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"Are standards changing on the Napoleonic Boards?" Topic

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Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 11:35 a.m. PST

Second go at posting this. I think the original thread was lost as part of "debugging". If in fact the thread was nuked by the editors, I apologize for reposting.

Le Breton has recently been dawghoused TMP link . I can't really see how this was a personal attack at all, since the guy merely asked another poster the sources of his information – and in the history of the Napoleonic boards here, is very tame stuff. However, is this the editor(s) deciding to enforce a new standard of conduct on the Napoleonic boards where all hints of snarkiness and superciliousness is punished by the dawghouse?

Personal logo Morning Scout Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 12:11 p.m. PST

The situation referenced here is not at all you unique. The poster in question often calls out posters regarding sources and general subject knowledge. After a review of a number of posts one might be able make a case that the poster exhibits a pattern of "harassing" others who don't seem in his opinion to have the necessary knowledge base to contribute to the conversation. The editors may just be trying to say- it's time to chill out on the elitism. Share your knowledge, but don't lord over the other contriibuters. The Miniatures Page is great, but a scholarly journal it is not, nor do I want it to be. Let us be just a bunch of gamers sharing stuff about wargaming. If someone says something you disagree with, just post your thoughts and let the readers sift through it. No need to be announce you may be the smartest person in the room.

Of course this is just a thought….

rmcaras Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 12:36 p.m. PST

There seems to be some posters that have a Captain Ahab relationship with specific other posters being their Moby Dick.

Personal logo sillypoint Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 12:43 p.m. PST

Are you calling someone a "Moby"? 😄

marshalGreg06 Feb 2018 12:59 p.m. PST

The question now is who else will be placed in to this status and will it be inline to what Le Breton or not, thus showing the fairness or lack of, as to who and when "should" get put into the dawghouse.

Edwulf06 Feb 2018 2:49 p.m. PST

If asking for sources gets you doghoused then it's going to be a full doghouse. Most weeks.

deephorse06 Feb 2018 3:21 p.m. PST

And yet you can break other rules and simply have your topic removed, with no personal inconvenience by way of the Doghouse whatsoever.

Nine pound round06 Feb 2018 3:50 p.m. PST

"Disparaging the doghouse is a doghousable offense!"

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 4:39 p.m. PST

Interesting…I'd written Bill when I first saw Breton in the dawghaus and basically said what you you did, Whirlwind. I felt the comment was fairly run of the mill, and I find Breton to be of great help and very informative.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian06 Feb 2018 5:43 p.m. PST

I posted months ago that I would not tolerate 'snarkiness' on the forums, it drives people away. Use your good manners, please.

Marcus Brutus06 Feb 2018 6:02 p.m. PST

The Napoleonic Forums are by far the nastiest of the lot. I don't really experience anything like it on the other TMP categories. I wonder what it is about Napoleonic period that brings out this kind of harshness?

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 6:12 p.m. PST

Bill get rid of the Ultra Modern board?

I Drink Your Milkshake06 Feb 2018 6:54 p.m. PST

I like my Nap boards "snarky".

von Winterfeldt06 Feb 2018 10:40 p.m. PST

"I posted months ago that I would not tolerate 'snarkiness' on the forums, it drives people away. Use your good manners, please."

it would be a good policy Deleted by Moderator

What is snarky to ask for a source? Deleted by Moderator

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP06 Feb 2018 10:43 p.m. PST

Marcus, it seems to be mostly confined to three or four of the 'usual suspects' on the Napoleonic boards.

Now, why they don't have counterparts on other boards is the question!

Sobieski07 Feb 2018 3:23 a.m. PST

….who can be snarky at this forum without impunity.


Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2018 4:01 a.m. PST

Agreed with von Winterfeldt and the current degree of "snark" (including Breton's comment) doesn't even register with me. When the poster is supplying information that I don't have at hand, or is tedious to get to, then I'm completely behind him. If you're here simply because the Napoleon-Series forums don't provide enough argument for you, then your behavior, imho is what requires moderation.

There is a tremendous amount of information available on the period, but it's not all easy to get to (including being in a number of foreign languages), and there's quite a bit that will never be known. Hence, a new, "The True Story of Waterloo" every few years, and forum discussions about facts that wander quite often into opinion. Asking people to support their opinions with facts seems quite logical to me, and nothing whatsoever to do with harassing. Otherwise, you're simply arguing to be arguing.

I'm not a historian, by any means, but I do very much prefer to have the best possible data at hand, and I don't view someone correcting bad info that I've posted as them "lording it over me." I'm simply smarter than I was yesterday.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2018 5:12 a.m. PST

I keep hearing about the "Snowflake Generation". Younger folk who get hysterically upset because someone says something nasty about them on line, on some social media thing………..instead of doing the obvious and ignoring/avoiding it.

We are all adults here. We have the choice to read or not. I have seen so many topics continued for page after page, filled with "where is your evidence?" messages…..with responses studiously avoiding such. But, in the midst of all that can be some very useful content.

Surely the message is to not take such things too seriously, rather than to censor such exchanges, trying to protect us from such challenges. Compared to what kids do to each other on Facebook etc, any abuse here is very benign stuff.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2018 5:17 a.m. PST


Bagration181207 Feb 2018 5:48 a.m. PST

Dilly dilly!

Asking for sources isn't snarky, IMHO. We also need to be mindful that not everyone here is a native English speaker and what someone interprets as snark may be a misinterpretation.

