Sometimes people ask me why I'm so interested in Napoleon. If you
have a lot of Napoleon related material around your home you probably
have been asked the same. I am aware that most people only know
Napoleon as a general and dictator. I certainly appreciate his
accomplishments in this area and enjoy reading about it. The main
reason I am interested in Napoleon is that he is the most
extraordinary person I have ever encountered. Though I do see some
evidence that over time he may have been negatively affected by the
power of his position I believe that he was initially motivated by
positive ideals that were beneficial to society.
The letter that follows is written to a learned man of Milan expressing Napoleon's desire to support the Sciences.
MILAN, 24TH MAY 1796. Science which dignifies the mind of men, and Art, which beautifies life and transmits its great achievements to posterity, ought to be specially honored by every free government. Every man of genius, every office-holder in the republic of letters, in whatever country he may have been born, is a French citizen.
Learned men in Milan used not to enjoy the consideration they deserved. Hidden in their laboratories, they thought themselves happy if kings and priests did them no harm. It is not so to-day. In Italy thought has become free. There is no more inquisition, no more intolerance, no more tyranny. I invite all learned men to meet together, and to tell me what methods should be adopted, or what needs supplied, in order to give the sciences and the fine arts a new life and a new existence. Any of them who care to visit France will meet with a distinguished reception by the Government. The French people set a higher value upon the acquisition of a learned mathematician, a famous painter, or the distinguished exponent of any branch of study, than upon that of the richest and most populous city in the world.
Pray express these sentiments for me to the distinguished men of learning resident at Milan.