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FrRevol_501-550.indd 23 3/16/12 1:13 PM CHAPTER XIX Intoxication ofPower; Reverses andA hdication ofBonaparte. "I am tired of this old Europe," said Napoleon before his departure for Russia. He met indeed nowhere any obstacle to his will, and the restlessness of his character required a new aliment. Perhaps also the strength and clearness ofhis judgment were impaired when he saw men and things bending before him in such a manner that it became no longer necessary for him to exercise his thoughts upon any ofthe difficulties oflife. There is in unlimited power a kind of giddiness which seizes on genius as on stupidity, and overthrows them both alike. The Oriental etiquette which Bonaparte had established in his court intercepted that kind ofknowledge which is acquired amidst the easy communications of society. When there were four hundred people in his saloon , a blind man might have thought himselfalone, so deep was the silence that prevailed. The marshals of France, amidst the fatigues ofwar, at the moment ofthe crisis ofa battle, used to enter the tent ofthe Emperor to ask his orders without being allowed to sit down. His family did not suffer less than strangers from his despotism and his pride. Lucien preferred living a prisoner in England to reigning under the orders of his brother.' Louis Bonaparte, whose character is generally esteemed, was constrained by his probity to renounce the throne ofHolland/ and can it be believed that when conversing with his brother during two hours by themselves, and that brother obliged by indisposition to lean painfully against the wall, Napoleon never offered him a chair: he used to continue 1. From 1810 until 1814. 2 . Louis Bonaparte was the king of Holland from 1806 to 1810. FrRevol_501-550.indd 24 3/16/12 1:13 PM PART IV standing himself, from the fear that anyone should think of using the familiarity with him of sitting in his presence. The dread which he inspired in later times was such that nobody dared to address him first upon any subject. Sometimes he conversed with the greatest simplicity, surrounded by his court and in his Council of State. He suffered, and even encouraged, contradiction upon administrative or judicial affairs which had no connection with his power. It was curious to remark how sensibly those persons were affected whom he had suffered for a moment to breathe freely; but when the master re-appeared, it was in vain to ask the ministers to present a report to the Emperor against an unjust measure. If the question was about the victim ofsome error, some individual caught by accident in that great net thrown over the human race- the agents of power would invoke the difficulty ofaddressing Napoleon , as ifhe had been the Great Lama. Such a stupor caused by power would have raised a smile if the situation of men without refuge under this despotism had not inspired the deepest pity. The compliments, the hymns, the adorations without number and without measure which filled his journals, might have tired a man of such transcendent mind; but the despotism of his character was stronger than his reason. He liked true praise less than base flattery, because the one only showed his merit while the other attested his authority. In general he preferred power to glory; for the exertion of power pleased him too much to make him think of posterity, on whom it cannot act. But one of the results of absolute power which contributed the most to precipitate Bonaparte from his throne was that by degrees no one dared to state to him the truth on any subject. He ended by not knowing that it was cold at Moscow in November, because there could be found no one among his courtiers who had enough of the Roman to inform him of a thing so simple.3 In 18II, Napoleon had inserted, and disavowed at the same time, in the Moniteur a sacred note, printed in the English papers as having been ad3 ยท Napoleon decided to leave Moscow on October 19, 1812, when the temperatures were still mild. In early November they dropped significantly, hindering the orderly retreat of the French army. FrRevol_501-550.indd 25 3/16/12 1:13 PM cHAPTER X I X. Reverses and Abdication ofBonaparte dressed by his Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Ambassador of Russia. It was there said that Europe could enjoy no peace so long as England and its constitution subsisted. Whether...


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