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Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military general who rose to prominence in the French Revolution, becoming the ruler of France as First Consul of the French Republic (11 November 1799 - 18 May 1804), and then Emperor of the French and King of Italy under the name Napoleon I (18 May 1804 - 6 April 1814, and again briefly from 20 March - 22 June 1815).
Born: August 15th, 1769
Died: May 5th, 1821
Quotes: 229 sourced quotes total (includes 5 misattributed, 21 about)
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Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu'un long discours.
Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
Able was I ere I saw Elba.
Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.
Ability is nothing without opportunity.
Women are nothing but machines for producing children.
From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.
A constitution should be short and obscure.
Imagination governs the world.
He was the God of War.
From the heights of these pyramids, forty centuries look down on us.
An army of sheep, led by a lion, is better than an army of lions, led by a sheep.
What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history? A fable agreed upon.
You must not fear death, my lads; defy him, and you drive him into the enemy's ranks.
There is but a step from the sublime to the ridiculous.
'''The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.
Le mot impossible n'est pas français.
Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
I used to say of him that his presence on the field made the difference of forty thousand men.
He who fears being conquered is certain of defeat.
The bullet that will kill me is not yet cast.
A King should sacrifice the best affections of his heart for the good of his country; no sacrifice should be above his determination.
The completest charlatan that ever existed.
Malice delights to blacken the characters of prominent men.
Kiss the feet of Popes provided their hands are tied.
A Government protected by foreigners will never be accepted by a free people.
A king is sometimes obliged to commit crimes; but they are the crimes of his position.
When you have an enemy in your power, deprive him of the means of ever injuring you.
A man who has no consideration for the needs of his men ought never to be given command.
A great reserve and severity of manners are necessary for the command of those who are older than ourselves.
One can lead a nation only by helping it see a bright outlook. A leader is a dealer in hope.
A form of government that is not the result of a long sequence of shared experiences, efforts, and endeavors can never take root.
I see that everybody has lost their head since the infamous capitulation of Bailén. I realise that I must go there myself to get the machine working again.
France is invaded; I am leaving to take command of my troops, and, with God's help and their valor, I hope soon to drive the enemy beyond the frontier.
Power is founded upon opinion.
A prince should suspect everything.
A general must be a charlatan.
Greatness is nothing unless it be lasting.
The Mohammedan religion is the finest of all
Those who are free from common prejudices acquire others.
You cannot treat with all the world at once.
More glorious to merit a sceptre than to possess one.
I don't know why, but the little bastard scares me.
A great people may be killed, but they cannot be intimidated.
Unite for the public safety, if you would remain an independent nation.
A book in which there were no lies would be a curiosity.
Morality has nothing to do with such a man as I am.
Unhappy the general who comes on the field of battle with a system.
Wherever wood can swim, there I am sure to find this flag of England.
Sometimes a great example is necessary to all the public functionaries of the state.
The greater the man, the less is he opinionative, he depends upon events and circumstances.
It is not necessary to prohibit or encourage oddities of conduct which are not harmful.
Our hour is marked, and no one can claim a moment of life beyond what fate has predestined.
A constitution should be framed so as not to impede the action of government, nor force the government to its violation.
Charity and alms are recommended in every chapter of the Koran as being the most acceptable services, both to God and the Prophet.
Waterloo will wipe out the memory of my forty victories; but that which nothing can wipe out is my Civil Code. That will live forever.
There are only two forces that unite men — fear and interest. All great revolutions originate in fear, for the play of interests does not lead to accomplishment.
Man achieves in life only by commanding the capabilities nature has given him, or by creating them within himself by education and by knowing how to profit by the difficulties encountered.
If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks, glory would become the prey of mediocre minds.... I have made all the calculations; fate will do the rest.
In civil war it is not given to every man to know how to conduct himself. There is something more than military prudence necessary; there is need of sagacity and the knowledge of men.
I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation so much as the mystery of the social order. It introduces into the thought of heaven an idea of equalization, which saves the rich from being massacred by the poor.
Religions are all founded on miracles — on things we cannot understand, such as the Trinity. Jesus calls himself the Son of God, and yet is descended from David. I prefer the religion of Mahomet — it is less ridiculous than ours.
I hope the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all the countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of the Quran which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness.
