Library Of The World's Best Literature, Ancient And Modern, Vol 3

Part 11 out of 11

"Hush," said Benassis, "here we are: I'll go first; follow me."

The pair mounted the ladder and crouched in the hay, without being seen
or heard by the people below, and placed themselves at ease, so that
they could see and hear all that went on. The women were sitting in
groups round the three or four candles that stood on the tables. Some
were sewing, some knitting; several sat idle, their necks stretched out
and their heads and eyes turned to an old peasant who was telling a
story. Most of the men were standing, or lying on bales of hay. These
groups, all perfectly silent, were scarcely visible in the flickering
glimmer of the tallow-candles encircled by glass bowls full of water,
which concentrated the light in rays upon the women at work about the
tables. The size of the barn, whose roof was dark and sombre, still
further obscured the rays of light, which touched the heads with unequal
color, and brought out picturesque effects of light and shade. Here, the
brown forehead and the clear eyes of an eager little peasant-girl shone
forth; there, the rough brows of a few old men were sharply defined by a
luminous band, which made fantastic shapes of their worn and discolored
garments. These various listeners, so diverse in their attitudes, all
expressed on their motionless features the absolute abandonment of their
intelligence to the narrator. It was a curious picture, illustrating the
enormous influence exercised over every class of mind by poetry. In
exacting from a story-teller the marvelous that must still be simple, or
the impossible that is almost believable, the peasant proves himself to
be a true lover of the purest poetry.

"Come, Monsieur Goguelat," said the game-keeper, "tell us about the

"The evening is half over," said the postman, "and I don't like to
shorten the victories."

"Never mind; go on! You've told them so many times we know them all by
heart; but it is always a pleasure to hear them again."

"Yes! tell us about the Emperor," cried many voices together.

"Since you wish it," replied Goguelat. "But you'll see it isn't worth
much when I have to tell it on the double-quick, charge! I'd rather tell
about a battle. Shall I tell about Champ-Aubert, where we used up all
the cartridges and spitted the enemy on our bayonets?"

"No! no! the Emperor! the Emperor!"

The veteran rose from his bale of hay and cast upon the assemblage that
black look laden with miseries, emergencies, and sufferings, which
distinguishes the faces of old soldiers. He seized his jacket by the two
front flaps, raised them as if about to pack the knapsack which formerly
held his clothes, his shoes, and all his fortune; then he threw the
weight of his body on his left leg, advanced the right, and yielded with
a good grace to the demands of the company. After pushing his gray hair
to one side to show his forehead, he raised his head towards heaven that
he might, as it were, put himself on the level of the gigantic history
he was about to relate.

"You see, my friends, Napoleon was born in Corsica, a French island,
warmed by the sun of Italy, where it is like a furnace, and where the
people kill each other, from father to son, all about nothing: that's a
way they have. To begin with the marvel of the thing,--his mother, who
was the handsomest woman of her time, and a knowing one, bethought
herself of dedicating him to God, so that he might escape the dangers of
his childhood and future life; for she had dreamed that the world was
set on fire the day he was born. And indeed it was a prophecy! So she
asked God to protect him, on condition that Napoleon should restore His
holy religion, which was then cast to the ground. Well, that was agreed
upon, and we shall see what came of it.

"Follow me closely, and tell me if what you hear is in the nature of

"Sure and certain it is that none but a man who conceived the idea of
making a compact with God could have passed unhurt through the enemy's
lines, through cannon-balls, and discharges of grape-shot that swept the
rest of us off like flies, and always respected his head. I had a proof
of that--I myself--at Eylau. I see him now, as he rode up a height, took
his field glass, looked at the battle, and said, 'A11 goes well.' One of
those plumed busy-bodies, who plagued him considerably and followed him
everywhere, even to his meals, so they said, thought to play the wag,
and took the Emperor's place as he rode away. Ho! in a twinkling, head
and plume were off! You must understand that Napoleon had promised to
keep the secret of his compact all to himself. That's why all those who
followed him, even his nearest friends, fell like nuts,--Duroc,
Bessieres, Lannes,--all strong as steel bars, though _he_ could bend
them as he pleased. Besides,--to prove he was the child of God, and made
to be the father of soldiers,--was he ever known to be lieutenant or
captain? no, no; commander-in-chief from the start. He didn't look to be
more than twenty-four years of age when he was an old general at the
taking of Toulon, where he first began to show the others that they
knew nothing about manoeuvring cannon.

"After that, down came our slip of a general to command the grand army
of Italy, which hadn't bread nor munitions, nor shoes, nor coats,--a
poor army, as naked as a worm. 'My friends,' said he, 'here we are
together. Get it into your pates that fifteen days from now you will be
conquerors,--new clothes, good gaiters, famous shoes, and every man with
a great-coat; but, my children, to get these things you must march to
Milan where they are.' And we marched. France, crushed as flat as a
bedbug, straightened up. We were thirty thousand barefeet against eighty
thousand Austrian bullies, all fine men, well set up. I see 'em now! But
Napoleon--he was then only Bonaparte--he knew how to put the courage
into us! We marched by night, and we marched by day; we slapped their
faces at Montenotte, we thrashed 'em at Rivoli, Lodi, Arcole, Millesimo,
and we never let 'em up. A soldier gets the taste of conquest. So
Napoleon whirled round those Austrian generals, who didn't know where to
poke themselves to get out of his way, and he pelted 'em well,--nipped
off ten thousand men at a blow sometimes, by getting round them with
fifteen hundred Frenchmen, and then he gleaned as he pleased. He took
their cannon, their supplies, their money, their munitions, in short,
all they had that was good to take. He fought them and beat them on the
mountains, he drove them into the rivers and seas, he bit 'em in the
air, he devoured 'em on the ground, and he lashed 'em everywhere. Hey!
the grand army feathered itself well; for, d'ye see, the Emperor, who
was also a wit, called up the inhabitants and told them he was there to
deliver them. So after that the natives lodged and cherished us; the
women too, and very judicious they were. Now here's the end of it. In
Ventose, '96,--in those times that was the month of March of to-day,--we
lay cuddled in a corner of Savoy with the marmots; and yet, before that
campaign was over, we were masters of Italy, just as Napoleon had
predicted; and by the following March--in a single year and two
campaigns--he had brought us within sight of Vienna. 'Twas a clean
sweep. We devoured their armies, one after the other, and made an end of
four Austrian generals. One old fellow, with white hair, was roasted
like a rat in the straw at Mantua. Kings begged for mercy on their
knees! Peace was won.

"Could a _man_ have done that? No; God helped him, to a certainty!

"He divided himself up like the loaves in the Gospel, commanded the
battle by day, planned it by night; going and coming, for the sentinels
saw him,--never eating, never sleeping. So, seeing these prodigies, the
soldiers adopted him for their father. Forward, march! Then those
others, the rulers in Paris, seeing this, said to themselves:--'Here's a
bold one that seems to get his orders from the skies; he's likely to put
his paw on France. We must let him loose on Asia; we will send him to
America, perhaps that will satisfy him.' But 'twas _written above_ for
him, as it was for Jesus Christ. The command went forth that he should
go to Egypt. See again his resemblance to the Son of God. But that's not
all. He called together his best veterans, his fire-eaters, the ones he
had particularly put the devil into, and he said to them like this:--'My
friends, they have given us Egypt to chew up, just to keep us busy, but
we'll swallow it whole in a couple of campaigns, as we did Italy. The
common soldiers shall be princes and have the land for their own.
Forward, march!' 'Forward, march!' cried the sergeants, and there we
were at Toulon, road to Egypt. At that time the English had all their
ships in the sea; but when we embarked Napoleon said, 'They won't see
us. It is just as well that you should know from this time forth that
your general has got his star in the sky, which guides and protects us.'
What was said was done. Passing over the sea, we took Malta like an
orange, just to quench his thirst for victory; for he was a man who
couldn't live and do nothing.

"So here we are in Egypt. Good. Once here, other orders. The Egyptians,
d'ye see, are men who, ever since the earth was, have had giants for
sovereigns, and armies as numerous as ants; for, you must understand,
that's the land of genii and crocodiles, where they've built pyramids as
big as our mountains, and buried their kings under them to keep them
fresh,--an idea that pleased 'em mightily. So then, after we
disembarked, the Little Corporal said to us, 'My children, the country
you are going to conquer has a lot of gods that you must respect;
because Frenchmen ought to be friends with everybody, and fight the
nations without vexing the inhabitants. Get it into your skulls that you
are not to touch anything at first, for it is all going to be yours
soon. Forward, march!' So far, so good. But all those people of Africa,
to whom Napoleon was foretold under the name of Kebir-Bonaberdis,--a
word of their lingo that means 'the sultan fires,'--were afraid as the
devil of him. So the Grand Turk, and Asia, and Africa, had recourse to
magic. They sent us a demon, named the Mahdi, supposed to have descended
from heaven on a white horse, which, like its master, was bullet-proof;
and both of them lived on air, without food to support them. There are
some that say they saw them; but I can't give you any reasons to make
you certain about that. The rulers of Arabia and the Mamelukes tried to
make their troopers believe that the Mahdi could keep them from
perishing in battle; and they pretended he was an angel sent from heaven
to fight Napoleon and get back Solomon's seal. Solomon's seal was part
of their paraphernalia which they vowed our General had stolen. You must
understand that we'd given 'em a good many wry faces, in spite of what
he had said to us.

