Napoleon's talents developed early. Indeed, already as a little boy of four or five he showed that he was fearless. As a fully developed man, the magnetic force of his personality was admitted to be no less than overpowering. He could inspire his soldiers to perform prodigies of valour, which soon brought him the crown of France. "I found it in the gutter," he used to say, "and I picked it up on my sword's point."
His military decisions and actions were taken with such rapidity, boldness, and force that his enemies were unable to keep pace with him. He once fought for five days without sleeping or even taking his boots off, after which, when he had won, he slept for thirty-six hours. He was great not only as a soldier, but also as a ruler and law-giver. Unfortunately for the world, his love of military "glory" and personal power dimmed his great qualities, making him a force for destruction as well as for good. Although a genuine love of France and of freedom may once have inspired him, yet, like the tiger that has once tasted blood, "having tasted the sweets of power, he aspired to the pleasure of ruling alone." "If I am seen three times at the opera," he said, "people will no longer care to look at me. My glory is already declining. This little corner of Europe is too small to supply it." To gain glory and power he had no scruples about destroying the manhood of Europe in war, although he was not inhuman by nature. Nearly four million men died in the wars he promoted between 1804 and 1815.
When events at length began to turn against him, his fall was as dramatic as his rise. On reaching Paris after Waterloo, he was so changed and undecided that his brother told him his brain had been turned by the battle smoke.
In appearance he was short and handsome, well-made in form and feature, with a complexion of clear olive, and a stern, unbending expression. He is to be reckoned as one of the world's greatest men -- "as great as any man can be without virtue."
The French Revolution, in its early and best years, had cleared away for all time "much useless medieval lumber." But Napoleon himself had no use for the methods of Rousseau. Indeed, he became the greatest of Grand Monarchs. He created the modern France, gave her order as well as "glory," and left to her and Europe a great Code of Law. In Italy and Germany his changes prepared the way for the establishment of a united nation.