ページの画像
PDF
ePub

10

15

20

The wretch concentered all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE
CHARLES PHILLIPS

HE is fallen' We may now pause before that splendid prodigy, which towered among us like some ancient ruin, whose frown terrified the glance its magnificence attracted. Grand, gloomy, and peculiar, he sat upon the throne, a sceptered hermit, wrapt in the solitude of his own originality. A mind, bold, independent, and decisive, a will despotic in its dictates—an energy that distanced expedition, and a conscience pliable to every touch of interest, marked the outline of this extraordinary character—the most extraordinary, perhaps, that, in the annals of this world, ever rose, or reigned, or fell.

Flung into life in the midst of a revolution that quickened every energy of a people who acknowledge no superior, he commenced his course, a stranger by birth, and a scholar by charity With no friend but his sword, and no fortune but his talents, he rushed into the lists where rank and wealth and genius had arrayed themselves, and competition fled from him as from the glance of destiny. He knew no motive but interest—he acknowledged no criterion but success—he worshiped no God but ambition, and, with an Eastern devotion, he knelt at the shrine of his idolatry.

Subsidiary to this, there was no creed that he did not profess, there was no opinion that he did not promulgate; in the hope of a dynasty, he upheld the Crescent; for the sake of a divorce, he bowed before the Cross; the orphan of St. Louis, he became the adopted child of the Republic; and, with a parricidal ingratitude,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

on the ruins both of the throne and tribune, he reared the throne of his despotism. o A professed Catholic, he imprisoned the Pope; a pretended patriot, he impoverished the country; and, in the name of Brutus, he grasped without remorse and wore without shame the diadem of the Caesars. Through this pantomime of policy, fortune played the clown to his caprices. At his touch, crowns crumbled, beggars reigned, systems vanished, the wildest theories took the color of his whim, and all that was venerable, and all that was novel, changed places with the rapidity of a drama. Even apparent defeat assumed the appearance of victory, his flight from Egypt confirmed his destiny, ruin itself only elevated him to empire. But, if his fortune was great, his genius was transcendent; decision flashed upon his counsels; and it was the same to decide and to perform. To inferior intellects his combinations appeared perfectly impossible, his plans perfectly impracticable; but, in his hands, simplicity marked their development, and success vindicated their adoption. His person partook the character of his mind,-if the one never yielded in the cabinet, the other never bent in the field. Nature had no obstacle that he did not surmount—space no opposition that he did not spurn: and whether amid Alpine rocks, Arabian sands, or Polar snows, he seemed proof against peril, and empowered with ubiquity. The whole continent trembled at beholding the audacity of his designs, and the miracle of their execution. Skepticism bowed to the prodigies of his performance; romance assumed the air of history; nor was there aught too incredible for belief, or too fanciful for expectation, when the world saw a subaltern of Corsica waving his imperial flag over her most ancient capitals. All the visions of antiquity became commonplace in his contemplation; kings were his people—nations were his outposts; and he disposed of courts, and crowns, and camps, and churches, and cabinets, as if they were titular dignitaries of the chess-board. Amid all these changes, he stood immutable as adamant. It mattered little whether in the field or in the drawing-room,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

with the mob or the levee—wearing the Jacobin bonnet or the iron crown—banishing a Braganza, or espousing a Hapsburg—dictating peace on a raft to the Czar of Russia, or contemplating defeat at the gallows of Leipsic—he was still the same military despot.

In this wonderful combination, his affectations of literature must not be omitted. The jailer of the press, he affected the patronage of letters; the proscriber of books, he encouraged philosophy; the persecutor of authors and the murderer of printers, he yet pretended to the nrotection of learning. Such a medley of contradictions, and at the same time, such an individual consistency, were never united in the same character. A royalist—a republican and an emperor—a Mohammedan—a Catholic and a patron of the synagogue—a subaltern and a sovereign—a traitor and a tyrant—a Christian and an infidel—he was, through all his vicissitudes, the same stern, impatient, inflexible original—the same mysterious, incomprehensible self—a man, without a model and without a shadow.

