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BONAPARTE JOINS THE POPULAR CAUSE.
he found his mother a widow, and in indigent circumstances, with several -small children dependant on her for support. Whilst he remained under his paternal poof, he renewed his application to study, with an increased ardour which sprung from an increasing attachment to his profession. His application, however, was less intense than when at the military school at Brienne, where his studious habits had considerably impaired his constitution; and although his frame was firm, possessed great strength, and was capable of sustaining much fatigue, he always had the appearance of weak and delicate health.
The natural temper and genius of Bonaparte, and the principles which he had early avowed, left no doubt as to the part which he would take in the polit. ical contests of his country. His aspiring ambition, and his thirst for military fame, would not permit him to neglect so favourable an opportunity of displaying his military talents, and of placing himself in the high road to preferment. Bold and fearless, he despised the timid and despicable policy, of disguising his sentiments, and acting according to circumstances ; he avowed with enthusiasm, his approbation of the principle of that decree which abolished all distinctions of rank. How far Bonaparte at this period, in abandoning the cause of the King, for that of the nation, was influenced by principle, or from the impulse of popu. lar feeling, can not be determined. From his subsequent conduct it has been considered, that his motives were altogether selfish, and that he never entertained any regard for republican principles, or for the rights and freedom of the people. But it is neither novel nor singular, for those, who, with the honestest mo. tives, and with all the ardour of youth, have embraced popular principles; from success, and the influence of personal ambition, if not from a real change of sentiments, subsequently, to adopt ditterent views and pursue an opposite line of conduct. The extraordinary success of Bonaparte, which gave him the power
BONAPARTE JOINS THE POPULAR CAUSE.
of playing the tyrant, must at this time have been as far from his thoughts as from those of every body else; and as he could not at this period be supposed to have entertained any expectation of such extraordinary fortune as should clothe him with power, which might enable him to establish despotic authority, his subsequent conduct affords no evidence of what were his principles or motives at this period. That a young man of an ardent, and restless temper, daring, fearless, and ambitious, impatient of restraint and authority; and although uniting with these qualities a mind naturally decisive, overbearing, inflexible and arbitrary, should engage with sincerity and ardour in a popular cause, and feel a real respect for the great principles of equality and liberty, is certainly not extraordinary. Indeed it is difficult to find a young man of genius, whose situation is that of a private individual, who does not venerate these principles ; being founded in the 'fitness and nature of things, an attachment to them is implanted in the constitution of the human mind. It is true the natural principles and affections of man are strangely perverted by education; but real genius breaks through the scholastic restraints which may be prescribed for it, and ranging at large, views things in their natural order and fitness, and forms opinions accordingly. It is certainly true with most individuals, that when they enter upon the stage of human action, their hearts are right, although their heads may be wrong ; but as they progress in the world and witness the selfishness, the faithlessness and the injustice of mankind, as all must, more or less, they gradually change their views of things, and having experienced injustice themselves, learn to practice it upon others, The solicitude which they at first feel for their own rights, as members of the human family, and no way distinguished from the rest, leads them to respect the rights of others; but the operations of the selfish passions, the prevalence of injustice, violence and duplicity, whilst they deprave the heart, tend to substitute
HIS FIRST APPOINTMENT SINCE THE REVOLUTION. 43
in the place of original principles of rectitude and justice, a system of personal expediency.
When the highest animation of liberty was enkindled throughout France, and the liveliest enthusiasm prevailed, it cannot be a matter of surprise that Bonaparte should have participated in the common feeling, and embraced those principles so congenial to the noble mind, unsophisticated by education, and uncorrupted by the world.
