Parliaments having failed, there remained nothing but the way of Despotism. Military Dictators, each with his district, to _coerce_ the Royalist and other gainsayers, to govern them, if not by act of Parliament, then by the sword. Formula shall _not_ carry it, while the Reality is here! I will go on, protecting oppressed Protestants abroad, appointing just judges, wise managers, at home, cherishing true Gospel ministers; doing the best I can to make England a Christian England, greater than old Rome, the Queen of Protestant Christianity; I, since you will not help me; I while God leaves me life!--Why did he not give it up; retire into obscurity again, since the Law would not acknowledge him? cry several. That is where they mistake. For him there was no giving of it up! Prime ministers have governed countries, Pitt, Pombal, Choiseul; and their word was a law while it held: but this Prime Minister was one that _could not get resigned_. Let him once resign, Charles Stuart and the Cavaliers waited to kill him; to kill the Cause _and_ him. Once embarked, there is no retreat, no return. This Prime Minister could _retire_ no-whither except into his tomb.
One is sorry for Cromwell in his old days. His complaint is incessant of the heavy burden Providence has laid on him. Heavy; which he must bear till death. Old Colonel Hutchinson, as his wife relates it, Hutchinson, his old battle-mate, coming to see him on some indispensable business, much against his will,--Cromwell "follows him to the door," in a most fraternal, domestic, conciliatory style; begs that he would be reconciled to him, his old brother in arms; says how much it grieves him to be misunderstood, deserted by true fellow-soldiers, dear to him from of old: the rigorous Hutchinson, cased in his Republican formula, sullenly goes his way.--And the man's head now white; his strong arm growing weary with its long work! I think always too of his poor Mother, now very old, living in that Palace of his; a right brave woman; as indeed they lived all an honest God-fearing Household there: if she heard a shot go off, she thought it was her son killed. He had to come to her at least once a day, that she might see with her own eyes that he was yet living. The poor old Mother!--What had this man gained; what had he gained? He had a life of sore strife and toil, to his last day. Fame, ambition, place in History? His dead body was hung in chains, his "place in History,"--place in History forsooth!--has been a place of ignominy, accusation, blackness and disgrace; and here, this day, who knows if it is not rash in me to be among the first that ever ventured to pronounce him not a knave and liar, but a genuinely honest man! Peace to him. Did he not, in spite of all, accomplish much for us? _We_ walk smoothly over his great rough heroic life; step over his body sunk in the ditch there. We need not _spurn_ it, as we step on it!--Let the Hero rest. It was not to _men's_ judgment that he appealed; nor have men judged him very well.
Precisely a century and a year after this of Puritanism had got itself hushed up into decent composure, and its results made smooth, in 1688, there broke out a far deeper explosion, much more difficult to hush up, known to all mortals, and like to be long known, by the name of French Revolution. It is properly the third and final act of Protestantism; the explosive confused return of mankind to Reality and Fact, now that they were perishing of Semblance and Sham. We call our English Puritanism the second act: "Well then, the Bible is true; let us go by the Bible!" "In Church," said Luther; "In Church and State," said Cromwell, "let us go by what actually _is_ God's Truth." Men have to return to reality; they cannot live on semblance. The French Revolution, or third act, we may well call the final one; for lower than that savage _Sansculottism_ men cannot go. They stand there on the nakedest haggard Fact, undeniable in all seasons and circumstances; and may and must begin again confidently to build up from that. The French explosion, like the English one, got its King,--who had no Notary parchment to show for himself. We have still to glance for a moment at Napoleon, our second modern King.
Napoleon does by no means seem to me so great a man as Cromwell. His enormous victories which reached over all Europe, while Cromwell abode mainly in our little England, are but as the high _stilts_ on which the man is seen standing; the stature of the man is not altered thereby. I find in him no such _sincerity_ as in Cromwell; only a far inferior sort. No silent walking, through long years, with the Awful Unnamable of this Universe; "walking with God," as he called it; and faith and strength in that alone: _latent_ thought and valor, content to lie latent, then burst out as in blaze of Heaven's lightning! Napoleon lived in an age when God was no longer believed; the meaning of all Silence, Latency, was thought to be Nonentity: he had to begin not out of the Puritan Bible, but out of poor Sceptical _Encyclopedies_. This was the length the man carried it. Meritorious to get so far. His compact, prompt, every way articulate character is in itself perhaps small, compared with our great chaotic inarticulate Cromwell's. Instead of "dumb Prophet struggling to speak," we have a portentous mixture of the Quack withal! Hume's notion of the Fanatic-Hypocrite, with such truth as it has, will apply much better to Napoleon than it did to Cromwell, to Mahomet or the like,--where indeed taken strictly it has hardly any truth at all. An element of blamable ambition shows itself, from the first, in this man; gets the victory over him at last, and involves him and his work in ruin.
"False as a bulletin" became a proverb in Napoleon's time. He makes what excuse he could for it: that it was necessary to mislead the enemy, to keep up his own men's courage, and so forth. On the whole, there are no excuses. A man in no case has liberty to tell lies. It had been, in the long-run, _better_ for Napoleon too if he had not told any. In fact, if a man have any purpose reaching beyond the hour and day, meant to be found extant _next_ day, what good can it ever be to promulgate lies? The lies are found out; ruinous penalty is exacted for them. No man will believe the liar next time even when he speaks truth, when it is of the last importance that he be believed. The old cry of wolf!--A Lie is no-thing; you cannot of nothing make something; you make _nothing_ at last, and lose your labor into the bargain.
