Napoleon I of France quotes

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Napoleon I of France

Birthdate: 15. August 1769
Date of death: 5. May 1821
Other names: Bonaparte Napoleon I.

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.He was born Napoleone Buonaparte in Corsica to a relatively modest Italian family from minor nobility. He was serving as an artillery officer in the French army when the French Revolution erupted in 1789. He rapidly rose through the ranks of the military, seizing the new opportunities presented by the Revolution and becoming a general at age 24. The French Directory eventually gave him command of the Army of Italy after he suppressed the 13 Vendémiaire revolt against the government from royalist insurgents. At age 26, he began his first military campaign against the Austrians and the Italian monarchs aligned with the Habsburgs—winning virtually every battle, conquering the Italian Peninsula in a year while establishing "sister republics" with local support, and becoming a war hero in France. In 1798, he led a military expedition to Egypt that served as a springboard to political power. He orchestrated a coup in November 1799 and became First Consul of the Republic. After the Peace of Amiens in 1802, Napoleon turned his attention to France's colonies. He sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States, and he attempted to restore slavery to the French Caribbean colonies. However, while he was successful in restoring slavery in the eastern Caribbean, Napoleon failed in his attempts to subdue Saint-Domingue, and the colony that France once proudly boasted of as the "Pearl of the Antilles" became independent as Haiti in 1804. Napoleon's ambition and public approval inspired him to go further, and he became the first Emperor of the French in 1804. Intractable differences with the British meant that the French were facing a Third Coalition by 1805. Napoleon shattered this coalition with decisive victories in the Ulm Campaign and a historic triumph over the Russian Empire and Austrian Empire at the Battle of Austerlitz which led to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1806, the Fourth Coalition took up arms against him because Prussia became worried about growing French influence on the continent. Napoleon quickly defeated Prussia at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, then marched his Grande Armée deep into Eastern Europe and annihilated the Russians in June 1807 at the Battle of Friedland. France then forced the defeated nations of the Fourth Coalition to sign the Treaties of Tilsit in July 1807, bringing an uneasy peace to the continent. Tilsit signified the high-water mark of the French Empire. In 1809, the Austrians and the British challenged the French again during the War of the Fifth Coalition, but Napoleon solidified his grip over Europe after triumphing at the Battle of Wagram in July.

Napoleon then occupied the Iberian Peninsula, hoping to extend the Continental System and choke off British trade with the European mainland, and declared his brother Joseph Bonaparte the King of Spain in 1808. The Spanish and the Portuguese revolted with British support. The Peninsular War lasted six years, featured extensive guerrilla warfare, and ended in victory for the Allies against Napoleon. The Continental System caused recurring diplomatic conflicts between France and its client states, especially Russia. The Russians were unwilling to bear the economic consequences of reduced trade and routinely violated the Continental System, enticing Napoleon into another war. The French launched a major invasion of Russia in the summer of 1812. The campaign destroyed Russian cities, but did not yield the decisive victory Napoleon wanted. It resulted in the collapse of the Grande Armée and inspired a renewed push against Napoleon by his enemies. In 1813, Prussia and Austria joined Russian forces in the War of the Sixth Coalition against France. A lengthy military campaign culminated in a large Allied army defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, but his tactical victory at the minor Battle of Hanau allowed retreat onto French soil. The Allies then invaded France and captured Paris in the spring of 1814, forcing Napoleon to abdicate in April. He was exiled to the island of Elba off the coast of Tuscany, and the Bourbon dynasty was restored to power. Napoleon escaped from Elba in February 1815 and took control of France once again. The Allies responded by forming a Seventh Coalition which defeated him at the Battle of Waterloo in June. The British exiled him to the remote island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, where he died six years later at the age of 51.

