NAPOLEON was now at the zenith of his power. He ruled directly over an empire that was far larger than the former Kingdom of France. In 1809 he annexed what remained of the Papal States in Italy, together with the incomparable city of Rome, thus ending, for the time at least, the temporal power of the Pope. In 1810 he forced his brother Louis to abdicate the kingship of Holland, which country, was now incorporated in France. He also, as has been already stated, extended the empire along the northern coasts of Germany from Holland to Lubeck, thus controlling Hamburg, Bremen, and the mouths of the important German rivers. Each one of these annexations was in pursuance of his policy of the continental blockade, closing so much more of the coast-line of Europe to the commerce of England, the remaining enemy which he now expected to humble. He was Emperor of a state that had 130 departments. He was also King of Italy, a state in the north-eastern part of the peninsula. He was Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine, which included all Germany except Prussia and Austria, a confederation which had been enlarged since its formation by the addition of Westphalia and Saxony and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, extending, therefore, clear up to Russia. His brother Joseph was King of Spain, his brother Jerome King of Westphalia, his brother-in-law Murat King of Naples. All were mere satellites of his, receiving and executing his orders. Russia was his willing ally. Prussia and Austria were his allies, the former because forced to be, the latter at first for the same reason, and later because she saw an advantage in it. No ruler in history had ever dominated so much of Europe. This supreme, incomparable preeminence had been won by his sword, supplemented by his remarkable statesmanship and diplomacy.
England alone remained outside the pale, England alone had not been brought to bend the knee to the great conqueror. Even she was breathing heavily, because the Continental System was inflicting terrible damage upon her. Factories were being forced to shut down, multitudes of laborers were being thrown out of work or were receiving starvation wages, riots and other evidences of unrest and even desperation seemed to indicate that even she must soon come to terms.
But this vast and imposing fabric of power rested upon uncertain bases. Built up, story upon story, by this highly imaginative and able mind, the architect left out of reckoning or despised the strains and stresses to which it was increasingly subjected. The rapidity with which this colossal structure fell to pieces in a few years shows how poorly consolidated it was, how rickety and precarious its foundations. Even a slight analysis will reveal numerous and foreboding elements of weakness beneath all this pomp and pageantry of power. Erected by the genius of a single man it depended solely upon his life and fortunes — and fortune is notoriously fickle. Built up by war, by conquest, it was necessarily environed by the hatred of the conquered. With every advance, every annexation,it annexed additional sources of discontent. Based on force, it could only be maintained by force. There could be and there was in all this vast extent of empire no common loyalty to the Emperor. Despotism, and Napoleon’s regime was one of pitiless despotism, evoked no loyalty, only obedience based on fear. Europe has always refused to be dominated by a single nation or by a single ruler. It has run the risk several times in its history of passing under such a yoke, but it always in the end succeeded in escaping it. Universal dominion is an anachronism. The secret of Great Britain’s hold upon many of the component parts of her empire lies in the fact that she allows them liberty to develop their own l ife in their own way. But such a conception was utterly beyond Napoleon, contrary to all his instincts and convictions. His empire meant the negation of liberty in the various countries which he dominated, France included. Napoleon’s conquests necessarily ranged against him this powerful and unconquerable spirit. The more conquests, the more enemies, only waiting intently for the moment of liberation, scanning the horizon everywhere for the first sign of weakness which to them would be the harbinger of hope. This they found in Spain, and in the Austrian campaign of 1809 in which the machinery of military conquest had creaked, had worked clumsily, had threatened at one moment to break down.
There was a force in the world which ran directly counter to Napoleon’s projects, the principle of nationality. Napoleon despised this feeling, and in the end it was his undoing. He might have seen that it had been the strength of France a few years earlier, that now this spirit had passed beyond the natural boundaries and was waking into a new life, was nerving to a new vigor, countries like Spain, even Austria and, most conspicuously, Prussia.
