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October 24 1812: Napoleon, Fortune and Providence


On October 24, 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams writes about the latest war news and contemplates the career of  Napoleon.  He writes:
...But he had then, and has now, his greatest of all resources, a battle. His fortunes and existence are staked upon that, and he has so long abused the favors of Fortune that she will certainly finish by jilting him; or rather Providence (such is my belief), after using him for the purposes he is destined to answer, will exhibit him, like another invader of Russia, "to point a moral or adorn a tale."
The last line that Adams quotes is from Samuel Johnson's The Vanity of Human Wishes. The line refers to Charles XII of Sweden, who had been defeated by Russia in the eighteenth century. The lines from Johnson's poem read: 

His Fall was destin'd to a barren Strand,
A petty Fortress, and a dubious Hand;
He left the Name, at which the World grew pale,
To point a Moral, or adorn a Tale.

The full diary entry is reproduced below.

24th. I called this morning upon Count Lowenhielm, at the Hotel de l'Europe, to ask him for a passport for young Mr. Harris to go through Sweden, which he promised he would send me. I found the Marquis de Paulucci with him, an officer who has been of some note the last spring and summer. The Count told me the news, which he said was not a little important. Wittgenstein had taken Polotzk by storm—two thousand Frenchmen killed—and Wintzingerode was at Moscow, and his Cossacks fought with the French in the streets of Moscow. Wittgenstein would now cross the Dwina and form his junction with the armies of Tormassoff and Tchitchagoff, and then, je prevois des douleurs (to Bonaparte). The Count is as sanguine as he was last spring; he thinks the destruction of the Emperor Napoleon and his army inevitable. Making every allowance for the exaggerations of prejudice and passion, it is obvious they are in great and imminent danger, and their inaction so long after the occupation of Moscow is very unlike the former practice of Napoleon. Paulucci said that he had committed the same imprudence in 1797, and had extricated himself from it by the peace which he was compelled to ask, and to which Austria then assented. But for that, he was then perdu sans ressource. I have often heard this before. But he had then, and has now, his greatest of all resources, a battle. His fortunes and existence are staked upon that, and he has so long abused the favors of Fortune that she will certainly finish by jilting him; or rather Providence (such is my belief), after using him for the purposes he is destined to answer, will exhibit him, like another invader of Russia, "to point a moral or adorn a tale."

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