Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

Napoleon the Third - The Atlantic

On the 6th of October, 1840, a young man was brought up for sentence in one of the highest courts of Europe, before which he had been tried, and by which he had been found guilty of one of the greatest crimes that can be charged upon any human being, though the world seldom visits it with moral condemnation. The young man was Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the court was the French Chamber of Peers, and the sentence was imprisonment for life. Had the French government of that day felt strong enough to act strongly, the condemned would have been treated as the Neapolitans treated Murat, and as the Mexicans treated Yturbide. He would have been perpetually imprisoned, but his prison would have been "that which the sexton makes." But the Orleans dynasty was never strong, and its head was seldom able to act boldly. To execute a Bonaparte, the undoubted heir of the Emperor, required nerve such as no French government had exhibited since that day on which Maréchal Ney had been shot; and there were seven hundred thousand foreign soldiers in France when that piece of judicial butchery was resolved upon. The army might not be ready to join a Bonaparte, but it could not be relied upon to guard the scaffold on which he should be sent to die. The people might not be ready to overthrow Louis Philippe, to give his place to Louis Napoleon, but it did not follow that they would have seen the latter's execution with satisfaction, because they desired peace, and he had fallen into the habit of breaking it. The enthusiasm that was created in France by the arrival in that country of the remains of Napoleon I., not three months after the coming Napoleon III. had been sent to the fortress of Ham, showed how difficult a matter it would have been to proceed capitally against the Prince. Louis Philippe has been praised for sparing him; but the praise is undeserved. Certainly, the King of the French was not a cruel man, and it was with sincere regret that he signed the death-warrants of men who had sought his own life, and who had murdered his friends; but it would have been no act of cruelty, had he sent his rival to the guillotine. When a man makes a throw for a crown, he accepts what is staked, against it,—a coffin. Nothing is better established than this, that, when a sovereign is assailed, the intention of the assailant being his overthrow, that sovereign has a perfect right to put his rival to death, if he succeed in obtaining possession of his person. The most confirmed believer in Richard III.'s demoniac character would not think of adding the execution of Richmond to his crimes, had Plantagenet, and not Tudor, triumphed on Bosworth Field. James II. has never been blamed for causing Monmouth to be put to death, but for having complied with his nephew's request for a personal interview, at which he refused to grant his further request for a mitigation of punishment. Murat's death was an unnecessary act, but Ferdinand of Naples has never been censured for it. Had Louis Philippe followed these examples, and those of a hundred similar cases, he could not have been charged with undue severity in the exercise of his power for the conservation of his own rights, and the maintenance of the tranquillity, not of France alone, but of Europe, and of the world, which the triumph of a Bonaparte might have perilled. He spared the future Emperor's life, not from any considerations of a chivalric character, but because he durst not take it. He feared that the blood of the offender would more than atone for his offence, and he would not throw into the political caldron so rich a material, dreading the effects of its presence there. Then the Orléans party and the Imperial party not only marched with each other, but often crossed and ran into each other; and it was not safe to run the risk of offending the first by an attempt to punish its occasional ally. There was, too, something of the ludicrous in the Boulogne affair, which enabled government to regard the chief offender with cheap compassion. Louis Philippe is entitled to no credit, on the score of mercy, for his conduct in 1840,—for the decision of the Court of Peers was his inspiration; but he acted wisely,—so wisely, that, if he had done as well in 1848, his grandson would at this moment have been King of the French, and the Emperor that is a wanderer, with nothing but a character for flightiness and a capacity for failure to distinguish him from the herd, while many would have regarded him as a madman. But the end was not then, and the hand of Fate was not even near that curtain which was to be raised for the disclosure of events destined to shake and to change the world.

The defence of Louis Napoleon was conducted by M. Berryer, the great leader of the Legitimists, who, twenty-five years before, had aided in the defence of Ney, and who, nearly twenty years later, defended Montalembert, his client of 1840 being in this last case the prosecutor. In his speech in defence of the Prince, this first of French orators and advocates made use of language, the recollection of which in after-days must have been attended with very conflicting emotions. Addressing himself to the judges, he said,—"Standing where I do, I do not think that the claims of the name in which this project was attempted can possibly fall humiliated by the disdainful expressions of the Procureur Général. You make remarks upon the weakness of the means employed, of the poverty of the whole enterprise, which made all hope of success ridiculous. Well, if success is anything, I will say to you who are men,—you, who are the first men in the state,—you, who are members of a great political body,—there is an inevitable and eternal Arbitrator between every judge and every accused who stands before him;—before giving your judgment, now, being in presence of this Arbitrator, and in face of the country, which will hear your decrees, tell me this, without regard now to weakness of means, but with the rights of the case, the laws, and the institution before your eyes, and with your hands upon your hearts, as standing before your God, and in presence of us, who know you, will you say this:—'If he had succeeded, if his pretended right had triumphed, I would have denied him and it,—I would have refused all share in his power,—I would have denied and rejected him'? For my part, I accept the supreme arbitration I have mentioned; and whoever there may be amongst you, who, before their God, and before their country, will say to me,—'If he had succeeded, I would have denied him,'—such a one will I accept for judge in this case." In making this sweeping challenge, M. Berryer knew that he was hitting the Court of Peers hard, for it contained men who had been leading Napoleonists in the days of the Empire, and others who wore ready to join any government which should be powerful enough to establish itself; while it left the Legitimists, the orator's own party, unharmed. They were the only men, according to M. Berryer's theory of defence, who would have furnished an impartial tribunal for the trial of his client; for they alone, with strict truth, could have said that they would deny his right, and refuse to share in his power, no matter at what time he should succeed in accomplishing his designs.

