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Chapter 3

  • The fundamental and essential significance of the European events of th_eginning of the nineteenth century lies in the movement of the mass of th_uropean peoples from west to east and afterwards from east to west. Th_ommencement of that movement was the movement from west to east. For th_eoples of the west to be able to make their warlike movement to Moscow it wa_ecessary: (1) that they should form themselves into a military group of _ize able to endure a collision with the warlike military group of the east,
  • (2) that they should abandon all established traditions and customs, and (3)
  • that during their military movement they should have at their head a man wh_ould justify to himself and to them the deceptions, robberies, and murder_hich would have to be committed during that movement.
  • And beginning with the French Revolution the old inadequately large group wa_estroyed, as well as the old habits and traditions, and step by step a grou_as formed of larger dimensions with new customs and traditions, and a man wa_roduced who would stand at the head of the coming movement and bear th_esponsibility for all that had to be done.
  • A man without convictions, without habits, without traditions, without a name,
  • and not even a Frenchman, emerges—by what seem the strangest chances—fro_mong all the seething French parties, and without joining any one of them i_orne forward to a prominent position.
  • The ignorance of his colleagues, the weakness and insignificance of hi_pponents, the frankness of his falsehoods, and the dazzling and self-
  • confident limitations of this man raise him to the head of the army. Th_rilliant qualities of the soldiers of the army sent to Italy, his opponents'
  • reluctance to fight, and his own childish audacity and self-confidence secur_im military fame. Innumerable so called chances accompany him everywhere. Th_isfavor into which he falls with the rulers of France turns to his advantage.
  • His attempts to avoid his predestined path are unsuccessful: he is no_eceived into the Russian service, and the appointment he seeks in Turke_omes to nothing. During the war in Italy he is several times on the verge o_estruction and each time is saved in an unexpected manner. Owing to variou_iplomatic considerations the Russian armies—just those which might hav_estroyed his prestige—do not appear upon the scene till he is no longe_here.
  • On his return from Italy he finds the government in Paris in a process o_issolution in which all those who are in it are inevitably wiped out an_estroyed. And by chance an escape from this dangerous position present_tself in the form of an aimless and senseless expedition to Africa. Again so-
  • called chance accompanies him. Impregnable Malta surrenders without a shot;
  • his most reckless schemes are crowned with success. The enemy's fleet, whic_ubsequently did not let a single boat pass, allows his entire army to elud_t. In Africa a whole series of outrages are committed against the almos_narmed inhabitants. And the men who commit these crimes, especially thei_eader, assure themselves that this is admirable, this is glory- it resemble_aesar and Alexander the Great and is therefore good.
  • This ideal of glory and grandeur—which consists not merely in considerin_othing wrong that one does but in priding oneself on every crime one commits,
  • ascribing to it an incomprehensible supernatural significance—that ideal,
  • destined to guide this man and his associates, had scope for its developmen_n Africa. Whatever he does succeeds. The plague does not touch him. Th_ruelty of murdering prisoners is not imputed to him as a fault. Hi_hildishly rash, uncalled-for, and ignoble departure from Africa, leaving hi_omrades in distress, is set down to his credit, and again the enemy's flee_wice lets him slip past. When, intoxicated by the crimes he has committed s_uccessfully, he reaches Paris, the dissolution of the republican government,
  • which a year earlier might have ruined him, has reached its extreme limit, an_is presence there now as a newcomer free from party entanglements can onl_erve to exalt him—and though he himself has no plan, he is quite ready fo_is new role.
  • He had no plan, he was afraid of everything, but the parties snatched at hi_nd demanded his participation.
  • He alone—with his ideal of glory and grandeur developed in Italy and Egypt,
  • his insane self-adulation, his boldness in crime and frankness in lying—h_lone could justify what had to be done.
  • He is needed for the place that awaits him, and so almost apart from his wil_nd despite his indecision, his lack of a plan, and all his mistakes, he i_rawn into a conspiracy that aims at seizing power and the conspiracy i_rowned with success.
  • He is pushed into a meeting of the legislature. In alarm he wishes to flee,
  • considering himself lost. He pretends to fall into a swoon and says senseles_hings that should have ruined him. But the once proud and shrewd rulers o_rance, feeling that their part is played out, are even more bewildered tha_e, and do not say the words they should have said to destroy him and retai_heir power.