THE TRUE GRANDEUR OF NATIONS
BY CHARLES SUMNER

THE flowers of gentleness, of kindliness, of fidelity, of humanity, which flourish in unregarded luxuriance in the rich meadows of peace, receive unwonted admiration when we discern them in war, like violets shedding their perfume on the perilous edges of the precipice, beyond the smiling borders of civilization. God be praised for all the examples of magnanimous virtue which he has vouchsafed to mankind! God be praised that the Roman emperor, about to start on a distant expedition of war, encompassed by squadrons of cavalry and by golden eagles which moved in the winds, stooped from his saddle to listen to the prayer of the humble widow, demanding justice for the death of her son | God be praised

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

that Sidney, on the field of battle, gave with dying hand the cup of cold water to the dying soldier! That single act of self-forgetful sacrifice has consecrated the fenny field of Zutphen far, oh, far beyond its battle; it has consecrated thy name, gallant Sidney, beyond any feat of thy sword, beyond any triumph of thy pen. But there are hands out-stretched elsewhere than on fields of blood for so little as a cup of cold water; the world is full of opportunities for deeds of kindness. Let me not be told, then, of the virtues of war. Let not the acts of generosity and sacrifice which have triumphed on its fields be invoked in its defense. In the words of Oriental imagery, the poisonous tree, though watered by nectar, can produce only the fruit of death. As we cast our eyes over the history of nations, we discern with horror the succession of murderous slaughters by which their progress has been marked. As the hunter traces the wild beast, when pursued to his lair, by the drops of blood on the earth, so we follow man, faint, weary, staggering with wounds, through the black forest of the past, which he has reddened with his gore. Oh, let it not be in the future ages as in those which we now contemplate. Let the grandeur of man be discerned in the blessings which he has secured; in the good he has accomplished; in the triumphs of benevolence and justice; in the establishment of perpetual peace. And peace has its own peculiar victories, in comparison with which Marathon and Bannockburn and Bunker Hill, fields held sacred in the history of human freedom, shall lose their lustre. Our own Washington rises to a truly heavenly stature—not when we follow him over the ice of the Delaware to the capture of Trenton—not when we behold him victorious over Cornwallis at Yorktown—but when we regard him, in noble deference to justice, refusing the kingly crown which a faithless soldiery proffered, and at a later day upholding the peaceful neutrality of the country, while he received unmoved the clamor of the people wickedly crying for war. To this great work let me summon you. That future which

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

filled the lofty visions of the sages and bards of Greece and Rome, which was foretold by the prophets and heralded by the evangelists,

when man in happy isles or in a new paradise shall confess the

loveliness of peace, may be secured by your care, if not for yourselves, at least for your children. Believe that you can do it, and you can do it. The true golden age is before you, not behind you. Let it not be said that the age does not demand this work. The mighty conquerors of the past from their fiery sepulchres demand it; the blood of millions unjustly shed in war crying from the ground demands it; the voices of all good men demand it; the conscience even of the soldier whispers “peace.” There are considerations springing from our situation and condition which fervently invite us to take the lead in this great work. To this should bend the patriotic ardor of the land; the ambition of the statesman; the efforts of the scholar; the pervasive influence of the press; the mild persuasion of the sanctuary; the early teachings of the school. Here, in ampler ether and diviner air, are untried fields for exalted triumphs, more truly worthy the American name than any snatched from rivers of blood. War is known as the last reason of kings. Let it be no reason of our republic. Let us renounce and throw off forever the yoke of a tyranny more oppressive than any in the annals of the world. As those standing on the mountain tops first discern the coming beams of morning, let us, from the vantageground of liberal institutions, first recognize the ascending sun of a new era. Lift high the gates and let the King of glory in—the King of true glory, of peace. I catch the last words of music from the lips of innocence and beauty—

“And let the whole earth be filled with his glory !”

It is a beautiful picture in Grecian story that there was at least one spot, the small island of Delos, dedicated to the gods, and kept at all times sacred from war, where the citizens of hostile countries met and united in a common worship. So let us dedicate our broad country. The temple of honor shall be surrounded by the temple of concord, so that the former can be entered only

« 前へ次へ »