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the crowd, crushing to death those who stood in their way; therepoor weak wretches, sitting composedly on the bank, gazing at the water; and further on, persons who had been thrown off the bridge into the water, trying to climb up again, or grasping, in their agony, floating fragments of ice. One of the bridges at length broke down. The crowd still pushing on from behind, scores were thrown into the water, and carried down by the stream. The rest rushed pell-mell to the other bridge.
5. Nothing now was to be heard but groans, curses, and screams, from victims trampled to death under the feet of their companions. So it continued during the whole night of the twenty-eighth, the Russian artillery never slacking their murderous fire. When morning dawned, many thousands still remained waiting to cross. Before this time, however, the Russians had approached so near, that, to save those who had crossed it became necessary to burn the bridge. This was accordingly done at about half-past eight o'clock; and all who had not passed were abandoned to the Russians. The fatal passage of the Beresina cost the army an immense number of its men; about twenty thousand armed men, and thirty thousand stragglers, alone escaping to the other side.
6. The miseries of the fugitives, however, were not yet over. The dreadful winter, the want of food, the goading attacks of the Cos'sacks, who hovered on the skirt of the army, continued to thin the ranks of the wretched caravan, and to strew its route11 with corpses.00 On the fifth of December the army reached Smor'ghoni, on the banks of the Wilna. Here Napoleon left it in a private manner, taking with him a small body-guard, and travelling as fast as possible, by means of sledges, in the direction of Poland and France. At his departure, the retreating army was left in the command of Murat, who was to conduct it homeward. No sooner, however, was it known that Napoleon had left the army to its fate, than there arose universal disorganization and anarchy.
Then came the mad retreat — the whirlwind snows
7. '' On the sixth of December, the very day after Napoleon's departure," says Segur," " the sky exhibited a dreadful appearance. You might see icy particles floating in the air; the birds fell from it quite stiff and frozen. We flitted along in this empire of death like unhappy spirits. The dull and monotonous sound of our steps, the crackling of the snow, and the feeble groans of the dying, were the only interruptions to the vast and doleful silence. Such of our soldiers as had hitherto been the most persevering, here lost heart entirely. Whenever they stopped for a moment, from exhaustion, the winter, laying his heavy and icy hand upon them, was ready to seize upon his prey. Comrades would pass by their dying comrades without moving a step out of the way, for fear of prolonging their journey, or even turning their heads; for their beards and their hair were stiffened with ice, and every movement was a pain."
8. On the ninth of December the fugitives reached Wilna. From this place they pushed on in broken bands to Kowno, tho last town on the Russian frontier. The greater number of them arrived here on the twelfth of December, and crossed the Niemen" next day. Out of four hundred thousand men, in the prime of health and strength, who had crossed the Niemen on their advance into Russia, not more than twenty-five thousand now recrossed it on their return; and these with hollow eyes, and hunger-bitten faces, and covered with rags. Plunging into the forests of Russian Poland, these poor wretches made their way to their several homes as well as they could, pursued for miles by the remorseless Cossacks. Many perished by the sword and by famine; and, finally, only a mere handful reached France. Prince Eugene, after making every research to gather together the remains of his division, could muster only about eight hundred wounded, the miserable wreck of forty-eight thousand warriors.
9. Thus the grand army, which was to have subdued Russia, was annihilated, and its boastful chief a fugitive towards France. On the evening of the tenth of December, the sledges which bore Napoleon and a few attendants from the scene of danger reached Warsaw; and hence, wrapped in furs, after a brief stay, they pursued their way as secretly as possible through Germany and France to Paris. What a miserable contrast did this rapid and obscure journey present to that of the French emperor's advance, only a few months before! His sudden and unexpected appearance in Paris, on the nineteenth of December, caused general surprise; and it was only by concealing for a time the result of the campaign, and issuing false intelligence respecting the movements and state of the army, that he was able to prevent the discontent which was likely to arise.
10. From the most careful calculations that can be made, it would appear that upwards of six hundred and fifty thousand men, French and Russians, invaders and defenders, perished in this most disastrous campaign. All estimates of the loss of life, and also of property, must, however, fall short of the truth. Many thousands of Russians perished obscurely, murdered in defence of their homes; thousands died of fatigue, hunger, and other privations. Innumerable villages, towns, and cities, were sacked, burnt, and destroyed; and many years of dire suffering elapsed before the general distress was allayed, or the marks of disaster were obliterated. What outrages were committed during the progress of the war, what hearts were broken, what grief was endured for the loss of fathers, brothers, and other relatives, what tears were shed, must all be left to the imagination of the reader. Such is war! From Chambers And Others.
