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Cristian Butnariu







Napoleon Bonaparte

~ Volume One ~



Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me” – Napoleon Buonaparte



Table of Contents

  1. Chapter I - Introduction

  2. Chapter II - The Buonaparte in Corsica

  3. Chapter III - Napoleon’s birth and childhood

  4. Chapter IV - Napoleon’s school-days

  5. Chapter V - In Paris and Valence

  6. Chapter VI – Private study and garrison life

  7. Chapter VII – Further attempts at authorship

  8. Chapter VIII – The Revolution in France

  9. Chapter IX – Buonaparte and Revolution in Corsica

  10. Chapter X - First Lessons in Revolution

  11. Chapter XI – Traits of Character

  12. Chapter XII – The Revolution in Rhone Valley

  13. Chapter XIII – Buonaparte the Corsican Jacobin

  14. Chapter XIV – Buonaparte the French Jacobin

  15. Chapter XV – A Jacobin Hegira

  16. Chapter XVI – “The Supper of Beaucaire”

  17. Chapter XVII – Toulon

  18. Chapter XVIII - A Jacobin General

  19. Chapter XIX – Vicissitudes in War and Diplomacy

  20. Chapter XX – The End of Apprenticeship

  21. Chapter XXI – The Antechamber to Success

  22. Chapter XXII - Buonaparte the General of the Convention

  23. Chapter XXIII – The Day of the Paris Sections

  24. Chapter XXIV – A Marriage of Inclination and Interest

  25. Chapter XXV – Europe and the Directory

  26. Chapter XXVI – Buonaparte on a Great Stage

  27. Chapter XXVII – The Conquest of Piedmont and Milanese

  28. Chapter XXVIII – An Insubordinate Conqueror and Diplomatist

  29. Chapter XIX – Bassano and Arcola

  30. Chapter XXX – Buonaparte’s Imperious Spirit

  31. Chapter XXXI – Rivoli and the Capitulation of Mantua

  32. Chapter XXXII – Humiliation of the Papacy and of Venice

  33. Chapter XXXIII – The Preliminaries of Peace-Leoben

  34. Chapter XXXIV – The Fall of Venice



Chapter I – Introduction

The Revolutionary Epoch in Europe Its Dominant Personage The State System of Europe The Power of Great Britain Feebleness of Democracy The Expectant Attitude of the Continent Survival of Antiquated Institutions The American Revolution Philosophical Sophistries Rousseau His Fallacies Corsica as a Centre of Interest Its Geography Its Rulers The People Sampiero Revolutions Spanish Alliance King Theodore French Intervention Supremacy of Genoa Paoli His Success as a Liberator His Plan for Alliance with France The Policy of Choiseul Paoli’s Reputation Napoleon’s Account of Corsica and of Paoli Rousseau and Corsica.

Napoleon Bonaparte was the representative man of the epoch which ushered in the nineteenth century. Though an aristocrat by descent, he was in life, in training, and in quality neither that nor a plebeian; he was the typical plain man of his time, exhibiting the common sense of a generation which thought in terms made current by the philosophy of the eighteenth century. His period was the most tumultuous and yet the most fruitful in the world’s history. But the progress made in it was not altogether direct; rather was it like the advance of a traveller whirled through the spiral tunnels of the St. Gotthard. Flying from the inclemency of the north, he is carried by the ponderous train due southward into the opening.

After a time of darkness he emerges into the open air. But at first sight the goal is no nearer; the direction is perhaps reversed, the skies are more forbidding, the chill is more intense. Only after successive ventures of the same kind is the climax reached, the summit passed, and the vision of sunny plains opened to view. Such experiences are more common to the race than to the individual; the muse of history must note and record them with equanimity, with a buoyancy and hopefulness born of larger knowledge. The movement of civilization in Europe during the latter portion of the eighteenth century was onward and upward, but it was at times not only devious, slow and laborious, but fruitless in immediate results.

We must study the age and the people of any great man if we sincerely desire the truth regarding his strength and weakness, his inborn tendencies and purposes, his failures and successes, the temporary incidents and the lasting, constructive, meritorious achievements of his career. This is certainly far truer of Napoleon than of any other heroic personage; an affectionate awe has sometimes lifted him to heaven, a spiteful hate has often hurled him down to hell. Every nation, every party, faction, and cabal among his own and other peoples, has judged him from its own standpoint of self-interest and self-justification.

