Page images
PDF
EPUB

crime which deserved to be visited by destruction. When the Crown Prince of Sweden, Bernadotte, remonstrated in a temperate but dignified note against his unprovoked invasion of Pomerania in January 1812, Napoleon, enraged at the bold language of independence from an inferior power, cried out, “Submit to your degradation, or die with arms in your hands.” It was lucky for Sweden that the Baltic protected her from his aggression, or he would have sent some of his proconsuls to destroy the peace of that happy country. It is in his treatment of the minor European states that Napoleon's conduct shows itself in all its odious bearing, and rouses the indignation of every right-hearted man who studies the records of those calamitous times. There, and not in his character of ruler of France or Italy, he appears truly a tyrant. The essential distinction between Napoleon Emperor of France and King of Italy, and Napoleon the ruthless conqueror and despot of the remainder of Europe, has been lost sight of in the general estimate of his character by most writers. It is his utter disregard for the rights or feelings of the weaker states that gives to his victorious career a cast of Asiatic barbarism very different from that of other conquerors of modern Europe. It was justly and feelingly observed by Sir James Macintosh, in his defence of Peltier, that since the time of Charles the Fifth, in all the wars between France, Austria, and Spain, during the long and warlike reign of Louis the Fourteenth, not one independent country of Europe, even of the smallest extent, and he instanced

the little republic of Geneva as a striking example, had

been erased from the list of states; there had been change

of dynasties, and partial accessions of territory, but no state had been swamped and its name lost; while, in a few years of the French Republic and of Bonaparte, the number of independent republics and principalities which had disappeared from the map of Europe might be counted by dozens. And this remark was made before the fullness of Napoleon's aggressions, – before the epoch of his empire. This material view of the strength of nations gave him, even in the early part of his consulate, a bias towards a Russian alliance. Previous to the peace of Luneville, in 1801, he said to the council of state: “ France can only ally itself with Russia: that power sways the Baltic and the Black Sea; it holds in its hands the key of Asia. The Emperor of such a nation is truly a great prince. If Paul is eccentric, he has at least a will of his own.” This project of a Russian alliance has continued to our days, after all the vicissitudes of thirty years, to be a favourite scheme with some of the politicians of Napoleon's school. In the Nouveaux Mélanges Politiques, by General Richemont, published in 1830, we find it strenuously advocated: “ The natural ally of France in opposition to Austria and England is Russia, as the conquests of the latter power cannot endanger France, and might promote its commercial and maritime interests.” And we have read something to the same purpose lately, in some of the French Liberal as well as Carlist papers. But, in fact, both Liberalism and Carlism in France are strongly mixed with the old leaven of Napoleonism. The intellectual, honest, sincere alliance of England and France finds its chief opposers in the disciples of the material school of politics formed by that great but mistaken man. And yet that man has been spoken of, and by Englishmen among the rest, as the ill-requited champion of European civilization and intellectual progress! Napoleon's personal feelings were far better than the principles of conduct he had thought fit to prescribe to himself; and his natural strong sense was much superior to his information. Whenever he discussed subjects in which his ruling passion was not interested, he did it with a clearness, a simplicity, and occasionally a sort of modesty, which made him appear almost amiable. We’ have only to read his opinions delivered in the council of state on the discussion of the civil code, or some of his conversations at St. Helena, to be impressed with an interest in his favour. When taken away from politics, he became all at once equitable, impartial, and kind. The same may be said of his domestic and social feelings, whenever he did not think himself obliged to stifle them from “state reasons.” His brother Lucien has lately given us an interesting account of his parting interview with him at Mantua in 1811. After Lucien had refused, for the last time, the offer of a crown of some of the conquered states, because Napoleon told him that, if he accepted it, he must be prepared to be entirely subservient to his own policy and to the predominance of France; and to sacrifice to them, if necessary, the lives, the wealth, and the happiness of the people entrusted to him; Napoleon, “ in whom the impassible countenance of a statesman contrasted with the softened voice of a brother, told me, while giving me his farewell embrace, that I must either adopt his system or prepare to leave

the Continent, where he could no longer tolerate my silent opposition.”

In Las Cases’ Memoirs, a work singularly interesting for the scrupulous though credulous faithfulness of the writer, and its total absence of critical judgment, and which has been not unaptly compared to Boswell's Life of Johnson, the following passage is found under date February 18th, 1816. “About five o'clock, the Emperor went out to walk in the garden (at Longwood.) He began to draw a sketch of the happiness of a private man in easy circumstances, peacefully enjoying life in his native province, in the house and lands which he had inherited from his ancestors. We could not refrain from smiling at the tranquil domestic picture, and some of us got our ears pinched for it. “Felicity of this kind, resumed the Emperor, ‘is now unknown in France except by tradition. The Revolution has destroyed it. The old families have been deprived of this happiness, and the new ones have not yet been long enough established in the enjoyment of it. The picture which I have sketched has now no real existence.’ He observed that to be driven from one's native home—from the fields in which we had roamed in childhood, to possess no paternal abode, was in reality to be deprived of one's country.” It did not occur to this strange-minded man at the time how many thousands and tens of thousands he had reduced to this desolate condition, not in France, but in Spain, in Germany, in Southern Italy, and wherever he had extended the desolating track of his conquests, his confiscations, his forced contributions, his military executions, and his conscription

LX. A QUEER TRANSLATION FROM
WITRUWIUS.

MISTRANSLATIONs from the Greek and Latin would fill a very large chapter; but the following from the Latin, condensed in a very small space, may serve as a speciInen, Vitruvius, in the preface to his second book on Architecture, says, that the architect Dinocrates, not being introduced to Alexander the Great so soon as he wished, determined upon attracting the notice of the King by the following scheme: — “Fuerat enim amplissima statura, facie grata, forma dignitateque summa. His igitur naturae muneribus confisus, vestimenta posuit in hospitio, et oleo corpus perunxit, caputgue coronavit populea fronde, lavum humerum pelle leonina texit, dextraque clavam tenens, incessit contra tribunal Regis jus dicentis.” In the translation of Vitruvius by W. Newton, fol. Lond. 1791, vol. i. p. 21, the passage is thus rendered: “He was very large of stature, had an agreeable countenance, and a dignity in his form and deportment. Trusting to these gifts of nature, he clothed himself in the habit of an host,” anointed his body with oil, crowned his head with boughs of poplar, put a lion's skin over his left shoulder, and, holding one of the claws in his right hand,t approached the tribunal where the King was administering justice.”

* He deposited his clothes at his inn. t Holding a club in his right hand.

« PreviousContinue »