March 11, 2013

Napoleon On Various Subjects


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.
On New Discoveries in Science: 
[Conversation, 1817] Mankind is young and the earth is old. The human race has existed for six to seven thousand years at most, and thousands of years from now man will be quite different from what he is at present. Sciences will be so advanced then that perhaps a way will have been found to prolong life indefinitely. Chemistry as applied to plants and agriculture is still in its infancy. Not many centuries ago, we discovered certain extraordinary properties of bodies which our present knowledge cannot explain---magnetism, electricity, galvanism. How many discoveries will have been made thousands of years from now! [Pg. 136-137].

On The Social And Political Uses of Religion:
[Conversation, 1800] How can there be any order in a State without religion? Society cannot exist without inequality of fortune, and inequality of fortune cannot exist without religion.

[Conseil d'Etat, 1806] In religion I do not see the mystery of the Incarnation but the mystery of the social order. Religion associates with Heaven an idea of equality which prevents the rich from being massacred by the poor. [Pg. 104-105].

On Diplomacy:
[Letter to Talleyrand, 1802] [Tell the French minister in Washington] that the first qualification of a diplomat is the ability to keep silent; that in the foreign service there are few conversations, that conversations are conferences; . . . that the foremost quality expected in a nation's representative is to see things not as they are seen in the country where he is but as they are seen in the country which is represents. [Pg. 169-170].

On Dogs And Men:
[Conversation, December 1815, reported by Las Cases] Napoleon told how, after one of the great battles of the Italian campaign [of 1796-97], he and two or three others crossed the battlefield, which had not yet been cleared of corpses. "We were alone, in the profound solitude of a beautiful moonlit night. Suddenly a dog leaped out from under the cloak of a corpse, came running toward us, and almost immediately afterward ran back to its shelter, howling piteously. He licked his master's face, ran back to us, and repeated this several times: he was seeking help and revenge at the same time. I don't know whether it was the mood of the moment, or the place, or the time, or the action in itself, or what---at any rate, it's a fact that nothing I saw on any other battlefield ever produced a like impression on me. I stopped involuntarily to contemplate this spectacle. This man, I said to myself, has friends, perhaps. He may have some at the camp, in his company--and here he lies, abandoned by all except his dog. What a lesson nature was teaching us through an animal!

"What a strange thing is man! How mysterious are the workings of his sensibility! I had commanded in battles that were to decide the fate of a whole army, and I had felt no emotion. I had watched the execution of maneuvers that were bound to cost the lives of many among us, and my eyes had remained dry. And suddenly I was shaken, turned inside out, by a dog howling in pain!" [Pg. 205-206].

On The Reign of Terror And The French Revolution:
[Conversation, 1809] I saw what the Reign of Terror was like, and the public calamities of the times. But so long as I live, these times won't come back, you may take my word for it. Your planners are putting utopias on paper. There are imbeciles who read those daydreams; they are circulated, they are believed, everybody talks about universal welfare. Then comes a famine, the people rise in rebellion, and there you have the fruit of your fine theories! . . . . In the last analysis, gentlemen, it isn't really up to me to speak ill of the Revolution, since I ended up by snatching the throne. The reign of the troublemakers is finished. What I want is subordination. Respect authority, because it comes from God. [Pg. 266].