« PreviousContinue »
Though Thee I see not-either light be not,
Or Thou wilt free not the scales from mine eyes-
Obedience is better than sacrifice.
Though on my prison gleams no open vision,
Walking Elysian by Galilee's tide,
I shall wake in Thy likeness, satisfied.
VINDICIÆ NAPOLEONIAN Æ.
BY EDWARD DIOEY.
That all philosophic history is nothing sagacity by remarking with perfect truth but a reproduction of the present under that “after all, we knew very little the garb and nomenclature of the past about the history of early Britain.” A is, I think, a theory which might be similar confession might be made with sustained by strong arguments. We advantage about any period removed hear often of writers who are said to from the memory of living men. And, have thrown themselves successfully therefore, to my mind, it is no impeachinto the spirit of a bygone age; but of ment on the last “Life of Cæsar” to say, the justice of such a verdict there are— that the Imperial author has failed to and can be by the nature of the case make the era which gave birth to his no judges extant.
hero intelligible to us. Of all nations,
the one least likely to produce a faithful „Was ihr den Geist der Zeiten heißt,
limner of a past period is the French. Das ist im Grund der Herren eigner Geist,
It is at once the strength and weakness In dem die Zeiten sich bespiegeln.“
of the Gallic intellect that it is so So Faust declared, even before he had eminently self-contained. With the remet with Mephistopheles ; and, the more presentative Frenchman, all knowledge, men study history, the more, I think, and history, and science are confined they will become sceptical as to the pos- within the limits of France. As far as sibility of ever evoking the past out I could ever discover, the real cause of of your own consciousness. And, there. the exceptional study which Frenchmen fore, holding this faith, or want of faith, have always devoted to the history of I should have been surprised if a man, Rome consists in a belief, whether miswriting at our present era, had been able taken or otherwise, that the great Reto produce anything which seemed even public was in some sense a prototype a life-like representation of that state of of France. No doubt the half Italian men's minds and thoughts and hopes nature of the Buonaparte would cause and fears, nineteen centuries ago, which the Emperor, as it caused his uncle, to rendered the Roman empire first a possi- regard Rome with an almost superstitious bility and then a fact. I once heard of reverence; and traces of this Italian a very young man who, being present at sentiment may be discerned frequently a gathering of great authorities on Anglo- throughout the pages of the “ Life of Saxon lore, earned a reputation for Cæsar.” But, both for good and evil,
the essence of this work is French; it is i We are glad that Mr. Dicey, in this article, should express his own sentiments respect
a book which none but a Frenchman ing the Emperor and his book; but we may
could have written, or possibly, when it find occasion to return to the subject. --Editor. was written, could thoroughly appreciate. Of the merits of this biography as a of a man who has made history and is historical study it is not my purpose to still engaged in making it, must perforce speak. In the first place, the space look for the light it throws on the present I have at present at command is in- and the future-not for that it casts upon adequate ; in the second, this feature the past. And my wish in this paper of the subject can only be discussed by is to illustrate the moral to be drawn experts in the matter of Roman history; from those passages where the author and, in the third, if a searching criticism obviously thought of France when he were required into the accuracy or in- wrote of Rome, of the Napoleons when accuracy of the statements made and the he wrote of the Cæsars. facts propounded, I am not the writer The parallel between the first Napowho should be selected for the task. All leon and the first Cæsar seems to me to I desire to do in these brief comments be by no means the main feature of is to point out the illustrations afforded what I may call the esoteric lesson of by this remarkable work as to the this latest treatise on the history of theory of modern Imperialism. I see Rome. The volume just published that amongst my brother reviewers it is only brings us to the triumvirate of the fashion to regard this book as a Pompey, Crassus, and Cæsar; and the simple manifesto in favour of the Napo last named of the three had then leonic rule. This theory I believe to scarcely commenced his attempt to overbe a mistaken one. Amongst men throw the liberties of the Republic. whom action has made famous, no desire The real object of these pages is to show is more common than that of achieving that the state of Rome was such that the a reputation in the world of letters welfare of the community demanded a which shall endure beyond the memory change, that the forms of freedom had of their lives. To be able to say, ceased to represent any substantial bene“ Exegi monumentum ære perennius” fits, and that a saviour of society was is a