Napoleon: For and Against

By Pieter Geyl; Olive Renier | Go to book overview
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THE school-book by Driault which I discussed in a former chapter, was part of a Cours complet d'histoire, composed 'in conformity with the programme of May 31st, 1902' for the upper forms (les classes de première). I have before me a section of this Cours complet, composed 'in conformity with the official programmes of June 3rd, 1925'; it is dated 1929. The author is Jules Isaac, 'professeur agrégé d'histoire au Lycée St. Louis'. I will do no more than glance at a few passages to show that in its treatment of the figure and rule of Napoleon it is no milder than its predecessor, the book of Driault, so that it provides the best refutation of the later Driault's assertion that French schoolboys no longer had the finest pages of the history of France mutilated by bad patriots.1

The story of the machine infernale and its aftermath is told with a fair amount of detail. ' Bonaparte made use of the opportunity to rid himself of the republicans . . . He paid little attention to the legal guarantees of individual freedom. It was like a revival of the revolutionary terror and of the monarchical raison d'état.' An illustration shows a print of the period in which a ragged, fierce Jacobin lights the fuse that leads to a small barrel containing powder and shot. One can see from this, says the caption, that the government misled the public into believing that the attempt was a Jacobin plot.2

Napoleon and intellectual life; education. ' Napoleon's only care was to have obedient subjects, and men efficient in their professions. He did not perceive in the slightest degree that intellectual life feeds on liberty, and at times he let this appear in the naivest fashion: "People complain that we have no literature; that is the fault of the Minister of the Interior."'3

From the small chapter about the Council of 1811, I need quote only the title: "'Religious Persecution.'" Thiers would altogether fail to understand that matters could be presented in this way in a republican school. As for Masson, he would roar that one must

cf. above, p. 353.
pp. 264 sqq.
p. 287.


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