Whatever chance there may be of reading the secrets of his life lies rather in a just consideration of the man in relation to his times, about which much is known, than in an attempt at the psychological dissection of an enigmatical nature, about which little is known, in spite of the fullness of our information. The abundant facts of his career are not facts at all unless considered in the light not only of a great national life, but of a continental movement which embraced in its day all civilization, not excepting that of Great Britain and America.

The states of Europe are sisters, children of the Holy Roman Empire. In the formation of strong nationalities with differences in language, religion, and institutions the relationship was almost forgotten, and in the intensity of later rivalry is not always even now remembered. It is, however, so close that at any epoch there is traceable a common movement which occupies them all. By the end of the fourteenth century they had secured their modern form in territorial and race unity with a government by monarchy more or less absolute.

The fifteenth century saw with the strengthening of the monarchy the renascence of the fine arts, the great inventions, the awakening of enterprise in discovery, the mental quickening which began to call all authority to account. The sixteenth was the age of the Reformation, an event too often belittled by ecclesiastics who discern only its schismatic character, and not sufficiently emphasized by historians as the most pregnant political fact of any age with respect to the rise and growth of free institutions.

The seventeenth century saw in England the triumph of political ideas adapted to the new state of society which had arisen, but subversive of the tyrannical system which had done its work, a work great and good in the creation of peoples and the production of social order out of chaos. For a time it seemed as if the island state were to become the overshadowing influence in all the rest of Europe. By the middle of the century her example had fired the whole continent with notions of political reform. The long campaign which she and her allies waged with varying fortune against Louis XIV, commanding the conservative forces of the Latin blood, and the Roman religion ended unfavourably to the latter. At the close of the Seven Years’ War there was not an Englishman in Europe or America or in the colonies at the antipodes whose pulse did not beat high as he saw his motherland triumphant in every quarter of the globe.

But these very successes, intensifying the bitterness of defeat and everything connected with it, prevented among numerous other causes the triumph of constitutional government anywhere in continental Europe. Switzerland was remote and inaccessible; her beacon of democracy burned bright, but its rays scarcely shone beyond the mountain valleys. The Dutch republic, enervated by commercial success and under a constitution which by its intricate system of checks was a satire on organized liberty, had become a warning rather than a model to other nations.

The other members of the great European state family presented a curious spectacle. On every hand there was a cheerful trust in the future. The present was as bad as possible, but belonged to the passing and not to the coming hour. Truth was abroad, felt the philosophers, and must prevail. Feudal privilege, oppression, vice and venality in government, the misery of the poor all would slowly fade away. The human mind was never keener than in the eighteenth century; reasonableness, hope, and thoroughness characterized its activity. Natural science, metaphysics and historical studies made giant strides, while political theories of a dazzling splendour never equalled before nor since were rife on every side. Such was their power in a buoyant society, awaiting the millennium, that they supplanted entirely the results of observation and experience in the sphere of government.

But neither lever nor fulcrum was strong enough as yet to stir the inert mass of traditional forms. Monarchs still flattered themselves with notions of paternal government and divine right; the nobility still claimed and exercised baseless privileges which had descended from an age when their ancestors held not merely these but the land on which they rested; the burgesses still hugged, as something which had come from above, their dearly bought charter rights, now revealed as inborn liberties. They were thus hardened into a gross contentment dangerous for themselves, and into an indifference which was a menace to others. The great agricultural populations living in various degrees of serfdom still groaned under the artificial oppressions of a society which had passed away. Nominally the peasant might own certain portions of the soil, but he could not enjoy unmolested the airs which blew over it nor the streams which ran through it nor the wild things which trespassed or dwelt on it, while on every side some exasperating demand for the contribution of labour or goods or money confronted him.