Marc at work07 Feb 2018 6:53 a.m. PST

It is not the asking for sources, it is the "how" of the asking.

personally, I must be a snowflake, as I prefer to not have to wade through these personal arguments all the time. It is like the TMP version of The Duelists, but without the uniforms…

Snarkiness – a good word

Choctaw07 Feb 2018 8:10 a.m. PST


Are you sure we're all adults? We do play with toy soldiers you know. :)

Marcel180907 Feb 2018 8:17 a.m. PST

As a non Native speaker, I am not quite sure what falls under "snarky", a term i am not familiar with. Let's try to keep things civilised and lets try not to push eachother to extremes.

Brechtel198 In the TMP Dawghouse07 Feb 2018 8:36 a.m. PST


From Webster's Dictionary:

1.crotchety, snappish.

2.sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2018 9:36 a.m. PST

As a non Native speaker, I am not quite sure what falls under "snarky", a term i am not familiar with

It means to be harshly critical and rude, but not in a directly offensive way.

thomalley07 Feb 2018 1:08 p.m. PST

I got put there for using the word ignorant, which per the Cambridge dictionary means, not having enough knowledge, understanding, or information about something.
On the plus side, the comment I was responding to was also removed.

Sean Kotch07 Feb 2018 3:01 p.m. PST

I actually enjoy the personal arguments. I learn a lot from them, especially when sources are referenced. It will be a sad day when there's no more discussion on the discussion board.

Mick the Metalsmith07 Feb 2018 3:06 p.m. PST

As much as I hate the policing of repartee, I hate the whinging about unfair standards even more.

rmcaras Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2018 4:08 p.m. PST

I prefer my board interactions/messages with basic civility and etiquette.

And the "how" its asked is an area that this civil tone is usually violated.

Some may not see it. But that might be because of personal biases towards others. Whereas, some that don't know either party can discern.

Look, it's just not necessary. Argue the point, not the person.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian07 Feb 2018 7:48 p.m. PST

Surely, the members of the Napoleonic boards know what it means to behave as gentlemen? grin

Marc at work08 Feb 2018 1:30 a.m. PST

Some of us do. Some…

4th Cuirassier08 Feb 2018 5:13 a.m. PST

I'm not sure about that, Bill.

We are talking about a climate in which established standards and expectations are overturned every day, in which there is constant bickering and feuding over stuff that is of little to no interest to others, in which massive hostility suddenly flares up from nowhere, and in which jumped-up nobodies mistake themselves for somebodies for about 10 minutes.

And TMP aside, the Napoleonic era was very similar so it would be surprising if it was any different.

jefritrout08 Feb 2018 6:16 a.m. PST

Marc and 4th,
There was a recent thread about "gentlemen" on that thread.

42flanker08 Feb 2018 6:25 a.m. PST

I do hope this is going to develop into an argument about arguments.

thomalley08 Feb 2018 6:54 a.m. PST

Surely, the members of the Napoleonic boards know what it means to behave as gentlemen?

Sabres at dawn.

attilathepun4708 Feb 2018 8:16 a.m. PST

+1 for thomalley,

It once was the case that to be a "gentleman," you had to be willing to put your life on the line, if accepted standards were violated. Nowadays, you just get dawghoused or your account locked. It seems to me that things were better when it was sabers at dawn.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2018 9:01 a.m. PST

A certain cannibal gentleman from the Trobriand Islands observed to me in a letter a fortnight ago that some "gentlemen" on the Napoleonics board were allowed an alarmingly higher level of snarkiness than others. I did not answer him.

42flanker08 Feb 2018 10:50 a.m. PST

That is the worst limerick I have ever read

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2018 11:12 a.m. PST

You want a Limerick about Dawghousing?

Takes an Irishman………

Oh, I am so out of luck
This trend, I simply must duck
I antagonise
I now realise
But really don't give a …damn my dear?

(like the chap in Gone With the Wind)….all suggestions welcome

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2018 1:56 p.m. PST

A cannibal musing on Napoleonics
Having just come in from the sticks
Observed on the snarkiness
And much other pettiness
Of scholars who cut to the quicks.

Sorry dudes. I gave myself 4 minutes to compose that. Not a minute more.
I wasted a lot of that time on "Trobriands" before moving on.

42flanker08 Feb 2018 2:56 p.m. PST

I am reminded of a joke about a critic sending back wine because it tasted like cat's p!ss….

dibble08 Feb 2018 3:28 p.m. PST

On ACG I carry this little ditty on my page:

Tis said his form is tiny, yet
All human ills he can subdue,
Or with a bauble or medal
Can win mans heart for you;
And many a blessing know to stew
To make a megloamaniac bright;
Give honour to the dainty Corse,
The Pixie is a little shite.

Paul :)

Le Breton08 Feb 2018 4:16 p.m. PST

They give you paper and pencil in the brig here ….

"Argue the point, not the person."
I agree, and hope I have never strayed from this wise path.

In the instant example, it was not a situation of asking simply, "what is your source".
The question was whether a now common idea that the troops used a friendly-honorific nickname for Napoléon was tracable to the era of Napoléon or if it was a later invention. Another poster had asserted that such a nickname was in use in the era.

I checked, and could not find the nickname before Balzac used the phrase well after the death of Napoléon. This followed two prior examples, where it appeared that friendly-honorific nicknames that were asserted to be contemporary actually trace to Dumas and Victor Hugo – apparently a trifecta of literary inventions no closer to Napoléon than the mid-1800's.