Napoleon's influence on the modern world brought liberal reforms to the numerous territories that he conquered and controlled, such as the Low Countries, Switzerland, and large parts of modern Italy and Germany. He implemented fundamental liberal policies in France and throughout Western Europe. His Napoleonic Code has influenced the legal systems of more than 70 nations around the world. British historian Andrew Roberts states: "The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire". Wikipedia

Photo: Jacques-Louis David / Public domain

„One must indeed be ignorant of the methods of genius to suppose that it allows itself to be cramped by forms.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916)
Context: One must indeed be ignorant of the methods of genius to suppose that it allows itself to be cramped by forms. Forms are for mediocrity, and it is fortunate that mediocrity can act only according to routine. Ability takes its flight unhindered.

„Dante has not deigned to take his inspiration from any other. He has wished to be himself, himself alone; in a word, to create.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916)
Context: Dante has not deigned to take his inspiration from any other. He has wished to be himself, himself alone; in a word, to create. He has occupied a vast space, and has filled it with the superiority of a sublime mind. He is diverse, strong, and gracious. He has imagination, warmth, and enthusiasm. He makes his reader tremble, shed tears, feel the thrill of honor in a way that is the height of art. Severe and menacing, he has terrible imprecations for crime, scourgings for vice, sorrow for misfortune. As a citizen, affected by the laws of the republic, he thunders against its oppressors, but he is always ready to excuse his native city, Florence is ever to him his sweet, beloved country, dear to his heart. I am envious for my dear France, that she has never produced a rival to Dante; that this Colossus has not had his equal among us. No, there is no reputation which can be compared to his.

„I do not care to play the part of Monk; I will not play it myself, and I do not choose that others shall do so.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Conversation at Turin, as quoted in Memoirs of Count Miot de Melito (1788 - 1815) as translated by Frances Cashel Hoey and John Lillie (1881), Vol. II, p. 113
'Monk' refers to George Monck, military ruler of Puritan England after Cromwell, who ultimately gave up power when he invited Charles II in and enabled the English Restoration
Context: I do not care to play the part of Monk; I will not play it myself, and I do not choose that others shall do so. But those Paris lawyers who have got into the Directory understand nothing of government. They are poor creatures. I am going to see what they want to do at Rastadt; but I doubt much that we shall understand each other, or long agree together. They are jealous of me, I know, and notwithstanding all their flattery, I am not their dupe; they fear more than they love me. They were in a great hurry to make me General of the army of England, so that they might get me out of Italy, where I am the master, and am more of a sovereign than commander of an army. They will see how things go on when I am not there. I am leaving Berthier, but he is not fit for the chief command, and, I predict, will only make blunders. As for myself, my dear Miot, I may inform you, I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up. I have made up my mind, if I cannot be master I shall leave France; I do not choose to have done so much for her and then hand her over to lawyers.

„There are only two forces that unite men — fear and interest.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916)
Context: There are only two forces that unite men — fear and interest. All great revolutions originate in fear, for the play of interests does not lead to accomplishment.

„I am the instrument of providence, she will use me as long as I accomplish her designs, then she will break me like a glass.“

—  Napoleon I of France

As quoted in The Linguist and the Emperor : Napoleon and Champollion's Quest to Decipher the Rosetta Stone (2004) by Daniel Meyerson
Attributed

„The happiest days of my life were from sixteen to twenty, during the semestres, when I used to go about, as I have told you I should wish to do, from one restaurateur to another, living moderately, and having a lodging for which I paid three louis a month. They were the happiest days of my life. I was always so much occupied, that I may say I never was truly happy upon the throne.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Barry Edward O'Meara, in Napoleon in Exile : or, A Voice from St. Helena (1822), Vol. II, p. 155
About
Context: "What do you think," said he, "of all things in the world would give me the greatest pleasure?" I was on the point of replying, removal from St. Helena, when he said, "To be able to go about incognito in London and other parts of England, to the restaurateurs, with a friend, to dine in public at the expense of half a guinea or a guinea, and listen to the conversation of the company; to go through them all, changing almost daily, and in this manner, with my own ears, to hear the people express their sentiments, in their unguarded moments, freely and without restraint; to hear their real opinion of myself, and of the surprising occurrences of the last twenty years." I observed, that he would hear much evil and much good of himself. "Oh, as to the evil," replied he, "I care not about that. I am well used to it. Besides, I know that the public opinion will be changed. The nation will be just as much disgusted at the libels published against me, as they formerly were greedy in reading and believing them. This," added he, "and the education of my son, would form my greatest pleasure. It was my intention to have done this, had I reached America. The happiest days of my life were from sixteen to twenty, during the semestres, when I used to go about, as I have told you I should wish to do, from one restaurateur to another, living moderately, and having a lodging for which I paid three louis a month. They were the happiest days of my life. I was always so much occupied, that I may say I never was truly happy upon the throne."

