development have not changed. The soil of France and of Europe,
however, broken up by revolutionary tempests, is more favorable to its
roots than the worn-out fields of the Middle Ages and there it grows
by itself, without being subject, like its Italian ancestors, to
rivalry with its own species; nothing checks the growth; it may absorb
all the juices of the ground, all the air and sunshine of the region,
and become the Colossus which the ancient plants, equally deep-rooted
and certainly as absorbent, but born in a less friable soil and more
crowded together, could not provide.

II. The Leader and Statesman

Intelligence during the Italian Renaissance and at the present day. -
Integrity of Bonaparte's mental machinery. - Flexibility, force, and
tenacity of his attention. - Another difference between Napoleon's
intellect and that of his contemporaries. - He thinks objects and not
words. - His antipathy to Ideology. - Little or no literary or
philosophical education. - Self-taught through direct observation and
technical instruction. - His fondness for details. - His inward
vision of physical objects and places. - His mental portrayal of
positions, distances, and quantities.

"The human plant," said Alfieri, "is in no country born more vigorous
than in Italy"; and never, in Italy, was it so vigorous as from 1300
to 1500, from the contemporaries of Dante down to those of Michael
Angelo, Caesar Borgia, Julius II., and Macchiavelli.[43] The first
distinguishing mark of a man of those times is the soundness of his
mental instrument. Nowadays, after three hundred years of service,
ours has lost somewhat of its moral fiber, sharpness, and versatility:
usually the compulsory specialization has caused it to become lop-
sided making it unfit for other purposes. What's more, the increase
in ready-made ideas and clichés and acquired methods incrusts it and
reduces its scope to a sort of routine. Finally, it is exhausted by
an excess of intellectual activity and diminished by the continuity of
sedentary habits. It is just the opposite with those impulsive minds
of uncorrupted blood and of a new stock. - Roederer, a competent and
independent judge, who, at the beginning of the consular government,
sees Bonaparte daily at the meetings of the Council of State, and who
notes down every evening the impressions of the day, is carried away
with admiration:[44]

"Punctual at every sitting, prolonging the session five or six hours,
discussing before and afterwards the subjects brought forward, always
returning to two questions, 'Can that be justified?[45]' 'Is that
useful?' examining each question in itself, in these two respects,
after having subjected it to a most exact and sharp analysis; next,
consulting the best authorities, the pasts, experience, and obtaining
information about bygone jurisprudence, the laws of Louis XIV. and of
Frederick the Great. . . . Never did the council adjourn without
its members knowing more than the day before; if not through knowledge
derived from him, at least through the researches he obliged them to
make. Never did the members of the Senate and the Legislative Corps,
or of the tribunals, pay their respects to him without being rewarded
for their homage by valuable instructions. He cannot be surrounded by
public men without being the statesman, all forming for him a council
of state."

"What characterizes him above them all," is not alone the penetration
and universality of his comprehension, but likewise and especially
"the force, flexibility, and constancy of his attention. He can work
eighteen hours at a stretch, on one or on several subjects. I never
saw him tired. I never found his mind lacking in inspiration, even
when weary in body, nor when violently exercised, nor when angry. I
never saw him diverted from one matter by another, turning from that
under discussion to one he had just finished or was about to take up.
The news, good or bad, he received from Egypt, did not divert his mind
from the civil code, nor the civil code from the combinations which
the safety of Egypt required. Never did a man more wholly devote
himself to the work in hand, nor better devote his time to what he had
to do. Never did a mind more inflexibly set aside the occupation or
thought which did not come at the right day or hour, never was one
more ardent in seeking it, more alert in its pursuit, more capable of
fixing it when the time came to take it up."

He himself said later on:[46]

"Various subjects and affairs are stowed away in my brain as in a
chest of drawers. When I want to take up any special business I shut
one drawer and open another. None of them ever get mixed, and never
does this incommode me or fatigue me. If I feel sleepy I shut all the
drawers and go to sleep."

Never has brain so disciplined and under such control been seen, one
so ready at all times for any task, so capable of immediate and
absolute concentration. Its flexibility[47] is wonderful, "in the
instant application of every faculty and energy, and bringing them all
to bear at once on any object that concerns him, on a mite as well as
on an elephant, on any given individual as well as on an enemy's army.
. . . When specially occupied, other things do not exist for him;
it is a sort of chase from which nothing diverts him." And this hot
pursuit, which nothing arrests save capture, this tenacious hunt, this
headlong course by one to whom the goal is never other than a fresh
starting-point, is the spontaneous gait, the natural, even pace which
his mind prefers.

"I am always at work," says he to Roederer.[48] "I meditate a great
deal. If I seem always equal to the occasion, ready to face what
comes, it is because I have thought the matter over a long time before
undertaking it. I have anticipated whatever might happen. It is no
spirit which suddenly reveals to me what I ought to do or say in any
unlooked-for circumstance, but my own reflection, my own meditation.
. . . I work all the time, at dinner, in the theatre. I wake up at
night in order to resume my work. I got up last night at two o'clock.
I stretched myself on my couch before the fire to examine the army
reports sent to me by the Minister of War. I found twenty mistakes in
them, and made notes which I have this morning sent to the minister,
who is now engaged with his clerks in rectifying them." -

His associates weaken and sink under the burden imposed on them and
which he supports without feeling the weight. When Consul,[49] "he
sometimes presides at special meetings of the section of the interior
from ten o'clock in the evening until five o'clock in the morning. .
. . Often, at Saint-Cloud, he keeps the counselors of state from
nine o'clock in the morning until five in the evening, with fifteen
minutes' intermission, and seems no more fatigued at the close of the
session than when it began." During the night sessions "many of the
members succumb through weariness, while the Minister of War falls
asleep"; he gives them a shake and wakes them up, "Come, come,
citizens, let us bestir ourselves, it is only two o'clock and we must
earn the money the French people pay us." Consul or Emperor,[50] "he
demands of each minister an account of the smallest details: It is not
rare to see them leaving the council room overcome with fatigue, due
to the long interrogatories to which he has subjected them; he appears
not to have noticed, and talks about the day's work simply as a
relaxation which has scarcely given his mind exercise." And what is
worse, "it often happens that on returning home they find a dozen of
his letters requiring immediate response, for which the whole night
scarcely suffices." The quantity of facts he is able to retain and
store away, the quantity of ideas he elaborates and produces, seems to
surpass human capacity, and this insatiable, inexhaustible, unmovable
brain thus keeps on working uninterruptedly for thirty years.

Through another result of the same mental organization, Napoleon's
brain is never unproductive; that's today our great danger. - During
the past three hundred years we have more and more lost sight of the
exact and direct meaning of things. Subject to the constraints of a
conservative, complex, and extended educational system we study

* the symbols of objects rather than on the objects themselves;
* instead of the ground itself, a map of it;
* instead of animals struggling for existence,[51] nomenclatures and
classifications, or, at best, stuffed specimens displayed in a museum;
* instead of persons who feel and act, statistics, codes, histories,
literatures, and philosophies;

in short, printed words. Even worse, abstract terms, which from
century to century have become more abstract and therefore further
removed from experience, more difficult to understand, less adaptable
and more deceptive, especially in all that relates to human life and
society. Here, due to the growth of government, to the multiplication
of services, to the entanglement of interests, the object,
indefinitely enlarged and complex, now eludes our grasp. Our vague,
incomplete, incorrect idea of it badly corresponds with it, or does
not correspond at all. In nine minds out of ten, or perhaps ninety-
nine out of a hundred, it is but little more than a word. The others,
if they desire some significant indication of what society actually is
beyond the teachings of books, require ten or fifteen years of close
observation and study to re-think the phrases with which these have
filled their memory, to interpret them anew, to make clear their
meaning, to get at and verify their sense, to substitute for the more
or less empty and indefinite term the fullness and precision of a
personal impression. We have seen how ideas of Society, State,
Government, Sovereignty, Rights, Liberty, the most important of all
ideas, were, at the close of the eighteenth century, curtailed and
falsified; how, in most minds, simple verbal reasoning combined them
together in dogmas and axioms; what an offspring these metaphysical
simulacra gave birth to, how many lifeless and grotesque abortions,
how many monstrous and destructive chimeras. There is no place for
any of these fanciful dreams in the mind of Bonaparte; they cannot
arise in it, nor find access to it; his aversion to the unsubstantial
phantoms of political abstraction extends beyond disdain, even to
disgust.[52] That which was then called ideology, is his particular
bugbear; he loathes it not alone through calculation, but still more
through an instinctive demand for what is real, as a practical man and
statesman, always keeping in mind, like the great Catherine, "that he
is operating, not on paper, but on the human hide, which is ticklish."
Every idea entertained by him had its origin in his personal
observation, and he used his own personal observations to control

If books are useful to him it is to suggest questions, which he never
answers but through his own experience. He has read only a little,
and hastily;[53] his classical education is rudimentary; in the way of
Latin, he remained in the lower class. The instruction he got at the
Military Academy as well as at Brienne was below mediocrity, while,
after Brienne, it is stated that "for the languages and belles-
lettres, he had no taste." Next to this, the literature of elegance
and refinement, the philosophy of the closet and drawing-room, with
which his contemporaries are imbued, glided over his intellect as over
a hard rock. None but mathematical truths and positive notions about
geography and history found their way into his mind and deeply
impressed it. Everything else, as with his predecessors of the
fifteenth century, comes to him through the original, direct action of
his faculties in contact with men and things, through his prompt and
sure tact, his indefatigable and minute attention, his indefinitely
repeated and rectified divinations during long hours of solitude and
silence. Practice, and not speculation, is the source of his
instruction, the same as with a mechanic brought up amongst machinery.

