CORRECTING A CARDINAL - Sept. 26, 1796

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This letter is typical of Napoleon's reaction toward anyone who opposed his designs. It is written to a Cardinal that had opposed the anti-papal revolt which enabled Napoleon to include Ferrara in the Cispadane Republic he was trying to establish in Italy.
Headquarters, Milan, September 26, 1796.

To Cardinal Mattei

Your character, which is a cause of congratulation to all who know you, induces me to allow your return to Ferrara, and to throw a veil of oblivion over your behavior during the last month.

I am glad to think that you did no more than forget a principle of whose truth your native intelligence and your knowledge of the Gospel must have convinced you - that any priest who interferes in politics ceases to deserve the regard due to his character.

Go back to your diocese: put into practice the virtues that everyone agrees you possess: but never again meddle in State affairs. And be assured that the clergy, and all who are in the service of the Church, will be under the special protection of the French Republic.
The letter is brief but succinct. With his usual charm Napoleon cajoles the Cardinal in an attempt to win him over. His reprimand reads like a benevolent father speaking to his son. Yet, his demand that the good Cardinal "never again meddle in State affairs" hints at the serious consequences of future misconduct. The final sentence very subtly emphasizes his point that the Cardinal's welfare is contingent on his confining his activities to 'the service of the Church'.