wish which has agitated the heart called for urgently. A similar defence of many a man, whose life will be is far more applicable to the usurpation always his best monument. It is im- of the third Napoleon than of the first. possible to read through this history of Amongst the countless accusations the foundation of the Roman Empire brought against the founder of the Nawithout perceiving thatits authorintends poleonic dynasty, the one of having it to rank as a work of sterling historic destroyed a stable order of liberty to value, as a book that will be read even erect à despotism upon its ruins has when the Napoleons have vanished as never been urged seriously. Moreover completely as the Cæsars. If the Em- it must be admitted fairly that in the peror had designed simply to vindicate eyes of Frenchmen the Great Napoleon his own dynasty under a Latin name, needs no justification. It is in England he would have chosen some more direct only that Napoleonic worship has never form of vindication, or, at least, would made its way. With this scepticism I have treated of some one of the many find no fault ; but still I could wish that phases of history which afford a closer as a nation we had done fuller justice parallel to his own era and to the part to what was grand and noble in the which he has taken in it. Yet, allowing greatest of our enemies. To any one all this, to his own contemporaries the who has lived much in foreign countries chief interest of the book will reside it matters little in what portion of in the glimpses afforded by it of the the civilized world—there is something Imperial view of things as they are in absolutely astonishing in the tone which our years of grace, not in those which even educated Englishmen adopt when date from the foundation of the eternal speaking of the Emperor who, in the city. It will be for a future generation wild words of Victor Hugo, became to judge of the work by its intrinsic at last so mighty that “il gênait Dieu !" merits. We, who are reading the writings It was only the other day I saw, in the pages of the most popular perhaps "example to the world of a people conof London journals, a caricature of the “stituting itself and growing great by author of the “Life of Cæsar," puffing “ liberty, seemed, after Cæsar, to throw out a pigmy puppet of Napoleon I. “ themselves directly into slavery, it is in the vain hope of swelling it to the “ because there existed a general reason dimensions of Cæsar. It seemed to me “which by fatality prevented the reas if we were still in the days of “public from returning to the purity of Gilray, when our caricaturists depicted “its ancient institutions ; it is because poor George III. as a giant holding a “the new events and interests of a dwarf in his hand, fashioned after the “ society in labour required other means likeness of the “Corsican adventurer”- “ to satisfy them.” (I am quoting, let as if, like the Bourbons, we had learnt me say once for all, from the English nothing and forgotten nothing. In any version, the best perhaps that could other country, such a picture would be made, though in many cases conhave been self-condemned as ludicrous; veying the meaning of the writer but in most it would have been scouted as inadequately ; as, for instance, in this scurrilous. The instinct of great multi- extract, where “fatalement" is transtudes is seldom, I think, wrong. There lated “ by fatality.”) was little, one might have thought This passage I take to be the key-note beforehand, to endear the memory of of the history. In ordinary criticism Napoleon to the nations whom he con- the argument thus shadowed forth is quered, and whose kings he deposed; dismissed at once, with the comment but yet, right or wrong, the conqueror that it is mere fatalism. Epithets, howof Jena and Marengo and Moscow ever, are not proofs. The whole theory is to the present hour the idol of of a providential direction of history, popular worship throughout half the so commonly received amongst us, is world. Go where you will, north or south, only fatalism veiled beneath theological east or west, from the shores of the verbiage. No man, I think, who has Black Sea to the banks of the Mississippi ever thought upon the subject at all,
-enter any tavern or peasant dwelling— but must have arrived at the conclusion and the chances are that, amidst the that the growth and decay of institumemorials of the country in which you tions, the rise and decline and fall of are a traveller, you will find some rude nations, are regulated by certain laws, likeness of that grand, godlike face, as fixed and as unknown as those which some picture of the scenes where the affect the birth, development, and suspeoples' hero fought and conquered pension of animal existence. To what We talk of the universality of Garibaldi's extent the operation of these general fame; it is nothing to that which laws is, or can be, modified by indiNapoleon still enjoys in the memory of vidual action, is a problem which never men, though half a century has passed can be solved till we reconcile the consince the Hundred Days ended on the flicting claims of Omniscience and free field of Waterloo.
