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Title: Historic Doubts Relative To Napoleon Buonaparte
Author: Whately, Richard, 1787-1863
Language: English
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Europe at http://dp.rastko.net





  Is not the same reason available in theology and in politics?...
  Will you follow truth but to a certain point?—BURKE'S
  _Vindication of Natural Society._

  The first author who stated fairly the connexion between the
  evidence of testimony and the evidence of experience, was Hume, in
  his ESSAY ON MIRACLES; a work _abounding in maxims of great use_ in
  the conduct of life.—_Edinburgh Review_, Sept. 1814, p. 328.





Several of the readers of this little work (first published in 1819)
have derived much amusement from the mistakes of others respecting its
nature and object. It has been by some represented as a serious
attempt to inculcate universal scepticism; while others have
considered it as a jeu d'esprit, &c.[1] The author does not, however,
design to entertain his readers with accounts of the mistakes which,
have arisen respecting it; because many of them, he is convinced,
would be received with incredulity; and he could not, without an
indelicate exposure of individuals, verify his anecdotes.

But some sensible readers have complained of the difficulty of
determining _what_ they are to believe. Of the existence of
Buonaparte, indeed, they remained fully convinced; nor, if it were
left doubtful, would any important results ensue; but if they can give
no _satisfactory reason_ for their conviction, how can they know, it
is asked, that they may not be mistaken as to other points of greater
consequence, on which they are no less fully convinced, but on which
all men are _not_ agreed? The author has accordingly been solicited to
endeavour to frame some canons which may furnish a standard for
determining what evidence is to be received.

This he conceives to be impracticable, except to that extent to which
it is accomplished by a sound system of Logic; including under that
title, a portion—that which relates to the "Laws of Evidence"—of
what is sometimes treated under the head of "Rhetoric." But the full
and complete accomplishment of such an object would confer on Man the
unattainable attribute of infallibility.

But the difficulty complained of, he conceives to arise, in many
instances, from men's _mis-stating the grounds of their own
conviction_. They are convinced, indeed, and perhaps with very
sufficient reason; but they imagine this reason to be a different one
from what it is. The evidence to which they have assented is applied
to their minds in a different manner from that in which they believe
that it is—and suppose that it ought to be—applied. And when
challenged to defend and justify their own belief, they feel at a
loss, because they are attempting to maintain a position which is
not, in fact, that in which their force lies.

For a development of the nature, the consequences, and the remedies of
this mistake, the reader is referred to "Hinds on Inspiration," pp.
30-46. If such a development is to be found in any earlier works, the
Author of the following pages at least has never chanced to meet with
any attempt of the kind.[2]

It has been objected, again, by some persons of no great logical
accuracy of thought, that as there would not be any _moral blame_
imputable to one who should seriously disbelieve, or doubt, the
existence of Buonaparte, so neither is a rejection of the
Scripture-histories to be considered as implying anything morally

The same objection, such as it is, would apply equally to many of the
Parables of the New Testament. It might be said, for instance, that as
a woman who should decline taking the trouble of searching for her
lost "piece of silver," or a merchant who should neglect making an
advantageous purchase of a "goodly pearl," would be guilty of no moral
wrong, it must follow that there is nothing morally wrong in
neglecting to reclaim a lost sinner, or in rejecting the Gospel, &c.

But any man of common sense readily perceives that the force of these
parables consists in the circumstance that men do _not_ usually show
this carelessness about temporal goods; and, therefore, are guilty of
gross and culpable _inconsistency_, if they are comparatively
careless about what is far more important.

So, also, in the present case. If any man's mind were so constituted
as to reject the same evidence in _all_ matters alike—if, for
instance, he really doubted or disbelieved the existence of
Buonaparte, and considered the Egyptian pyramids as fabulous, because,
forsooth, he had no "experience" of the erection of such huge
structures, and _had_ experience of travellers telling huge lies—he
would be regarded, perhaps, as very silly, or as insane, but not as
morally culpable. But if (as is intimated in the concluding sentence
of this work) a man is influenced in one case by objections which, in
another case, he would deride, then he stands convicted of being
unfairly biassed by his prejudices.

It is only necessary to add, that as this work first appeared in the
year 1819, many things are spoken of in the present tense, to which
the past would now be applicable.

Postscripts have been added to successive editions in reference to
subsequent occurrences.


[1] It was observed by some reviewer, that Hume himself, had he been
alive, would doubtless have highly enjoyed the joke! But even those
who have the greatest delight in ridicule, do not relish jokes at
_their own expense_. Hume may have inwardly laughed, while mystifying
his readers with arguments which he himself perceived to be futile.
But he did not mean the readers to perceive this. And it is not likely
that he would have been amused at seeing his own fallacies exposed and
held up to derision.

[2] See _Elements of Rhetoric_, p. i. ch. 2, § 4.

       *       *       *       *       *


Long as the public attention has been occupied by the extraordinary
personage from whose ambition we are supposed to have so narrowly
escaped, the subject seems to have lost scarcely anything of its
interest. We are still occupied in recounting the exploits, discussing
the character, inquiring into the present situation, and even
conjecturing as to the future prospects of Napoleon Buonaparte.

Nor is this at all to be wondered at, if we consider the very
extraordinary nature of those exploits, and of that character; their
greatness and extensive importance, as well as the unexampled
strangeness of the events, and also that strong additional stimulant,
the mysterious uncertainty that hangs over the character of the man.
If it be doubtful whether any history (exclusive of such as is
confessedly fabulous) ever attributed to its hero such a series of
wonderful achievements compressed into so small a space of time, it
is certain that to no one were ever assigned so many dissimilar

It is true, indeed, that party-prejudices have drawn a favourable and
an unfavourable portrait of almost every eminent man; but amidst all
the diversities of colouring, something of the same general outline is
always distinguishable. And even the virtues in the one description
bear some resemblance to the vices of another: rashness, for instance,
will be called courage, or courage, rashness; heroic firmness, and
obstinate pride, will correspond in the two opposite descriptions; and
in some leading features both will agree. Neither the friends nor the
enemies of Philip of Macedon, or of Julius Cæsar, ever questioned

With Buonaparte, however, it has been otherwise. This obscure Corsican
adventurer, a man, according to some, of extraordinary talents and
courage, according to others, of very moderate abilities, and a rank
coward, advanced rapidly in the French army, obtained a high command,
gained a series of important victories, and, elated by success,
embarked in an expedition against Egypt; which was planned and
conducted, according to some, with the most consummate skill,
according to others, with the utmost wildness and folly: he was
unsuccessful, however; and leaving the army in Egypt in a very
distressed situation, he returned to France, and found the nation, or
at least the army, so favourably disposed towards him, that he was
enabled, with the utmost ease, to overthrow the existing government,
and obtain for himself the supreme power; at first, under the modest
appellation of Consul, but afterwards with the more sounding title of
Emperor. While in possession of this power, he overthrew the most
powerful coalitions of the other European States against him; and
though driven from the sea by the British fleets, overran nearly the
whole continent, triumphant; finishing a war, not unfrequently, in a
single campaign, he entered the capitals of most of the hostile
potentates, deposed and created Kings at his pleasure, and appeared
the virtual sovereign of the chief part of the continent, from the
frontiers of Spain to those of Russia. Even those countries we find
him invading with prodigious armies, defeating their forces,
penetrating to their capitals, and threatening their total
subjugation. But at Moscow his progress is stopped: a winter of
unusual severity, co-operating with the efforts of the Russians,
totally destroys his enormous host: and the German sovereigns throw
off the yoke, and combine to oppose him. He raises another vast army,
which is also ruined at Leipsic; and again another, with which, like a
second Antæus, he for some time maintains himself in France; but is
finally defeated, deposed, and banished to the island of Elba, of
which the sovereignty is conferred on him. Thence he returns, in about
nine months, at the head of 600 men, to attempt the deposition of King
Louis, who had been peaceably recalled; the French nation declare in
his favour, and he is reinstated without a struggle. He raises another
great army to oppose the allied powers, which is totally defeated at
Waterloo; he is a second time deposed, surrenders to the British, and
is placed in confinement at the island of St. Helena. Such is the
outline of the eventful history presented to us; in the detail of
which, however, there is almost every conceivable variety of
statement; while the motives and conduct of the chief actor are
involved in still greater doubt, and the subject of still more eager

       *       *       *       *       *

In the midst of these controversies, the preliminary question,
concerning the _existence_ of this extraordinary personage, seems
never to have occurred to any one as a matter of doubt; and to show
even the smallest hesitation in admitting it, would probably be
regarded as an excess of scepticism; on the ground that this point
has always been taken for granted by the disputants on all sides,
being indeed implied by the very nature of their disputes.

But is it in fact found that _undisputed_ points are always such as
have been the most carefully examined as to the evidence on which they
rest? that facts or principles which are taken for granted, without
controversy, as the common basis of opposite opinions, are always
themselves established on sufficient grounds? On the contrary, is not
any such fundamental point, from the very circumstance of its being
taken for granted at once, and the attention drawn off to some other
question, likely to be admitted on insufficient evidence, and the
flaws in that evidence overlooked?

