On This Day in Napoleonic History – 25 April 1786

25Napoleon authors his first surviving essay

Napoleon’s essay on the right of the Corsicans to resist the French wasn’t written for publication and with good reason. It was a curiously treasonous document for a young French officer to write but one characteristic of Napoleon’s early years. The cause of Corsican independence was very dear to his heart and he had idolised Paoli since youth.

Napoleon was a prodigious writer, penning around 60 essays, novellas, philosophical pieces, pamphlets and open letters before the age of 26. These works demonstrate his intellectual and political development, painting a curious picture of his transformation from a committed Corsican nationalist in 1780s to an avowed anti-Paolist French officer who by 1793 wanted the Corsican revolt to be crushed by Jacobin France. In later years, Napoleon would call Paoli a great character who had neither betrayed England, nor France, while remaining a loyal Corsican and a great friend of the family. He also claimed that Paoli once said about him: β€˜That young man will be one of Plutarch’s ancients.’ There is no evidence to support this.

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