"There is nothing relating to warfare that I cannot make myself. If
nobody knows how to make gunpowder, I do. I can construct gun-
carriages. If cannon must be cast, I will see that it is done
properly. If tactical details must be taught, I will teach them."[54]

This is why he is competent right from the beginning, general in the
artillery, major-general, diplomatist, financier and administrator of
all kinds. Thanks to this fertile apprenticeship, beginning with the
Consulate, he shows officials and veteran ministers who send in their
reports to him what to do.

"I am a more experienced administrator than they,[55] when one has
been obliged to extract from his brains the ways and means with which
to feed, maintain, control, and move with the same spirit and will two
or three hundred thousand men, a long distance from their country, one
has soon discovered the secrets of administration."

In each of the human machines he builds and manipulates, he perceives
right away all the parts, each in its proper place and function, the
motors, the transmissions, the wheels, the composite action, the speed
which ensues, the final result, the complete effect, the net product.
Never is he content with a superficial and summary inspection; he
penetrates into obscure corners and to the lowest depths "through the
technical precision of his questions," with the lucidity of a
specialist, and in this way, borrowing an expression from the
philosophers, with him the concept should be adequate to its

Hence his eagerness for details, for these form the body and substance
of the concept; the hand that has not grasped these, or lets them go,
retains only the shell, an envelope. With respect to these his
curiosity is "insatiable."[57] In each ministerial department he knows
more than the ministers, and in each bureau he knows as much as the
clerks. "On his table[58] lie reports of the positions of his forces
on land and on water. He has furnished the plans of these, and fresh
ones are issued every month"; such is the daily reading he likes best.

"I have my reports on positions always at hand; my memory for an
Alexandrine is not good, but I never forget a syllable of my reports
on positions. I shall find them in my room this evening, and I shall
not go to bed until I have read them."

He always knows "his position" on land and at sea better than is known
in the War and Navy departments; better even than his staff-officers
the number, size, and qualities of his ships in or out of port, the
present and future state of vessels under construction, the
composition and strength of their crews, the formation, organization,
staff of officers, material, stations, and enlistments, past and to
come, of each army corps and of each regiment. It is the same in the
financial and diplomatic services, in every branch of the
administration, laic or ecclesiastical, in the physical order and in
the moral order. His topographical memory and his geographical
conception of countries, places, ground, and obstacles culminate in an
inward vision which he evokes at will, and which, years afterwards,
revives as fresh as on the first day. His calculation of distances,
marches, and maneuvers is so rigid a mathematical operation that,
frequently, at a distance of two or four hundred leagues,[59] his
military foresight, calculated two or four months ahead, turns out
correct, almost on the day named, and precisely on the spot
designated.[60] Add to this one other faculty, and the rarest of all.
For, if things turn out as he foresaw they would, it is because, as
with great chess-players, he has accurately measured not alone the
mechanical moves of the pieces, but the character and talent of his
adversary, "sounded his draft of water," and divined his probable
mistakes. He has added the calculation of physical quantities and
probabilities to the calculation of moral quantities and
probabilities, thus showing himself as great a psychologist as he is
an accomplished strategist. In fact, no one has surpassed him in the
art of judging the condition and motives of an individual or of a
group of people, the real motives, permanent or temporary, which drive
or curb men in general or this or that man in particular, the
incentives to be employed, the kind and degree of pressure to be
employed. This central faculty rules all the others, and in the art
of mastering Man his genius is found supreme.

III. His acute Understanding of Others.

His psychological faculty and way of getting at the thought and
feeling of others.- His self-analysis. - How he imagines a general
situation by selecting a particular case, imagining the invisible
interior by deducting from the visible exterior. - Originality and
superiority of his style and discourse. - His adaptation of these to
his hearers and to circumstances. - His notation and calculation of
serviceable motives.

No faculty is more precious for a political engineer; for the forces
he acts upon are never other than human passions. But how, except
through divination, can these passions, which grow out of the deepest
sentiments, be reached? How, save by conjecture, can forces be
estimated which seem to defy all measurement? On this dark and
uncertain ground, where one has to grope one's way, Napoleon moves
with almost absolute certainty; he moves promptly. First of all, he
studies himself; indeed, to find one's way into another's soul
requires, preliminarily, that one should dive deep into one's own.[61]

"I have always delighted in analysis," said he, one day, "and should I
ever fall seriously in love I would take my sentiment to pieces. Why
and How are such important questions one cannot put them to one's self
too often."

"It is certain," writes an observer, "that he, of all men, is the one
who has most meditated on the why which controls human actions."

His method, that of the experimental sciences, consists in testing
every hypothesis or deduction by some positive fact, observed by him
under definite conditions; a physical force being ascertained and
accurately measured through the deviation of a needle, or through the
rise and fall of a fluid, this or that invisible moral force can
likewise be ascertained and approximately measured through some
emotional sign, some decisive manifestation, consisting of a certain
word, tone, or gesture. It is these words, tones, and gestures which
he dwells on; he detects inward sentiments by the outward expression;
he figures to himself the internal by the external, by some facial
appearance, some telling attitude, some brief and topical scene, by
such specimen and shortcuts, so well chosen and detailed that they
provide a summary of the innumerable series of analogous cases. In
this way, the vague, fleeting object is suddenly arrested, brought to
bear, and then gauged and weighed, like some impalpable gas collected
and kept in a graduated transparent glass tube. - Accordingly, at the
Council of State, while the others, either jurists or administrators,
see abstractions, articles of the law and precedents, he sees people
as they are - the Frenchman, the Italian, the German; that of the
peasant, the workman, the bourgeois, the noble, the returned
émigré,[62] the soldier, the officer and the functionary - everywhere
the individual man as he is, the man who plows, manufactures, fights,
marries, brings forth children, toils, enjoys himself, and dies. -
Nothing is more striking than the contrast between the dull, grave
arguments advanced by the wise official editor, and Napoleon's own
words caught on the wing, at the moment, vibrating and teeming with
illustrations and imagery.[63] Apropos of divorce, the principle of
which he wishes to maintain:

"Consult, now, national manners and customs. Adultery is no
phenomenon; it is common enough - une affaire de canapé . . . There
must be some curb on women who commit adultery for trinkets, poetry,
Apollo, and the muses, etc."

But if divorce be allowed for incompatibility of temper you undermine
marriage; the fragility of the bond will be apparent the moment the
obligation is contracted;

"it is just as if a man said to himself, 'I am going to marry until I
feel different.' "

Nullity of marriage must not be too often allowed; once a marriage is
made it is a serious matter to undo it.

"Suppose that, in marrying my cousin just arrived from the Indies, I
wed an adventuress. She bears me children, and I then discover she is
not my cousin - is that marriage valid? Does not public morality
demand that it should be so considered? There has been a mutual
exchange of hearts, of transpiration."

On the right of children to be supported and fed although of age, he

"Will you allow a father to drive a girl of fifteen out of his house?
A father worth 60,000 francs a year might say to his son, 'You are
stout and fat; go and turn plowman.' The children of a rich father, or
of one in good circumstances, are always entitled to the paternal
porridge. Strike out their right to be fed, and you compel children
to murder their parents."

As to adoption :

"You regard this as law-makers and not as statesmen. It is not a
civil contract nor a judicial contract. The analysis (of the jurist)
leads to vicious results. Man is governed by imagination only;
without imagination he is a brute. It is not for five cents a day,
simply to distinguish himself, that a man consents to be killed; if
you want to electrify him touch his heart. A notary, who is paid a
fee of twelve francs for his services, cannot do that. It requires
some other process, a legislative act. Adoption, what is that? An
imitation by which society tries to counterfeit nature. It is a new
kind of sacrament. . . . Society ordains that the bones and blood
of one being shall be changed into the bones and blood of another. It
is the greatest of all legal acts. It gives the sentiments of a son
to one who never had them, and reciprocally those of a parent. Where
ought this to originate? From on high, like a clap of thunder !"

