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1804. BONAPARTE'S CORONATION. ] 8b
him, Bonaparte was thus in presence of the foe that served as a pretext to his elevation. The troops answered his claim to the empire with loud acclamations, and he considered himself henceforth raised on the buckler, like another Clovis, to be the founder of a new dynasty. From Boulogne the new emperor hurried to Aix la Chapelle, the ancient capital of Charlemagne. Here he received the acknowledgment of h' ignity by his brother of Austria. That naught might be wanting, the church was requested to give its sanction. Its inferior members had already displayed their zeal. The clergy, in their addresses, styled him Moses and Cyrus, applying to him the name of every biblical hero. They saw divine right in* success as well as legitimacy; and proclaimed "the finger of God" as the agent of his elevation. To sum up this condescension, the pope himself made a journey to Paris, in order to crown the new Charlemagne, who, by the by, had curtailed from the church those very possessions said to have been ceded to it by the pious Frank. On the 2d of December the coronation took place in Notre Dame; Bonaparte, however, placing the crown on his own head as well as upon that of Josephine. Pius the Seventh spoke an humble homily on the occasion. Comparing himself to Elias and to Samuel, Napoleon to Hazael, to Jehu, to David, and to Saul, the pontiff consecrated, in the name of the Deity, whose vicegerent on earth he was, the crown of the new emperor.
From Bonaparte's Accession To The Empire To The Peace Of Tilsit.
We have traced the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte to the highest pinnacle of greatness; let us pause to take a view of his^ character, since in that character was now concentrated the force which influenced the fate, not only of France, but of Europe. It is no longer the distinctions of party, the play of public opinion or of political intrigue, that we have to narrate The crowded stage of the revolution has been swept clean; and, in lieu of its stirring scenes, its rant, its blood, its interest and depth, we behold the silent statue of a conqueror enthroned.
Bonaparte seems to have been gifted by nature with all the general and efficient qualities of greatness, but with none of those peculiarities which sometimes mar, sometimes adorn it: his powers differed from those of the mass, not in kind, but in degree. Great good sense, quickness, energy indefatigable, an eye and judgment that never erred or slumbered whils their objects were unreached: these were his attributes; cir cumstances afforded them the opportunities of success. H was a child of fortune, but not a spoiled child: he neve. turned his back upon her favors in caprice or neglect, never lost an opportunity without taking the utmost advantage of it; whilst, likewise, he never anticipated the course of circumstances, nor ventured^ forward till every accessory was prepared, and all ripe for consummation. He was not one of those born to struggle against events: he never could have been either a Caesar or a Catiline; for in adversity he was out of his element, and pined like a southern exotic undei a northern sky, unless when the sun shone full upon him. He was a wretched conspirator: the 18th Brumaire was effected, despite of his blunders and his faintness, by his brother Lucien; and fortune came there to his aid, as she did at Marengo.
Napoleon was endowed, in feet, with great intellect, but not with great passions: he loved neither women nor freedom; his very ambition was an after-thought, begotten of events. A little before Vendemiaire we find him meditating the purchase of a country-house and farm, "but not of confiscated property,"—so unstable did he esteem the revolution. But he had the restless spirit, the craving for activity, which is the germ of ambition. He was not without enthusiasm, but he had never more than he could well control,—one reason why he could never be eloquent; for the enthusiasm that the pen may affect and exaggerate, must be felt with the warmth of inspiration, ere it acts'upon the tongue. Now the absence of all passion and all enthusiasm is selfishness in th.e highest degree; and such became the all-absorbing malady, the distinguishing trait, of Napoleon. He was in capable even of friendship. Himself, his greatness, that of France because his, became for him a passion, or rather th* substitute for one. It is thus we judge him from history thus madame de Stael, the most penetrating observer of hu man character, read that of Bonaparte.
From this principle, this nullity of feeling and power of intellect, flowed the virtues and the vices of the man. Hi was not imposed on by the cant of the revolution, nor carried away by its fanaticism. Being indebted for his advance to itf04. CHARACTER OF NAPOLEON. 187
the rise of the democracy, he adopted that side which threw command open to his talents: he sided with the revolution, and rendered it triumphant; but he never adopted its prejudices against either aristocrat or churchman, both of which classes he spared. He had a respect for even royalty, and kept the king of Sardinia on his throne despite the directory. He was not by nature cruel; but supreme command, especially of armies, inspired him with a contempt for human life, and a disregard for destroying it. He had no immoral tendencies; but, as education gave him no principle of religion or morals, or rather, as the revolution took away all he might have originally imbibed, he was left free to adopt the maxims of expediency, which are sufficient to render the prudent moral whilst they are surrounded by their equals. Bonaparte lost this salutary check, as he rose above his fellows to power. On his first ascent he seemed to think all permitted to him: he had reverence for neither justice nor truth; and did not shrink from even murder, until the outcry of Europe taught him that even sovereigns find a tribunal in the public voice which it is dangerous to brave.