Prussia after Jena underwent the most serious humiliation a nation can be called to endure. For several years she was under the iron heel of Napoleon, who kept large armies quartered on her soil, who drained her resources, who interfered peremptorily in the management of her government, who forbade her to have more than 42,000 soldiers in her army. But out of the very depths of this national degradation came Prussia’s salvation. Her noblest spirits were aroused to seek the causes of this unexpected and immeasurable national calamity and to try to remedy them. From 1808 to 1812 Prussians, under the very scrutiny of Napoleon, who had eyes but did not see, worked passionately upon the problem of national regeneration. The result surpassed belief. A tremendous national patriotism was aroused by the poets and thinkers, the philosophers and teachers, all bending their energies to the task of quickening among the youth the spirit of unselfish devotion to the fatherland. An electric current of enthusiasm, of idealism, swept through the educational centers and through large masses of the people. The University of Berlin, founded in 1809, in Prussia’s darkest hour, was, from the beginning, a dynamic force. It and other universities became nurseries of patriotism.
Prussia underwent regeneration in other ways. Particularly memorable was the work of two statesmen, Stein and Hardenberg. Stein, in considering the causes of Prussia’s unexampled woes, came to the conclusion that they lay in her defective or harmful social and legal institutions. The masses of Prussia were serfs, bound to the soil, their personal liberty gravely restricted, and, as Stein said, “ patriots cannot be made out of serfs.” He persuaded the King to issue an edict of emancipation, abolishing serfdom. The Prussian king, he said, was no longer “the king of slaves, but of free men.” Many other reforms were passed abolishing or reducing class distinctions and privileges. In all this Stein was largely imitating the French Revolutionists who by their epoch-making reforms had released the energies of the French so that their power had been vastly multiplied. The army, too, was reorganized, opportunity was opened to talent, as in France, with what magical results we have seen. As Napoleon forbade that the Prussian army should number more than 42,000 men, the ingenious device was hit upon of having men serve with the colors only a brief time, long enough to learn the essentials of the soldier’s life. Then they would pass into the reserve and others would be put rapidly through the same training. By this method several times 42,000 men received a military training whose effectiveness was later to be proved.
Thus Prussia’s regeneration went on. The new national spirit, wonderfully invigorated, waited with impatience for its hour of probation. It should be noted, however, that these reforms, which resembled in many respects those accomplished in France by the Constituent Assembly and the Convention, and which were in fact suggested by them, rested, however, on very different principles. There was in Prussia no assertion of the Rights of Man, no proclamation of the people as sovereign. In Prussia it was the king who made the reforms, not the people. The theory of the divine right of the monarch was not touched, but was maintained as sacred as ever. There was reform in Prussia but no revolution. Prussia took no step toward democracy. This distinction has colored the whole subsequent history of that kingdom and colors it today. “Everything for the people, nothing by the people,” was evidently the underlying principle in this work of national reorganization. Even these reforms were not carried out completely, owing to opposition from within the kingdom and from without. But, though incomplete, they were very vitalizing.
Napoleon’s policies had created other enmities in abundance which were mining the ground beneath him. His treatment of the Pope, whom he held as a prisoner and whose temporal power he had abolished by incorporating his states, a part in the French Empire and a part in the Kingdom of Italy, made the Catholic clergy everywhere hostile, and offended the faithful. Rome, hitherto the papal capital, was declared the second city of the Empire and served as a title for Napoleon’s son. All rights of the Pope were thus cavalierly ignored. The subtle and vast influence of the church was of course now directed to the debasement of the man it had previously conspicuously favored and praised. In addition to combating the rising tide of n ationality , Napoleon henceforth also had his quarrel with the Papacy.
Into these entanglements he had been brought by the necessities of his conflict with England, by the continental blockade. For it was that system that drove him on from one aggression to another, from annexation to annexation.
That system, too, created profound discontent in all the countries of the continent, including France itself. By enormously raising the price of such necessaries as cotton and sugar and coffee and tea, products of Britain’s colonies or of the tropical countries with which she traded, they introduced hardship and irritation into every home. The normal course of business was turned inside out and men suddenly found their livelihood gone and ruin threatening or already upon them. To get the commodities to which they were accustomed they smuggled on a large and desperate scale. This led to new and severe regulations and harsher punishments, and thus the tyrannical interference in their private lives made multitudes in every country hate the tyranny and long for its overthrow. Widespread economic suffering was the inevitable result of the continental system and did more to make Napoleon’s rule unpopular throughout Europe than did anything else except the enormous waste of life occasioned by the incessant warfare. That system, too, was the chief cause of the cupture of the alliance between Russia and France, in 1812, a rupture which led to appalling disaster for Napoleon and was the beginning of the end. The whole stupendous superstructure of Napoleonic statecraft and diplomacy fell like a house of cards in the three years 1812, 1813, and 1814.
