“The purest honor, the loftiest disinterestedness, the sincerest devotion, are not everything, there is needed a capacity for affairs, a knowledge of men, which experience alone procures and which even the strongest will cannot give. M. de Polignac had all the qualities of the most devoted subject, but his talent did not rise to the height of his position. If it had been necessary only to suffer and to march to death, no one, surely, could have equalled him; but more was requisite, and he remained beneath the level of the circumstances he thought he was overcoming; the fall of the throne was the consequence. How he developed, though, and grew great when in duress, and who should flatter himself that he could bear up with a firmness more unshaken against the severest trials? If M. de Polignac is not a type of the statesman, he will at least remain the complete model of the virtues of the Christian and the private citizen.”
The Prince de Polignac was mistaken, but he acted in good faith. No one can dispute his faults, but none can suspect the purity of his intentions. Unfortunately his royalism had in it something of mysticism and ecstasy that made of this gallant man a sort of illumine. He sincerely believed that he had received from God the mission to save the throne and the altar, and foreseeing neither difficulties nor obstacles, regarding all uncertainty and all fear as unworthy of a gentleman and a Christian, he had in himself and in his ideas, that blind, imperturbable confidence that is the characteristic of fanatics. In a period less troubled, this great noble would perhaps have been a remarkable minister of foreign affairs, but in the stormy time when he took the helm in hand, he had neither sufficient prudence nor sufficient experience to resist the tempest and save the ship from the wreck in which the dynasty was to go down.
GENERAL DE BOURMONT
The new Secretary of War awoke no less lively anger than the Prince de Polignac. He was a general of great merit, bold to temerity, brave to heroism, and a tactician of the first order. But his career had felt the vicissitudes of politics, and like so many of his contemporaries,—more, perhaps, than any of them,—he had played the most contradictory parts. Equally intrepid in the army of Conde, in the Vendean army, and in the Grand Army of Napoleon, he had won as much distinction under the white flag as under the tricolor. The Emperor, who was an expert in military talent, having recognized in him a superior military man, had rewarded his services brilliantly. But it is difficult to escape from the memories of one’s childhood and first youth.