In European society, civilization has restrained the conduct of men by a double chain; by that of morality and religion first, by that of honor after. The many, who shake off the first, are enabled to cling by the last; and the result, so far as their neighbors are concerned, is much the same. But th<» French revolution had destroyed both these ties; one was bigotry in its eyes, the other a relic of aristocracy; and Bonaparte was completely without either,—the fault of his position more than of his character. Indeed, one of his greatest misfortunes was his want of gentle habits and feelings on reaching a throne: stern morality would no doubt have sufficed; but stoicism is rare and difficult, especially in such a situation: whereas the gentlemanly spirit is common, is strong, is ineradicable; of tenderer and nicer conscience than the moral, which it supplants. It would have preserved Bonaparte from that habitual rudeness, which soon left no servants round him but servile instruments, unable to delay a guilty order, or hasten a generous one. It would have prevented him from condescending to turn scribe in the Moniteur, and putting himself in personal collision with the powers and sovereigns of Europe, all of whom he individually insulted, besides working up his own wretched vanity to a pitch unworthy of his station. It would have kept him from public altercation with ambassadors at his court, or base traps laid for them at neighboring ones. It would have inspired him with a respect for truth, nor allowed an emperor's bulletin to have become a word synonymous with a lie. In fine, it would have preserved him from the foul stain of having murdered a defenceless prince. The faults of Bonaparte form a striking proof how vulgarity may lead to crime; and, perhaps, the best plea for the aristocratic organization of society is, that honor, the essence of that system, is the best substitute for moral principle, the, seed of which is perishable, nd difficult to rear.
We must repeat the assertion, that Bonaparte was not made to sway events, however fit to sway mankind. War he always found made to his hand; if his system, his incorrigible system, his oblique and selfish views of justice, and his recklessness of others' rights justly provoked it, this did not enter into his calculation. He really imagined that Austria, or England, or any European power, had no right nor claim to interfere with his aggrandizement; and considered their mistrust as a kind of wilful impertinence. Wars then came of his arbitrariness. But he never entered upon them avowing merely the aim of conquest. The only two cases in which he did do this, in which he did take the initiative of fortune, viz. in the Egyptian and Russian expeditions, failure and defeat were the consequences. But if thus unable to rule over events, he was eminently calculated to rule over mankind; above all, over masses of men. His elevation and his feats were alone, indeed, enough to excite the highest admiration; but this was fostered by a thousand acts which were almost natural to him. No monarch ever acted idol so well as he. All may sit to be worshipped; but he could reflect grandeur in return. Then he had no weakness, no luxurious or royal enjoyments. He was all absolute in his rule; in conquering and administering imperious. He was not so successful in attaching those who eame in contact with him. The marshals, indeed, could not but bow to him, who was the leading star of the profession and of the land. But persona^ friends Bonaparte had none. He was incapable of friendship or affection, and could only be served at length by men, frivolous and martinet, like Berthier; cold and rigid, like Duroc ;* or blindly devoted, from an innate and mental feeling of servility, like Savary. Thus his power, in extending widely over the land and over men, spread its roots, like cer tain splendid trees,—the ash for instance,—horizontally and
* If Bonaparte could have considered any one in the light of a friend, it tvasDuroc. A circumstantial account has been given, and much quoted, of the sorrow displayed by Bonaparte on the occasion of his death. He is represented as sitting apart from his suite, as absorbed in affliction,&c. We can contradict this flatly, from the testimony of one of his suite then pre* ftnt Napoleon did not betray any such sensibility.
1804. A THIRD COALITION. 189
superficially through the soil. They did not strike downwards, perpendicularly and profoundly, like the oak, which, of more tardy growth, still rises to superior majesty, and braves with far more unconquerable resistance the fury of adverse elements.
The year 1804 saw the rise of a new coalition against Bonaparte. Austria might quail under former defeats, and Prus sia might well hesitate to provoke the conqueror. But Russia had no such fears, and spoke an independent language. Th murder of the duke d'Enghien had excited the emperor Alexander's abhorrence. He put his court into mourning for the unfortunate prince. Gustavus of Sweden followed the example. Of the French functionaries, M. de Chateaubriand alone sent in a generous resignation: whilst Louis XVIII. sent back the order of the golden fleece to his relative the monarch of Spain, who, though a Bourbon, dared not express a feeling of resentment towards France. But it was the conduct of Alexander that most affected the French emperor. The mourning of the Russian court, and the remonstrances of its representative in Paris, were poignant injuries. Napoleon, as usual, took up the pen himself to answer them; and, as usual, falsehood and insult flowed from it. "Suppose," wrote he, "that when England meditated the assassination of the emperor Paul, the conspirators were known to be within a league of the frontier, would they not have been seized 1" The allusion was a deadly and malignant insult, not so much to England, who might scorn such calumnies; but to Alexander, who had profited at least by his sire's untimely death. The Russian emperor replied by summoning the French to evacuate Hanover and Naples; and soon after his charge d'affaires was ordered to leave Paris.
This breach accomplished the first desire of Great Britain, which was to find. a continental ally against France. The death of the duke d'Enghien served her in this; and menaced its perpetrator. For a considerable time Spain had been in alliance with France, aiding her, however, with subsidies rather than with troops. England, though aware of the covert hostility of Spain, pretended not to observe it, and respected that country as neutral. But the prospect of Russian alliance made the ministry more bold; and the peace with Spain was suddenly broken by the capture of some ships of that nation returning laden with specie. It was a flagrant act of injustice, in the very style of Bonaparte's own conduct, and proceeded from the very same imbecility which threw upon us the frame of the renewal of the war,—an irresolute, wavering system, which was but weakness, and which looked like