Page images




ART. I.-1. Napoleon im Jahre 1813; politisch-militairisch geschildert. (Napoleon in the Year 1813, viewed as a Politician and a Soldier.) By CARL BADE. 4 small vols. Altona. 1839, 1840, 1841.

2. Geschichte des Deutschen Freiheitskriegs. (History of the German Liberation War, from 1813 to 1815.) By Dr. FREDERICK RICHTER. 4 vols. 8vo. Berlin. 1838-40.

3. Manuscrit de 1813. Par le Baron FAIN, Secrétaire du Cabinet à cette Epoque. 2 vols. 8vo. Second Edition. Paris. 1825. 4. Portfeuille de 1813. Par M. DE NORVINS. Paris. 1825. 5. History of Europe. By ARCHIBALD ALISON. Vol. IX. Edinburgh. 1841.

6. The Fall of Napoleon. By Colonel MITCHELL. London.


NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, measured by the highest standard, was great only as a soldier. A great MAN certainly we cannot call him, who, in the very outset of his career-in the Venetian business -acted in direct contradiction, or rather in lordly despite of those laws of truth and justice, the capacity to recognise which distinguishes man from the brute, far more certainly than any superiority of merely intellectual endowment: and a great KING, or ruler, he could never be, who, in endeavouring to influence human beings, never appealed to any positive passion more noble than vanity, and whose chief reliance was on the purely negative affection of fear. The heathenish old Romans were bad enough, as we see them; and, perhaps, were Etruscan, Volscian, Samnite, and Carthaginian historians extant, might appear much worse; but their maxim,

"Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos""To spare the yielding, and to crush the proud”— was a fair enough one (if indeed it existed anywhere except in Virgil's brain) for a nation of heathen soldiers to acknowledge.



Bonaparte, however, in that truly diabolical transaction of Venice, acted altogether upon the reverse of this maxim,

To spare the strong man, and to crush the weak;"

and in so doing at the early age of twenty-seven years, not under any foreign influence, but from the pure dictate of his own gigantic selfishness and despotic baseness, proved himself to be utterly des titute of all those higher qualities of soul, which, in the pages of Plutarch and Quintus Curtius, teach us to overlook the necessary harshness of the soldier in the generosity of the man, and the nobility of the hero. Napoleon was purely a soldier; on the ladder of battles he mounted to his throne; his sceptre was a marshal's baton; his laws were the laws of the sword; and the fruit of his decennial supremacy to France was, after a short fever of military excitement, lassitude and exhaustion from within, from without the hatred and the execration of all Europe. So vain was the attempt to transform the purely military principles of force and fraud, battle and stratagem, into habitual maxims of civilised government. To do so was in fact to establish, so long as it could last, a system of uninterrupted war, to proclaim the soldier the supreme arbiter of all human fortunes, to say that the word Right (not to speak of love and kindliness) was to be altogether blotted out from human language, and from human thought. Such a portentous attempt, like that of the Giants against Jove in the old fable, could not but fail. With all its breadth of outward projection, and greedy vastitude of clutch, it was in fact a thing essentially hollow, and intrinsically little. Napoleon the great soldier, the strong arm of revolutionary France, aspiring to be the political heart and the brain of Europe, proved himself to be nothing as a man, and, as a king, a Titanic phantasm. It was discovered that the will of nations could not be puffed aside always unceremoniously, in the same fashion that the Paris mob was in 1795, by a whiff of grape shot; and the fall of the strong continental despot in the year 1813 at Leipzig (for it was there rather than at Montmartre or Waterloo that he truly fell) proved to the world for the hundredth or thousandth time on a great scale, that man is essentially a moral being, and by moral influences alone can permanently either govern or be governed.

But though Bonaparte was little as a man, and hollow as a sovereign, we are not, therefore, to overlook the political and civil element in forming an estimate of his actions. If he was a soldier more than a king, he was an ambitious soldier; and an ambitious soldier will always subordinate the technical accuracy of his campaign to his prospects of, through victory, achieving, in the first place, military, and with that, among a military people, and in a

« EelmineJätka »