Experience will teach us that such instances often occur: witness the
well-known anecdote of the Royal Society; to whom King Charles II.
proposed as a question, whence it is that a vessel of water receives
no addition of weight from a live fish being put into it, though it
does, if the fish be dead. Various solutions, of great ingenuity, were
proposed, discussed, objected to, and defended; nor was it till they
had been long bewildered in the inquiry, that it occurred to them _to
try the experiment_; by which they at once ascertained that the
phenomenon which they were striving to account for,—which was the
acknowledged basis and substratum, as it were, of their debates,—had
no existence but in the invention of the witty monarch.[3]

Another instance of the same kind is so very remarkable that I cannot
forbear mentioning it. It was objected to the system of Copernicus
when first brought forward, that if the earth turned on its axis, as
he represented, a stone dropped from the summit of a tower would not
fall at the foot of it, but at a great distance to the west; _in the
same manner as a stone dropped from the mast-head of a ship in full
sail, does not fall at the foot of the mast, but towards the stern_.
To this it was answered, that a stone being a _part_ of the earth
obeys the same laws, and moves with it; whereas, it is no part of the
ship; of which, consequently, its motion is independent. This solution
was admitted by some, but opposed by others; and the controversy went
on with spirit; nor was it till _one hundred years_ after the death of
Copernicus, that the experiment being tried, it was ascertained that
the stone thus dropped from the head of the mast _does_ fall at the
foot of it![4]

Let it be observed that I am not now impugning any one particular
narrative; but merely showing generally, that what is _unquestioned_
is not necessarily unquestionable; since men will often, at the very
moment when they are accurately sifting the evidence of some disputed
point, admit hastily, and on the most insufficient grounds, what they
have been accustomed to see taken for granted.

The celebrated Hume[5] has pointed out, also, the readiness with which
men believe, on very slight evidence, any story that pleases their
imagination by its admirable and marvellous character. Such hasty
credulity, however, as he well remarks, is utterly unworthy of a
philosophical mind; which should rather suspend its judgment the more,
in proportion to the strangeness of the account, and yield to none but
the most decisive and unimpeachable proofs.

Let it, then, be allowed us, as is surely reasonable, just to inquire,
with respect to the extraordinary story I have been speaking of, on
what evidence we believe it. We shall be told that it is _notorious_;
i.e., in plain English, it is very _much talked about_. But as the
generality of those who talk about Buonaparte do not even pretend to
speak from _their own authority_, but merely to repeat what they have
casually heard, we cannot reckon them as, in any degree, witnesses;
but must allow ninety-nine hundredths of what we are told to be mere
hearsay, which would not be at all the more worthy of credit even if
it were repeated by ten times as many more. As for those who profess
to have _personally known_ Napoleon Buonaparte, and to have
_themselves witnessed_ his transactions, I write not for them. _If any
such there be_, who are inwardly conscious of the truth of all they
relate, I have nothing to say to them, but to beg that they will be
tolerant and charitable towards their neighbours, who have not the
same means of ascertaining the truth, and who may well be excused for
remaining doubtful about such extraordinary events, till most
unanswerable proofs shall be adduced. "I would not have believed such
a thing, if I had not seen it," is a common preface or appendix to a
narrative of marvels; and usually calls forth from an intelligent
hearer the appropriate answer, "_no more will I_."

Let us, however, endeavour to trace up some of this hearsay evidence
as far towards its source as we are able. Most persons would refer to
the _newspapers_ as the authority from which their knowledge on the
subject was derived; so that, generally speaking, we may say it is on
the testimony of the newspapers that men believe in the existence and
exploits of Napoleon Buonaparte.

It is rather a remarkable circumstance, that it is common to hear
Englishmen speak of the impudent fabrications of foreign newspapers,
and express wonder that any one can be found to credit them; while
they conceive that, in this favoured land, the liberty of the press is
a sufficient security for veracity. It is true they often speak
contemptuously of such "newspaper-stories" as last but a short time;
indeed they continually see them contradicted within a day or two in
the same paper, or their falsity detected by some journal of an
opposite party; but still whatever is _long adhered to_ and often
_repeated_, especially if it also appear in _several different_
papers (and this, though they notoriously copy from one another), is
almost sure to be generally believed. Whence this high respect which
is practically paid to newspaper authority? Do men think, that because
a witness has been perpetually detected in falsehood, he may therefore
be the more safely believed whenever he is _not_ detected? or does
adherence to a story, and frequent repetition of it, render it the
more credible? On the contrary, is it not a common remark in other
cases, that a liar will generally stand to and reiterate what he has
once said, merely because he _has_ said it?

Let us, if possible, divest ourselves of this superstitious veneration
for everything that appears "in print," and examine a little more
systematically the evidence which is adduced.

       *       *       *       *       *

I suppose it will not be denied that the three following are among the
most important points to be ascertained, in deciding on the
credibility of witnesses; first, whether they have the means of
gaining correct _information_; secondly, whether they have any
_interest_ in concealing truth, or propagating falsehood; and,
thirdly, whether they _agree_ in their testimony. Let us examine the
present witnesses upon all these points.

First, what means have the editors of newspapers for giving correct
information? We know not, except from their own statements. Besides
what is copied from other journals, foreign or British, (which is
usually more than three-fourths of the news published,)[6] they
profess to refer to the authority of certain "private correspondents"
abroad; _who_ these correspondents are, what means they have of
obtaining information, or whether they exist at all, we have no way of
ascertaining. We find ourselves in the condition of the Hindoos, who
are told by their priests that the earth stands on an elephant, and
the elephant on a tortoise; but are left to find out for themselves
what the tortoise stands on, or whether it stands on anything at all.

So much for our clear knowledge of the means of _information_
possessed by these witnesses; next, for the grounds on which we are to
calculate on their _veracity_.

Have they not a manifest interest in circulating the wonderful
accounts of Napoleon Buonaparte and his achievements, whether true or
false? Few would read newspapers if they did not sometimes find
wonderful or important news in them; and we may safely say that no
subject was ever found so inexhaustibly interesting as the present.

It may be urged, however, that there are several adverse political
parties, of which the various public prints are respectively the
organs, and who would not fail to expose each other's fabrications.[7]
Doubtless they would, if they could do so without at the same time
exposing _their own_; but identity of interests may induce a
community of operations up to a certain point. And let it be observed
that the object of contention between these rival parties is, _who_
shall have the administration of public affairs, the control of public
expenditure, and the disposal of places: the question, I say, is, not
whether the people shall be governed or not, but, _by which party_
they shall be governed;—not whether the taxes shall be paid or not,
but _who_ shall _receive_ them. Now, it must be admitted that
Buonaparte is a political bugbear, most convenient to _any_
administration: "if you do not adopt our measures and reject those of
our opponents, Buonaparte will be sure to prevail over you; if you do
not submit to the Government, at least under _our_ administration,
this formidable enemy will take advantage of your insubordination, to
conquer and enslave you: pay your taxes cheerfully, or the tremendous
Buonaparte will take all from you." Buonaparte, in short, was the
burden of every song; his redoubted name was the charm which always
succeeded in unloosing the purse-strings of the nation. And let us not
be too sure,[8] safe as we now think ourselves, that some occasion may
not occur for again producing on the stage so useful a personage: it
is not merely to naughty children in the nursery that the threat of
being "given to Buonaparte" has proved effectual.

It is surely probable, therefore, that, with an object substantially
the same, all parties may have availed themselves of one common
instrument. It is not necessary to suppose that for this purpose they
secretly entered into a formal agreement; though, by the way, there
are reports afloat, that the editors of the _Courier_ and _Morning
Chronicle_ hold amicable consultations as to the conduct of their
public warfare: I will not take upon me to say that this is
incredible; but at any rate it is not necessary for the establishment
of the probability I contend for. Neither again would I imply that
_all_ newspaper editors are utterers of forged stories, "knowing them
to be forged;" most likely the great majority of them publish what
they find in other papers with the same simplicity that their readers
peruse it; and therefore, it must be observed, are not at all more
proper than their readers to be cited as authorities.

Still it will be said, that unless we suppose a regularly preconcerted
plan, we must at least expect to find great discrepancies in the
accounts published. Though they might adopt the general outline of
facts from one another, they would have to fill up the detail for
themselves; and in this, therefore, we should meet with infinite and
irreconcilable variety.

Now this is precisely the point I am tending to; for the fact exactly
accords with the above supposition; the discordance and mutual
contradictions of these witnesses being such as would alone throw a
considerable shade of doubt over their testimony. It is not in minute
circumstances alone that the discrepancy appears, such as might be
expected to appear in a narrative substantially true; but in very
great and leading transactions, and such as are very intimately
connected with the supposed hero. For instance, it is by no means
agreed whether Buonaparte led in person the celebrated charge over the
bridge of Lodi, (for _celebrated_ it certainly is, as well as the
siege of Troy, whether either event ever really took place or no,) or
was safe in the rear, while Augereau performed the exploit. The same
doubt hangs over the charge of the French cavalry at Waterloo. The
peasant Lacoste, who professed to have been Buonaparte's guide on the
day of battle, and who earned a fortune by detailing over and over
again to visitors all the particulars of what the great man said and
did up to the moment of flight,—this same Lacoste has been suspected
by others, besides me, of having never even been near the great man,
and having fabricated the whole story for the sake of making a gain of
the credulity of travellers. In the accounts that are the extant of
the battle itself, published by persons professing to have been
present, the reader will find that there is a discrepancy of _three
or four hours_ as to the time when the battle began!—a battle, be it
remembered, not fought with javelins and arrows, like those of the
ancients, in which one part of a large army might be engaged, whilst a
distant portion of the same army knew nothing of it; but a battle
commencing (if indeed it were ever fought at all) with the _firing of
cannon_, which, would have announced pretty loudly what was going on.