will. If fatalism means that everything Thus in as far as the “Life of Cæsar" is regulated by some unalterable cause, is meant as a vindication of the Napo. which can neither be retarded nor acceleleonic rule, it is designed, I conceive, far rated by individual effort, then the writer, more as a vindication of its later deve whose aim it is to show that the world lopment than of its primary one. How has been redeemed by the single far it succeeds; in this object, or, rather, greatness of Cæsars or Napoleons, is what hints it suggests in defence thereof, assuredly not a fatalist. All that is what I desire to call attention to, as is asserted by the words I have fully as I can, in this brief notice. quoted is a belief that when the hour
In the first place the reader is asked is come the man will not be wanting, throughout to assume a certain theory of and that the coming of the hour is in fate. “If the Romans, after giving an itself a vindication of the man's action.
This theory may be disputed, possibly “ of Roman power, inspired only distrust disproved; but it is one entirely different “and envy," when “the triumph of the from, if not antagonistic to, that of “generals was regarded not so much as fatalism.
“a success for the republic as a source By far the greater portion, then, of “of personal gratification.” Is there this first instalment of the “Life of not, it is intended that some should Cæsar” is devoted to the endeavour to ask, much in this gloomy portrait prove that, in the latter days of the which might be applied not inaptly Roman Commonwealth, the hour had to the condition of France during the come when a saviour of society was period that succeeded the revolution wanted. And the manner in which of February, and preceded the “Coup this view is supported is, in itself, a d'État”? masterpiece of graphic talent. It is So it came to pass that “Italy depossible that the correctness of the manded a master.” The instincts of author's facts may be questioned, the democracy, growing more powerful with value of his authorities disputed, and each succeeding year, taught it that "its that his picture may be shown to be over- interests are better represented by an coloured. But, if we take his facts for individual than by a political body;" granted, the use made of them is won- and the old dread of tyrants, which the derfully skilful. The very coldness and senate had hitherto appealed to successconciseness of the style add to the fully, in order to crush the true chameffect produced. From the days of the pions of the popular cause, had lost its Roman kings to those of the end of the hold upon the people. The Gracchi, republic, a long panorama is unrolled Marius, Sylla, Catiline, might each before us. War follows war, insurrection have founded “what is called the Eminsurrection, and tumult tumult. We pire,” had it not been that they each see before us a people with vast ener- represented factions, not the nation. gies, high ambitions, and great destinies, “ To establish a durable order of things agitated by constant disturbance, and “ there was wanted a man, who, the disputes of rival factions-a prey in “ raising himself above vulgar passions, turns to aristocratic tyranny, and dema- “ should unite in himself the essential gogic anarchy, and military violence. A “ qualities and just ideas of each of his world distracted by the contests for “ predecessors, avoiding their faults as supremacy at Rome; the interest of " well as their errors. To the greatness Italy sacrificed to the local jealousies of." of soul and love of the people of certhe “ Caput orbis terrarum”; the Eter “ tain tribunes, it was needful to join nal City itself the scene of constant riot, “the military genius of great generais, and confusion, and bloodshed ; a never- " and the strong sentiments of the ending war of classes ; a society demo “ Dictator in favour of order and the ralized by wealth ; an aristocracy devoid “ hierarchy ..... That man was of virtue; a government which retained " Cæsar.” If instead of Cæsar you put the form of freedom without the bene- Napoleon III, is it not clear that such fits which make freedom valuable; a is the epitaph that the writer would decaying faith, and a longing for any desire to have written of himself by change, so that it brought peace at home, some future historian of the Second and order and quiet: these are the main Empire ? There is no attempt throughfeatures in the Napoleonic picture of out these pages to vindicate the seizure that era which heralded in the advent of supreme power by any technical plea of Cæsar, when “all the forces of society, or legal subterfuge. The “salus rei“paralysed by intestine divisions, and publicæ " is the one argument that the “powerless for good, appeared to revive author feels can be safely used in de“only for the purpose of throwing obsta- fence either of Cæsars or of Napoleons. “cles in its way," when “military glory “Laws,” we are told,“ may be justly “and eloquence, those two instruments “ broken when society is hurrying on 66 to its own ruin, and when the govern- “ league to merit public gratitude. “ ment, supported by the mass of the “ Cicero, on his part, mistook for a true “ people, becomes the organ of its in- “ expression of opinion the clamours of “ terests and hopes."