Among so many conflicting ideas and so many different perspectives, the honest man is confused and distressed and the skeptic becomes wicked … Since one must take sides, one might as well choose the side that is victorious, the side which devastates, loots, and burns. Considering the alternative, it is better to eat than to be eaten.
What is a throne? — a bit of wood gilded and covered in velvet. I am the state— I alone am here the representative of the people. Even if I had done wrong you should not have reproached me in public — people wash their dirty linen at home. France has more need of me than I of France.
I may have had many projects, but I never was free to carry out any of them. It did me little good to be holding the helm; no matter how strong my hands, the sudden and numerous waves were stronger still, and I was wise enough to yield to them rather than resist them obstinately and make the ship founder. Thus I never was truly my own master but was always ruled by circumstances.
Muhammad was a prince; he rallied his compatriots around him. In a few years, the Muslims conquered half of the world. They plucked more souls from false gods, knocked down more idols, razed more pagan temples in fifteen years than the followers of Moses and Jesus did in fifteen centuries. Muhammad was a great man. He would indeed have been a god, if the revolution that he had performed had not been prepared by the circumstances.
The monster slept at Grenoble.
The tyrant has crossed Lyons.
I generally had to give in.
Jesus Christ was the greatest republican.
There is a joy in danger.
Give them a whiff of grapeshot.
The cannibal has left his lair.
The tiger has arrived at Gap.
The Emperor has arrived at Fontainbleau.
Immortality is the best recollection one leaves.
Policy and morals concur in repressing pillage.
In war, luck is half in everything.
In France, only the impossible is admired.
France will always be a great nation.
Tomorrow, Napoleon will be under our ramparts.
The superior man is never in anyone's way.
In love the only safety is in flight.
In politics, an absurdity is not an impediment.
In war, groping tactics, half-way measures, lose everything.
What is the government? nothing, unless supported by opinion.
Success is the most convincing talker in the world.
As a rule it is circumstances that make men.
The laws of circumstance are abolished by new circumstances.
Parties weaken themselves by their fear of capable men.
An army which cannot be reenforced is already defeated.
The usurper was seen sixty leagues from the capital.
Ordinarily men exercise their memory much more than their judgment.
The moment of greatest peril is the moment of victory.
The Corsican ogre has just landed at the Juan Gulf.
Orders and decorations are necessary in order to dazzle the people.
The life of a citizen is the property of his country.
Laws which are consistent in theory often prove chaotic in practice.
Fanaticism must be put to sleep before it can be eradicated.
Courage cannot be counterfeited. It is one virtue that escapes hypocrisy.
The Turks can be killed, but they can never be conquered.
There are so many laws that no one is safe from hanging.
The great difficulty with politics is, that there are no established principles.
It is rare that a legislature reasons. It is too quickly impassioned.
We frustrate many designs against us by pretending not to see them.
Aristocracy is the spirit of the Old Testament, democracy of the New.
In war, character and opinion make more than half of the reality.
Bonaparte has advanced with great strides, but he will never enter Paris.
There is nothing so imperious as feebleness which feels itself supported by force.
In war one must lean on an obstacle in order to overcome it.
Audacity succeeds as often as it fails; in life it has an even chance.
Whatever misanthropists may say, ingrates and the perverse are exceptions in the human species.
Obedience to public authority ought not to be based either on ignorance or stupidity.
The populace judges of the power of God by the power of the priests.
War is a lottery in which nations ought to risk nothing but small amounts.
If I had succeeded, I would have been the greatest man known to history.
My maxim was, la carrière est ouverte aux talents, without distinction of birth or fortune.
Never depend on the multitude, full of instability and whims; always take precautions against it.
The man fitted for affairs and authority never considers individuals, but things and their consequences.
Simpletons talk of the past, wise men of the present, and fools of the future.
Posterity alone rightly judges kings. Posterity alone has the right to accord or withhold honors.
Never march by flank in front of an army in position. This principle is absolute.
Messieurs, nous avons un maître, ce jeune homme fait tout, peut tout, et veut tout.
Changing from the defensive to the offensive, is one of the most delicate operations in war.
There is only one favorable moment in war; talent consists in knowing how to seize it.
The secret of great battles consists in knowing how to deploy and concentrate at the right time.
In order not to be astonished at obtaining victories, one ought not to think only of defeats.
Ordinary men died, men of iron were taken prisoner: I only brought back with me men of bronze.
