Thursday, November 29, 2007

Comments Responses, Part I

There were a lot of comments about how I left out Napoleon in my discussion of height in politics. Here are my responses to those questions:

Cognate: You left out Napoleon.
Me: I left out a lot of people in that post, because there are enough to fill a book. Which I did. The book includes Napoleon. I can't give you the whole cow if you're just going to drink all of the milk out of it first and leave it shriveled up hanging half out of a trough, as the expression goes.

Shizzlewhizzle: Napoleon was 5-6 very good for his days.
Me: Yes, he was 5' 6 1/2" which was above average height for a Frenchman in his time. Napoleon has a reputation as a short fellow for a number of reasons, but one of them was that he was 5'2" in French Inches, which were longer than British Inches, and since the British hated him, they didn't correct the mistake. Luckily, the metric system was around and before Napoleon's autopsy, his physician, Francesco Antommarchi, measured the emperor’s body as 1.686 meters, which is around 5’6.3 in today’s inches.

StephenJK: Ask Napoleon Bonaparte if height matters in politics.
Me: I...uh...I wish I could do that StephenJK.

Issak: Napoleon wasn't a politician.
Me: Yes, he is a cake.

Kendo Nagasaki: Yes, he is a cake.
Me: Oh! I didn't notice that. I guess we agree, Kendo Nagasaki.

StephenJK: He was a general who made political decisions. I consider him a politician by proxy.
Me: Fair enough. But should we consider him a politician? To help us with this question, I am providing a short biography that was cut from The Short Book. Enjoy!

A Short History of Not-Short Napoleon Bonaparte

“A Constitution should be short and obscure.”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon was born in Corsica, on August 15th, 1769. As a child he was picked on for always posing for pictures with his arm in his coat. According to Napoleon, his father was a lover of pleasure (this was not a compliment coming from Napoleon, who preferred displeasure) and his mother was very harsh with him: "She sometimes made me go to bed without supper, as if there were nothing to eat in the house. One had to learn to suffer and not let others see it." Straight out of Dickens. C’mon Napoleon, grow up.

And grow up he did. After longing for death during his teens (like any normal teenager) he got all caught up in the French revolution, joining the military and rapidly advancing. By killing a lot of people Napoleon became general. If he had only saved a lot of people instead, he could have been a general practitioner. That is a joke that widows used to say about Napoleon, the man who murdered their husbands.

In 1796, Napoleon married Marie-Josephe-Rose Tascher, whom he called Josephine. A widow with two children, Josephine was somewhat perplexed and put-off by this strange little man, but he was going places and she needed support. To make a long story short: their marriage was not that happy, then sad, then a little bit happy, then pretty bad, and then she couldn’t have a baby and they got divorced. In 1810 he married the 19-year-old princess of Austria, Marie Louise. Upon her arrival from Austria, before even the ceremony could take place, Napoleon took her to bed. He claimed that her first words to him were, “Do it again.” It is a truly beautiful story.

Napoleon had many successes as a general and he advertised them well, creating newspapers to tell of his victories and crushing newspapers that wouldn’t. He even wrote some of the articles, coining such real one-liners as “Bonaparte flies like lightning and strikes like a thunderbolt” and not coining other fake ones such as “Bonaparte is frightening to behold in his sleek new moccasins.”

He had spies everywhere, even underwater—he thought fish were underwater spies and he would throw money into the river to pay them, yelling, “Collect your blood money, you fish.”

Napoleon drafted many important peace agreements, developed the first codified system of law in France —known as the Civil Code, or Napoleonic Code, which still exists to this day—and crowned himself Emperor of France on December 2nd, 1804. As emperor, Napoleon formed the first “Grand Armée,” which he used to subdue much of Europe. Ironically, the only part of Europe that Napoleon could not suppress was his own troubled stomach. Oh, and Russia.

Domestically, Napoleon was met with other troubles: political troubles. He was acting like a tyrant. He had a man kidnapped and executed without a trial or a last meal. When the French noblemen found out, there was mutiny afoot. Napoleon was exiled to the isle of Elba (an insult in itself, as he was known for his tiny elbows). After amassing an army and plotting a return, Napoleon was ultimately defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, so named because that was the song they played dramatically over the loudspeakers while they fought.

Napoleon died during his second exile to St. Helena in 1821. He died as he lived: forty-six-years-old.


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