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Considering the circumstances in which Napoleon said them may put a different spin on them. Note that all of these Napoleon quotes have variants, depending on how the French was translated, and on how the phrases have mutated over the past years. In war, three-quarters turns on personal character and relations; the balance of manpower and materials counts only for the remaining quarter. Variant: In war, moral power is to physical as three parts out of four. They were intended for his brother Joseph , whom he had recently installed as King of Spain.
The Spaniards were opposed to French rule and the war was becoming savage. Napoleon wrote: We will not discuss here if the line of the Ebro is good…. All these questions are pointless. We will content ourselves with saying that since we have taken the line of the Ebro, the troops can recover and rest, there is at least the advantage that the country is healthier, being more elevated, and we can wait there until the heat has passed. Above all, we must not abandon this line without a specific plan that leaves no uncertainty about subsequent operations.
It would be a great misfortune to abandon this line and then later be obliged to retake it. From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.
Variant: There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous. On December 5, , at Smorgoni, he left the remains of his straggling army under the command of his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat who also soon abandoned the troops , and hurried ahead towards Paris.
After a short meeting, Napoleon dismissed de Pradt, instructing him to return after dinner with two Polish politicians — Count Stanislas Potocki and the minister of finance. Eight days. Not in the least. I live in the midst of agitation: the more I am crossed, the better I am.
It is only sluggish kings who grow fat in their palaces: horseback and camps for me. From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step. You write to me that it is impossible; the word is not French. Variant: The word impossible is not French. Also misquoted as: The word impossible is not in my dictionary. Napoleon was in trouble. Russia and Prussia had pushed into Germany.
The British had liberated most of Spain. Desertion was high. Ammunition and supplies were scarce. After winning the bloody Battle of Bautzen in late May, Napoleon on June 2 agreed to a two-month truce with the Russian-Prussian coalition. You might think the quote had something to do with an attempt to stir men for battle.
You have , bushels of oats at Magdeburg. I am displeased with your letter. Immediately send two boats filled with oats for the horses of the Guard, who are dying. The oats will be replaced by what is happening in the country, by the next harvest, and, finally, by what is sent by the 32nd division. What is the throne? A bit of wood gilded and covered with velvet.
Variants: Four pieces of gilded wood covered with a piece of velvet. This wooden frame covered with velvet. Napoleon said this to the French Legislative Body on January 1, After that letter to La Marois, things went from bad to worse. Having won the Battle of Leipzig in October , the Allies were ready to carry the war onto French soil.
It was no longer a question of trying to save the Empire. Napoleon needed to save his crown. In December he tried to gain political support by convening the Senate and the Council of State with the Chamber of Deputies in a joint session of the legislature. Two committees were elected to study Allied peace proposals, which aimed at cutting France back to its earlier frontiers.
On December 28, the Chamber of Deputies presented its report. It criticized Napoleon for continuing the war and for oppressing the French people.
Napoleon responded by haranguing the Deputies thus: Why did you not make your complaints in secret to me? I would have done you justice. We should wash our dirty linen in private, and not drag it out before the world. You call yourselves representatives of the nation. It is not true; you are only deputies of the departments; a small portion of the State, inferior to the Senate, inferior even to the Council of State.
The representatives of the people! I am alone the representative of the people. Twice have twenty-four millions of French called me to the throne — which of you durst undertake such a burden? It had already overwhelmed your Assemblies, and your Conventions, your Vergniards and your Guadets, your Jacobins and your Girondins.
They are all dead! What, who are you? Nothing — all authority is in the throne; and what is the throne? This wooden frame covered with velvet? No, I am the throne…. France stands more in need of me than I do of France. Work is the scythe of time. Napoleon hoped to be allowed to settle in England. On July 31, however, he learned that the British government intended to exile him to St. Helena , a remote island in the middle of the South Atlantic. I was again sent for by the Emperor; who, after alluding to different subjects, began to speak of St.
Helena, asking me what sort of place it could be? Whether it was possible to exist there? And similar questions. Is a man dependent on others, when he wishes that his dependence should cease.
All will be over, and you can then tranquilly rejoin your families. This is the more easy, since my internal principles do not oppose any bar to it. I am one of those who conceive that the pains of the other world were only imagined as a counterpoise to those inadequate allurements which are offered to us there. God can never have willed such a contradiction to his infinite goodness, especially for an act of this kind; and what is it after all, but wishing to return to him a little sooner?
Poets and philosophers had said that it was a spectacle worthy of the Divinity, to see men struggling with fortune: reverses and constancy had their glory. Such a great and noble character as his could not descend to the level of vulgar minds; he who had governed us with so much glory, who had excited the admiration, and influenced the destinies of the world, could not end like a desperate gamester or disappointed lover. What would then become of all those who looked up to and placed their hopes in him?
Would he thus abandon the field to his enemies? What might not the mere change of a ministry, death of a Prince, that of a confidant, the slightest burst of passion, or the most trifling dispute bring about? Do we not enjoy the life of Caesar and that of Alexander? We shall possess still more, you will re-peruse yourself, Sire!
Yes, we must be employed; for occupation is the scythe of time. After all, a man ought to fulfil his destines; this is my grand doctrine: let mine also be accomplished.
Once on St. Helena, Napoleon had a lot of time to talk and several people to record his musings. This Napoleon quote comes from another conversation with Las Cases, on December , I mean, unprepared courage, that which is necessary on an unexpected occasion, and which, in spite of the most unforeseen events, leaves full freedom of judgment and decision.
The Mohammedan religion is the finest of all. Variant: I like the Mohammedan religion best. Though Napoleon restored the Catholic Church in France, often read the Bible, and had an uncle who was a cardinal , his personal religious beliefs are best described as agnostic. Napoleon often talked about religion, especially when he was on St.
According to Gourgaud, Napoleon said: The Mohammedan religion is the finest of all. Jesus said he was the Son of God, and yet he was descended from David. I like the Mohammedan religion best. It has fewer incredible things in it than ours. The Turks call Christians idolaters. Women are nothing but machines for producing children. This should perhaps be added to the list of Napoleon misquotes.
Bonaparte Napoleon by Andre Castelot
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