All his expressions are bright flashes one after another.[64] Nobody,
since Voltaire and Galiani, has launched forth such a profusion of
them; on society, laws, government, France and the French, some
penetrate and explain, like those of Montesquieu, as if with a flash
of lightening. He does not hammer them out laboriously, but they
burst forth, the outpourings of his intellect, its natural,
involuntary, constant action. And what adds to their value is that,
outside of councils and private conversations, he abstains from them,
employing them only in the service of thought; at other times he
subordinates them to the end he has in view, which is always their
practical effect. Ordinarily, he writes and speaks in a different
language, in a language suited to his audience; he dispenses with the
oddities, the irregular improvisations and imagination, the outbursts
of genius and inspiration. He retains and uses merely those which are
intended to impress the personage whom he wishes to dazzle with a
great idea of himself, such as Pius VII., or the Emperor Alexander.
In this case, his conversational tone is that of a caressing,
expansive, amiable familiarity; he is then before the footlights, and
when he acts he can play all parts, tragedy or comedy, with the same
life and spirit whether he fulminates, insinuates, or even affects
simplicity. When he is with his generals, ministers, and principal
performers, he falls back on the concise, positive, technical business
style; any other would be harmful. The keen mind only reveals itself
through the brevity and imperious strength and rudeness of the accent.
For his armies and the common run of men, he has his proclamations and
bulletins, that is to say, sonorous phrases composed for effect, a
statement of facts purposely simplified and falsified,[65] in short,
an excellent effervescent wine, good for exciting enthusiasm, and an
equally excellent narcotic for maintaining credulity,[66] a sort of
popular mixture to be distributed just at the proper time, and whose
ingredients are so well proportioned that the public drinks it with
delight, and becomes at once intoxicated. - His style on every
occasion, whether affected or spontaneous, shows his wonderful
knowledge of the masses and of individuals; except in two or three
cases, on one exalted domain, of which he always remains ignorant, he
has ever hit the mark, applying the appropriate lever, giving just the
push, weight, and degree of impulsion which best accomplishes his
purpose. A series of brief, accurate memoranda, corrected daily,
enables him to frame for himself a sort of psychological tablet
whereon he notes down and sums up, in almost numerical valuation, the
mental and moral dispositions, characters, faculties, passions, and
aptitudes, the strong or weak points, of the innumerable human beings,
near or remote, on whom he operates.

IV. His Wonderful Memory.

His Three Atlases. - Their scale and completeness.

Let us try for a moment to show the range and contents of this
intellect; we may have to go back to Caesar to his equal; but, for
lack of documents, we have nothing of Caesar but general features - a
summary outline. Of Napoleon we have, besides the perfect outline,
the features in detail. Read his correspondence, day by day, then
chapter by chapter;[67] for example, in 1806, after the battle of
Austerlitz, or, still better, in 1809, after his return from Spain, up
to the peace of Vienna; whatever our technical shortcomings may be, we
shall find that his mind, in its comprehensiveness and amplitude,
largely surpasses all known or even credible proportions.

He has mentally within him three principal atlases, always at hand,
each composed of "about twenty note-books," each distinct and each
regularly posted up. -

1. The first one is military, forming a vast collection of
topographical charts as minute as those of an general staff, with
detailed plans of every stronghold, also specific indications and the
local distribution of all forces on sea and on land - crews,
regiments, batteries, arsenals, storehouses, present and future
resources in supplies of men, horses, vehicles, arms, munitions, food,
and clothing.

2. The second, which is civil, resembles the heavy, thick volumes
published every year, in which we now read the state of the budget,
and comprehend, first, the innumerable items of ordinary and
extraordinary receipt and expenditure, internal taxes, foreign
contributions, the products of the domains in France and out of
France, the fiscal services, pensions, public works, and the rest;
next, all administrative statistics, the hierarchy of functions and of
functionaries, senators, deputies, ministers, prefects, bishops,
professors, judges, and those under their orders, each where he
resides, with his rank, jurisdiction, and salary.

3. The third is a vast biographical and moral dictionary, in which,
as in the pigeon-holes of the Chief of Police, each notable personage
and local group, each professional or social body, and even each
population, has its label, along with a brief note on its situation,
needs, and antecedents, and, therefore, its demonstrated character,
eventual disposition, and probable conduct. Each label, card, or
strip of paper has its summary; all these partial summaries,
methodically classified, terminate in totals, and the totals of the
three atlases, combined together, thus furnish their possessor with an
estimate of his disposable forces.

Now, in 1809, however full these atlases, they are clearly imprinted
on Napoleon's mind he knows not only the total and the partial
summaries, but also the slightest details; he reads them readily and
at every hour; he comprehends in a mass, and in all particulars, the
various nations he governs directly, or through some one else; that is
to say, 60,000,000 men, the different countries he has conquered or
overrun, consisting of 70,000 square leagues[68]. At first, France
increased by the addition of Belgium and Piedmont; next Spain, from
which he is just returned, and where he has placed his brother Joseph;
southern Italy, where, after Joseph, he has placed Murat; central
Italy, where he occupies Rome; northern Italy, where Eugène is his
delegate; Dalmatia and Istria, which he has joined to his empire;
Austria, which he invades for the second time; the Confederation of
the Rhine, which he has made and which he directs; Westphalia and
Holland, where his brothers are only his lieutenants; Prussia, which
he has subdued and mutilated and which he oppresses, and the
strongholds of which he still retains; and, add a last mental tableau,
that which represents the northern seas, the Atlantic and the
Mediterranean, all the fleets of the continent at sea and in port from
Dantzic to Flessingen and Bayonne, from Cadiz to Toulon and Gaëta,
from Tarentum to Venice, Corfu, and Constantinople.[69] - On the
psychological and moral atlas, besides a primitive gap which he will
never fill up, because this is a characteristic trait, there are some
estimates which are wrong, especially with regard to the Pope and to
Catholic conscience. In like manner he rates the energy of national
sentiment in Spain and Germany too low. He rates too high his own
prestige in France and in the countries annexed to her, the balance of
confidence and zeal on which he may rely. But these errors are rather
the product of his will than of his intelligence, he recognizes them
at intervals; if he has illusions it is because he fabricates them;
left to himself his good sense would rest infallible, it is only his
passions which blurred the lucidity of his intellect. - As to the
other two atlases, the topographical and the military, they are as
complete and as exact as ever; No matter how much the realities they
contain will swell and daily become ever more complex, they continue
to correspond to it in their fullness and precision, trait for trait.

V. His Imagination and its Excesses.

His constructive imagination. - His projects and dreams. -
Manifestation of the master faculty and its excesses.

But this multitude of information and observations form only the
smallest portion of the mental population swarming in this immense
brain; for, on his idea of the real, germinate and swarm his concepts
of the possible; without these concepts there would be no way to
handle and transform things, and that he did handle and transform them
we all know. Before acting, he has decided on his plan, and if this
plan is adopted, it is one among several others,[70] after examining,
comparing, and giving it the preference; he has accordingly thought
over all the others. Behind each combination adopted by him we detect
those he has rejected; there are dozens of them behind each of his
decisions, each maneuver effected, each treaty signed, each decree
promulgated, each order issued, and I venture to say, behind almost
every improvised action or word spoken. For calculation enters into
everything he does, even into his apparent expansiveness, also into
his outbursts when in earnest; if he gives way to these, it is on
purpose, foreseeing the effect, with a view to intimidate or to
dazzle. He turns everything in others as well as in himself to
account - his passion, his vehemence, his weaknesses, his
talkativeness, he exploits it all for the advancement of the edifice
he is constructing.[71] Certainly among his diverse faculties, however
great, that of the constructive imagination is the most powerful. At
the very beginning we feel its heat and boiling intensity beneath the
coolness and rigidity of his technical and positive instructions.

"When I plan a battle," said he to Roederer, "no man is more spineless
than I am. I over exaggerate to myself all the dangers and all the
evils that are possible under the circumstances. I am in a state of
truly painful agitation. But this does not prevent me from appearing
quite composed to people around me ; I am like a woman giving birth to
a child.[72]

Passionately, in the throes of the creator, he is thus absorbed with
his coming creation; he already anticipates and enjoys living in his
imaginary edifice. "General," said Madame de Clermont-Tonnerre to
him, one day, "you are building behind a scaffolding which you will
take down when you have done with it." "Yes, Madame, that's it,"
replied Bonaparte; "you are right. I am always living two years in
advance."[73] His response came with "incredible vivacity," as if a
sudden inspiration, that of a soul stirred in its innermost fiber. -
Here as well, the power, the speed, fertility, play, and abundance of
his thought seem unlimited. What he has accomplished is astonishing,
but what he has undertaken is more so; and whatever he may have
undertaken is far surpassed by what he has imagined. However vigorous
his practical faculty, his poetical faculty is stronger; it is even
too vigorous for a statesman; its grandeur is exaggerated into
enormity, and its enormity degenerates into madness. In Italy, after
the 18th of Fructidor, he said to Bourrienne:

"Europe is a molehill; never have there been great empires and great
revolutions, except in the Orient, with its 600,000,000

The following year at Saint-Jean d'Acre, on the eve of the last
assault, he added

"If I succeed I shall find in the town the pasha's treasure and arms
for 300,000 men. I stir up and arm all Syria. . . . I march on
Damascus and Aleppo; as I advance in the country my army will increase
with the discontented. I proclaim to the people the abolition of
slavery, and of the tyrannical government of the pashas. I reach
Constantinople with armed masses. I overthrow the Turkish Empire; I
found in the East a new and grand empire, which fixes my place with
posterity, and perhaps I return to Paris by the way of Adrianople, or
by Vienna, after having annihilated the house of Austria." [75]

Become consul, and then emperor, he often referred to this happy
period, when, "rid of the restraints of a troublesome civilization,"
he could imagine at will and construct at pleasure.[76]

"I created a religion; I saw myself on the road to Asia, mounted on an
elephant, with a turban on my head, and in my hand a new Koran, which
I composed to suit myself."

