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The Third Act: "Long live the Emperor!"

Then appeared the strong man, Napoleon Buonaparte, "le petit caporal." He settled the last rising of the Paris mob with his "whiff of grape-shot" (October 5, 1795). Soon he brought order out of chaos, and gave France the "glory" of war that she loved, and he proved himself the greatest soldier in history -- master not only of the science but of the tricks of war. He led his armies all over Europe (1795-1813), sowing the seeds of political change wherever he went.

Time after time he triumphed over the Grand Monarchs. He drove the Austrians from the Netherlands and from Italy (1796-97). He defeated Austria and Russia at Austerlitz (1805). He crushed Prussia at Jena; from its capital he issued his Berlin Decrees to cripple the trade of Britain; and he ended the venerable Holy Roman Empire, or rather the ghost of it, which had lasted on for centuries -- all in 1806. The next year (1807) he persuaded the Russian Tsar to make peace and share the world with him.

The only reverses he had so far suffered were due to the British navy. By his victory at the Nile (1798), Nelson dispelled Napoleon's dream of imitating Alexander in the East. "Really to ruin England we must make ourselves masters of Egypt" (Napoleon, 1797). Again, by his victory at Trafalgar (18O5), Nelson prevented him from invading his one persistent enemy, Britain, though Napoleon had broken up his Boulogne camp before the news of Trafalgar reached him.

Meanwhile, throughout the time of the great struggle, the "nation of shopkeepers " was busy with its new machines and new factories; and the first Factory Act was passed in 1802.

At last, however, came fatal reverses for Napoleon on land. His Berlin Decrees led to war with Russia. He made his famous march to Moscow (1812), only to find it deserted and burning; and of his half million men-of various nations, only about a tenth survived the terrors of the retreat during the Russian winter. Even so, as Napoleon drove past his men dying in the snow, they raised a cheer of "Long live the Emperor!"

The Moscow disaster was the signal for the oppressed peoples of Europe to rise against the tyrant, as the Spanish had done some years before. The next year he was defeated at Leipsic (1813) in a great "Battle of the Nations." At the same time Wellington was marching into France from Spain, where he had long been fighting the French with the help of Spanish guerilla forces.

After Leipsic, Napoleon was banished to the little island of Elba, while kings and diplomats of the old regime met at Vienna to undo, as they thought, his work. Then, for 100 days, Napoleon regained his freedom -- to meet his destiny at Waterloo (1815), and to find an unquiet restingplace on the lonely rocky islet of St. Helena, far away in the Atlantic.

The failure of Napoleon was, in the end, due to the efforts of united Europe, which Pitt had so often tried to secure. "The Kings being conquered, Napoleon had then to do with the Peoples."

“Whatever we find lovely in a friend, or in a saint, ought to elevate our affections: we should conclude that if there is so much sweetness in a drop; there must be infinitely more in the fountain. If there is so much splendour in a ray, what must the sun be in its glory!”
–Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man