Emma Watson Pussy
War And Peace
standards, artillery, and nine tenths
of his men.
And lastly, the final departure of the great Emperor from his heroic
army is presented to us by the historians as something great and
characteristic of genius. Even that final running away, described in
ordinary language as the lowest depth of baseness which every child is
taught to be ashamed of--even that act finds justification in the
When it is impossible to stretch the very elastic threads of
historical ratiocination any farther, when actions are clearly
contrary to all that humanity calls right or even just, the historians
produce a saving conception of "greatness." "Greatness," it seems,
excludes the standards of right and wrong. For the "great" man nothing
is wrong, there is no atrocity for which a "great" man can be blamed.
"Cest grand!"* say the historians, and there no longer exists
either good or evil but only "grand" and "not grand." Grand is good,
not grand is bad. Grand is the characteristic, in their conception, of
some special animals called "heroes." And Napoleon, escaping home in a
warm fur coat and leaving to perish those who were not merely his
comrades but were (in his opinion) men he had brought there, feels que
cest grand,* and his soul is tranquil.
*"It is great."
* That it is great.
"Du sublime (he saw something sublime in himself) au ridicule il ny
a quun pas,"* said he. And the whole world for fifty years has been
repeating: "Sublime! Grand! Napoleon le Grand!" Du sublime au ridicule
il ny a quun pas.
*"From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step."
And it occurs to no one that to admit a greatness not
commensurable with the standard of right and wrong is merely to
admit ones own nothingness and immeasurable meanness.
For us with the standard of good and evil given us by Christ, no
human actions are incommensurable. And there is no greatness where
simplicity, goodness, and truth are absent.
What Russian, reading the account of the last part of the campaign
of 1812, has not experienced an uncomfortable feeling of regret,
dissatisfaction, and perplexity? Who has not asked himself how it is
that the French were not all captured or destroyed when our three
armies surrounded them in superior numbers, when the disordered
French, hungry and freezing, surrendered in crowds, and when (as the
historians relate) the aim of the Russians was to stop the French,
to cut them off, and capture them all?
How was it that the Russian army, which when numerically weaker than
the French had given battle at Borodino, did not achieve its purpose
when it had surrounded the French on three sides and when its aim
was to capture them? Can the French be so enormously superior to us
that when we had surrounded them with superior forces we could not
beat them? How could that happen?
History (or what is called by that name) replying to these questions
says that this occurred because Kutuzov and Tormasov and Chichagov,
and this man and that man, did not execute such and such maneuvers...
But why did they not execute those maneuvers? And why if they were
guilty of not carrying out a prearranged plan were they not tried
and punished? But even if we admitted that Kutuzov, Chichagov, and
others were the cause of the Russian failures, it is still
incomprehensible why, the position of the Russian army being what it
was at Krasnoe and at the Berezina (in both cases we had superior
forces), the French army with its marshals, kings, and Emperor was not
captured, if that was what the Russians aimed at.
The explanation of this strange fact given by Russian military
historians (to the effect that Kutuzov hindered an attack) is
unfounded, for we know that he could not restrain the troops from
attacking at Vyazma and Tarutino.
Why was the Russian army--which with inferior forces had withstood
the enemy in full strength at Borodino--defeated at Krasnoe and the
Berezina by the disorganized crowds of the French when it was
If the aim of the Russians consisted in cutting off and capturing
Napoleon and his marshals--and that aim was not merely frustrated
but all attempts to attain it were most shamefully baffled--then
this last period of the campaign is quite rightly considered by the
French to be a series of victories, and quite wrongly considered
victorious by Russian historians.
The Russian military historians in so far as they submit to claims
of logic must admit that conclusion, and in spite of their lyrical
rhapsodies about valor, devotion, and so forth, must reluctantly
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