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have been Bonaparte's guide on the day of battle, and who earned a fortune by detailing over and over again to visitors all the particulars of what the great man said and did up to the moment of flight,—this same Lacoste has been suspected by others, besides me, of having never been near the great man and having fabricated the whole story for the sake of making a gain of the credulity of travelers.
4. In the accounts that are extant of the battle itself, published by persons professing to have been present, the reader will find there is a discrepancy of three or four hours as to the time the battle began!-a battle, be it remembered, not fought with javelins and arrows, like those of the ancients, in which one part of a large army might be engaged, while a distant portion of the same army knew nothing of it; but a battle commencing-if indeed it were fought at all — with the firing of cannon, which would have announced pretty loudly what was going on.
5. It is no less uncertain whether or no this strange personage poisoned, in Egypt, a hospital-full of his own soldiers, and butchered in cold blood a garrison that had surrendered. But not to multiply instances, the battle of Borodino, which is represented as one of the greatest ever fought, was unequivocally claimed as a victory by both parties; nor is the question decided at this day. We have official accounts on both sides, circumstantially detailed, in the names of supposed respectable persons professing to have been present on the spot, yet totally irreconcilable. Both these accounts may be false; but since one of them must be false, that one (it is no matter which we suppose) proves incontrovertibly this important maxim: that it is possible for a narrativehowever circumstantial - however steadily maintained-however public and however important the event it relates-however grave the authority on which it is published — to be nevertheless an entire fabrication.
6. Many of the events which have been recorded were probably believed much the more readily and firmly, from the apparent caution and hesitation with which they were at first published, the vehement contradiction in our papers of many pretended French accounts, and the abuse lavished upon them for falsehood, exaggeration, and gasconade. But is it not possible, -is it not indeed perfectly natural,—that the publishers even of known falsehood should assume this cautious demeanor, and this abhorrence of exaggeration, in order the more easily to gain credit?
7. Is it not also very possible that those who actually believe what they published, may have suspected mere exaggeration in stories which were entire fictions ? Many men have that sort of simplicity, that they think themselves quite secure against being deceived, provided they believe only part of the story they hear, when perhaps the whole is equally false. So that perhaps these simple-hearted editors who were so vehement against lying bulletins, and so wary in announcing their great news, were in the condition of a clown, who thinks he has bought a great bargain of a Jew because he has beat down the price, perhaps from a guinea to a crown, for some article that is really not worth a groat.
8. With respect to the character of Bonaparte, the dissonance is, if possible, still greater. According to some, he was a wise, humane, magnanimous hero; others paint him as a monster of cruelty, meanness, and perfidy; some, even of those who are most inveterate against him, speak very highly of his political and military ability; others place him on the very verge of insanity.
9. But allowing that all this may be the coloring of party prejudice (which surely is allowing a great deal), there is one point to which such a solution will hardly apply. If there
be anything that can be clearly ascertained in history, one would think it must be the personal courage of a military man; yet here we are as much at a loss as ever; at the very same times and on the same occasions he is described by different writers as a man of undaunted intrepidity, and as an absolute poltroon.
10. What, then, are we to believe? If we are disposed to credit all that is told us, we must believe in the existence, not only of one, but of two or three Bonapartes; if we admit nothing but what is well authenticated, we shall be compelled to doubt of the existence of any.
11. It appears, then, that those on whose testimony the existence and actions of Bonaparte are generally believed, fail in all the most essential points on which the credibility of witnesses depends; first we have no assurance that they have access to correct information ; secondly, they have an apparent interest in propagating falsehood; and, thirdly, they palpably contradict each other in the most important points.
LXXXIV.—THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
1. After all, it may be expected that many who perceive the force of these objections, will yet be loath to think it possible that they and the public at large can have been so long and so greatly imposed upon. And thus it is that the magnitude and boldness of a fraud become its best support; the millions who for so many ages have believed in Mahomet or Brahma, lean, as it were, on each other for support; and not having vigor of mind enough boldly to throw off vulgar prejudices and dare be wiser than the multitude, persuade themselves that what so many have acknowledged must be true. But I call on those who boast their philosophical freedom of thought, and would fain tread in the steps of Hume and other inquirers of the like exalted and speculative genius, to follow up fairly and fully their own principles, and, throwing off the shackles of authority, to examine carefully the evidence of whatever is proposed to them, before they admit its truth.
2. That even in this enlightened age, as it is called, a whole nation may be egregiously imposed upon, even in matters which intimately concern them, may be proved (if it has not been already proved by the following instance: It was stated in the newspapers that, a month after the battle of Trafalgar, an English officer who had been a prisoner of war and was exchanged, returned to this country from France, and, beginning to condole with his countrymen on the terrible defeat they had sustained, was infinitely astonished to learn that the battle of Trafalgar was a splendid victory: he had been assured, he said, that in that battle the English had been totally defeated; and the French were fully and universally persuaded that such was the fact.
3. Now, if this report of the belief of the French was not true, the British public were compltetely imposed upon; if it was true, then both nations were, at the same time, rejoicing in the event of the same battle, as a signal victory to themselves; and consequently one or other at least, of these nations must have been the dupe of its government; for if the battle was never fought at all, or was not decisive on either side, in that case both parties were deceived. The instance, I conceive, is absolutely demonstrative of the point in question.
4. “But what shall we say to the testimony of those many respectable persons who went to Plymouth on purpose; and saw Bonaparte with their own eyes ? Must they not trust their senses ?” I would not disparage either the eyesight or the veracity of these gentlemen. I am ready to allow that they went to Plymouth for the purpose of seeing Bonaparte; nay, more, that they actually rowed out into the harbor in a boat, and came alongside of a man-of-war, on whose deck they saw a man in a cockade hat, who, they were told, was Bonaparte. This is the utmost point to which their testimony goes; how they ascertained that this man in the cocked hat had gone through all the marvelous and romantic adventures with which we have so long been amused, we are not told. Did they perceive in his physiognomy his true name and authentic history?
5. Truly, this evidence is such as country people give one for a story of apparitions; if you discover any signs of incredulity, they triumphantly show the very house where the ghost haunted, the identical dark corner where it used to vanish, and perhaps even the tombstone of the person whose death it foretold. Jack Cade's nobility was supported by the same irresistible kind of evidence; having asserted that the eldest son of Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, was stolen by a beggar woman,“ became a bricklayer when he came to age,” and was father of the supposed Jack Cade; one of his companions confirms the story by saying, “Sir, he made a chimney in my father's house, and the bricks are alive at this day to testify it; therefore deny it not.”
6. Much of the same kind is the testimony of our brave countrymen, who are ready to produce the scars they received in fighting against this terrible Bonaparte. That they fought and were wounded they may safely testify; and probably they no less firmly believe what they were told respecting the cause in which they fought; it would have been a high breach of discipline to doubt it; and they, I conceive, are men better skilled in handling a musket than in sifting evidence and detecting imposture. But I defy any one of them to come forward and declare, on his own knowlcdge, what was the cause