Napoleon: For and Against

By Pieter Geyl; Olive Renier | Go to book overview

'And so the imperious despot applied to the white-robed pontiff.' Can this somewhat artificial pathos and sentiment, to which Vandal has recourse upon occasion, hide the strictly practical and mundane nature of his conclusion? He does not attempt to disguise the fact that such was Bonaparte's attitude. Bonaparte, he writes, realized that with all his genius, his power, his glorious armies, his generals, prefects, lawyers, commissioners and gendarmes, he could not hope to drill men's consciences . . . And he worked out in figures the moral strength possessed by the shepherd of souls at Rome. 'How must I treat him?' asked his first envoy to the Holy See. 'Treat him as if he had two hundred thousand men.'1

Do these considerations dispose of d'Haussonville? No: they run parallel, without touching his argument. But they fill in the picture and help us to see Bonaparte's problem as he himself saw it. That in general is the great merit of Vandal's work, that he recreated the period, as it were, from within. But judgment should not therefore abdicate. Later we shall be considering another criticism of Bonaparte's actions in his ecclesiastical policy, a criticism which also proceeded from a standpoint other than that of immediate expediency, and we shall see then that our insight into the problem and the character can be still further enriched.


CONCLUSION

'The standpoint of immediate expediency' is perhaps a less sympathetic way of styling Vandal's attitude to his problems than he deserves. I also, a moment ago, spoke of 'recreating the period from within', and at the beginning of this chapter I referred to Vandal's 'awe when confronted with Fact'.

It must be said, meanwhile, that as in the case of Houssaye's work, the impression gained from L'avènement de Bonaparte depends much on the narrow time limits of the subject matter within which the conception is worked out. We see Bonaparte rising above the confusion and corruption in which, according to the writer, the many-headed administration of the five Directors and the two Councils was so hopelessly involved. Afterwards we see him only in those first days when the task of reform and of construction satisfied his devouring desire for action. Even the violent discarding, after Marengo, of the limitations to which his power was still subject is dealt with only very briefly, while Vandal has

____________________
1
II, 470 sqq.

-230-

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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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