The Franco-Russian alliance, concluded so hastily and unexpectedly at Tilsit in 1807, lasted nominally nearly five years. It was, however, unpopular from the beginning with certain influential classes in Russia and its inconveniences became increasingly apparent. The aristocracy of Russia, a powerful body, hated this alliance with a country which had abolished its own nobility, leaving its members impoverished by the loss of their lands and privileges. There could be no sympathy between the Russian nobility, based upon the grinding serfdom of the masses, and the country which had swept all traces of feudalism aside and proclaimed the equality of men. Moreover the Russian nobility hated the continental system, as it nearly destroyed the commerce with England in wheat, flax, and timber,
which was the chief source of their wealth. Furthermore, the Czar Alexander I, having obtained some of the advantages he had expected from his alliance, was irritated, now that he did not obtain others for which he had hoped. He had gained Finland from Sweden and the Danubian Principalities from Turkey, but the vague though alluring prospect of a division of the Turkish Empire still remained unfulfilled and was, indeed, rece’ding into the limbo of the unlikely. He wanted Constantinople, and Napoleon made it clear he could never have it. Moreover Alexander was alarmed by Napoleon’s schemes with the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a state made out of the Polish provinces which had been acquired by Prussia and Austria. Alexander had no objection to Prussia and Austria losing their Polish provinces, but he himself had Polish provinces and he dreaded anything that looked like a resurrection of the former Kingdom of Poland, any appeal to the Polish national feeling.
But the main cause of Alexander’s gradual alienation from his ally was the continental blockade. This was working great financial loss to Russia. Moreover its inconveniences were coming home to him in other ways. To enforce the system more completely in Germany Napoleon seized in 1811 the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg, which belonged to Alexander’s brother- in-law.
Thus the alliance was being subjected to a strain it could not stand. In 1812 it snapped, and loud was the report. Napoleon would not allow any breach of the continental blockade if he could prevent it. He resolved to force Russia, as he had forced the rest of the continent, to do his bidding. He demanded that she live up to her promises and exclude British commerce. The answers were evasive, unsatisfactory, and in June, 1812, Napoleon crossed the Kiemen with the largest army he ever commanded, over half a million men, the “army of twenty nations,” as the Russians called it. About one-half were French. The rest were a motley host of Italians, Danes, Croatians, Dalmatians, Poles, Dutchmen, Westphalians, Saxons, Bavarians, Wiirtembergers, and still others. For the first time in his military career Napoleon commanded the cooperation of Austria and Prussia, both of which were compelled to send contingents. There were 100,000 cavalry and a numerous and powerful artillery. He had around him a brilliant staff of officers, Murat, Ney, Eugene Beauharnais, and others. It seemed as if no power on earth could resist such an engine of destruction. Napoleon himself spoke of the expedition as the “ last act “ of the play.
It was not quite that, but it was a supremely important act, one full of surprises. From the very start it was seen that in numbers there is sometimes weakness, not strength. This vast machine speedily commenced to give way beneath its own weight. The army had not advanced five days before the commissary department began to break down and bread was lacking. Horses, improperly nourished, died by the thousands, thus still further demoralizing the commissariat and imperiling the artillery. The Russians adopted the policy of not fighting but constantly retreating, luring the enemy farther and farther into a country which they took the pains to devastate as they retired, leaving no provisions or supplies for the invaders, no stations for the incapacitated, as they burned their villages on leaving them. Napoleon seeking above everything a battle, in which he hoped to crush the enemy, was denied the opportunity. The Russians had studied the Duke of Wellington’s methods in Portugal and profited by their study. It was 700 miles from the Niemen to Moscow. Napoleon had had no intention of going so far, but the tactics of his enemy forced him steadily to proceed. The Czar had announced that he would retire into Asia if necessary, rather than sign a peace with his enemy on the sacred soil of Russia. Napoleon hoped for a battle at Smolensk, but only succeeded in getting a rear-guard action and a city in flames.