I was asking if the very assertive knew of any prior use of the firendly-honorific nickname before the use by Balzac that I had provided. So, the question was actually a bit more substantive than a usual "what is your source". He rfused to answer , one way or the other.

Why would nicknames matter?
Because they inform us about what the vast number of soldiers who did not leave memoirs thought about their leaders.
But if they do not trace these to the actual era, we might find ourselves with the equivalent of "Blood and Guts" Eisenhower or "Blackjack" Nimitz. And we would be wandering off into the world of fantasy, unaware of our errors.

As to being dog-housed, that was not fair. There is no "snark rule" among the posted rules at : TMP link
Snark is not mentioned. On the other hand, having a anti-snarkiness rule is completely reasonable (if one could find the rule) and indeed my post could be construed as snarky. It appears that the Editor mentioned a "snark rule" elsewhere – but I assure you I did never see such an instruction.

Thee was no personal attack (which *is* mentioned in the rules). There was a reference to the two prior times the exact same process had recently occurred. I was attempting to call attention to the assertive poster that he was not being responsive. It cannot be a "personal attack" to ask a poster a question about what he posted.

In my defense, the assertive poster is a much-published professsional historian – but one who does not seem to do much archival or original research. Gamers spend lots and lots of money on his books. So asking him to give a contempory-to-the-era example of something he stated had happened in the era was reasonable fact-checking. If the assertive poster did nt want to entertain questions, he need not have posted. But, it is clearly in his financial interest to advertise himself as an "expert".

In the past, when you could not search millions of books instantly, one might have to make assumptions about what was contemporary to the era based on other historians' writings. This made it easy for the subject matter to become encumbered with many myths and legends. As we are gaming an historical era not fantasy, parsing what actually occurred in the historiclal period from the mthys and legends seems useful.

I think you get more of this in the Napoleonic era than in others. Before the 1790's, there are just too few extant records. By the time of the next general conflict in Europe, record keeping was complete and rather well-organized. But the historical record of the Napoleonic era is only now being collected and curated. Further, during the years after 1815, we have the romantic era, the rise of ideology as it is now conceived, and modern nationalism – all heavily dependent on collective beliefs. And so myths collected in the absence of actual "data".

Is it harassment (which *is* mentioned in the rules) to repeatedly open the question of historicity or source basis when a particular poster posts? Possibly, but the assertive poster posts very often, has a strong financial interest in his reputation as an expert, and does often repeat essentialy mythical ideas of modern English language sources, usually the Colonel Elting or another Cold War era American or British writer. And he presents these as "facts", not his opinions ir those of the authors he favors. If I know that there is a contemporay basis for his posting, I do *not* ask for this from him. I only ask when I suspect, with pretty good cause, that he is repeating a myth or prior misconception. If such might constitute harassment, it must be harassment for the good cause of historical accuracy.

Since the assertive poster had done this twice recently on the same topic of nicknames, and since I found yet another famous French writer of a later period as the earliest user of the nickname, I found it amusing. This may have led to a snarky tone in my post. And if being snarky is against the rules (even the "very hard to find" rules), then I most sincerely apolgize. A guest should never impose upon his host's good graces. And I shall be absolutely sure to avoid doing so again.

Inhaber Jerry09 Feb 2018 4:39 a.m. PST

Try presenting at an early career research conference.

The glee you can see in the eyes of your peers as they ask whether or not you have consulted Connell's theory of "whatever" in relation to your topic in front of potential employees is infuriating. Especially when you then have another few days mingling with them.

Cacadore s09 Feb 2018 5:08 p.m. PST


It's a real pain when you're in an on-going back and forth with some grandstander with ill-will and his mates, and you're all careful to use facts and not to use any epithets and suddenly you're banned for a month.

But perhaps you're over thinking this.

It's a huge site and Bill can't read through every thread to work out what's going on. So if a couple of trolls click the complain button a few times and you've corrected a specific poster by name rather a lot, then odds on you're out.

There are some things that help delay the DH, though. Like, if you're in a spat with someone, to get a complaint in first. But that's only a temporary solution. The safest is to stop referring to the poster by his moniker nor by any made-up name or initial. Just something neutral like 'the poster' and 'him' rather than 'you' And then stick to criticising the ideas, not the person.

Cacadore s09 Feb 2018 5:51 p.m. PST

Marcus Brutus,

Why are the Nappy discussions so nasty at times?

Let's face it, Bonaparte was a pretty unpleasant character. Yet I guess many who come to the period without their own country being in the Allied camp, ends up being a Bonaparte fanatic. He had many grand ideas, he touched upon so many areas of competence in his lifetime: law, Empire building, generalship and diplomacy. And he died a rather sorry figure. You can see his attraction. He fits the tragic hero archetype rather well. Meanwhile the second Commandment in Deutoronomy, to not worship any idols is not some random injunction. Over thousands of years of trial and error a part of mankind worked out that nothing good ever comes of it. Over-partiality is the death of truth for one thing. Boney made stuff up and that's a fact. But when he becomes an graven idol, facts take second place to defending him. Odd, since I see none of this blind worship with actual French people. They admire him but they're often cynical of him too.

The other unhelpful sentiment here is the anti-English one. You never hear this on French language forums. They're all rather dispassionate about the Ogre. It seems to me there's a natural striving in the colonial countries for people to have an independent identity, even now. So the shared history and culture many countries have with England can become a personal source of resentment and confusion, especially for people whose ancestors were not English.

Both these strands of neuroticism naturally can lead to debates where the object is to win for your side, rather than learn.