How many seemingly impossible things have been accomplished by resolute men because they had to do, or die.
The fool has one great advantage over a man of sense — he is always satisfied with himself.
To listen to the interests of all, marks an ordinary government; to foresee them, marks a great government.
An army ought to be ready every moment to offer all the resistance of which it is capable.
He who cannot look over a battlefield with a dry eye, causes the death of many men uselessly.
The most desirable quality in a soldier is constancy in the support of fatigue; valor is only secondary.
One is more certain to influence men, to produce more effect on them, by absurdities than by sensible ideas.
Policemen and prisons ought never to be the means used to bring men back to the practice of religion.
Whatever shall we do in that remote spot? Well, we will write our memoirs. Work is the scythe of time.
True character stands the test of emergencies. Do not be mistaken, it is weakness from which the awakening is rude.
If I had not been defeated in Acre against Jezzar Pasha of Turk. I would conquer all of the East"
The hand that gives is above the hand that takes. (La main qui donne est au-dessus de celle qui reçoit.)
His Imperial and Royal Majesty entered his palace at the Tuileries last night in the midst of his faithful subjects.
It is only by prudence, wisdom, and dexterity, that great ends are attained and obstacles overcome. Without these qualities nothing succeeds.
Europe is a molehill. It has never had any great empires, like those of the Orient, numbering six hundred million souls.
From triumph to downfall is but a step. I have seen a trifle decide the most important issues in the gravest affairs.
It is only with prudence, sagacity, and much dexterity that great aims are accomplished, and all obstacles surmounted. Otherwise nothing is accomplished.
Democracy may become frenzied, but it has feelings and can be moved. As for aristocracy, it is always cold and never forgives.
The sentiment of national honor is never more than half extinguished in the French. It takes only a spark to re-kindle it.
Impatience is a great obstacle to success; he who treats everything with brusqueness gathers nothing, or only immature fruit which will never ripen.
You cannot drag a man's conscience before any tribunal, and no one is answerable for his religious opinions to any power on earth.
It is often in the audacity, in the steadfastness, of the general that the safety and the conservation of his men is found.
A congress of the powers is deceit agreed on between diplomats — it is the pen of Machiavelli combined with the scimitar of Mahomet.
That dependable courage, which in spite of the most sudden circumstances, nevertheless allows freedom of mind, of judgment and of decision, is exceedingly rare.
The future destiny of the child is always the work of his mother. Let France have good mothers, and she will have good sons.
Hereditary succession to the magistracy is absurd, as it tends to make a property of it; it is incompatible with the sovereignty of the people.
I am the instrument of providence, she will use me as long as I accomplish her designs, then she will break me like a glass.
The most difficult art is not in the choice of men, but in giving to the men chosen the highest service of which they are capable.
All men of genius, and all those who have gained rank in the republic of letters, are brothers, whatever may be the land of their nativity.
A cowardly act! What do I care about that? You may be sure that I should never fear to commit one if it were to my advantage.
The religious zeal which animates priests, leads them to undertake labors and to brave perils which would be far beyond the powers of one in secular employment.
To do all that one is able to do, is to be a man; to do all that one would like to do, would be to be a god.
It must be recognized that the real truths of history are hard to discover. Happily, for the most part, they are rather matters of curiosity than of real importance.
Gentleness, good treatment, honor the victor and dishonor the vanquished, who should remain aloof and owe nothing to pity — In war, audacity is the finest calculation of genius.
Nothing is so contrary to military rules as to make the strength of your army known, either in the orders of the day, in proclamations, or in the newspapers.
In politics nothing is immutable. Events carry within them an invincible power. The unwise destroy themselves in resistance. The skillful accept events, take strong hold of them and direct them.
Lead the ideas of your time and they will accompany and support you; fall behind them and they drag you along with them; oppose them and they will overwhelm you.
I am a monarch of God's creation, and you reptiles of the earth dare not oppose me. I render an account of my government to none save God and Jesus Christ.
To plan to reserve cavalry for the finish of the battle, is to have no conception of the power of combined infantry and cavalry charges, either for attack or for defense.
The art of war consists in being always able, even with an inferior army, to have stronger forces than the enemy at the point of attack or the point which is attacked.
The praises of enemies are always to be suspected. A man of honor will not permit himself to be flattered by them, except when they are given after the cessation of hostilities.