In short, the civilized world was in one of those transitional epochs when institutions persist, after the beliefs and conditions which moulded them have utterly disappeared. The inertia of such a rock-ribbed shell is terrible, and while sometimes the erosive power of agitation and discussion suffices to weaken and destroy it, more often the volcanic fires of social convulsion are alone strong enough. The first such shock came from within the English-speaking world itself, but not in Europe. The American colonies, appreciating and applying to their own conditions the principles of the English Revolution, began, and with French assistance completed, the movement which erected in another hemisphere the American republic. Weak and tottering in its infancy, but growing ever stronger and therefore milder, its example began at once to suggest the great and peaceful reforms of the English constitution which have since followed. Threatening absolutism in the strong contrasts its citizens presented to the subjects of other lands, it has been ever since the moral support of liberal movements the world around. England herself, instead of being weakened, was strengthened by the child grown to independent maturity, and a double example of prosperity under constitutional administration was now held up to the continent of Europe.

But it is the greatest proof of human weakness that there is no movement however beneficent, no doctrine however sound, no truth however absolute, but that it can be speciously so extended, so expanded, so emphasized as to lose its identity. Coincident with the political speculation of the eighteenth century appeared the storm and stress of romanticism and sentimentalism. The extremes of morbid personal emotion were thought serviceable for daily life, while the middle course of applying ideals to experience was utterly abandoned. The latest nihilism differs little from the conception of the perfect regeneration of mankind by discarding the old merely because it was old which triumphed in the latter half of the eighteenth century among philosophers and wits. To be sure, they had a substitute for whatever was abolished and a supplement for whatever was left incomplete.

Even the stable sense of the Americans was infected by the virus of mere theories. In obedience to the spirit of the age they introduced into their written constitution, which was in the main but a statement of their deep-seated political habits, a scheme like that of the electoral college founded on some high-sounding doctrine, or omitted from it in obedience to a prevalent and temporary extravagance of protest some fundamental truth like that of the Christian character of their government and laws. If there be anywhere a Christian Protestant state it is the United States; if any futile invention were ever incorporated in a written charter it was that of the Electoral College. The addition of a vague theory or the omission of essential national qualities in the document of the constitution has affected our subsequent history little or not at all.

But such was not the case in a society still under feudal oppression. Fictions like the contract theory of government, exploded by the sound sense of Burke; political generalizations like certain paragraphs of the French Declaration of Rights, every item of which now and here reads like a platitude but was then and there a vivid revolutionary novelty; emotional yearnings for some vague Utopia all fell into fruitful soil and produced a rank harvest, mostly of straw and stalks, although there was some sound grain. The thought of the time was a powerful factor in determining the course and the quality of events throughout all Europe. No nation was altogether unmoved. The centre of agitation was in France, although the little Calvinistic state of Geneva brought forth the prophet and writer of the times.

Rousseau was a man of small learning but great insight. Originating almost nothing, he set forth the ideas of others with incisive distinctness, often modifying them to their hurt, but giving to the form in which he wrote them an air of seductive practicability and reality which alone threw them into the sphere of action. Examining Europe at large, he found its social and political institutions so hardened and so unresponsive that he declared it incapable of movement without an antecedent general crash and breaking up. No laws, he reasoned, could be made because there were no means by which the general will could express itself, such was the rigidity of absolutism and feudalism. The splendid studies of Montesquieu, which revealed to the French the eternal truths underlying the constitutional changes in England, had enlightened and captivated the best minds of his country, but they were too serious, too cold, too dry to move the quick, bright temperament of the people at large. This was the work of Rousseau. Consummate in his literary power, he laid the axe at the root of the tree in his fierce attack on the prevailing education, sought a new basis for government in his peculiar modification of the contract theory, and constructed a substitute system of sentimental morals to supplant the old authoritative one which was believed to underlie all the prevalent iniquities in religion, politics, and society.

His entire structure lacked a foundation either in history or in reason. But the popular fancy was fascinated. The whole flimsy furniture in the chambers of the general mind vanished. New emotions, new purposes, new sanctions appeared in its stead. There was a sad lack of ethical definitions, an over-zealous iconoclasm as to religion, but there were many high conceptions of regenerating society, of liberty, of brotherhood, of equality. The influence of this movement was literally ubiquitous; it was felt wherever men read or thought or talked, and were connected, however remotely, with the great central movement of civilization.

No land and no family could to all outward appearance be further aside from the main channel of European history in the eighteenth century than the island of Corsica and an obscure family by the name of Buonaparte which had dwelt there since the beginning of the eighteenth century. Yet that isolated land and that unknown family were not merely to be drawn into the movement, they were to illustrate its most characteristic phases. Rousseau, though mistakenly, forecast a great destiny for Corsica, declaring in his letters on Poland that it was the only European land capable of movement, of law-making, of peaceful renovation. It was small and remote, but it came near to being an actual exemplification of his favourite and fundamental dogma concerning man in a state of nature, of order as arising from conflict, of government as resting on general consent and mutual agreement among the governed. Toward Corsica, therefore, the eyes of all Europe had long been directed. There, more than elsewhere, the setting of the world-drama seemed complete in miniature, and, in the closing quarter of the eighteenth century, the action was rapidly unfolding a plot of universal interest.

A lofty mountain-ridge divides the island into eastern and western districts. The former is gentler in its slopes, and more fertile. Looking, as it does, toward Italy, it was during the Middle Ages closely bound in intercourse with that peninsula; richer in its resources than the other part, it was more open to outside influences, and for this reason freer in its institutions. The rugged western division had come more completely under the yoke of feudalism, having close affinity in sympathy, and some relation in blood, with the Greek, Roman, Saracenic, and Teutonic race-elements in France and Spain. The communal administration of the eastern slope, however, prevailed eventually in the western as well, and the differences of origin, wealth, and occupation, though at times the occasion of intestine discord, were as nothing compared with the common characteristics which knit the population of the entire island into one national organization, as much a unit as their insular territory.

The people of this small commonwealth were in the main of Italian blood. Some slight connection with the motherland they still maintained in the relations of commerce, and by the education of their professional men at Italian schools. While a small minority supported themselves as tradesmen or seafarers, the mass of the population was dependent for a livelihood upon agriculture. As a nation they had long ceased to follow the course of general European development. They had been successively the subjects of Greece, Rome, and the Califate, of the German-Roman emperors, and of the republic of Pisa. Their latest ruler was Genoa, which had now degenerated into an untrustworthy oligarchy. United to that state originally by terms which gave the island a “speaker” or advocate in the Genoese senate, and recognized the most cherished habits of a hardy, natural-minded, and primitive people, they had little by little been left a prey to their own faults in order that their unworthy mistress might plead their disorders as an excuse for her tyranny. Agriculture languished, and the minute subdivision of arable land finally rendered its tillage almost profitless.

Among a people who are isolated not only as islanders, but also as mountaineers, old institutions are particularly tenacious of life: that of the vendetta, or blood revenge, with the clanship it accompanies, never disappeared from Corsica. In the centuries of Genoese rule the carrying of arms was winked at, quarrels became rife, and often family confederations, embracing a considerable part of the country, were arrayed one against the other in lawless violence. The feudal nobility, few in number, were unrecognized, and failed to cultivate the industrial arts in the security of costly strongholds as their class did elsewhere, while the fairest portions of land not held by them were gradually absorbed by the monasteries, a process favoured by Genoa as likely to render easier the government of a turbulent people. The human animal, however, throve. Rudely clad in homespun, men and women alike cultivated a simplicity of dress surpassed only by their plain living.

There was no wealth except that of fields and flocks, their money consequently was debased and almost worthless. The social distinctions of noble and peasant survived only in tradition, and all classes intermingled without any sense of superiority or inferiority. Elegance of manner, polish, grace, were unsought and existed only by natural refinement, which was rare among a people who were on the whole simple to boorishness. Physically they were, however, admirable. All visitors were struck by the repose and self-reliance of their countenances. The women were neither beautiful, stylish, nor neat. Yet they were considered modest and attractive. The men were more striking in appearance and character. Of medium stature and powerful mould, with black hair, fine teeth, and piercing eyes; with well-formed, agile, and sinewy limbs; sober, brave, trustworthy, and endowed with many other primitive virtues as well, the Corsican was everywhere sought as a soldier, and could be found in all the armies of the southern continental states.

