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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

Footnote 13 Joseph Buonaparte


In 1804 he even denied his indebtedness to Rousseau. During a family discussion, wherein he also belittled Corsica, he called Rousseau "a babbler, or, if you prefer it, an eloquent enough _idealogue_. I never liked him, nor indeed well understood him: truly I had not the courage to read him all, because I thought him for the most part tedious." (Lucien Buonaparte, "Memoires," vol. ii., ch. xi.)

His later views on Rousseau are strikingly set forth by Stanislas Girardin, who, in his "Memoirs," relates that Buonaparte, on his visit to the tomb of Rousseau, said: "'It would have been better for the repose of France that this man had never been born.' 'Why, First Consul?' said I. 'He prepared the French Revolution.' 'I thought it was not for you to complain of the Revolution.' 'Well,' he replied, 'the future will show whether it would not have been better for the repose of the world that neither I nor Rousseau had existed.'" Meneval confirms this remarkable statement.]

[Footnote 12: Masson, "Napoleon Inconnu," vol. ii., p. 53.]

[Footnote 13: Joseph Buonaparte, "Memoires," vol. i, p. 44.]

[Footnote 14: M. Chuquet, in his work "La Jeunesse de Napoleon" (Paris, 1898), gives a different opinion: but I think this passage shows a veiled hostility to Paoli. Probably we may refer to this time an incident stated by Napoleon at St. Helena to Lady Malcolm ("Diary," p. 88), namely, that Paoli urged on him the acceptance of a commission in the British army: "But I preferred the French, because I spoke the language, was of their religion, understood and liked their manners, and I thought the Revolution a fine time for an enterprising young man. Paoli was angry--we did not speak afterwards." It is hard to reconcile all these statements.

Lucien Buonaparte states that his brother seriously thought for a time of taking a commission in the forces of the British East India Company; but I am assured by our officials that no record of any application now exists.]

[Footnote 15: The whole essay is evidently influenced by the works of the democrat Raynal, to whom Buonaparte dedicated his "Lettres sur la Corse." To the "Discours de Lyons" he prefixed as motto the words "Morality will exist when governments are free," which he modelled on a similar phrase of Raynal. The following sentences are also noteworthy: "Notre organisation animale a des besoins indispensables: manger, dormir, engendrer. Une nourriture, une cabane, des vetements, une femme, sont donc une stricte necessite pour le bonheur. Notre organisation intellectuelle a des appetits non moins imperieux et dont la satisfaction est beaucoup plus precieuse. C'est dans leur entier developpement que consiste vraiment le bonheur. Sentir et raisonner, voila proprement le fait de l'homme."]

[Footnote 16: Nasica; Chuquet, p. 248.]

[Footnote 17: His recantation of Jacobinism was so complete that some persons have doubted whether he ever sincerely held it. The doubt argues a singular _naivete_ it is laid to rest by Buonaparte's own writings, by his eagerness to disown or destroy them, by the testimony of everyone who knew his early career, and by his own confession: "There have been good Jacobins. At one time every man of spirit was bound to be one. I was one myself." (Thibaudeau, "Memoires sur le Consulat," p. 59.)]


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