"Now, tell me how they knew that Napoleon had a pact with God? Was that
natural, d'ye think?

"They held to it in their minds that Napoleon commanded the genii, and
could pass hither and thither in the twinkling of an eye, like a bird.
The fact is, he was everywhere. At last, it came to his carrying off a
queen, beautiful as the dawn, for whom he had offered all his treasure,
and diamonds as big as pigeons' eggs,--a bargain which the Mameluke to
whom she particularly belonged positively refused, although he had
several others. Such matters, when they come to that pass, can't be
settled without a great many battles; and, indeed, there was no scarcity
of battles; there was fighting enough to please everybody. We were in
line at Alexandria, at Gizeh, and before the Pyramids; we marched in the
sun and through the sand, where some, who had the dazzles, saw water
that they couldn't drink, and shade where their flesh was roasted. But
we made short work of the Mamelukes; and everybody else yielded at the
voice of Napoleon, who took possession of Upper and Lower Egypt, Arabia,
and even the capitals of kingdoms that were no more, where there were
thousand of statues and all the plagues of Egypt, more particularly
lizards,--a mammoth of a country where everybody could take his acres of
land for as little as he pleased. Well, while Napoleon was busy with his
affairs inland,--where he had it in his head to do fine things,--the
English burned his fleet at Aboukir; for they were always looking about
them to annoy us. But Napoleon, who had the respect of the East and of
the West, whom the Pope called his son, and the cousin of Mohammed
called 'his dear father,' resolved to punish England, and get hold of
India in exchange for his fleet. He was just about to take us across the
Red Sea into Asia, a country where there are diamonds and gold to pay
the soldiers and palaces for bivouacs, when the Mahdi made a treaty with
the Plague, and sent it down to hinder our victories. Halt! The army to
a man defiled at that parade; and few there were who came back on their
feet. Dying soldiers couldn't take Saint-Jean d'Acre, though they rushed
at it three times with generous and martial obstinacy. The Plague was
the strongest. No saying to that enemy, 'My good friend.' Every soldier
lay ill. Napoleon alone was fresh as a rose, and the whole army saw him
drinking in pestilence without its doing him a bit of harm.

"Ha! my friends! will you tell me that _that's_ in the nature of a mere

"The Mamelukes knowing we were all in the ambulances, thought they could
stop the way; but that sort of joke wouldn't do with Napoleon. So he
said to his demons, his veterans, those that had the toughest hide, 'Go,
clear me the way.' Junot, a sabre of the first cut, and his particular
friend, took a thousand men, no more, and ripped up the army of the
pacha who had had the presumption to put himself in the way. After that,
we came back to headquarters at Cairo. Now, here's another side of the
story. Napoleon absent, France was letting herself be ruined by the
rulers in Paris, who kept back the pay of the soldiers of the other
armies, and their clothing, and their rations; left them to die of
hunger, and expected them to lay down the law to the universe without
taking any trouble to help them. Idiots! who amused themselves by
chattering, instead of putting their own hands in the dough. Well,
that's how it happened that our armies were beaten, and the frontiers of
France were encroached upon: THE MAN was not there. Now observe, I say
_man_ because that's what they called him; but 'twas nonsense, for he
had a star and all its belongings; it was we who were only men. He
taught history to France after his famous battle of Aboukir, where,
without losing more than three hundred men, and with a single division,
he vanquished the grand army of the Turk, seventy-five thousand strong,
and hustled more than half of it into the sea, r-r-rah!

"That was his last thunder-clap in Egypt. He said to himself, seeing
the way things were going in Paris, 'I am the savior of France. I know
it, and I must go.' But, understand me, the army didn't know he was
going, or they'd have kept him by force and made him Emperor of the
East. So now we were sad; for He was gone who was all our joy. He left
the command to Kleber, a big mastiff, who came off duty at Cairo,
assassinated by an Egyptian, whom they put to death by impaling him on a
bayonet; that's the way they guillotine people down there. But it makes
'em suffer so much that a soldier had pity on the criminal and gave him
his canteen; and then, as soon as the Egyptian had drunk his fill, he
gave up the ghost with all the pleasure in life. But that's a trifle we
couldn't laugh at then. Napoleon embarked in a cockleshell, a little
skiff that was nothing at all, though 'twas called 'Fortune'; and in a
twinkling, under the nose of England, who was blockading him with ships
of the line, frigates, and anything that could hoist a sail, he crossed
over, and there he was in France. For he always had the power, mind you,
of crossing the seas at one straddle.

"Was that a human man? Bah!

"So, one minute he is at Frejus, the next in Paris. There, they all
adore him; but he summons the government. 'What have you done with my
children, the soldiers?' he says to the lawyers. 'You're a mob of
rascally scribblers; you are making France a mess of pottage, and
snapping your fingers at what people think of you. It won't do; and I
speak the opinion of everybody.' So, on that, they wanted to battle with
him and kill him--click! he had 'em locked up in barracks, or flying out
of windows, or drafted among his followers, where they were as mute as
fishes, and as pliable as a quid of tobacco. After that stroke--consul!
And then, as it was not for him to doubt the Supreme Being, he fulfilled
his promise to the good God, who, you see, had kept His word to him. He
gave Him back his churches, and re-established His religion; the bells
rang for God and for him: and lo! everybody was pleased: _primo_, the
priests, whom he saved from being harassed; _secundo_, the bourgeois,
who thought only of their trade, and no longer had to fear the
_rapiamus_ of the law, which had got to be unjust; _tertio_, the nobles,
for he forbade they should be killed, as, unfortunately, the people had
got the habit of doing.

"But he still had the Enemy to wipe out; and he wasn't the man to go to
sleep at a mess-table, because, d'ye see, his eye looked over the whole
earth as if it were no bigger than a man's head. So then he appeared in
Italy, like as though he had stuck his head through the window. One
glance was enough. The Austrians were swallowed up at Marengo like so
many gudgeons by a whale! Ouf! The French eagles sang their paeans so
loud that all the world heard them--and it sufficed! 'We won't play that
game any more,' said the German. 'Enough, enough!' said all the rest.

"To sum up: Europe backed down, England knocked under. General peace;
and the kings and the people made believe kiss each other. That's the
time when the Emperor invented the Legion of Honor--and a fine thing,
too. 'In France'--this is what he said at Boulogne before the whole
army--'every man is brave. So the citizen who does a fine action shall
be sister to the soldier, and the soldier shall be his brother, and the
two shall be one under the flag of honor.'

"We, who were down in Egypt, now came home. All was changed! He left us
general, and hey! in a twinkling we found him EMPEROR. France gave
herself to him, like a fine girl to a lancer. When it was done--to the
satisfaction of all, as you may say--a sacred ceremony took place, the
like of which was never seen under the canopy of the skies. The Pope and
the cardinals, in their red and gold vestments, crossed the Alps
expressly to crown him before the army and the people, who clapped their
hands. There is one thing that I should do very wrong not to tell you.
In Egypt, in the desert close to Syria, the RED MAN came to him on the
Mount of Moses, and said, 'All is well.' Then, at Marengo, the night
before the victory, the same Red Man appeared before him for the second
time, standing erect and saying, 'Thou shalt see the world at thy feet;
thou shalt be Emperor of France, King of Italy, master of Holland,
sovereign of Spain, Portugal, and the Illyrian provinces, protector of
Germany, savior of Poland, first eagle of the Legion of Honor--all.'
This Red Man, you understand, was his genius, his spirit,--a sort of
satellite who served him, as some say, to communicate with his star. I
never really believed that. But the Red Man himself is a true fact.
Napoleon spoke of him, and said he came to him in troubled moments, and
lived in the palace of the Tuileries under the roof. So, on the day of
the coronation, Napoleon saw him for the third time; and they were in
consultation over many things.

"After that, Napoleon went to Milan to be crowned king of Italy, and
there the grand triumph of the soldier began. Every man who could write
was made an officer. Down came pensions; it rained duchies; treasures
poured in for the staff which didn't cost France a penny; and the Legion
of Honor provided incomes for the private soldiers,--of which I receive
mine to this day. So here were the armies maintained as never before on
this earth. But besides that, the Emperor, knowing that he was to be the
emperor of the whole world, bethought him of the bourgeois, and to
please them he built fairy monuments, after their own ideas, in places
where you'd never think to find any. For instance, suppose you were
coming back from Spain and going to Berlin--well, you'd find triumphal
arches along the way, with common soldiers sculptured on the stone,
every bit the same as generals. In two or three years, and without
imposing taxes on any of you, Napoleon filled his vaults with gold,
built palaces, made bridges, roads, scholars, fetes, laws, vessels,
harbors, and spent millions upon millions,--such enormous sums that he
could, so they tell me, have paved France from end to end with
five-franc pieces, if he had had a mind to.