Had the French Peers been gifted with that power of mental vision which enables men to see into the future, they would not have been disposed to condemn the man who stood before them in 1840. Could it have been made known to them that in eight years he would be elected President of the French Republic by nearly five and a half millions of votes,—that in twelve years he would become Emperor of the French,—that in fifteen years he would, as the ally of England, have struck down the Russian hegemony,—and that in twenty years he would be the conqueror of Austria, and have called the Kingdom of Italy into existence, while his enmity was dreaded and his friendship desired by all the nations of the earth, and the fate of the Popedom was in his hands,—had these things been so much as dreamed of by his judges, they would have formed the most lenient of tribunals, and have suffered him to depart in peace. They are not to be charged with a lack of wisdom in not foreseeing what must have appeared to be the ravings of lunacy, had it been deliberately set down by some inspired prophet. Neither the man nor his cause commanded much respect. We, who know that the French Emperor is the first man of the age, as well in intellect as in position, have no right to sneer at the men of 1840 because they looked upon him as a feeble pretender. He had made two attempts to place himself at the head of the French nation, and in each instance his failure had been so signal, and in some respects so ridiculous, that it was impossible to regard him as the representative of a living principle. Even those who thought him a man of talent could account for his want of success only by supposing that Imperialism was no longer powerful in France, and that his appeals were made to an extinct party. The soldiery, amongst whom the traditions of the Empire were supposed to be strong, had evinced no desire to substitute a Bonaparte for a Bourbon of the younger branch; and as to the peasantry, who showed themselves so fanatically Bonapartean in 1848, and in 1851-2, they were never thought of at all. France consisted of the government, the army, the bourgeoisie, and the skeleton colleges of electors; and so long as they were agreed, nothing was to be feared either from Prince Louis Napoleon or from the Comte de Chambord. We think this was a sound view of affairs, and that the French government of 1841 might have been the French government of 1861, had not the parties to the combination that ruled France in 1841 quarrelled. It was the loss of the support of the middle class that caused Louis Philippe to lose his throne in the most ignominious manner; and that support the monarch would not have forfeited, but for the persistence of M. Guizot in a policy which it would have been difficult to maintain under any circumstances, and which was enfeebled in 1847-8 by the gross corruption of some of its principal supporters. That the bourgeoisie intended to subvert the throne they had established, for the benefit of either the Republicans or the Imperialists, is not to be supposed; but their natural disgust with the wickedness of the government as it was at the beginning of 1848, and with the refusal of the minister to allow even the peaceful discussion of the reform question, was the occasion of the kingdom's fall, and of the establishment, first of the shadowy Republic, and then of the solid Empire.

The events of 1848 furnished to Louis Napoleon the place whereon to stand, whence to move the French world. He must have lived and died an exile, but for the Revolution of February. The ability with which he profited by events suffices to show that he is entitled to be considered a great man as well as a great sovereign. That he had been born in the purple, and that he bore a great name, and that through the occurrence of several deaths he had become the legitimate heir of Napoleon, were favorable circumstances, and helped not a little to promote his purpose; but they could not alone have made him Emperor of the French, and the world's arbiter. There must have been extraordinary talent in the man who aspired as he did, or he would have failed as completely in 1848 as he had failed in 1836 and in 1840. But the real power of the man came out as soon as he found a standing-place. Previously to 1848, he could act only as a criminal in seeking his proper place, as he believed it to be. He had first to conquer before he could attempt to govern,—and to conquer, too, with the means of his enemy. All this was changed in 1848. Then he was safe in France, as he had been in England, and began the political race on equal terms with such men as Cavaignac and Ledru-Rollin. That he soon passed far ahead of them was, perhaps, as much due to circumstances as to his political abilities. The name of Bonaparte was associated with the idea of the restoration of order and prosperity, and this helped him with that large class of persons, embracing both rich men and poor men, who not only believe that "order is Heaven's first law," but that under certain conditions it is the supreme law, for the maintenance of which all other laws are to be set aside and disregarded. These men, whose organ and exponent was M. César Romieu, who called so loudly for cannon to put down the revolutionists,—"even if it should come from Russia!"—and whose type of perfection is the churchyard, were all fanatical supporters of "the coming man," and they assisted him along the course with all their might and strength. No matter how swiftly he drove, his chariot-wheels seemed to them to tarry. The very arguments that were made use of to induce other men to act against the rising Bonaparte were those which had the most effect in binding them to his cause. He would establish a cannonarchy, would he? Well, a cannonarchy was exactly what they desired, provided its powers should be directed, not against foreign monarchs, but against domestic Republicans. That a government of which he should be the head would disregard the constitution, would shackle the press, would limit speech, and would suppress the Assembly, was an argument in his favor, that, to their minds, was irresistible. Had they thought of the Russian War, and of the Italian War, and of the extinction of the Pope's temporal power, and of the liberal home-policy that was adopted in 1860, as things possible to occur, Louis Napoleon would have remained Louis Napoleon to the end of his days, for all the support he would have received at their hands. They wished for a sort of high-constable, whose business it should be to maintain order by breaking the heads or seizing the persons of all who did not take their view of men's political duties. It is the custom to speak of this class of men as if they were peculiar to France, and to say that their existence there is one of the many reasons why that country can never long enjoy a period of constitutional liberty. This is not just to France. The French are a great people, who have their faults, but who are in no sense more servile than are Americans, or Englishmen, or Germans. Extreme disciples of order, men who are ready to sacrifice everything else for the privileges of making and spending or hoarding money in peace, are to be found in all countries; and nowhere are they more numerous, and nowhere is their influence greater or more noxious, than in the United States. The difference of populations considered, there are as many of them in Boston as in Paris; and our breed is ready to go as far in sacrificing freedom, and in treating right with contempt, as were their French brothers of 1848. The infirmity belongs, not to French nature, but to human nature.