It is no less uncertain whether or no this strange personage poisoned
in Egypt an hospital—full of his own soldiers, and butchered in cold
blood a garrison that had surrendered. But not to multiply instances;
the battle of Borodino, which is represented as one of the greatest
ever fought, was unequivocally claimed as a victory by both parties;
nor is the question decided at this day. We have official accounts on
both sides, circumstantially detailed, in the names of supposed
respectable persons, professing to have been present on the spot; yet
totally irreconcilable. _Both_ these accounts _may_ be false; but
since _one_ of them _must_ be false, that one (it is no matter _which_
we suppose) proves incontrovertibly this important maxim: that _it is
possible for a narrative—however circumstantial—however steadily
maintained—however public, and however important, the events it
relates—however grave the authority on which it is published—to be
nevertheless an entire fabrication!_

Many of the events which have been recorded were probably believed
much the more readily and firmly, from the apparent caution and
hesitation with which they were at first published—the vehement
contradiction in our papers of many pretended French accounts—and the
abuse lavished upon them for falsehood, exaggeration, and gasconade.
But is it not possible—is it not, indeed, perfectly natural—that the
publishers even of known falsehood should assume this cautious
demeanour, and this abhorrence of exaggeration, in order the more
easily to gain credit? Is it not also very possible, that those who
actually believed what they published, may have suspected mere
_exaggeration_ in stories which were entire _fictions_? Many men have
that sort of simplicity, that they think themselves quite secure
against being deceived, provided they believe only _part_ of the story
they hear; when perhaps the whole is equally false. So that perhaps
these simple-hearted editors, who were so vehement against lying
bulletins, and so wary in announcing their great news, were in the
condition of a clown, who thinks he has bought a great bargain of a
Jew because he has beat down the price perhaps from a guinea to a
crown, for some article that is not really worth a groat.

With respect to the _character_ of Buonaparte, the dissonance is, if
possible, still greater. According to some, he was a wise, humane,
magnanimous hero; others paint him as a monster of cruelty, meanness,
and perfidy: some, even of those who are most inveterate against him,
speak very highly of his political and military ability: others place
him on the very verge of insanity. But allowing that all this may be
the colouring of party-prejudice, (which surely is allowing a great
deal,) there is one point to which such a solution will hardly apply:
if there be anything that can be clearly ascertained in history, one
would think it must be the _personal courage of a military man_; yet
here we are as much at a loss as ever; at the very same times, and on
the same occasions, he is described by different writers as a man of
undaunted intrepidity, and as an absolute poltroon.

What, then, are we to believe? If we are disposed to credit all that
is told us, we must believe in the existence not only of one, but of
two or three Buonapartes; if we admit nothing but what is well
authenticated, we shall be compelled to doubt of the existence of

It appears, then, that those on whose testimony the existence and
actions of Buonaparte are generally believed, fail in ALL the most
essential points on which the credibility of witnesses depends: first,
we have no assurance that they have access to correct information;
secondly, they have an apparent interest in propagating falsehood;
and, thirdly, they palpably contradict each other in the most
important points.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another circumstance which throws additional suspicion on these tales
is, that the whig-party, as they are called—the warm advocates for
liberty, and opposers of the encroachments of monarchical power—have
for some time past strenuously espoused the cause and vindicated the
character of Buonaparte, who is represented by all as having been, if
not a tyrant, at least an absolute despot. One of the most forward in
this cause is a gentleman, who once stood foremost in holding up this
very man to public execration—who first published, and long
maintained against popular incredulity, the accounts of his atrocities
in Egypt. Now that such a course should be adopted for party-purposes;
by those who are aware that the whole story is a fiction, and the hero
of it imaginary, seems not very incredible; but if they believed in
the real existence of this despot, I cannot conceive how they could so
forsake their principles as to advocate his cause, and eulogize his

Besides the many strange and improbable circumstances in the history
of Buonaparte that have been already noticed, there are many others,
two of which it may be worth while to advert to.

One of the most incredible is the received account of the persons
known as the "Détenus." It is well known that a great number of
English gentlemen passed many years, in the early part of the present
century, abroad;—by their own account, in France. Their statement
was, that while travelling in that country for their amusement, as
peaceable tourists, they were, on the sudden breaking out of a war,
seized by this terrible Buonaparte, and kept prisoners for about
twelve years, contrary to all the usages of civilized nations—to all
principles of justice, of humanity, of enlightened policy; many of
them thus wasting in captivity the most important portion of their
lives, and having all their prospects blighted.

Now whether these persons were in reality exiles by choice, for the
sake of keeping out of the way of creditors, or of enjoying the
society of those they preferred to their own domestic circle, I do not
venture to conjecture. But let the reader consider whether _any_
conjecture can be _more_ improbable than the statement actually made.

It is, indeed, credible that ambition may prompt an unscrupulous man
to make the most enormous sacrifices of human life, and to perpetrate
the most atrocious crimes, for the advancement of his views of
conquest. But that this _great_ man—as he is usually reckoned even by
adversaries—this hero according to some—this illustrious warrior,
and mighty sovereign—should have stooped to be guilty of an act of
mean and petty malice worthy of a spiteful old woman,—a piece of
paltry cruelty which could not at all conduce to his success in the
war, or produce any effect except to degrade his country, and
exasperate ours;—this, surely, is quite incredible. "Pizarro," says
Elvira in Kotzebue's play, "if not always justly, at least act always

But a still more wonderful circumstance connected with this
transaction remains behind. A large portion of the English nation, and
among these the whole of the Whig party, are said to have expressed
the most vehement indignation, mingled with compassion, at the
banishment from Europe, and confinement in St. Helena, of this great
man. No considerations of regard for the peace and security of our own
country, no dread of the power of so able and indefatigable a warrior,
and so inveterate an enemy, should have induced us, they thought, to
subject this formidable personage to a confinement, which was far
less severe than that to which he was said to have subjected such
numbers of our countrymen, the harmless _non-belligerent_ travellers,
whom (according to the story) he kidnapped in France, with no object
but to gratify the basest and most unmanly spite.

But that there is no truth in that story, and that it was not believed
by those who manifested so much sympathy and indignation on this great
man's account, is sufficiently proved by that very sympathy and

There are again other striking improbabilities connected with the
Polish nation in the history before us. Buonaparte is represented as
having always expressed the strongest sympathy with that ill-used
people; and they, as being devotedly attached to him, and fighting
with the utmost fidelity and bravery in his armies, in which some of
them attained high commands. Now he had it manifestly in his power at
one period (according to the received accounts), with a stroke of his
pen, to re-establish Poland as an independent state. For, in his last
Russian war, he had complete occupation of the country (of which the
population was perfectly friendly); the Russian portion of it was his
by right of conquest; and Austria and Prussia, then his allies, and
almost his subjects, would gladly have resigned their portions in
exchange for some of the provinces they had ceded to France, and
which were, to him, of little value, but, to them, important. And,
indeed, Prussia was (as we are told) so thoroughly humbled and
weakened that he might easily have enforced the cession of
Prussian-Poland, even without any compensation. And the
re-establishment of the Polish kingdom would have been as evidently
politic as it was reasonable. The independence of a faithful and
devoted ally, at enmity with the surrounding nations—the very nations
that were the most likely to combine (as they often had done) against
him,—this would have given him, at no cost, a kind of strong garrison
to maintain his power, and keep his enemies in check.

Yet this most obvious step, the history tells us, he did not take; but
made flattering speeches to the Poles, used their services, and did
nothing for them!

This is, alone, sufficiently improbable. But we are required moreover
to believe that the Poles,—instead of _execrating_ this man, who had
done them the unpardonable wrong of wantonly disappointing the
expectations he had, for his own purposes, excited, thus adding
treachery to ingratitude—instead of this, continued to the last as
much devoted to him as ever, and even now idolize his memory! We are
to believe, in short, that this Buonaparte, not only in his own
conduct and adventures violated all the established rules of
probability, but also caused all other persons, as many as came in
contact with him, to act as no mortals ever did act before: may we not
add, as no mortals ever did act at all?

Many other improbabilities might be added to the list, and will be
found in the complete edition of that history, from which some
extracts will be presently given, and which has been published (under
the title of "Historic Certainties") by Aristarchus Newlight, with a
learned commentary (not, indeed, adopting the views contained in these
pages, but) quite equal in ingenuity to a late work on the "Hebrew

After all, it may be expected that many who perceive the force of
these objections, will yet be loth to think it possible that they and
the public at large can have been so long and so greatly imposed upon.
And thus it is that the magnitude and boldness of a fraud becomes its
best support. The millions who for so many ages have believed in
Mahomet or Brahma, lean as it were on each other for support; and not
having vigour of mind enough boldly to throw off vulgar prejudices,
and dare be wiser than the multitude, persuade themselves that what so
many have acknowledged must be true. But I call on those who boast
their philosophical freedom of thought, and would fain tread in the
steps of Hume and other inquirers of the like exalted and speculative
genius, to follow up fairly and fully their own principles, and,
throwing off the shackles of authority, to examine carefully the
evidence of whatever is proposed to them, before they admit its truth.

That even in this enlightened age, as it is called, a whole nation may
be egregiously imposed upon, even in matters which intimately concern
them, may be proved (if it has not been already proved) by the
following instance: it was stated in the newspapers, that, a month
after the battle of Trafalgar, an English officer, who had been a
prisoner of war, and was exchanged, returned to this country from
France, and beginning to condole with his countrymen on the terrible
_defeat_ they had sustained, was infinitely astonished to learn that
the battle of Trafalgar was a splendid victory. He had been assured,
he said, that in that battle the English had been totally defeated;
and the French were fully and universally persuaded that such was the
fact. Now if this report of the belief of the French nation was _not_
true, the British Public were completely imposed upon; if it _were_
true, then both nations were, at the same time, rejoicing in the event
of the same battle, as a signal victory to themselves; and
consequently one or other, at least, of these nations must have been
the dupes of their government: for if the battle was never fought at
all, or was not decisive on either side, in that case _both_ parties
were deceived. This instance, I conceive, is absolutely demonstrative
of the point in question.

