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THERE are few things so painful, as the necessity of speaking of one's self; but, whenever it does occur, philosophers, deepest versed in the hopes and fears which sway the human heart, recommend proceeding at once with the task boldly, or, in other words, becoming, for awhile, modestly impudent. I shall beg leave to follow this advice, because I think it both promotes my own interest, and can in no shape militate against that of my readers.
At the close of 1822, the Editor of the New Times, in the performance, as he considered, of his public duty, seized the opportunity, on an article appearing in the Edinburgh Review, to deliver fully his opinions respecting the late Emperor of France, and the circumstances which more particularly distinguished his career. In adopting this step, the Editor was, of course, perfectly justified; but, on perusing his remarks, it forcibly struck me that the conclusions derived from them by no means equalled the right which
them birth, and I, accordingly, resolved to expose such of his reasonings as, to my apprehension, appeared most defective in logic, or most warped by political bias.. Events over which I could exercise but slight control have, until this moment, prevented the completion of my design ; but to defer is not always to destroy, and I now, therefore, presume to bring forward a work which, whatever it may have lost in novelty, will, I trust, be found to have gained in interest, from the power which time has afforded me of consulting the mány. late publications respecting Napoleon.
I am little of a politician, and shall not, at this day, aspire to the dangerous honour of that name; but I have always cherished a desire to hear men and their actions spoken of without guile; to find, in
the words of the French satirist,
a cat called a cat, and a villain called a villain.” In this spirit I sat down to compose these sheets; and, in this spirit, I have exerted the moderate ability which I may possess, to complete them.
The period of Napoleon's rule is so recent, --the changes which his system produced are, yet, so much in their infancy,—the mortals, whom his glory benefitted, or those whom his ambition beggared, form still so large a portion of the living world, that to expect a total absence of every partiality, on subjects which have só essentially divided society, would be, perhaps, to look for an ampler store of moderation and stoicism than usually falls to the lot of any being; but I have done my best, I repeat, to consider every case of which I have treated, with impartiality; to draw no conclusion as undeniable, in which I did not conceive that facts bore me out; nor to put forth any circumstance as probable, the attributes of which did not authorize my suppositions.
The influence of the press is one of such
vital importance, and at this time is so universally felt, that no apology will, I presume, be necessary, for making my reply to a journalist-writer the vehicle for an Historical Inquiry concerning Napoleon. I have selected the Editor of the New Times for my opponent on no other account than that he has ever shown himself the most formidable, the most irreconcilable, of all Napoleon's enemies,- not less, indeed, celebrated by the constancy of his hostility, than by the talent and the eloquence with which he has poured forth his soul. Had my aim been to mystify, instead of to elucidate, policy would have far differently directed me; but, anxious as I am, that whatever regards Napoleon, whether to his credit or to his shame, should be dispassionately examined, I have, without fear, although nowise without reverence, directed my observations to a writer who, I am perfectly aware, will not, from his shrewdness, be at any loss for a reply. Facts, however, can only be made apparent through scrutiny and research; and if, in the industry which I