February 21, 2013

Napoleon On Public Opinion


From, "The Mind of Napoleon: A Selection from His Written and Spoken Words," edited and translated by J. Christopher Herold. Columbia University Press: New York. 1955. Pg. 120-121.
[Conversation, 1815] Public opinion is an invisible power, mysterious and irresistible. Nothing is more mobile, nothing vaguer, nothing stronger. No matter how capricious, it nonetheless is truthful, reasonable, and just, far more often than one would think.

[Stenographic transcript, Conseil d'État, 1804] We are here to guide public opinion, not to discuss it.

[Letter to Fouche, 1804]  Barère still believes that the masses must be stirred. On the contrary, they must be guided without their noticing it.

[Letter to Murat, 1806] The opinion of the population signifies nothing.

[Conversation, 1817, reported in English] I always went along with the opinion of the masses and with events. I always paid little attention to individual opinions and a great deal to public opinion.

[Conversation, 1816] Absolute power has no need to lie: it is silent. Responsible government, on the other hand, being obliged to speak, dissimulates and lies shamelessly.