"But what shall we say to the testimony of those many respectable
persons who went to Plymouth on purpose, and saw Buonaparte with their
own eyes? must they not trust their senses?" I would not disparage
either the eyesight or the veracity of these gentlemen. I am ready to
allow that they went to Plymouth for the purpose of seeing Buonaparte;
nay, more, that they actually rowed out into the harbour in a boat,
and came alongside of a man-of-war, on whose deck they saw a man in a
cocked hat, who, _they were told_, was Buonaparte. This is the utmost
point to which their testimony goes; how they ascertained that this
man in the cocked hat had gone through all the marvellous and romantic
adventures with which we have so long been amused, we are not told.
Did they perceive in his physiognomy, his true name, and authentic
history? Truly this evidence is such as country people give one for a
story of apparitions; if you discover any signs of incredulity, they
triumphantly show the very house which the ghost haunted, the
identical dark corner where it used to vanish, and perhaps even the
tombstone of the person whose death it foretold. Jack Cade's nobility
was supported by the same irresistible kind of evidence: having
asserted that the eldest son of Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, was
stolen by a beggar-woman, "became a bricklayer when he came to age,"
and was the father of the supposed Jack Cade; one of his companions
confirms the story, by saying, "Sir, he made a chimney in my father's
house, and the bricks are alive at this day to testify it; therefore,
deny it not."

Much of the same kind is the testimony of our brave countrymen, who
are ready to produce the scars they received in fighting against this
terrible Buonaparte. That they fought and were wounded, they may
safely testify; and probably they no less firmly _believe_ what they
were _told_ respecting the cause in which they fought: it would have
been a high breach of discipline to doubt it; and they, I conceive,
are men better skilled in handling a musket, than in sifting evidence,
and detecting imposture. But I defy any one of them to come forward
and declare, _on his own knowledge_, what was the cause in which he
fought,—under whose commands the opposed generals acted,—and whether
the person who issued those commands did really perform the mighty
achievements we are told of.

Let those, then, who pretend to philosophical freedom of inquiry,—who
scorn to rest their opinions on popular belief, and to shelter
themselves under the example of the unthinking multitude, consider
carefully, each one for himself, what is the evidence proposed to
himself in particular, for the existence of such a person as Napoleon
Buonaparte:—I do not mean, whether there ever was a person bearing
that _name_, for that is a question of no consequence; but whether any
such person ever performed all the wonderful things attributed to
him;—let him then weigh well the objections to that evidence, (of
which I have given but a hasty and imperfect sketch,) and if he then
finds it amount to anything _more_ than a probability, I have only to
congratulate him on his easy faith.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the same testimony which would have great weight in establishing a
thing intrinsically probable, will lose part of this weight in
proportion as the matter attested is improbable; and if adduced in
support of anything that is at variance with uniform experience,[10]
will be rejected at once by all sound reasoners. Let us then consider
what sort of a story it is that is proposed to our acceptance. How
grossly contradictory are the reports of the different authorities, I
have already remarked: but consider, by itself, the story told by any
one of them; it carries an air of fiction and romance on the very face
of it. All the events are great, and splendid, and marvellous;[11] great
armies,—great victories,—great frosts,—great reverses,—"hair-breadth
'scapes,"—empires subverted in a few days; everything happened in
defiance of political calculations, and in opposition to the
_experience_ of past times; everything upon that grand scale, so common
in Epic Poetry, so rare in real life; and thus calculated to strike the
imagination of the vulgar, and to remind the sober-thinking few of the
Arabian Nights. Every event, too, has that _roundness_ and completeness
which is so characteristic of fiction; nothing is done by halves; we
have _complete_ victories,—_total_ overthrows, _entire_ subversion of
empires,—_perfect_ re-establishments of them,—crowded upon us in rapid
succession. To enumerate the improbabilities of each of the several
parts of this history, would fill volumes; but they are so fresh in
every one's memory, that there is no need of such a detail: let any
judicious man, not ignorant of history and of human nature, revolve them
in his mind, and consider how far they are conformable to
Experience,[12] our best and only sure guide. In vain will he seek in
history for something similar to this wonderful Buonaparte; "nought but
himself can be his parallel."

Will the conquests of Alexander be compared with his? _They_ were
effected over a rabble of effeminate, undisciplined barbarians; else
his progress would hardly have been so rapid: witness his father
Philip, who was much longer occupied in subduing the comparatively
insignificant territory of the warlike and civilized Greeks,
notwithstanding their being divided into numerous petty States, whose
mutual jealousy enabled him to contend with them separately. But the
Greeks had never made such progress in arts and arms as the great and
powerful States of Europe, which Buonaparte is represented as so
speedily overpowering. His empire has been compared to the Roman: mark
the contrast; he gains in a few years, that dominion, or at least
control, over Germany, wealthy, civilized, and powerful, which the
Romans in the plenitude of their power, could not obtain, during a
struggle of as many centuries, against the ignorant half-savages who
then possessed it; of whom Tacitus remarks, that, up to his own time
they had been "triumphed over rather than conquered."

Another peculiar circumstance in the history of this extraordinary
personage is, that when it Is found convenient to represent him as
defeated, though he is by no means defeated by halves, but involved in
much more sudden and total ruin than the personages of real history
usually meet with; yet, if it is thought fit he should be restored, it
is done as quickly and completely as if Merlin's rod had been
employed. He enters Russia with a prodigious army, which is totally
ruined by an unprecedented hard winter; (everything relating to this
man is _prodigious_ and _unprecedented_;) yet in a few months we find
him intrusted with another great army in Germany, which is also
totally ruined at Leipsic; making, inclusive of the Egyptian, the
third great army thus totally lost: yet the French are so good-natured
as to furnish him with another sufficient to make a formidable stand
in France; he is, however, _conquered, and presented with the
sovereignty of Elba_; (surely, by the bye, some more _probable_ way
might have been found of disposing of him, till again wanted, than to
place him thus on the very verge of his ancient dominions;) thence he
returns to France, where he is received with open arms, and enabled to
lose a fifth great army at Waterloo; yet so eager were these people to
be a sixth time led to destruction, that it was found necessary to
confine _him_ in an island some thousand miles off, and to quarter
foreign troops upon _them_, lest they should make an insurrection in
his favour?[13] Does any one believe all this, and yet refuse to
believe a miracle? Or rather, what is this but a miracle? Is it not a
violation of the laws of nature? for surely there are moral laws of
nature as well as physical; which though more liable to exceptions in
this or that particular case, are no less _true as general rules_ than
the laws of matter, and therefore cannot be violated and contradicted
_beyond a certain point_, without a miracle.[14]

Nay, there is this additional circumstance which renders the
contradiction of Experience more glaring in this case than in that of
the miraculous histories which ingenious sceptics have held up to
contempt: all the advocates of miracles admit that they are rare
exceptions to the general course of nature; but contend that they must
needs be so, on account of the rarity of those extraordinary
_occasions_ which are the _reason_ of their being performed: a
Miracle, they say, does not happen every day, because a Revelation is
not given every day. It would be foreign to the present purpose to
seek for arguments against this answer; I leave it to those who are
engaged in the controversy, to find a reply to it; but my present
object is, to point out that this solution does not at all apply in
the present case. Where is the peculiarity of the _occasion_? What
sufficient _reason_ is there for a series of events occurring in the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which never took place before?
Was Europe at that period peculiarly weak, and in a state of
barbarism, that one man could achieve such conquests, and acquire such
a vast empire? On the contrary, she was flourishing in the height of
strength and civilization. Can the persevering attachment and blind
devotedness of the French to this man, be accounted for by his being
the descendant of a long line of kings, whose race was hallowed by
hereditary veneration? No; we are told he was a low-born usurper, and
not even a Frenchman! Is it that he was a good and kind sovereign? He
is represented not only as an imperious and merciless despot, but as
most wantonly careless of the lives of his soldiers. Could the French
army and people have failed to hear from the wretched survivors of his
supposed Russian expedition, how they had left the corpses of above
100,000 of their comrades bleaching on the snow-drifts of that dismal
country, whither his mad ambition had conducted him, and where his
selfish cowardice had deserted them? Wherever we turn to seek for
circumstances that may help to account for the events of this
incredible story, we only meet with such as aggravate its
improbability.[15] Had it been told of some distant country, at a
remote period, we could not have told what peculiar circumstances
there might have been to render probable what seems to us most
strange; and yet in _that_ case every philosophical sceptic, every
free-thinking speculator, would instantly have rejected such a
history, as utterly unworthy of credit. What, for instance, would the
great Hume, or any of the philosophers of his school, have said, if
they had found in the antique records of any nation, such a passage
as this? "There was a certain man of Corsica, whose name was Napoleon,
and he was one of the chief captains of the host of the French; and he
gathered together an army, and went and fought against Egypt: but when
the king of Britain heard thereof, he sent ships of war and valiant
men to fight against the French in Egypt. So they warred against them,
and prevailed, and strengthened the hands of the rulers of the land
against the French, and drave away Napoleon from before the city of
Acre. Then Napoleon left the captains and the army that were in Egypt,
and fled, and returned back to France. So the French people, took
Napoleon, and made him ruler over them, and he became exceeding great,
insomuch that there was none like him of all that had ruled over
France before."

What, I say, would Hume have thought of this, especially if he had
been told that it was at this day generally credited? Would he not
have confessed that he had been mistaken in supposing there was a
peculiarly blind credulity and prejudice in favour of everything that
is accounted _sacred_;[16] for that, since even professed sceptics
swallow implicitly such a story as this, it appears there must be a
still blinder prejudice in favour of everything that is _not_
accounted sacred?

Suppose, again, we found in this history such passages as the
following: "And it came to pass after these things that Napoleon
strengthened himself, and gathered together another host instead of
that which he had lost, and went and warred against the Prussians, and
the Russians, and the Austrians, and all the rulers of the north
country, which were confederate against him. And the ruler of Sweden,
also, which was a Frenchman, warred against Napoleon. So they went
forth, and fought against the French in the plain of Leipsic. And the
French were discomfited before their enemies, and fled, and came to
the rivers which are behind Leipsic, and essayed to pass over, that
they might escape out of the hand of their enemies; but they could
not, for Napoleon had broken down the bridges: so the people of the
north countries came upon them, and smote them with a very grievous
slaughter." ...