Confined to Europe, he thinks, after 1804, that he will reorganize
Charlemagne's empire.

"The French Empire will become the mother country of other
sovereignties. . . I mean that every king in Europe shall build a
grand palace at Paris for his own use; on the coronation of the
Emperor of the French these kings will come and occupy it; they will
grace this imposing ceremony with their presence, and honor it with
their salutations."[77] The Pope will come; he came to the first one;
he must necessarily return to Paris, and fix himself there
permanently. Where could the Holy See be better off than in the new
capital of Christianity, under Napoleon, heir to Charlemagne, and
temporal sovereign of the Sovereign Pontiff? Through the temporal the
emperor will control the spiritual,[78] and through the Pope,

In November, 1811, unusually excited, he says to De Pradt:

"In five years I shall be master of the world; only Russia will
remain, but I will crush her.[79] . . . Paris will extend out to
St. Cloud."

To render Paris the physical capital of Europe is, through his own
confession, "one of his constant dreams."

"At times," he says,[80]"I would like to see her a city of two,
three, four millions of inhabitants, something fabulous, colossal,
unknown down to our day, and its public establishments adequate to its
population. . . . Archimedes proposed to lift the world if he
could be allowed to place his lever; for myself, I would have changed
it wherever I could have been allowed to exercise my energy,
perseverance, and budgets."

At all events, he believes so ; for however lofty and badly supported
the next story of his structure may be, he has always ready a new
story, loftier and more unsteady, to put above it. A few months
before launching himself, with all Europe at his back, against Russia,
he said to Narbonne:[81]

"After all, my dear sir, this long road is the road to India.
Alexander started as far off as Moscow to reach the Ganges; this has
occurred to me since St. Jean d'Acre. . . . To reach England to-
day I need the extremity of Europe, from which to take Asia in the
rear. . . . Suppose Moscow taken, Russia subdued, the czar
reconciled, or dead through some court conspiracy, perhaps another and
dependent throne, and tell me whether it is not possible for a French
army, with its auxiliaries, setting out from Tiflis, to get as far as
the Ganges, where it needs only a thrust of the French sword to bring
down the whole of that grand commercial scaffolding throughout India.
It would be the most gigantic expedition, I admit, but practicable in
the nineteenth century. Through it France, at one stroke, would
secure the independence of the West and the freedom of the seas."

While uttering this his eyes shone with strange brilliancy, and he
accumulates subjects, weighing obstacles, means, and chances: the
inspiration is under full headway, and he gives himself up to it. The
master faculty finds itself suddenly free, and it takes flight; the
artist,[82] locked up in politics, has escaped from his sheath; he is
creating out of the ideal and the impossible. We take him for what he
is, a posthumous brother of Dante and Michael Angelo. In the clear
outlines of his vision, in the intensity, coherency, and inward logic
of his dreams, in the profundity of his meditations, in the superhuman
grandeur of his conceptions, he is, indeed, their fellow and their
equal. His genius is of the same stature and the same structure; he
is one of the three sovereign minds of the Italian Renaissance. Only,
while the first two operated on paper and on marble, the latter
operates on the living being, on the sensitive and suffering flesh of



[1] Reforms introduced by Napoleon after his coup d'état 9 Nov. 1799.

[2] The main authority is, of course, the "correspondance de
l'Empereur Napoléon I.," in thirty-two-volumes. This correspondance,"
unfortunately, is still incomplete, while, after the sixth volume, it
must not be forgotten that much of it has been purposely stricken out.
"In general," say the editors (XVI., p.4), "we have been governed
simply by this plain rule, that we were required to publish only what
the Emperor himself would have given to the public had he survived
himself, and, anticipating the verdict of time, exposed to posterity
his own personality and system." - The savant who has the most
carefully examined this correspondence, entire in the French archives,
estimates that it comprises about 80,000 pieces, of which 30,000 have
been published in the collection referred to; passages in 20,000 of
the others have been stricken out on account of previous publication,
and about 30,000 more, through considerations of propriety or policy.
For example, but little more than one-half of the letters from
Napoleon to Bigot de Préameneu on ecclesiastical matters have been
published; many of these omitted letters, all important and
characteristic, may be found in "L'Église romaine et le Premier
Empire," by M. d'Haussonville. The above-mentioned savant estimates
the number of important letters not yet published at 2,000.

[3] "Mémorial de Sainte Héléne," by Las Casas (May 29, 1816).---"In
Corsica, Paoli, on a horseback excursion, explained the positions to
him, the places where liberty found resistance or triumphed.
Estimating the character of Napoleon by what he saw of it through
personal observation, Paoli said to him, "Oh, Napoleon, there is
nothing modern in you, you belong wholly to Plutarch!"-- Antonomarchi,
"Mémoires," Oct. 25, 1819. The same account, slightly different, is
there given: "Oh. Napoleon," said Paoli to me, "you do not belong to
this century; you talk like one of Plutarch's characters. Courage,
you will take flight yet!"

[4] De Ségur, "Histoire et Mémoires," I., 150. (Narrative by
Pontécoulant, member of the committee in the war, June, 1795.) "Boissy
d'Anglas told him that he had seen the evening before a little
Italian, pale, slender, and puny, but singularly audacious in his
views and in the vigor of his expressions. - The next day, Bonaparte
calls on Pontécou1ant, "Attitude rigid through a morbid pride, poor
exterior, long visage, hollow and bronzed. . . . He is just from
the army and talks like one who knows what he is talking about."

[5] Coston, "Biographie des premières années de Napoléon Buonaparte,"
2 vols. (1840), passim. - Yung, " Bonaparte et son Temps," I., 300,
302. (Pièces généalogiques.) - King Joseph, "Mémoires," I., 109, 111.
(On the various branches and distinguished men of the Bonaparte
family.) - Miot de Melito, "Mémoires," II., 30. (Documents on the
Bonaparte family, collected on the spot by the author in 1801.)

[6] "Mémorial," May 6, 1816. - Miot de Melito, II., 30. (On the
Bonapartes of San Miniato): "The last offshoot of this branch was a
canon then still living in this same town of San Miniato, and visited
by Bonaparte in the year IV, when he came to Florence."

[7] "Correspondance de l'Empereur Napoléon I." (Letter of Bonaparte,
Sept.29, 1797, in relation to Italy): "A people at bottom inimical to
the French through the prejudices, character, and customs of

[8] Miot de Melito, I., 126, (1796): "Florence, for two centuries and
a half, had lost that antique energy which, in the stormy times of the
Republic, distinguished this city. Indolence was the dominant spirit
of all classes. . . Almost everywhere I saw only men lulled to
rest by the charms of the most exquisite climate, occupied solely with
the details of a monotonous existence, and tranquilly vegetating under
its beneficent sky." - (On Milan, in 1796, cf. Stendhal,
introduction to the "Chartreuse de Parme.")

[9] "Miot de Melito, I., 131: "Having just left one of the most
civilized cities in Italy, it was not without some emotion that I
found myself suddenly transported to a country (Corsica) which, in its
savage aspect, its rugged mountains, and its inhabitants uniformly
dressed in coarse brown cloth, contrasted so strongly with the rich
and smiling landscape of Tuscany, and with the comfort, I should
almost say elegance, of costume worn by the happy cultivators of that
fertile soil."

[10] Miot de Melito, II., 30: "Of a not very important family of
Sartène." - II., 143. (On the canton of Sartène and the Vendettas of
1796). - Coston, I., 4: "The family of Madame Laetitia, sprung from
the counts of Cotalto, came originally from Italy."

[11] His father, Charles Bonaparte, weak and even frivolous, "too fond
of pleasure to care about his children," and to see to his affairs,
tolerably learned and an indifferent head of a family, died at the age
of thirty-nine of a cancer in the stomach, which seems to be the only
bequest he made to his son Napoleon. - His mother, on the contrary,
serious, authoritative, the true head of a family, was, said Napoleon,
"hard in her affections she punished and rewarded without
distinction, good or bad; she made us all feel it." - On becoming head
of the household, "she was too parsimonious-even ridiculously so.
This was due to excess of foresight on her part; she had known want,
and her terrible sufferings were never out of her mind. . . .
Paoli had tried persuasion with her before resorting to force. . .
. Madame replied heroically, as a Cornelia would have done. . . .
From 12 to 15,000 peasants poured down from the mountains of Ajaccio;
our house was pillaged and burnt, our vines destroyed, and our flocks.
. . . In other respects, this woman, from whom it would have been
so difficult to extract five francs, would have given up everything to
secure my return from Elba, and after Waterloo she offered me all she
possessed to restore my affairs." (" Mémorial," May 29, 1816, and
"Mémoires d'Antonomarchi," Nov. 18, 1819. - On the ideas and ways
of Bonaparte's mother, read her "Conversation" in "Journal et
Mémoires," vol. IV., by Stanislas Girardin.) Duchesse d'Abrantès, "
Mémoires," II., 318, 369. "Avaricious out of all reason except on a
few grave occasions. . . . No knowledge whatever of the usages of
society. . . . very ignorant, not alone of our literature, but of
her own." - Stendhal, "Vie de Napoleon": "The character of her son is
to be explained by the perfectly Italian character of Madame

[12] The French conquest is effected by armed force between July 30,
1768, and May 22, 1769. The Bonaparte family submitted May 23, 1769,
and Napoleon was born on the following 15th of August.