"Now, when he sat at ease on his throne, and was master of all, so that
Europe waited his permission to do his bidding, he remembered his four
brothers and his three sisters, and he said to us, as it might be in
conversation, in an order of the day, 'My children, is it right that the
blood relations of your Emperor should be begging their bread? No. I
wish to see them in splendor like myself. It becomes, therefore,
absolutely necessary to conquer a kingdom for each of them,--to the end
that Frenchmen may be masters over all lands, that the soldiers of the
Guard shall make the whole earth tremble, that France may spit where she
likes, and that all the nations shall say to her, as it is written on my
copper coins, '_God protects you_!' 'Agreed,' cried the army. 'We'll go
fish for thy kingdoms with our bayonets.' Ha! there was no backing down,
don't you see! If he had taken it into his head to conquer the moon, we
should have made ready, packed knapsacks, and clambered up; happily, he
didn't think of it. The kings of the countries, who liked their
comfortable thrones, were naturally loathe to budge, and had to have
their ears pulled; so then--Forward, march! We did march; we got there;
and the earth once more trembled to its centre. Hey! the men and the
shoes he used up in those days! The enemy dealt us such blows that none
but the grand army could have stood the fatigue of it. But you are not
ignorant that a Frenchman is born a philosopher, and knows that a little
sooner, or a little later, he has got to die. So we were ready to die
without a word, for we liked to see the Emperor doing _that_ on the

Here the narrator nimbly described a circle with his foot on the floor
of the barn.

"And Napoleon said, 'There, that's to be a kingdom.' And a kingdom it
was. Ha! the good times! The colonels were generals; the generals,
marshals; and the marshals, kings. There's one of 'em still on his
throne, to prove it to Europe; but he's a Gascon and a traitor to France
for keeping that crown; and he doesn't blush for shame as he ought to
do, because crowns, don't you see, are made of gold. I who am speaking
to you, I have seen, in Paris, eleven kings and a mob of princes
surrounding Napoleon like the rays of the sun. You understand, of
course, that every soldier had the chance to mount a throne, provided
always he had the merit; so a corporal of the Guard was a sight to be
looked at as he walked along, for each man had his share in the victory,
and 'twas plainly set forth in the bulletin. What victories they were!
Austerlitz, where the army manoeuvred as if on parade; Eylau, where we
drowned the Russians in a lake, as though Napoleon had blown them into
it with the breath of his mouth; Wagram, where the army fought for three
days without grumbling. We won as many battles as there are saints in
the calendar. It was proved then beyond a doubt, that Napoleon had the
sword of God in his scabbard. The soldiers were his friends; he made
them his children; he looked after us; he saw that we had shoes, and
shirts, and great-coats, and bread, and cartridges; but he always kept
up his majesty; for, don't you see, 'twas his business to reign. No
matter for that, however; a sergeant, and even a common soldier could
say to him, 'My Emperor,' just as you say to me sometimes, 'My good
friend.' He gave us an answer if we appealed to him; he slept in the
snow like the rest of us; and indeed, he had almost the air of a human
man. I who speak to you, I have seen him with his feet among the
grapeshot, and no more uneasy than you are now,--standing steady,
looking through his field glass, and minding his business. 'Twas that
kept the rest of us quiet. I don't know how he did it, but when he spoke
he made our hearts burn within us; and to show him we were his children,
incapable of balking, didn't we rush at the mouths of the rascally
cannon, that belched and vomited shot and shell without so much as
saying, 'Look out!' Why! the dying must needs raise their heads to
salute him and cry, 'LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR!'

"I ask you, was that natural? would they have done that for a human man?

"Well, after he had settled the world, the Empress Josephine, his wife,
a good woman all the same, managed matters so that she did not bear him
any children, and he was obliged to give her up, though he loved her
considerably. But, you see, he had to have little ones for reasons of
state. Hearing of this, all the sovereigns of Europe quarreled as to
which of them should give him a wife. And he married, so they told us,
an Austrian archduchess, daughter of Caesar, an ancient man about whom
people talk a good deal, and not in France only,--where any one will
tell you what he did,--but in Europe. It is all true, for I myself who
address you at this moment, I have been on the Danube, and have seen the
remains of a bridge built by that man, who, it seems, was a relation of
Napoleon in Rome, and that's how the Emperor got the inheritance of that
city for his son. So after the marriage, which was a fete for the whole
world, and in honor of which he released the people of ten years'
taxes,--which they had to pay all the same, however, because the
assessors didn't take account of what he said,--his wife had a little
one, who was King of Rome. Now, there's a thing that had never been seen
on this earth; never before was a child born a king with his father
living. On that day a balloon went up in Paris to tell the news to Rome,
and that balloon made the journey in one day!

"Now, is there any man among you who will stand up and declare to me
that all that was human? No; it was _written above;_ and may the scurvy
seize them who deny that he was sent by God himself for the triumph
of France!

"Well, here's the Emperor of Russia, that used to be his friend, he gets
angry because Napoleon didn't marry a Russian; so he joins with the
English, our enemies,--to whom our Emperor always wanted to say a couple
of words in their burrows, only he was prevented. Napoleon gets angry
too; an end had to be put to such doings; so he says to us:--'Soldiers!
you have been masters of every capital in Europe, except Moscow, which
is now the ally of England. To conquer England, and India which belongs
to the English, it becomes our peremptory duty to go to Moscow.' Then he
assembled the greatest army that ever trailed its gaiters over the
globe; and so marvelously in hand it was that he reviewed a million of
men in one day. 'Hourra! cried the Russians. Down came all Russia and
those animals of Cossacks in a flock. 'Twas nation against nation, a
general hurly-burly, and beware who could; 'Asia against Europe,' as the
Red Man had foretold to Napoleon. 'Enough,' cried the Emperor, 'I'll
be ready.'

"So now, sure enough, came all the kings, as the Red Man had said, to
lick Napoleon's hand! Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Poland, Italy,
every one of them were with us, flattering us; ah, it was fine! The
eagles never cawed so loud as at those parades, perched high above the
banners of all Europe. The Poles were bursting with joy, because
Napoleon was going to release them; and that's why France and Poland are
brothers to this day. 'Russia is ours,' cried the army. We plunged into
it well supplied; we marched and we marched,--no Russians. At last we
found the brutes entrenched on the banks of the Moskova. That's where I
won my cross, and I've got the right to say it was a damnable battle.
This was how it came about. The Emperor was anxious. He had seen the Red
Man, who said to him, 'My son, you are going too fast for your feet; you
will lack men; friends will betray you.' So the Emperor offered peace.
But before signing, 'Let us drub those Russians!' he said to us. 'Done!'
cried the army. 'Forward, march!' said the sergeants. My clothes were in
rags, my shoes worn out, from trudging along those roads, which are very
uncomfortable ones; but no matter! I said to myself, 'As it's the last
of our earthquakings, I'll go into it, tooth and nail!' We were drawn up
in line before the great ravine,--front seats, as 'twere. Signal given;
and seven hundred pieces of artillery began a conversation that would
bring the blood from your ears. Then--must do justice to one's
enemies--the Russians let themselves be killed like Frenchmen; they
wouldn't give way; we couldn't advance. 'Forward,' some one cried, 'here
comes the Emperor!' True enough; he passed at a gallop, waving his hand
to let us know we must take the redoubt. He inspired us; on we ran, I
was the first in the ravine. Ha! my God! how the lieutenants fell, and
the colonels, and the soldiers! No matter! all the more shoes for those
that had none, and epaulets for the clever ones who knew how to read.
'Victory!' cried the whole line; 'Victory!'--and, would you believe it?
a thing never seen before, there lay twenty-five thousand Frenchmen on
the ground. 'Twas like mowing down a wheat-field; only in place of the
ears of wheat put the heads of men! We were sobered by this time,--those
who were left alive. The MAN rode up; we made a circle round him. Ha! he
knew how to cajole his children; he could be amiable when he liked, and
feed 'em with words when their stomachs were ravenous with the hunger of
wolves. Flatterer! he distributed the crosses himself, he uncovered to
the dead, and then he cried to us, 'On! to Moscow!' 'To Moscow!'
answered the army.

"We took Moscow. Would you believe it? the Russians burned their own
city! 'Twas a haystack six miles square, and it blazed for two days. The
buildings crashed like slates, and showers of melted iron and lead
rained down upon us, which was naturally horrible. I may say to you
plainly, it was like a flash of lightning on our disasters. The Emperor
said, 'We have done enough; my soldiers shall rest here.' So we rested
awhile, just to get the breath into our bodies and the flesh on our
bones, for we were really tired. We took possession of the golden cross
that was on the Kremlin; and every soldier brought away with him a small
fortune. But out there the winter sets in a month earlier,--a thing
those fools of science didn't properly explain. So, coming back, the
cold nipped us. No longer an army--do you hear me?--no longer any
generals, no longer any sergeants even. 'Twas the reign of wretchedness
and hunger,--a reign of equality at last. No one thought of anything but
to see France once more; no one stooped to pick up his gun or his money
if he dropped them; each man followed his nose, and went as he pleased
without caring for glory. The weather was so bad the Emperor couldn't
see his star; there was something between him and the skies. Poor man!
it made him ill to see his eagles flying away from victory. Ah! 'twas a
mortal blow, you may believe me.