Louis Napoleon received not a little assistance, in the early part of his French career, from the strongest of his political enemies. The friends of both branches of the Bourbons were his friends—at that time, and for their own purposes. A restoration was what they desired, and they held that it would be easier to convert the Comte de Chambord or the Comte de Paris into a king as the consequence of another Bonapartean usurpation, than as the consequence of the Republic's continuance. Louis Napoleon was to destroy the Republic, and they were to destroy him, with the aid of foreign armies. The fate which Cicero wished for Octavius, that he should be elevated and then destroyed, was what they meant for him. They counted upon the effect of that reaction which so soon set in against the revolutions of 1848, and which they did not believe would spare any government which had grown out of any one of those revolutions. They also believed the Prince to be a fool, and thought he would be a much easier person to be disposed of, after he had been sufficiently used, than any one of his rivals. They overrated their own power as much as they underrated his abilities; and down to the last moment, and when the contest had become one for life or death, they bore themselves as if they were sure that they were acting against a man who had been elevated solely through the force of circumstances, and who could not maintain his position. The coup d'état opened their eyes, but it was not until the event of the Russian War had secured for the Emperor the first place in Europe, that they became convinced that in the man who was the ruler of France they had a master. Even now, when the condition of every country within the circle of civilization bears evidence to the vast weight of Imperial France, it is not difficult to find Frenchmen who declare that the Emperor is a mere adventurer, and that he is only "a lucky fellow." If they are right, what shall we think of all France? Does the reign of Napoleon III. serve only to illustrate the proverb, that among the blind the one-eyed man is a king?

The manner in which the French President became Emperor of the French has been much criticized. That some of his deeds, at the close of 1851, and in the early part of 1852, deserve censure, few of his intelligent admirers will be disposed to deny. His defence is, that it was impossible for him to act differently without forfeiting his life. The contest, in 1851, had assumed such a character, that it was evident that the one party or the other must be destroyed. We have M. Guizot's authority for saying that in French political contests no quarter is ever given, and that the vanquished become as the dead. French history shows that there is no exaggeration in this statement, and that every political leader in France must fight for his life as well as for his post, the loss of the latter placing the former in great peril. This is a characteristic of French politics to which sufficient attention has not been paid, in discussing the morality of French statesmen. In England, for many generations, and in the United States, down to the decision of the last Presidential election, a constitutional opposition was as much a political institution, and as completely a part of the machinery of government, as the administration itself. Formerly, opposition was not without its dangers in England, and, whichever party had possession of the government, it sought to crush out its opponents with all the vigor and venom of an American slavocrat. Charles I. sent Sir John Eliot to the Tower, by way of punishing him for the opposition he had made to unconstitutional government; and there he died, and there he was buried. The execution of Strafford, though as just a deed as ever was performed, must be allowed to have resulted from proceedings that belong to French politics rather than to those of England since the times of the Tudors. All through the reigns of the Stuart kings, and down to the Revolution, parties fought for safety as well as for spoils. A defeat was then often followed by a butchery. Hume, speaking of the political warfare that happened just before the Revolution of 1688, says that the "two parties, actuated by mutual rage, but cooped up within the narrow limits of the law, levelled with poisoned daggers the most deadly blows against each other's breast, and buried in their factious divisions all regard to truth, honor, and humanity." This evil was gradually, but surely, removed from English politics by the triumph of the constitutional party. It lingered, however, for half a century, and after the accession of the House of Hanover caused the impeachment of Oxford and the exile of Bolingbroke and Ormond. The last pronounced appearance of it was in 1742, when Sir Robert Walpole's enemies, not content with his political fall, sought his life. They failed utterly, and for one hundred and twenty years the course of English politics has been strictly constitutional, an opposition party being, as it were, the complement of the administration or ministry. The same party divisions that existed in England under George II. substantially exist under the grand-daughter of his grandson. So has it been in the United States, though it would not be difficult to show that none of our parties have been so free from approaching to the verge of illegality as English parties have been since 1714; and the conduct of the present American opposition is simply detestable, and has destroyed the national constitution.