In their periodic struggles against Genoese encroachments and tyranny, the Corsicans had produced a line of national heroes. Sampiero, one of these, had in the sixteenth century incorporated Corsica for a brief hour with the dominions of the French crown, and was regarded as the typical Corsican. Dark, warlike, and revengeful, he had displayed a keen intellect and a fine judgment. Simple in his dress and habits, untainted by the luxury then prevalent in the courts of Florence and Paris, at both of which he resided for considerable periods, he could kill his wife without a shudder when she put herself and child into the hands of his enemies to betray him. Hospitable and generous, but untamed and terrible; brusque, dictatorial, and without consideration or compassion; the offspring of his times and his people, he stands the embodiment of primeval energy, physical and mental.

The submission of a people like this to a superior force was sullen, and in the long century which followed, the energies generally displayed in a well-ordered life seemed among them to be not quenched but directed into the channels of their passions and their bodily powers, which were ready on occasion to break forth in devastating violence. In 1729 began a succession of revolutionary outbursts, and at last in 1730 the communal assemblies united in a national convention, choosing two chiefs, Colonna-Ceccaldi and Giafferi, to lead in the attempt to rouse the nation to action and throw off the unendurable yoke. English philanthropists furnished the munitions of war. The Genoese were beaten in successive battles, even after they brought into the field eight thousand German mercenaries purchased from the Emperor Charles VI. The Corsican adventurers in foreign lands, pleading for their liberties with artless eloquence at every court, filled Europe with enthusiasm for their cause and streamed back to fight for their homes. A temporary peace on terms which granted all they asked was finally arranged through the Emperor’s intervention.

But the two elected chiefs, and a third patriot, Raffaelli, having been taken prisoners by the Genoese, were ungenerously kept in confinement, and released only at the command of Charles. Under the same leaders, now further exasperated by their ill usage, began and continued another agitation, this time for separation and complete emancipation. Giafferi’s chosen adjutant was a youth of good family and excellent parts, Hyacinth Paoli. In the then existing complications of European politics the only available helper was the King of Spain, and to him the Corsicans now applied, but his undertakings compelled him to refuse. Left without allies or any earthly support, the pious Corsicans naively threw themselves on the protection of the Virgin and determined more firmly than ever to secure their independence.

In this crisis appeared at the head of a considerable following, some hundreds in number, the notorious and curious German adventurer, Theodore von Neuhof, who, declaring that he represented the sympathy of the great powers for Corsica, made ready to proclaim himself as king. As any shelter is welcome in a storm, the people accepted him, and he was crowned on April fifteenth, 1736. But although he spoke truthfully when he claimed to represent the sympathy of the powers, he did not represent their strength, and was defeated again and again in encounters with the forces of Genoa.

The oligarchy had now secured an alliance with France, which feared lest the island might fall into more hostile and stronger hands; and before the close of the year the short-lived monarchy ended in the disappearance of Theodore I of Corsica from his kingdom and soon after, in spite of his heroic exertions, from history.

The truth was that some of the nationalist leaders had not forgotten the old patriotic leaning towards France which had existed since the days of Sampiero, and were themselves in communication with the French court and Cardinal Fleury. A French army landed in February, 1738, and was defeated. An overwhelming force was then despatched and the insurrection subsided. In the end France, though strongly tempted to hold what she had conquered, kept her promise to Genoa and disarmed the Corsicans; on the other hand, however, she consulted her own interest and attempted to soothe the islanders by guaranteeing to them national rights.

Such, however, was the prevalent bitterness that many patriots fled into exile; some, like Hyacinth Paoli, choosing the pay of Naples for themselves and followers, others accepting the offer of France and forming according to time-honoured custom a Corsican regiment of mercenaries which took service in the armies of the King. Among the latter were two of some eminence, Buttafuoco and Salicetti. The half measures of Fleury left Corsica, as he intended, ready to fall into his hands when opportunity should be ripe. Even the patriotic leaders were now no longer in harmony. Those in Italy were of the old disinterested line and suspicious of their western neighbor; the others were charged with being the more ambitious for themselves and careless of their country’s liberty. Both classes, however, claimed to be true patriots.