The existence of God is attested by everything that appeals to our imagination. And if our eye cannot reach Him it is because He has not permitted our intelligence to go so far.
I saw myself founding a religion, marching into Asia riding an elephant, a turban on my head and in my hand the new Koran that I would have composed to suit my needs.
Man loves the marvelous. It has an irresistible charm for him. He is always ready to leave that with which he is familiar to pursue vain inventions. He lends himself to his own deception.
War is a serious game in which a man risks his reputation, his troops, and his country. A sensible man will search himself to know whether or not he is fitted for the trade.
The people must not be counted upon; they cry indifferently : "Long live the King!" and "Long live the Conspirators!" a proper direction must be given to them, and proper instruments employed to effect it.
Destiny urges me to a goal of which I am ignorant. Until that goal is attained I am invulnerable, unassailable. When Destiny has accomplished her purpose in me, a fly may suffice to destroy me.
We are made weak both by idleness and distrust of ourselves. Unfortunate, indeed, is he who suffers from both. If he is a mere individual he becomes nothing; if he is a king he is lost.
In war, theory is all right so far as general principles are concerned; but in reducing general principles to practice there will always be danger. Theory and practice are the axis about which the sphere of accomplishment revolves.
He found his best satisfaction not in pleasure but in toil. He could live with little food, little sleep - and very little dalliance. The one thing he could not dispense with was work, and work in prodigious quantities.
If I were an Englishman, I should esteem the man who advised a war with China to be the greatest living enemy of my country. You would be beaten in the end, and perhaps a revolution in India would follow.
Many a one commits a reprehensible action, who is at bottom an honourable man, because man seldom acts upon natural impulse, but from some secret passion of the moment which lies hidden and concealed within the narrowest folds of his heart.
All great events hang by a hair. The man of ability takes advantage of everything and neglects nothing that can give him a chance of success; whilst the less able man sometimes loses everything by neglecting a single one of those chances.
One must indeed be ignorant of the methods of genius to suppose that it allows itself to be cramped by forms. Forms are for mediocrity, and it is fortunate that mediocrity can act only according to routine. Ability takes its flight unhindered.
The military principles of Caesar were those of Hannibal, and those of Hannibal were those of Alexander — to hold his forces in hand, not to be vulnerable at any point, to throw all his forces with rapidity on any given point.
Send me 300 francs; that sum will enable me to go to Paris. There, at least, one can cut a figure and surmount obstacles. Everything tells me I shall succeed. Will you prevent me from doing so for the want of 100 crowns?
What are we? What is the future? What is the past? What magic fluid envelops us and hides from us the things it is most important for us to know? We are born, we live, and we die in the midst of the marvelous.
It is a mistake, too, to say that the face is the mirror of the soul. The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only.
What are the conditions that make for the superiority of an army? Its internal organization, military habits in officers and men, the confidence of each in themselves; that is to say, bravery, patience, and all that is contained in the idea of moral means.
One must learn to forgive and not to hold a hostile, bitter attitude of mind, which offends those about us and prevents us from enjoying ourselves; one must recognize human shortcomings and adjust himself to them rather than to be constantly finding fault with them.
You call these baubles, well, it is with baubles that men are led… Do you think that you would be able to make men fight by reasoning? Never. That is only good for the scholar in his study. The soldier needs glory, distinctions, and rewards.
Muhammad was a great man, an intrepid soldier; with a handful of men he triumphed at the battle of Bender (sic); a great captain, eloquent, a great man of state, he revived his fatherland and created a new people and a new power in the middle of Arabia.
The Allied Powers having proclaimed that the Emperor Napoleon is the sole obstacle to the re-establishment of peace in Europe, he, faithful to his oath, declares that he is ready to descend from the throne, to quit France, and even to relinquish life, for the good of his country.
What I have done up to this is nothing. I am only at the beginning of the course I must run. Do you imagine that I triumph in Italy in order to aggrandise the pack of lawyers who form the Directory, and men like Carnot and Barras? What an idea!
Each state claims the right to control interests foreign to itself when those interests are such that it can control them without putting its own interests in danger. … other powers only recognize this right of intervening in proportion as the country doing it has the power to do it.
The issue of a battle is the result of an instant, of a thought. There is the advance, with its various combinations, the battle is joined, the struggle goes on a certain time, the decisive moment presents itself, a spark of genius discloses it, and the smallest body of reserves accomplish victory.
