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.