The French began their political imitation of the English in 1789. As in most imitations, caricature has largely predominated in it. The one thing that might advantageously have been imitated they have altogether neglected. They never have been able to comprehend the nature and the purpose of an opposition party, and hence every such party that has come into existence in France has been treated by the governing party as if it were composed of enemies of the State. When the Jacobins sent the Girondins to the scaffold, and when Robespierre and St. Just sent Danton and Desmoulins to the same place, and when the Thermidorians so disposed of Robespierre and St. Just, they did no more than has been done by other French political leaders, except that their measures were more trenchant than have been those of later statesmen of their country. The reason why the Revolution led to a military despotism was, that no party would tolerate its political foes, much less protect them in the exercise of the right of free discussion and legal action. The execution of Louis XVI. was but a solitary incident in the game that was played by the most excitable political gamblers that ever converted a nation into a card-table. He was slain, not so much because he was a king, or had been one, as because he was the natural chief of the Royal party, a party which the Republicans would not spare. Party after party rose and fell, the leaders perishing under the guillotine, or flying from their country, or being sent to Guiana. Despotism came as a relief to the people who were thus tormented by the bloody freaks of men who were energetic only as murderers. There probably never was a more popular government than Bonaparte's Consulship, in its first days. Soon, however, the old evil renewed itself in full force. A few men, the most conspicuous of whom was Carnot, confined their opposition to the policy of the government, and kept themselves within the limits of the law; but others were less scrupulous, and labored for the destruction of the government, and compassed the death of the governors. Jacobins were as bad as Royalists, and Royalists were no better than Jacobins. Confusion was as much the object of the party of order as it was that of the party of disorder. Men of all ranks, opinions, parties, and conditions were among the conspirators of those days, or in some way encouraged the conspirators, from Cadoudal, a hero of the Vendée, to Moreau, the hero of the Black Forest and Hohenlinden. The vigorous, and in some instances tyrannical, action of the government put a stop to this kind of opposition for some years. The seizure and execution of the Duc d'Enghien, though in itself not to be approved, was followed by a cessation of Royalist attempts against the person of the chief of the State. It was one of those terrible lessons by which constituted power sometimes teaches its enemies that the force of lawlessness is not necessarily confined to one side in a political controversy. Nothing contributed more to the establishment of the Empire than the violence of Bonaparte's enemies, as they favored the plan of establishing an hereditary monarchy, the existence of which should not be bound up with the existence of an individual. During the reign of Napoleon I. the opposition was quiet, but it was organized, and its conduct was from first to last illegal, as it corresponded with the banished princes, and with the foreign enemies of France. The Mallet affair, in 1812, which came so very near effecting the Emperor's dethronement when he was in the midst of his Russian disasters, shows how frail was his tenure of power when he was absent from Paris, and how extensive were the ramifications of the informal conspiracy that existed against him. "You have found the tail, but not the head," were the words in which the bold conspirator let his judges know that the danger was not over. The Legislative Body endeavored to act as an opposition party in France after the disasters of 1813, and the Emperor, after giving them a lecture, dismissed them. The Allies would never have dared to cross the French frontier, had they not been advised of the existence of disaffection, which was ready to become treason, in their enemy's country. The opposition to Louis XVIII.'s government was highly treasonable in its character; and so was that which Napoleon encountered during the Hundred Days. When the second Restoration had been effected, the French government found itself in a strange predicament. The extraordinary Chamber of Deputies which then met, "the Impracticable Chamber," was so intensely royalist in its sentiments, that it alarmed every reasonable friend of monarchy in Europe. It would have subjected the king himself to its will, in order that it might be free to punish the enemies of royalty with even more vigor and cruelty than the Jacobins had punished its friends. There was to be a revival of the Terror by the party which had suffered in 1793, and for the purpose of exterminating imperialists, republicans, and moderate monarchists. Lord Macaulay has compared this Chamber with the first English Parliament that was called after the restoration of the House of Stuart. The comparison is unfair to the Parliament. There had been a long and a bitter war between parties in England, and the Cavaliers remembered, because they were events of yesterday, the terrible series of defeats they had experienced, from Edgehill to Worcester. Between the date of the Battle of Worcester and the date of the Restoration there were less than nine years. The same generation that saw Charles I. beheaded saw Charles II. enter Whitehall. England had changed but little in the twenty years that elapsed between the meeting of the Long Parliament and the dissolution of the Convention Parliament. Very different was it in France. There parties had had no fighting in the field, save in Brittany and the Vendée. There the change had been as complete as if it had been half a century in the making. Twenty-three years had passed away since the fall of the monarchy, when the Impracticable Chamber met, to legislate for a new France in the spirit of the worst period of the reigns of the worst Bourbons. These ultra-royalists would have had their way, and the massacres of the Protestants would have been accompanied or followed by the destruction of all parties save the victors, but for the existence of circumstances which it is even now painful for Frenchmen to think of. The Allies occupied the country, and their influence was thrown in behalf of moderate counsels. The good-nature of Louis XVIII. was supported by the sound common-sense of Wellington, and by the humanity of Alexander; and so but few persons were punished for political offences. The conduct of the Chamber showed that the Deputies had no just conception of the nature either of a ministry or of an opposition. So it was, though with less violence, throughout the period known as the Restoration; and the Polignac movement of 1830, which led to the fall of the elder Bourbons, was a coup d'état, the object being the destruction of the Charter. In Louis Philippe's reign, there were facts upon facts that establish the proposition that no French party then clearly comprehended the character of a political opposition; and it was the attempt of M. Guizot to prevent even the discussion of the reform question that was the occasion, though not the cause, of the Revolution of 1848. No sooner had the Republic been established than the Royalists began to conspire against its existence, while the Republicans themselves were far from being united, the Reds hating the Blues quite as intensely as they hated the Whites, or old Royalists; and beyond even the Reds were large numbers of men who, for the lack of a more definite name, have been called Socialists, who wanted something as vehemently as Brutus desired his purposes, but who would probably have been much puzzled to say what that something was, had the question been put to them by the agent of a power willing and able to gratify their wish.