"Well, we got to the Beresina. My friends, I can affirm to you by all
that is most sacred, by my honor, that since mankind came into the
world, never, never, was there seen such a fricassee of an army--guns,
carriages, artillery wagons--in the midst of such snows, under such
relentless skies! The muzzles of the muskets burned our hands if we
touched them, the iron was so cold. It was there that the army was saved
by the pontoniers, who were firm at their post; and there that
Gondrin--sole survivor of the men who were bold enough to go into the
water and build the bridges by which the army crossed--that Gondrin,
here present, admirably conducted himself, and saved us from the
Russians, who, I must tell you, still respected the grand army,
remembering its victories. And," he added, pointing to Gondrin, who was
gazing at him with the peculiar attention of a deaf man, "Gondrin is a
finished soldier, a soldier who is honor itself, and he merits your
highest esteem."

"I saw the Emperor," he resumed, "standing by the bridge, motionless,
not feeling the cold--was that human? He looked at the destruction of
his treasure, his friends, his old Egyptians. Bah! all that passed him,
women, army wagons, artillery, all were shattered, destroyed, ruined.
The bravest carried the eagles; for the eagles, d'ye see, were France,
the nation, all of you! they were the civil and the military honor that
must be kept pure; could their heads be lowered because of the cold? It
was only near the Emperor that we warmed ourselves, because when he was
in danger we ran, frozen as we were--we, who wouldn't have stretched a
hand to save a friend. They told us he wept at night over his poor
family of soldiers. Ah! none but he and Frenchmen could have got
themselves out of that business.

"We did get out, but with losses, great losses, as I tell you. The
Allies captured our provisions. Men began to betray him, as the Red Man
predicted. Those chatterers in Paris, who had held their tongues after
the Imperial Guard was formed, now thought he was dead; so they
hoodwinked the prefect of police, and hatched a conspiracy to overthrow
the empire. He heard of it; it worried him. He left us, saying: 'Adieu,
my children; guard the outposts; I shall return to you.' Bah! without
him nothing went right; the generals lost their heads; the marshals
talked nonsense and committed follies; but that was not surprising, for
Napoleon, who was kind, had fed 'em on gold; they had got as fat as
lard, and wouldn't stir; some stayed in camp when they ought to have
been warming the backs of the enemy who was between us and France.

"But the Emperor came back, and he brought recruits, famous recruits;
he changed their backbone and made 'em dogs of war, fit to set their
teeth into anything; and he brought a guard of honor, a fine body
indeed!--all bourgeois, who melted away like butter on a gridiron.

"Well, spite of our stern bearing, here's everything going against us;
and yet the army did prodigies of valor. Then came battles on the
mountains, nations against nations,--Dresden, Lutzen, Bautzen. Remember
these days, all of you, for 'twas then that Frenchmen were so
particularly heroic that a good grenadier only lasted six months. We
triumphed always; yet there were those English, in our rear, rousing
revolts against us with their lies! No matter, we cut our way home
through the whole pack of the nations. Wherever the Emperor showed
himself we followed him; for if, by sea or land, he gave us the word
'Go!' we went. At last, we were in France; and many a poor foot-soldier
felt the air of his own country restore his soul to satisfaction, spite
of the wintry weather. I can say for myself that it refreshed my life.
Well, next, our business was to defend France, our country, our
beautiful France, against all Europe, which resented our having laid
down the law to the Russians, and pushed them back into their dens, so
that they couldn't eat us up alive, as northern nations, who are dainty
and like southern flesh, have a habit of doing,--at least, so I've heard
some generals say. Then the Emperor saw his own father-in-law, his
friends whom he had made kings, and the scoundrels to whom he had given
back their thrones, all against him. Even Frenchmen, and allies in our
own ranks, turned against us under secret orders, as at the battle of
Leipsic. Would common soldiers have been capable of such wickedness?
Three times a day men were false to their word,--and they called
themselves princes!

"So, then, France was invaded. Wherever the Emperor showed his lion
face, the enemy retreated; and he did more prodigies in defending France
than ever he had done in conquering Italy, the East, Spain, Europe, and
Russia. He meant to bury every invader under the sod, and teach 'em to
respect the soil of France. So he let them get to Paris, that he might
swallow them at a mouthful, and rise to the height of his genius in a
battle greater than all the rest,--a mother-battle, as 'twere. But
there, there! the Parisians were afraid for their twopenny skins, and
their trumpery shops; they opened the gates. Then the Ragusades
began, and happiness ended. The Empress was fooled, and the white
banner flaunted from the windows. The generals whom he had made
his nearest friends abandoned him for the Bourbons,--a set of
people no one had heard tell of. The Emperor bade us farewell at
Fontainebleau:--'Soldiers!'--I can hear him now; we wept like children;
the flags and the eagles were lowered as if for a funeral: it was, I may
well say it to you, it was the funeral of the Empire; her dapper armies
were nothing now but skeletons. So he said to us, standing there on the
portico of his palace:--'My soldiers! we are vanquished by treachery;
but we shall meet in heaven, the country of the brave. Defend my child,
whom I commit to you. Long live Napoleon II!' He meant to die, that no
man should look upon Napoleon vanquished; he took poison, enough to have
killed a regiment, because, like Jesus Christ before his Passion, he
thought himself abandoned of God and his talisman. But the poison did
not hurt him.

"See again! he found he was immortal.

"Sure of himself, knowing he must ever be THE EMPEROR, he went for a
while to an island to study out the nature of these others, who, you may
be sure, committed follies without end. Whilst he bided his time down
there, the Chinese, and the wild men on the coast of Africa, and the
Barbary States, and others who are not at all accommodating, knew so
well he was more than man that they respected his tent, saying to touch
it would be to offend God. Thus, d'ye see, when these others turned him
from the doors of his own France, he still reigned over the whole world.
Before long he embarked in the same little cockleshell of a boat he had
had in Egypt, sailed round the beard of the English, set foot in France,
and France acclaimed him. The sacred cuckoo flew from spire to spire;
all France cried out with one voice, 'LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR!' In this
region, here, the enthusiasm for that wonder of the ages was, I may say,
solid. Dauphine behaved well; and I am particularly pleased to know that
her people wept when they saw, once more, the gray overcoat. March first
it was, when Napoleon landed with two hundred men to conquer that
kingdom of France and of Navarre, which on the twentieth of the same
month was again the French Empire. On that day our MAN was in Paris; he
had made a clean sweep, recovered his dear France, and gathered his
veterans together by saying no more than three words, 'I am here.'

"'Twas the greatest miracle God had yet done! Before _him_, did ever
man recover an empire by showing his hat? And these others, who thought
they had subdued France! Not they! At sight of the eagles, a national
army sprang up, and we marched to Waterloo. There, the Guard died at one
blow. Napoleon, in despair, threw himself three times before the cannon
of the enemy without obtaining death. We saw that. The battle was lost.
That night the Emperor called his old soldiers to him; on the field
soaked with our blood he burned his banner and his eagles,--his poor
eagles, ever victorious, who cried 'Forward' in the battles, and had
flown the length and breadth of Europe, _they_ were saved the infamy of
belonging to the enemy: all the treasures of England couldn't get her a
tail-feather of them. No more eagles!--the rest is well known. The Red
Man went over to the Bourbons, like the scoundrel that he is. France is
crushed; the soldier is nothing; they deprive him of his dues; they
discharge him to make room for broken-down nobles--ah, 'tis pitiable!
They seized Napoleon by treachery; the English nailed him on a desert
island in mid-ocean on a rock raised ten thousand feet above the earth;
and there he is, and will be, till the Red Man gives him back his power
for the happiness of France. These others say he's dead. Ha, dead! 'Tis
easy to see they don't know Him. They tell that fib to catch the people,
and feel safe in their hovel of a government. Listen! the truth at the
bottom of it all is that his friends have left him alone on the desert
island to fulfil a prophecy, for I forgot to say that his name,
Napoleon, means 'lion of the desert.' Now this that I tell you is true
as the Gospel. All other tales that you hear about the Emperor are
follies without common-sense; because, d'ye see, God never gave to child
of woman born the right to stamp his name in red as _he_ did, on the
earth, which forever shall remember him! Long live Napoleon, the father
of his people and of the soldier!"

"Long live General Eble!" cried the pontonier.

"How happened it you were not killed in the ravine at Moskova?" asked a
peasant woman.

