Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/148

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unbridled ambition. Four millions there were in all, more than half of them Frenchmen. And behind the legions shown or hinted at, one seems to discern the millions on millions who might have been and are not—the huge widening wedge of the possible descendants of those who fell in battle, youth without blemish ("l'élite de l'Europe"), made "flesh for the cannon" in the rush of Napoleon's great campaigns.

These came from the farm, the workshop, the school, "the best that the nation could bring," men from eighteen to thirty-five years of age at first, but afterwards the older and the younger. Napoleon said:

A boy will stop a bullet as well as a man.

Says Professor Haeckel:

The more vigorous and well-born a young man is, the more normally constituted, the greater his chance to be slain by musket or magazine, the rifled cannon and other similar engines of civilization.

Says Seeck:

Napoleon, in a series of years seized all the youth of high stature and left them scattered over many battlefields, so that the French people who followed them are mostly of smaller stature. More than once since Napoleon's time has the military limit been lowered.

In the career of Napoleon campaign followed campaign, against enemies, against neutrals, against friends. Conscription followed victory, both victory and conscription debasing the human species. Again conscription after conscription.

Let them die with arms in their hands. Their death is glorious, and it will be avenged. You can always fill the places of soldiers. . . . A great soldier like me doesn't care a tinker's dam for the lives of a million men.

Still more conscription. After Wagram, France began to feel its weakness, the "Grand Army" being no longer the army which had fought at Ulm and Jena.

Raw conscripts raised before their time and hurriedly drafted into the line had impaired its steadiness.

After Moscow, homeward

amidst ever-deepening misery they struggled on, until of the six hundred thousand men who had proudly crossed the Nieman for the conquest of Russia, only twenty thousand famished, frostbitten, unarmed specters staggered across the bridge of Korno in the middle of December. . . . Despite the loss of the most splendid army marshalled by man, Napoleon abated no whit of his resolve to dominate Germany and discipline Russia. . . . He strained every effort to call the youth of the empire to arms. . . and 350,000 conscripts were promised by the senate. The mighty swirl of the Moscow campaign sucked in 150,000 lads of under twenty years of age into the devouring vortex. . . . The peasantry gave up their sons as food for cannon.


many were appalled at the frightful drain on the nation's strength. . . . In less than half a year after the loss of half a million men a new army nearly as numerous was marshalled under the imperial eagles. But the majority were