42flanker10 Feb 2018 2:30 a.m. PST

where the object is to win for your side, rather than learn.

"Humpty Dumpty took the book and looked at it carefully.

'That seems to be done right —' he began.

'You're holding it upside down!' Alice interrupted.

'To be sure I was!' Humpty Dumpty said gaily as she turned it round for him. 'I thought it looked a little queer.
There's glory for you!'

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

Cacadore s10 Feb 2018 4:38 p.m. PST

"I do hope this is going to develop into an argument about arguments."

But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Brechtel198 In the TMP Dawghouse10 Feb 2018 6:34 p.m. PST

Let's face it, Bonaparte was a pretty unpleasant character. Yet I guess many who come to the period without their own country being in the Allied camp, ends up being a Bonaparte fanatic. He had many grand ideas, he touched upon so many areas of competence in his lifetime: law, Empire building, generalship and diplomacy. And he died a rather sorry figure. You can see his attraction. He fits the tragic hero archetype rather well. Meanwhile the second Commandment in Deutoronomy, to not worship any idols is not some random injunction. Over thousands of years of trial and error a part of mankind worked out that nothing good ever comes of it. Over-partiality is the death of truth for one thing. Boney made stuff up and that's a fact. But when he becomes an graven idol, facts take second place to defending him. Odd, since I see none of this blind worship with actual French people. They admire him but they're often cynical of him too.

Anytime the subject of Napoleon comes up on any forum, the epithets of ‘monster', ‘little', ‘butcher, ‘criminal' and others always are attached to his name. The problem is that none of them are accurate. Perhaps the following material will be of some assistance in giving a fair assessment of Napoleon as a ruler, statesman, soldiers and man.

First, he wasn't short, being measured at five feet two inches in French feet. As a French foot was three-quarters of an inch longer than the English foot, Napoleon stood between five feet six and five feet seven inches, which was average height for a man of the period.

Too many authors take some of the period memoirs at face value and too many of those, such as Bourrienne's ghost-written volumes, and others such as Claire de Remusat's, Madame Junot's, Marshal Marmont's, Talleyrand's, etc., penned their books in order to sully the Emperor's name and to gain favor with the Bourbons. As such they are unreliable and contain material that isn't accurate or true to fact.

One of the aspects of Napoleon's rule is his reforms and achievements that no other head of state of the period can begin to match. Some of them are as follows:

Napoleon's Reforms:

-Introduced the Civil Code, followed by other legal codes such as a new Penal Code, one which was less punitive than that of Great Britain.
-Restored the Church.
-Issued a ‘pardon' to the emigres and urged them to return to France.
-Ended the political and social problems in the Vendee, ending the civil war there.
-Completely revamped French public and private education. Napoleon spent more money on education than on any other civil function.
-Built roads, canals, harbors, bridges, and drained swamps.
-Established orphanges and hospitals, and public sanitation.
-Established a Paris fire department.
-Established the prefect system.
-Reformed the National, later Imperial, Gendarmerie.
-Guaranteed basic civil rights.
-Guaranteed freedom of religion.
-Granted Jews full citizenship.
-Introduced gas lighting.
-Introduced the smallpox vaccine to the European continent.
-Abolished feudalism within the Empire.
-Built three trade roads through the Alps.
-Trees were planted along France's roads.
-Established a government office to protect France's forests, lakes and rivers.
-Established better water and sewer systems for Paris.
-Balanced his budgets and established a sound financial system.
-Because of his insistence on public finance, the franc became the most stable currency in Europe by 1810.
-Encouraged and sponsored improvements in agriculture.
-Insisted on honesty in his officials and established an agency to ensure that occurred.
-Was a patron of the arts.
-Established the Legion of Honor, open to all both civil and military.
-Established France's first bureau of statistics.
-Reestablished horse-breeding in France.
-Improved French industry.
-Brought full employment, stable prices, and an improved balance of trade.
-Law and order was reestablished in France after the chaos of the Revolution.

As for any comparisons between Napoleon and Hitler, intended to tarnish Napoleon's character and rule, the following from a noted Napoleonic scholar is submitted:
From The Mind of Napoleon by JC Herold, xxxviii-xxxix:

‘Certain external and by no means accidental similarities between Napoleon's career and that of Hitler have blinded some men to the far more significant contrasts. Unlike Napoleon, Hitler is likely to go down in history as another Attila or Jenghiz Khan. Hitler destroyed the law; Napoleon was a lawgiver whose code spread across continents. That difference alone should be enough to discourage comparison. Hitler was a maniacal crank with an ideology; Napoleon, sane and self-controlled, despised ideologies. Hitler appealed to hatred; Napoleon, to honor. Hitler extolled that dark, instinctual monster which he called the People and which Taine had called the Gorilla; Napoleon had seen the monster in action during the Reign of Terror, and he preferred to perish rather than invoke its power. Napoleon, when he began his career, embodied the hopes of sane and noble minds (not least among them Beethoven's); Hitler began and ended surrounded by a handful of psychopaths. But why insist on the contrast? Perhaps there is no difference between them but the difference between the Age of Reason and the Age of Hatred. It's a substantial difference.'

From Baron Agathon-Jean-Francois Fain, Napoleon's Secretary, contained in Napoleon: How He Did It, the Memoirs of Baron Fain First Secretary of the Emperor's Cabinet, 185:

‘Far from being evil, Napoleon was naturally good. If he had been evil with so much power at his disposal, would he be reproached for two or three acts of violence or anger during a government that lasted fifteen years!'

