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

The finest that could be found in Lombardy


In

one sense this was correct. It gave the Italians a true insight into French methods; and painful emotions thrilled the peoples of the peninsula when they realized at what a price their liberation was to be effected. Yet it is unfair to lay the chief blame on Bonaparte for the pillage of Lombardy. His actions were only a development of existing revolutionary customs; but never had these demoralizing measures been so thoroughly enforced as in the present system of liberation and blackmail. Lombardy was ransacked with an almost Vandal rapacity. Bonaparte desired little for himself. His aim ever was power rather than wealth. Riches he valued only as a means to political supremacy. But he took care to place the Directors and all his influential officers deeply in his debt. To the five _soi-disant_ rulers of France he sent one hundred horses, the finest that could be found in Lombardy, to replace "the poor creatures which now draw your carriages";[50] to his officers his indulgence was passive, but usually effective. Marmont states that Bonaparte once reproached him for his scrupulousness in returning the whole of a certain sum which he had been commissioned to recover. "At that time," says Marmont, "we still retained a flower of delicacy on these subjects." This Alpine gentian was soon to fade in the heats of the plains. Some generals made large fortunes, eminently so Massena, first in plunder as in the fray. And yet the commander, who was so lenient to his generals, filled his letters
to the Directory with complaints about the cloud of French commissioners, dealers, and other civilian harpies who battened on the spoil of Lombardy. It seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that this indulgence towards the soldiers and severity towards civilians was the result of a fixed determination to link indissolubly to his fortunes the generals and rank and file. The contrast in his behaviour was often startling. Some of the civilians he imprisoned: others he desired to shoot; but as the hardiest robbers had generally made to themselves friends of the military mammon of unrighteousness, they escaped with a fine ridiculously out of proportion to their actual gains.[51]

The Dukes of Parma and Modena were also mulcted. The former of these, owing to his relationship with the Spanish Bourbons, with whom the Directory desired to remain on friendly terms, was subjected to the fine of merely two million francs and twenty masterpieces of art, these last to be selected by French commissioners from the galleries of the duchy; but the Duke of Modena, who had assisted the Austrian arms, purchased his pardon by an indemnity of ten million francs, and by the cession of twenty pictures, the chief artistic treasures of his States.[52] As Bonaparte naively stated to the Directors, the duke had no fortresses or guns; consequently these could not be demanded from him.

From this degrading work Bonaparte strove to wean his soldiers by recalling them to their nobler work of carrying on the enfranchisement of Italy. In a proclamation (May 20th) which even now stirs the blood like a trumpet call, he bade his soldiers remember that, though much had been done, a far greater task yet awaited them. Posterity must not reproach them for having found their Capua in Lombardy. Rome was to be freed: the Eternal City was to renew her youth and show again the virtues of her ancient worthies, Brutus and Scipio. Then France would give a glorious peace to Europe; then their fellow-citizens would say of each champion of liberty as he returned to his hearth: "He was of the Army of Italy." By such stirring words did he entwine with the love of liberty that passion for military glory which was destined to strangle the Republic.


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