"How do I know? We went in a regiment, we came out a hundred
foot-soldiers; none but the lines were capable of taking that redoubt:
the infantry, d'ye see, that's the real army."

"And the cavalry! what of that?" cried Genastas, letting himself roll
from the top of the hay, and appearing to us with a suddenness which
made the bravest utter a cry of terror. "Eh! my old veteran, you forget
the red lancers of Poniatowski, the cuirassiers, the dragoons! they that
shook the earth when Napoleon, impatient that the victory was delayed,
said to Murat, 'Sire, cut them in two.' Ha, we were off! first at a
trot, then at a gallop, 'one, two,' and the enemy's line was cut in
halves like an apple with a knife. A charge of cavalry, my old hero!
why, 'tis a column of cannon balls!"

"How about the pontoniers?" cried Gondrin.

"My children," said Genastas, becoming suddenly quite ashamed of his
sortie when he saw himself in the midst of a silent and bewildered
group, "there are no spies here,--see, take this and drink to the Little

"LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR!" cried all the people present, with one voice.

"Hush, my children!" said the officer, struggling to control his
emotion. "Hush! _he is dead_. He died saying, 'Glory, France, and
battle.' My friends, he had to die, he! but his memory--never!"

Goguelat made a gesture of disbelief; then he said in a low voice to
those nearest, "The officer is still in the service, and he's told to
tell the people the Emperor is dead. We mustn't be angry with him,
because, d'ye see, a soldier has to obey orders."

As Genestas left the barn he heard the Fosseuse say, "That officer is a
friend of the Emperor and of Monsieur Benassis." On that, all the people
rushed to the door to get another sight of him, and by the light of the
moon they saw the doctor take his arm.

"I committed a great folly," said Genestas. "Let us get home quickly.
Those eagles--the cannon--the campaigns! I no longer knew where I was."

"What do you think of my Goguelat?" asked Benassis.

"Monsieur, so long as such tales are told, France will carry in her
entrails the fourteen armies of the Republic, and may at any time renew
the conversation of cannon with all Europe. That's my opinion."




The life of George Bancroft was nearly conterminous with the nineteenth
century. He was born at Worcester, Mass., October 3d, 1800, and died at
Washington, D.C., January 17th, 1891. But it was not merely the stretch
of his years that identified him with this century. In some respects he
represented his time as no other of its men. He came into touch with
many widely differing elements which made up its life and character. He
spent most of his life in cities, but never lost the sense for country
sights and sounds which central Massachusetts gave him in Worcester, his
birthplace, and in Northampton, where he taught school. The home into
which he was born offered him from his infancy a rich possession. His
father was a Unitarian clergyman who wrote a 'Life of Washington' that
was received with favor; thus things concerning God and country were his
patrimony. Not without significance was a word of his mother which he
recalled in his latest years, "My son, I do not wish you to become a
rich man, but I would have you be an affluent man: _ad fluo_, always a
little more coming in than going out."

To the advantages of his boyhood home and of Harvard College, to which
he went as a lad of thirteen, the eager young student added the
opportunity, then uncommon, of a systematic course of study in German,
and won the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Goettingen in 1820. He had
in a marked degree the characteristics of his countrymen, versatility
and adaptability. Giving up an early purpose of fitting himself for the
pulpit, he taught in Harvard, and helped to found a school of an
advanced type at Northampton. Meantime he published a volume of verse,
and found out that the passionate love of poetry which lasted through
his life was not creative. At Northampton he published in 1828 a
translation in two volumes of Heeren's 'History of the Political System
of Europe,' and also edited two editions of a Latin Reader; but the
duties of a schoolmaster's life were early thrown aside, and he could
not be persuaded to resume them later when the headship of an important
educational institution was offered to him. Together with the one great
pursuit of his life, to which he remained true for sixty years, he
delighted in the activities of a politician, the duties of a statesman,
and the occupations of a man of affairs and of the world.

[Illustration: GEORGE BANCROFT.]

Bancroft received a large but insufficient vote as the Democratic
candidate for the Governorship of Massachusetts, and for a time he held
the office of Collector of the port of Boston. As Secretary of the Navy
in the Cabinet of Polk, he rendered to his country two distinct services
of great value: he founded the Naval School at Annapolis, and by his
prompt orders to the American commander in the Pacific waters he secured
the acquisition of California for the United States. The special
abilities he displayed in the Cabinet were such, so Polk thought, as to
lead to his appointment as Minister to England in 1846. He was a
diplomat of no mean order. President Johnson appointed him Minister to
Germany in 1867, and Grant retained him at that post until 1874, as long
as Bancroft desired it. During his stay there he concluded just
naturalization treaties with Germany, and in a masterly way won from the
Emperor, William I., as arbitrator, judgment in favor of the United
States's claim over that of Great Britain in the Northwestern
boundary dispute.

Always holding fast his one cherished object,--that of worthily writing
the history of the United States,--Bancroft did not deny himself the
pleasure of roaming in other fields. He wrote frequently on current
topics, on literary, historical, and political subjects. His eulogies of
Jackson and of Lincoln, pronounced before Congress, entitle him to the
rank of an orator. He was very fond of studies in metaphysics, and
Trendelenburg, the eminent German philosopher, said of him, "Bancroft
knows Kant through and through."

His home--whether in Boston, or in New York where he spent the middle
portion of his life, or in Washington his abode for the last sixteen
years, or during his residence abroad--was the scene of the occupations
and delights which the highest culture craves. He was gladly welcomed to
the inner circle of the finest minds of Germany, and the tribute of the
German men of learning was unfeigned and universal when he quitted the
country in 1874. Many of the best men of England and of France were
among his warm friends. At his table were gathered from time to time
some of the world's greatest thinkers,--men of science, soldiers,
statesmen and men of affairs. Fond as he was of social joys, it was his
daily pleasure to mount his horse and alone, or with a single companion,
to ride where nature in her shy or in her exuberant mood inspired. One
day, after he was eighty years old, he rode on his young, blooded
Kentucky horse along the Virginia bank of the Potomac for more than
thirty-six miles. He could be seen every day among the perfect roses of
his garden at "Roseclyffe," his Newport summer-home, often full of
thought, at other times in wellnigh boisterous glee, always giving
unstinted care and expense to the queen of flowers. The books in which
he kept the record of the rose garden were almost as elaborate as those
in which were entered the facts and fancies out of which his History
grew. His home life was charming. By a careful use of opportunities and
of his means he became an "affluent" man. He was twice married: both
times a new source of refined domestic happiness long blessed his home,
and new means for enlarged comfort and hospitality were added to his
own. Two sons, children of his first wife, survived him.

Some of Bancroft's characteristics were not unlike those of Jefferson. A
constant tendency to idealize called up in him at times a feeling
verging on impatience with the facts or the men that stood in the way of
a theory or the accomplishment of a personal desire. He had a keen
perception of an underlying or a final truth and professed warm love for
it, whether in the large range of history or in the nexus of current
politics: any one taking a different point of view at times was led to
think that his facts, as he stated them, lay crosswise, and might
therefore find the perspective out of drawing, but could not rightly
impugn his good faith.

Although a genuine lover of his race and a believer in Democracy, he was
not always ready to put implicit trust in the individual as being
capable of exercising a wise judgment and the power of true
self-direction. For man he avowed a perfect respect; among men his
bearing showed now and then a trace of condescension. In controversies
over disputed points of history--and he had many such--he meant to be
fair and to anticipate the final verdict of truth, but overwhelming
evidence was necessary to convince him that his judgment, formed after
painstaking research, could be wrong. His ample love of justice,
however, is proved by his passionate appreciation of the character of
Washington, by his unswerving devotion to the conception of our national
unity, both in its historical development and at the moment when it was
imperiled by civil war, and by his hatred of slavery and of false
financial policies. He took pleasure in giving generously, but always
judiciously and without ostentation. On one occasion he, with a few of
his friends, paid off the debt from the house of an eminent scholar; on
another, he helped to rebuild for a great thinker the home which had
been burned. At Harvard, more than fifty years after his graduation, he
founded a traveling scholarship and named it in honor of the president
of his college days.

As to the manner of his work, Bancroft laid large plans and gave to the
details of their execution unwearied zeal. The scope of the 'History of
the United States' as he planned it was admirable. In carrying it out he
was persistent in acquiring materials, sparing no pains in his research
at home and abroad, and no cost in securing original papers or exact
copies and transcripts from the archives of England and France, Spain
and Holland and Germany, from public libraries and from individuals; he
fished in all waters and drew fish of all sorts into his net. He took
great pains, and the secretaries whom he employed to aid him in his work
were instructed likewise to take great pains, not only to enter facts in
the reference books in their chronological order, but to make all
possible cross-references to related facts. The books of his library,
which was large and rich in treasures, he used as tools, and many of
them were filled with cross references. In the fly-leaves of the books
he read he made note with a word and the cited page of what the printed
pages contained of interest to him or of value in his work.