[13] Antonomarchi, "Mémoires," October 4, 1819. "Mémorial," May 29,

[14] Miot de Melito, II., 33: "The day I arrived at Bocognano two men
lost their lives through private vengeance. About eight years before
this one of the inhabitants of the canton had killed a neighbor, the
father of two children. . . . On reaching the age of sixteen or
seventeen years these children left the country in order to dog the
steps of the murderer, who kept on the watch, not daring to go far
from his village. . . . Finding him playing cards under a tree,
they fired at and killed him, and besides this accidentally shot
another man who was asleep a few paces off. The relatives on both
sides pronounced the act justifiable and according to rule." Ibid.,
I., 143: "On reaching Bastia from Ajaccio the two principal families
of the place, the Peraldi and the Visuldi, fired at each other, in
disputing over the honor of entertaining me.

[15] Bourrienne," Mémoires," I., 18, 19.

[16] De Ségur, "Histoire et Mémoires," I,, 74.

[17] Yung, I., 195. (Letter of Bonaparte to Paoli, June 12, 1789);
I., 250 (Letter of Bonaparte to Buttafuoco, January 23 1790).

[18] Yung, I., 107 (Letter of Napoleon to his father, Sept. 12,
1784); I., 163 (Letter of Napoleon to Abbé Raynal, July, 1786); I.,
197 (Letter of Napoleon to Paoli, June 12, 1789). The three letters
on the history of Corsica are dedicated to Abbé Raynal in a letter of
June 24, 1790, and may be found in Yung, I., 434.

[19] Read especially his essay "On the Truths and Sentiments most
important to inculcate on Men for their Welfare" (a subject proposed
by the Academy of Lyons in 1790). Some bold men driven by genius. .
. . Perfection grows out of reason as fruit out of a tree. . . .
Reason's eyes guard man from the precipice of the passions. . .
The spectacle of the strength of virtue was what the Lacedaemonians
principally felt. . . . Must men then be lucky in the means by
which they are led on to happiness? . . . . My rights (to
property) are renewed along with my transpiration, circulate in my
blood, are written on my nerves, on my heart. . . . Proclaim to
the rich -your wealth is your misfortune, withdrawn within the
latitude of your senses. . . . Let the enemies of nature at thy
voice keep silence and swallow their rabid serpents' tongues. . . .
The wretched shun the society of men, the tapestry of gayety turns to
mourning. . . . Such, gentlemen, are the Sentiments which, in
animal relations, mankind should have taught it for its welfare."

[20] Yung, I., 252 (Letter to Buttafuoco). "Dripping with the blood
of his brethren, sullied by every species of crime, he presents
himself with confidence under his vest of a general, the sole reward
of his criminalities." - I., 192 (Letter to the Corsican Intendant,
April 2, 1879). "Cultivation is what ruins us" - See various
manuscript letters, copied by Yung, for innumerable and gross mistakes
in French. - Miot de Melito, I., 84 (July, 1796). "He spoke curtly
and, at this time, very incorrectly." - Madame de Rémusat, I., 104.
"Whatever language he spoke it never seemed familiar to him; he
appeared to force himself in expressing his ideas."- Notes par le
Comte Chaptal (unpublished), councillor of state and afterwards
minister of the interior under the Consulate: "At this time, Bonaparte
did not blush at the slight knowledge of administrative details which
he possessed; he asked a good many questions and demanded definitions
and the meaning of the commonest words in use. As it very often
happened with him not to clearly comprehend words which he heard for
the first time, he always repeated these afterwards as he understood
them; for example, he constantly used section for session, armistice
for amnesty, fulminating point for culminating point, rentes voyagères
for 'rentes viagères,' etc."

[21] De Ségur, I., 174

[22] Cf. the "Mémoires" of Marshal Marmont, I., 15, for the ordinary
sentiments of the young nobility. "In 1792 I had a sentiment for the
person of the king, difficult to define, of which I recovered the
trace, and to some extent the power, twenty-two years later; a
sentiment of devotion almost religious in character, an innate respect
as if due to a being of a superior order. The word King then
possessed a magic, a force, which nothing had changed in pure and
honest breasts. . . . This religion of royalty still existed in
the mass of the nation,, and especially amongst the well-born, who,
sufficiently remote from power, were rather struck with its brilliancy
than with its imperfections. . . . This love became a sort of

[23] Bourrienne, "Mémoires,' I. 27. - Ségur, I. 445. In 1795, at
Paris, Bonaparte, being out of military employment, enters upon
several commercial speculations, amongst which is a bookstore, which
does not succeed. (Stated by Sebastiani and many others.)

[24] "Mémorial," Aug. 3, 1816.

[25] Bourrienne, I., 171. (Original text of the "Souper de

[26] Yung, II., 430, 431. (Words of Charlotte Robespierre.) Bonaparte
as a souvenir of his acquaintance with her, granted her a pension,
under the consulate, of 3600 francs. - Ibid. (Letter of Tilly,
chargé d'affaires at Genoa, to Buchot, commissioner of foreign
affairs.) Cf. in the "Mémorial," Napoleon's favorable judgment of

[27] Yung, II., 455. (Letter from Bonaparte to Tilly, Aug. 7,
1794.) Ibid., III., 120. (Memoirs of Lucien.) "Barras takes care of
Josephine's dowry, which is the command of the army in Italy." Ibid.,
II., 477. (Grading of general officers, notes by Schérer on
Bonaparte.) "He knows all about artillery, but is rather too
ambitious, and too intriguing for promotion."

[28] De Ségur, I., 162. - La Fayette, "Mémoires," II., 215.
"Mémorial" (note dictated by Napoleon). He states the reasons for and
against, and adds, speaking of himself: "These sentiments, twenty-five
years of age, confidence in his strength, his destiny, determined
him." Bourrienne, I., 51: " It is certain that he has always bemoaned
that day; he has often said to me that he would give years of his life
to efface that page of his history."

[29] "Mémorial," I., Sept 6, 1815. " It is only after Lodi that the
idea came to me that I might, after all, become a decisive actor on
our political stage. Then the first spark of lofty ambition gleamed
out." On his aim and conduct in the Italian campaign of Sybel,
"Histoire de l'Europe pendant la Révolution Française" (Dosquet
translation), vol. IV., books II. and III., especially pp.182, 199,
334, 335, 406, 420, 475, 489.

[30] Yung, III., 213. (Letter of M. de Sucy, August 4, 1797.)

[31] Ibid., III., 214. (Report of d'Entraigues to M. de Mowikinoff,
Sept., 1797.) "If there was any king in France which was not himself,
he would like to have been his creator, with his rights at the end of
his sword, this sword never to be parted with, so that he might plunge
it in the king's bosom if he ever ceased to be submissive to him." -
Miot de Melito, I., 154. (Bonaparte to Montebello, before Miot and
Melzi, June, 1797.) Ibid, I., 184. (Bonaparte to Miot, Nov. 18,
1797, at Turin.)

[32] D'Haussonville, "L'Église Romaine et la Premier Empire," I., 405.
(Words of M. Cacault, signer of the Treaty of Tolentino, and French
Secretary of Legation at Rome, at the commencement of negotiations for
the Concordat.) M. Cacaut says that he used this expression, "After
the scenes of Tolentino and of Leghorn, and the fright of Manfredini,
and Matéi threatened, and so many other vivacities."

[33] Madame de Staël, "Considérations sur la Révolution Française,"
3rd part, ch. XXVI., and 4th part, ch. XVIII.

[34] Portrait of Bonaparte in the "Cabinet des Etampes," "drawn by
Guérin, engraved by Fiesinger, deposited in the National Library,
Vendémiaire 29, year VII."

[35] Madame de Rémusat, "Mémoires," I., 104. - Miot de Melito, I.,

[36] Madame de Staël, "Considerations," etc., 3rd part, ch. XXV. -
Madame de Rémusat, II., 77.

[37] Stendhal, "Mémoires sur Napoléon," narration of Admiral Decrès.
- Same narration in the "Mémorial."

[38] De Ségur, I., 193.

[39] Roederer, "Oeuvres complétes," II., 560. (Conversations with
General Lasalle in 1809, and Lasalle's judgment on the débuts of

[40] Another instance of this commanding influence is found in the
case of General Vandamme, an old revolutionary soldier still more
brutal and energetic than Augereau. In 1815, Vandamme said to Marshal
d'Ornano, one day, on ascending the staircase of the Tuileries
together: "My dear fellow, that devil of a man (speaking of the
Emperor) fascinates me in a way I cannot account for. I, who don't
fear either God or the devil, when I approach him I tremble like a
child. He would make me dash through the eye of a needle into the
fire!" ("Le Général Vandamme," by du Casse, II., 385).

