« VorigeDoorgaan »
with it. It was first talked of in 1793, when the young Corsican officer of artillery, acting with promptitude for the French Directory against an outbreak of the "Sections," swept the streets of Paris clear of the rioters with a pitiless discharge of grape-shot; and, during the last year, the name produced the latest of its thousand sensations, when the telegraph sent abroad the news that the poor young Prince Imperial had fallen, in an obscure African scuffle and a discreditable cause, by the hands of the brave men of Zululand, fighting for their kraals and cornfields.
The chief of that Corsican family proved his Italian origin. Alfieri once boasted that men grew better in Italy than in any. other country, La pianta uomo nasce piu robusta in Italia che in qualcunque altra terra-and, beyond a doubt, Napoleon Bonaparte had the energy of the Scipios, the Cæsars, the Borgias, the Colons and the Garibaldis; while he always kept the recollection that, in the Middle Ages, his name ranked with the best in Florence, Bologna, Treviso, Parma and Sarzano. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the family was among the first in Corsica, and his father, Carlo Buonaparte, was a gentleman and a lawyer in good repute. He was also a patriot, joining Paoli in an attempt to free the island from the rule of Genoa. About that time, J. J. Rousseau, admiring the bravery of the islanders-which could also fire the fancy of James Boswell, the garrulous friend of Dr. Johnson— hazarded the opinion that Corsica would yet be very memorable in the world; a prediction having special reference to the heroism of its people, and one that, in our day may be considered to have had a rather curious and unlooked for fulfilment.
Carlo Buonaparte and his wife, Maria Lætizia Ramolino, had thirteen children, five of whom died and made no sign, before the death of their father, in 1785; and the other eightJoseph, Napoleon, Lucien, Louis, Jerome, Eliza, Pauline and Caroline (to write the names in the simplest way)-lived to play their distinguished parts on the stage of the world. Napoleon, born in 1769-about the time Louis XVI had taken Corsica from the Genoese and from republican liberty-led the
Ver Sacrum of his family from the troubled ground of Ajaccio to the mainland of France, where, after his schooling at Brienne and in the Military School of Paris (1784), he became lieutenant of artillery in the Royal Regiment of Grenoble. In his leisure moments he wrote a prize-essay on the best means of promoting the happiness of a people-an effort so full of fine thoughts in the manner of Rousseau and other doctrinaires, that, after he had become emperor, he grew afraid or ashamed of it; and having got it back, with the astute help of Talleyrand, he put it satisfactorily into the fire.* He also, about 1787, began a history of Corsica, for Paoli, written in a democratic spirit, and showing, at the same time that if he had been forced to use the pen to get a living, he could have written almost as admirably as he fought. Some of his subsequent army-bulletins are models of military eloquence; and of this he was always very conscious.
But the young soldier soon put literature and democracy aside. He found himself in the midst of a great revolution and resolved to take part in it. One day, in 1792, he saw the Paris mob put a red cap on the head of the king, on one of the palace balconies, and said calmly: "Poor man! it is all
over with him. And how easily he might disperse that "crowd with a discharge of cannon!" He did not sympathize with the party of Robespierre; but he served the Convention. well at the siege of Toulon, in 1793, where his military genius first distinguished itself in the management of artillery. After the fall of Robespierre, on the 9th Thermidor (1794), he carried cannons into the streets, brought the insurgent Sections to a condition of terrified order with grape-shot-his panacea in such cases-and saved the government.
Barras, chief of the Directory, and Carnot, "organizer of victory," could see that the Corsican-now general of brigade—
*It is rather curious that Napoleon's sometime opponent, the Duke of Wellington, should have acted in the same way, with respect to a perfervid letter he had written, after the Waterloo victory had excited his rather phlegmatic nature. He was afraid it would be "remembered in his epitaph;" and when his secretary, Colonel Gurwood, had succeeded in getting possession of it—at an expense of £500-the Duke thrust it between the bars of the fire-grate, exclaiming, "I was a confounded fool when I wrote that letter!"
At the age of twenty
was the instrument they were to use. six (1796), Napoleon, a recent bridegroom, led the "Army of Italy" through the passes of the Alps; and, from the level ground of Lombardy, sounded the long and interrupted march of that peninsular people to the kingly independence of the present day.* His rapid and decisive style of manoeuvering his small force-not much greater than that at present under the orders of General Wolseley in Southern Africa-perplexed the Austrian generals, accustomed to the old German strategy of the Thirty Years' War; while the impetuous battles of Montenotte, Millesimo, Dego, Mondovi, Lodi, Castiglione, Rivoli and Arcola changed the entire political aspect of northern Italy; and the Treaty of Campo Formio, leaving to Austria the sequestered Lagoons of Venice, established two Italian republics-the Cis-Alpine, or Lombard, and the Ligurian-and prepared the way for the Roman republic of 1798 and the republic of Parthenope (1799). This was a grand awakening for Italy, which, like Macbeth, was fated to "sleep no more;" while the sudden renown of the young Corsican rose to the level of Turenne's, Catinat's, or Marlborough's, and far beyond that of Moreau, Massena or Pichegru. France then saw fulfilled the prophecy of the Abbé Sièyes, who had declared that, in her great difficulties, she chiefly needed "a sword and a man.” Both had come, and, instead of writing history, the conqueror of Italy began the great work of making it.