It was into such a political chaos as this that Louis Napoleon found himself plunged in 1848. He had a difficult part to fill; and that he did not succeed in satisfying most of those who had been most prominent in elevating him was inevitable from the discrepancy between his views of his position and their views of it. They had intended him to be a tool, and he was determined to be master of all the land. There was a contest for power, which ended in the coup d'état of 1851. Victory waited on the heir of her old favorite. The contest was marked by many deeds, on both sides, not defensible on strict moral grounds, but which bear too close a resemblance to the ordinary course of French politics to admit of the actors being sweepingly condemned, as if they had poisoned a pure fountain. Neither party could afford to act with fairness, because each party was convinced that the other was seeking its destruction, according to the usual rule of Gallic political warfare. That the world should have heard much of the errors of the victor, while those of the vanquished have been charitably passed over, is but natural. Victors become objects of envy, while pity is the feeling that is created by thoughts of their foes. It is only in America that the beaten party is so insolent that the conquerors are fairly over-crowed by it. All the blunders, all the acts of violence of which the other side were guilty, have been forgotten, or are not alluded to, because parties are not held accountable for evils that never were perpetrated, though it was intended that they should take form and shape and bear fruit. It is charged against the Emperor, that he deliberately planned the destruction of the Republic, and that he ceased not to labor until his purpose had been effected. Admitting this charge to be strictly well founded, what is it more than can be brought against the very men who are so loud in preferring it? The Republic was doomed from the hour of its birth, and the final struggle between the Imperialists and the Royalists was made over its carcass. That struggle was neither a Pharsalia, in which two great men contended for supremacy in a republic, nor a Philippi, in which parties fought deliberately in support of certain principles, but an Actium; and the question to be decided was, With which of two energetic forms of force should the victory be? Louis Napoleon contended for the imperial form, for the rehabilitation of the scheme of his uncle, and for an opportunity to develop the Napoleonic ideas. The other side sought the restoration of the monarchy as it had been between 1814 and 1830, with Henry V. for their idol, as any attempt to make the Comte de Paris king must have failed, though in due time Henry V. might have been displaced, if not succeeded regularly, by the head of the Orléans family. Of the two parties to the struggle that followed the election of Louis Napoleon to the Presidency, that of the President was the more friendly to liberal institutions, and the most disposed to govern in accordance with modern sentiments. The President himself was attached to the liberal party, and leaned decidedly to the left wing of it. Circumstances had all tended to make him a Constitutionalist. His connections had been principally with those countries in which liberty is best understood, and whose histories are the histories of freedom. By birth he was a prince of Holland. He had lived much in Switzerland and in England, and he had visited the United States. That part of his youth in which the mind is formed he had passed in those years in which the Bonapartists and Liberals had been allies. His writings prove that he both understood and appreciated the constitutional system of government. Such a man was not likely to become a despot merely from choice, though circumstances might make him one for the time, as they made Fabius a dictator. His recent action, in extensively liberalizing the imperial system, and in providing for perfect freedom of discussion in the Senate and the Legislative Body,—a freedom of which the supporters of the Pope have thoroughly availed themselves,—confirms the belief that his original intention was to provide a free constitution for France. Had he done so, there would have been civil war in that country within a year from the time that he became master of it. He could not trust his enemies, who, could they have obtained power, would have granted him no mercy, and therefore had no right to expect it from him. Had they been successful, we should have heard much of their acts of usurpation and cruelty, and of the injustice with which the President and his party and policy had been treated. Severe criticism, often unfair both in matter and in manner, is that which every victorious party must experience, not only from those whom it has defeated, but from the world at large. This is one of the items in the details of the heavy price which the victors must pay for their victory, no matter where it is won, or what the character of the contest the issue of which it has decided. Men worship success, but they worship it much after the fashion that some savage tribes worship the gods created by their own hands, tearing and rending at one time the images that at another had been objects of their most abject devotion.

If we judge the conduct of Louis Napoleon by reference only to Napoleon III., we shall not be inclined to condemn it. His rule has not been a perfect one, but it has been the best that France has known for fifty years, not only for the French themselves, but for foreign peoples. He has lifted France out of that slough in which she had floundered under both branches of the Bourbons, and he has done so without being guilty of any act of injustice toward other nations. The greatness of the France of Napoleon I. was unpleasingly associated with the idea of the degradation of neighboring countries, which implied the ultimate fall of the Empire, as it could not be expected that Russians and Germans would be governed from Paris. Independence is what every people strong enough to vindicate its rights will have; and hence the men at St. Petersburg and Vienna and Berlin were certain to act against the men of Paris at the first favorable opportunity that should present itself. Their dependent state was an unnatural state, and when the reaction came, the torrent swept all before it. The fall of Napoleon I. was the consequence of the manner in which he rose to the greatest height ever achieved by a man in modern days. Napoleon III., whose power is really greater than that of his uncle, has incurred the enmity of no foreign people. He has led his armies into no European capital city, and he has levied no foreign contributions. When it was in his power to dictate terms to Russia, he astonished men, and even made them angry, by the extent of his moderation. His abrupt pause in his career of Italian success, no matter what the motive of it, enabled Austria to retire from a war in which she had found nothing but defeat, with the air of a victor. The only additions he has made to the territory of France—Savoy, Nice, and Monaco—were obtained by the fair consent of all those who had any right to be consulted on the changes that were made. We find nothing in his conduct that betrays any desire to humiliate his contemporaries, and a superiority to vulgar ideas of what constitutes triumph that is almost without a parallel. No man was ever treated more insolently by hereditary sovereigns, from Czar and Kaiser and King to petty German princelings; and this insolence he has never repaid in kind, nor sought to repay in any manner. He has foregone occasions for vengeance that legitimate monarchs would have turned to the fullest account for the gratification of their hatred. He has, apparently, none of that vanity which led Napoleon I. to be pleased with having his antechamber full of kings whose hearts were brimful of hatred of their lord and master. If he were to have an Erfurt Congress, it would be as plain and unostentatious an affair as that of his uncle was superficially grand and striking. He seems perpetually to have before his mind's eye what the Greeks called the envy of the gods, the divine Nemesis, to which he daily makes sacrifice. He is the most prosperous of men, but he is determined not to be prosperity's spoiled child. If the truth were known, it would probably be found that he has not a single personal enemy among the monarchs, all of whom would, as politicians, be glad to witness his fall. In their secret hearts they say that "Monsieur Bonaparte is a well-behaved man, to whom they could wish well in any other part than that which he prefers to hold." Their predecessors hated Napoleon I. personally, and with intense bitterness, which accounts for the readiness with which they took parts in the hunting of the eagle, and for the rancor with which they treated him when his turn came to drain the cup of humiliation to the very dregs. The dislike felt for Napoleon III. is simply political, and such dislike is not incompatible with liberality in judgment and generosity of action. Should it be his fortune to fall, there would be no St. Helena provided for him.