During the War of the Austrian Succession it seemed for a moment as if Corsica were to be freed by the attempt of Maria Theresa to overthrow Genoa, then an ally of the Bourbon powers. The national party rose again under Gaffori, the regiments of Piedmont came to their help, and the English fleet delivered St. Florent and Bastia into their hands. But the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) left things substantially as they were before the war, and in 1752 a new arrangement unsatisfactory to both parties was made with Genoa. It was virtually dictated by Spain and France, England having been alienated by the quarrels and petty jealousies of the Corsican leaders, and lasted only as long as the French occupation continued. Under the leadership of the same dauntless Gaffori who in 1740 had been chosen along with Matra to be a chief commander, the Genoese were once more driven from the highlands into the coast towns. At the height of his success the bold guerrilla fell a victim to family rivalries and personal spite. Through the influence of his despairing foes a successful conspiracy was formed and in the autumn of 1753 he was foully murdered.

But the greatest of these national heroes was also the last Pascal Paoli. Fitted for his task by birth, by capacity, by superior training, this youth was in 1755 made captain-general of the island, a virtual dictator in his twenty-ninth year. His success was as remarkable as his measures were wise. Elections were regulated so that strong organization was introduced into the loose democratic institutions which had hitherto prevented sufficient unity of action in troubled times. An army was created from the straggling bands of volunteers, and brigandage was suppressed. Wise laws were enacted and enforced among them one which made the blood-avenger a murderer, instead of a hero as he had been. Moreover, the foundations of a university were laid in the town of Corte, which was the hearthstone of the liberals because it was the natural capital of the west slope, connected by difficult and defensible paths with every cape and bay and interval of the rocky and broken coast. The Genoese were gradually driven from the interior, and finally they occupied but three harbour towns.

Through skilful diplomacy Paoli created a temporary breach between his oppressors and the Vatican, which, though soon healed, nevertheless enabled him to recover important domains for the state, and prevented the Roman hierarchy from using its enormous influence over the superstitious people utterly to crush the movement for their emancipation. His extreme and enlightened liberalism is admirably shown by his invitation to the Jews, with their industry and steady habits, to settle in Corsica, and to live there in the fullest enjoyment of civil rights, according to the traditions of their faith and the precepts of their law. “Liberty,” he said, “knows no creed. Let us leave such distinctions to the Inquisition.” Commerce, under these influences, began to thrive. New harbours were made and fortified, while the equipment of a few gunboats for their defence marked the small beginnings of a fleet. The haughty men of Corsica, changing their very nature for a season, began to labour with their hands by the side of their wives and hired assistants; to agriculture, industry, and the arts was given an impulse which promised to be lasting.

The rule of Paoli was not entirely without disturbance. From time to time there occurred rebellious outbreaks of petty factions like that headed by Matra, a disappointed rival. But on the whole they were of little importance. Down to 1765 the advances of the nationalists were steady, their battles being won against enormous odds by the force of their warlike nature, which sought honour above all things, and could, in the words of a medieval chronicle, “endure without a murmur watching and pains, hunger and cold, in its pursuit which could even face death without a pang.” Finally it became necessary, as the result of unparalleled success in domestic affairs, that a foreign policy should be formulated. Paoli’s idea was an offensive and defensive alliance with France on terms recognizing the independence of Corsica, securing an exclusive commercial reciprocity between them, and promising military service with an annual tribute from the island. This idea of France as a protector without administrative power was held by the majority of patriots.

But Choiseul, the minister of foreign affairs under Louis XV, would entertain no such visionary plan. It was clear to everyone that the island could no longer be held by its old masters. He had found a facile instrument for the measures necessary to his contemplated seizure of it in the son of a Corsican refugee, that later notorious Buttafuoco, who, carrying water on both shoulders, had ingratiated himself with his father’s old friends, while at the same time he had for years been successful as a French official. Corsica was to be seized by France as a sop to the national pride, a slight compensation for the loss of Canada, and he was willing to be the agent. On August sixth, 1764, was signed a provisional agreement between Genoa and France by which the former was to cede for four years all her rights of sovereignty, and the few places she still held in the island, in return for the latter’s intervention to thwart Paoli’s plan for securing virtual independence. At the end of the period France was to pay Genoa the millions owed to her.

