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November 13 , 2008

Memoirs of the Empress Josephine (Complete)


NOTWITHSTANDING the date of the year in which I undertake this narrative, I shall not seek to excuse the motives which led my husband to attach himself to the person of Bonaparte, but shall simply explain them. In political matters justifications are worth nothing. Certain persons, having returned to France only three years ago, or having taken no part in public affairs before that epoch, have pronounced a sort of anathema against those among our fellow citizens who for twenty years have not held completely aloof from passing events. If it be represented to them that nobody pretends to pronounce whether they were right or wrong to indulge in their long sleep, and that they are merely asked to remain equally neutral on a similar question, they reject such a proposition with all the strength of their present position of vantage; they deal out unsparing and most ungenerous blame, for there is now no risk in undertaking the duties on which they pride themselves. And yet, when a revolution is in progress, who can flatter himself that he has always adopted the right course? Who among us has not been influenced by circumstances? Who, indeed, can venture to throw the first stone, without fear lest it recoil upon himself? Citizens of the same country, all more or less hurt by the blows they have given and received, ought to spare each other—they are more closely bound together than they think; and when a Frenchman mercilessly runs down another Frenchman, let him take care—he is putting weapons to use against them both into the hands of the foreigner. Not the least evil of troubled times is that bitter spirit of criticism which produces mistrust, and perhaps contempt, of what is called public opinion. The tumult of passion enables every one to defy it. Men live for the most part so much outside of themselves, that they have few opportunities of consulting their conscience. In peaceful times, and for common ordinary actions, the judgments of the world replace it well enough; but how is it possible to submit to them, when they are ready to deal death to those who would bow to them? It is safest, then, to rely on that conscience which one can never question with impunity. Neither my husband’s conscience nor my own reproaches him or me. The entire loss of his fortune, the experience of facts, the march of events, a moderate and legitimate desire for easier circumstances, led M. de Rémusat to seek a place of some kind in 1802. To profit by the repose that Bonaparte had given to France, and to rely on the hopes he inspired, was, no doubt, to deceive ourselves, but we did so in common with all the rest of the world.
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