4 MARCH 1865, Page 9


TIIE Emperor of the French is perhaps the very best writer of State papers in Europe, but the preface to his Life of Cesar, though a State paper, and as such properly published in the Mona. teur, is not a very striking performance. Indeed, were it not for the wealth of suggestiveness involved in the author's position, the strangeness of reading a judgment on Cassar written by a con- scious Casar Augustus, the interest which attaches at all times to the thoughts of a mighty ruler discussing the raison d'être of mighty rulers before him, the preface would stand some chance of being pronounced poor. No other King in Europe could have written it, but then many authors could have surpassed it, and one ex- pects when a Cassar descends into the arena of letters that the inherent falsity of the position shall be redeemed by its accidental grandeur. Louis Napoleon, we all know, can write with wonder- ful power. The case of Italy has never been set out even by her own children with such lucid force as in the pamphlet which pre- ceded, it may be produced, the Austrian declaration of war, but in this instance excessive laboriousness has impaired his natural strength. The diction is ornate almost to pomposity, has in it that trace of the professor which is so foreign to the true French style,— the thought is to historians at least an old one, the historic teaching at once inaccurate and immoral. There are four dogmas or princi- ples laid down, of which the first is so widely accepted as to be almost a truism, the second false upon the author's own showing, the third immoral, and the fourth an historical blunder of the gravest kind Napoleon asserts first, that great events do not spring from trivial causes, but are the result of long-prepared forces; secondly, that great rulers are equally with events the result of long-pre- cedent growths ; thirdly, that the duty of the world when such great rulers appear is to comprehend and follow them ; and

fourthly, that the Empire designed by _Napoleon was as needful to Europe as the Empire prepared, though not perhaps hilly de- . signed, by Julius Caesar was needful to the world.

1. The first dogma may be, and we believe is, less accepted upon the Continent than in this country. There is a tendency towards anecdote in both French and German historians almost as strong as there was in Suetonius. They see the laws which produce the events, yet cannot resist the temptation to set them aside in favour of mere occasions, assert that financial distress was the cause of the French Revolution, and believe that but for the fit of temper which made Napoleon abandon Witepsk, the disasters of the Russian campaign, and therefore the fall of Napoleon, might have been averted. We have such men among us also, men who will gravely tell us that the revolt of Hindostan was produced by a greased cartridge and the war in the Crimea by the sleepiness of a Cabinet, who would think a Queen's epigram the best account of the origin of the Poor Law, and believe that the English Reformation was born of Henry VIII.'s fancy for Anne Boleyn. There are dozens of such men in' every club, who will tell you the secret cause of every great innovation, the whisper, or the accident, or the flirtation, or the fit of indigestion which produced a policy or brought on a great disaster, and be- lieve in telling it that they, and they only, know the main-springs of the life around them. But Napoleon aspires to rank among great historians, and from Tacitus downwards great historians have recognized the truth that "an incident apparently insignificant never leads to great results, without a pre-existing cause which has allowed that trivial incident to achieve the great result." The "philosophy of history" has for ages implied a search for the links which must bind great events, and to say from a throne authoritatively that such links exist may be valuable— because the ignorant respect words uttered from thrones—but is certainly no new contribution towards historical science.

2. The tendency of the whole of this preface is to imply that great men, and especially men of the stamp of Cassar, Charle- magne, and Napoleon are equally with great events the product of long-continued causes, that they are the concrete expression of the wants of mankind, that their work therefore, being simply "to trace out to nations the path they ought to follow" can never die, never be more than arrested for an hour. The reply is simple. Charlemagne's work did die, die utterly as if Charlemagne had never existed. Of the three men whom with some justice and much rhetorical effect the Emperor has bracketed together Charlemagne was perhaps the greatest, certainly the one most in advance of his time, and he not only was not the expression of the wants of his age, but was the expression of statesmanship higher than his age fighting against those wants. His purpose was to rebuild the Western Empire, to reduce the anarchy of the Middle Ages into a grand harmony in which Law should once again be sovereign, as it had been in the Roman world, and mankind there- fore relieved from the oppression of individual wills. It was to this end that he accepted the old civil law, asserted the sway of the State over the Church, elevated his agents above the feudal ,chiefs, strove to re-invigorate the communes, and finally re- established titesklexpression 44 legality, the Imperial throne, the providence on earth, the power so/utus a kgibus which in its limitlessness could redress all wrongs. He ,failed, and so did ages after one as great as he, the Hohenstaufen, who ably as Kaiser Karl, but more consciously, pursued with inferior means even greater ends, and had his reward in this, that now, six hun- dred years since the last of his House perished on the scaffold, German peasants, when dreaming of that reign of right and jus- tice and mercy which men will never see, assert and half believe that Fritz with the Beard will revive to protect mankind once more. Charlemagne did not express his age, but its opposites, the love of unity not the thirst for variety, reverence for law not the passion for individuality, the sanctity of the State not the sacredness of liberty. He was a mighty engineer, who wasted his energies, not on works of irrigation, but on a vain endeavour to turn the current, which the instant his dyke had been with- drawn burst with redoubled volume over the European world. Every institution he had framed perished. His machinery was pulverized in one generation. Even his idea was forgotten, and it was reserved for ages more distant from him than he was from Julius Clew to disinter painfully bit by bit the great policy of Kaiser Karl which had so utterly failed. There have been no doubt men who really expressed a thought long germinating in the minds of mankind. Augustus Czesar embodied the crave for an authoritative lawgiver for the world who should bind it together into peace and order, and Napoleon really expressed one want, "La carriere ouverte cur takns " irrespective of birth or station. But each expressed