„To be able to go about incognito in London and other parts of England, to the restaurateurs, with a friend, to dine in public at the expense of half a guinea or a guinea, and listen to the conversation of the company“

—  Napoleon I of France

Barry Edward O'Meara, in Napoleon in Exile : or, A Voice from St. Helena (1822), Vol. II, p. 155
About
Context: "What do you think," said he, "of all things in the world would give me the greatest pleasure?" I was on the point of replying, removal from St. Helena, when he said, "To be able to go about incognito in London and other parts of England, to the restaurateurs, with a friend, to dine in public at the expense of half a guinea or a guinea, and listen to the conversation of the company; to go through them all, changing almost daily, and in this manner, with my own ears, to hear the people express their sentiments, in their unguarded moments, freely and without restraint; to hear their real opinion of myself, and of the surprising occurrences of the last twenty years." I observed, that he would hear much evil and much good of himself. "Oh, as to the evil," replied he, "I care not about that. I am well used to it. Besides, I know that the public opinion will be changed. The nation will be just as much disgusted at the libels published against me, as they formerly were greedy in reading and believing them. This," added he, "and the education of my son, would form my greatest pleasure. It was my intention to have done this, had I reached America. The happiest days of my life were from sixteen to twenty, during the semestres, when I used to go about, as I have told you I should wish to do, from one restaurateur to another, living moderately, and having a lodging for which I paid three louis a month. They were the happiest days of my life. I was always so much occupied, that I may say I never was truly happy upon the throne."

„The issue of a battle is the result of an instant, of a thought.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916)
Context: The issue of a battle is the result of an instant, of a thought. There is the advance, with its various combinations, the battle is joined, the struggle goes on a certain time, the decisive moment presents itself, a spark of genius discloses it, and the smallest body of reserves accomplish victory.

„Napoleon, far more Italian than French, Italian by race, by instinct, imagination, and souvenir, considers in his plan the future of Italy, and, on casting up the final accounts of his reign, we find that the net profit is for Italy and the net loss is for France.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Hippolyte Taine in Napoleon's views on religion.
About
Context: Napoleon, far more Italian than French, Italian by race, by instinct, imagination, and souvenir, considers in his plan the future of Italy, and, on casting up the final accounts of his reign, we find that the net profit is for Italy and the net loss is for France. Since Theodoric and the Lombard kings, the Pope, in preserving his temporal sovereignty and spiritual omnipotence, has maintained the sub-divisions of Italy; let this obstacle be removed and Italy will once more become a nation. Napoleon prepares the way, and constitutes it beforehand by restoring the Pope to his primitive condition, by withdrawing from him his temporal sovereignty and limiting his spiritual omnipotence, by reducing him to the position of managing director of Catholic consciences and head minister of the principal cult authorized in the empire.

„I never was truly my own master but was always ruled by circumstances.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Conversation with Emmanuel, comte de Las Cases (11 November 1816), Mémorial de Sainte Hélène, v. 4, p. 133 http://books.google.com/books?id=945jAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA133.
Context: I may have had many projects, but I never was free to carry out any of them. It did me little good to be holding the helm; no matter how strong my hands, the sudden and numerous waves were stronger still, and I was wise enough to yield to them rather than resist them obstinately and make the ship founder. Thus I never was truly my own master but was always ruled by circumstances.

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„What I have done up to this is nothing. I am only at the beginning of the course I must run.“

—  Napoleon I of France

As quoted in Memoirs of Count Miot de Melito (1788 - 1815) as translated by Frances Cashel Hoey and John Lillie (1881), Vol. II, p. 94
Context: What I have done up to this is nothing. I am only at the beginning of the course I must run. Do you imagine that I triumph in Italy in order to aggrandise the pack of lawyers who form the Directory, and men like Carnot and Barras? What an idea!