With a mind capacious of daring things, he meditated some decisive stroke against England-an old and persistent enemy. He first imagined an invasion of Ireland, then in a partial condition of revolt; and Theobold Wolfe Tone-a man of resolute purpose, like himself-tells us in his Diary that
*The first wife of Napoleon, Marie-Joseph Tascher, born at Martinique in 1763, married, in 1779, the Viscount Beauharnais, who subsequently tried to divorce her for levity of conduct, but was obliged to grant her a separate maintenance. Some years later, he asked to be reconciled, and they lived together. He was guillotined, in 1794, as a royalist, and Josephine imprisoned for her attempt to effect his escape. She was the friend of Barras, and her house in the Rue Chantereine was much frequented-especially by young General Bonaparte, whom she patronized in the most charming way, and who, it was said, owed his new command to the lady's interest with the Directory.
he had some interviews with the General, who asked him many questions about the Irish people. In one of his replies the Irish rebel was obliged to admit that the Catholic clergy, as a body, were opposed to the proposed rising; and this decided the matter. In the same year Bonaparte hurried with the "Army of England "-as it has been called-down to the Mediterranean, and thence to Egypt. He meant to make of the latter a colony of France-remembering, perhaps, the advice which Leibnitz pressed upon Louis XIV for the same purpose and a base of operations for a further movement against the English power in Hindostan. His ideas included some others, advocated more recently, and at the present daysuch as the idea of a grand canal at Suez, and notably, that of an overland route to the East by way of the Euphrates. But it was, at that period, a wild ambition, with all its boldness, and indicated that vehemence of purpose which was to undo him in the end.* Bonaparte's Egyptian campaign, with the "Battle of the Pyramids," and his march into Palestine, with its brilliant combat of Mount Tabor, were as romantic as the Italian campaign was heroic. But the ships of England baffled his best ideas. Nelson destroyed Napoleon's fleet in Aboukir Bay, breaking off his communications with France; and, in the end, he was forced-leaving Kleber in Egypt-to return almost alone to Paris, where he had other enemies to grapple with.
These were the men of the Directory-a Quintumvirate which had allowed the Austrians to undo, in Italy, the great work of 1796. He denounced them-his old friends Barras and Sièyes among them-for their imbecility; obliging them to resign their office, and then marched with his grenadiers to abolish the Council of Five Hundred at the Orangery of St. Cloud. His act was like the dispersion of the Long Parliament by Oliver Cromwell. The 18th Brumaire was one of
*The occupation of African territory is one of the French ideas and is, of course, in accord with the ideas of other great nations, like the English, the Russian, and even our own-all bent on overrunning and occupying. Morocco will yet belong to France; and, at this moment, a project is on foot to extend the French roads and colonies, through the Atlas ridges, down to the fertile region of Timbuctoo and the Soudan.
the "crowning mercies" of Bonaparte's career; and his brothers, Joseph and Lucien (President of the Council,) helped him through the ordeal to the Consulate of Three, of whom he was ranked as the First. Then followed, in 1800, his impetuous campaign against the Austrians and the celebrated victory of Marengo; changing, as if by magic, the face of the European chess-board, and leading to the peace of Luneville.
France was again in the ascendant. The young Czar Paul, by his ambassador, expressed a romantic respect for its chief, and corresponded with him by letter. The First Consul advised the emperor to advance an army toward the Oxus and the Indus, and carry out the work by military colonies, each occupying in advance its agricultural station, cultivating its own supplies and going forward, from year to year, sustained by an assurance of support from those coming after. This idea has not slept, though moving slowly; since the soldiers of the Czar are now at Tashkend and Sagalien. A possible alliance of France and Russia troubled all the friends of the old order of things, and attempts were made to assassinate the First Consul. In one of them an infernal machine was exploded (24th of December, 1800) close to the opera house which he was about to enter, shaking the houses and killing several persons. The attempt against his friend, the Czar-who had just ordered the chief of the Bourbons to quit Russian territory-was more successful. Paul was assassinated by his courtiers and some of his own relatives; and the historians of England and Germany placed on permanent record the opinion that he was a man of crazy ideas, and unfit to live.
The rule of the First Consul-for the two others were merely his ministers-was a restoration of order after a period of disturbance. The industry of France experienced a happy revival. The administration of the laws was greatly improved, and a Concordat (15th July, 1801) brought the country into friendly relations with the Catholic church and the Pope. Yet the government was a centralization-the control of the body politic emanating, so to speak, from the brain of one man; a state of things not unsuitable to a period of transition and the sword, when the European monarchies stood ready to