Yet Napoleon _had_ a sincerity: we are to distinguish between what is superficial and what is fundamental in insincerity. Across these outer manoeuverings and quackeries of his, which were many and most blamable, let us discern withal that the man had a certain instinctive ineradicable feeling for reality; and did base himself upon fact, so long as he had any basis. He has an instinct of Nature better than his culture was. His _savans_, Bourrienne tells us, in that voyage to Egypt were one evening busily occupied arguing that there could be no God. They had proved it, to their satisfaction, by all manner of logic. Napoleon looking up into the stars, answers, "Very ingenious, Messieurs: but _who made_ all that?" The Atheistic logic runs off from him like water; the great Fact stares him in the face: "Who made all that?" So too in Practice: he, as every man that can be great, or have victory in this world, sees, through all entanglements, the practical heart of the matter; drives straight towards that. When the steward of his Tuileries Palace was exhibiting the new upholstery, with praises, and demonstration how glorious it was, and how cheap withal, Napoleon, making little answer, asked for a pair of scissors, clips one of the gold tassels from a window-curtain, put it in his pocket, and walked on. Some days afterwards, he produced it at the right moment, to the horror of his upholstery functionary; it was not gold but tinsel! In St. Helena, it is notable how he still, to his last days, insists on the practical, the real. "Why talk and complain; above all, why quarrel with one another? There is no _result_ in it; it comes to nothing that one can _do_. Say nothing, if one can do nothing!" He speaks often so, to his poor discontented followers; he is like a piece of silent strength in the middle of their morbid querulousness there.
And accordingly was there not what we can call a _faith_ in him, genuine so far as it went? That this new enormous Democracy asserting itself here in the French Revolution is an unsuppressible Fact, which the whole world, with its old forces and institutions, cannot put down; this was a true insight of his, and took his conscience and enthusiasm along with it,--a _faith_. And did he not interpret the dim purport of it well? "_La carriere ouverte aux talens_, The implements to him who can handle them:" this actually is the truth, and even the whole truth; it includes whatever the French Revolution or any Revolution, could mean. Napoleon, in his first period, was a true Democrat. And yet by the nature of him, fostered too by his military trade, he knew that Democracy, if it were a true thing at all, could not be an anarchy: the man had a heart-hatred for anarchy. On that Twentieth of June (1792), Bourrienne and he sat in a coffee-house, as the mob rolled by: Napoleon expresses the deepest contempt for persons in authority that they do not restrain this rabble. On the Tenth of August he wonders why there is no man to command these poor Swiss; they would conquer if there were. Such a faith in Democracy, yet hatred of anarchy, it is that carries Napoleon through all his great work. Through his brilliant Italian Campaigns, onwards to the Peace of Leoben, one would say, his inspiration is: "Triumph to the French Revolution; assertion of it against these Austrian Simulacra that pretend to call it a Simulacrum!" Withal, however, he feels, and has a right to feel, how necessary a strong Authority is; how the Revolution cannot prosper or last without such. To bridle in that great devouring, self-devouring French Revolution; to _tame_ it, so that its intrinsic purpose can be made good, that it may become _organic_, and be able to live among other organisms and _formed_ things, not as a wasting destruction alone: is not this still what he partly aimed at, as the true purport of his life; nay what he actually managed to do? Through Wagrams, Austerlitzes; triumph after triumph,--he triumphed so far. There was an eye to see in this man, a soul to dare and do. He rose naturally to be the King. All men saw that he _was_ such. The common soldiers used to say on the march: "These babbling _Avocats_, up at Paris; all talk and no work! What wonder it runs all wrong? We shall have to go and put our _Petit Caporal_ there!" They went, and put him there; they and France at large. Chief-consulship, Emperorship, victory over Europe;--till the poor Lieutenant of _La Fere_, not unnaturally, might seem to himself the greatest of all men that had been in the world for some ages.
But at this point, I think, the fatal charlatan-element got the upper hand. He apostatized from his old faith in Facts, took to believing in Semblances; strove to connect himself with Austrian Dynasties, Popedoms, with the old false Feudalities which he once saw clearly to be false;--considered that _he_ would found "his Dynasty" and so forth; that the enormous French Revolution meant only that! The man was "given up to strong delusion, that he should believe a lie;" a fearful but most sure thing. He did not know true from false now when he looked at them,--the fearfulest penalty a man pays for yielding to untruth of heart. _Self_ and false ambition had now become his god: self-deception once yielded to, _all_ other deceptions follow naturally more and more. What a paltry patchwork of theatrical paper-mantles, tinsel and mummery, had this man wrapt his own great reality in, thinking to make it more real thereby! His hollow _Pope's-Concordat_, pretending to be a re-establishment of Catholicism, felt by himself to be the method of extirpating it, "_la vaccine de la religion_:" his ceremonial Coronations, consecrations by the old Italian Chimera in Notre-Dame,--"wanting nothing to complete the pomp of it," as Augereau said, "nothing but the half-million of men who had died to put an end to all that"! Cromwell's Inauguration was by the Sword and Bible; what we must call a genuinely _true_ one. Sword and Bible were borne before him, without any chimera: were not these the _real_ emblems of Puritanism; its true decoration and insignia? It had used them both in a very real manner, and pretended to stand by them now! But this poor Napoleon mistook: he believed too much in the _Dupability_ of men; saw no fact deeper in man than Hunger and this! He was mistaken. Like a man that should build upon cloud; his house and he fall down in confused wreck, and depart out of the world.