In a battle, as in a siege, the art consists in concentrating very heavy fire on a particular point. The line of battle once established, the one who has the ability to concentrate an unlooked for mass of artillery suddenly and unexpectedly on one of these points is sure to carry the day.
In early life he may have been a sincere republican; but he hated anarchy and disorder, and, before his campaign in Italy was over, he had begun to plan to make himself ruler of France. He worked systematically to transform the people's earlier ardor for liberty into a passion for military glory and plunder.
A commander in chief ought to say to himself several times a day: If the enemy should appear on my front, on my right, on my left, what would I do? And if the question finds him uncertain, he is not well placed, he is not as he should be, and he should remedy it.
Depuis le premier jour jusqu'au dernier, il est le même, toujours le même, majestueux et simple , infiniment sévère et infiniment doux ; dans un commerce de vie pour ainsi dire public, Jésus ne donne jamais de prise à la moindre critique; sa conduite si prudente ravit l'admiration par un mélange de force et de douceur.
Some revolutions are inevitable. There are moral eruptions, just as the outbreak of volcanoes are physical eruptions. When the chemical combinations which produce them are complete, the volcanic eruptions burst forth, just as revolutions do when the moral factors are in the right state. In order to foresee them the trend of ideas must be understandingly observed.
The great mass of society are far from being depraved; for if a large majority were criminal or inclined to break the laws, where would the force or power be to prevent or constrain them? And herein is the real blessing of civilization, because this happy result has its origin in her bosom, growing out of her very nature.
My waking thoughts are all of thee. Your portrait and the remembrance of last night's delirium have robbed my senses of repose. Sweet and incomparable Josephine, what an extraordinary influence you have over my heart. Are you vexed? Do I see you sad? Are you ill at ease? My soul is broken with grief, and there is no rest for your lover.
There is no such thing as an absolute despotism; it is only relative. A man cannot wholly free himself from obligation to his fellows. A sultan who cut off heads from caprice, would quickly lose his own in the same way. Excesses tend to check themselves by reason of their own violence. What the ocean gains in one place it loses in another.
Men have their virtues and their vices, their heroisms and their perversities; men are neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but possess and practice all that there is of good and bad here below. Such is the general rule. Temperament, education, the accidents of life, are modifying factors. Outside of this, everything is ordered arrangement, everything is chance. Such has been my rule of expectation and it has usually brought me success.
It is not that addresses at the opening of a battle make the soldiers brave. The old veterans scarcely hear them, and recruits forget them at the first boom of the cannon. Their usefulness lies in their effect on the course of the campaign, in neutralizing rumors and false reports, in maintaining a good spirit in the camp, and in furnishing matter for camp-fire talk. The printed order of the day should fulfill these different ends.
A dîner, il nous disait qu'il se trouvait beaucoup mieux, et nous lui avons fait observer, à ce sujet, que, depuis quelque temps néanmoins, il ne sortait plus, et travaillat huit, dix, douze heures par jour. «C'est cela même,» disait-il: «le travail est mon élément; je suis né et construit pour le travail. J'ai connu les limites de mes jambes, j'ai connu les limites de mes yeux; je n'ai jamais pu connaître celles de mon travail.»
The truth is that one ought to serve his people worthily, and not strive solely to please them. The best way to gain a people is to do that which is best for them. Nothing is more dangerous than to flatter a people. If it does not get what it wants immediately, it is irritated and thinks that promises have not been kept; and if then it is resisted, it hates so much the more as it feels itself deceived.
Conscience is the most sacred thing among men. Every man has within him a still small voice, which tells him that nothing on earth can oblige him to believe that which he does not believe. The worst of all tyrannies is that which obliges eighteen-twentieths of a nation to embrace a religion contrary to their beliefs, under penalty of being denied their rights as citizens and of owning property, which, in effect, is the same thing as being without a country.
The general of the sea has need of only one science, that of navigation. The one on land has need of all, or of a talent which is the equivalent of all, that will enable him to profit by all experience, and all knowledge. A general of the sea has nothing to divine. He knows where his enemy is, he knows his strength. A general on land never knows anything with certainty, never sees his enemy well, and never knows positively where he is.
