Изображения страниц

worthy of respect. From himself alone he wished Europe to date its epoch. He swept away the republic with the tread of his soldiers. He trampled on the throne of the Bourbons in exile. Like a murderer, in the darkness of the night, he seized upon the bravest and most confiding of the military princes of this race, the Duke d'Enghien, EI in a foreign country. He slew him in the ditch of Vincennes, by a singular presentiment of crime, which showed him, in this youth, the only armed competi. tor of the throne against him, or against his race. He conquered Italy, which had been again lost, Germany, Prussia, Holland (reconquered after Pichegruki), Spain, Naples, — kingdoms and republics. He threatened England, and caressed Russia, in order to lull her to sleep. He carved out the continent, made a new distribution of nations, and raised up thrones for all his family. He expended ten generations of France to establish a royal or imperial dynasty for each of the sons or daughters of his mother.

2. His fame, which grew incessantly in noise and splendor, imparted to France and to Europe that ver'tigo of glory which hides the immorality and the abyss of such a reign. He created the attraction, and was followed even to the delirium, of the Russian campaign. He floated in a whirlwind of events so vast and so rapid, that even three years of errors did not occasion his fall. Glory, which had elevated him, sustained him over the vacuity of all the other principles which he had despised. Spain devoured his armies ; Russia served as a sepulchre to seven hundred thousand men; Dresden and Leipsical swallowed up the rest. Germany, exasperated, deserted his cause. The whole of Europe hemmed him in, and pursued him from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, with a mighty tide of people. France, exhausted and disaffected, saw him combat and sink without raising an arm in his cause.

3. Yet, when he had nothing against the whole world but a handful of soldiers, he did not fall. Everything was annihilated around his throne, but his glory remained soaring above his head, He at length capitulated, or, rather, France capitulated without him, and he travelled alone, across his conquered country and his ravaged provinces, the routes to his first exile, — his only cortègeel the resentments and the murmurs of his country. What remains behind him of his long reign? for this is the criterion by which God and man judge the political genius of founders. All truth is fruitful; all falschood barren. In policy, whatever does not create has no existence. Life is judged by what sur. vives it.

4. He left freedom chained, equality compromised by posthu. mouset institutions, feudalism" parodied, without power to exist,

human conscience resold, philosophy proscribed, prejudices encouraged, the human mind diminished, instruction materialized and concen't rated in the pure sciences alone, schools converted into barracks, literature degraded by censorship or humbled by baseness, national representation perverted, election abolished, the arts enslaved, commerce destroyed, credit annihilated, navi. gation suppressed, international hatred revived, the people op pressed, or enrolled in the army, paying, in blood or taxes, the ambition of an unequalled soldier, but covering with the great name of France the contradictions of the age, the miseries and degradations of the country.

5. This is the founder ! This is the man !- a man, instead of a revolution !- a man, instead of an epoch! – a man, instead of a country!- a man, instead of a nation! Nothing after him! nothing around him but his shadow, making stěrile the eighteenth century, absorbed and concen'trated in himself alone. Personal glory will be always spoken of as characterizing the age of Napoleon; but it will never merit the praise bestowed upon that of Augustus, of Charlemagne, El and of Louis the Fourteenth.ki There is no age; there is only a name; and this name signifies nothing to humanity, but himself. False in institutions, for he retrograded ; false in policy, for he debased ; false in morals, for he corrupted ; false in civilization, for he oppressed, — he was only true in war; for he shed torrents of human blood. But what can we, then, allow him ? His individual genius was great, but it was the genius of materialism. His intelligence was vast and clear; but it was the intelligence of calculation. He counted, he weighed, he measured; but he felt not, he loved not, he sympathized with none; he was a statue rather than a man.

6. His metallic nature was felt even in his style. Much superior to Cæsar in the account of his campaigns, his style is not the written expression alone, - it is the action. Every sentence in his pages is, so to speak, the counterpart and counter-impression of the fact. There is neither a letter, a sound, nor a color, wasted between the fact and the word, - and the word is himself. His phrases, concise, ei but struck off without ornament, recall those times when Bajazet and Charlemagne, not knowing how to write their names at the bottom of their imperial acts, dipped their hands in ink or blood, and applied them with all their joints impressed upon the parchment. It was not the signature; it was the hand itself of the hero, thus fixed eternally before the eyes; and such were the pages of his campaigns, dictated by Napoleon, -- the very soul of movement, of action, and of combat.

7. This fame, which constituted his morality, his conscience, and his principle, he merited, by his nature and his talents, from

war and from glory; and he has covered with it the name of France, France, obliged to accept the odium of his tyranny and his crimes, should also accept his glory with a serious gratitude. She cannot separate her name from his without lessening it; for it is equally incrusted with his greatness as with his faults. She wished for renown; and what she principally owes to him is the celebrity she has gained in the world. This celebrity, which will descend to posterity, and which is improperly called glory, constituted his means and his end. Let him, therefore, enjoy it. The noise he has made will resound through distant ages; but let it not pervert posterity, or falsify the judgment of mankind. He is admired as a soldier ; he is measured as a sovereign; he is judged as a founder of nations; — great in action, little in idea, nothing in virtue. Such is the man !


