He may have been a unique and supremely gifted martial genius, who bequeathed the Code Napoléon to the world, but even his fans would concede he could be despotic, with ‘ego issues’.
Here’s a few extracts from The Memorial of St Helena, quoted in War and Peace after the complex and depressing stalemate of the Battle of Borodino. Bonaparte is reflecting on the faltering Russian campaign and his own grandiloquent scheming:
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 traveled 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…
Paris would have been the capital of the world, and the French the envy of the nations!
The old rogue was an infinitely greater man than Hollande, Juncker et al, going all the way back to their dodgy prototype Jean Monnet, but in the final analysis, just as deluded.