       *       *       *       *       *

"Then the ruler of Austria and all the rulers of the north countries
sent messengers unto Napoleon to speak peaceably unto him, saying, Why
should there be war between us any more? Now Napoleon had put away
his wife, and taken the daughter of the ruler of Austria to wife. So
all the counsellors of Napoleon came and stood before him, and said,
Behold now these kings are merciful kings; do even as they say unto
thee; knowest thou not yet that France is destroyed? But he spake
roughly unto his counsellors, and drave them, out from his presence,
neither would he hearken unto their voice. And when all the kings saw
that, they warred against France, and smote it with the edge of the
sword, and came near to Paris, which is the royal city, to take it: so
the men of Paris went out, and delivered up the city to them. Then
those kings spake kindly unto the men of Paris, saying, Be of good
cheer, there shall no harm happen unto you. Then were the men of Paris
glad, and said, Napoleon is a tyrant; he shall no more rule over us.
Also all the princes, the judges, the counsellors, and the captains
whom Napoleon had raised up even from the lowest of the people, sent
unto Lewis the brother of King Lewis, whom they had slain, and made
him king over France." ...

... ... ... ... ... ... ...

"And when Napoleon saw that the kingdom was departed from him, he said
unto the rulers which came against him, Let me, I pray you, give the
kingdom unto my son: but they would not hearken unto him. Then he
spake yet again, saying, Let me, I pray you, go and live in the island
of Elba, which is over against Italy, nigh unto the coast of France;
and ye shall give me an allowance for me and my household, and the
land of Elba also for a possession. So they made him ruler of

... ... ... ... ... ... ...

"In those days the Pope returned unto his own land. Now the French,
and divers other nations of Europe, are servants of the Pope, and hold
him in reverence; but he is an abomination unto the Britons, and to
the Prussians, and to the Russians, and to the Swedes. Howbeit the
French had taken away all his lands, and robbed him of all that he
had, and carried him away captive into France. But when the Britons,
and the Prussians, and the Russians, and the Swedes, and the rest of
the nations that were confederate against France, came thither, they
caused the French to set the Pope at liberty, and to restore all his
goods that they had taken; likewise they gave him back all his
possessions; and he went home in peace, and ruled over his own city as
in times past."...

... ... ... ... ... ... ...

"And it came to pass when Napoleon had not yet been a full year at
Elba, that he said unto his men of war that clave unto him, Go to, let
us go back to France, and fight against King Lewis, and thrust him out
from being king. So he departed, he and six hundred men with him that
drew the sword, and warred against King Lewis. Then all the men of
Belial gathered themselves together, and said, God save Napoleon. And
when Lewis saw that, he fled, and gat him into the land of Batavia:
and Napoleon ruled over France," &c. &c. &c.[17]

Now if a free-thinking philosopher—one of those who advocate the
cause of unbiassed reason, and despise pretended revelations—were to
meet with such a tissue of absurdities as this in an old Jewish
record, would he not reject it at once as too palpable an
imposture[18] to deserve even any inquiry into its evidence? Is that
credible then of the civilized Europeans now, which could not, if
reported of the semi-barbarous Jews 3000 years ago, be established by
any testimony? Will it be answered, that "there is nothing
_supernatural_ in all this?" Why is it, then, that you object to what
is _supernatural_—that you reject every account of _miracles_—if not
because they are _improbable_? Surely then a story equally or still
more improbable, is not to be implicitly received, merely on the
ground that it is _not_ miraculous: though in fact, as I have already
(in note, p. 39,) shown from Hume's authority, it _is_ really
miraculous. The opposition to Experience has been proved to be as
complete in this case, as in what are commonly called miracles; and
the reasons assigned for that contrariety by the defenders of _them_,
cannot be pleaded in the present instance. If then philosophers, who
reject every wonderful story that is maintained by priests, are yet
found ready to believe _everything else_, however improbable, they
will surely lay themselves open to the accusation brought against them
of being unduly prejudiced against whatever relates to religion.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is one more circumstance which I cannot forbear mentioning,
because it so much adds to the air of fiction which pervades every
part of this marvellous tale; and that is, the _nationality_ of

Buonaparte prevailed over all the hostile States in turn, _except
England_; in the zenith of his power, his fleets were swept from the
sea, _by England_; his troops always defeat an equal, and frequently
even a superior number of those of any other nation, _except the
English_; and with them it is just the reverse; twice, and twice only,
he is personally engaged against an _English commander_, and both
times he is totally defeated; at Acre, and at Waterloo; and to crown
all, _England_ finally crushes this tremendous power, which had so
long kept the continent in subjection or in alarm; and to the
_English_ he surrenders himself prisoner! Thoroughly national, to be
sure! It _may_ be all very true; but I would only ask, _if_ a story
_had_ been fabricated for the express purpose of amusing the English
nation, could it have been contrived more ingeniously? It would do
admirably for an epic poem; and indeed bears a considerable
resemblance to the Iliad and the Æneid; in which Achilles and the
Greeks, Æneas and the Trojans, (the ancestors of the Romans) are so
studiously held up to admiration. Buonaparte's exploits seem magnified
in order to enhance the glory of his conquerors; just as Hector is
allowed to triumph during the absence of Achilles, merely to give
additional splendour to his overthrow by the arm of that invincible
hero. Would not this circumstance alone render a history rather
_suspicious_ in the eyes of an acute critic, even if it were not
filled with such gross improbabilities; and induce him to suspend his
judgment, till very satisfactory evidence (far stronger than can be
found in this case) should be produced?

Is it then too much to demand of the wary academic[20] a suspension of
judgment as to the "life and adventures of Napoleon Buonaparte?" I do
not pretend to _decide_ positively that there is not, nor ever was,
any such person; but merely to propose it as a _doubtful_ point, and
one the more deserving of careful investigation, from the very
circumstance of its having hitherto been admitted without inquiry. Far
less would I undertake to decide what is or has been the real state of
affairs. He who points out the improbability of the current story, is
not bound to suggest an hypothesis of his own;[21] though it may
safely be affirmed, that it would be hard to invent any one more
improbable than the received one. One may surely be allowed to
hesitate in admitting the stories which the ancient poets tell, of
earthquakes and volcanic eruptions being caused by imprisoned giants,
without being called upon satisfactorily to account for those

Amidst the defect of valid evidence under which, as I have already
shown, we labour in the present instance, it is hardly possible to
offer more than here and there a probable conjecture; or to pronounce
how much may be true, and how much fictitious, in the accounts
presented to us. For, it is to be observed that this case is much
_more_ open to sceptical doubts even than some miraculous histories;
since some of _them_ are of such a nature that you cannot consistently
admit a part and reject the rest; but are bound, if you are satisfied
as to the reality of any one miracle, to embrace the whole system; so
that it is necessary for the sceptic to impeach the evidence of _all_
of them, separately, and collectively: whereas, _here_, each single
point requires to be _established_ separately, since no one of them
authenticates the rest. Supposing there be a state-prisoner at St.
Helena, (which, by the way, it is acknowledged many of the French
disbelieve,) how do we know who he is, or why he is confined there?
There have been state-prisoners before now, who were never guilty of
subjugating half Europe, and whose offences have been very imperfectly
ascertained. Admitting that there have been bloody wars going on for
several years past, which is highly probable, it does not follow that
the events of those wars were such as we have been told;—that
Buonaparte was the author and conductor of them;—or that such a
person ever existed. What disturbances may have taken place in the
government of the French people, we, and even nineteen-twentieths of
_them_, have no means of learning but from imperfect hearsay evidence;
and how much credit they themselves attach to that evidence is very
doubtful. This at least is certain: that a M. Berryer, a French
advocate, has published memoirs, professing to record many of the
events of the recent history of France, in which, among other things,
he states his conviction that Buonaparte's escape from Elba was
assured by many travellers that this was, and is, commonly reported in

Now that the French should believe the whole story about Buonaparte
according to this version of it, does seem utterly incredible. Let any
one suppose them seriously believing that we maintained for many years
a desperate struggle against this formidable emperor of theirs, in the
course of which we expended such an enormous amount of blood and
treasure as is reported;—that we finally, after encountering enormous
risks, succeeded in subduing him, and secured him in a place of safe
exile;—and that, in less than a year after, we turned him out again,
like a bag-fox,—or rather, a bag-lion,—for the sake of amusing
ourselves by again staking all that was dear to us on the event of a
doubtful and bloody battle, in which defeat must be ruinous, and
victory, if obtained at all, must cost us many thousands of our best
soldiers. Let any one force himself for a moment to conceive the
French seriously believing such a mass of absurdity; and the inference
must be that such a people must be prepared to believe anything. They
might fancy their own country to abound not only with Napoleons, but
with dragons and centaurs, and "men whose heads do grow beneath their
shoulders," or anything else that any lunatic ever dreamt of. If we
could suppose the French capable of such monstrous credulity as the
above supposition would imply, it is plain their testimony must be
altogether worthless.

But, on the other hand, suppose them to be aware that the British
Government have been all along imposing on us, and it is quite natural
that they should deride our credulity, and try whether there is
anything too extravagant for us to swallow. And indeed, if Buonaparte
was in fact altogether a phantom conjured up by the British Ministers,
then it is _true_ that his escape from Elba really _was_, as well as
_the rest of his exploits_, a contrivance of theirs.