His mind was one of quick perceptions within a wide range, and always
alert to grasp an idea in its manifold relations. It is remarkable,
therefore, that he was very laborious in his method of work. He often
struggled long with a thought for intellectual mastery. In giving it
expression, his habit was to dictate rapidly and with enthusiasm and at
great length, but he usually selected the final form after repeated
efforts. His first draft of a chapter was revised again and again and
condensed. One of his early volumes in its first manuscript form was
eight times as long as when finally published. He had another striking
habit, that of writing by topics rather than in strict chronological
order, so that a chapter which was to find its place late in the volume
was often completed before one which was to precede it. Partly by nature
and perhaps partly by this practice, he had the power to carry on
simultaneously several trains of thought. When preparing one of his
public orations, it was remarked by one of his household that after an
evening spent over a trifling game of bezique, the next morning found
him well advanced beyond the point where the work had been seemingly
laid down. He had the faculty of buoying a thought, knowing just where
to take it up after an interruption and deftly splicing it in continuous
line, sometimes after a long interval. When about to begin the
preparation of the argument which was to sustain triumphantly the claim
of the United States in the boundary question, he wrote from Berlin for
copies of documents filed in the office of the Navy Department, which he
remembered were there five-and-twenty years before.

The 'History of the United States from the Discovery of America to the
Inauguration of Washington' is treated by Bancroft in three parts. The
first, Colonial History from 1492 to 1748, occupies more than one fourth
of his pages. The second part, the American Revolution, 1748 to 1782,
claims more than one half of the entire work, and is divided into four
epochs:--the first, 1748-1763, is entitled 'The Overthrow of the
European Colonial System'; the second, 1763-1774, 'How Great Britain
Estranged America'; the third, 1774-1776, 'America Declares Itself
Independent'; the fourth, 1776-1782, 'The Independence of America is
Acknowledged.' The last part, 'The History of the Formation of the
Constitution,' 1782-1789, though published as a separate work, is
essentially a continuation of the History proper, of which it forms in
bulk rather more than one tenth.

If his services as a historian are to be judged by any one portion of
his work rather than by another, the history of the formation of the
Constitution affords the best test. In that the preceding work comes to
fruition; the time of its writing, after the Civil War and the
consequent settling of the one vexing question by the abolition of
sectionalism, and when he was in the fullness of the experience of his
own ripe years, was most opportune. Bancroft was equal to his
opportunity. He does not teach us that the Constitution is the result of
superhuman wisdom, nor on the other hand does he admit, as John Adams
asserted, that however excellent, the Constitution was wrung "from the
grinding necessity of a reluctant people." He does not fail to point out
the critical nature of the four years prior to the meeting of the
Federal Convention; but he discerns that whatever occasions, whether
transitory or for the time of "steady and commanding influence," may
help or hinder the formation of the now perfect union, its true cause
was "an indwelling necessity" in the people to "form above the States a
common constitution for the whole."

Recognizing the fact that the primary cause for the true union was
remote in origin and deep and persistent, Bancroft gives a retrospect of
the steps toward union from the founding of the colonies to the close of
the war for independence. Thenceforward, suggestions as to method or
form of amending the Articles of Confederation, whether made by
individuals, or State Legislatures, or by Congress, were in his view
helps indeed to promote the movement; but they were first of all so many
proofs that despite all the contrary wayward surface indications, the
strong current was flowing independently toward the just and perfect
union. Having acknowledged this fundamental fact of the critical years
between Yorktown and the Constitution, the historian is free to give
just and discriminating praise to all who shared at that time in
redeeming the political hope of mankind, to give due but not exclusive
honor to Washington and Thomas Paine, to Madison and Hamilton and their

The many attempts, isolated or systematic, during the period from
1781-1786, to reform the Articles of Confederation, were happily futile;
but they were essential in the training of the people in the
consciousness of the nature of the work for which they are responsible.
The balances must come slowly to a poise. Not merely union strong and
for a time effective, was needed, but union of a certain and
unprecedented sort: one in which the true pledge of permanency for a
continental republic was to be found in the federative principle, by
which the highest activities of nation and of State were conditioned
each by the welfare of the other. The people rightly felt, too, that a
Congress of one house would be inadequate and dangerous. They waited in
the midst of risks for the proper hour, and then, not reluctantly but
resolutely, adopted the Constitution as a promising experiment in

Bancroft's treatment of the evolution of the second great organic act of
this time--the Northwestern ordinance--is no less just and true to the
facts. For two generations men had snatched at the laurels due to the
creator of that matchless piece of legislation; to award them now to
Jefferson, now to Nathan Dane, now to Rufus King, now to Manasseh
Cutler. Bancroft calmly and clearly shows how the great law grew with
the kindly aid and watchful care of these men and of others.

The deliberations of the Federal Constitution are adequately recorded;
and he gives fair relative recognition to the work and words of
individuals, and the actions of State delegations in making the great
adjustments between nation and States, between large and small and slave
and free States. From his account we infer that the New Jersey plan was
intended by its authors only for temporary use in securing equality for
the States in one essential part of the government, while the men from
Connecticut receive credit for the compromise which reconciled
nationality with true State rights. Further to be noticed are the
results of the exhaustive study which Bancroft gave to the matter of
paper money, and to the meaning of the clause prohibiting the States
from impairing the obligation of contracts. He devotes nearly one
hundred pages to 'The People of the States in Judgment on the
Constitution,' and rightly; for it is the final act of the separate
States, and by it their individual wills are merged in the will of the
people, which is one, though still politically distributed and active
within State lines. His summary of the main principles of the
Constitution is excellent; and he concludes with a worthy sketch of the
organization of the first Congress under the Constitution, and of the
inauguration of Washington as President.

In this last portion of the 'History,' while all of his merits as a
historian are not conspicuous, neither are some of his chief defects.
Here the tendency to philosophize, to marshal stately sentences, and to
be discursive, is not so marked.

The first volume of Bancroft's 'History of the United States' was
published in 1834, when the democratic spirit was finding its first full
expression under Jackson, and when John Marshall was finishing his
mighty task of revealing to the people of the United States the strength
that lay in their organic law. As he put forth volume after volume at
irregular intervals for fifty years, he in a measure continued this work
of bringing to the exultant consciousness of the people the value of
their possession of a continent of liberty and the realization of their
responsibility. In the course of another generation, portions of this
'History of the United States' may begin to grow antiquated, though the
most brilliant of contemporary journalists quite recently placed it
among the ten books indispensable to every American; but time cannot
take away Bancroft's good part in producing influences, which, however
they may vary in form and force, will last throughout the nation's life.

[Illustration: Signature: Austin Scott]


From 'History of the United States'

The period of success in planting Virginia had arrived; yet not till
changes in European politics and society had molded the forms of
colonization. The Reformation had broken the harmony of religious
opinion; and differences in the Church began to constitute the basis of
political parties. After the East Indies had been reached by doubling
the southern promontory of Africa, the great commerce of the world was
carried upon the ocean. The art of printing had been perfected and
diffused; and the press spread intelligence and multiplied the
facilities of instruction. The feudal institutions, which had been
reared in the middle ages, were already undermined by the current of
time and events, and, swaying from their base, threatened to fall.
Productive industry had built up the fortunes and extended the influence
of the active classes; while habits of indolence and expense had
impaired the estates and diminished the power of the nobility. These
changes produced corresponding results in the institutions which were to
rise in America.

A revolution had equally occurred in the purposes for which voyages were
undertaken. The hope of Columbus, as he sailed to the west, had been
the discovery of a new passage to the East Indies. The passion for gold
next became the prevailing motive. Then the islands and countries near
the equator were made the tropical gardens of the Europeans. At last,
the higher design was matured: to plant permanent Christian colonies; to
establish for the oppressed and the enterprising places of refuge and
abode; to found states in a temperate clime, with all the elements of
independent existence.

In the imperfect condition of industry, a redundant population had
existed in England even before the peace with Spain, which threw out of
employment the gallant men who had served under Elizabeth by sea and
land, and left them no option but to engage as mercenaries in the
quarrels of strangers, or incur the hazards of "seeking a New World."
The minds of many persons of intelligence and rank were directed to
Virginia. The brave and ingenious Gosnold, who had himself witnessed the
fertility of the western soil, long solicited the concurrence of his
friends for the establishment of a colony, and at last prevailed with
Edward Maria Wingfield, a merchant of the west of England, Robert Hunt,
a clergyman of fortitude and modest worth, and John Smith, an adventurer
of rarest qualities, to risk their lives and hopes of fortune in an
expedition. For more than a year this little company revolved the
project of a plantation. At the same time Sir Ferdinando Gorges was
gathering information of the native Americans, whom he had received from
Waymouth, and whose descriptions of the country, joined to the favorable
views which he had already imbibed, filled him with the strongest desire
of becoming a proprietary of domains beyond the Atlantic. Gorges was a
man of wealth, rank and influence; he readily persuaded Sir John Popham,
Lord Chief Justice of England, to share his intentions. Nor had the
assigns of Raleigh become indifferent to "western planting"; which the
most distinguished of them all, "industrious Hakluyt," the historian of
maritime enterprise, still promoted by his personal exertions, his
weight of character, and his invincible zeal. Possessed of whatever
information could be derived from foreign sources and a correspondence
with eminent navigators of his times, and anxiously watching the
progress of Englishmen in the West, his extensive knowledge made him a
counselor in every colonial enterprise.

