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BY THE EDITOR.
IN the introduction to the first volume of this work, I stated my design of proceeding, in the second, with the history of French Affairs, and treating at large of American and English Literature. I have ventured, however, to depart from my alleged purpose; in order to make place for two articles of American History, which, on several accounts, appeared to me to deserve the preference, on the present occasion, to any other matter. It is by no means my intention to withhold altogether, what I have collected respecting the management of affairs in Paris, during the campaign of 1815, and the conduct of Bonaparte from the period of his defeat at Waterloo, to that of his departure for St. Helena.
I am the more desirous of laying his genuine history for this interval before the American public, as two works of a recent date, which exhibit him in a totally false light, have a wide circulation, and, I fear, considerable weight, in this country. I allude to the Letters of Dr. Warden, and to the “ Manuscript transmitted from St. Helena.” The last is a palpable but very ingenious forgery: as an apology for the hero, it is contrived with great skill, and is as well fitted to produce the meditated effect, as any thing of the kind which could have been devised. The book, like that of Warden, is of the proper, vendible size, and falls under that description of politics so much favoured, which may be termed portable; it wears a plausible air of candour, and the form of the narrative, by its rapidity and conciseness, tallies well with the style of expression generally attributed to the putative author.
The strong curiosity still subsisting with respect to the deportment of the man in his altered fortunes, and his opinions of the past, is sufficient to explain the avidity with which the Letters of Warden have been read, and has given them an importance to which they have no intrinsic claim whatever. Whether Dr. Warden was really the writer of these Letters, or, as has been positively asserted in the English Gazettes, some one of the artificers of Grub-street, is quite immaterial. No person versed in the French can fail to discover, that the author is ignorant of that tongue; and he himself admits that his hero
could not even read the English currently. The long, measured, argumentative speeches put into the mouth of Bonaparte, must have been woven from scraps of information collaterally received. They are irreconcileable with his well known manner, and moreover, obviously not of a nature to have been thus rendered, extempore, by an interpreter.
Dr. Warden furnishes, throughout his book, abundant proof that he was unacquainted not only with the French language, but with the most common history of the time, and the sciences subsidiary to his own profession. This circumstance, together with like evidence supplied by the inanity of his share of the pretended colloquics, makes it highly improbable that the exemperor or his attendants, would have singled him out for the rich favours of their conversation and confidence, but from some oblique design, or an inclination to sport with his fatuity.
We may easily suppose that he was the mere dupe of so shrewd an observer as Las Cases, or of the other paragons of loyalty, who had all an interest in patching the reputation of their master, and spreading it, with the most seductive gloss, before the world. Again; there are reasons, some deducible from the text itself of the book, which would warrant us in suspecting him of a direct collusion with them for the purpose; or, on the other hand, we might surmise that he projected a saleable duodecimo from the outset of the voyage, and noted accordingly for use the ready talk of the quarter-deck, unquestioned indeed, though not unsuspected as to his object, by the crafty exiles.
Admitting the conversations reported by Warden to be authentic, neither the statements they contain, nor those given in the “ Manuscript transmitted from St. Helena,” amount to more than the allegations of the party accused. If mankind had been, at all times, so credulous as to be satisfied with a vindication of this sort, in opposition even to the evidence of their own observation and sufferings, we should not, perhaps, be able to find a single malefactor in the list of those who have ruled nations, or headed banditti. Fortunately for the truth and morality of history, the career of Bonaparte has been so comprehensive in its notoriety and influence, and his real nature has so constantly betrayed itself in the most striking emergencies, that all his own efforts or those of his panegyrists, whether deluded or designing, to justify him and his plans at the tribunal of posterity, must prove fruitless, with any common industry on the part of cotemporary annalists.
If there remained among reflecting men, a hope of his being reclaimed, in his adversity, from the habit of audacious imposture, it would be dissipated by the letter of Count Montholon which we have lately read in the newspapers, and which
is acknowledged to have been written under his dictation. The nature of the refutation submitted to the British parliament, places the real author of this tissue of puerile falsehoods in a light that must drive to despair even the inost determined champions of his magnanimity. It is left to his friends to descant upon
his great abilities, for which I can never hesitate to give him full credit; while, however, I would have them and the world bear in mind the following reflection of the historian Hume" An army is so forcible, and at the same time, so coarse a weapon, that any hand which wields it, may, without dexterity, perform any operation and attain any ascendant in human society.”
