Napoleon Bonaparte was born August 15, 1769 in the town of Ajaccio on Corsica, France and died on May 5, 1821 on the island of St. Helena after being imprisoned by the British. A general in the French Revolution he became Emperor of France, staging military victories against Europe until his invasion of Russia failed and he ultimately met his Waterloo in 1815. Civilly, he is best known for his Napoleonic Code, a blueprint for French Government and a model for the “rule of law” throughout the world.
Let’s get right to it. You started out as a democrat and ended up a despot.
How would you define each? Let’s start with the first, democracy.
The life of a citizen is the property of his country. (Political Aphorisms, Moral and Philosophical Thoughts; 1848 - known as Maxims of Napoleon)
And being a Despot?
Greatness is nothing unless it be lasting. (Maxims of Napoleon)
Morality has nothing to do with such a man as I am.
(As quoted in The Story of World Progress (1922) by Willis Mason West, p. 433)
What caused the transition?
Those who are free from common prejudices acquire others
(Memoirs of Napoleon)
Let’s explore this further? What is the essence of a nation?
A form of government that is not the result of a long sequence of shared experiences, efforts, and endeavors can never take root. (Statement (1803) as quoted in The Mind of Napoleon (1955) by J. Christopher Herold)
And the key to success for a nation?
Unite for the public safety, if you would remain an independent nation.
(Proclamation to the French People. 22 June 1815)
And the key for governing a nation?
A constitution should be framed so as not to impede the action of government, nor force the government to its violation. (Maxims of Napoleon)
Your view of the monarchy?
More glorious to merit a sceptre than to possess one. (Memoirs of Napoleon)
Again, what changed?
What is a throne? — a bit of wood gilded and covered in velvet. I am the state— I alone am here the representative of the people. Even if I had done wrong you should not have reproached me in public—people wash their dirty linen at home. France has more need of me than I of France. (Statement to the Senate; 1814 He echoes here the remark attributed to Louis XIV L'état c'est moi ("The State is I" or more commonly: "I am the State.")
How did you rack up all those initial victories?
When you have an enemy in your power, deprive him of the means of ever injuring you. (Maxims of Napoleon)
And the reason you invaded Russia?
'Impossible' n'est pas français.
'Impossible' is not [in the] French [language].
(Letter to General Lemarois (9 July 1813) Variant translation: You write to me that it is impossible; the word is not French)
And your view of Russia's interference in our current elections?
A Government protected by foreigners will never be accepted by a free people. (Maxims of Napoleon)
The hope for those who oppose corruption?
A great people may be killed, but they cannot be intimidated. (Maxims)
Any advice for us writers?
From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step. (Writing about the retreat from Moscow, in a letter to Abbé du Pradt. 1812)
What do you think of the books that have been written about you?
What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history? A fable agreed upon. (Ascribed to Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle in Mélanges de Littérature. 1804)
How will you be remembered?
Waterloo will wipe out the memory of my forty victories; but that which nothing can wipe out is my Civil Code. That will live forever. (As quoted in The Story of World Progress (1922) by Willis Mason West, p. 437)
And being famous after you die?
Immortality is the best recollection one leaves. (Memoirs of Napoleon)
Have you learned your lesson. Will you stop from trying to conquer the afterworld?
'Impossible' n'est pas français.