Abbildungen der Seite

dious, pensive, quick, and obstinate. This young man will do well, if circumstances favour him.”

With regard to the mode by which he became possessed of sovereign power, it is observable, that unlike every other usurper upon record, he attained it without having procured, or perpetrated, a single assassination. His elevation was entirely brought about by dint of “circumstances," and the originality of his own genius. How he would have demeaned himself had he been a leader in the earlier stages of the revolution, would be a beautiful question for trying the capacity of a casuist. In April, 1792, however, in a long and able memorial, addressed to M. Montmorin, then minister of state, entitled “A statement of the dangers that threaten the throne and the sovereign, with the only means of preserving both,” he developed, in striking language, a bold and daring plan for rescuing the royal family from the destruction that awaited them, which, if carried into execution, would probably have had the effect he anticipated. That the interest he manifested for his unfortunate sovereign arose, either from duty or commiseration, we very much doubt, as the greatest alloy in his character, was undoubtedly his selfish

- his solitary, unmitigated selfishness. He might, probably, think that the plan he then proposed, was the best mode that then presented itself, of bringing himself forward into public notice, and of attracting that degree of public regard, it was his first great object to create. As it was, the memorialist and his plan were alike, neglected; and, Napoleon, not being a man to bear such kind of usage with impunity, appears, ever after, to have devoted himself to the cause of the revolution. When he beheld the superb appearance of the fleet and army, about to sail with him for the subjugation of Egypt, he could not help exclaiming to his old confidante of Brienne, then his aide-de-camp, in terms, which unfolded the secrets of his soul—“ This is a noble empire-I am embarking for my own emolument.” The most striking event of his life, in the eyes


of posterity, will surely be his departure from Elba, and subsequent invasion of France. It is well known, that at Cannes, where he landed, the terrified inhabitants refused him admission into their houses, for fear of future con quences, and that he sat for

several hours by a fire, kindled on the beach, with his face buried in his hands, until his little army and their equipments were disembarked. Who can refuse to admire the desperate energy of the man, who, in this situation, plunged his mind, by anticipation, into the fearful probabilities of his immediate fate,

Where coming events cast their shadows before.” But now, that he is no more, and we can trace the whole of his career, from its commencement to its conclusion, what, we may fairly ask, has he gained by the versatility of his talents, the splendour of his throne, or the glory of his actions ? The reply would be, that he has gained an imperishable name, which, being analysed, means, that he will be remembered of mankind as long as the world endures. And is this all then, that a hero gains by his laborious and ardent exertions; and we have yet to learn, I think, of what use a great name is to a dead man. Is this all, then, that Napoleon has gained, by wielding, for a time, the destinies of Europe; or has he left behind him lasting memorials of his wisdom, piety, or goodness? I fear he has left nothing but a name, sullied by selfishness, and degraded by despotism. With the highest opportunities of doing good, he did evil, and when he


could have freed myriads of men, he enslaved them. He had before his eyes the examples of Cæsar and of Washington, and with all the selfishness of a little mind, he chose the former. How different is the conduct of the only real wise man, the real Christian, who, regardless of all posthumous renown, seeks only in sincerity and truth an eternity of happiness in a better world.—“ The fear of God, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil, is understanding."

As for Napoleon, we must be content to class him with Charles XII, and the other heroes, who, at various times, have infested the world, whose principal use with posterity merely is :

“ To point a moral, or adorn a tale."

“Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,

Quique metus omnes et inexorabile fatum,
Subjecit pedibus strepitumque acherontis avari.”

[ocr errors]




« ZurückWeiter »