{378} [Rambler, Sept. 1859.]

To the Editor of the Rambler

Napoleonism not Impious

SIR,—I should not have discovered that your correspondent "Sigma" was aiming at me (for I could agree with almost all he says, excepting what I consider the bitterness of his tone), had he not quoted one clause from my letter. I said that the King of Sardinia was "fighting for fighting's sake" in the Crimea. I continue: "Perhaps, in consideration of the antiquity of his house, he was tolerated as a knight-errant of the nineteenth century." On this he remarks: "Few things had less to do than chivalry or religion with the presence of the Piedmontese troops in the Crimea. Count Cavour at least never doubted that the French alliance was sure of its consummation on the plains of Lombardy. There was no 'fighting for fighting's sake.'" Strange that so able a writer should not have recollected when he wrote (for he must have observed it when he read), that my argument implied that Victor Ermmanuel did not fight for fighting's sake; and that I was arguing against the blindness of Englishmen, who acted as if he was, and as if he had no thought of a quid pro quo; and who were angry with him now that he was fighting with a professed object, when they could allow him to fight when the best that could be said of him was, that he was fighting with no object at all.

However, I have not taken up my pen to answer an attack, which scarcely any one will have observed, and in which no one will have been able to concur. I write to protest against your correspondent's severe language on the subject of Louis Napoleon. Speaking of the Lombard war, he says: "France has gathered up her strength to wrestle with the Conservative force of Europe. This is not a mere contest about the boundary of empires, or the faith of treaties, or the mutual antipathy of long-estranged and hostile races. Once more the first-born of democracy has gone forth on her impious apostolate;" her impious apostles being Napoleons I. and III. There is no doubt that such is his meaning, for he proceeds to speak of "Napoleonism." Such language, almost fanatical, as I think, might still stand as a mere matter of opinion, even though it has been any thing but born out by the event. Louis Napoleon has not been carried away by the Revolution; on the contrary, the apprehension of being involved in it has been one of his reasons, as he gives them, for closing the war. He has again and again disowned any purpose of touching the Pope's temporal power; and even in his Milan proclamation, which was more open to exception than any of his speeches or writings, he says that he came with no "prearranged {379} plan to dispossess sovereigns." We know, on the contrary, what Revolution or Red-republicanism means.

What I protest against, then, is not your correspondent's extravagant language, as I consider it, nor his running against facts, but his thinking it allowable to slander a remarkable man, merely because he does not understand him. I was far too cautious in my former letter, and am in this, to take Louis Napoleon's part; but it is another thing altogether to indulge in invectives, nay slanderous invectives, against him. Public men have characters, as other men; and their characters are as dear to them. We should do as we would be done by. We may fairly criticise what they have done; we cannot fairly impute what they have not done as yet, and what they disown.

J. O.

Top | Contents | Works | Home

Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.