The domestic rule of the Emperor of the French will bear comparison with that of any monarch which that people have ever had. It is not faultless, but it is as little open to criticism of a just nature as that of any European sovereign, and with reference to the changed position of sovereigns. We are not to compare Napoleon III. with Louis XIV., that sublime and ridiculous egotist, who seems never to have had a human feeling, except those feelings which humanity would be the better without. The French Revolution banished that breed of kings from Christendom, if not from the world. He must be compared with monarchs who have felt the responsibilities of their trust very differently from the man who called himself the State, who thought that twenty millions of people had been made to minister to his vanity, and who gently reproached God with ingratitude because of the victories of Eugène and Marlborough. "God, it appears, is forgetting us," he said, "notwithstanding all that we have done for Him." A monarch of this class is now as extinct as the mammoth, and traces of his footsteps excite the wonder of the disciples of political science. In these days, a monarch must rule mostly for the people, and largely by the people. He is only the popular chief in a country which has not a well-defined constitution over which time has thrown the mantle of reverence. The course of Napoleon III. has been in accordance with this view of his position. He is not the State, but he is the first man in the State. Under his lead and direction the French have known much material prosperity, and have added not a little to that wealth which, when judiciously used as a means, and not worshipped as the end of human exertion, is the source of so much happiness. The readiness with which the people, the masses of his subjects, subscribed to the great war-loans, contending for subscriptions as for valuable privileges, establishes both their prosperity under his government, and their confidence in that government's strength and permanence. That he has not made use of his power to stifle the expression of thought is clear from the numerous works that have been published, some of which were written for the purpose of attacking his dynasty,—authors of eminence choosing to pervert history by converting its volumes into huge partisan pamphlets, in which the subject handled and the object aimed at are alike libelled. He has kept the press, meaning the journals, more sharply reined up than Englishmen and Americans have approved or can approve; but as French journalists, instead of confining their political warfare to its proper use, are in the habit, when free to publish what they please, of assailing the very existence of the government itself, he has some excuse for his conduct. An English journal which should recommend the dethronement of Victoria would be as summarily silenced as ever was a French White, Blue, or Red paper. The most determined advocate of freedom of discussion must find it hard to disapprove of the suppression of the "Univers," which, while availing itself of every possible license to advocate the extremest doctrines of despotism in Church and State, demanded the suppression of freedom of all kinds in every other quarter. It is an advantage to the enemies of free speech, that they can avail themselves of its existence to advocate restriction in its comprehensive sense, while their opponents cannot consistently demand that they shall be silenced. Under the liberal policy which has just been inaugurated in France, great advantages will be enjoyed by the enemies of the government, and of free principles generally; and the Emperor is reported to have said that he shall accept the logical consequences of that policy, let the result be what it may. What has thus far happened confirms this report; but it ought not to surprise us, if he should find himself compelled to have resort to measures of restriction not much different from those "warnings" that have been fatal to more than one journal in times past. The tendency in the French mind to illegal opposition, and of the French government to meet such opposition by harsh action, will not allow us to be very sanguine as to the workings of the experiment upon which the Emperor has entered. His chief object is to establish his dynasty, and he cannot tolerate attacks upon that; and attacks of that kind would form the staple of the opposition press, were it permitted to become as free as the press is in England and in the Northern States of America.

One of the charges that have been made against the Imperial system is, that it is a stratocracy, a mere government by the sword, and that it must pass away with the Emperor himself, or be continued in the person of some military man; so that France must degenerate into a vast Algiers, and be ruled by a succession of Deys. There is something plausible in this view of the subject, which has imposed upon many persons, and which is all the more imposing because the Emperor is fifty-three years old, while his only son has but completed his fifth year; and Prince Napoleon is not popular with the army, and is an object of both fear and dislike to the members of several powerful interests. The Imperialists have themselves principally to blame for this state of things, as they have encouraged and promulgated opinions that favor its existence. Clever historical writers have discovered a remarkable resemblance between the France of to-day and the Roman Empire of the days of Augustus. Napoleon I. was the modern Julius Caesar, and Napoleon III. is Octavius. The Emperor is writing a Life of Julius Caesar, and it is believed that it is his purpose to establish the fact that his family is playing the part which the family of Caesar played more than eighteen centuries ago. If one were disposed to be critical, it would not be difficult to point out, that, as the first Roman imperial dynasty became Claudian rather than Julian in its blood and character, after the death of Augustus, so has the French imperial dynasty a better claim to be considered of the family of Beauharnais than of the family of Bonaparte. This Caesarian game is a foolish one, and may be played to an ultimate loss. Of the difference between France as she is and Rome as she was in the times of the first Caesars it is not necessary to say much, for it presents itself to every cultivated mind. The Roman Empire was an aggregation of various nations, including the highest and lowest forms of human development then known, and stretching from the Atlantic to the Euphrates, and from the forests of Germany to the deserts of Africa. Over that vast and various collection of peoples a portion of Italy bore sway; and it was to break down the tyranny of that Italian rule that the Julian rule was created, and that the Republic was made to give way to the Empire.

The cause of the Caesars was the cause of the provincials against the Italians, of the masses in twenty lands against the aristocracy of but a part of one land, of many millions of sheep against a few select wolves. The revolution that was effected through the agency of Julius and Octavius was necessary for the continuance of civilization, which was threatened with extinction through the plundering processes of proprietors and proconsuls. The Roman Emperor was the shepherd, who, though he might shear his sheep close to their skins, and not unfrequently convert many of them into mutton, for his own profit or pleasure, would nevertheless protect them against the wolves. He stood between the imperial race, of which he was himself the first member, and all the other races that were to be found in his extensive and diversified dominions. The question that he settled was one of races, not merely one of parties and political principles. What resemblance, then, can there be between the French Emperor and the Roman Imperator, or between the quarrel decided by the Napoleons and that which was decided by the first two Caesars? There may be said to be some resemblance between them, from the fact that the French aristocracy, as a body, belong to the party that is hostile to the Bonapartes, and that it was the Roman aristocracy who were beaten at Pharsalia and politically destroyed at Philippi; but the nobility of France were ruined before the name of Bonaparte had been raised from obscurity, and the first Napoleon sought to please and to conciliate the remnants of that once brilliant order. There can be no comparison made between the two aristocracies; as the Roman was one of the ablest and most ferocious bodies of men that the world has ever seen, and made a long and desperate fight for the maintenance of its power,—while the French is effete, and it is difficult to believe that in the veins of its members runs the blood of the heroes of the days of the League, or even that of the Frondeurs. Their political action reminds us of nothing but the playing of children; and the best of the leaders of the opposition to the Imperial régime are new men, most of whose names were never heard of until the present century. The Imperial family, too, unlike that of Rome, is a new family. The democratic revolution of Rome, which led to the fall of the Republic, was enabled to triumph only because the movement was headed by one of the noblest-born of Romans, a patrician of the bluest blood, who claimed descent from Venus, and from the last of the Trojan heroes. No Roman had a loftier lineage than "the mighty Julius"; and when the place of Augustus passed to Tiberius, the third Emperor represented the Claudian gens, the most arrogant, overbearing, haughty, and cruel of all those patrician gentes that figure in the history of the republican times. He belonged, too, to the family of Nero, which was to the rest of the Claudian gens what that gens was to other men,—the representative of all that is peculiarly detestable in an oligarchical fraternity. The French Caesars are emphatically novi homines, the founder of their greatness not being in existence a century ago, and born of a poor family, which had never made any impression on history. There are abundant points of contrast to be found, when we examine the origin of Imperial Rome in connection with the origin of Imperial France, but few of resemblance.

