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قراءة كتاب Napoleon Bonaparte

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‏اللغة: English
Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 9

the Continent, by extending the conquests of France. The continuance of the war can not fail to diffuse them still further. Is it for the balance of Europe? The English threaten that balance far more than does France, for they have become the masters and the tyrants of commerce, and are beyond the reach of resistance. Is it to secure the interests of the house of Austria! Let us then execute the treaty of Campo Formio, which secures to your majesty large indemnities in compensation for the provinces lost in the Netherlands, and secures them to you where you most wish to obtain them, that is, in Italy. Your majesty may send negotiators whither you will, and we will add to the treaty of Campo Formio stipulations calculated to assure you of the continued existence of the secondary states, of all which the French Republic is accused of having shaken. Upon these conditions pace is made, if you will. Let us make the armistice general for all the armies, and enter into negotiations instantly."

A courier was immediately dispatched to Vienna, to convey this letter to the Emperor. In the evening, Bourrienne hastened to congratulate Napoleon upon his extraordinary victory. "What a glorious day!" said Bourrienne. "Yes!" replied Napoleon, mournfully; "very glorious—could I this evening but have embraced Desaix upon the field of battle."

On the same day, and at nearly the same hour in which the fatal bullet pierced the breast of Desaix, an assassin in Egypt plunged a dagger into the bosom of Kleber. The spirits of these illustrious men, these blood-stained warriors, thus unexpectedly met in the spirit-land. There they wander now. How impenetrable the vail which shuts their destiny from our view. The soul longs for clearer vision of that far-distant world, people by the innumerable host of the mighty dead. There Napoleon now dwells. Does he retain his intellectual supremacy? Do his generals gather around him with love and homage! Has his pensive spirit sunk down into gloom and despair, or has it soared into cloudless regions of purity and peace! The mystery of death' Death alone can solve it. Christianity, with its lofty revealings, sheds but dim twilight upon the world off departed spirits. At St. Helena Napoleon said, "Of all the general I ever had under my command Desaix and Kleber possessed the greatest talent. In particular Desaix, as Kleber loved glory only as the means of acquiring wealth and pleasure. Desaix loved glory for itself, and despised every other consideration. To him riches and pleasure were of no value, nor did he ever give them a moment's thought. He was a little black-looking man, about an inch shorter than myself, always badly dressed, sometimes even ragged, and despising alike comfort and convenience. Enveloped in a cloak, Desaix would throw himself under a gun and sleep as contentedly as if reposing in a palace. Luxury had for him no charms. Frank and honest in all his proceedings, he was denominated by the Arabs Sultan the Just. Nature intended him to figure as a consummate general. Kleber and Desaix were irreparable losses to France."

It is impossible to describe the dismay, which pervaded the camp of the Austrians after this terrible defeat. They were entirely cut from all retreat, and were at the mercy of Napoleon. A council of war was held by the Austrian officers during the night, and it was unanimously resolved that capitulation was unavoidable. Early the next morning a flag of truce was sent to the head-quarters of Napoleon. The Austrians offered to abandon Italy, if the generosity of the victor would grant them the boon of not being made prisoners of war. Napoleon met the envoy with great courtesy, and, according to his custom, stated promptly and irrevocably the conditions upon which he was willing to treat. The terms were generous. "The Austrian armies," said he, "may unmolested return to their homes; but all of Italy must be abandoned." Melas, who was eighty years of age, hoped to modify the terms, and again sent the negotiator to suggest some alterations. "Monsieur!" said Napoleon, "my conditions are irrevocable. I did not begin to make war yesterday. Your position is as perfectly comprehended by me as by yourselves. You are encumbered with dead, sick, and wounded, destitute of provisions, deprived of the elite of your army, surrounded on every side, I might exact every thing. But I respect the white hairs of your general, and the valor of your soldiers. I ask nothing but what is rigorously justified by the present position of affairs. Take what steps you may, you will have no other terms." The conditions were immediately signed, and a suspension of arms was agreed upon, until an answer could be received from Vienna.

Napoleon left Paris for this campaign on the 7th of May. The battle of Marengo was fought on the 14th of June. Thus in five weeks Napoleon has scaled the barrier of the Alps: with sixty thousand soldiers, most of them undisciplined recruits, he had utterly discomfited an army of one hundred and twenty thousand men, and regained the whole of Italy. The bosom of every Frenchman throbbed with gratitude and pride. One wild shout of enthusiasm ascended from united France. Napoleon had laid the foundation of his throne deep in the heart of the French nation, and there that foundation still remains unshaken.

Napoleon now entered Milan in triumph. He remained there ten days, busy apparently every hour, by day and by night, in re-organizing the political condition of Italy. The serious and religious tendencies of his mind are developed by the following note, which four days after the battle of Marengo, he wrote to the Consuls in Paris: "To-day, whatever our atheists may say to it, I go in great state to the To Deum which is to be chanted in the Cathedral of Milan. * * The Te Deum , is an anthem of praise, sung in churches on occasion of thanksgiving. It is so called from the first words "Te Deum laudamus," Thee God we praise

An unworthy spirit of detraction has vainly sought to wrest from Napoleon the honor of this victory, and to attribute it all to the flank charge made by Kellerman. Such attempts deserve no detail reply. Napoleon had secretly and suddenly called into being an army, and by its apparently miraculous creation had astounded Europe. He had effectually deceived the vigilance of his enemies, so as to leave them entirely in the dark respecting his point of attack. He had conveyed that army with all its stores, over the pathless crags of the Great St. Bernard. Like an avalanche he had descended from the mountains upon the plains of startled Italy. He had surrounded the Austrian hosts, though they were doubled his numbers, with a net through which they could not break. In a decisive battle he had scattered their ranks before him, like chaff by the whirlwind. He was nobly seconded by those generals whom his genius had chosen and created. It is indeed true, that without his generals and his soldiers he could not have gained the victory. Massena contributed to the result by his matchless defense of Genoa; Moreau, by holding in abeyance the army of the Rhine; Lannes, by his iron firmness on the plain of Montebello; Desaix, by the promptness with which he rushed to the rescue, as soon as his car caught the far-off thunders of the cannon of Marengo; and Kellerman, by his admirable flank charge of cavalry. But it was the genius of Napoleon which planned the mighty combination, which roused and directed the enthusiasm of the generals, which inspired the soldiers with fearlessness and nerved them for the strife, and which, through these efficient agencies, secured the astounding results.

Napoleon established his triumphant army, now increased to eighty thousand men, in the rich valley of the Po. He assigned to the heroic Massena the command of this triumphant host, and ordering all the forts and citadels which blocked the approaches from France to be blown up, set out, on the 24th of June, for his return to Paris. In re-crossing the Alps, by the pass of Mt.