Napoleon on Politics & Power

  • He who knows how to flatter also knows how to slander.

  • Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.

  • International incidents must not be allowed to shape foreign policy, foreign policy must shape the incidents.

  • Good and decent people must be protected and persuaded by gentle means, but the rabble must be led by terror.

  • It is an ambassador's duty to stand up for his nation's foreign policy in any era and under any government whatsoever. Ambassadors are, in the full meaning of the term, titled spies.

  • A man made for public life and authority never takes account of personalities; he only takes account of things, of their weight and their conseqences.

  • In political administration, no problem is ever simple. It can never be reduced to the question whether a certain measure is good or not.

  • Democracy, if it is reasonable, limits itself to giving everyone an equal opportunity to compete and to obtain.

  • Europe is a molehill. All great empires and revolutions have been on the Orient; six hundred millions live there.

  • If fifty thousand men were to die for the good of the State, I certainly would weep for them, but political necessity comes before everything else.

  • Bloodletting is among the ingredients of political medicine.

  • In war, as in politics, no evil - even if it is permissible under the rules - is excusable unless it is absolutely necessary. Everything beyond that is a crime.

  • Passions change, politics are immutable.

  • Governments keep their promises only when they are forced, or when it is to their advantage to do so.

  • A true master of politics is able to calculate, down to the smallest fraction, the advantages to which he may put his very faults.

  • In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.

  • High politic is only common sense applied to great things.

  • If you wish to be success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.

  • In politics... never retreat, never retract... never admit a mistake.

  • In politics, an absurdity is not a handicap.

  • A new-born Government must shine and astonish — the moment it loses its éclat it falls.

  • A great Nation should have a fixed Government, so that the death of one man should not overturn it.

  • Where the Government is weak, military sway prevails.

  • For the stability of the Government, the people should have a considerable voice in the elections.

  • In a great nation, the majority are incapable of judging wisely of things.

  • The sovereignty of the people is inalienable.

  • There is no power without justice.

  • Great events ever depend but upon a single hair. The adroit man profits by everything, neglects nothing which can increase his chances; the less adroit, by sometimes disregarding a single chance, fails in everything.

  • A King should sacrifice the best affections of his heart for the good of his country; no sacrifice should be above his determination.

  • A great European federative system alone can be favourable to the development of civilisation.

  • Speeches pass away, but acts remain.

  • Nothing is more arrogant than the weakness which feels itself supported by power.

  • A leader is a dealer in hope.

  • The great art of governing consists in not letting men grow old in their jobs.

  • There are two levers for moving men, interest and fear.

  • To do all that one is able to do, is to be a man; to do all that one would like to do, is to be a god.

  • The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.

  • When firmness is sufficient, rashness is unnecessary.

  • Few things are brought to a successful issue by impetuous desire, but most by calm and prudent forethought.

  • Good and decent people must be protected and persuaded by gentle means, but the rabble must be led by terror.

  • A legislator must know how to take advantage of even the defects of those he wants to govern. The art consists in making others work rather than in wearing oneself out.

  • To negotiate is not to do as one likes.

  • It would be a joke if the conduct of the victor had to be justified to the vanquished.

  • The first method is that of a schemer and leads only to mediocre results; the other method is the path of genius and changes the face of the world.

  • Great men are never cruel without necessity.

  • Force is the law of animals, men are ruled by conviction.

  • A magistrate is not a father; he must be just and severe. Only tyrants are fathers.

  • There is no strength without justice.

  • Men who have changed the world never achieved their success by winning the chief citizens to their side, but always by stirring the masses.

  • Do not talk to me of goodness, of abstract justice, of nature law. Necessity is the highest law, public welfare is the highest justice.

  • The policies of all powers are inherent in their geography.

  • Pure politics is merely the calculus of combinations and of chances.

  • The heart of a statesman must be in his head.

  • Lack is more in means, than in principles.

  • Public morals are natural complement of all laws they are by themselves an entire code.

  • A Constitution should be short and obscure.

  • A throne is only a bench covered with velvet.

  • An order that can be misunderstood, will be misunderstood.

  • History is a set of lies agreed upon.

  • Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

  • Public opinion is the thermometer a monarch should constantly consult.

  • Men are more easily governed through their vices than their virtues.

  • God has given me the will and the force to overcome all obstacles.

  • When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.

  • He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.

  • Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go.

  • Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.


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