This policy of continual retreat, so irritating to the French Emperor, was equally irritating to the Russian people, who did not understand the reason and who clamored for a change. The Russians therefore took up a strong position at Borodino on the route to Moscow. There a battle occurred on September 7, 1812, between the French army of 125,000 men and the Russian of 100,000. The battle was one of the bloodiest of the whole epoch. The French lost 30,000, the Russians 40,000 men. Napoleon’s victory was not overwhelming, probably because he could not bring himself to throw in the Old Guard. The Russians retreated in good order, leaving the road open to Moscow, which city Napoleon entered September 14. The army had experienced terrible hardships all the way, first over roads soaked by constant rains, then later over roads intensely heated by July suns and giving forth suffocating clouds of dust. Terrible losses, thousands a day, had characterized the march of 700 miles from the Niemen to Moscow.
Napoleon had resolved on the march to Moscow expecting that the Russians would consent to peace, once the ancient capital was in danger. But no one appeared for that purpose. He found Moscow practically deserted, only 15,000 there, out of a population of 250,000. Moreover the day after his entry fires broke out in various parts of the city, probably set by Russians. For four days the fearful conflagration raged, consuming a large part of the city. Still Napoleon stayed on, week after week, fearing the effect that the news of a retreat might produce, and hoping, against hope, that the Czar would sue for peace. Finally there was nothing to do, after wasting a month of precious time,but to order the retreat. This was a long-drawnout agony, during which an army of 100,000 men was reduced to a few paltry thousands, fretted all along the route by which they had come by Russian armies and by Cossack guerrilla bands, horrified by the sight of thousands of their comrades still unburied on the battlefield of Borodino, suffering indescribable hardships of hunger and exhaustion and finally caught in all the horrors of a fierce Russian winter, clad, as many of them were, lightly for a summer campaign. The scenes that accompanied this flight and rout were of unutterable woe, culminating in the hideous tragedy of the crossing of the Beresina, the bridge breaking down under the wild confusion of men fighting to get across, horses frightened, the way blocked by carts and wagons, the bridges raked by the fire of the Russian artillery. Thousands were left behind, many fell or threw themselves into the icy river and were frozen to death. In the river, says one writer, when the Russians came up later they saw “ awful heaps of drowned soldiers, women, and children, emergingabove the surface of the waters, and here and there rigid in death like statues on their ice-bound horses.” A few thousand out of all the army finally got out of Russia and across the Niemen. Many could only crawl to the hospitals asking for “ the rooms where people die.” History has few ghastlier pages in all its annals. Napoleon himself left the army on December 5th, and traveled rapidly incognito to Paris, which he reached on the 18th. “ I shall be back on the Niemen in the spring,” was the statement with which he tried to make men think that the lost position would be soon recovered.
He did not quite keep the promise. He did not get as far back again as the Niemen. But 1813 saw him battling for his supremacy in Germany, as 1812 had seen him battling for it in Russia. The Russian disaster had sent a thrill of hope through the ranks of his enemies everywhere. The colossus might be, indeed appeared to be, falling. Had not the auspicious moment arrived for annihilating him? Particularly violent was the hatred of the Prussians, who had, more than other peoples, felt the ruthlessness of his tyranny for the last six years. They trembled with eagerness to be let loose and when their King made a treaty of alliance with Russia and subsequently made a more direct and personal appeal to his people than any Prussian monarch had ever made before, they responded enthusiastically. There was a significant feature about this Treaty of Kalisch with Russia. Russia was not to lay down her arms against Napoleon until Prussia had recovered an area equal to that which she had possessed before the battle of Jena. But the area was not to be the same, for Russia was to keep Prussia’s Polish provinces, now included in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, whose doom was decreed. Prussia should have compensation in northern Germany.
Could Napoleon rely on the Confederation of the Rhine and on his ally Austria? This remained to be seen. A reverse would almost surely cost him the support of the former and the neutrality of the latter. Their loyalty would be proportioned to his success. There was with them not the same popular wrath as with the Prussians. On the other hand, their princes had a keen eye for the main chance.
Austria surely would use Napoleon’s necessities for her own advantage. The princes of the Rhenish Confederation wished to retain the advantages they had won largely through their complaisant cooperation with Napoleon during recent years. Austria wished to recover advantages she had lost, territory, prestige, badly tattered and torn by four unsuccessful campaigns.
