Napoleon’s European Union

I found this amusing, in the latter half of ‘War and Peace’. I wonder if people will write of Hitler this way too, one day. Napoleon thinks to himself:

The Russian war should have been the most popular war of modern times: it was a war of good sense, for real interests, for the tranquillity and security of all; it was purely pacific and conservative.

It was a war for a great cause, the end of uncertainties and the beginning of security. A new horizon and new labors were opening out, full of well-being and prosperity for all. The European system was already founded; all that remained was to organize it.

Satisfied on these great points and with tranquility everywhere, I too should have had my Congress and my Holy Alliance. Those ideas were stolen from me. In that reunion of great sovereigns we should have discussed our interests like one family, and have rendered account to the peoples as clerk to master.

Europe would in this way soon have been, in fact, but one people, and anyone who travelled anywhere would have found himself always in the common fatherland. I should have demanded the freedom of all navigable rivers for everybody, that the seas should be common to all, and that the great standing armies should be reduced henceforth to mere guards for the sovereigns.

On returning to France, to the bosom of the great, strong, magnificent, peaceful, and glorious fatherland, I should have proclaimed her frontiers immutable; all future wars purely defensive, all aggrandizement antinational. I should have associated my son in the Empire; my dictatorship would have been finished, and his constitutional reign would have begun.

Paris would have been the capital of the world, and the French the envy of the nations!

My leisure then, and my old age, would have been devoted, in company with the Empress and during the royal apprenticeship of my son, to leisurely visiting, with our own horses and like a true country couple, every corner of the Empire, receiving complaints, redressing wrongs, and scattering public buildings and benefactions on all sides and everywhere.

Tolstoy carries on narrating Napoleon’s thoughts, rather sardonically pointing out what a unified European force his army was:

“Of four hundred thousand who crossed the Vistula,” he wrote further of the Russian war, “half were Austrians, Prussians, Saxons, Poles, Bavarians, Wurttembergers, Mecklenburgers, Spaniards, Italians, and Neapolitans. The Imperial army, strictly speaking, was one third composed of Dutch, Belgians, men from the borders of the Rhine, Piedmontese, Swiss, Genevese, Tuscans, Romans, inhabitants of the Thirty-second Military Division, of Bremen, of Hamburg, and so on: it included scarcely a hundred and forty thousand who spoke French.

It would not be the last time the French would be working eagerly to unite Europe – although it would be with the help of the Germans next time. And it would not be the last time that a unified European army was proposed.

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