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analogies extended by the artifices of an unrestricted imagination ;—the work owes to its indistinct perception of a great truth, a charm which is as undying as the interest which man takes in the affairs, the thoughts, the actions and the fortunes of his fellow men. For the pregnant hints of Thucydides, and Tacitus, and Claudian,* prove that the ancients were not without suspicions of that law of nature which repeats the succession of historical changes in irregularly recurring cycles.
We have no design of imitating the graces, the devices, or the fictions of Plutarch. Our contemplated labour is much more sedate, and of much less pretension. We desire to throw what little light the history of the past may afford on the elucidation of a character, which appears hitherto to have baffled all interpretation, and eluded the vaticination which was so copiously expended upon it;—a character which has been either overrated or underrated, according to the temper, the theories, the prejudices or the partialities of the judge, rather than estimated with any intelligent reference to fixed data, recognized standard or predetermined landmarks. The "Nephew of my Uncle" has so amusingly but successfully directed general attention to the contrasts, in default of the similitudes between himself and the brilliant founder of his house and dynasty, that those who have speculated upon the astounding phenomenon of his sudden transmigration from the shabby coat of a needy exile, into the gorgeous paraphernalia of a despotic Emperor of France, and upon the shifting phases of this rapid change; have lost themselves in the idle and supererogatory employment of declain ing about the glaring dissimilarities between the Uncle and the Nephew. This is a task which, at best, can only serve to exhibit the vanity or the frivolous folly of the individual, who professes to be the shadow, as well as the successor of his uncle, and more frequently appears to be his ape; but which can never solve the difficult enigma of the prosperous course of the new emperor, or the more arduous riddle of his prospective policy and procedure.
* Tbuc. lib. i., c. zzii. Aristot. Rhet. i., c. iz. ;ii., e. zz. Tac. Ann. lib. iii., c. It. Lucan. Pbars. ii., v. 7. Claudian. Id Rufin. l.b. i., v. 1-19.
Napoleon III. has decidedly the advantage over his critics. So far as success can give assurance of the wisdom and expediency of any line of conduct, he has fully secured, up to this time, the benefit of such testimony. But, leaving entirely out of consideration the canon of the worldly, though eminently applicable to his case, a more enlightened view of his position would indicate that his sagacity very far transcended that of his censurers. The name of Bonaparte, and the constant reference to that name; the memories and glories of the Empire, and the faint suggestion of their possible repetition; the comprehensive views of public policy which characterized the Imperial regime, and the veneration manifested for the desires of the great ruler; the constant and even obtrusive ventilation of the affinity which bound the new pretender to the popular General; all tended to consolidate the Bonapartists, and to fan into a lively flame the slumbering embers of Bonapartism. But this consequential, and probably meditated effect, was concealed from the eyes of the indifferent, and of adversaries, by the striking discrepancies of character which separate the new man from the old. The continual invocation of " Mon Oncle "— a mode of conjuration which has been familiar to the whole life of Louis Napoleon, and which may be traced in his Idees NapoUennes, as well as in his speeches and proclamations—seemed to be merely a vain-glorious pretension, an empty mouthing, an impotent necromancy with spells which had lost their former power, or were at least powerless in the hands of the new magician. Thus, those who might otherwise have joined even their natural enemies to resist his claims and his usurpations, if they had been regarded as any thing more than unsubstantial and fleeting phantoms, wasted their time in ridicule, satire, sarcasm and derision, and directed their attentions to channels the most remote from the real danger, wherein Louis Napoleon himself would have preferred that they should flow. There was little chance of the leading Bonapartists mistaking his real aims, or of their supposing that his recent aspirations were diverse from their desires; but all his natural antagonists were thrown off the scent by that apparent frivolity, which subserved his purposes more effectually than any less vulnerable pretensions could have done. The time and the occasion required the mask of the elder Brutus, not the sword of the first Caesar; Louis Napoleon wore the necessary disguise with matchless folly, and by so doing concealed the impending fate. Moreover, the very inferiority and differences, by which he was severed from his "Uncle," and his obvious incompetency for the prosecution of a similar career, while apparently challenging it, allayed the fears of multitudes by exciting only their laughter, and veiled by the supercilious contempt which they occasioned, the possibility of attaining nearly the same end by approaches entirely dissimilar. Thus, his speedy achievement of the Imperial crown may be, in great measure, attributed to that apparently conceited hallucination, and that frequently ludicrous adoration of the manes of " My Uncle," which have so fully occupied the wit, and taxed the sarcastic ingenuity of the critics of the French Emperor, that they could not see the hand stretching confidently towards empire, beneath the tawdry disguises by which its motions were concealed.