The King of England, too timid to be active, yet too vain to be
indifferent, favored the design of enlarging his dominions. He had
attempted in Scotland the introduction of the arts of life among the
Highlanders and the Western Isles, by the establishment of colonies; and
the Scottish plantations which he founded in the northern counties of
Ireland contributed to the affluence and the security of that island.
When, therefore, a company of men of business and men of rank, formed by
the experience of Gosnold, the enthusiasm of Smith, the perseverance of
Hakluyt, the influence of Popham and Gorges, applied to James I. for
leave "to deduce a colony into Virginia," the monarch, on the tenth of
April, 1606, readily set his seal to an ample patent.

The first colonial charter, under which the English were planted in
America, deserves careful consideration.

Appleton and Company, New York.


From 'History of the United States'

These better auspices, and the invitations of Winthrop, won new
emigrants from Europe. During the long summer voyage of the two hundred
passengers who freighted the Griffin, three sermons a day beguiled their
weariness. Among them was Haynes, a man of very large estate, and larger
affections; of a "heavenly" mind, and a spotless life; of rare sagacity,
and accurate but unassuming judgment; by nature tolerant, ever a friend
to freedom, ever conciliating peace; an able legislator; dear to the
people by his benevolent virtues and his disinterested conduct. Then
also came the most revered spiritual teachers of two commonwealths: the
acute and subtle Cotton, the son of a Puritan lawyer; eminent in
Cambridge as a scholar; quick in the nice perception of distinctions,
and pliant in dialects; in manner persuasive rather than commanding;
skilled in the fathers and the schoolmen, but finding all their wisdom
compactly stored in Calvin; deeply devout by nature as well as habit
from childhood; hating heresy and still precipitately eager to prevent
evil actions by suppressing ill opinions, yet verging toward a progress
in truth and in religious freedom; an avowed enemy to democracy, which
he feared as the blind despotism of animal instincts in the multitude,
yet opposing hereditary power in all its forms; desiring a government of
moral opinion, according to the laws of universal equity, and claiming
"the ultimate resolution for the whole body of the people:" and Hooker,
of vast endowments, a strong will and an energetic mind; ingenuous in
his temper, and open in his professions; trained to benevolence by the
discipline of affliction; versed in tolerance by his refuge in Holland;
choleric, yet gentle in his affections; firm in his faith, yet readily
yielding to the power of reason; the peer of the reformers, without
their harshness; the devoted apostle to the humble and the poor, severe
toward the proud, mild in his soothings of a wounded spirit, glowing
with the raptures of devotion, and kindling with the messages of
redeeming love; his eye, voice, gesture, and whole frame animate with
the living vigor of heart-felt religion; public-spirited and lavishly
charitable; and, "though persecutions and banishments had awaited him as
one wave follows another," ever serenely blessed with "a glorious peace
of soul"; fixed in his trust in Providence, and in his adhesion to that
cause of advancing civilization, which he cherished always, even while
it remained to him a mystery. This was he whom, for his abilities and
services, his contemporaries placed "in the first rank" of men; praising
him as "the one rich pearl, with which Europe more than repaid America
for the treasures from her coast." The people to whom Hooker ministered
had preceded him; as he landed they crowded about him with their
welcome. "Now I live," exclaimed he, as with open arms he embraced them,
"now I live if ye stand fast in the Lord."

Thus recruited, the little band in Massachusetts grew more jealous of
its liberties. "The prophets in exile see the true forms of the house."
By a common impulse, the freemen of the towns chose deputies to consider
in advance the duties of the general court. The charter plainly gave
legislative power to the whole body of the freemen; if it allowed
representatives, thought Winthrop, it was only by inference; and, as the
whole people could not always assemble, the chief power, it was argued,
lay necessarily with the assistants.

Far different was the reasoning of the people. To check the democratic
tendency, Cotton, on the election day, preached to the assembled freemen
against rotation in office. The right of an honest magistrate to his
place was like that of a proprietor to his freehold. But the electors,
now between three and four hundred in number, were bent on exercising
"their absolute power," and, reversing the decision of the pulpit, chose
a new governor and deputy. The mode of taking the votes was at the same
time reformed; and, instead of the erection of hands, the ballot-box was
introduced. Thus "the people established a reformation of such things as
they judged to be amiss in the government."

It was further decreed that the whole body of the freemen should be
convened only for the election of the magistrates: to these, with
deputies to be chosen by the several towns, the powers of legislation
and appointment were henceforward intrusted. The trading corporation was
unconsciously become a representative democracy.

The law against arbitrary taxation followed. None but the immediate
representatives of the people might dispose of lands or raise money.
Thus early did Massachusetts echo the voice of Virginia, like deep
calling unto deep. The state was filled with the hum of village
politicians; "the freemen of every town in the Bay were busy in
inquiring into their liberties and privileges." With the exception of
the principle of universal suffrage, now so happily established, the
representative democracy was as perfect two centuries ago as it is
to-day. Even the magistrates, who acted as judges, held their office by
the annual popular choice. "Elections cannot be safe there long," said
the lawyer Lechford. The same prediction has been made these two hundred
years. The public mind, ever in perpetual agitation, is still easily
shaken, even by slight and transient impulses; but, after all
vibrations, it follows the laws of the moral world, and safely recovers
its balance.

Appleton and Company, New York.


From 'History of the United States'

Thus was Philip hurried into "his rebellion"; and he is reported to have
wept as he heard that a white man's blood had been shed. He had kept his
men about him in arms, and had welcomed every stranger; and yet, against
his judgment and his will, he was involved in war. For what prospect had
he of success? The English were united; the Indians had no alliance: the
English made a common cause; half the Indians were allies of the
English, or were quiet spectators of the fight: the English had guns
enough; but few of the Indians were well armed, and they could get no
new supplies: the English had towns for their shelter and safe retreat;
the miserable wigwams of the natives were defenseless: the English had
sure supplies of food; the Indians might easily lose their precarious
stores. Frenzy prompted their rising. They rose without hope, and they
fought without mercy. For them as a nation, there was no to-morrow.

The minds of the English were appalled by the horrors of the impending
conflict, and superstition indulged in its wild inventions. At the time
of the eclipse of the moon, you might have seen the figure of an Indian
scalp imprinted on the centre of its disk. The perfect form of an Indian
bow appeared in the sky. The sighing of the wind was like the whistling
of bullets. Some heard invisible troops of horses gallop through the
air, while others found the prophecy of calamities in the howling of
the wolves.

At the very beginning of danger the colonists exerted their wonted
energy. Volunteers from Massachusetts joined the troops from Plymouth;
and, within a week from the commencement of hostilities, the insulated
Pokanokets were driven from Mount Hope, and in less than a month Philip
was a fugitive among the Nipmucks, the interior tribes of Massachusetts.
The little army of the colonists then entered the territory of the
Narragansetts, and from the reluctant tribe extorted a treaty of
neutrality, with a promise to deliver up every hostile Indian. Victory
seemed promptly assured. But it was only the commencement of horrors.
Canonchet, the chief sachem of the Narragansetts, was the son of
Miantonomoh; and could he forget his father's wrongs? Desolation
extended along the whole frontier. Banished from his patrimony, where
the pilgrims found a friend, and from his cabin, which had sheltered the
exiles, Philip, with his warriors, spread through the country, awakening
their brethren to a warfare of extermination.

The war, on the part of the Indians, was one of ambuscades and
surprises. They never once met the English in open field; but always,
even if eightfold in numbers, fled timorously before infantry. They were
secret as beasts of prey, skillful marksmen, and in part provided with
firearms, fleet of foot, conversant with all the paths of the forest,
patient of fatigue, and mad with a passion for rapine, vengeance, and
destruction, retreating into swamps for their fastnesses, or hiding in
the greenwood thickets, where the leaves muffled the eyes of the
pursuer. By the rapidity of their descent, they seemed omnipresent among
the scattered villages, which they ravished like a passing storm; and
for a full year they kept all New England in a state of terror and
excitement. The exploring party was waylaid and cut off, and the mangled
carcasses and disjointed limbs of the dead were hung upon the trees. The
laborer in the field, the reapers as they sallied forth to the harvest,
men as they went to mill, the shepherd's boy among the sheep, were shot
down by skulking foes, whose approach was invisible. Who can tell the
heavy hours of woman? The mother, if left alone in the house, feared the
tomahawk for herself and children; on the sudden attack, the husband
would fly with one child, the wife with another, and, perhaps, one only
escape; the village cavalcade, making its way to meeting on Sunday in
files on horseback, the farmer holding the bridle in one hand and a
child in the other, his wife seated on a pillion behind him, it may be
with a child in her lap, as was the fashion in those days, could not
proceed safely; but, at the moment when least expected, bullets would
whizz among them, sent from an unseen enemy by the wayside. The forest
that protected the ambush of the Indians secured their retreat.