       *       *       *       *       *

But whatever may be believed by the French relative to the recent
occurrences, in their own country, and whatever may be the real
character of these occurrences, of this at least we are well assured,
that there have been numerous bloody wars with France under the
dominion of the _Bourbons_: and we are now told that France is
governed by a Bourbon king, of the name of Lewis, who professes to be
in the twenty-third year of his reign. Let every one conjecture for
himself. I am far from pretending to decide who may have been the
governor or governors of the French nation, and the leaders of their
armies, for several years past. Certain it is, that when men are
indulging their inclination for the marvellous, they always show a
strong propensity to accumulate upon _one_ individual (real or
imaginary) the exploits of many; besides multiplying and exaggerating
these exploits a thousandfold. Thus, the expounders of the ancient
mythology tell us there were several persons of the name of Hercules,
(either originally bearing that appellation, or having it applied to
them as an honour,) whose collective feats, after being dressed up in
a sufficiently marvellous garb, were attributed to a single hero. Is
it not just possible, that during the rage for words of Greek
derivation, the title of "Napoleon," (Ναπολέων,) which signifies "Lion
of the forest," may have been conferred by the popular voice on more
than one favorite general, distinguished for irresistible valour? Is
it not also possible that "BUONA PARTE" may have been originally a
sort of cant term applied to the "good (i.e., the bravest or most
patriotic) part" of the French army, collectively; and have been
afterwards mistaken for the proper name of an individual?[23] I do not
profess to support this conjecture; but it is certain that such
mistakes may and do occur. Some critics have supposed that the
Athenians imagined ANASTASIS ("Resurrection") to be a new goddess, in
whose cause Paul was preaching. Would it have been thought anything
incredible if we had been told that the ancient Persians, who had no
idea of any but a monarchical government, had supposed Aristocratia to
be a queen of Sparta? But we need not confine ourselves to
hypothetical cases; it is positively stated that the Hindoos at this
day believe "the honourable East India Company" to be a venerable old
lady of high dignity, residing in this country. The Germans, again, of
the present day derive their name from a similar mistake: the first
tribe of them who invaded Gaul[24] assumed the honourable title of
"_Ger-man_" which signifies "warriors," (the words "war" and "guerre,"
as well as "man," which remains in our language unaltered, are
evidently derived from the Teutonic,) and the Gauls applied this as a
_name_ to the whole _race_.

However, I merely throw out these conjectures without by any means
contending that more plausible ones might not be suggested. But
whatever supposition we adopt, or whether we adopt any, the objections
to the commonly received accounts will remain in their full force, and
imperiously demand the attention of the candid sceptic.

I call upon those, therefore, who profess themselves advocates of free
inquiry—who disdain to be carried along with the stream of popular
opinion, and who will listen to no testimony that runs counter to
experience,—to follow up their own principles fairly and
consistently. Let the same mode of argument be adopted in all cases
alike; and then it can no longer be attributed to hostile prejudice,
but to enlarged and philosophical views. If they have already rejected
some histories, on the ground of their being strange and
marvellous,—of their relating facts, unprecedented, and at variance
with the established course of nature,—let them not give credit to
another history which lies open to the very same objections,—the
extraordinary and romantic tale we have been just considering. If they
have discredited the testimony of witnesses, who are _said_ at least
to have been disinterested, and to have braved persecutions and death
in support of their assertions,—can these philosophers consistently
listen to and believe the testimony of those who avowedly _get money_
by the tales they publish, and who do not even pretend that they incur
any serious risk in case of being detected in a falsehood? If, in
other cases, they have refused to listen to an account which has
passed through many intermediate hands before it reaches them, and
which is defended by those who have an interest in maintaining it; let
them consider through how many, and what very suspicious hands, _this_
story has arrived to them, without the possibility, as I have shown,
of tracing it back to any decidedly authentic source, after all;—to
any better authority, according to their own showing, than that of an
_unnamed_ and unknown foreign correspondent;—and likewise how strong
an interest, in every way, those who have hitherto imposed on them,
have in keeping up the imposture. Let them, in short, show themselves
as ready to detect the cheats, and despise the fables of politicians
as of priests.

But if they are still wedded to the popular belief in this point, let
them be consistent enough to admit the same evidence in _other_ cases
which they yield to in _this_. If, after all that has been said, they
cannot bring themselves to doubt of the existence of Napoleon
Buonaparte, they must at least acknowledge that they do not apply to
that question the same plan of reasoning which they have made use of
in others; and they are consequently bound in reason and in honesty to
renounce it altogether.


[3] "A report is spread, (says Voltaire in one of his works,) that
there is, in some country or other, a giant as big as a mountain; and
men presently fall to hot disputing concerning the precise length of
his nose, the breadth of his thumb, and other particulars, and
anathematize each other for heterodoxy of belief concerning them. In
the midst of all, if some bold sceptic ventures to hint a doubt as to
the existence of this giant, all are ready to join against him, and
tear him to pieces." This looks almost like a prophetic allegory
relating to the gigantic Napoleon.

[4] Οὕτως ἀταλαίπωρος τοῖς πολλοῖς ἡ ζήτησις τῆς ἀληθείας, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ
ἕτοιμα μᾶλλον τρέπονται. Thucyd. b.i.c. 20.

[5] "With what greediness are the miraculous accounts of travellers
received, their descriptions of sea and land monsters, their relations
of wonderful adventures, strange men, and uncouth manners!"—_Hume's
Essay on Miracles_, p. 179, 12mo; p. 185, 8vo, 1767; p. 117, 8vo,

N.B.—In order to give every possible facility of reference, three
editions of Hume's Essays have been generally employed: a 12mo,
London, 1756, and two 8vo editions.

[6] "Suppose a fact to be transmitted through twenty persons; the
first communicating it to the second, the second to the third, &c.,
and let the probability of each testimony be expressed by nine-tenths,
(that is, suppose that of ten reports made by each witness, nine only
are true,) then, at every time the story passes from one witness to
another, the evidence is reduced to nine-tenths of what it was before.
Thus, after it has passed through the whole twenty, the evidence will
be found to be less than one-eighth."—LA PLACE, _Essai Philosophique
sur les Probabilités_.

That is, the chances for the fact thus attested being true, will be,
according to this distinguished calculator, less than one in eight.
Very few of the common newspaper-stories, however, relating to foreign
countries, could be traced, if the matter were carefully investigated,
up to an actual eye-witness, even through twenty intermediate
witnesses; and many of the steps of our ladder, would, I fear, prove
but rotten; few of the reporters would deserve to have _one in ten_
fixed as the proportion of their false accounts.

[7] "I did not mention the difficulty of detecting a falsehood in any
private or even public history, at the time and place where it is said
to happen; much more where the scene is removed to ever so small a
distance.... But the matter never comes to any issue, if trusted to the
common method of altercation and debate and flying rumours."—_Hume's
Essay on Miracles_, p. 195, 12mo; pp. 200, 201, 8vo, 1767; p. 127, 8vo,

[8] See the third Postscript appended to this edition.

[9] "We entertain a suspicion concerning any matter of fact, when the
witnesses _contradict_ each other; when they are of a _suspicious_
character; when they have an _interest_ in what they affirm."—_Hume's
Essay on Miracles_, p. 172, 12mo; p. 176, 8vo, 1767; p. 113, 8vo.

[10] "That testimony itself derives all its force from experience,
seems very certain.... The first author, we believe, who stated fairly
the connexion between the evidence of testimony and the evidence of
experience, was HUME, in his Essay on Miracles, a work ... abounding
in maxims of great use in the conduct of life."—_Edin. Review_, Sept.
1814, p. 328.

[11] "Suppose, for instance, that the fact which the testimony
endeavours to establish partakes of the extraordinary and the
marvellous; in that case, the evidence resulting from the testimony
receives a diminution, greater or less in proportion as the fact is
more or less unusual."—_Hume's Essay on Miracles_, p. 173, 12mo; p.
176, 8vo, 1767; p. 113, 8vo, 1817.

[12] "The ultimate standard by which we determine all disputes that
may arise is always derived from experience and observation."—_Hume's
Essay on Miracles_, p. 172, 12mo; p. 175, 8vo, 1767; p. 112, 8vo,

    Ἠ θαύματα πολλά.
    Καὶ τού τι καὶ βροτῶν φρένας
    Δεδειδαλμένοι ψεύδεσι ποικίλοις
    Ἐξαπατῶντι μῦθοι. PIND. Olymp. 1

[14] This doctrine, though hardly needing confirmation from authority,
is supported by that of Hume; his eighth essay is, throughout, an
argument for the doctrine of "Philosophical necessity," drawn entirely
from the general uniformity, observable in the course of nature with
respect to the principles of _human conduct_, as well as those of the
material universe; from which uniformity, he observes, it is that we
are enabled _in both cases_, to form our judgment by means of
_Experience:_ "and if," says he, "we would explode any forgery in
history, we cannot make use of a more convincing argument, than to
prove that the actions ascribed to any person, are directly contrary
to the course of nature....

"... The Veracity of Quintus Curtius is as suspicious when he
describes the supernatural courage of Alexander, by which he was
hurried on singly to attack multitudes, as when he describes his
supernatural force and activity, by which he was able to resist them.
So readily and universally do we acknowledge a _uniformity in human
motives and actions, as well as in the operations of body_."—_Eighth
Essay_, p. 131, 12mo; p. 85, 8vo, 1817.