Quotations in the same volume describing Napoleon, 191-192:

‘Napoleon has been portrayed as a man-eater, a brutal and ruthless soldier! Nothing could be further from the truth. His bark was worse than his bite; the storm clouds dispersed in a hail, a hurricane of words to which he himself attached no importance the next moment. I have heard him say, following a fierce outburst against one of his relatives: ‘The poor wretch! He makes me say what I do not thing and what I would never have meant to say!' A quarter of an hour later, he would call back those he had abruptly dismissed and return to those he had offended: I have had this experience.'-the former archbishop of Malines de Pradt.

‘'When from the Tiber to the Nile, from the summit of Cordillera to the depths of Dalmatia, all speak of his glory, we privileged recipients of his blessings, voices of the unfortunate, we will say: he loved us, he helped us; may his name be forever blessed in the poor man's hut, as it is honored and respected in the palace of kings.' -from a speech by Count Pastoret given to the Philanthropic Society of Paris and witnessed by Baron Fain.

More from Baron Fain:

‘Examples of [Napoleon's] political generosity are not lacking. Who has not heard spoken of the mercy granted to the Polignac brothers, the pardon of the Prince of Herzfled, etc.? For myself, I did not know the following. I take it from a memoir which fell into my hands: ‘Senator Lanjuinais found himself compromised in two successive conspiracies. Napoleon did not even have him questioned, despite the fact that he disliked Lanjuinais.'

‘As for his political opinions, they were liberal. But I will not dissemble: the apparent contradiction of his actions and biases that a jumble of times, principles, and men inspire in the new constitutional school of 1814 requires that I explain myself…Napoleon's political education, begun with reading the writers of antiquity, was completed in the camps of the Republic. The early impressions were never erased…In the informality of private life, memories of his patriotic youth stirred constantly and in all guises. If he was unconsciously humming a tune, It was ‘Allons, enfants de la Patrie' or ‘Let us watch over the safety of the Empire!' [the latter being a Republican song written by A. Boys, the second line being ‘Let us watch over the preservation of our rights.'

‘Equality of rights was everything in Napoleon's eyes. He saw all the good of the French revolution expressed there is a single phrase, and he brought great honor on himself by keeping this vital principle safe and sound. He overestimated the gratitude that would one day be his for this, while the orators of the counterrevolutionary party proclaimed from their side that ‘his greatest triumph for posterity would be having defended against all rebellions of the human spirit a social order about to disintegrate.'
‘As for the running battle that Napoleon waged against ideologists, it is enough to remember that there is ordinarily little agreement between great kings and philosophers. Thomas assures us that their greatness is shocked and repelled.'

From Vincent Cronin's biography of Napoleon:

‘Napoleon and Sieyes brought into the plot leading members of the Elders, Roederer, who was France's leading political journalist, Talleyrand, Joseph, and Lucien…Tension quickly mounted. Suspecting a conspiracy, Gohier [then the presiding Director] on 28 October tried to force Napoleon to take command of an army abroad. Napoleon declined, saying he was unwell. Then Barras [another of the Directors] became suspicious too, and with a fellow-Director, the staff officer General Moulins, tried to bring Napoleon into his scheme for restoring Louis XVIII. Napoleon refused.-169.

‘When a question came before the Council, Napoleon let members talk freely, and gave his won opinion only when the discussion was well advanced. If he knew nothing about the subject, he said so and asked an expert to define technical terms. The two questions he asked most often were ‘Is it just?' ‘Is it useful?' He would also ask, ‘Is it complete?' Does it take into account of every circumstance?' ‘How was it in the past?' In Rome, in France? How is it abroad?' If he thought badly of a project, he would describe is as ‘singular' or ‘extraordinary', by which he meant unprecedented, for, as he confided to Councillor Mollien, ‘I am not afraid to look for examples and rules in the past; I intend to keep the Revolution's useful innovations, but not to abandon the good institutions mistakenly destroyed.'-192-193.

‘'From the fact that the First Consul always presided over the Council of State,' says the Comte de Plancy, ‘certain people have inferred that it was servile and obeyed him in everything. On the contrary, I can state that the most enlightened men of France…deliberated there in complete freedom and that nothing ever shackled their discussions. Bonaparte was much more concerned to profit from their wisdom than to scrutinize their political opinions.'-193.

‘…a change had occurred which escapes statistics. Of the Seine Inferieure a Government official had written on the eve of Brumaire: ‘Crime with impunity, desertion encouraged, republicanism debased, laws an empty letter, banditry protected,' and went on to describe how the Le Havre-Rouen stagecoach was regularly halted and pillaged. In 1805 the prefect Beugnot, a level-headed man, was able to paint quite another picture. People paid their taxes; the law was enforced, children attended school, highway robbery was unheard of, farmers were applying new methods, people had real money to spend…The wheels, in short, were turning, the machine worked. And Frenchmen…were thankful. In 1799 there had been ‘disgust with the Government'; in 1805 Beugnot found ‘an excellent public spirit.'-Cronin, 209.

From The Superstrategists by John Elting:

‘[Napoleon] was generous with friend and foe, humane, and always grateful for favors done him when he was young, poor, and lonely. By contrast, he ran his imperial household and wardrobe on a tight budget…His intelligence-swift, mathematically precise, analytic-was teamed with equally formidable powers of concentration and industry. He spared neither himself nor his assistants, often working into the small hours of the morning or getting up in the middle of the night to complete unfinished business…His near-total memory was a terror to the careless and the procrastinating. In sum, he was a very human person, endowed with certain extraordinaty qualities that sometimes made him seem a little more than, a little different from, human.-139-140.

