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The love of liberty, then, could not exist in France, where no form of liberty had existed long. The sentiment of equality, on the contrary, had instantaneously penetrated into the core of the nation. Bonaparte crushed at once that which was lightly loved and carelessly defended : he maintained that which was difficult, if not impossible to destroy. You see this double action in all his works-you see it in his codes-where he attempts to make every citizen equal before the law, and to raise every act of his power above the law. You see it in his administration, where his justice as governor supplied that justice which should have been found in the statutes of his government, and where he punished with severity the vexations and oppressions which he forbad the nation to punish. His despotism was terrible, but his despotism was just and glorious, and buoyed up gracefully and majestically by many of the dispositions of the French.
When I said that Louis XVI. might perhaps have continued to reign, if he could have flattered the literary ambition of the eighteenth century, by destroying the privileges of the court, which only accorded honours to arms, and restricted the use of arms to the nobility-when I said that the old monarchy was perhaps possible, if the aristocracy could have been regenerated by the new ideas which Voltaire had promulgated from his throne at Ferney, and which gave to literature and the arts the position in the state which they were accorded in society when I said this-I said that which Bonaparte saw when he assumed as his proudest title, previous to the consulate, "Membre de l'Institut," and when, as first consul, he founded the legion of honour, and gave to Massena the first general, and David the first painter of the kingdom-the same mark, and the same title of distinction.
It was thus that he united the vanity natural to the French with the passion for equality, which had become to them a second nature, and threw upon the moving sands of the revolution, which every wind had previously dispersed, those masses of granite on which many still believe that his edifice might have stood with security, if it had not aspired to the skies. Carried beyond the pitch of his intentions by the ardour of his character, the policy of Napoleon was, notwithstanding, everywhere
profound. He took as the foundation of his power the passions of mankind religion is one-he re-established religion; war is another he indulged in war to an excess that would sooner have wearied any other nature than that of the Gauls.
The aim of the present to appear gigantic to the future was ever present to his eyes, and in roads, canals, bridges, he has traced on every side of him those vast characters on which prosperity is transmitted to distant generations. But great in his designs, great in himself, he saw little beyond the weaknesses, the material wants of his fellow men: he beheld in the revolution the ambition which distracted and lost it--but he neither beheld nor believed (in spite of the courage of Carnot) the disinterestedness and the devotion which had ennobled and produced it. This was his error.
The superiority of virtue over vice in government, is, that in vice there is no fecundity, no productive principle of duration. If you wish your machine to last, you will harden and elevate the elements it is composed of. You must govern men according to the passions of mankind-but if you wish your government to endure, you will infuse into those passions something of that sublime and immaterial nature which furnishes us with the conception of eternity.
Now, the genius of Bonaparte, especially mathematic, was to materialize every thing. He saw and seized at once those feelings which he found, and out of which his government was to be shaped; he combined, consolidated those feelings into a form, compact, solid, strong; but in their composition he destroyed their vitality. His empire became an immense mass wieldy in his gigantic hands, and which he rolled impetuously along-under his guidance, and together, it was terrible, and for a long time irresistible;-deprived of him (broken by the shock of a still mightier, because a more moral force), it was nothing; for it had no life, no individuality, no soul.
The Consulate was employed in collecting the materials for the empire: and in his generals, his solicitors, and his senate, Napoléon found the marshals, the chamberlains, and the ministers, that were to support and decorate the imperial throne. The office which he held ostensibly from the nation, but which in reality he owed to his sword, was to be sanctioned before his soldiers by a victory, and the campaign which terminated
at Marengo placed the modern Annibal above the most renowned generals of antiquity. The assumption of the imperial purple demanded a similar exploit, and the battle of Austerlitz raised the destinies of the empire above the glories of the republic.
Here is the point where Napoléon might at once have consulted his security and his ambition: absolute over France, and over Italy, as emperor and king—over Spain, by the servility of its minister-over Switzerland, by the act of moderationover Holland and Naples, by his two brothers-and having at his orders the kings of Bavaria and Wirtemberg, and the confederation of the Rhine-what enemy had he to fear -save his own mind? His tyranny had hitherto been applauded, and he reigned over the greatest part of Europe, without shocking the feelings of its inhabitants.
Thus may reason the philosopher and the historian: thus rarely reason those upon whose deeds the philosopher and the historian meditate, and who have usually shown more temerity and more madness, in the first obscure steps of their career, than in those which carry them finally beyond the possibilities of human ambition.
