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The View of the London Times (5 July 1821)


On the occasion of Napoleon’s death, the leading English paper expressed the view of the English establishment: hatred of his despotic rule, yet a kind of sneaking admiration of his “extraordinary life.”

This source is a part of the The Napoleonic Experience teaching module.


Thus terminates in exile, and in prison, the most extraordinary life yet known to political history. The vicissitudes of such a life, indeed, are the most valuable lessons which history can furnish. Connected with, and founded on, the principles of his character, the varieties of fortune which Buonaparte experienced are of a nature to illustrate the most useful maxims of benevolence, patriotism, or discretion. They embrace both extremes of the condition of man in society, and therefore address themselves to all ranks of human beings. But Buonaparte was our enemy—our defeated enemy—and, as Englishmen, we must not tarnish our triumphs over the living warrior by unmanly injustice towards the dead.

. . . It may, we confess, be no satisfaction to the French, nor any great consolation to the rest of Europe, to know through what means it was, or by what vicious training, that Buonaparte was fitted, nay, predestined almost, to be a scourge and destroyer of the rights of nations, instead of employing a power irresistible, and which, in such a cause, none would have felt disposed to resist, for the promotion of knowledge, peace, and liberty throughout the world.

. . . But he had left himself no resource. He had extinguished liberty in France, and had no hold upon his subjects, but their love of military glory. Conquest, therefore, succeeded to conquest, until nothing capable of subjugation was left to be subdued. Insolence, and rapacity, in the victor, produced, among the enslaved nations, impatience of their misery, and a thirst for vengeance. Injustice undermined itself, and Buonaparte, with his unseasoned empire, fell together, the pageant of a day.


J. Ashton, English Caricature and Satire on napoleon the First, 2 vols. (London, 1884): II: pp. 261-264.

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