‘…Corsica was a poor backwoods place where one Corsican was about as good as another; its nobility had no special privileges and were leaders only as they proved themselves worthy. Napoleon's mother brought him up strictly as a nobleman's son, but he played with neighborhood children and knew how commoners lived. Corsican family feeling was tight and strong. Napoleon was always an affectionate, dutiful son and the protector of four brothers and three sisters-a squabbling, demanding, scratchy lot that gave him little but more trouble in return….Like the majority of French artillery officers (mostly from the middle class or poor minor nobility), Napoleon welcomed the French Revolution but soon was disgusted by its mob violence. His attempt to exploit it to his own advantage in Corsican politics, however, ended in 1793 with the entire Bonaparte family exiled and outlawed by the pro-Royalist, pro-English faction.'-141.

‘Napoleon reigned as a true emperor, lawgiver, and builder. His Code Napoleon, which modernized and systematized French law in clear language, is still the basis of French law and has world-wide influence. He built no new palaces but left a mighty heritage of harbors, highways, bridges, drained swamps, and canals. He planted trees along his roads; set up a government office to protect France's forests, lakes, and rivers; gave Paris better water and sewer systems, its first public fire department, an improved opera, and the modern system of street numbers. Wherever his rule ran, there was freedom of religion, basic human rights, better hospitals, orphanges, and public sanitation…He encouraged vast improvements in French agriculture and built up an enlarged system of public and private education. Just as important was his emphasis on competence and honesty in his officials. All careers were open to men of talent who would serve loyally, regardless of family background or political orientation. Also, he balanced his budgets; even in 1814 France had practically no national debt. And he ruled as a civilian head of state, never as a military dictator.'-144-145.

From the Napoleonic Revolution by Robert Holtman:

‘In addition to the Civil Code, five other codes were drawn up. The Rural Code was never adopted; those which went into effect were a Code of Civil Procedure in 1806, a Commercial Code in 1807, a Code of Criminal Procedure in 1808, and a Penal Code in 1810. The Penal Code was both progressive and reactionary; reactionary in that it provided for severe and unjust penalties-among them branding, and the cutting off of a hand for parricide in addition to decapitation; progressive in its provision for minimum and maximum rather than fixed penalties. The Code of Criminal Procedure was reactionary in that it permitted arbitrary arrest and partially reestablished the secrecy of court proceedings that had prevailed during the ancient regime; the accused could no longer hear the testimony against him.'-93.

‘The Imperial police has been slandered. It was arbitrary, that was in its nature; that's why in free countries people disapprove of a so-called [ministry of] general police…For my part, I can guarantee that, in all the ministerial correspondence, I never saw anything that could offend the conscience of an honest man, and I often found there liberal principles that would vindicate, if that were possible, an institution condemned at all times by public opinion…If one considers the obstacles and the perils that ceaselessly threatened the Emperor and the Empire, I can guarantee that in terms of arbitrary actions the imperial police remained far inferior to the police in states that were more solidly established.'-Antoine-Clair Thibaudeau, prefect of Bouche-du-Rhone.

‘A decree of March 1810 authorized the Privy Council to make punitive arrests. Theoretically these were for a maximum of a year; the reality was quite different. An order signed by the Minister of Police and the grand judge also sufficed to put a man in jail; again there was a theoretical limit, of ten days, but no authority seemed concerned about it.'

From Anne Plumptre's, A Narrative of a Three Years' Residence in France…from the year 1802-1805.

‘I was as perfectly free as I am in England, I went whithersoever I was desirous of going, and was uniformly received with the same politeness and hospitality as while pace still subsisted between the two countries [Britain and France]. I never witnessed harsh measures of the government but towards the turbulent and factious; I saw everywhere works of public utility going forward; industry, commerce, and the arts encouraged; and I could not consider the people as unhappy, or the government as odious…I have found speech everywhere as free in France as in England; I have heard persons deliver their sentiments on Bonaparte and his government, whether favorable or unfavorable, without the least reserve; and that not in private companies only, among friends all known to each other, but in the most public manner, and in the most mixed societies, in diligences, and at tables-d'hote, where none could be previously acquainted with the character or sentiments of those with whom they were conversing, and where some one among the company might be a spy of the police for anything that the others knew to the contrary-yet this idea was no restraint upon them.'

From ‘Imperial France in 1808 and Beyond by Thierry Lentz contained in The Napoleonic Empire and the New European Political Culture edited by Michael Broers, Peter Hicks, and Augustin Guimera:

‘That the regime introduced by Napoleon was an authoritarian regime can hardly be disputed. That we can characterize it simply as a dictatorship however seems excessive…the presence of opposing powers, the durability of certain principles limiting the action of the executive, and the circumstances themselves all contrived to reduce the head of state's room to maneuver.'-26.

‘Once this justification for the definition of the regime as a military dictatorship has been eliminated (that based on the origins of the regime), we can ask whether the First Empire was a military dictatorship. And the answer is no.'-27.

'It is unlikely that the army has ever played such a limited role in France, and it certainly did not play a practical role in the maintenance of law and order, a task which was fulfilled by the gendarmerie and the police.'-Gilbert Bodinier

‘Napoleon was constantly on guard against the generals' ambition and the people's discontent; he was unceasingly occupied with stifling the one and preventing the other. He was seen throughout to observe the greatest reserve as regards his generals; he always kept them at a great distance from him.'-Chaptal.

