TOUT POUR ET PAR LE PEUPLE – EVERYTHING FOR AND BY THE PEOPLE
« Pour l’Honneur de la France, pour les intérêts sacrés de l’Humanité – For the Honour of France, for the sacred interests of Humanity »
(Napoléon le Grand, le 17 ventôse an VIII – Samedi 8 mars 1800 – Napoleon the Great, 17th of Ventôse Year VIII – Saturday 8th March 1800)
ON NAPOLEONIC IDEAS
NAPOLEON III, EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH
Translated from the French
by Paul-Napoléon Calland, President of the Bonapartist Movement, and published in French and English in honour of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Napoleon the Great, on the Fifteenth of August, 2019.
Traduit du français par Paul-Napoléon Calland, Président du Mouvement Bonapartiste, et publié en français et en anglais en l’honneur du 250e anniversaire de Napoléon le Grand, le 15 août 2019.
Napoleonic Policy. – The Emperor’s various projects. – Benefits brought to the peoples. – Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Westphalia, Poland. – His intentions for Spain.
There are three ways of conceiving relations between France and foreign governments. They are formulated in the three systems set down as follows –
There is a blind and impassioned policy, that would throw down the gauntlet to all Europe, and dethrone all the kings.
There is another, which is entirely in opposition to this, and which consists of maintaining peace, by buying the friendship of the sovereigns at the expense of the honour and interests of the country.
Lastly, there is a third policy, which frankly offers the alliance of France with all the governments that wish to march, along with her, in the direction of their common interests.
With the first, there can be neither peace nor truce; with the second, there is no war, but also no independence; with the third, no peace without honour, no universal war.
The third system is the Napoleonic policy; it is the one that the Emperor put into practice throughout all his career. If Napoleon succumbed in spite of it, his fall is the result of causes that we shall explain later; but, what is most certain, is that, without this policy, he would never have triumphed over the attacks of Europe. “Rome”, said Montesquieu, “enlarged herself, because she had only wars in succession, each nation, by an inconceivable good fortune, only attacking her after the other had been destroyed”.
What chance and good fortune did for the aggrandisement of Rome, Napoleon obtained in favour of France by his policy.
From 1796 onwards, when, with 30,000 men, he achieved the conquest of Italy, he is not only a great general, but a profound politician. The Directory, in its ignorance of things, sends to General Bonaparte the order to dethrone the king of Sardinia, and to march on Rome, leaving to his rear 80,000 Austrians who were marching out of the Tyrol. Napoleon freed himself from such badly calculated instructions. He concluded an offensive and defensive alliance with the king of Piedmont, made a treaty with the pope, and defeated the Austrians. The fruits of this conduct were the treaty of Campo-Formio. Finally, several years have barely passed, than Napoleon, once head of a State which was at war with all of Europe, gathers under the tricolore flag, to march on Moscow, Prussians, Hanoverians, Dutchmen, Saxons, Westphalians, Poles, Austrians, Wurtembergers, Bavarians, Swiss, Lombards, Tuscans, Neapolitans, etc, etc.
It is by the agglomeration of all these peoples gathered under his orders that we can see the skilfulness of the Emperor’s policy. If he did not succeed in Moscow, it was not that his plans were badly conceived. Of necessity, fatality and the elements were leagued against him. The risks in such a great undertaking are proportional to the results that one wishes to obtain.
As soon as Napoleon was in power, he had, obviously, a general aim to attain, but following the march of events, his views were modified, his aim enlarged or reduced. “I did not have the folly”, he said, “to wish to twist events to fit my system; but, on the contrary, I bent my system to the context of events”.
Ensure the independence of France, and establish a solid European peace, such is the aim that he was so close to reaching, despite the complication of events and the continuous conflict of opposing interests. The more diplomatic secrets are revealed, the more we will be convinced of this truth, that Napoleon was led, step by step, by the force of things as they were, to this gigantic might that was created by war, and that war destroyed. He was not the aggressor; on the contrary, he was ceaselessly obliged to repulse the coalitions of the powers of Europe. If sometimes he seemed to pre-empt the projects of his enemies, it is because it is in the initiative that the guarantee of success lies. “And moreover”, as Mignet says, “the true author of the war is not the one who declares it, but the one who makes it necessary” (1).
(1) Histoire de la Révolution.