CLIV. — DUELLING.
1. If two boys, who disagreed about a game of marbles or a penny tart, should therefore walk out by the river side, quietly take off their clothes, and, when they had got into the water, each try to keep the other's head down until one of them was drowned, we should doubtless think that these two boys were mad. If, when the survivor returned to his schoolfellows, they patted him on the shoulder, told him he was a spirited fellow, and that if he had not tried the feat in the water they would never have played at marbles or any other game with him again, we should doubtless think that these boys were infected with a most revolting and disgusting depravity and ferociousness. We should instantly exert ourselves to correct their principles, and should feel assured that nothing could ever induce us to tolerate, much less to encourage, such abandoned conduct.
2. And yet we do both tolerate and encourage such depravity every day. Change the penny tart for some other trifle, instead of boys put men, and instead of a river a pistol, and we encourage it all. We virtually pat the survivor's shoulder, tell him he is a man of honor, and that if he had not shot at his acquaintance we would never have dined with him again. "Revolting and disgusting depravity" are at once excluded from our vocabulary. We substitute such phrases as "the course which a gentleman is obliged to pursue," "it was necessary to his honor," "one could not have associated with him if he had not fought." We are the schoolboys grown up; and by the absurdity, and more than absurdity, of our phrases and actions, shooting or drowning (it matters not which) becomes the practice of the national school.
3. It is not a trifling question that a man puts to himself when he asks, What is the amount of my contribution to this detestable practice? It is by individual contributions to the public notions respecting it that the practice is kept up. Men do not fire at one another because they are fond of risking their own lives or other men's, but because public notions are such as they are. Nor do I think any deduction can be more manifestly just than that he who contributes to the misdirection of these notions is responsible for a share of the evil and the guilt.
4. When some offence has given probability to a duel, every man acts immorally who evinces any disposition to coolness with either party until he has resolved to fight; and if, eventually, one of them falls, he is a party to his destruction. Every word of unfriendliness, every look of indifference, is positive guilt; for it is such words and such looks that drive men to their pistols. It is the same after a victim has fallen. "I pity his family, but they have the consolation of knowing that he vindicated his honor," is equivalent to urging another and another to fight. Every heedless gossip who asks, "Have you heard of this affair of honor?" and every reporter of news who relates it as a proper and necessary procedure, participates in the general crime.
CLV. — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
1. His Predominant Traits. — His predominant passion seems to have been the love of the useful. The useful was to him the swrrvmum brmim," the supremely fair, the sublime and beautiful, which it may not, perhaps, be extravagant to believe he was in quest of every week for half a century. No department was too plain or humble for him to occupy himself in for this purpose; and, in affairs of the most unambitious order, this was still systematically his object. Whether in the construction of chimneys or of constitutions, lecturing on the saving of candles or on the economy of national revenues, he was still intent on the same end; the question always being how to obtain the most of solid, tangible advantage, by the plainest and easiest means.
There has rarely been a mortal of high intelligence and flattering fame on whom the pomps of life were so powerless. On him were completely thrown away the oratorical and poetical heroics about glory, of which heroics it was enough that he easily perceived the intention or effect to be, to explode all sober truth and substantial good, and to impel men, at the very best of the matter, through some career of vanity, but commonly through mischief, slaughter, and devastation, in mad pursuit of what amounts at last, if attained, to some certain quantity of noise, and empty show, and intoxicated transient elation. He was so far an admirable spirit for acting the Mentor" to a young republic.
It will not be his fault if the citizens of America shall ever become so servile to European example as to think a multitude of supernumerary places, enormous salaries, and a privileged order, a necessary security or decoration of that political liberty whiyh they enjoy in preeminence above every other nation on earth. In the letters of their patriarch and philosopher, they will be amply warned, by repeated and emphatic representations, of the desperate mischief of a political system in which the public resources shall be expended in a way to give the government both the interest and the means to corrupt the people. — John Foster.
2. His Colloquial Powers. — His cheerfulness and his colloquial powers spread around him a perpetual spring. Of Franklin no one ever became tired. There was no ambition of eloquence, no effort to shine, in anything which came from him. There was nothing which made any demand either upon your allegiance or your admiration. His manner was as unaffected as infancy. It was nature's self. He talked like an old patriarch; and his plainness and simplicity put you at once at your ease, and gave you the full and free possession and use of all your faculties. His thoughts were of a character to shine by their own light, without any adventitious aid. They required only a medium of vision like his pure and simple style to exhibit, to the highest advantage, their native radiance and beauty. His cheerfulness was unremitting. It seemed to be as much the effect of the systematic and salutary exercise of the mind as of its superior organization.
His wit was of the first order. It did not show itself merely in occasional coruscations; but, without any effort or force on his part, it shed a constant stream of the purest light over the whole of his discourse. Whether in the company of commons or nobles, he was always the same plain man; always most perfectly at his ease, his faculties in full play, and the full orbit of his genius forever clear and unclouded. And then the stores of his mind were inexhaustible. He had commenced life with an attention so vigilant that nothing had escaped his observation, and a judgment so solid that every incident was turned to advantage. Hu