By this time the renown of Paoli had filled all Europe. As a statesman he had skilfully used the European entanglements both of the Bourbon-Hapsburg alliance made in 1756, and of the alliances consequent to the Seven Years’ War, for whatever possible advantage might be secured to his people and their cause. As a general he had found profit even in defeat, and had organized his little forces to the highest possible efficiency, displaying prudence, fortitude, and capacity. His personal character was blameless, and could be fearlessly set up as a model. He was a convincing orator and a wise legislator. Full of sympathy for his backward compatriots, he knew their weaknesses, and could avoid the consequences, while he recognized at the same time their virtues, and made the fullest use of them. Above all, he had the wide horizon of a philosopher, understanding fully the proportions and relations to each other of epochs and peoples, not striving to uplift Corsica merely in her own interest, but seeking to find in her regeneration a leverage to raise the world to higher things. So gracious, so influential, so far-seeing, so all-embracing was his nature, that Voltaire called him “the lawgiver and the glory of his people,” while Frederick the Great dedicated to him a dagger with the inscription, “Libertas, Patria.”

The shadows in his character were that he was imperious and arbitrary; so overmastering that he trained the Corsicans to seek guidance and protection, thus preventing them from acquiring either personal independence or self-reliance. Awaiting at every step an impulse from their adored leader, growing timid in the moment when decision was imperative, they did not prove equal to their task. Without his people Paoli was still a philosopher; without him they became in succeeding years a byword, and fell supinely into the arms of a less noble subjection. In this regard the comparison between him and Washington, so often instituted, utterly breaks down.

“Corsica,” wrote in 1790 a youth destined to lend even greater interest than Paoli to that name “Corsica has been a prey to the ambition of her neighbours, the victim of their politics and of her own wilfulness.... We have seen her take up arms, shake the atrocious power of Genoa, recover her independence, live happily for an instant; but then, pursued by an irresistible fatality, fall again into intolerable disgrace. For twenty-four centuries these are the scenes which recur again and again; the same changes, the same misfortune, but also the same courage, the same resolution, the same boldness.... If she trembled for an instant before the feudal hydra, it was only long enough to recognize and destroy it.

If, led by a natural feeling, she kissed, like a slave, the chains of Rome, she was not long in breaking them. If, finally, she bowed her head before the Ligurian aristocracy, if irresistible forces kept her twenty years in the despotic grasp of Versailles, forty years of mad warfare astonished Europe, and confounded her enemies.”

The same pen wrote of Paoli that by following traditional lines he had not only shown in the constitution he framed for Corsica a historic intuition, but also had found “in his unparalleled activity, in his warm, persuasive eloquence, in his adroit and far-seeing genius,” a means to guarantee it against the attacks of wicked foes.

Such was the country in whose fortunes the “age of enlightenment” was so interested. Montesquieu had used its history to illustrate the loss and recovery of privilege and rights; Rousseau had thought the little isle would one day fill all Europe with amazement. When the latter was driven into exile for his utterances, and before his flight to England, Paoli offered him a refuge. Buttafuoco, who represented the opinion that Corsica for its own good must be incorporated with France, and not merely come under her protection, had a few months previously also invited the Genevan prophet to visit the island, and outline a constitution for its people. But the snare was spread in vain. In the letter which with polished phrase declined the task, on the ground of its writer’s ill-health, stood the words: “I believe that under their present leader the Corsicans have nothing to fear from Genoa. I believe, moreover, that they have nothing to fear from the troops which France is said to be transporting to their shores. What confirms me in this feeling is that, in spite of the movement, so good a patriot as you seem to be continues in the service of the country which sends them.” Paoli was of the same opinion, and remained so until his rude awakening in 1768.

Chapter II – The Bonapartes in Corsica

The French Occupy Corsica Paoli Deceived Treaty between France and Genoa English Intervention Vain Paoli in England British Problems Introduction of the French Administrative System Paoli’s Policy The Coming Man Origin of the Bonapartes The Corsican Branch Their Nobility Carlo Maria di Buonaparte Maria Letizia Ramolino Their Marriage and Naturalization as French Subjects Their Fortunes Their Children.


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