Napoleon: For and Against

By Pieter Geyl; Olive Renier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
M. MIGNET

ONE of the remarkable phenomena of the first generation after the fall of Napoleon is the association of Napoleonic legend with radicalism. Indeed we found from Barbier's hymn of hate that opposition under the banner of liberty and 1789 was never interrupted. With regard to historical writing in the earliest period I shall draw attention only to Mignet's short history of the French Revolution, which appeared in 1824, before the legend had really taken shape, but which was continually reprinted. This, too, was the work of a young man. Some hundred pages are devoted to the Consul-Emperor's administration. With a few deft, incisive, strokes Mignet gives us the portrait of a despot who subordinated both the Revolution and the country to himself.

'The nation', says Mignet, speaking of the period of the Peace of Amiens, 'lay in the hands of the great man, or of the despot; his was the choice, either to preserve it in freedom or to enslave it. He preferred his ambitious schemes; he set himself above the rest of mankind, alone. Brought up in camps, a late arrival in the Revolution, he understood only its material side, the language of its interests. He believed neither in the moral cravings which had stirred up the Revolution, nor in the convictions which had swayed it, and which sooner or later were bound to emerge again and bring about his downfall. He saw a revolt approaching its end, a weary people delivering themselves up to him, and a crown which was his for the taking.'

For Mignet the Concordat was nothing more than Bonaparte's plan to acquire domination over the Church, and through the Church, over the people. He concludes his short account of it with the scornful reply of the general whom the First Consul asked how he liked the Te Deum sung after the ratification (all the unbelieving generals of the Revolution had had to attend whether they liked or not): 'Pretty monkish mummery! Only those million men were absent who died to overthrow what you are setting up again.' In the institutions Mignet sees nothing but their lack of freedom. The press, the representative bodies are crippled and

-35-

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Napoleon: For and Against
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface - To the First Dutch Edition 7
  • Part One - The Antithesis at the Beginning 13
  • Chapter I - Chateaubriand 17
  • Chapter II - Madame de StaËl 19
  • Chapter III - The Napoleonic Legend 23
  • Part Two - The First Chroniclers 33
  • Chapter I - M. Mignet 35
  • Chapter II - Baron Bignon 37
  • Chapter III - Armand Lefebvre 45
  • Chapter IV - Adolphe Thiers 53
  • Part Three - Reaction against the Legend 69
  • Chapter I - Jules Barni 73
  • Chapter II - Edgar Quinet 77
  • Chapter III - Pierre Lanfrey 86
  • Chapter IV - Comte D'Haussonville 106
  • Chapter V - Hippolyte Taine 133
  • Part Four - Admirers 149
  • Chapter I - Prince Napoleon 156
  • Chapter II - Henry Houssaye 160
  • Chapter III - Arthur - LÉVy Polemic against Taine 169
  • Chapter IV - FrÉDÉric Masson 177
  • Chapter V - Count Albert Vandal 230
  • Part Five - The Problem of Foreign Policy 233
  • Chapter I - Old Acquaintances 235
  • Chapter II - Emile Bourgeois 241
  • Chapter III - Two More Old Acquaintances 250
  • Chapter IV - Albert Sorel 254
  • Chapter V - Edouard Driault 308
  • Part Six - The Antithesis at the End 349
  • Chapter 1 356
  • Chapter II - A. L. GuÉrard 362
  • Chapter Ill - G. Pariset 364
  • Chapter IV - Jules Isaac 371
  • Chapter V - Charles Seignobos 373
  • Chapter VI - Jacques Bainville 376
  • Chapter VII - Louis Madelin 390
  • Chapter VIII - Gabriel Hanotaux 403
  • Chapter IX - Georges Lefebvre 446
  • Chronological Table 451
  • Index 465
  • Index of Authors 475
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