Paris, August, 1805.
My lord:—The sensation that the arrival of the Pope in this country caused among the lower classes of people cannot be expressed, and if expressed, would not be believed. I am sorry, however, to say that, instead of improving their morals or increasing their faith, this journey has shaken both morality and religion to their foundation.
According to our religious notions, as you must know, the Roman pontiff is the vicar of Christ, and infallible; he can never err. The atheists of the National Convention and the Theophilanthropists of the Directory not only denied his demi-divinity, but transformed him into a satyr; and in pretending to tear the veil of superstition, annihilated all belief in a God. The ignorant part of our nation, which, as everywhere else, constitutes the majority, witnessing the impunity and prosperity of crime, and bestowing on the Almighty the passions of mortals, first doubted of His omnipotence in not crushing guilt, and afterwards of His existence in not exterminating the blasphemous from among the living. Feeling, however, the want of consolation in their misfortunes here, and hope of a reward hereafter for unmerited sufferings upon earth, they all hailed as a blessing the restoration of Christianity; and by this political act Bonaparte gained more adherents than by all his victories he had procured admirers.
Bonaparte’s character, his good and his bad qualities, his talents and his crimes, are too recent and too notorious to require description. Should he continue successful, and be attended by fortune to his grave, future ages may perhaps hail him a hero and a great man; but by his contemporaries it will always be doubtful whether mankind has not suffered more from his ambition and cruelties than benefited by his services. Had he satisfied himself by continuing the Chief Magistrate of a Commonwealth; or, if he judged that a monarchical Government alone was suitable to the spirit of this country, had he recalled our legitimate King, he would have occupied a principal, if not the first, place in the history of France,—a place much more exalted than he can ever expect to fill as an Emperor of the French. Let his prosperity be ever so uninterrupted, he cannot be mentioned but as an usurper, an appellation never exciting esteem, frequently inspiring contempt, and always odious.
The crime of usurpation is the greatest and most enormous a subject can perpetrate; but what epithet can there be given to him who, to preserve an authority unlawfully acquired, asssociates in his guilt a Supreme Pontiff, whom the multitude is accustomed to reverence as the representative of their God, but who, by this act of scandal and sacrilege, descends to a level with the most culpable of men? I have heard, not only in this city but in villages, where sincerity is more frequent than corruption, and where hypocrites are as little known as infidels, these remarks made by the people: