« AnteriorContinuar »
gation proceeds, the colors deepen and the character grows dark.
Napoleon was one of the few men who spring, per saltum, to a full and complete development, without toiling through the intermediate stages of learning, experience and progress. In all things, except, indeed, the possession of unlimited power-for, up to that time, he was not independent of the Directory-he was the same man at the beginning of his campaigns in Italy, as he was at the peace of Tilsit. From the moment of his crossing the Alps, he had nothing to learn in the art of war, and nothing to acquire in the "sciences" of rapine, violence, and deceit. As the wars thrust upon Italy, Egypt, Spain, &c., were in the gross gratuitous, wanton, unprovoked aggressions on innocent and helpless people; so were the details of those wars marked by reckless and unscrupulous barbarity. The lives, property, and private rights of inoffensive citizens were treated, severally and collectively, as if they belonged to Napoleon by right of inheritance. Nothing was spared, which an allgrasping general coveted, or a rapacious soldiery could destroy. Private mansions, as well as "humble hamlets" and villages, were burned for pastime; prisoners were butchered in cold blood; and, in short, all the demons of war were impressed into the service of this ferocious conqueror, to be set loose at the close of every victory.
The animus of all this is foreshadowed in Napoleon's first proclamation to the army of Italy:
Soldiers, you are naked and ill-fed. France owes you much, but can give you nothing. I will lead you to the most fertile plains of the world. Wealthy provinces and great towns will be in your power; you will reap honor, glory, and riches, etc., etc.
As a fitting commentary on this promise of general pillage, the great devastator writes after his first battle:
The furious excesses of my half-starved soldiers are enough to make humanity blush.
And two days later he says:
There is less pillage. The first thirst of an army destitute of every thing has been slaked. The poor wretches are excusable. After sighing for the promised land for three years, they have at last reached it and wish to enjoy it.
Among his orders about private property, is this:
Tax the lord of Arquata 50,000 livres. In default of payment, raze his house to the
ground and lay his land waste. He is a furious oligarch, an enemy of France and of the army.
After a time, the casualties of even successful war having reduced the number of his troops, he writes to the Directory that he has already sent them twenty millions of francs in money wrung from the Italians; and that if they will send him thirty thousand more men, he will be able to produce out of the yet unconquered States, twice that sum in money, besides innumerable treasures in the way of works of art, jewelry, museum-collec tions, and whatever other trifles might be scraped together by his skilful marauders.
In Egypt, this game of pillage could not be played to much purpose on account of the poverty of the people; therefore, the deficiency was made up with heads. After the first punishment of the revolters at Cairo had been inflicted with a barbarity that would be incredible, did not the correspondence attest it, Napoleon ordered all the prisoners to be beheaded. Soon after that, he writes that "order is now reëstablished in Cairo. Every night we cut off thirty heads. I think this will be a good lesson to them." We have here, also, Napoleon's own order for the massacre of the two thousand Jaffa prisoners.
This system of governing a conquered peo ple by means of "good lessons," continued to be one of Napoleon's favorites during his whole career. In 1806, after making his brother Joseph a present of the kingdom of Naples, he writes:
The fate of your reign depends on your conduct when you return to Calabria. There must be no forgiveness. Shoot at least six hundred rebels. They have murdered more soldiers than that. Burn the houses of thirty of the principal persons in the villages and distribute their property among the soldiers. Take away all arms from the inhabitants, and give up to pillage five or six of the large villages. When Placenza rebelled, I ordered Junot to burn two villages and shoot the chiefs, among whom were six priests. It will be some time before they rebel again.
A week later he writes:
I wish the rabble at Naples would revolt. Until you make an example, you will not be master. I should consider an insurrection in
Naples in the same light as a father of a family would regard the small-pox for his children, provided it did not weaken the invalid too much.
Does any curious reader pause to inquire, "Who were these Italians and Egyptians, to whom these good lessons were so freely ad
ministered?" Alas! they were peaceable, harmless, ignorant people, the greater part of whom had never heard the name of their destroyer until they heard the sound of his guns; who owed him and France no more allegiance, than we owe to Theodorus of Abyssinia; and over whom he and France had no more right of control than the king of the Fejee islands has over the British Parliament. The relative rights of the parties were precisely those which exist between the passengers and crew of a merchantman when their ship is boarded by a band of pirates.
Does any curious reader inquire, further, under what pretext Napoleon assumed the right to administer these "good lessons"? The pretext was the battle-cry of liberty, equality, and fraternity; and this was paraphrased in the proclamations, which promised the destruction of tyranny and the liberation of the people, wherever the liberating army carried its victories. After this fashion, Piedmont, Lombardy, Parma, Modena, and Venice were "liberated;" and before marching on Rome with the same philanthropic purpose, Napoleon proclaimed that,
In order to reassure the people, it is necessary to let them know that we are their friends, and particularly the friends of the descendants of the Brutuses, the Scipios, and of the other great men whom we have taken for our models.
Yet, with commendable candor, he at the same time wrote to the Directory that, if they would send him plenty of reinforcements,
Rome, Trieste, and even a part of the kingdom of Naples will become our prey;
which, indeed, they did, in due time. Napoleon's shameless duplicity in his dealings
with the Pope-writing to him the most respectful and conciliatory letters, and, at the same time, in his letters to the Directory, exulting over the exactions he was about to levy on His Holiness-is fully exposed in this correspondence. He says, among other things,
In my opinion, when Rome is deprived of Bologna, Ferrara, Romagna, and the thirty millions we take from her, she cannot exist: the old machine will tumble to pieces of itself.