  • Chance, millions of chances, give him power, and all men as if by agreemen_o-operate to confirm that power. Chance forms the characters of the rulers o_rance, who submit to him; chance forms the character of Paul I of Russia wh_ecognizes his government; chance contrives a plot against him which not onl_ails to harm him but confirms his power. Chance puts the Duc d'Enghien in hi_ands and unexpectedly causes him to kill him—thereby convincing the mob mor_orcibly than in any other way that he had the right, since he had the might.
  • Chance contrives that though he directs all his efforts to prepare a_xpedition against England (which would inevitably have ruined him) he neve_arries out that intention, but unexpectedly falls upon Mack and th_ustrians, who surrender without a battle. Chance and genius give him th_ictory at Austerlitz; and by chance all men, not only the French but al_urope—except England which does not take part in the events about t_appen—despite their former horror and detestation of his crimes, no_ecognize his authority, the title he has given himself, and his ideal o_randeur and glory, which seems excellent and reasonable to them all.
  • As if measuring themselves and preparing for the coming movement, the wester_orces push toward the east several times in 1805, 1806, 1807, and 1809,
  • gaining strength and growing. In 1811 the group of people that had formed i_rance unites into one group with the peoples of Central Europe. The strengt_f the justification of the man who stands at the head of the movement grow_ith the increased size of the group. During the ten-year preparatory perio_his man had formed relations with all the crowned heads of Europe. Th_iscredited rulers of the world can oppose no reasonable ideal to th_nsensate Napoleonic ideal of glory and grandeur. One after another the_asten to display their insignificance before him. The King of Prussia send_is wife to seek the great man's mercy; the Emperor of Austria considers it _avor that this man receives a daughter the Caesars into his bed; the Pope,
  • the guardian of all that the nations hold sacred, utilizes religion for th_ggrandizement of the great man. It is not Napoleon who prepares himself fo_he accomplishment of his role, so much as all those round him who prepare hi_o take on himself the whole responsibility for what is happening and has t_appen. There is no step, no crime or petty fraud he commits, which in th_ouths of those around him is not at once represented as a great deed. Th_ost suitable fete the Germans can devise for him is a celebration of Jena an_uerstadt. Not only is he great, but so are his ancestors, his brothers, hi_tepsons, and his brothers-in-law. Everything is done to deprive him of th_emains of his reason and to prepare him for his terrible part. And when he i_eady so too are the forces.
  • The invasion pushes eastward and reaches its final goal—Moscow. That city i_aken; the Russian army suffers heavier losses than the opposing armies ha_uffered in the former war from Austerlitz to Wagram. But suddenly instead o_hose chances and that genius which hitherto had so consistently led him by a_ninterrupted series of successes to the predestined goal, an innumerabl_equence of inverse chances occur—from the cold in his head at Borodino to th_parks which set Moscow on fire, and the frosts—and instead of genius,
  • stupidity and immeasurable baseness become evident.
  • The invaders flee, turn back, flee again, and all the chances are now not fo_apoleon but always against him.
  • A countermovement is then accomplished from east to west with a remarkabl_esemblance to the preceding movement from west to east. Attempted drives fro_ast to west—similar to the contrary movements of 1805, 1807, and 1809—preced_he great westward movement; there is the same coalescence into a group o_normous dimensions; the same adhesion of the people of Central Europe to th_ovement; the same hesitation midway, and the same increasing rapidity as th_oal is approached.
  • Paris, the ultimate goal, is reached. The Napoleonic government and army ar_estroyed. Napoleon himself is no longer of any account; all his actions ar_vidently pitiful and mean, but again an inexplicable chance occurs. Th_llies detest Napoleon whom they regard as the cause of their sufferings.
  • Deprived of power and authority, his crimes and his craft exposed, he shoul_ave appeared to them what he appeared ten years previously and one yea_ater—an outlawed brigand. But by some strange chance no one perceives this.
  • His part is not yet ended. The man who ten years before and a year later wa_onsidered an outlawed brigand is sent to an island two days' sail fro_rance, which for some reason is presented to him as his dominion, and guard_re given to him and millions of money are paid him.