[41] Roederer, III., 356. (Napoleon himself says, February 11, 1809):
"I, military! I am so, because I was born so; it is my habit, my very
existence. Wherever I have been I have always had command. I
commanded at twenty-three, at the siege of Toulon; I commanded at
Paris in Vendémiaire; I won over the soldiers in Italy the moment I
presented myself. I was born for that."

[42] Observe the various features of the same mental and moral
structure among different members of the family. (Speaking of his
brothers and sisters in the "Memorial" Napoleon says): "What family as
numerous presents such a splendid group?" - "Souvenirs", by PASQUIER
(Etienne-Dennis, duc), chancelier de France. in VI volumes, Librarie
Plon, Paris 1893. Vol. I. p. 400. (This author, a young magistrate
under Louis XVI., a high functionary under the Empire, an important
political personage under the restoration and the July monarchy, is
probably the best informed and most judicious of eye-witnesses during
the first half of our century.): "Their vices and virtues surpass
ordinary proportions and have a physiognomy of their own. But what
especially distinguishes them is a stubborn will, and inflexible
resolution. . . . All possessed the instinct of their greatness."
They readily accepted "the highest positions; they even got to
believing that their elevation was inevitable. . . . Nothing in
the incredible good fortune of Joseph astonished him; often in
January, 1814, I heard him say over and over again that if his brother
had not meddled with his affairs after the second entry into Madrid,
he would still be on the throne of Spain. As to determined obstinacy
we have only to refer to the resignation of Louis, the retirement of
Lucien, and the resistances of Fesch; they alone could stem the will
of Napoleon and sometimes break a lance with him. -Passion,
sensuality, the habit of considering themselves outside of rules, and
self-confidence combined with talent, super abound among the women, as
in the fifteenth century. Elisa, in Tuscany, had a vigorous brain,
was high spirited and a genuine sovereign, notwithstanding the
disorders of her private life, in which even appearances were not
sufficiently maintained." Caroline at Naples, "without being more
scrupulous than her sisters," better observed the proprieties; none of
the others so much resembled the Emperor; "with her, all tastes
succumbed to ambition"; it was she who advised and prevailed upon her
husband, Murat, to desert Napoleon in 1814. As to Pauline, the most
beautiful woman of her epoch, "no wife, since that of the Emperor
Claude, surpassed her in the use she dared make of her charms; nothing
could stop her, not even a malady attributed to the strain of this
life-style and for which we have so often seen her borne in a litter."
- Jerome, " in spite of the uncommon boldness of his debaucheries,
maintained his ascendancy over his wife to the last." - On the
"pressing efforts and attempts" of Joseph on Maria Louise in 1814,
Chancelier Pasquier, after Savary's papers and the evidence of M. de
Saint-Aignan, gives extraordinary details. - "Mes souvenirs sur
Napoléon, 346, by the count Chaptal: "Every member of this numerous
family (Jérôme, Louis, Joseph, the Bonaparte sisters) mounted thrones
as if they had recovered so much property."

[43] Burkhardt, "Die Renaissance in Italien," passim. - Stendhal,
"Histoire de la peinture en Italie"(introduction), and" Rome, Naples,
et Florence," passim. - " Notes par le Comte Chaptal": When these
notes are published, many details will be found in them in support of
the judgment expressed in this and the following chapters. The
psychology of Napoleon as here given is largely confirmed by them.

[44] Roederer, III, 380 (1802).

[45] Napoleon uses the French word just which means both fair,
justifiable, pertinent, correct, and in music true.

[46] "Mémorial."

[47] De Pradt, "Histoire de l'Ambassade dans la grande-duché de
Varsovie en 1812," preface, p. X, and 5.

[48] Roederer, III., 544 (February 24, 1809). Cf. Meneval, "Napoléon
et Marie-Louise, souvenirs historiques," I., 210-213.

[49] Pelet de la Lozère," Opinions de Napoléon au conseil d'état,"
p.8. - Roederer, III., 380.

[50] Mollien, "Mémoires," I., 379; II., 230.-Roederer, III., 434. "He
is at the head of all things. He governs, administrates, negotiates,
works eighteen hours a day, with the clearest and best organized head;
he has governed more in three years than kings in a hundred years." -
Lavalette, "Mémoires," II., 75. (The words of Napoleon's secretary on
Napoleon's labor in Paris, after Leipsic) "He retires at eleven, but
gets up at three o'clock in the morning, and until the evening there
is not a moment he does not devote to work. It is time this stopped,
for he will be used up, and myself before he is."- Gaudin, Duc de
Gaëte, "Mémoires," III. (supplement), p.75. Account of an evening in
which, from eight o'clock to three in the morning, Napoleon examines
with Gaudin his general budget, during seven consecutive hours,
without stopping a minute. -Sir Neil Campbell, "Napoléon at
Fontainebleau and at Elbe," p.243. "Journal de Sir Neil Campbell a'
l'ile d'Elbe": I never saw any man, in any station in life, so
personally active and so persistent in his activity. He seems to take
pleasure in perpetual motion and in seeing those who accompany him
completely tired out, which frequently happened in my case when I
accompanied him. . . Yesterday, after having been on his legs from
eight in the morning to three in the afternoon, visiting the frigates
and transports, even to going down to the lower compartments among the
horses, he rode on horseback for three hours, and, as he afterwards
said to me, to rest himself."

[51] The starting-point of the great discoveries of Darwin is the
physical, detailed description he made in his study of animals and
plants, as living; during the whole course of life, through so many
difficulties and subject to a fierce competition. This study is
wholly lacking in the ordinary zoologist or botanist, whose mind is
busy only with anatomical preparations or collections of plants. In
every science, the difficulty lies in describing in a nutshell, using
significant examples, the real object, just as it exists before us,
and its true history. Claude Bernard one day remarked to me, "We
shall know physiology when we are able to follow step by step a
molecule of carbon or azote in the body of a dog, give its history,
and describe its passage from its entrance to its exit."

[52] Thibaudeau, "Mémoires sur le Consulat," 204. (Apropos of the
tribunate): "They consist of a dozen or fifteen metaphysicians who
ought to be flung into the water; they crawl all over me like vermin.

[53] Madame de Rémusat, I., 115: "He is really ignorant, having read
very little and always hastily." - Stendhal, "Mémoires sur Napoleon":
" His education was very defective. . . .He knew nothing of the
great principles discovered within the past one hundred years," and
just those which concern man or society. "For example, he had not
read Montesquieu as this writer ought to be read, that is to say, in a
way to accept or decidedly reject each of the thirty-one books of the
'Esprit des lois.' He had not thus read Bayle's Dictionary nor the
Essay on the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. This ignorance of the
Emperor's was not perceptible in conversation, and first, because he
led in conversation, and next because with Italian finesse no question
put by him, or careless supposition thrown out, ever betrayed that
ignorance." - Bourrienne. I., 19, 21: At Brienne, "unfortunately for
us, the monks to whom the education of youth was confided knew
nothing, and were too poor to pay good foreign teachers. . . . It
is inconceivable how any capable man ever graduated from this
educational institution." - Yung, I., 125 (Notes made by him on
Bonaparte, when he left the Military Academy): "Very fond of the
abstract sciences, indifferent to others, well grounded in mathematics
and geography."

[54] Roederer, III., 544 (March 6, 1809), 26, 563 (Jan. 23, 1811, and
Nov. 12, 1813).

[55] Mollien, I., 348 (a short time before the rupture of the peace of
Amiens), III., 16: "It was at the end of January, 1809, that he wanted
a full report of the financial situation on the 31st of December, 1808
. . . . This report was to be ready in two days." - III., 34: "A
complete balance sheet of the public treasury for the first six months
of 1812 was under Napoleon's eyes at Witebsk, the 11th of August,
eleven days after the close of these first six months. What is truly
wonderful is, that amidst so many different occupations and
preoccupations . . . . he could preserve such an accurate run of
the proceedings and methods of the administrative branches about which
he wanted to know at any moment. Nobody had any excuse for not
answering him, for each was questioned in his own terms; it is that
singular aptitude of the head of the State, and the technical
precision of his questions, which alone explains how he could maintain
such a remarkable ensemble in an administrative system of which the
smallest threads centered in himself."

[56] 200 years after the death of Napoleon Sir Alfred Ayer thus
writes in "LANGUAGE, TRUTH AND LOGIC": 'Actually, we shall see that
the only test to which a form of scientific procedure which satisfies
the necessary condition of self-consistency is subject, is the test of
its success in practice. We are entitled to have faith in our
procedure just so long as it does the work it is designed to do - that
is, enables us to predict future experience, and so to control our
And on the Purpose of Inquiry:
'The traditional disputes of philosophers are, for the most part, as
unwarranted as they are unfruitful. The surest way to end them is to
establish beyond question what should be the purpose and the method of
philosophical inquiry.' (SR.)

[57] An expression of Mollien.