Accordingly, in the tenth essay, his use of the term "miracle," after
having called it "a transgression of a law of nature," plainly shows
that he meant to include _human_ nature: "no testimony," says he, "is
sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a
nature that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which
it endeavours to establish." The term "prodigy" also (which he all
along employs as synonymous with "miracle") is applied to testimony, in
the same manner, immediately after; "In the foregoing reasoning we have
supposed ... that the falsehood of that testimony would be a kind of
_prodigy_." Now had he meant to confine the meaning of "miracle," and
"prodigy," to a violation of the laws of _matter_, the epithet
"_miraculous_," applied even thus hypothetically, to _false testimony_,
would be as unmeaning as the epithets "green" or "square;" the only
possible sense in which we can apply to it, even in imagination, the
term "miraculous," is that of "highly improbable,"—"contrary to those
laws of nature which respect human conduct:" and in this sense he
accordingly uses the word in the very next sentence: "When any one
tells me that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately
consider with myself whether it be more _probable_ that this person
should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact which he relates
should really have happened. I weigh the one _miracle_ against the
other."—_Hume's Essay on Miracles_, pp. 176, 177, 12mo; p. 182, 8vo,
1767; p. 115, 8vo, 1817.

See also a passage above quoted from the same essay, where he speaks
of "the _miraculous_ accounts of travellers;" evidently using the word
in this sense.

Perhaps it was superfluous to cite authority for applying the term
"miracle" to whatever is "highly improbable;" but it is important to
the students of Hume, to be fully aware that he uses those two
expressions as synonymous; since otherwise they would mistake the
meaning of that passage which he justly calls "a general maxim worthy
of your attention."

[15] "Events may be so extraordinary that they can hardly be
established by testimony. We would not give credit to a man who would
affirm that he saw a hundred dice thrown in the air, and that they all
fell on the same faces."—_Edin. Review_, Sept. 1814, p. 327.

Let it be observed, that the instance here given is _miraculous_ in no
other sense but that of being highly _improbable_.

[16] "If the spirit of religion join itself to the love of wonder,
there is an end of common sense; and human testimony in these
circumstances loses all pretensions to authority."—_Hume's Essay on
Miracles_, p. 179, 12mo; p. 185, 8vo, 1767; p. 117, 8vo, 1817.

[17] The supposed history from which the above extracts are given, is
published entire in the work called _Historic Certainties._

[18] "I desire any one to lay his hand upon his heart, and after
serious consideration declare whether he thinks that the falsehood of
such a book, supported by such testimony, would be more extraordinary
and miraculous than all the miracles it relates."—_Hume's Essay on
Miracles_, p. 200, 12mo; p. 206, 8vo, 1767; p. 131, 8vo, 1817.

Let it be borne in mind that Hume (as I have above remarked)
continually employs the term "miracle" and "prodigy" to signify
anything that is highly _improbable_ and _extraordinary._

[19] "The wise lend a very academic faith to every report which
favours the passion of the reporter, whether it magnifies his
_country_, his family, or himself."—_Hume's Essay on Miracles_, p.
144, 12mo; p. 200, 8vo, 1767; p. 126, 8vo, 1817.

[20] "Nothing can be more contrary than such a philosophy (the
academic or sceptical) to the supine indolence of the mind, its rash
arrogance, its lofty pretensions, and its superstitious
credulity."—_Fifth Essay_, p. 68, 12mo; p. 41, 8vo, 1817.

[21] See _Hume's Essay on Miracles_, pp. 189, 191, 195, 12mo; pp. 193,
197, 201, 202, 8vo, 1767; pp. 124, 125, 126, 8vo, 1817.

[22] See _Edinburgh Review_ for October, 1842, p. 162.

[23] It is well know with how much learning and ingenuity the
Rationalists of the German school have laboured to throw discredit on
the literal interpretation of the narratives, both of the Old and the
New Testaments; representing them as MYTHS, i.e., fables allegorically
describing some physical or moral phænomena—philosophical
principles—systems, &c.—under the figure of actions performed by
certain ideal personages; these allegories having been, afterwards,
through the mistake of the vulgar, believed as history. Thus, the real
historical existence of such a person as the supposed founder of the
Christian religion, and the acts attributed to him, are denied in the
literal sense, and the whole of the evangelical history is explained
on the "mythical" theory.

Now it is a remarkable circumstance in reference to the point at
present before us, that an eminent authoress of this century has
distinctly declared that Napoleon Buonaparte was NOT A MAN, but a

[24] Germaniæ vocabulum recens et nuper additum; quoniam qui primi
Rhenum transgressi Gallos expulerint, ac nunc Tungri, tunc Germani
vocati sint: ita nationis nomen in nomen gentis evaluisse paullatim,
ut omnes, primum a victore ob metum, mox a seipsis invento nomine,
Germani vocarentur.—_Tacitus, de Mor. Germ._

       *       *       *       *       *


It may seem arrogant for an obscure and nameless individual to claim
the glory of having put to death the most formidable of all recorded
heroes. But a shadowy champion may be overthrown by a shadowy
antagonist. Many a terrific spectre has been laid by the beams of a
halfpenny candle. And if I have succeeded in making out, in the
foregoing pages, a probable case of suspicion, it must, I think, be
admitted, that there is some ground for my present boast, of having
_killed_ Napoleon Buonaparte.

Let but the circumstances of the case be considered. This mighty
Emperor, who had been so long the bugbear of the civilized world,
after having obtained successes and undergone reverses, such as never
befel any (other at least) _real_ potentate, was at length sentenced
to confinement in the remote island of St. Helena: a measure which
many persons wondered at, and many objected to, on various grounds;
not unreasonably, supposing the illustrious exile to be a real person;
but on the supposition of his being only a man of straw, the
situation was exceedingly favourable for keeping him out of the way of
impertinent curiosity, when not wanted, and for making him the
foundation of any new plots that there might be occasion to conjure

About this juncture it was that the public attention was first
invited, by these pages, to the question as to the real existence of
Napoleon Buonaparte. They excited, it may be fairly supposed, along
with much surprise and much censure, some degree of doubt, and
probably of consequent inquiry. No fresh evidence, as far as I can
learn, of the truth of the disputed points, was brought forward to
dispel these doubts. We heard, however, of the most jealous
precautions being used to prevent any intercourse between the
formidable prisoner, and any stranger who, from motives of curiosity,
might wish to visit him. The "man in the iron mask" could hardly have
been more rigorously secluded: and we also heard various contradictory
reports of conversations between him and the few who were allowed
access to him; the falsehood and inconsistency of most of these
reports being proved in contemporary publications.

At length, just about the time when the public scepticism respecting
this extraordinary personage might be supposed to have risen to an
alarming height, it was announced to us that he was dead! A stop was
thus put, most opportunely, to all troublesome inquiries. I do not
undertake to deny that such a person did live and die. That he was,
and that he did, _everything_ that is reported, we cannot believe,
unless we consent to admit contradictory statements; but many of the
events reported, however marvellous, are certainly not, when taken
separately, physically impossible. But I would only entreat the candid
reader to reflect what might naturally be expected, on the supposition
of the surmises contained in the present work being well founded.
Supposing the whole of the tale I have been considering to have been a
fabrication, what would be the natural result of such attempt to
excite inquiry into its truth? Evidently the shortest and most
effectual mode of avoiding detection, would be to _kill_ the phantom,
and so get rid of him at once. A ready and decisive answer would thus
be provided to any one in whom the foregoing arguments might have
excited suspicions: "Sir, there can be no doubt that such a person
existed, and performed what is related of him; and if you will just
take a voyage to St. Helena, you may see with your own eyes,—not him,
indeed, for he is no longer living,—but his _tomb_: and what evidence
would you have that is more decisive?"

So much for his _Death_: as for his _Life_,—it is just published by
an eminent writer: besides which, the shops will supply us with
abundance of busts and prints of this great man; all striking
likenesses—of one another. The most incredulous must be satisfied
with this! "Stat magni NOMINIS umbra!"



Since the publication of the Sixth Edition of this work, the French
nation, and the world at large, have obtained an additional evidence,
to which I hope they will attach as much weight as it deserves, of the
reality of the wonderful history I have been treating of. The Great
Nation, among the many indications lately given of an heroic zeal like
what Homer attributes to his Argive warriors, τίσασθαι ἙΛΈΝΗΣ ὁρμήματά
τε στοναχάς τε, have formed and executed the design of bringing home
for honourable interment the remains of their illustrious Chief.

How many persons have actually inspected these relics, I have not
ascertained; but that a real coffin, containing real bones, was
brought from St. Helena to France, I see no reason to disbelieve.

Whether future visitors to St. Helena will be shown merely the
identical _place_ in which Buonaparte was (_said_ to have been)
interred, or whether another set of real bones will be exhibited in
that island, we have yet to learn.

This latter supposition is not very improbable. It was something of a
credit to the island, an attraction to strangers, and a source of
profit to some of the inhabitants, to possess so remarkable a relic;
and this glory and advantage they must naturally wish to retain. If
so, there seems no reason why they should not have a Buonaparte of
their own; for there is, I believe, no doubt that there are, or were,
several Museums in England, which, among other curiosities, boasted,
each, of a genuine skull of Oliver Cromwell.

Perhaps, therefore, we shall hear of several well authenticated skulls
of Buonaparte also, in the collections of different virtuosos, all of
whom (especially those in whose own crania the "organ of wonder" is
the most largely developed) will doubtless derive equal satisfaction
from the relics they respectively possess.


The Public has been of late much interested and not a little
bewildered, by the accounts of many strange events, said to have
recently taken place in France and other parts of the Continent. Are
these accounts of such a character as to allay, or to strengthen and
increase, such doubts as have been suggested in the foregoing pages?

We are told that there is now a Napoleon Buonaparte at the head of the
government of France. It is not, indeed, asserted that he is the very
original Napoleon Buonaparte himself. The death of that personage, and
the transportation of his genuine bones to France, had been too widely
proclaimed to allow of his reappearance in his own proper person. But
"uno avulso, non deficit alter." Like the Thibetian worshippers of the
Dalai Lama, (who never dies; only his soul transmigrates into a fresh
body), the French are so resolved, we are told, to be under a
Buonaparte—whether that be (see note to p. 56) a man or "a
system"—that they have found, it seems, a kind of new incarnation of
this their Grand Lama, in a person said to be the nephew of the
original one.