other thoughts also which were his own, and might be evil or good, but were results not of the ages, but of his own individual mind. Rome wanted an absolute law, but did not want the here. ditary personal despotism which the man who fulfilled her need superadded to his work. France wanted a founder, some one who would relink the present to the past, but did not want the military autocracy Napoleon claimed as his reward. Europe needed an innovator with the sword in his hand to beat down the armed prejudices which impeded her career, but did not want the suppres- sion of national life which the conqueror chiefly for his own • advantage superinduced. Great men have a double not a single notion—to realize the wants of their time and to subjugate that time to their own ideas.

3. Why should not the nations resist that subjugation? The Emperor says, happy the peoples who comprehend and follow, but all English thinkers say, happy the peoples very often who while comprehending resist, who prefer the myriad possibilities existing in freedom to the single certainty which individual ascendancy can afford. Suppose the nations had accepted Charlemagne's project, the world, once deprived of his personal guidance, would simply have fallen back into the inert condition it had required five hundred years of calamity to break up. Or suppose Napoleon had succeeded. Europe would have been a federation guided and controlled by one man, her freedom gone, and all that results from the play of varied national life utterly destroyed. Hildebrand was great, but suppose the Churches had, resisted the organization he, according to Napoleon's theory, was created to enforce ? Great men of this stamp, says Napoleon, "do in a few years the work of centuries." They do, but is it not at least conceivable that wise men might resist a project to force oaks ? The imperial doctrine makes it treason to resist greatness, makes obedience a moral as well as a political law, and would, if logically pressed, compel mankind to alter all existing forms of human society in favour of the elective despotism of the ablest and most farsighted. The first grand principle of freedom, that blunders committed by the people educate them more than great acts done for them, is thrust aside, and we have instead of liberty an autocracy differing from the old one only in this, that instead of claiming to hold of God it claims to hold only of the people. 'The answer to the proposition is simple. We have in Europe

Ctesar, such a competent ruler of men, and he is using his mighty authority to the single end that his son, who may be a fool, shall inherit his immense position.

4. The Emperor assumes that Napoleon was as necessary to Europe, as true an expression of its latent wants as Cmsar was of those of the ancient world. He endorses the vain speech of Napoleon at St. Helena, "What struggles, what bloodshed, what years will be required that the good I wished to do mankind may be realized !" Never was there a greater blunder. That Ctesar was wanted, that the world, civilized but in danger of anarchy, really thirsted for an absolute law under which man- kind could sit secure, and that, the Church not having arisen to give the mighty idea representative government to the world, this want could be obtained only through a personal rule, may be admitted. It is proved by the long peace which the world enjoyed under his successor, by the fact that for 'five hundred years no powerful nation or group of men,—with one exception,—endeavoured to establish any other principle of government. But Napoleon did not succeed. On the contrary, the work it took him fifteen years to accomplish was undone in a day, amid the rejoicings of liberated mankind. The nephew says the ostracism of the uncle did not prevent the resuscitation of the empire, any more than the murder of Julius prevented the reign of Augustus. We say it did. An Empire has revived in France and its chief is a Bonaparte, but it is not Napoleon's empire, not that terrible sway in which kingdoms were reduced to counties and nations to provincials, in which Kings were lieutenants of the Camas and civilized Europe obeyed a conscription for the benefit of one man. Napoleon is great in the world because he has not restored the empire which his uncle failed to found, because England feels her individuality unmenaced and Germany can advance on her freely-chosen path, because the national life of Italy has been set free, not enslaved, because all over the world the nations are helped to acquire the indi- vidual life which Napoleon would have extinguished under one gorgeously sculptured tomb. It was not the French but the European Empire which Europe ostracized ; it is the French and not the European Empire which has been revived.