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قراءة كتاب Memoirs of the Private Life, Return, and Reign of Napoleon in 1815, Vol. I

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‏اللغة: English
Memoirs of the Private Life, Return, and Reign of Napoleon in 1815, Vol. I

Memoirs of the Private Life, Return, and Reign of Napoleon in 1815, Vol. I

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 3

blushing for her disgrace, implored him to win new victories. Armies formed themselves as if by enchantment, and Napoleon stood again in the midst of Germany, more terrible than ever.

After we had conquered at Lutzen, at Bautzen, and at Dresden, the battle of Leipsic was fought[1]. Never before that day had we been doomed to witness our national armies flying before the enemy. The scattered wrecks of our battalions, which had been created by the last hope, by the last effort of our country, at length reached our frontiers. But our soldiers were no longer the vigorous and resolute warriors of France; they were bowed down by want, toil, and humiliation. Soon afterwards they were followed by wandering trains of military carriages, loaded with diseased and wounded wretches, who festered beneath the corpses amongst which they were heaped, and who at once absorbed and diffused the germs of pestilence and contagion. Even the firmest minds now yielded to despair; and the grief occasioned by the havoc now made amongst our defenders renewed the sorrows of the mothers and the wives of those who erewhile had perished in Russia and in Spain. Curses upon Napoleon, the author of all these evils, resounded from side to side of the empire.

As long as good fortune waited upon Napoleon, his most ambitious attempts commanded the applauses of the nation. We boasted of his profound political wisdom, we extolled his genius, we worshipped his courage. When his fortune changed, then his political wisdom was called treachery, his genius, ambition, and his courage, fool-hardiness and infatuation.

Napoleon was not to be depressed by ingratitude or misfortune. He re-assembled the feeble fragments of his armies, and proclaimed aloud that he would conquer or die at the head of his soldiery. This resolution only produced a momentary impression. The French, who so lately believed that the happiness and salvation of France depended only upon the life of Napoleon, now coolly considered that his death, the fate which he was prepared to encounter, afforded the only means of putting an end to the calamities of war, for peace otherwise appeared unattainable.

Napoleon departed. He achieved prodigies, but to no effect. National spirit no longer existed, and the nation had gradually sunk into that state of insensibility so fatal to sovereigns, when the public mind has no perception of their dangers, and abandons them to their destiny.

France was thus affected when Napoleon consented to divest himself of his crown[2]. The apathy of the nation drove him to this extremity; for it deprived him of the means either of carrying on the war, or of making peace.

Hostilities ended with the abdication of Napoleon. The people of Paris, who had scarcely recovered from the panic with which they were struck by the marauding hordes of Russia, displayed the most extravagant gladness when they thought that they were delivered from the visitation, which again threatened them in the presence of the allies and the imperial army.

The neighbouring departments, which the enemy prepared to invade, rejoiced on being relieved from impending pillage and devastation.

The departments which had been occupied by the enemy were intoxicated with joy, when they anticipated the termination of their sufferings.

Thus almost all the people of France turned away from their discarded sovereign. And they abandoned themselves to joy when they thought that they were delivered from the scourge of war, and that they could hope to enjoy the blessings of peace.

It was in the midst of this pouring out of the spirit of selfishness, that the senate raised the brother of Louis XVI. to the throne. His election was not in conformity to the expectations of the people, and it disappointed the wishes which had been uttered in favour of the Empress and her son; yet the choice of the senate was but slightly opposed, because the recall of Louis seemed to be necessarily the pledge of peace. And peace was more the object of the public wish than any other thing. Besides which, the Bourbons followed the wise counsels which had been given to them. They lost no time in issuing their proclamations, couched in fair language, in order to calm the fears and diminish the antipathies excited by their recall.

"We will guarantee," said they, "the rank, the honours, and the rewards of the military.

"The magistracy and all public functionaries shall retain their offices and their pre-eminence.

"To the people we promise a total oblivion of their political conduct; and we will maintain them in the full enjoyment of their civil rights, their property, and their social institutions."

The French nation, whose confidence is so easily abused, considered these promises as sacred and inviolable, and they delighted in repeating the happy reply of the Count of Artois[3], "Il n'y aura rien de changé en France, il n'y aura que quelques Français de plus." They, the men, who had banished the imperial dynasty, laboured to foster the growing confidence of the nation. The press was brought into full play, and the country teemed with publications in which they represented the sovereign whom they had brought in, as invested with those attributes which were calculated to conciliate the nation. The public were carefully informed, that the king "opened and read all the dispatches himself. It is he who dictates every answer. Where it becomes necessary to meet the ministers of foreign powers, he transacts business with them; he receives the reports of their missions, which he answers either by word of mouth, or in writing. In short, he alone directs all the concerns of the government, both at home and abroad. If his virtues and goodness are such as to cause the French to know that they will now find a kind and affectionate father in their King, they may also look with confidence to the future fate of the nation, relying on his brilliant information, his strength of character, and his aptitude for business[4]."

Thus the people congratulated themselves, when they were assured that their Chief Magistrate was an enlightened sovereign, a kind sovereign, an equitable sovereign, and one who was determined not to allow the guiding reins of the state to slip from his paternal hands into those of his ministers. Our lively imagination gave us a present enjoyment of the blessings, which, as we anticipated, would hereafter be diffused over the kingdom by his goodness, his prudence, and his acquirements. If this glowing vision of hope and loyalty was slightly dimmed by a few secret doubts, such misgivings were checked and repelled by the name of our native country; nay, by the name of the