Bonaparte had risen hitherto by the victories he had achieved, the admiration he had excited, the conspiracies he had subdued. Attacked at home and abroad, he had been successful in his defence. In France his despotism was wise, his glory was great, and on the Continent he had combated the sovereigns and their armies; but he had rather appeared as a protector than an enemy to the people. His impolitic spoliation of Prussia, his unjustifiable seizure of Spain, brought new elements into the conflict against him.
From that moment the emperor of the French, who had hitherto been considered as a being apart, became one of the ordinary kings of the earth, and awakened the feelings which an emperor of Austria or of Russia would awaken now, if he declared war against the liberties of Europe. Confounded with the mass of monarchs, he sought their alliance, and the hand which had been at the service of Barras was offered to the daughter of the Cæsars.
All Bonaparte's faults may be concentrated into this act, by which he was at once separated from the system he had formed,
and the career he had traversed—and, transformed, from the daring adventurer, taking the lead in a new order of things, into one of those "Vieilles Perruques" which, up to that hour, had been the victims of his arms, and the objects of his ridicule. No fault is so absurd in a public man as that of confusing the nature of his position.
As long as he is the decided enemy of one party, the decided friend of another, he never has any occasion to halt or to hesitate. He knows those from whom he may expect enmity, and those to whom he may naturally look for assistance. But the instant he complicates his relations, every action and consideration become uncertain. He has something to hope, something to fear, in either course he may adopt; and doubts, as to the manner in which he may be most certain to succeed, prevent that concentration of purpose which is so essential to success. Bonaparte was the child of new thoughts and new feelings, to which his genius had given a gigantic force, and of which he stood for the time as the representative before alarmed and astonished Europe. He had turned a republic, it is true, into a military empire, and round his throne stood a new aristocracy; but still he had hitherto ruled as an elder brother over a nation of soldiers, and the titles he had given were so many orders of merit distributed to the most deserving of the people.
He was not the master, but the organ of public opinion, and through him, as through a trumpet, spake the warlike genius of the French..
To those who possessed the ancient thrones, the wasted prerogatives and worn-out genealogies of antique Europe, he was naturally opposed. They could not make peace with him, without making peace with a principle at war with their own existence. As long as he saw this, his course was plain; his enemies were before him, and it was only in the sympathies that he could enlist against them, that he could hope to find allies.
As the foe of the legitimate monarchs, he was ten thousand times greater than they; but there was not a petty prince in Germany whom he did not sink beneath, when he became a suitor for their alliance. The prestige which made him superior to other men was gone: even those around him felt their consequence diminished; and all the new names and glories
of France sunk into comparative insignificance, when it appeared that Napoléon himself found it necessary to mingle the renown of his deeds with the "historical blood” of the enemy he had subdued, and seemed to doubt the reality of his dignity, and to deem that his diadem could not be truly royal, until it was placed on the legitimate brows of a daughter of some ancient dynasty.
The refusal of his alliance in Russia was an almost certain presage of his subsequent defeat there; and the miserable policy with which he afterwards preferred consulting' the interest of his Austrian father-in-law, to conferring liberty on Poland, betrayed all the eurors he fell into from the falsity of his position. The only success which attended his new alliance was the birth of a son, heir to an empire already on the decline. The reaction which commenced with Russia, Prussia, and with Spain, and which rapidly extended itself by the continental system throughout Europe, was signalised by the defection of the emperor of Austria, notwithstanding the courtesies of his son-in-law, and the rising of the whole of the north of Germany, after that memorable campaign in which Napoléon left amongst the snows and the ruins of Moscow the character of his troops and the charm of his renown.
He was vanquished at the moment when it was most necessary for him to conquer; for the nation, long enslaved by his glory, was fatigued by his dominion. Crushed beneath the conscription, the impositions, and the cours prévôtales of Napoléon, the citizen languished for security, quiet, and commerce, while the priest conspired in his prison against the enemy of the pope, and the ex-minister of the empire plotted to be minister of the Restoration.
Then it was that, driven behind the Rhine, abandoned by the people he defended, alone against the world, Bonaparte relied upon his veteran soldiers and his own genius, and prepared, with a skill and a courage suited to his better days, to protect France from the armies who, profiting by the returning tide of war, were pouring on to her invasion. Swartzenburg was advancing by Switzerland, Blucher by Frankfort, Bernadotte by Holland, and the English under the command of Wellington-the English, who had never bowed the neck,