Achilles was the son of a goddess and of a mortal; in that, he is the image of the genius of war. The divine part is all that that is derived from moral considerations of character, talent, the interest of your adversary, of opinion, of the temper of the soldier, which is strong and victorious, or feeble and beaten, according as he believes this divine part to be. The mortal part is the arms, the fortifications, the order of battle — everything which arises out of material things.
It is not true that men never change; they change for the worse, as well as for the better. It is not true they are ungrateful; more often the benefactor rates his favors higher than their worth; and often too he does not allow for circumstances. If few men have the moral force to resist impulses, most men do carry within themselves the germs of virtues as well as of vices, of heroism as well as of cowardice. Such is human nature — education and circumstances do the rest.
Necessity dominates inclination, will, and right. Ch. II : Psychology and Morals
In practical administration, experience is everything. Ch. VII : Concerning Religion
The best way to keep one's word is not to give it. Ch. III : Love and Marriage
My most splendid campaign was that of March 20; not a single shot was fired. Ch. IX : Sociology
Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916) edited by Jules Bertaut, as translated by Herbert Edward Law and Charles Lincoln Rhodes Ch. I : On Success
I do not believe it is in our nature to love impartially. We deceive ourselves when we think we can love two beings, even our own children, equally. There is always a dominant affection. Ch. IV : Things Political
Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency. Ch. VII : On War
The division of labor, which has brought such perfection in mechanical industries, is altogether fatal when applied to productions of the mind. All work of the mind is superior in proportion as the mind that produces it is universal. Ch. VI : Administration
Peace ought to be the result of a system well considered, founded on the true interests of the different countries, honorable to each, and ought not to be either a capitulation or the result of a threat. Ch. V : Concerning the Fine Arts
Bonaparte robs a nation of its independence: deposed as emperor, he is sent into exile, where the world’s anxiety still does not think him safely enough imprisoned, guarded by the Ocean. He dies: the news proclaimed on the door of the palace in front of which the conqueror had announced so many funerals, neither detains nor astonishes the passer-by: what have the citizens to mourn? Washington's Republic lives on; Bonaparte’s empire is destroyed. Washington and Bonaparte emerged from the womb of democracy: both of them born to liberty, the former remained faithful to her, the latter betrayed her.
Europe has its history, often tragic, though at intervals consoling. But to speak of any universally recognized national rights or that these rights have played any part in its history, is to play with the powers of public credulity. Always the first duty of a state has been its safety; the pledge of its safety, its power; and the limits of its power, that intelligence of which each has been made the depository. When the great powers have proclaimed any other principle, it has been only for their own purposes, and the smaller powers have never received any benefit from it.
At the beginning of a campaign it is important to consider whether or not to move forward; but when one has taken the offensive it is necessary to maintain it to the last extremity. However skilfully effected a retreat may be, it always lessens the morale of an army, since in losing the chances of success, they are remitted to the enemy. A retreat, moreover, costs much more in men and materials than the bloodiest engagements, with this difference, also, that in a battle the enemy loses practically as much as you do; while in a retreat you lose and he does not.
War is becoming an anachronism; if we have battled in every part of the continent it was because two opposing social orders were facing each other, the one which dates from 1789, and the old regime. They could not exist together; the younger devoured the other. I know very well, that, in the final reckoning, it was war that overthrew me, me the representative of the French Revolution, and the instrument of its principles. But no matter! The battle was lost for civilization, and civilization will inevitably take its revenge. There are two systems, the past and the future. The present is only a painful transition. Which must triumph? The future, will it not? Yes indeed, the future! That is, intelligence, industry, and peace. The past was brute force, privilege, and ignorance. Each of our victories was a triumph for the ideas of the Revolution. Victories will be won, one of these days, without cannon, and without bayonets.
Dante has not deigned to take his inspiration from any other. He has wished to be himself, himself alone; in a word, to create. He has occupied a vast space, and has filled it with the superiority of a sublime mind. He is diverse, strong, and gracious. He has imagination, warmth, and enthusiasm. He makes his reader tremble, shed tears, feel the thrill of honor in a way that is the height of art. Severe and menacing, he has terrible imprecations for crime, scourgings for vice, sorrow for misfortune. As a citizen, affected by the laws of the republic, he thunders against its oppressors, but he is always ready to excuse his native city, Florence is ever to him his sweet, beloved country, dear to his heart. I am envious for my dear France, that she has never produced a rival to Dante; that this Colossus has not had his equal among us. No, there is no reputation which can be compared to his.