Even in the bad elements of the modern Imperial rule there is little imitation of that of the Caesars. "The ordinary notion of absolute government, derived from the form it assumes in Europe at the present day," says Merivale, "is that of a strict system of prevention, which, by means of a powerful army, an ubiquitous police, and a censorship of letters, anticipates every manifestation of freedom in thought or action, from whence inconvenience may arise to it. But this was not the system of the Caesarean Empire. Faithful to the traditions of the Free State, Augustus had quartered all his armies on the frontiers, and his successors were content with concentrating, cohort by cohort, a small, though trusty force, for their own protection in the capital. The legions were useful to the Emperor, not as instruments for the repression of discontent at home, but as faithful auxiliaries among whom the most dangerous of his nobles might be relegated, in posts which were really no more than honorable exiles. Nor was the regular police of the city an engine of tyranny. Volunteers might be found in every rank to perform the duty of spies; but it was apparently no part of the functions of the enlisted guardians of the streets to watch the countenances of the citizens, or beset their privacy. We hear of no intrusion into private assemblies, no dispersion of crowds in the streets…… They [the Emperors] made no effort to impose restraints upon thought. Freedom of thought may be checked in two ways, and modern despotism resorts in its restless jealousy to both. The one is, to guide ideas by seizing on the channels of education; the other, to subject their utterance to the control of a censorship. In neither one way nor the other did Augustus or Nero interfere at all. From the days of the Republic the system of education had been perfectly untrammelled. It was simply a matter of arrangement between the parties directly interested, the teacher and the learner. Neither State nor Church pretended to take any concern in it: neither priest nor magistrate regarded it with the slightest jealousy. Public opinion ranged, under ordinary circumstances, in perfect freedom, and under its unchecked influence both the aims and methods of education continued long to be admirably adapted to make intelligent men and useful citizens…… The same indulgence which was extended to education smiled upon the literature which flowed so copiously from it. There was no restriction upon writing or publication at Rome analogous to our censorships and licensing acts. The fact that books were copied by the hand, and not printed for general circulation, seems to present no real difficulty to the enforcement of such restrictions, had it been the wish of the government to enforce them. The noble Roman, indeed, surrounded by freedmen and clients of various ability, by rhetoricians and sophists, poets and declaimers, had within his own doors private aid for executing his literary projects; and when his work was compiled, he had in the slaves of his household the hands for multiplying copies, for dressing and binding them, and sending forth an edition, as we should say, of his work to the select public of his own class or society. The circulation of compositions thus manipulated might be to some extent surreptitious and secret. But such a mode of proceeding was necessarily confined to few. The ordinary writer must have had recourse to a professional publisher, who undertook, as a tradesman, to present his work for profit to the world. Upon these agents the government might have had all the hold it required: yet it never demanded the sight beforehand of any speech, essay, or satire which was advertised as about to appear. It was still content to punish after publication what it deemed to be censurable excesses. Severe and arbitrary as some of its proceedings were in this respect,… it must be allowed that these prosecutions of written works were rare and exceptional, and that the traces we discover of the freedom of letters, even under the worst of the Emperors, leave on the whole a strong impression of the general leniency of their policy in this particular."[A] This correct picture of the policy of Imperial Rome on this point shows that the ancient sovereigns of the first of empires were more liberal than are modern rulers of their class, and that the Caesars scorned to do that which has been common with the Bonapartes. The changes in the direction of freedom which Napoleon III. has recently made are really more Caesarean in their character than anything that he had previously done in connection with thought and public discussion. It ought to be added, however, that the Romans had no daily press, and that journalism, as we understand it, was as unknown to the Caesars as were steamships and rifled cannon. Had they been troubled with those daily showers of Sibylline leaves that so vex modern potentates, their magnanimity would have been severely tested, and they might have established as severe censorships as ever have been known in Paris or Vienna.

[Footnote A: A History of the Romans under the Empire. By CHARLES MERIVALE, B.D., late Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge. Vol. VI., pp. 224-231.]