„We are born, we live, and we die in the midst of the marvelous.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916)
Context: What are we? What is the future? What is the past? What magic fluid envelops us and hides from us the things it is most important for us to know? We are born, we live, and we die in the midst of the marvelous.

„Washington and Bonaparte emerged from the womb of democracy: both of them born to liberty, the former remained faithful to her, the latter betrayed her.“

—  Napoleon I of France

François-René de Chateaubriand, in Mémoires d'outre-tombe (1848 – 1850), Book VI, Ch. 8 : Comparison of Washington and Bonaparte
About
Context: Bonaparte robs a nation of its independence: deposed as emperor, he is sent into exile, where the world’s anxiety still does not think him safely enough imprisoned, guarded by the Ocean. He dies: the news proclaimed on the door of the palace in front of which the conqueror had announced so many funerals, neither detains nor astonishes the passer-by: what have the citizens to mourn?
Washington's Republic lives on; Bonaparte’s empire is destroyed. Washington and Bonaparte emerged from the womb of democracy: both of them born to liberty, the former remained faithful to her, the latter betrayed her.

„At the beginning of a campaign it is important to consider whether or not to move forward; but when one has taken the offensive it is necessary to maintain it to the last extremity.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916)
Context: At the beginning of a campaign it is important to consider whether or not to move forward; but when one has taken the offensive it is necessary to maintain it to the last extremity. However skilfully effected a retreat may be, it always lessens the morale of an army, since in losing the chances of success, they are remitted to the enemy. A retreat, moreover, costs much more in men and materials than the bloodiest engagements, with this difference, also, that in a battle the enemy loses practically as much as you do; while in a retreat you lose and he does not.

„What is a throne? — a bit of wood gilded and covered in velvet. I am the state“

—  Napoleon I of France

I alone am here the representative of the people. Even if I had done wrong you should not have reproached me in public — people wash their dirty linen at home. France has more need of me than I of France.
Statement to the Senate (1814) He echoes here the remark attributed to Louis XIV L'état c'est moi ( "The State is I" or more commonly: "I am the State.")
Variant translation: A throne is only a bench covered with velvet...

„In a battle, as in a siege, the art consists in concentrating very heavy fire on a particular point.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916)
Context: In a battle, as in a siege, the art consists in concentrating very heavy fire on a particular point. The line of battle once established, the one who has the ability to concentrate an unlooked for mass of artillery suddenly and unexpectedly on one of these points is sure to carry the day.

„Conscience is the most sacred thing among men.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916)
Context: Conscience is the most sacred thing among men. Every man has within him a still small voice, which tells him that nothing on earth can oblige him to believe that which he does not believe. The worst of all tyrannies is that which obliges eighteen-twentieths of a nation to embrace a religion contrary to their beliefs, under penalty of being denied their rights as citizens and of owning property, which, in effect, is the same thing as being without a country.

„My waking thoughts are all of thee.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Letter to Joséphine de Beauharnais (February 1796), as translated in Napoleon's Letters to Josephine 1796-1812 (1901) edited by Henry Foljambe Hall
Context: My waking thoughts are all of thee. Your portrait and the remembrance of last night's delirium have robbed my senses of repose. Sweet and incomparable Josephine, what an extraordinary influence you have over my heart. Are you vexed? Do I see you sad? Are you ill at ease? My soul is broken with grief, and there is no rest for your lover.

„It is not that addresses at the opening of a battle make the soldiers brave. The old veterans scarcely hear them, and recruits forget them at the first boom of the cannon.“

—  Napoleon I of France

Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916)
Context: It is not that addresses at the opening of a battle make the soldiers brave. The old veterans scarcely hear them, and recruits forget them at the first boom of the cannon. Their usefulness lies in their effect on the course of the campaign, in neutralizing rumors and false reports, in maintaining a good spirit in the camp, and in furnishing matter for camp-fire talk. The printed order of the day should fulfill these different ends.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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