Joseph Bonaparte was the oldest brother of Napoleon and one of his closest advisors. He shared all of the best of Napoleon's republican ideals, but lacked his brother's zeal and will to power. He was placed first on the throne of Naples and later on the throne of Spain; in these positions he governed justly but without the commanding resolve necessary to suppress rebellions and dissent from every quarter. Abbott's treatment of the Bonapartes is highly sympathetic and includes much correspondence between the brothers which gives enormous insight into the minds of both men.
The writer trusts that he may be pardoned for relating the following characteristic anecdote of President Lincoln, as it so fully illustrates the object in view in writing these histories. In a conversation which the writer had with the President just before his death, Mr. Lincoln said:
"I want to thank you and your brother for Abbotts' series of Histories. I have not education enough to appreciate the profound works of voluminous historians, and if I had, I have no time to read them. But your series of Histories gives me, in brief compass, just that knowledge of past men and events which I need. I have read them with the greatest interest. To them I am indebted for about all the historical knowledge I have."
It is for just this purpose that these Histories are written. Busy men, in this busy life, have now no time to wade through ponderous folios. And yet every one wishes to know the general character and achievements of the illustrious personages of past ages.
A few years ago there was published in Paris a life of King Joseph, in ten royal octavo volumes of nearly five hundred pages each. It was entitled "Memoires et Correspondance, Politique et Militaire, du Roi Joseph, Publiés, Annotés et Mis en Ordre par A. du Casse, Aide de-camp de S. A. I. Le Prince Jerome Napoleon." These volumes contained nearly all the correspondence which passed between Joseph and his brother Napoleon from their childhood until after the battle of Waterloo. Every historical statement is substantiated by unequivocal documentary evidence.
From this voluminous work, aided by other historical accounts of particular events, the author of this sketch has gathered all that would be of particular interest to the general reader at the present time. As all the facts contained in this narrative are substantiated by ample documentary proof, the writer can not doubt that this volume presents an accurate account of the momentous scenes which it describes, and that it gives the reader a correct idea of the social and political relations existing between those extraordinary men, Joseph and Napoleon Bonaparte. It is not necessary that the historian should pronounce judgment upon every transaction. But he is bound to state every event exactly as it occurred.
No one can read this account of the struggle in Europe in favor of popular rights against the old dynasties of feudal oppression, without, more highly appreciating the admirable institutions of our own glorious Republic. Neither can any intelligent and candid man carefully peruse this narrative, and not admit that Joseph Bonaparte was earnestly seeking the welfare of the people; that, surrounded by dynasties strong in standing armies, in pride of nobility, and which were venerable through a life of centuries, he was endeavoring to promote, under monarchical forms, which the posture of affairs seemed to render necessary, the abolition of aristocratic usurpation, and the establishment of equal rights for all men. Believing this, the writer sympathizes with him in all his struggles, and reveres his memory. The universal brotherhood of man, the fundamental principles of Christianity, should also be the fundamental principles in the State. Having spared no pains to be accurate, the writer will be grateful to any critic who will point out any incorrectness of statement or false coloring of facts, that he may make the correction in subsequent editions.
This volume will soon be followed by another, The History of Queen Hortense, the daughter of Josephine, the wife of King Louis, the mother of Napoleon III.
JOHN S.C. ABBOTT
Fair haven, Conn., May, 1869.