‘We often get the impression that the army had a predominant place in Napoleonic society, and this impression is fuelled by the fact that many generals accepted posts of responsibility at the heart of its institutions and administrative bodies. The presence of military pomp and grandeur at the numerous ceremonies and the precedence accorded to superior officers seem like further proof. It is important, however, to put these facts into perspective, even though, during this period of conflict, the army gives the impression of being one of the mainstays-more symbolic, it must be said, than active, at least domestically speaking-of the imperial regime.'-27.

‘Despite appearances, the First Empire was not a military dictatorship. We can therefore trust Napoleon was sincere when he said: ‘Military authority has no place or use in the civil order. The Emperor appears to have earned the respect of Roederer who, immediately post-Brumaire, stated that he (Napoleon) was ‘the most civilian of generals.'-30

From The First Napoleon by John Ropes:

‘The fall of Toulon was followed by wholesale executions. Even Lanfrey, who invariably makes the worst of the subject of his biography, admits frankly that all these harsh and barbarous things were abhorrent to Napoleon's nature, and that he did what he could to shield those unfortunatels who came under the suspicion of the authorities. As to this side of Napoleon's character, we may as well pause here a moment and consider it. In spite of all the battles that he fought, and all the death, wounds, sickness, and misery inseparable from such vast military operations for twenty years he conducted, it may safely be affirmed that Napoleon was not a harsh, still less a cruel man. All the contemporary writers of any authority admit this in so many words, even though they may consider his comparative indifference to all this suffering almost as bad as cruelty or harshness, and even though they can point to some incidents in his career that certainly look like both. But the popular accusations of napoleon on his head proceeds on the mistaken notion that to conduct so many wars a man must have a very hard heart. A little reflection, however, will show that this need not be so at all. A statesman deciding on war may no doubt often be charged rightly with not having sufficiently considered the miseries which his decision must involve. But, culpable as this is, it does not show any unusual indifference to human suffering: it is merely the failure properly to bring these wretched incidents of war before the mind; it is a deficiency in imagination…Napoleon, bred in a military school, wrapped up in the military profession, undoubtedly considered war and the shortest and best way of settling all political disputes; and, very likely, as a military man, ‘a man of war from his youth,' many of the incidents of a campaign which to the civilian mind are most distressing were so familiar that it never occurred to him to notice them. As the ruler of the French Empire he no doubt often resorted to war when any one in his place not a military man, and accustomed as he was to military methods, would have chosen some peaceful mode of action. When at the head of an army, careful as he undeniably was of his soldiers' welfare in all respects, he used them, as any general who expects to win a battle must use them, with a single eye to the success of the day, and without allowing the imagination to raise disturbing pictures of wounds and death. Just so, a surgeon, devoted to his profession, magnifying its importance, may resort to an operation when his professional brother, the physician, would have counseled milder treatment; and, when he is performing the operation, he must, if he is a good surgeon, sue the knife unshrinkingly. Yet we all know that it would be very erroneous for us to attribute to such a surgeon any special harshness of temper or indifference to human suffering. Bearing these principles and keeping these analogies in mind, we shall understand, I think, pretty clearly what can and what cannot fairly be alleged against Napoleon in this regard. He was, as I have said, a soldier, born and bred; he was all his life in the army; he had a genius for war, and was skillful and successful beyond measure in military operations. If he sometimes engaged in a war when one more alive to its evils would have avoided it, he never countenanced unnecessary or purposeless fighting. With him, a battle was always a serious and a critical mater; the troops were spared as much as possible beforehand; it was always his plan to make the encounter a decisive one, and for this end he spared no pains. In his attention to the sick and wounded he has never been surpassed.'-15-18.

‘…that in [Napoleon] there exited any very definite and solemn recognition of his responsibilities; that his life was a struggle to come up to the requirements of an educated and vigilant conscience. Be it so. Nevertheless, it remains true, that his powers were always at the service of the public; that his efforts as a whole were on the right side; that he was the unsparing foe of tyranny and injustice; and that he did more than any man of his time to relieve the masses of the people of Europe from the burdens which oppression and intolerance had laid upon them, and to open to them the prospects and hopes which under a liberal and enlightened government give to life so much of its enjoyment and value. He must be classed among the friends and helpers of the race.'-307-308.

‘It is not inconsistent with the views here presented of the character of Napoleon, that we should find him occasionally resorting to measures of extreme severity. Where it seemed to him to be necessary, in order to preserve his army, to suppress dangerous insurrections, or the like, he rarely hesitated to employ what seemed to him the most sure mode of accomplishing his object. It is in this way that we must account for the wholesale execution of the prisoners of Jaffa, most of whom, having been recently released on parole, were found again in arms against the French. In a similar light we should regard the severities which accompanied the final extinction of the insurrections in La Vendee, and those which he recommended his brother Joseph to employ against the fierce and obstinate resistance of the Neapolitan lazzaroni. In this unhesitating employment of force on occasions of this nature, Napoleon much resembled Cromwell.'

‘But this sort of thing does not constitute a man a tyrant, or even a harsh ruler. The stability of society, the welfare of well-disposed citizens, the interests of progress and of liberal government even, may well, in times of turmoil and revolution, be more secure when entrusted to such a man, than if committed to the charge of one less practical and less inflexible.' 309-310.

The following can be found in The Napoleonic Revolution by Robert Holtman, France Under Napoleon by Louis Bergeron, and the Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France 1799-1815, edited by Owen Connelly.

