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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.
10 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 Bonapartes; if we admit nothing but what is well authenticated, we shall be compelled to doubt of the existence of any.
11 It appears, then, that those on whose testimony the existence and actions of Bonaparte 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.
LXXXIV.-THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
1. After all, it may be expected that many who perceive the force of these objections, will yet be loath 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 become 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 vigor 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 cther 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.
2. 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: 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.
3. Now, if this report of the belief of the French was not true, the British public were completely imposed upon; if it was 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 dupe of its government; for if the battle was never fought at all, or was not decisive on either side, in that case both parties were deceived. The instance, I conceive, is absolutely demonstrative of the point in question.
4. “But what shall we say to the testimony of those many respectable persons who went to Plymouth on purpose ; and saw Bonaparte 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 Bonaparte; nay, more, that they actually rowed out into the harbor in a boat, and came alongside of a man-of-war, on whose deck they saw a man in a cockade hat, who, they were told, was Bonaparte. 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 marvelous 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?
5. 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 where the ghost haunted, the identical dark corner where it used to vanish, and perhaps even the tombstone of the
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 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.”
6. 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 Bonaparte. 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 persons who issued those commands did really perform the mighty achievements we are told of.
7. Let those, then, who pretend 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 Bonaparte;—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 amounts to anything more than a probability, I have only to congratulate him on his
8. 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, 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
face of it. 9. All the events are great and splendid and marvelous ; great armies, - great victories,-great frosts,-great reverses,
-“ hair-breadth 'scapes,”—empires subverted in a few days; everything happening in defiance of political calculation, 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.
10. 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, our best and only sure guide. In vain will he seek in history for something similar to this wonderful Bonaparte; “nought but himself can be his parallel.”
LXXXV.--THE SAME SUBJECT CONCLUDED.
1. Now, if a free-thinking philosopher-one of those who advocate the cause of unbiased 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 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 three thousand 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 ?