Flattery has discovered a resemblance between the career of Napoleon III. and the career of Augustus, and it required the eyes of flattery to make such a discovery. The Frenchman is the equal of the Roman in talent, but the resemblance goes no farther. What resemblance can there be between the boy who became a statesman at twenty and the man who began his career at forty? between the youth who made himself master of the Roman situation in a few months and the elderly man whose position at fifty-three is by no means an assured one? between the man who at thirty-three had destroyed all rivals and competitors, and gathered into his person all the powers of the State, and the man who at a much later period of life is still engaged upon an experiment in politics? Augustus avenged the murder of Julius within a brief time after it had been perpetrated; Napoleon III. has never avenged the fall of his uncle, but has refrained from injuring his uncle's destroyers, when, apparently, he might have done so with profit to himself, and with the general approbation of the world. Augustus's public life knew but one signal calamity, the loss of the legions of Varus, which happened toward its close, and in his dying moments he could congratulate himself on having played well, which meant successfully, his part in the drama of life. Napoleon III.'s life has been full of calamities, and it remains yet to be seen whether history shall have to rank him among its favorites, or high in the list of those unfortunates against whom it has recorded sentence of everlasting condemnation. Should he live, and maintain his place, and bequeath his throne to his son, and that son be of an age to appreciate his position, and possessed of fair talent, he may pass for the modern Augustus; but thinking of him, and of the strange reverses of fortune that have happened since 1789 to men and to nations, we subscribe to the wisdom of the hackneyed Greek sentiment, that no man should be called fortunate until the seal of death shall have placed an everlasting and an impassable barrier between him and the cruel sports of Mutabilities which are played "to many men's decay."

In one respect it will be allowed by all but absolutists that the condition of Europe has changed greatly for the better in the last eleven years, as a consequence of the triumphs of the French Emperor. From the year 1815 to 1850, national independence was in its true sense unknown to Continental Europe. The ascendency of Napoleon I. had small claim to faultlessness, but the men who led in the work of his overthrow proceeded as if they meant to make the world regret his fall. This is the secret—which secret is none—of the reaction that speedily took place in his favor, and which caused an alliance of Liberals and Jacobins and Imperialists to do honor to his memory; so that, being dead, he was from his island-sepulchre a more effective foe to legitimacy and the established order of things than he had been from St. Cloud and the Tuileries. It has been satirically said that a mythical Napoleon rose from the dust of the dead Emperor, who bore no moral resemblance to Europe's master of 1812. As to the resemblance between the master of a hundred legions and "the dead but sceptred sovereign" of 1824, who ruled men's spirits from his urn, we will not stop to inquire; but it can be positively asserted that the mythical Napoleon, if any such creation there was, was the work of the true Napoleon's destroyers. They earned the hatred and detestation of the greater part of the better classes in the civilized world; and as it is the nature of men to love those who have warred against the objects of their hate, nothing was more natural than for Europeans and Americans to turn fondly to the memory of one who had beaten and trampled upon every member of the Holy Alliance, and who had carried the tricolor, that emblem of revolution, to Vienna and Berlin and Moscow. Men wished to have their own feet upon the necks of Francis and Frederick William and Alexander, and therefore they were ready to forget the faults, and to remember only the virtues, of one who had enjoyed the luxury they so much coveted. It would be unreasonable to complain of that disposition of the public mind toward Napoleon I. which prevailed from about the date of his death to that of the restoration of his dynasty in the person of his nephew, or to sneer at the inconsistency of "that many-headed monster thing," the people, who had shouted over the decisions of Vittoria and Leipsic, and before a decade had expired were regretting that those decisions could not be reversed; for the change was the consequence of the operations of an immutable law, of that reaction which dogs the heels of all conquerors. The legitimate despots, whose union had been too much for the parvenu despot, established a tyranny over Europe that threatened to stunt the human mind, and which would have left the world hopeless, if England had not resolved to part company with her military allies. But her condemnation of their policy did not prevent its development. Even the events of 1830 did not restore national freedom to the Continent; and fifteen years after the overthrow of the elder Bourbons, the partitioners of Poland could unite, in defiance of their plighted faith, to destroy the independence of Cracow, the last shadowy remnant of old and glorious Poland. The ascendency of Napoleon III. has put a stop to such proceedings as were common from the invasion of France, in 1815, to the invasion of Hungary, in 1849. He has, to be sure, interfered in the affairs of foreign countries, but his acts of interference have been made against the strong, and not against the weak. He interfered to protect Turkey when she was threatened with destruction by Russia, and he did so with success. He interfered to protect the Italians against the hordes of Austria, and with such effect that the Kingdom of Italy has been called into existence through his action, when there was not another sovereign in the world who would have fired a shot to prevent the whole Italian Peninsula, and the great islands of Sicily and Sardinia, from becoming Austrian provinces. He interfered to protect the Christians of the East against the fire and sword of the Mussulmans, and it is under the shadow of the French flag alone that Christianity can be preached in the Lebanon and in the Hollow Syria, in the aged Damascus and in the historical Sidon. He has interfered to assist England in China, whereby there has been a new world, as it were, opened to the enterprise of commerce. He has falsified the predictions of those who have seen in him only the enemy of England, and who have told us twice a year, for nine years past, that he would attempt to throw his legions into Kent, and to march them upon London. He has added nothing to the territory of France that has not been honorably acquired. Having thus redeemed Europe from degradation, and not having justified the fears of those who expected him to renew the old duel between France and England, his continued prosperity may be earnestly desired by Liberals everywhere, and with perfect consistency; for can any intelligent man venture to say that there would be any hope for a better state of things, either for France or for Europe at large, should his rule be changed for that of either branch of the Bourbons, or for that of the Republicans, Red or Blue? Considering the good that he has done, and the evil that he might have done, and yet has refrained from doing, he will compare advantageously with any living ruler; and mankind can overlook his errors in view of his virtues,—save and except those men whom he vanquished at their own weapons, and whose chief regret it is, that, being no better political moralists than was the Prince-President, their immorality was fruitless, while his, according to their interpretation of his history, gave him empire. Other men, whom his success has not consigned to partisan darkness, will judge him more justly, and say that his victory was the proper meed of superior ability, and that whatever was vicious in his manner of acquiring power has been redeemed by the use he has almost invariably made of that power. He is not without sin; but if he shall not die until he shall be stoned by saints selected from governments and parties, his existence will be prolonged until doomsday.