Napoleon, working feverishly since the return from Russia, finally got an army of over 200,000 men together. But to do this he had to draw upon the youth of France, as never before, calling out recruits a year before their time for service was due. A large part of them were untrained, and had to get their training on the march into Germany. The army was weak in cavalry, a decisive instrument in following up a victory and clinching it.
Napoleon was back in central Germany before the Russians and Prussians were fully prepared. He defeated them at Liitzen and at Bautzen in May, 1813, but was unable to follow up his victories because of the lack of sufficient cavalry, and the campaign convinced him that he could accomplish nothing decisive without reinforcements. He therefore agreed, in an unlucky moment, as it later proved, to a six weeks’ armistice. During that time he did get large reinforcements but his enemies got larger. And during that interval the diplomatic intriguing went against him so that when the armistice was over Austria had joined the alliance of Russia, Prussia, and England, against him. He defeated the Austrians at Dresden (August 26-27), his last great victory. His subordinates were, however, beaten in subsidiary engagements and he was driven back upon Leipsic. There occurred a decisive three days’ battle, the “ Battle of the Nations,” as the Germans call it (October 16-18). In point of numbers involved this was the greatest battle of the Napoleonic era. Over half a million men took part, at most 200,000 under Napoleon, 300,000 under the commanders of the allies. Napoleon was disastrously defeated and was sent flying back across the Rhine with only a small remnant. of his army. The whole political structure which he had built up in Germany collapsed. The members of the Confederation of the Rhine deserted the falling star, and entered the alliance against him, on the guarantee of their possessions by the allies. Jerome fled from Westphalia and his brief kingdom disappeared. Meanwhile Wellington, who for years had been aiding the Spaniards, had been successful and was crossing the Pyrenees into southern France. The coils were closing in upon the lion, who now stood at bay.
The allies moved on after the retreating French toward the Rhine. It had been no part of their original purpose to demand Napoleon’s abdication. They now, in November 1813, offered him peace on the basis of the natural frontiers of France, the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees. He would not accept but procrastinated, and made counter-propositions. Even in February 1814 he could have retained his throne and the historic boundaries of the old Bourbon monarchy, had he been willing to renounce the rest. He dallied with the suggestion, secretly hoping for some turn in luck that would spring the coalition apart and enable him to recover the ground he had lost. In thus refusing to recognize defeat, refusing to accept an altered situation, he did great harm to France and completed his own downfall. His stiff, uncompromising, unyielding temper sealed his doom. He was no longer acting as the wise statesman, responsible for the welfare of a great people who, by their unstinted sacrifices, had put him under heavy obligations. His was the spirit of the gambler, thinking to win all by a happy turn of the cards. He was also will incarnate. With will and luck all might yet be retrieved.
He had said, on leaving Germany, “ I shall be back in May with 250,000 men.” He did not expect a winter campaign and he felt confident that by May he could have another army. The allies,however, did not wait for May, but at the close of December 1813 streamed across the Rhine and invaded France from various directions. France, victorious for eighteen years, now experienced what she had so often administered to others. The campaign was brief, only two months, February and March 1 8 14. Napoleon was hopelessly outnumbered. Yet this has been called the most brilliant of his campaigns. Fighting on the defensive and on inner lines, he showed marvelous mastery of the art of war, striking here, striking there with great precision and swiftness, undaunted, resourceful, tireless. The allies needed every bit of their overwhelming superiority in numbers to compass the end of their redoubtable antagonist, with his back against the wall and his brain working with matchless lucidity and with lightning-like rapidity. They thought they could get to his capital in a week. It took them two months. However, there could be but one end to such a campaign, if the allies held together, as they did. On the 30th of March Paris capitulated and on the following day the Czar Alexander and Frederick William III, the King of Prussia, made their formal entry into the city which the Duke of Brunswick twenty-two years before had threatened with destruction if it laid sacrilegious hands upon the King or Queen. Since that day much water had flowed under the bridge, and France and Europe had had a strange history, signifying much.
