« PreviousContinue »
It has been well and truly observed, that he who would write the history of Napoleon Bonaparte ought to be at once a Tacitus and a Suetonius; for, without the united quali fications of both these historians, a complete portrait and character of one of the most wonderful men that it has ever fallen to the lot of history to celebrate, can never be ex. pected.
Born to command mankind, he possessed every qualification for furthering and realizing his ambitions dreams. His genius was of the eagle kind-proved by the tower. ing height of human glory to which he ascended--the self-possession which he displayed during his meteor like ascent, the humble level from which he darted, and the presence of mind, or rather perfect ease, wbich he displayed when he alighted on that narrow and giddy summit.
With a capacity for government of the highest order; with a command over the vast resources of the empire which he had formed, greater than sovereign ever possesse; with an activity that never re
23 xi 82
posed, and placed on an elevation that des. potism had never before attained, he stood amongst us like some stupendous and majestic Apennine, the earth rocking at its feet, the heavens-roaring round its head; and, when thrones are crumbled and dynasties forgotten, will stand the landmark of his country's genius, sublimely elevated amid regal ruins and national dissolution, a mental pyramid in the solitude of time.
Grand, gloomy, and peculiar, he sat upon the throne. A mind bold, independent, and decisive-a will despotic in its dictatesman energy that distanced expedition, and a conscience pliable to every touch of interest, marked the outline of this extraordinary character, the most extraordinary, perhaps, that in the annals of this world ever rose, or reigned, or fell. The chief of cabinets, and the controller of camps -- a statesman by office, and a soldier by profession-he was, from the cradle to the grave, the same pre- ; eminently brilliant, stirring, and audacious spirit.
Flung into life in the midst of a revolution that quickened every energy of a people who acknowledged no superior, he commenced his course a stranger by birth, and a scholar by charity.
With no friend but his sword, and no fortune but his talents, he rushed into the lists where rank, wealth, and genius had arrayed themselves, and competition filed from him as from the glance of destiny. He knew no motive but interest-he acknow. ledged no criterion but success-he worshipped no god but ambition; and, with an
eastern devotion, he knelt at the shrine of his idolatry. Subsidiary to this, there was no creed that he did not profess, there was no opinion that he did not promulgate; in the hope of dynasty, he upheld the crescent; for the sake of a divorce, he bowed before the cross; the orphan of St. Louis, he be. came the adopted child of the republic; and with a parricidal ingratitude, on the ruins both of the throne and the tribune, he reared the tower of his despotism.
A professed catholic, he imprisoned the pope; a professed patriot, he impoverished the country; and, in the name of brutus, he grasped without remorse, and wore with: out shame, the diadem of the Cæsars!
Through this pantomime of his policy, fortune played the clown to his caprice.
At his touch crowns crumbled, beggars reigned, and systems vanished; the wildest theories took the colour of his whim, and all that was venerable, all that was novel, changed places with the rapidity of a drama. Even in the gambling of his wild ambition defeat itself assumed the appearance of victory his flight from Egypt confirmed his destiny ruin itself only elevated him to the empire!
But if his fortune was great, his genius was transcendent; decision flashed upon his councils, and it was the same to decide and to perform.
To inferior intellects, his combinations appeared perfectly impossible, his plans perfectly impracticable; but, in his hands, sim. plicity marked their development, and suc. cess vindicated their adoption.
His person partook of the character of his