But whatever may have been, at this period, Bonaparte's real sentiments, as it respects the rights of the people, and the principles of free government, there can be no doubt that the prospect of military fame and preferment, which was his strong passion, had great influence in determining him to embrace the popular
He knew that the throne of Louis XVI. was surrounded by flatterers who were interested in supporting the most flagrant abuses, which interposed an insuperable barrier to the reward of real merit; and that the military system had become so corrupt that the royal favour had long been the only road to preferment and distinction. But from whatever considerations Bonaparte joined the cause of the nation against the monarchy, he engaged in it with his characteristic ardour, enthusiasm and intrepidity.
The first appointment he received after the commencement of the revolution was to the command of a battalion of national guards at Ajaccio, his native town, in Corsica ; the discontents of the people having occasioned the organization of a military force in that Island. This was in the year 1790, until which time he had remained in Paris. Having little service to perform, whilst in this situation, he renewed his application to his professional studies.
The coalition of the crowned heads of Europe against republican France, to repress the spirit of liberty, and check the contagion of example, commenced a war, which was as unholy in its object, as it was disastrous in its consequences ; and which opened an ex
tensive field for the observations of Bonaparte, and a fair prospect for his employment and fame. The skilful operations of the contending armies, and the accuracy with which they were detailed, afforded him an admirable opportunity of examining and maturing that system of warfare which combined such wonderful activity, energy and resources; and which formed the basis of his subsequent unexampled military career.
The patriotic La Fayette had the command of the armies of France, but his virtues and talents rendered him obnoxious to the ignorant and unprincipied demagogues who had acquired an ascendancy in the National Assembly. His arrest having been determined on, he left the army and quitted the French territory without having attempted to occasion the desertion of a single battalion of the troops. He was in hopes of escaping to some distant part of Europe which might afford an asylum ; there to remain until the mighty evils which afflicted his country, the offspring of the counsels of desperate and unprincipled men, might restore the nation to its senses, and lead to the triumph of better men and better principles. He however had not proceeded far before he was stopped by an Austrian patrole, conducted to Luxemburg, thrown into prison, which occasioned a sickness, that came near depriving him of his life. He was confined in different prisons by Prussia and Austria until Bonaparte procured his release in 1797, previously to which, general Washington, then president of the United States, remembering in his affliction the friend of America, who had fought for its independence, interfered in his behalf with the Emperor of Austria, and attempted to procure his liberation.
The Assembly appointed Dumourier who had been minister at war, and a very extraordinary man, to the command of their armies ; marshal Lukner, Kellerman Montesquieu, and several other general officers attached themselves at the same time to the rising party.
OPERATIONS OF THE ARMY.
The authority of the National Assembly was formally consigned to the Convention, on the 21st of September ; which immediately proceeded to decree “the eternal abolition of royalty in France."
The decree was followed with the loudest exclamations of - vide la nation, and ordered to be proclaimed throughout the departments of France and to the armies. About the same period the movements of the troops under general Dumourier upon the frontiers, were rapid and successful. Several battles were fought, the most important of which was that of Gemappe, which decided the fate of the Netherlands. The Austrians lost 4000 men, killed, wounded and prisoners, and the French no more than 900; the latter fought with an ardour and enthusiasm, which soldiers fighting in the cause of liberty alone can feel. The Austrian forces consisted of veteran troops, disciplined and experienced in war; whilst those of the French were chiefly recent levies, and “ citizen soldiers." But the latter were fighting for the French Republic, and the independence and liberty of their countryand the former for a despotic master.
The reprehensible and ill advised coalition of the sovereigns of Europe against republican France, confirmed the suspicions of the monarch, inflamed the popular prejudices and animosities against him, and accelerated his destruction. On the 11th of December he was brought to the bar of the Convention for trial, and was defended by Deseze, Tronchet, and Malesherbes as counsel. The trial closed at the end of thirty four days ; when the solemn question was put, What punishment shall he suffer? Among those who voted for " death," was the Duke of Orleans, his kinsman, and member of the royal family.
His sentence being determined, he requested a respite of three days, which was refused.
The sentence was passed at 2 o'clock in the morning on the 19th of January, and he was ordered to be executed within twenty-four hours." On the morning of