These anomalies, as well as many other peculiarities in the career of Napoleon III., are very curiously illustrated by the early fortunes of the second emperor of Rome. There are many persons who regard Augustus as a greater statesman than Julius Caesar, and he certainly occupies as prominent and influential a position in Roman history. The young Octavius rose, however, by the same arts as Louis Napoleon; yet, after time has obliterated the memory of his profound vanities, no one would now attempt to characterize the former as an imbecile adventurer.
We have long thought that the true interpretation of much which appears most inexplicable in the conduct, character and fortunes of Louis Napoleon, was to besought, not in an easy and flagrant contrast with Napoleon the Great, but in the study of the position and early career of Augustus Caesar. The old impression was nursed into a firm conviction by the perusal of the most recent history of the second Triumvirate of Rome, contained in Mr. Merivale's History of the Romans under the Empire—a book which, as was mentioned before, we do not regard with any extravagant admiration, but which possessed a peculiar aptitude for confirming our impressions relative to the manner of solving the difficult problems connected with the late changes in France. Very appropriately, too, Mr. Merivale's prolix narrative, so far as it has reached us, brings the chronicle of the acts of Augustus only down to the definite establishment of the imperial government, and his acceptance of the imperial title. The story is thus suspended at very nearly the same crisis of his career, as is now exhibited in the fortunes of Louis Napoleon. The history of the Roman emperor thus leads us by the hand just to the very verge of that uncertain future which is spread out before the steps of the French emperor, and no further. A parallel is thus furnished almost up to the present hour, but not a minute beyond. In fact, Mr. Merivale's biography of Augustus hardly reaches to the present altitude of Napoleon III.; but, so far as it falls short of doing so, it has only permitted us to recognize the ability of the latter to retain his foot-hold, and rendered it worth while to speculate about the past, by allowing some assurance of a future yet to come. We are thus stimulated to undertake no vague speculations, to indulge in no hazardous prophecies, by the unequal extension of the two lines; but we are encouraged to profit by the instructions which are given nearly up to the current date, without being tempted to press the analogy one single inch into futurity.
Commencing our illustration, according to the suggestions of our preliminary remarks, by noting the differences of circumstance, and other diversities, which distinguish the two personages compared, we would first call attention to the disparity of their respective ages. Louis Napoleon was a mature old bachelor of forty, when he assumed the Presidency in 1848. Augustus, originally called Octavius, was in the first flush of youth, or rather of boyhood. He was in his twenty-first year when the Triumvirate was formed; and only in his thirty-second when the victory of Actium was gained. But Octavius was a very old young man; like Randal Leslie, he was old in his long clothes; he was born old; so old that Lord Bacon has noticed him, not exactly as a portent, but as a type of a class of portents; and that Cicero, during the imbecility and delusion of his laudations of the young viper, complimented the precocious sagacity, which was but half revealed to him, with the pretty declaration, that his virtues atoned for his years. (Virtute superavit <Blatem.) In respect, then, to the mere difference of ages, great as it is, we recognize no such discrepance in the nativities of the two as could materially influence their separate horoscopes. Louis Napoleon was a scion of slow growth ; Caius Octavius came into the world full grown and ready-made. The Frenchman, apparently, had a large crop of wild oats to cultivate. The young Roman had none of that grain to sow, and was, probably, as mature in mind and cunning at «ighteen or twenty, as at any later period of his life ;—if, indeed, his youth did not really visit his heart and intellect in his old age. But a much more important difference to be signalized is, that the career of Octavius commenced immediately on the assassination of his uncle, and was developed from the start amidst the daggers of his murderers, and in opposition to his most prominent partisans and favourites; while Louis Napoleon's course was separated by a long interval of changing dynasties and governments from the reign of his uncle, had no such domestic enemies to encounter, and has been sustained by the surviving partisans and the sons of the chief followers of Napoleon I. This diversity broke the continuity of the association between himself and his precursor—between his prospects and the allegiance of the mass of the Bonapartists. It rendered some of the difficulties of his position greater than those of Octavius ; it materially diminished many others. It rendered the substitution of secret intrigue for open violence, practicable as well as expedient; and made the deliberate resuscitation of "Idies Napottennes an indispensable preliminary to success. In some respects the relation of Louis Napoleon to the Bonapartist faction, approximated much nearer to that of Julius Caesar to the old Marian party, which is well illustrated by Mr. Merivale, than to that of Octavius to the Coesarians. Yet Octavius had to revive and win from Antony, and to reconstitute and attach to himself, the Caesarian influences. But,