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FrRevol_501-550.indd 16 3/16/12 1:13 PM CHAPTER XVIII On the Political Doctrine ofBonaparte. One day M. Suard, who more than any other lettered Frenchman united the tact of literature with a knowledge of the great world, was speaking boldly before Bonaparte ofthe picture ofthe Roman emperors in Tacitus: "Very well," said Napoleon; "but he ought to have told us why the Roman people suffered, and even liked those bad emperors. It is that which it was ofimportance to explain to posterity." Let it be our endeavor not to incur, with respect to the Emperor of France himself, the censure which he passed on the Roman historian. The two principal causes of Napoleon's power in France were, above all, his military glory and the art with which he re-established order without attacking those selfish passions to which the Revolution had given birth. But not everything was included in these two problems. It is pretended that, in discussions in the Council of State, Napoleon displayed a universal sagacity. I have some doubts of the ability ascribed to a man who is all-powerful; it is much more difficult for us, the common people, to earn our celebrity. One is not, however, master ofEurope during fifteen years without having a piercing view of men and things. But there was in the mind of Bonaparte an incoherence which is a marked feature of those who do not range their thoughts under the law of duty. The power of commanding had been given by nature to Bonaparte; but it was rather because other men did not act upon him, than because he acted upon them, that he became their master. The qualities which he lacked served his purpose as well as the talents he possessed; and he made himselfobeyed only by degrading those whom he subjected. His successes are astonishing; his reverses more astonishing still. What he performed, aided by the energy ofthe nation, is admirable; the state oftorpor in which he left it can scarcely be conceived. The multitude ofmen oftalent whom 5z6 FrRevol_501-550.indd 17 3/16/12 1:13 PM cHAPTER x vI I I . Political Doctrine ofBonaparte he employed is extraordinary; but the characters whom he debased have done more harm to the cause of liberty than the service that could be rendered to it by all the powers ofintelligence. To him, above all, may be applied the fine image of despotism, in the "Spirit of Laws";1 "he cut up the tree by its roots to obtain its fruit," and perhaps he has even dried up the soil. In a word, Bonaparte, the absolute master of eighty million men, and meeting nowhere with opposition, knew neither how to found a single institution in the state nor durable power for himsel£.2 What, then, was the destructive principle which haunted his triumphal steps? What was it? the contempt ofmankind, and consequently ofall the laws, all the studies, all the establishments, and all the elections of which the basis is respect for the human race. Bonaparte was intoxicated with the vile draught of Machiavellism; he resembled in many respects the Italian tyrants of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; and as he had read but little, the natural tendency of his character was not counteracted by the effect ofinformation . The Middle Ages being the most brilliant era in the history of the Italians, many ofthem have but too much respect for the maxims ofgovernment at that period, and those maxims were all collected by Machiavelli. Reading lately in Italy his famous treatise of The Prince, which still finds believers among power-holders, a new fact and a new conjecture appeared to me worthy of notice. In the first place, letters ofMachiavelli found in the manuscripts of the Barberini library and published in I8I3 prove clearly that he published his Prince in order to reconcile himself with the Medicis. They had put him to the rack on account of his efforts in favor of liberty; he was ruined, in bad health, and without resources; 1. Montesquieu, The Spirit ofche Laws, book 5, chap. 13, 59· 2. T his statement must be taken with a grain ofsalt. Napoleon's legacy includes, among other things, the famous Napoleonic Code (enacted in 1804) and the introduction of the modern professional conscript army. For an overview of Napoleon's institutional legacy (the administration, the fiscal and judicial systems, education, the army, and the relations between the state and the church), see...


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