The victors would not longer tolerate Napoleon. He was forced to abdicate unconditionally. He was allowed to retain his title of Emperor, but henceforth he was to rule only over Elba, an island nineteen miles long and six miles wide, lying off the coast of Tuscany, whence his Italian ancestors had sailed for Corsica two centuries and a half before he was born. Thither he repaired, having said farewell to the Old Guard in the courtyard of the palace of Fontainebleau, kissing the flag of France made lustrous on a hundred fields. “Nothing but sobbing was heard in all the ranks,” wrote one of the soldiers who saw the scene, “and I can say that I too shed tears when I saw my Emperor depart."‘
On the day that Napoleon abdicated, the Senate, so-called guardian of the constitution, obsequious and servile to the Emperor in his days of fortune, turned to salute the rising sun, and in solemn session proclaimed Louis XVIII King of France. The allies, who had conquered Napoleon and banished him to a petty island in the Mediterranean, thought they were done with him for good and all. But from this complacent self-assurance they were destined to a rude awakening. Their own errors and wranglings at the Congress of Vienna, whither they repaired in September 1814 to divide the spoils and determine the future organization of Europe, and the mistakes and indiscretions of the Bourbons whom they restored to rule in France, gave Napoleon the opportunity for the most audacious and wonderful adventure of his life.
Louis XVIII, the new king, tried to adapt himself to the greatly altered circumstances of the country to which he now returned in the wake of foreign armies after an absence of twenty-two years. He saw that he could not be an absolute king as his ancestors had been, and he therefore granted a Charter to the French, giving them a legislature and guaranteeing certain rights which they had won and which he saw could not safely be withdrawn. His regime assured much larger liberty than France had ever experienced under Napoleon. Nevertheless certain attitudes of his and ways of speaking, and the actions of the royalists who surrounded him, and several unwise measures of government, soon rendered him unpopular and irritated and alarmed the people. He spoke of himself as King by the grace of God, thus denying the sovereignty of the people; he dated his first document, the Charter,from “ the nineteenth year of my reign,” as if there had never been a Republic and a Napoleonic Empire; he restored the white flag and banished the glorious tricolor which had been carried in triumph throughout Europe. What was much more serious, he offended thousands of Napoleon’s army officers by retiring or putting them on half-pay, many thus being reduced to destitution, and all feeling themselves dishonored. Moreover many former nobles who had early in the Revolution emigrated from France and then fought against her received honors and distinctions. Then, in addition, the Roman Catholic clergy and the nobles of the court talked loudly and unwisely about getting back their lands which had been confiscated and sold to the peasants, although both the Concordat of 1802 and the Charter of 1814 distinctly recognized and ratified these changes and promised that they should not be disturbed. The peasants were far and away the most numerous class in France, and they were thus early alienated from the Bourbons by these threats at their most vital interest, their property rights, which Napoleon had always stoutly maintained. Thus a few months after Napoleon’s abdication the evils of his reign were forgotten, the terrible cost in human life, the burdensome taxation, the tyranny of it all, and he was looked upon as a friend, as a hero to whom the soldiers had owed glory and repute and the peasants the secure possession of their farms. In this way a mental atmosphere hostile to Louis XVIII, and favorable to Napoleon, was created by a few months of Bourbon rule.
Napoleon, penned up in his little island, took note of all this. He also heard of the serious dissensions of the allies now that they were trying to divide the spoils at Vienna, of their jealousies and animosities, which, in January 1815, rose to such a pitch that Austria, France, and England prepared to go to war with Prussia and Russia over the allotment of the booty. He also knew that they were intriguing at the Congress for his banishment to some place remote from Europe.
For ten months he had been in his miniature kingdom. The psychological moment had come for the most dramatic action of his life. Leaving the island with twelve hundred guards, and escaping the vigilance of the British cruisers, he landed at Cannes on March 1. That night he started on the march to Paris and on March 20 entered the Tuileries, ruler of France once more. The return from Elba will always remain one of the most romantic episodes of history. With a force so small that it could easily have been taken prisoner, he had no alternative and no other wish than to appeal directly to the confidence of the people. Never was there such a magnificent response. All along the route the peasants received him enthusiastically. But his appeal was particularly to the army, to whom he issued one of his stirring bulletins. “ Soldiers,” it began, “ we have not been conquered. We were betrayed.
