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NATIONAL QUARTERLY REVIEW.
ART. I.—1. Papiers et Correspondance de la Famille Im
périale, edition collationnée sur le texte de l'imprimérie nationale. Paris. 1817.
2. Le Dernier des Napoléon. Paris. 1872.
3. Memoirs of the Life, Exile, and Conversations of the
Emperor Napoleon. By the Count De Las Casas.
In instituting a comparison between the first empire and the second, care must be taken to distinguish between actual and merely apparent resemblances. Thus, for instance, the first Napoleon became emperor of the French; so did the third, and to this extent their career is parallel; but when we penetrate beneath the surface, we find that the one was emperor in a very different sense of the word from the other. The first rose to his proud eminence through the force of his genius, and maintained his position through the force of his character. The second attained to the imperial crown through the prestige of a name which he had done nothing to distinguish, and to which, indeed, it is contended by some, he had no right by birth; and he was kept in his position by the
VOL. XXVII.-NO. LIII.
unscrupulous energy and abilities of a knot of personal adherents who made use of him for their own ends.
The future historian and moralist, contemplating the drama of the second empire, will one day inquire how it happened that a man, holding in his hand the control of the world, a sovereign whom nations and kings were accustomed to look upon as the arbiter of Europe, a conqueror who was supposed to be at the head of an invincible army, fell in an instant, in a ridiculous catastrophe. The first empire required the united forces of Europe to extinguish it, and although it went down in blood, as did the second, the catastrophe was distinguished by genius and heroism; but what is to be said of Sedan after Waterloo ? “What have you done with France ?" was the tremendous question asked of Napoicon III. by the Duke d’Aumale, and never answered. But history has but too plainly replied to it.
One of the first things that strikes iis, in considering the parallelism of the two empires, is the fact that they were both the creatures of revolution; not of such a revolution as displaces one royal dynasty to replace it with another, as was the case in England in 1688, but of such a one as is beheld when a nation, maddened by long ages of tyranny, turns like a wild bcast upon its torinentors, and tears them to pieces. Such was the French Revolution of 1798, and such, on a smaller scale, werc those of 1830 and 1818. The turbulent state of France was a necessary condition precedent to the rise of the Bonapartes. Iad that country remained as apathetic as it was in the days of Lonis XV., the world would not have seen an obscure lieutenant of artillery rise to the dignity of general, then First Consul, and then Emperor, within the short space of ten years. It is curious to speculate upon what might have been. Mr. IIaswell, in his IIistory of Napoleon III.,* relates the following anecdotes of the first Napoleon, which we do not remember to have met with elsewhere:
“ Admiral Crosby told me (the Rev. Thomas Belsham) one circum
stance which was curious. When he was commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, during the late war, at the time we (the English) were in possession of Corsica,* and when Sir Gilbert Elliott was governorgeneral of the island, General Paoli introduced Bonaparte, then a young man, to the governor and to the admiral, as a friend of his who would be glad to be employed in the service of England; but these wise men, not having Livater's skill in physiognomy, rejected the proposal, which obligel Bonaparto to offer bis services to the French, and this was the rise of Bonaparte's fortunes. I had often heard that Bonaparte had offered his services to the English, and been rejected, but I hardly gave credit to it till I learned it from Admiral Crosby himself.”
As this is a fact not generally known, we may be cautious in giving credence to it. If it be trne, it is anotlıer illustration of the uncertainty of human affairs and of the justice of Pope's remark, “What mighty contests rise from trivial things.” .
But Providence designed him for a widely different purpose: he was to become the foe, not the servant of England. IIis first step to power was in the blood of the French people, when, on the 5th October, 1793, he defeated the attack of the sections on the convention. On that occasion his artillery reinorselessly swept the streets and the bridges, and the corpses of 8,001 Frenchinen attested how well he had done his work that day. But it was supplemented, on his accession to the post of First Consal of the republic, by the labors of his “special tribunals” for the suppression of the disaffected. Ilaving suppressed the Directory by military force (9th Noveinber, 1795), and assumed the consulate, he set these tribunals in operation, and in five months they condeinned 724 persons to death.† These were the coups d'état by which he arose to the imperial throne. So, on the night of the 2d December, 1831, Louis Napolcon, clected president of the republic the previous December, seized the leading members of the Assembly in their beds and sent them, some into exile, some into prison, and caused hundreds of persons to be shot
+ Moniteur of November 24, 1801.