EVEN before the appearance of the historically more important works which I intend to discuss, the problem was clearly set forth by Jules Barni in a critical examination of Thiers's history. The writer lived as a political exile in Switzerland. His book,1 a series of lectures given at Geneva in 1863, was banned in France. A certain number of copies were, of course, distributed clandestinely, but in 1869 the writer had it reprinted in France. He and his publisher believed that the court would leave that edition alone, and indeed as far as I know there was never any prosecution. Jules Barni had translated Kant, and written books such as La morale dans la démocratie, and Les martyres de la libre pensée.
In his examination of Thiers he begins by asking himself what the writer's standpoint is. He finds that Thiers's only measure is success and that he has no moral scale of values. Lamartine had already remarked: 'This author is the accomplice of Fortune: he only recognizes evil-doing when it is punished by adversity.' The conflict between reverence for the historical fact as such ( Barni does not put it in these words), and the consciousness of an obligation to test the fact by eternal moral values, always has and always will exist in both historical study and its object, the strife between men called politics. In those years of resistance to arbitrary power, born of violence in the coup d'état of December 2nd, Frenchmen became very much aware of that conflict.
Barni's little book is no serious contribution to Napoleonic historiography, for it is too purely polemical. But from the mass of Thiers's utterances, discretions and palliations, Barni skilfully extracts the spirit of the great work, and most of the theses inspiring the four later works, which I shall be discussing shortly, are to be found in his book.
Barni has no patience with the idea of Napoleon as propagator of the Revolution. Rather does he regard him as the man who obstructed the Revolution, and where he could not destroy it, debased it. I will glance at one or two of the points he makes.____________________