Again from Robert Holtman:

'[Napoleon's] government's fiscal policy was, on the whole, one of the triumphs of Napoleon's career, and an achievement that has had a lasting impact.'-99
'[Napoleon's] later budgets were rarely balanced, but the consolidated debt of France remained relatively small, particularly in comparison with that of England, and amounted to only 60 million francs in 1814.'-100

'Napoleon did not rely on tribute, but levied numerous new taxes-which led to one of his outstanding fiscal achievements, the creation of a solid financial administration.'-100

'For the first time France had a clearly defined currency whose real and face values coincided. Creation of a sound currency made possible the completion of the next basic project of Napoleon's financial policy, the establishment of the state's credit on a sound basis.'-103

From Bergeron:

'The financial achievement of the Napoleonic years is summarized in the creation of a good administrative instrument, which had been lacking in the old monarchy.'-38

'Hence was built up a fiscal system whose principles were hardly different from those of the Old Regime, and which was to last until the First World War and the adoption of the income tax.'-39

'The same rigor was brought into the parallel and distinct network of expenditure. While the revenue side of the budget was in the hands of the Minister of Finance, the control of expenditures was assigned to the paymasters in the Treasury, who made payments only on sight of orders delivered by the various administrations, and after verifying them for conformity to budgetary limits and anticipations.'-50

From Connelly:

'To balance the budget the government levied a variety of indirect taxes…which could be raised or lowered according to the need. Expenses were rigorously monitored. A hierarchy of paymasters in the Ministry of the Treasury paid only those bills authorized by a law, a decree, or the warrant of a minister. An audit commission…reviewed the bookkeeping accounts of collectors and paymasters.'-180

'The fiscal result of these measures was a vigorous, durable fiscal administration. The French people were habituated to punctual discharge of their tax obligations. Even during the turbuleny, disastrous years of 1814-1815, they paid regularly, to the amazement of the prefects. The government debt had been kept moderate and could be assumed without great distress by the Restoration monarchy. The new franc de Germinal was stable and in 1811 commanded a better exchange rate than the pound sterling.'-180

From Owen Connelly's Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms, 340-342:
‘In all the kingdoms constitutions had been granted, if not strictly applied; Westphalians remembered that even peasants had sat in the Standeversammlung; legislative power over taxation had been practiced (Holland, Westphalia, Italy) or promised (Spain and Naples). The Code Napoleon [Code Civile] had either been applied or held up as a model; equality before the law had become an established principle; jury trial had been introduced; civil and religious liberty had been guaranteed, and minority groups elevated to full, active citizenship (notably the Jews of Holland and Germany). Guilds and other economically privileged groups had been suppressed, and internal tariffs condemned if not abolished. The political and economic power of the churches had been reduced, and the confiscated properties of nobles and churches pledged (if not always devoted) to public welfare and education.'

‘Most important, perhaps, the kingdoms left behind a coterie of trained personnel-bureaucrats, judges, magistrates, soldiers-who were familiar with the most efficient systems extant for the administration of government, finances, law, and armies. Not until the return of the restored rulers, (absent five to eighteen years) did these men fully realize how much their attitudes had changed, and how truly careers had been ‘open to talent.' They, together with liberals and intellectuals, both former enemies and former friends of Napoleonic government, constituted the core leadership of revolutionary movements of the early nineteenth century.'
‘The idea persists that the satellite kingdoms were ‘robbed' for the benefit of France. One envisions wagons rolling toward Paris with coin for the imperial treasury and revered works of art for the Louvre. To dismiss the latter quickly, many of the paintings and objects were legitimately purchased, and still belong to the French government. As to treasure wagons, many rolled from France into Spain; few indeed came from the kingdoms to France. The states contributed largely by supporting French troops within their borders; much of the money they supplied was spent locally, either by army buyers or the troops themselves, to the benefit of native merchants and producers. Because of the cost of the Spanish War, the French taxpayer's burden was increased by the holding of the satellite kingdoms. Moreover the tax rate in France was always higher than in the kingdoms, which added to the general fear of annexation. Trade agreements favored France, and the Continental System caused distress, but native merchants managed to make immense profits anyway, especially in Italy and Naples. Further, despite economic dislocations, there were some permanent gains-new industry, new crops, and much technological improvement. Everywhere, the value of broad tariff-free trading areas was demonstrated, positively on a small scale )Italy, Westphalia, Naples), and negatively on a larger one.'
‘The kingdoms (and the empire generally) also set precedents in problem-solving by legislation (decreed or voted), by which the governments asserted the right, in principle, to rearrange any and all areas of national life. In the long run this legacy, valued property of all national governments, whatever their political systems, would overshadow all others. Napoleon did not originate the process, nor was it a French innovation, though Louis XIV and the Committee of Public Safety had used it most masterfully, and the latter immensely widened its scope. Napoleon and his rulers, however, demonstrated it more fully in more areas than had anyone else before. Aside from constitutions and mandatory administrative, legal, and judicial reform programs, there were laws requiring smallpox inoculation and land redistribution, ordering the establishment of public schools and new industries, granting specific guarantees to minorities, and a hundred other things. Not all were implemented, but success was sufficient to orient progressives toward reform from seats of power. Napoleon's answer to all ills-legislate, administer, enforce-has been echoed ever more widely and loudly by every generation since his time.'

deephorse11 Feb 2018 5:21 a.m. PST

I think the ‘three paragraph' rule was broken there somewhere! :)

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