We cannot pursue this subject, because, however interesting, it is inexhaustible. We have said enough to call to the correspondence the attention of those who can gain access to it, and who have the leisure and the inclination to study it. To others, we recommend a careful reading of the Edinburgh Review for October, 1867-from which we make this concluding extract:
As regards the man himself, the dominant impression that will be left on the reader's mind will, we think, be that of meanness-of moral littleness, strangely combined with great strength of will and unrivalled activity of mind. Napoleon was in truth an actor, and in his correspondence we view him from behind the scenes. The vulgar applause of the multitude can no longer deceive those who know his history as it is there written with his own hand. His duplicity, his bombast and mock heroism, his studied violence, his love of false grandeur, his envy in the midst of unrivalled greatness, his hatred and distrust of all that was really good and great, his vulgar arrogance, his indifference to the sufferings of others, his selfish and insensate ambition, are conspicuous in every page. This greatest of modern conquerors was not a hero, for the great soul-the magnanimity-which alone makes heroes, he never possessed.
CHIEF JUSTICE CHASE.
SALMON PORTLAND CHASE, Senator of the United States, Governor for two successive terms of the State of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln, and appointed Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States on the death of the superfluous Roger Taney, was born in the little town of Cornish, N. H., January 13, 1808. At the age of twelve he went to Worthington, Ohio, and prepared himself for college under the eye of his uncle, Philander Chase, who was then bishop of the State. He entered Cincinnati College, of which his uncle had been made President, and, after a short stay there, returned to New Hampshire, to be near his mother, who was now become blind. He entered Dartmouth College in 1824 as a junior, and graduated in 1826. He then went to Washington, hoping to get some advancement from his uncle, Dudley Chase, then a Senator from Vermont. At first he advertised for pupils, intending to open a private school; but failing in that, he applied to his uncle for help in gaining a clerkship in the Treasury Department; but the Senator was perhaps afraid of the suspicion of nepotism, and refused to help his nephew. Casting about for some means of earning a living, it happened that young Chase fell in with a Mr. Plumley, who offered him the transfer of a flourishing boys' school of which he was master. In this school were the sons of several men of note-of Henry Clay, of William Wirt, of Samuel L. Southard, and others; and Chase, having studied law under the direction of Wirt in the hours when he was not occupied with teaching, was enabled, after three years, to enter the bar of the District of Columbia. This was in 1829. In 1830 he went again to Cincinnati, which since that time has been his home. Mr. Chase took no part in public life until 1841; nevertheless, he had made his name known to the people of the whole country by his undisguised opposition to the extension of slavery, and his resistance to the efforts that were being made by parties in the North as well as in the South to engraft slavery upon the National Government. It would be long to give a detailed account of the different steps by which Mr. Chase gained this national reputation as an anti-slavery man, but we may say briefly that the history of his life is the history of the whole struggle in this country between Slavery and Freedom outside of the real anti-slavery party, that of the Garrison abolitionists. With these men Chase never affiliated; he has always been essentially a politician, and has held steadily, from the first, to his belief in constitutional remedies for all political evils. While he was working his way slowly in his profession, he prepared an edition of the Statutes of Ohio, which was soon accepted as the standard, and gave him reputation. Practice now flowed in, and in 1834 he became Solicitor of the Bank of the United States in Cincinnati. In 1837 he acted as counsel for a colored woman claimed as a fugitive slave; and in an elaborate argument, which was afterward published, he took the ground he never afterward abandoned that Congress has no right to impose any duties or confer any powers on State magistrates in fugitive-slave cases. In this position he was afterwards sustained by the United States Supreme Court. On this occasion he also argued that the law of 1793 relative to fugitives from service was void, since it is not contained in the Constitution of the United States. These two points contain the gist of Mr. Chase's arguments against slavery, whether presented in the court, on the political platform, or in the Senate. If he never receded from either of these positions, he also never advanced beyond them to higher principles; and in spite of his fidelity to the cause of territorial freedom, his name has never been a watchword to those who have been fighting the battle of Freedom for man. As Governor of Ohio, elected in 1857 and reëlected in 1858, Mr. Chase added to a reputation already greatly distinguished. Public economy and the interests of education in the State were his first care, and he has left his name written all over the statute-books of the State. In March, 1861, Governor Chase was invited by Mr. Lincoln to take charge of the Treasury Department, on the resignation of General Dix. He accepted the post, was confirmed by the Senate, and entered
upon a task as arduous as ever was set before any man in any country. We cannot attempt to record the history of his administration in this place. It is a record of unsullied splendor, and has justly won for him the gratitude of every true American citizen. Yet praise must not stop short at his integrity, his zeal, or his unintermitted labor in the discharge of his office. What makes the peculiar glory of this administration, is that the Secretary saved the nation in a momentous crisis, not by any trick of diplomacy or finance, but by moral force. He put the question to the people squarely: The Government wants money. If it does not have it, we shall be beaten. Will you lend us your savings? He believed in the people, he trusted in them; when every other face was clouded, he stood in the sun. The people met him with an equal courage, and freely gave him all the money he wanted. On the day after the assassination of Mr. Lincoln more money was poured into the Treasury than was ever given to any government in a single day. This was a free offering; but it will easily be understood that, before these popular loans could be induced, the people had to be educated to understand the method and appreciate the value of the security. To do this, required a prodigious amount of work, and Mr. Chase gave himself up to the task with all his energies, fortunate in the aid of such men as Jay Cooke, Chittenden, and Spinner, and many other good men and true less publicly known. Of later events in the life of Mr. Chase, this is not the place to speak. Rumor has for many months coupled his name with ambition, and has not forborne to smirch the ermine that the Chief-Justice wears, by imputations that we, at least, will not believe till they are proved. The men among us who have been faithful in every ordeal, who have never failed from duty, are not so many that we can afford to lose even one. It is our duty to stand by them-to be true to them, as they have been true to us.