Imagens das páginas

as he had to contend against Antony and Lepidus, the inheritors of the military autocracy of Cæsar, as well as against the Senatorian legitimists, so Louis Napoleon could only accede to permanent power by triumphing over Cavaignac, Changarnier, Lamoriciere, and the other representatives of military ascendancy, at the same time that he overcame the Bourbonists and the doctrinaires, and crushed the Socialists and Red Republicans. Both had to win the army from their adversaries, before the first step in their elevation was in any degree secured. But this task Octavius achieved with an army at his back, and the prestige of Consular authority, which had been bestowed on him by the delusion of the Senate and the folly of Cicero; Louis Napoleon had only the legal title of President, granted by the dreaming partiality of the masses, but without any regular force at his command. These differences in the relative positions of Augustus and Napoleon III., account for the attainment of the same result, in the former case, by the arms of war; in the latter, by the stratagems of peace; and for the fact, that thirteen years of military contention, terminated by the battle of Actium, were requisite to place the Roman Imperator on the throne, which was reached by the French President in less than four years of profound tranquillity, by popular arts and political chicanery.

There was a peculiar propriety in this discrepance. The system of antiquity was one of warfare; the system of modern times is, pre-eminently, a policy of peace. In the preceding times of Rome, from the age of Marius and Sulla at least, ascendancy in the state had been achieved by the sword, and Octavius just continued the practices which had been habitually employed by his predecessors. In the recent ages of Europe, civil conquest and domestic bloodshed had not been recognized as giving a valid title to supremacy, and even when employed, it had been merely an accessary to more regular modes, and the claim to the honour achieved had been founded not upon victory, but upon the ostensible or presumed will of the nation. Octavius availed himself of both modes of procedure in his acquisition of power, but, in consonance with his times, the pretensions of peace were made subordinate to the coercion of war. Louis Napoleon did not overlook either, but in harmony with the demands of his day, he concealed the influence wielded through the army under the cloak of the orderly operations of a popular election. Both were guided by the same acute but dissembling appreciation of the tone and spirit of their respective ages.

So far, the differences, noticed in the lives compared, appear to he merely dissimilarities in their accidents, not in their intrinsic significance ; and to explain rather the modifications of the general resemblance, than to impair their essential parallelism. Much more stress would ordinarily be laid upon the supposed dissimilitudes of the historical periods in which the two potentates respectively appeared. This can be recognized by every one, and will be exaggerated by nearly all. But Dr. Arnold was right in construing the history of Greece after the battle of Salamis, and the history of Rome after the Punic wars, as virtually modern history; for the aspects of society, the political developments, the course of affairs, and the manifestations of intellect and sentiment, correspond exactly in those periods with similar movements in modern Europe ; and present as many and as intimate analogies with our own times, as are afforded by contiguous countries at present to cach other. There is scarcely any greater difference between ancient Rome and contemporaneous Paris, so far as the present question is concerned, than that which may be exemplified by the translation of a Roman Dux” or Imperator" into a Lieutenant-General or a Field Marshal. The Brigadiership of President Pierce may be assimilated to the Imperatorship of Ciceroma lawyer, too, and perhaps a little better statesman; but the Cilician campaign of the latter resulted from his previous elevation to supreme civil authority, while the Mexican diversion of the former preceded, and prepared his installation into the chief executive dignity. No; the differences between the two historical periods, illustrated or degraded by the successful usurpations of Cæsar II. and Napoleon III., are not such as to necessitate any very assiduous or extensive discrimination between the two. They approximate in character to each other more closely and minutely, and even strangely, than any one who has not studied them both with diligence would readily conceive to be possible. Nor should it be deemed necessary to dwell very forcibly upon the contrariety of the change from a republican government to a despotic monarchy in Rome, and from a regal, and in some sort constitutional polity, to a corresponding military despotism in France. If there was any room for such punctiliousness, it might be alleged that the conversion effected by Louis Napoleon was from a republic represented first by Lamartine and Ledru Rollin, then by Cavaignac and Changarnier, then by a Prince President, into an Empire. But the fluctuations of government, which intervened between the flight of Louis Philippe and the accession of the present emperor, constituted only an interlude-a farce between two dramas; and it would be as ridiculous to treat that intermezzo gravely as a republic, as it would be to consider that the Romans had the enjoyment or the prospect of free institutions under Brutus and Cassius, Antony and Dolabella.