The two pieces of American History to which I have alluded above are of a very engaging tenor. The first and most important is “ The History of the Conspiracy of Arnold." This conspiracy is an event of the utmost consequence in our struggle for independence, but has not been related by our own historians, with the proper minuteness and emphasis. Very soon after it happened, a circumstantial narrative of the whole affair, including the execution of André, appeared in the newspapers of the time, in the shape of a letter from an officer of the American army, (General Hamilton,) who had means of obtaining accurate information. This account is altogether'a most eloquent and interesting performance. As an historical document, it well deserves to be drawn from the present obscurity of the journals in which it was first conveyed to the public. Chief Justice Marshall has made an extract from it in his Life of Washington; but I do not find that it has been cited by our other historians, or that a place has been assigned to it,as ought to have been the case in the appendix to any one of their works.
The History which I have translated from the French, and inserted in the present volume, has, however, yet stronger claims to attention and preservation. It is the production of Count Barbé Marbois, a peer of France, who now presides over a most important department of her fiscal concerns, and whose writings, particularly on subjects of political economy, have acquired for him at home a considerable literary reputation. The French critics seem to delight in bearing testimony to his moral qualities: M. de Pradt speaking, in his late book on Colonies, of this History of the Conspiracy of Arnold, remarks, that “ it is a work in which the author, in pourtraying those virtues and talents which distinguished the founders and first worthies of the American republic, has pourtrayed his own, and described a character which appears to belong to ancient times.”
M. de Marbois was secretary of the French legation in the United States at the epoch of the conspiracy, and in habits of
close intimacy with the guiding minds of our revolution. It is to him Mr. Jefferson refers when he says, in the advertisement to his valuable notes on Virginia, that they were written in answer to certain queries proposed by a distinguished foreigner. In the course of the French Revolution, M. de Marbois visited the United States a second time, and renewed his acquaintance with our institutions and annals.
The Conspiracy of Arnold seems to have attracted, from the moment of its detection, his particular attention. His official situation and his connexions enabled him to procure the most authentic and ample materials for the history of the transaction. At what time he began with this so evidently a favourite and laboured task, does not appear. But it cannot escape the sagacity of his readers that his work has been, if not recast, at least retouched, since the great revolution of March, 1814, and seasoned with allusions to the state of things in France under the revived monarchy.
The Preliminary Discourse on the United States bears date in June, 1815. No American can peruse it, without a glow of satisfaction and gratitude. If we are decked in colours somewhat the brighter perhaps, on account of the lessons which the author wished to give his own country and Europe, it is still obvious, that it is not the effect of admonitory contrast which he studies alone or principally; but that be is actuated in his representations by a spirit of justice and enlightened affection. It is delightful to be thus exhibited in the face of the prejudiced world, of the scoffers, and defamers, and bigots of the European school of civilization, by one whose high rank among themselves, whose character of an eye-witness that had examined at leisure and from every point of view, what he describes, and whose taste and ability manifested in his work itself, give irresistible force to his testimony.
In the particulars which he has quoted as detracting from the advantages of our situation, he has described things as they were. --The Yellow Fever has disappeared. The endemic diseases of a new country cease to be formidable as it changes its face under the progress of population and the arts; our climate has become not only more salubrious, but more temperate, probably from the same cause: The settler on the Western frontier has little to fear from the attacks of savages: The Southern states to which our author refers, are less infested with the evil of domestic slavery, and may cherish the hope of being, at no distant day, so far relieved at least, as to be for ever secure from that dreadful vicissitude which he seems to apprehend. He has himself furnished a satisfactory answer to the doubts, which a supposed diversity of interests and views between the states, has awakened concerning the duration of our union. Were he now resident here,
we should have his great authority in support of the assertion,
The balance is still greater in favour of the perpetuity of free
“ The experience of past ages, the recollection of human re“volutions, excites some disquietude in relation to the fu“ ture destinies of the United States. The usual consequences “ are apprehended from the movements of private ambition, the “ inequality of fortunes, the love of conquest, &c. I believe, " that, under the peculiar circumstances in which the United "States are placed, the past cannot serve as a criterion for the “ future. It is true, that free nations have been lost in despo“tism; but had those nations a precise idea of their rights " and duties? Were they acquainted with the tutelary institu* tions of this day--the independence of the judiciary the “ trial by jury--the system of representative assemblies and “ self-taxation--the force of public opinion now superior to all
opposition? Among the ancients, liberty was but a feeling; in
our times it is both a feeling and a positive science. We all “know how liberty is lost; we are all acquainted with the
means of defending and preserving it. The United States " have now been happy and free for nearly half a century. “ Liberty has struck deep root in that country. It is entwined,
there, with the first affections of the heart; it enters into the “ earliest combinations of thought; it is spun into the primitive "staple of the mental frame of the Americans; it is wrought “ into the very stamina of all their institutions, political and