CLXXXIV. - NAPOLEON AS A STUDENT. 1. DILIGENCE and self-control are the crowning attributes of genius. Napoleon, however extraordinary his mental gifts, no more attained his greatness by fits and starts than he made his way over the Alps by a sudden flight. In both cases the road was opened by labor, toil, and endurance. The evidences of his arduous study and persevering industry in youth afford a useful lesson for the consideration of those who, feeling within them a certain excitement, regard it — and, it may be, justly — as the token of mental power, but forget that it is as surely an evidence of power needing the strengthening and discipline of order and systematic study.

2. Napoleon appears to have gone through a regular and systematic course of reading with a definite object : nothing was done for mere amusement. His selections of works, and his ex. tracts from them, are alike remarkable. He occupied himself with natural history, natural philosophy, and medicine. He studied ancient geography and history; then turned to modern, and acquainted himself well with the history of France. His object seemed rather to gain a knowledge of historical facts than to form a system from them. A thirst for general knowledge, and an indefatigable industry in attaining it, are manifested throughout his scholastic career.

3. We will not enter into the moral questions connected with Napoleon's aims and objects, with the use or misuse of his energies, for we are now only dealing with the training by which he learned to concen'trate them; and with the great lesson to be

drawn from the fact that it was by strenuous perseverance and unwearied effort, under difficulties and impediments, that his mental powers were we will not say created — but fostered and made effectual to the attainment of his aims and objects. Napoleon, as well as Michael Angelo, E and Newton, El and all possessed of true genius, had to submit to that law of human nature, which decrees that nothing great can be done without great effort. Of all the subjects of which he afterwards showed himself master, he was first the regular and diligent student.

4. His clear ideas on legislation, on finance, and social organization, were not fruits of spontaneous growth, but the harvest reaped on the throne from the labors of the poor lieutenant of artillery. He owed his mental development to that to which in every age every great and strong mind has owed it — industry, to solitary and patient vigil, to difficulty and misfortune. True it is that the revolution opened to him a vast field; but, had tho revolution never occurred, Napoleon must have become distin guished; for characters such as his seize upon, but are never the slaves of, circumstances. When, after seven years spent in retirement, Napoleon made his first appearance on the world's stage, he had already within him the germs of his future greatness. Nothing was fortuitous with him.

5. His was a perpetual struggle, and not always a successful one. His being at Toulon was owing to his never losing an opportunity of coming forward. Never did a new minister come into power without receiving a memorial from the young officer on the affairs of his native country; and never was any change in the military department of Corsica proposed, that Napoleon did not, at any risk, immediately repair thither. When unsuccessful in his object, he returned to ValenceEr to think and to study; and these seven years of the youthful life of Napoleon are to us the noblest and greatest in that life of prodigies, and are themselves sufficient to preclude his elevation being ascribed to fatality.


1. OBLIGATIONS TO LITERATURE. — I will here place on record my own obligations to literature: a debt so iminense as not to be cancelled, like that of Nature, by death itself. I owe to it something more than my earthly welfare. Adrift, early in life, upon the great waters, -as pilotless as Wordsworth’s blind boy, afloat in the turtle-shell, - if I did not come to shipwreck, it was that, in default of paternal or fraternal guidance, I was rescued, like the “ ancient mariner,” by guardian spirits — " each one a lovely light” — who stood as beacons to my course. Infirm health, and a natural love of reading, happily threw me, instead of worse society, into the company of poets, philosophers, and sages — to me good angels and ministers of grace. From these silent instructors — who often do more than fathers, and always more than god-fathers, for our temporal and spiritual interests — from these mild monitors, — no importunate tutors, teasing mentors, EI moral task-masters, obtrusive advisers, harsh censors, or wearisome lecturers, but delightful associates, - I learned something of the divine, and more of the human, religion.

They were my interpreters in the house beautiful of God, and my guide among the delectable mountains of Nature. They reformed my prejudices, chāstened my passions, tempered my heart, purified my tastes, elevated my mind, and directed my aspirations. I was lost in a chaos of undigested problems, false theories, crude fancies, obscure impulses, bewildering doubts, when these bright intelligences called my mental world out of darkness, like a new creation, and gave it “two great lights,” Hope and Memory, -- the past for a moon, and the future for a sun.

“ Hence have I genial seasons ; hence have I

Smooth passions, sinooth discourse, and joyous thoughts ;
And thus, from day to day, my little boat
Rocks in its harbor, lodging peaceably. —
Blessings be with them, and eternal praise, —
The poets, — who on earth have made us heirs
Of truth and pure delight, by heavenly lays !
0, might my name be numbered among theirs,

How gladly would I end my mortal days !"* Thomas Hood. 2. THE WORTH OF Books. — It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds; and these invaluable means of communication are in the reach of all. In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages. Books are the true levellers. They give to all, who will faithfully use them, the society, the spiritual presence, of the best and greatest of our race. No matter how poor I am. No matter, though the prosperous of my own time will not enter my obscure dwelling. If the Sacred Writers will enter and take up their abode under my roof, if Milton will cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise, and Shakspeare to open to me the worlds of imagination and the workings of the human heart, and Franklin to enrich me with his

* Wordsworth.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »