Napoleon Bonaparte

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The true character of man ever displays itself in great events.

Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a Corsican-born military officer who rose in the ranks during the French Revolution, becoming the ruler of France as First Consul of the French Republic (11 November 1799 - 18 May 1804), and then Emperor of the French and King of Italy under the name Napoleon I (18 May 1804 - 6 April 1814, and again briefly from 20 March - 22 June 1815).

Everything tells me I shall succeed.

Sourced quotes

My waking thoughts are all of thee...
  • "The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
    • On the subject of torture
Simple: Torturing must be stopped, it has always been accepted that this way of questioning men gives no useful information, the man will way anything that comes to their mind that they think the questioner wants to know.
  • "All great events hang by a hair, I believe in luck, and the wise man neglects nothing which contributes to his destiny"
Simple: All great things can go either way, I believe in luck, and the wise man will forget/overlook nothing that helps create his destiny.
From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.
What is a throne? — a bit of wood gilded and covered in velvet. I am the state...
France is invaded; I am leaving to take command of my troops, and, with God's help and their valor, I hope soon to drive the enemy beyond the frontier.
  • From the heights of these pyramids, forty centuries look down on us.
    • Speech to his troops in Egypt (21 July 1798)
Simple: From these pyramids, 4000 years of civilization look down on us.
  • "What I have done up to now is nothing, I am only at the begining of the course I must run, I can no longer obey, I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up."
Simple: What I have done up to this point means nothing, I am beginning the course destiny has set, I have commanded and will always command from now on.
  • A form of government that is not the result of a long sequence of shared experiences, efforts, and endeavors can never take root.
Simple: A government that is not the result of many shared experiences, struggles, and effort cannot take root in a country.
  • From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.
    • Writing about the retreat from Moscow, in a letter to Abbé du Pradt. (1812)
Simple: The best to the worst is only a step.
  • 'Impossible' n'est pas français.
    • 'Impossible' is not [in the] French [language].
    • Letter to General Lemarois (9 July 1813) Variant translation: You write to me that it is impossible; the word is not French.
    • Variant attribution : Impossible is a word found only in the dictionary of fools.
  • What is a throne? — a bit of wood gilded and covered in velvet. I am the state— I alone am here the representative of the people. Even if I had done wrong you should not have reproached me in public—people wash their dirty linen at home. France has more need of me than I of France.
Simple: What is a throne? —a bit of beutiful wood covered in velvet. I am the state...I alone am speaking for the people. Even if I do wrong you should not reproach me. France has more need of me than I of France.
  • France is invaded; I am leaving to take command of my troops, and, with God's help and their valor, I hope soon to drive the enemy beyond the frontier.
Simple: France is attacked; I am leaving to command my army, and, with God's help and their valor, I hope soon to remove the enemy from the border.
  • The bullet that will kill me is not yet cast.
    • Statement at Montereau (17 February 1814)
Simple: The bullet that will kill me is not yet made, I will not die soon.
  • Unite for the public safety, if you would remain an independent nation.
Simple: You(the citizens) must join together if you would remain free.
  • Wherever wood can swim, there I am sure to find this flag of England.
    • Statement at Rochefort (July 1815)
Simple: Wherever there is a ship of any kind, there I am sure to find the English Flag. In reference to the English navy supremecy.
Morality has nothing to do with such a man as I am.
  • I may have had many projects, but I never was free to carry out any of them. It did me little good to be holding the helm; no matter how strong my hands, the sudden and numerous waves were stronger still, and I was wise enough to yield to them rather than resist them obstinately and make the ship founder. Thus I never was truly my own master but was always ruled by circumstances.
Simple: I had many goals, and despite being the leader, I was always at the will of the situations, and all I could do was follow where they led.
  • Women are nothing but machines for producing children.
  • Religions are all founded on miracles — on things we cannot understand, such as the Trinity. Jesus calls himself the Son of God, and yet is descended from David. I prefer the religion of Mahomet — it is less ridiculous than ours.
Simple: Religions are all created from miracles - things we cannot understand, such as the Trinity. Jesus calls himselfthe Son of God, and yet the son of Daved. I like the religion of Muhammad more - it is less foolish than ours (Christianity.)
  • Our hour is marked, and no one can claim a moment of life beyond what fate has predestined.
    • To Dr. Arnott (April 1821)
Simple: The hour when we are to die is already decided, and no man can say they are given a moment more of life beyond what fate has already decided.
  • Waterloo will wipe out the memory of my forty victories; but that which nothing can wipe out is my Civil Code. That will live forever.
Simple: Waterloo(his biggest loss) will erase the memory of my forty victories; but nothing can erase my Napoleonic Code (his system of laws.) That will live forever.
  • Among so many conflicting ideas and so many different perspectives, the honest man is confused and distressed and the skeptic becomes wicked ... Since one must take sides, one might as well choose the side that is victorious, the side which devastates, loots, and burns. Considering the alternative, it is better to eat than to be eaten.
Simple: Among so many conflicting ideas, and diferent points of view, the honest man is confused and distressed...Since you must choose a side, it is better to choose the side that will win, that will destroy. Thinking of the alternative, it is better to do wrong, than have wrongs done against you.


Memoirs of Napoleon (1829-1831)

Memoirs of Napoleon was published in 10 volumes (1829-1831) by Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne who from 1797 to 1802 had been a private secretary to Napoleon.
  • Kiss the feet of Popes provided their hands are tied
Simple: In public obey the Popes, as long as in private they are in your control.
  • Malice delights to blacken the characters of prominent men.
Simple: Bitterness enjoys staining the characters of succesful men.
  • More glorious to merit a sceptre than to possess one.
Simple: It is better to deserve a sceptre (to rule) than to possess one.
  • Those who are free from common prejudices acquire others.
Simple: Everyone has prejudices, if they are not the common ones they get others.
  • What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history ? A fable agreed upon.
Simple: Generally speaking, the truth of history is that it is a story that has been agreed upon.
Napoleon Bonaparte

Maxims of Napoleon

The Maxims of Napoleon were collected and published by A. G. de Liancourt.


  • A king is sometimes obliged to commit crimes; but they are the crimes of his position.
Simple: A king is sometimes required to carry out crimes; but they are the crimes of being king, and he cannot be at blame.
  • A King should sacrifice the best affections of his heart for the good of his country; no sacrifice should be above his determination.
Simple: A king should sacrifice his personal feelings for the good of his country.
  • Greatness is nothing unless it be lasting.
Simple: It means nothing to be great for a short time, it is only truly great if it lasts.
  • When you have an enemy in your power, deprive him of the means of ever injuring you.
Simple: When you have control over an enemy, stop him from being able to hurt you.
  • You cannot treat with all the world at once.
Simple: You cannot please/negotiate with everyone at once.

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