Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

[Review of Joel T. Headley, Napoleon and His Marshals]

As we pass the old brick chapel, our eye is sometimes arrested by placards that hang side by side. On one is advertised “The Lives of the Apostles,” on the other “Napoleon and His Marshals.”

Surely it is the most monstrous thing the world ever saw that eighteen hundred years' profound devotion to a religious teacher should not preclude flagrant, and all but universal, violation of his most obvious precepts. That Napoleon and his Marshals should be some of the best ripened fruit of our time; that our own people, so unwearied in building up temples of wood and stone to the Prince of Peace, should be at this moment mad with boyish exultation at the winning of a battle, and in a bad cause too.

In view of such facts we cannot wonder that Dr. Channing, the Editor of The Tribune, and others who make Christianity their standard, should find little savor in glowing expositions of the great French drama and be disgusted at words of defence, still more admiration, spoken in behalf of its leading actor.

We can easily admit at once that the whole French drama was anti-Christian just as the national conduct of every nation of Christendom has been thus far, with rare and brief exceptions. Something different might have been expected from our own, because the world has now attained a clearer consciousness of right, and in our own case our position would have made obedience easy. We have not been led into temptation; we sought it. It is greed, and not want, that has impelled this nation to wrong. The paths of peace would have been for her also the paths of wisdom and of pleasantness, but she would not, and has preferred the path of the beast of prey in the uncertain forest to the green pastures where “walks the good Shepherd, His meek temples crowned with roses red and white.”

Since the state of things is such, we see no extremity of censure that should fall upon the great French leader, except that he was like the majority. He was ruthless and selfish on a larger scale than most monarchs, but we see no difference in grain or in principles of action.

-448-

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