". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, April 17, 2015

Andrew Jackson, Talleyrand, Napoleón

I suppose Napoleón is a fascinating fellow.  What he did, the havoc, game-changing, and bringing the changes around to, not even a monarchy embodied in the body of the divinely appointed sovereign, but an imperium, the closest model of which would have been the Roman Empire of the Caesars.  Like Augustus, he re-wrote and remodeled every part of administration from jurisprudence to the military.

Why did Napoleón stick his hand inside his uniform?  Dang, every military fellow, and those who liked to ape pretensions to military background for over a century was painted and / or photographed with his hand inside his clothes -- fondling their manly chest hairs?
That he appointed  members of his family as monarchs of the territories surrounding France  -- not principally for la belle France's defense as declared in his public announcements of the appointments -- but in order to be recognized as a dynastic ruler equal to the ancient houses such as  Bourbon, Hapsburg and   Romanovs is interesting.  But it still, a megalomaniac is a megalomaniac, and inflated egoist narcissists  in the end are inflated egoist narcissists, and ugly dangerous people, whether their fields of operation are limited to one's family or are expansive as a continental theater.

But Talleyrand now ... the fellow, once in Church orders, in the government of Louis XVI, run to American self-exile from the Revolution that had turned to the Terror, returned to France when the Directoire to become France's Foreign Minister, surfed successfully all the waves between that, the Consulate and throught the zenith of Napoleón's imperium, then falling out and again in exile, this time in England, to return again triumphantly as one of the four major players at the Congress of Vienna -- now that is a fascinating human being. Perhaps not a good one or an admirable one, but fascinating -- and more than a survivor, a success, until the end of his days.

And by all accounts, excellent company, which by most accounts, for any length of time, Napoleón most certainly was not.  Charismatic he was for long periods, but not good company: he lacked manners and courtesy, he was cruel and impatient, and loved hurting people by pinching them violently for extended minutes, leaving bruises and on occasion, blood -- even when not angry.

Talleyrand was a remarkably clear-sighted pragmatic realist. An egoist too, no doubt, but he wasn't a megalomaniac.  In the end, he was more successful than Napoleón, whose second coming transformed to defeat and ended his not that many more days in prison-exile.

One of Andrew Jackson's duels historically imagined.  This one was about a horse race.
Where on the scale between these two would fall Andrew Jackson? He sure was a megalomaniac in so many ways, see the Bank of the United States, hard money, the English, Indians, etc. He too was charismatic, and his manners with women at least, frequently were noticed as exquisite. Women flocked to Jackson, even those politically opposed to him, as they flocked to Talleyrand.

People like speculating how Jackson the military leader would have stepped to Wellington's game (another egoist! -- whose manners with women were anything but good), but what would have been more likely if San Domingue's revolution had not put a decided end to Napoleón's plans for the New World, is how Napoleón would have stepped to Jackson's, facing off as they'd have done in the Floridas and Louisiana territories.

Run-ons, are us today, as getting ready for a Harvard visit takes most of my attention!

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