[58] Meneval, I., 210, 213. - Roederer, III., 537, 545 (February and
March, 1889): Words of Napoleon: "At this moment it was nearly
midnight." - Ibid., IV., 55 (November, 1809). Read the admirable
examination of Roederer by Napoleon on the Kingdom of Naples. His
queries form a vast systematic and concise network, embracing the
entire subject, leaving no physical or moral data, no useful
circumstance not seized upon. - Ségur, II., 231: M. De Ségur, ordered
to inspect every part of the coast-line, had sent in his report: "'I
have seen your reports,' said the First Consul to me, 'and they are
exact. Nevertheless, you forgot at Osten two cannon out of the four.'
- And he pointed out the place, 'a roadway behind the town.' I went
out overwhelmed with astonishment that among thousands of cannon
distributed among the mounted batteries or light artillery on the
coast, two pieces should not have escaped his recollection." -
"Correspondance," letter to King Joseph, August 6, 1806: "The
admirable condition of my armies is due to this, that I give attention
to them every day for an hour or two, and, when the monthly reports
come in, to the state of my troops and fleets, all forming about
twenty large volumes. I leave every other occupation to read them
over in detail, to see what difference there is between one month and
another. I take more pleasure in reading those than any young girl
does in a novel." - Cadet de Gassicourt, "Voyage en Autriche"(1809).
On his reviews at Schoenbrunn and his verification of the contents of
a pontoon-wagon, taken as an example.

[59] One ancient French league equals app. 4 km. (SR.)

[60] Bourrienne, II., 116; IV., 238: "He had not a good memory for
proper names, words, and dates, but it was prodigious for facts and
localities. I remember that, on the way from Paris to Toulon, he
called my attention to ten places suitable for giving battle. . .
. It was a souvenir of his youthful travels, and he described to me
the lay of the ground, designating the positions he would have taken
even before we were on the spot." March 17, 1800, puncturing a card
with a pin, he shows Bourrienne the place where he intends to beat
Mélas, at San Juliano. "Four months after this I found myself at San
Juliano with his portfolio and dispatches, and, that very evening, at
Torre-di-Gafolo, a league off, I wrote the bulletin of the battle
under his dictation" (of Marengo). -De Ségur, II., 30 (Narrative of
M. Daru to M. De Ségur Aug. 13, 1805, at the headquarters of La
Manche, Napoleon dictates to M. Daru the complete plan of the campaign
against Austria): "Order of marches, their duration, places of
convergence or meeting of the columns, attacks in full force, the
various movements and mistakes of the enemy, all, in this rapid
dictation, was foreseen two months beforehand and at a distance of two
hundred leagues. . . . The battle-field, the victories, and even
the very days on which we were to enter Munich and Vienna were then
announced and written down as it all turned out. . . . Daru saw
these oracles fulfilled on the designated days up to our entry into
Munich; if there were any differences of time and not of results
between Munich and Vienna, they were all in our favor." -M. de La
Vallette, "Mémoires," II., p. 35. (He was postmaster-general): "It
often happened to me that I was not as certain as he was of distances
and of many details in my administration on which he was able to set
me straight." - On returning from the camp at Bologna, Napoleon
encounters a squad of soldiers who had got lost, asks what regiment
they belong to, calculates the day they left, the road they took, what
distance they should have marched. and then tells them, "You will
find your battalion at such a halting place." - At this time, "the
army numbered 200,000 men."

[61] Madame de Rémusat, I., 103, 268.

[62] Thibaudeau, p.25, I (on the Jacobin survivors): "They are nothing
but common artisans, painters, etc., with lively imaginations, a
little better instructed than the people, living amongst the people
and exercising influence over them." - Madame de Rémusat, I., 271 (on
the royalist party): "It is very easy to deceive that party because
its starting-point is not what it is, but what it would like to have."
- I., 337: "The Bourbons will never see anything except through the
Oeil de Boeuf." - Thibaudeau, p.46: "Insurrections and emigrations are
skin diseases; terrorism is an internal malady." Ibid., 75: "What now
keeps the spirit of the army up is the idea soldiers have that they
occupy the places of former nobles."

[63] Thibaudeau, pp.419 to 452. (Both texts are given in separate
columns.) And passim, for instance, p.84, the following portrayal of
the decadal system of worship under the Republic: "It was imagined
that citizens could be got together in churches, to freeze with cold
and hear, read, and study laws, in which there was already but little
fun for those who executed them." Another example of the way in which
his ideas expressed themselves through imagery (Pelet de la Lozère, p.
242): "I am not satisfied with the customs regulations on the Alps.
They show no life. We don't hear the rattle of crown pieces pouring
into the public treasury." To appreciate the vividness of Napoleon's
expressions and thought the reader must consult, especially, the five
or six long conversations, noted on the very evening of the day they
occurred by Roederer; the two or three conversations likewise noted by
Miot de Melito; the scenes narrated by Beugnot; the notes of Pelet de
la Lozère and by Stanislas de Girardin, and nearly the entire volume
by Thibaudeau.

[64] Pelet de la Lozère, 63, 64. (On the physiological differences
between the English and the French.) - Madame de Rémusat, I., 273,
392: "You, Frenchmen, are not in earnest about anything, except,
perhaps, equality, and even here you would gladly give this up if you
were sure of being the foremost. . . . The hope of advancement in
the world should be cherished by everybody. . . . Keep your vanity
always alive The severity of the republican government would have
worried you to death. What started the Revolution? Vanity. What
will end it? Vanity, again. Liberty is merely a pretext." - III., 153
"Liberty is the craving of a small and privileged class by nature,
with faculties superior to the common run of men; this class,
therefore, may be put under restraint with impunity; equality, on the
contrary, catches the multitude." - Thibaudeau, 99: "What do I care
for the opinions and cackle of the drawing-room? I never heed it. I
pay attention only to what rude peasants say." His estimates of
certain situations are masterpieces of picturesque concision. "Why
did I stop and sign the preliminaries of Leoben? Because I played
vingt-et-un and was satisfied with twenty." His insight into
(dramatic) character is that of the most sagacious critic. "The
'Mahomet' of Voltaire is neither a prophet nor an Arab, only an
impostor graduated out of the École Polytechnique." - " Madame de
Genlis tries to define virtue as if she were the discoverer of it." -
(On Madame de Staël): "This woman teaches people to think who never
took to it, or have forgotten how." - (On Chateaubriand, one of whose
relations had just been shot) : "He will write a few pathetic pages
and read them aloud in the faubourg Saint-Germain; pretty women will
shed tears, and that will console him." - (On Abbé Delille) : "He is
wit in its dotage." - (On Pasquier and Molé): "I make the most of one,
and made the other." - Madame de Rémusat, II., 389, 391, 394, 399,
402; III., 67.

[65] Bourrienne, II., 281, 342: "It pained me to write official
statements under his dictation, of which each was an imposture." He
always answered: "My dear sir, you are a simpleton - you understand
nothing!" - Madame de Rémusat, II., 205, 209.

[66] See especially the campaign bulletins for 1807, so insulting to
the king and queen of Prussia, but, owing to that fact, so well
calculated to excite the contemptuous laughter and jeers of the

[67] In "La Correspondance de Napoleon," published in thirty-two
volumes, the letters are arranged under dates. - In his
'"Correspondance avec Eugène, vice-roi d'Italie," they are arranged
under chapters; also with Joseph, King of Naples and afterwards King
of Spain. It is easy to select other chapters not less instructive:
one on foreign affairs (letters to M. de Champagny, M de Talleyrand,
and M. de Bassano); another on the finances (letters to M. Gaudin and
to M. Mollien); another on the navy (letters to Admiral Decrès);
another on military administration (letters to General Clarke);
another on the affairs of the Church (letters to M. Portalis and to M.
Bigot de Préameneu); another on the Police (letters to Fouché), etc.
- Finally, by dividing and distributing his letters according as they
relate to this or that grand enterprise, especially to this or that
military campaign, a third classification could be made. - In this
way we can form a concept of the vastness of his positive knowledge,
also of the scope of his intellect and talents. Cf. especially the
following letters to Prince Eugène, June II, 1806 (on the supplies and
expenses of the Italian army); June 1st and 18th, 1806 (on the
occupation of Dalmatia, and on the military situation, offensive and
defensive). To Gen. Dejean, April 28, 1806 (on the war supplies);
June 27, 1806 (on the fortifications of Peschiera) July 20, 1806 (on
the fortifications of Wesel and of Juliers). - "Mes souvenirs sur
Napoleon", p. 353 by the Count Chaptal: "One day, the Emperor said to
me that he would like to organize a military school at Fontainebleau;
he then explained to me the principal features of the establishment,
and ordered me to draw up the necessary articles and bring them to him
the next day. I worked all night and they were ready at the appointed
hour. He read them over and pronounced them correct, but not
complete. He bade me take a seat and then dictated to me for two or
three hours a plan which consisted of five hundred and seventeen
articles. Nothing more perfect, in my opinion, ever issued from a
man's brain. - At another time, the Empress Josephine was to take the
waters at Aix-la-Chapelle, and the Emperor summoned me. 'The
Empress,' said he, 'is to leave to-morrow morning. She is a good-
natured, easy-going woman and must have her route and behavior marked
out for her. Write it down.' He then dictated instructions to me on
twenty-one large sheets of paper, in which everything she was to say
and to do was designated, even the questions and replies she was to
make to the authorities on the way."

[68] One French league equals approximately 4 km. 70,000 square
leagues then equal 1,120,000 km.2, or 400,000 square miles or 11% of
the United States but 5 times the size of Great Britain. (SR.)