D. Appleton and Company, New York.


From 'History of the United States'

During the absence of Stuyvesant from Manhattan, the warriors of the
neighboring Algonkin tribes, never reposing confidence in the Dutch,
made a desperate assault on the colony. In sixty-four canoes they
appeared before the town, and ravaged the adjacent country. The return
of the expedition restored confidence. The captives were ransomed, and
industry repaired its losses. The Dutch seemed to have firmly
established their power, and promised themselves happier years. New
Netherland consoled them for the loss of Brazil. They exulted in the
possession of an admirable territory, that needed no embankments against
the ocean. They were proud of its vast extent,--from New England to
Maryland, from the sea to the Great River of Canada, and the remote
Northwestern wilderness. They sounded with exultation the channel of the
deep stream, which was no longer shared with the Swedes; they counted
with delight its many lovely runs of water, on which the beavers built
their villages; and the great travelers who had visited every continent,
as they ascended the Delaware, declared it one of the noblest rivers in
the world, with banks more inviting than the lands on the Amazon.

Meantime, the country near the Hudson gained by increasing emigration.
Manhattan was already the chosen abode of merchants; and the policy of
the government invited them by its good-will. If Stuyvesant sometimes
displayed the rash despotism of a soldier, he was sure to be reproved by
his employers. Did he change the rate of duties arbitrarily, the
directors, sensitive to commercial honor, charged him "to keep every
contract inviolate." Did he tamper with the currency by raising the
nominal value of foreign coin, the measure was rebuked as dishonest. Did
he attempt to fix the price of labor by arbitrary rules, this also was
condemned as unwise and impracticable. Did he interfere with the
merchants by inspecting their accounts, the deed was censured as without
precedent "in Christendom"; and he was ordered to "treat the merchants
with kindness, lest they return, and the country be depopulated." Did
his zeal for Calvinism lead him to persecute Lutherans, he was chid for
his bigotry. Did his hatred of "the abominable sect of Quakers" imprison
and afterward exile the blameless Bowne, "let every peaceful citizen,"
wrote the directors, "enjoy freedom of conscience; this maxim has made
our city the asylum for fugitives from every land; tread in its steps,
and you shall be blessed."

Private worship was therefore allowed to every religion. Opinion, if not
yet enfranchised, was already tolerated. The people of Palestine, from
the destruction of their temple an outcast and a wandering race, were
allured by the traffic and the condition of the New World; and not the
Saxon and Celtic races only, the children of the bondmen that broke from
slavery in Egypt, the posterity of those who had wandered in Arabia, and
worshiped near Calvary, found a home, liberty, and a burial place on the
island of Manhattan.

The emigrants from Holland were themselves of the most various lineage;
for Holland had long been the gathering-place of the unfortunate. Could
we trace the descent of the emigrants from the Low Countries to New
Netherland, we should be carried not only to the banks of the Rhine and
the borders of the German Sea, but to the Protestants who escaped from
France after the massacre of Bartholomew's Eve, and to those earlier
inquirers who were swayed by the voice of Huss in the heart of Bohemia.
New York was always a city of the world. Its settlers were relics of the
first fruits of the Reformation, chosen from the Belgic provinces and
England, from France and Bohemia, from Germany and Switzerland, from
Piedmont and the Italian Alps.

The religious sects, which, in the middle ages, had been fostered by the
municipal liberties of the south of France, were the harbingers of
modern freedom, and had therefore been sacrificed to the inexorable
feudalism of the north. After a bloody conflict, the plebeian reformers,
crushed by the merciless leaders of the military aristocracy, escaped to
the highlands that divide France and Italy. Preserving the discipline of
a benevolent, ascetic morality, with the simplicity of a
spiritual worship,

"When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones,"

it was found, on the progress of the Reformation, that they had by three
centuries anticipated Luther and Calvin. The hurricane of persecution,
which was to have swept Protestantism from the earth, did not spare
their seclusion; mothers with infants were rolled down the rocks, and
the bones of martyrs scattered on the Alpine mountains. The city of
Amsterdam offered the fugitive Waldenses a free passage to America, and
a welcome was prepared in New Netherland for the few who were willing
to emigrate.

The persecuted of every creed and every clime were invited to the
colony. When the Protestant churches in Rochelle were razed, the
Calvinists of that city were gladly admitted; and the French Protestants
came in such numbers that the public documents were sometimes issued in
French as well as in Dutch and English. Troops of orphans were shipped
for the milder destinies of the New World; a free passage was offered to
mechanics; for "population was known to be the bulwark of every State."
The government of New Netherland had formed just ideas of the fit
materials for building a commonwealth; they desired "farmers and
laborers, foreigners and exiles, men inured to toil and penury." The
colony increased; children swarmed in every village; the advent of the
year and the month of May were welcomed with noisy frolics; new modes of
activity were devised; lumber was shipped to France; the whale pursued
off the coast; the vine, the mulberry, planted; flocks of sheep as well
as cattle were multiplied; and tile, so long imported from Holland,
began to be manufactured near Fort Orange. New Amsterdam could, in a few
years, boast of stately buildings, and almost vied with Boston. "This
happily situated province," said its inhabitants, "may become the
granary of our fatherland; should our Netherlands be wasted by grievous
wars, it will offer our countrymen a safe retreat; by God's blessing, we
shall in a few years become a mighty people."

Thus did various nations of the Caucasian race assist in colonizing our
central states.

D. Appleton and Company, New York.


From 'History of the United States'

Franklin looked quietly and deeply into the secrets of nature. His clear
understanding was never perverted by passion, nor corrupted by the pride
of theory. The son of a rigid Calvinist, the grandson of a tolerant
Quaker, he had from boyhood been familiar not only with theological
subtilities, but with a catholic respect for freedom of mind. Skeptical
of tradition as the basis of faith, he respected reason rather than
authority; and, after a momentary lapse into fatalism, he gained with
increasing years an increasing trust in the overruling providence of
God. Adhering to none of all the religions in the colonies, he yet
devoutly, though without form, adhered to religion. But though famous as
a disputant, and having a natural aptitude for metaphysics, he obeyed
the tendency of his age, and sought by observation to win an insight
into the mysteries of being. The best observers praise his method most.
He so sincerely loved truth, that in his pursuit of her she met him
half-way. Without prejudice and without bias, he discerned intuitively
the identity of the laws of nature with those of which humanity is
conscious; so that his mind was like a mirror, in which the universe, as
it reflected itself, revealed her laws. His morality, repudiating
ascetic severities and the system which enjoins them, was indulgent to
appetites of which he abhorred the sway; but his affections were of a
calm intensity: in all his career, the love of man held the mastery over
personal interest. He had not the imagination which inspires the bard or
kindles the orator; but an exquisite propriety, parsimonious of
ornament, gave ease, correctness, and graceful simplicity even to his
most careless writings. In life, also, his tastes were delicate.
Indifferent to the pleasures of the table, he relished the delights of
music and harmony, of which he enlarged the instruments. His blandness
of temper, his modesty, the benignity of his manners, made him the
favorite of intelligent society; and, with healthy cheerfulness, he
derived pleasure from books, from philosophy, from conversation,--now
administering consolation to the sorrower, now indulging in
light-hearted gayety. In his intercourse, the universality of his
perceptions bore, perhaps, the character of humor; but, while he clearly
discerned the contrast between the grandeur of the universe and the
feebleness of man, a serene benevolence saved him from contempt of his
race or disgust at its toils. To superficial observers, he might have
seemed as an alien from speculative truth, limiting himself to the world
of the senses; and yet, in study, and among men, his mind always sought
to discover and apply the general principles by which nature and affairs
are controlled,--now deducing from the theory of caloric improvements in
fireplaces and lanterns, and now advancing human freedom by firm
inductions from the inalienable rights of man. Never professing
enthusiasm, never making a parade of sentiment, his practical wisdom was
sometimes mistaken for the offspring of selfish prudence; yet his hope
was steadfast, like that hope which rests on the Rock of Ages, and his
conduct was as unerring as though the light that led him was a light
from heaven. He never anticipated action by theories of self-sacrificing
virtue; and yet, in the moments of intense activity, he from the abodes
of ideal truth brought down and applied to the affairs of life the
principles of goodness, as unostentatiously as became the man who with a
kite and hempen string drew lightning from the skies. He separated
himself so little from his age that he has been called the
representative of materialism; and yet, when he thought on religion, his
mind passed beyond reliance on sects to faith in God; when he wrote on
politics, he founded freedom on principles that know no change; when he
turned an observing eye on nature, he passed from the effect to the
cause, from individual appearances to universal laws; when he reflected
on history, his philosophic mind found gladness and repose in the clear
anticipation of the progress of humanity.

End of Volume III.


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