Soldiers! Come and range yourselves under the banner of your chief: his existence depends wholly on yours: his interests, his honor, and his glory are your interests, your honor, your glory. Come! Victory will march at double-quick. The eagle with the national colors shall fly from steeple to steeple to the towers of Notre Dame. Then you will be able to show your scars with honor: then you will be able to boast of what you have done: you will be the liberators of your country.”
Regiment after regiment went over to him. The royalists thought he would be arrested at Grenoble, where there was a detachment of the army under a royalist commander. Napoleon went straight up to them, threw open his grey coat, and said, “Here I am: you know me. If there is a soldier among you who wishes to shoot his Emperor, he can do it.” The soldiers flocked over to him, tearing off the white cockades and putting on the tricolor, which they had secretly carried in their knapsacks. Opposition melted away all along the route. It became a triumphant procession. When lies would help Napoleon told them — among others that it was not ambition that brought him back, that “the forty-five best heads of the government of Paris have called me from Elba and my return is supported by the three first powers of Europe.” He admitted that he had made mistakes and assured the people that henceforth he desired only to follow the paths of peace and liberty. He had come back to protect the threatened blessings of the Revolution. The last part of this intoxicating journey he made in a carriage attended by only a half-dozen Polish lancers. On March 20 Louis XVIII fled from the Tuileries. That evening Napoleon entered it.
“What was the happiest period of your life as Emperor?” some one asked him at St. Helena. “The march from Cannes to Paris,” he instantly replied.
His happiness was limited to less than the “Hundred Days” which this period of his reign is called. Attempting to reassure France and Europe, he met from the former, tired of war, only half-hearted support, from the allies only remorseless opposition. When the diplomats at the Congress of Vienna heard of his escape from Elba they immediately ceased their contentions and banded themselves together against “this disturber of the peace of Europe.” They declared him an outlaw and set their armies in motion. He saw that he must fight to maintain himself. He resolved to attack before his enemies had time to effect their union. The battlefield was in Belgium, as Wellington with an army of English, Dutch, Belgians, and Germans, and, at some distance from them, Bliicher with a large army of Prussians, were there. If Napoleon could prevent their union, then by defeating each separately, he would be in a stronger position when the Russian and Austrian armies came on. Perhaps, indeed, they would think it wiser not to come on at all but to conclude peace. In Belgium consequently occurred a four days’ campaign culminating on the famous field of Waterloo, twelve miles south of Brussels. There on a hot Sunday in June Napoleon was disastrously defeated (June 18, 1815). The sun of Austerlitz set forever. The battle, begun at half-past eleven in the morning, was characterized by prodigies of valor, by tremendous charges of cavalry and infantry back and forth over a sodden field. Wellington held his position hour after hour as wave after wave of French troops rushed up the hill, foaming in and about the solid unflinching British squares, then, unable to break them, foamed back again. Wellington held on, hoping, looking for the Prussians under Bliicher, who, at the beginning of the battle, were eleven miles away. They had promised to join him, if he accepted battle there, and late in the afternoon they kept the promise. Their arrival was decisive, as Napoleon was now greatly outnumbered. In the early evening, as the sun was setting, the last charge of the French was repulsed. Repulse soon turned into a rout and the demoralized army streamed from the field in utter panic, fiercely pursued by the Prussians. The Emperor, seeing the utter annihilation of his army, sought death, but sought in vain. “ I ought to have died at Waterloo,” he said later, “but the misfortune is that when a man seeks death most he cannot find it. Men were killed around me, before, behind — everywhere. But there was no bullet for me.” He fled to Paris, then toward the western coast of France hoping to escape to the United States, but the English cruisers off the shore rendered that impossible. Making the best of necessity he threw himself upon the generosity of the British. “I have come,” he announced, “like Themistocles, to seek the hospitality of the British nation.” Instead of receiving it, however, he was sent to a rock in the South Atlantic, the island of St. Helena, where he was kept under a petty and ignoble surveillance. Six years later he died of cancer of the stomach at the age of fifty-two, leaving an extraordinary legend behind him to disturb the future. He was buried under a slab that bore neither name nor date, and it was twenty years before he was borne to his final resting-place under the dome of the Invalides in Paris, although in his last will and testament he said : “ My wish is to be buried on the banks of the Seine in the midst of the French people whom I have loved so well.”