" a desperate faction. He was, moreGranted, then, this faith, that Cæsar “ over, one of those who find that all ruled, or aspired to rule, by the right “goes well when they are themselves of popular choice—that, in fact, if not “ in power, and that everything is enin name, he too was the “elect of “ dangered when they are out." And millions"—the apparent unfairness of the regret which Cæsar is represented many of the judgments passed by the to have felt, because he could not win Imperial chronicler is explained away. to himself the support of a “faction Even in a historical point of view, these which had at its head such illustrious judgments seem to me worth considering names," has clearly been shared full Our knowledge of the life and times many a time by the creator of the of Cæsar comes to us chiefly through Second Empire, when he too found sources tinged with partizan sympathy himself constrained “ to have dealings for the order of things which he over- " with those whose antecedents seemed threw. Long after the bitterness of “to devote them to contempt," and could the revolution had passed away, down only console himself for the employment perhaps to our own times, the memory of the St. Arnauds, and Fleurys, and of the great republic stood between De Mornys, by the reflection that “the Cæsar and the fulness of his fame. best architect can build only with the The traditions of an aristocracy are materials under his hand.” always grand ; and, while the recollec- Indeed, the occasional glimpses of a tion of its collective selfishness and sort of self-retrospect are to me among the oppression perishes with its existence, most curious features of this remarkable the memory of the high deeds which book. Every now and then the Emperor its individual members wrought sur. appears for a moment to drop the vindivives for ages. Thus, the conclusion cation of his hero, or of the Napoleons that the party of Cicero and Cato was beneath the name of Cæsar, and to that of liberty and right and justice speculate philosophically on his own has been rather assumed as an axiom position and on the judgment that manthan demonstrated as a fact.
kind will pass on him. Balaam has set · But, be the historical value of the himself to sound the praises of Balak; Emperor's criticism what it may, it is and yet, ever and anon, he utters pereasy to see that the men of his own force a blessing upon Israel. “ Absolute time—the Guizots, and Thiers, and La- “ power, whether it belongs to one man martines, and Cavaignacs—were in the “or to a class of individuals, finishes mind of the historian when he wrote of “ always by being equally dangerous to Cato, and Cicero, and Brutus. It is not “ him who exercises it”-an odd exso much against Bibulus, as against the pression, surely, in the mouth of the doctrinaires of the Orleanist school, that self-erected autocrat. Could insight the following words were written :- into the time to come have given utter
“It is sad to see the accomplishment ance to the reflection that “excesses in “ of great things often thwarted by the “ power always give birth to an im“ little passions of short-sighted men, “ moderate desire for liberty”? or does “ who only know the world in the small some dark memory of the days of “circle to which their life is confined. December inspire the remark, when the “ By seconding Cæsar Bibulus might writer is dwelling on the excesses of “ have obtained an honourable reputa- Clodius, as the agent of Cæsar's will, “ tion. He preferred being the hero of “ that such instruments, when em“ a coterie, and sought to obtain the “ ployed, are two-edged swords, which “ interested applause of a few selfish “even the most skilful hands find it “senators, rather than with his col- “ difficult to direct"? If space would