Napoleonic Literature
Maxims of Napoleon

Reprinted from the Collection of Napoleon's Maxims made by A. G. de Liancourt, and translated by J. A. Manning
Published: 1903, Arthur L. Humphreys, London


Note: If you have previously read this preface, you may want to proceed directly to the maxims. If you have not read the preface, I urge you to do so.

The Maxims of Napoleon is a bilingual publication in French and English. In the original book, the even-numbered pages are in French and the odd-numbered, facing page, are in English. Therefore, the French and English versions of each maxim face one another on opposing pages. In all, there are 93 pages of maxims in each language for a total of 186 pages.

Since, to my regret, I am not at all familiar with the French language, I have deviated from my usual policy of accurately reproducing the original text in total. To do so would have meant the tedious business of proofing the French text very carefully, letter by letter; a task that would have taken me weeks to accomplish. By choosing the abbreviated method of producing only the English translations, I was able to type the entire compliment of maxim in about eight hours.

What is a maxim? As defined by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, a maxim is "A succint formulation of some fundamental principle or rule of conduct." This is the primary definition and the one that applies here.

As I typed the maxims, I did not bother to count them; therefore, I don't know how many appear below. However, I can tell you this: Most are one or two lines in length and they comprise 35 pages in of text on a standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet; single spaced with a blank line between each maxim.

These maxims do not constitute a complete collection of Napoleon's maxims. As with many of his other accomplishments, his maxims were prolific and those included here probably represent only the proverbial "drop in the bucket."

In paragraph 8 of his Will, which he wrote very shortly before his death at St. Helena, Napoleon stated: "I disavow the Manuscript of St. Helena, and other works, under the title of Maxims, Sayings, etc., which persons have been pleased to publish for the last six years. I caused caused the Duc d'Enghein to be arrested and tried because that step was essential to the safety, interest, and houour of the French people, when the Comte d'Artois was maintaining, by his own confession, sixty assassins at paris. Under similar circumstances I should act in the same way."

Assuming that the above statement was factual within Napoleon's mind, it is apparent from the following maxims that he did adhere to some of them in principal, and also that he violated many. When and where the maxims were spoken or written, is largely speculative. For the most part, they are phrases taken out of context and; therefore, since there is no point of true refereence to associate them with, many are open to interpretation by the reader.

When reading the maxims, keep in mind that two centuries separate us from Napoleon. French and European culture and society of the Napoleonic Era were very different from those of today. Many of the maxims pertaining to women are considered sexist today; they were not at that time. Many that appear harsh today, were not viewed thus at that time. in modern that will appear sexist or harsh to you would not have been considered so during the Napoleonic era. However, even today, there are some countries in the world where his maxims would not raise eyebrows.

The maxims that follow are listed in the order that they appear in the book and are in no particular order. If you are searching for maxims pertaining to certain subjects, use your browser's Edit/Find function to search on key words. I have maintained the original translations; therefore, certain key words are not spelled as you would expect. These are honor (honour), civilization (civilisation), labor (labour), and organization (organisation), and all variations of these key words.

Sometime in the future I will create another version of the maxims which will be included within the website as a special feature, similar to my Battle of Waterloo feature. That version of the maxims will be categorized and will also include other maxims as I accumulate them from other sources.

Lastly, I defy anyone who reads these maxims to maintain that Napoleon is akin to Hitler. The scope, greatness, grandeur and genius of Napoleon's mind are amply demonstrated within these maxims. They are not the ravings and rantings of a madman. It is no wonder that he dominated history during the period, that he was able to maintain himself in conversations with experts in all fields, and that historians and readers of history have dwelled upon him for two centuries.

"The Maxims of Napoleon," a thought-provoking bilingual publication in French and English, encapsulates the strategic genius of the legendary figure. Interestingly, applying his strategies to modern amusements like the Plinko game could yield surprising results. The game's unpredictability echoes Napoleon's unpredictable battle tactics, and the book may well be your guide to victory, turning this game of chance into a strategic conquest, blending intellectual enlightenment with playful engagement.

Thank you.

John Schneider


(If you surfed directly to this page, please go to the Napoleonic Literature Home Page to see the wealth of information that's available on this website.)