The antecedents are certainly widely dissimilar in the two cases; but in both they converge to a common point of agreement before the institution of the Empire. The modern history of France, in the apprehension of practical politicians, scarcely runs back further than to the execution of Louis XVI. and the establishment of the revolutionary republic. At that point there occurs a solution of historical continuity-a political schism-which there is no necessity to pass, and which no ingenuity can bridge over satisfactorily. What have the French in subsequent times in common with the chivalry of Henri IV. or the courtiers of Louis XIV.? The first incident in the modern annals of France, is the meeting of the National Assembly. In the days of Augustus, in like manner, the precedents and instances of statesmen and rulers were all posterior to the outbreak of civil hostilities between Marius and Sulla, and the revolutionary era disgraced by the atrocities of Carbo, Cinna and Pompeius Strabo. All that had gone before had passed away to join the ages before the flood. It was only in the dreams of fiction, or in the sentimental laments for a vanished golden age, like the Republic of Cicero, or the converzazione di villa of his Dialogues, that any active politician, except that visionary blockhead, Brutus, ever thought of ascending the stream of Roman history beyond the first Consulship of Marius, or the Agrarian Rogations of the Gracchi. Whatever lay concealed in the records of earlier times, belonged to the dreamy land of forgotten innocence and youth. And observe that, in Rome as in France, the common point from which the lineage of empire descended, was the prevalence of a reign of terror, so exactly analogous in the two ages and in the two nations, that the description of either may serve equally well, by a mere change of names, for the portraiture of the other. Take any of the histories of the French revolution, Mignet, Thiers or Carlyle; turn to the accounts given of the denunciations of victims, of the treatment of the “suspectes,” of the informations, confiscations and executions; then place by their side the fragment of Dion Cassius recovered by Peiresc, or the scattered notices of other ancient writers, relative to the proscriptions of Sulla ; blot out from both narratives all proper names, by which a clue to the era delineated could be furnished ; and, were it not for the languages in which they are respectively written, it would be wholly impossible to tell which was the chronicle of the ancient, and which the exposition of the modern horrors.

With this commentary on the external diversities by which the career of Louis Napoleon is distinguished from that of Augustus, in advance of any formal parallelism between the two, we proceed to compare their characters, fortunes and positions.

The most singular feature in the tortuous and deceitful character of the young Octavius, was his impassive and almost unfluctuating temperament. He had few resentments; he had still fewer loves. He had more reason to be attached to Cicero than to any distinguished man among his seniors ; he consented to his sacrifice with little reluctance, and certainly without remorse. There were many who afforded by their conduct ample occasion for provoking his animosity; he received them to his bosom, and cultivated them as friends. He was guilty of many cruelties, or at least a participator in them, at the outset of his brilliant progress; but they were instituted by no quick motion of the passions, by no thirst for blood, but either permitted through indifferences or dictated by convictions, usually well-founded, of their necessity or expediency. He is justly charged with some treacheries, and with an unfeeling prosecution of some advantages over the victims of his triumph ; but there was no joy manifested in the accomplishment of such purposes, and scarcely any symptom of regret. He did not even appear to disguise from himself the nature of his atrocious acts. They were the cool calculations of his bloodless and remorseless sagacity; he was scarcely as much excited by their accomplishment as a plodding mathematician would be with the solution of a difficult problem. He accepted the success as a necessary step to an ulterior aim ; he did not stop to think of the manner in which it had been gained In sickness, as in health ; in early youth, as in mature age, he remained essentially unchanged. The circumstances by which he was surrounded, altered with the progressive stages of his success, and with his secure establishment on the throne; he appreciated the changes and their advantages, and his policy and measures were modified according to the mutations of his affairs; but at heart he continued ever the same cautious, ingenious, dark and irresistible schemer which he had appeared, when he first landed from Epirus, and placed himself at the head of the Martian and Fourth Legions, which had just revolted from Antony. The instances of generosity and benevolence, which are so profusely scattered over the latter ages of his reign, and which are first manifested at the partition of the Empire between the members of the Triumvirate, seem like the blind bounties of fortune, or the undeviating justice of fate, so entirely devoid of any spark of human sympathy do they appear to be, and so completely were they the suggestions of an unwavering prudence. Yet, though all the acts of Octavius were thus regulated by the unerring machinery of an unclouded intellect, without a single golden ray to redeem his crimes, or to gild his better deeds, there was nothing harsh or stern in his manner or general bearing. He possessed in an eminent

« AnteriorContinuar »