[69] Cf. in the "Correspondance" the letters dated at Schoenbrunn
near Vienna, during August and September, 1809, and especially:

the great number of letters and orders relating to the English
expeditions to Walcheren;
the letters to chief-judge Régnier and to the arch-chancellor
Cambacérès on expropriations for public benefit (Aug. 21, Sept. 7
and 29);
the letters and orders to M. de Champagny to treat with Austria (Aug.
19, and Sept. 10, 15, 18, 22, and 23);
the letters to Admirable Decrès, to despatch naval expeditions to the
colonies (Aug.17 and Sept. 26);
the letter to Mollien on the budget of expenditure (Aug. 8);
the letter to Clarke on the statement of guns in store throughout the
empire (Sept. 14).
Other letters, ordering the preparation of two treatises on military
art (Oct. 1), two works on the history and encroachments of the Holy
See (Oct. 3), prohibiting conferences at Saint-Sulpice (Sept. 15),
and forbidding priests to preach outside the churches (Sept. 24).-
From Schoenbrunn, he watches the details of public works in France and
Italy; for instance, the letters to M. le Montalivet (Sept.30), to
send an auditor post to Parma, to have a dyke repaired at once, and
(Oct. 8) to hasten the building of several bridges and quays at

[70] He says himself; "I always transpose my theme in many ways."

[71] Madame de Rémusat, I., 117, 120. "1 heard M. de Talleyrand
exclaim one day, some what out of humor, 'This devil of a man misleads
you in all directions. Even his passions escape you, for he finds
some way to counterfeit them, although they really exist.'" - For
example, immediately prior to the violent confrontation with Lord
Whitworth, which was to put an end to the treaty of Amiens, he was
chatting and amusing himself with the women and the infant Napoleon,
his nephew, in the gayest and most unconcerned manner: "He is suddenly
told that the company had assembled. His countenance changes like
that of an actor when the scene shifts. He seems to turn pale at will
and his features contract"; he rises, steps up precipitately to the
English ambassador, and fulminates for two hours before two hundred
persons. (Hansard's Parliamentary History, vol. XXVI, dispatches of
Lord Whitworth, pp. 1798, 1302, 1310.) - "He often observes that the
politician should calculate every advantage that could be gained by
his defects." One day, after an explosion he says to Abbé de Pradt:
"You thought me angry! you are mistaken. Anger with me never mounts
higher than here (pointing to his neck)."

[72] Roederer, III. (The first days of Brumaire, year VIII.)

[73] Bourrienne, III., 114.

[74] Bourrienne, II., 228. (Conversation with Bourrienne in the park
at Passeriano.)

[75] Ibid., II., 331. (Written down by Bourrienne the same evening.)

[76] Madame de Rémusat, I., 274. - De Ségur, II., 459. (Napoleon's
own words on the eve of the battle of Austerlitz): "Yes, if I had
taken Acre, I would have assumed the turban, I would have put the army
in loose breeches; I would no longer have exposed it, except at the
last extremity; I would have made it my sacred battalion, my
immortals. It is with Arabs, Greeks, and Armenians that I would have
ended the war against the Turks. Instead of one battle in Moravia I
would have gained a battle of Issus; I would have made myself emperor
of the East, and returned to Paris by the way of Constantinople." - De
Pradt, p.19 (Napoleon's own words at Mayence, September, 1804): "Since
two hundred years there is nothing more to do in Europe; it is only in
the East that things can be carried out on a grand scale."

[77] Madame de Rémusat, I., 407. - Miot de Melito, II., 214 (a few
weeks after his coronation): "There will be no repose in Europe until
it is under one head, under an Emperor, whose officers would be kings,
who would distribute kingdoms to his lieutenants, who would make one
of them King of Italy, another King of Bavaria, here a landmann of
Switzerland, and here a stadtholder of Holland, etc."

[78] "Correspondance de Napoleon I.," vol. XXX., 550, 558. (Memoirs
dictated by Napoleon at Saint Hélène.) - Miot de Melito, II., 290. -
D'Hausonvillc, "l'Église Romaine et le Premier Empire," passiM. -"
Mémorial." "Paris would become the capital of the Christian world, and
I would have governed the religious world as well as the political

[79] De Pradt, 23.

[80] "Mémoires et Mémorial." "It was essential that Paris should
become the unique capital, not to be compared with other capitals.
The masterpieces of science and of art, the museums, all that had
illustrated past centuries, were to be collected there. Napoleon
regretted that he could not transport St. Peter's to Paris; the
meanness of Notre Dame dissatisfied him."

[81] Villemain, "Souvenir contemporaines," I., 175. Napoleon's
statement to M. de Narbonne early in March, 1812, and repeated by him
to Villemain an hour afterwards. The wording is at second hand and
merely a very good imitation, while the ideas are substantially
Napoleon's. Cf. his fantasies about Italy and the Mediterranean,
equally exaggerated ("Correspondence," XXX., 548), and an admirable
improvisation on Spain and the colonies at Bayonne. - De Pradt.
"Mémoires sur les revolutions d'Espagne," p.130: "Therefore Napoleon
talked, or rather poetised; he Ossianized for a long time . . .
like a man full of a sentiment which oppressed him, in an animated,
picturesque style, and with the impetuosity, imagery, and originality
which were familiar to him, . . . on the vast throne of Mexico and
Peru, on the greatness of the sovereigns who should possess them . .
. . and on the results which these great foundations would have on
the universe. I had often heard him, but under no circumstances had I
ever heard him develop such a wealth and compass of imagination.
Whether it was the richness of his subject, or whether his faculties
had become excited by the scene he conjured up, and all the chords of
the instrument vibrated at once, he was sublime."

[82] Roederer, III., 541 (February 2, 1809): "I love power. But I
love it as an artist. . . . I love it as a musician loves his
violin, for the tones, chords, and harmonies he can get out of it."

CHAPTER II. His Ideas, Passions and Intelligence.

I. Intense Passions.

Personality and character during the Italian Renaissance and during
the present time. - Intensity of the passions in Bonaparte. - His
excessive touchiness. - His immediate violence. - His impatience,
rapidity, and need of talking. - His temperament, tension, and faults.

On taking a near view of the contemporaries of Dante and Michael
Angelo, we find that they differ from us more in character than in
intellect.[1] With us, three hundred years of police and of courts of
justice, of social discipline and peaceful habits, of hereditary
civilization, have diminished the force and violence of the passions
natural to Man. In Italy, in the Renaissance epoch, they were still
intact; human emotions at that time were keener and more profound than
at the present day; the appetites were ardent and more unbridled;
man's will was more impetuous and more tenacious; whatever motive
inspired, whether pride, ambition, jealousy, hatred, love, envy, or
sensuality, the inward spring strained with an energy and relaxed with
a violence that has now disappeared. All these energies reappear in
this great survivor of the fifteenth century; in him the play of the
nervous machine is the same as with his Italian ancestors; never was
there, even with the Malatestas and the Borgias, a more sensitive and
more impulsive intellect, one capable of such electric shocks and
explosions, in which the roar and flashes of tempest lasted longer and
of which the effects were more irresistible. In his mind no idea
remains speculative and pure; none is a simple transcript of the real,
or a simple picture of the possible; each is an internal eruption,
which suddenly and spontaneously spends itself in action; each darts
forth to its goal and would reach it without stopping were it not kept
back and restrained by force[2] Sometimes, the eruption is so sudden,
that the restraint does not come soon enough. One day, in Egypt,[3]
on entertaining a number of French ladies at dinner, he has one of
them, who was very pretty and whose husband he had just sent off to
France, placed alongside of him; suddenly, as if accidentally, he
overturns a pitcher of water on her, and, under the pretence of
enabling her to rearrange her wet dress, he leads her into another
room where he remains with her a long time, too long, while the other
guests seated at the table wait quietly and exchange glances. Another
day, at Paris, toward the epoch of the Concordat,[4] he says to
Senator Volney: "France wants a religion." Volney replies in a frank,
sententious way, "France wants the Bourbons." Whereupon he gives
Volney a kick in the stomach and he falls unconscious; on being moved
to a friend's house, he remains there ill in bed for several days. -
No man is more irritable, so soon in a passion; and all the more
because he purposely gives way to his irritation; for, doing this just
at the right moment, and especially before witnesses, it strikes
terror; it enables him to extort concessions and maintain obedience.
His explosions of anger, half-calculated, half-involuntary, serve him
quite as much as they relieve him, in public as well as in private,
with strangers as with intimates, before constituted bodies, with the
Pope, with cardinals, with ambassadors, with Talleyrand, with Beugnot,
with anybody that comes along,[5] whenever he wishes to set an example
or "keep the people around him on the alert." The public and the army
regard him as impassible; but, apart from the battles in which he
wears a mask of bronze, apart from the official ceremonies in which he
assumes a necessarily dignified air, impression and expression with
him are almost always confounded, the inward overflowing in the
outward, the action, like a blow, getting the better of him. At Saint
Cloud, caught by Josephine in the arms of another woman, he runs after
the unlucky interrupter in such a way that "she barely has time to
escape";[6] and again, that evening, keeping up his fury so as to put
her down completely, "he treats her in the most outrageous manner,

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