And when, on hearing that this personage now fills the high office of
President of the French Republic, we inquire (very naturally) _how he
came there_, we are informed that, several years ago, he invaded
France in an English vessel, (the _English_—as was observed in p.
52—having always been suspected of keeping Buonaparte ready, like the
winds in a Lapland witch's bag, to be let out on occasion,) at the
head of a force, not, of six hundred men, like his supposed uncle in
his expedition from Elba, but of fifty-five,(!) with which he landed
at Boulogne, proclaimed himself emperor, and was joined by no less
than _one_ man! He was accordingly, we are told, arrested, brought to
trial, and sentenced to imprisonment; but having, some years after,
escaped from prison, and taken refuge in England, (_England_ again!)
he thence returned to France: AND SO the French nation placed
him at the head of the government!

All this will doubtless be received as a very probable tale by those
who have given full credit to all the stories I have alluded to in the
foregoing pages.


When any dramatic piece _takes_—as the phrase is—with the Public, it
will usually be represented again and again with still-continued
applause; and sometimes imitations of it will be produced; so that the
same drama in substance will, with occasional slight variations in the
plot, and changes of names, long keep possession of the stage.

Something like this has taken place with respect to that curious
tragi-comedy—the scene of it laid in France—which has engaged the
attention of the British public for about sixty years; during which it
has been "exhibited to crowded houses"—viz., coffee-houses,
reading-rooms, &c., with unabated interest.

The outline of this drama, or series of dramas, may be thus sketched:

_Dramatis Personæ._

A. A King or other Sovereign.

B. His Queen.

C. The Heir apparent.

D. E. F. His Ministers.

G. H. I. J. K. Demagogues.

L. A popular leader of superior ingenuity, who becomes ultimately
supreme ruler under the title of Dictator, Consul, Emperor, King,
President, or some other.

Soldiers, Senators, Executioners, and other functionaries, Citizens,
Fishwomen, &c.

_Scene_, Paris.

(1.) The first Act of one of these dramas represents a monarchy,
somewhat troubled by murmurs of disaffection, suspicions of
conspiracy, &c.

(2.) Second Act, a rebellion; in which ultimately the government is

(3.) Act the third, a provisional government established, on
principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, &c.

(4.) Act the fourth, struggles of various parties for power, carried
on with sundry intrigues, and sanguinary conflicts.

(5.) Act the fifth, the re-establishment of some form of absolute

And from this point we start afresh, and begin the same business over
again, with sundry fresh interludes.

All this is highly amusing to the English Public to _hear_ and _read_
of; but I doubt whether our countrymen would like to be actual
_performers_ in such a drama.

Whether the French really are so, or whether they are mystifying us in
the accounts they send over, I will not presume to decide. But if the
former supposition be the true one,—if they have been so long really
acting over and over again in their own persons such a drama, it must
be allowed that they deserve to be characterized as they have been in
the description given of certain European nations: "An Englishman," it
has been said, "is never happy but when he is miserable; a Scotchman
is never at home but when he is abroad; an Irishman is never at peace
but when he is fighting; a Spaniard is never at liberty but when he is
enslaved; and a Frenchman is never settled but when he is engaged in a


"Time" says the proverb, "rings Truth to light." But the process is
gradual and slow. The debt is paid, as it were, by instalments. It is
only bit by bit, and at considerable intervals, that Truth comes forth
as the morning twilight to dispel the mists of fiction.

It is above forty years that men have been debating the question:—Who
were the parties that burned the city of Moscow?—without ever
thinking of the preliminary question, whether it ever was burnt at
all. And now at length we learn that it never was.

The following extract from a New Orleans paper contains the
information obtained by an American traveller—one of that great
nation whose accuracy as to facts is so well known—who visited the


  Senator Douglas is said to have made the discovery, while
  travelling in Russia, that the city of Moscow was never burned!
  The following statement of the matter is from the Muscatine
  (Iowa) Inquirer:

  "Coming on the boat, a few days ago, we happened to fall in
  company with Senator Douglas, who came on board at Quincy, on his
  way to Warsaw. In the course of a very interesting account of his
  travels in Russia, much of which has been published by
  letter-writers, he stated a fact which has never yet been
  published, but which startlingly contradicts the historical
  relation of one of the most extraordinary events that ever fell
  to the lot of history to record. For this reason the Judge said
  he felt a delicacy in making the assertion, that the city of
  Moscow was never burned!

  "He said, that previous to his arrival at Moscow, he had several
  disputes with his guide as to the burning of the city, the guide
  declaring that it never occurred, and seeming to be nettled at
  Mr. Douglas's persistency in his opinion; but, on examining the
  fire-marks around the city, and the city itself, he became
  satisfied that the guide was correct.

  "The statement goes on to set forth that the antiquity of the
  architectural city—particularly of its 'six hundred first-class
  churches,' stretching through ante-Napoleonic ages to Pagan
  times, and showing the handiwork of different nations of
  History—demonstrates that the city never was burned down (or

  The Inquirer adds:

  "The Kremlin is a space of several hundred acres, in the heart of
  the city, in the shape of a flat iron, and is enclosed, by a wall
  of sixty feet high. Within this enclosure is the most magnificent
  palace in Europe, recently built, but constructed over an ancient
  palace, which remains, thus enclosed, whole and perfect, with all
  its windows, &c.

  "Near the Kremlin, surrounded by a wall, is a Chinese town,
  appearing to be several hundred years old, still occupied by
  descendants of the original settlers.

  "The circumstances which gave rise to the errors concerning the
  burning of Moscow, were these:—It is a city of four hundred and
  fifty thousand inhabitants, in circular form, occupying a large
  space, five miles across. There the winters are six months long,
  and the custom was, and still is, to lay up supplies of
  provisions and wood to last six months of severe cold weather. To
  prevent these gigantic supplies from encumbering the heart of the
  city, and yet render them as convenient as practicable to every
  locality, a row of wood houses was constructed to circle
  completely round the city, and outside of these was a row of
  granaries, and in these were deposited the whole of the supplies.
  Napoleon had entered the city with his army, and was himself
  occupying the palace of the Kremlin, when, one night, by order of
  the Russian governor, every wood house and every granary
  simultaneously burst into a blaze. All efforts to extinguish them
  were vain, and Napoleon found himself compelled to march his army
  through the fire. Retiring to an eminence he saw the whole city
  enveloped in vast sheets of flame, and clouds of smoke, and
  apparently all on fire. And far as he was concerned it might as
  well have been, for though houses enough were left to supply
  every soldier with a room, yet without provisions or fuel, and a
  Russian army to cut off supplies, he and his army could not
  subsist there. During the fire some houses were probably burnt,
  but the city was not. In the Kremlin a magazine blew up, cracking
  the church of Ivan more than a hundred feet up, but setting
  nothing on fire.

  "Mr. Douglas saw the fire-marks around the city, where wood
  houses and granaries for winter supplies now stand as of old; but
  there appears no marks of conflagration within the city."

Any wary sceptic, indeed, might have found much ground for doubt in
the very accounts themselves that were given of the conflagration.
For, the Russians have always denied that _they_ burned it; and the
French equally disclaimed the act. Each of the two parties between
whom the accusation lay, strenuously denied it. And it must be
acknowledged that each had very strong presumptions of innocence to
urge. It was certainly most _unlikely_ that the Russians should
themselves destroy their ancient and venerable capital; and that, too,
when they were boasting of having just gained a great victory at
Borodino over an army which, therefore, they might hope to defeat
again, and to drive out of their city. And it was no less unlikely
that the French should burn down a city of which they had possession,
and which afforded shelter and refreshment to their troops. This would
have been one of the most improbable circumstances of that most
improbable (supposed) campaign. To add to the marvel, we are told that
the French army nevertheless waited for five weeks, without any
object, amid the ashes of this destroyed city, just at the approach,
of winter, and as if on purpose to be overtaken and destroyed by snows
and frost!

However, all the difficulties of the question whether any of these
things took place at all, were by most persons overlooked, because
the question itself never occurred to them, in their eagerness to
decide _who_ it was that burned the city. And at length it comes out
that the answer is, NOBODY!



With respect to the foregoing arguments, it has been asserted (though
without even any attempt at proof) that they go to prove that the
Bible-narratives contain nothing more miraculous than the received
accounts of Napoleon Buonapartè. And this is indeed true, if we use
the word "_miraculous_" in the very unusual sense in which Hume (as is
pointed out in the foregoing pages) has employed it; to signify simply
"_improbable_;" an abuse of language on which his argument mainly

It is indeed shown, that there are at least as many and as great
_improbabilities_ in the history of Buonapartè as in any of the
Scripture-narratives; and that as plausible objections,—if not more
so,—may be brought against the one history as the other.

But taking words in their ordinary, established sense, the assertion
is manifestly the opposite of the truth. For, any one who does,—in
spite of all the improbabilities,—_believe_ the truth of _both_
histories, is, evidently, a believer in miracles; since he believes
two narratives, one of which is _not_ miraculous, while the other is.
The history of Buonapartè contains—though much that is very
improbable—nothing that is to be called, according to the established
use of language, miraculous. And the Scriptures contain, as an
_essential_ part of their narrative, _Miracles_, properly so called.

To talk of believing the Bible, all _except the Miracles_, would be
like professing to believe the accounts of Buonapartè, _except_ only
his commanding armies, and having been at Elba and at Saint Helena.

       *       *       *       *       *

One cannot doubt that in the course of the _forty years_ that this
little Work has been before the Public, some real, valid refutation of
the argument would have been adduced, if any such could have been


       *       *       *       *       *

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