I do not care to play the part of Monk; I will not play it myself, and I do not choose that others shall do so. But those Paris lawyers who have got into the Directory understand nothing of government. They are poor creatures. I am going to see what they want to do at Rastadt; but I doubt much that we shall understand each other, or long agree together. They are jealous of me, I know, and notwithstanding all their flattery, I am not their dupe; they fear more than they love me. They were in a great hurry to make me General of the army of England, so that they might get me out of Italy, where I am the master, and am more of a sovereign than commander of an army. They will see how things go on when I am not there. I am leaving Berthier, but he is not fit for the chief command, and, I predict, will only make blunders. As for myself, my dear Miot, I may inform you, I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up. I have made up my mind, if I cannot be master I shall leave France; I do not choose to have done so much for her and then hand her over to lawyers.
"What do you think," said he, "of all things in the world would give me the greatest pleasure?" I was on the point of replying, removal from St. Helena, when he said, "To be able to go about incognito in London and other parts of England, to the restaurateurs, with a friend, to dine in public at the expense of half a guinea or a guinea, and listen to the conversation of the company; to go through them all, changing almost daily, and in this manner, with my own ears, to hear the people express their sentiments, in their unguarded moments, freely and without restraint; to hear their real opinion of myself, and of the surprising occurrences of the last twenty years." I observed, that he would hear much evil and much good of himself. "Oh, as to the evil," replied he, "I care not about that. I am well used to it. Besides, I know that the public opinion will be changed. The nation will be just as much disgusted at the libels published against me, as they formerly were greedy in reading and believing them. This," added he, "and the education of my son, would form my greatest pleasure. It was my intention to have done this, had I reached America. The happiest days of my life were from sixteen to twenty, during the semestres, when I used to go about, as I have told you I should wish to do, from one restaurateur to another, living moderately, and having a lodging for which I paid three louis a month. They were the happiest days of my life. I was always so much occupied, that I may say I never was truly happy upon the throne."
Well then, I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him. I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man: none else is like Him; Jesus Christ was more than a man. I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me but to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, of my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them, I lighted up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts. Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man's creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
The genius continually discovers fate, and the more profound the genius, the more profound the discovery of fate. To spiritlessness, this is naturally foolishness, but in actuality it is greatness, because no man is born with the idea of providence, and those who think that one acquires it gradually though education are greatly mistaken, although I do not thereby deny the significance of education. Not until sin is reached is providence posited. Therefore the genius has an enormous struggle to reach providence. If he does not reach it, truly he becomes a subject for the study of fate. The genius is an omnipotent Ansich [in itself] which as such would rock the whole world. For the sake of order, another figure appears along with him, namely fate. Fate is nothing. It is the genius himself who discovers it, and the more profound the genius, the more profoundly he discovers fate, because that figure is merely the anticipation of providence. If he continues to be merely a genius and turns outward, he will accomplish astonishing things; nevertheless, he will always succumb to fate, if not outwardly, so that it is tangible and visible to all, then inwardly. Therefore, a genius-existence is always like a fairy tale if in the deepest sense the genius does not turn inward into himself. The genius is able to do all things, and yet he is dependent upon an insignificance that no one comprehends, an insignificance upon which the genius himself by his omnipotence bestows omnipotent significance. Therefore, a second lieutenant, if he is a genius, is able to become an emperor and change the world, so that there becomes one empire and one emperor. But therefore, too, the army may be drawn up for battle, the conditions for the battle absolutely favorable, and yet in the next moment wasted; a kingdom of heroes may plead that the order for battle be given-but he cannot; he must wait for the fourteenth of June. And why? Because that was the date of the battle of Marengo. So all things may be in readiness, he himself stands before the legions, waiting only for the sun to rise in order to announce the time for the oration that will electrify the soldiers, and the sun may rise more glorious than ever, an inspiring and inflaming sight for all, only not for him, because the sun did not rise as glorious as this at Austerlitz, and only the sun of Austerlitz gives victory and inspiration. Thus, the inexplicable passion with which such a one may often rage against an entirely insignificant man, when otherwise he may show humanity and kindness even toward his enemies. Yes, woe unto the man, woe unto the woman, woe unto the innocent child, woe unto the beast of the field, woe unto the bird whose flight, woe unto the tree whose branch comes in his way at the moment he is to interpret his omen.