Time Capsule #10

La Decima.

We have reached Time Capsule #10, which I guess should be celebrated given the tendency of humans to celebrate reaching even-numbered milestones. Hopefully, in 2 years’ time, we will be celebrating #100.

This episode includes the story of Napoleon’s first major military command, Machiavelli’s The Prince, Russian wisdom, and 100 tips to live a better life.


🔗 to the Past

Coming of Age: The Siege of Toulon (1793)

I have no words to describe Bonaparte’s merit: much technical skill, an equal degree of intelligence, and too much gallantry…

~ General Jacques Francois Dugommier

Following the French revolution and subsequent atrocities in the name of the Republic, counter-revolutionary royalist forces rose up in cities across France. One of these cities, the port city of Toulon, was handed over to British and Spanish forces along with the naval assets residing in the port (amounting to roughly 1/2 of the French navy). Given the importance of the city and navy, as well as the message a successful uprising would send to other counter-revolutionaries, the Republicans were left no choice but to take it back.

The siege began on 8 September 1793, and in the besieging force was the young artillery commander Napoleon Bonaparte. With his Republican connections, he was able to acquire an important role within the Artillery command, and he used his new authority brilliantly. He resourcefully bolstered his ranks and supplies from the locals, compelling retirees to return to service and even training some of the infantry himself to man the artillery pieces. Unsatisfied with his superiors, he lodged a formal complaint to the Committee of Public Safety, calling them “a crowd of fools”. This obviously did not sit well with his colleagues, however, he got his chance when his superiors were replaced by General Jacques Dugommier, who immediately saw the potential and ability of the young artillery officer. Via a plan conceived by Napoleon, who was bayonetted in the thigh during the fighting, the French Republicans quickly seized the surrounding forts overlooking the port, cutting off supply routes by sea. The enemy forces, realizing their situation, decided to scuttle the French fleet and evacuate the town. While many French royalists left town, hundreds were unable to leave and were massacred in the aftermath.

For his efforts, Napoleon would be promoted to Brigadier General. This would be the start of a scarlet career for the young Corsican.

📸 Photo of the Week

The progress of humanity from above.

📖 Book of the Week — The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

Men judge generally more by the eye than by the end, for everyone can see and few can feel. Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.

~ Niccolò Machiavelli

Written for Lorenzo de’ Medici as a guidebook for understanding and consolidating power, The Prince is both a preeminent work of political philosophy and a study of human nature. He has earned detractors for his advice and stance on state-building, where fear is more powerful than love, and ruthlessness, when necessary, should be dealt in the most severe fashion such that “vengeance need not be feared”. For Machiavelli, the Christian virtues of mercy, charity, forgiveness, and meekness are not necessarily the best virtues for a ruler seeking to strengthen his rule. For him, pride, discipline, and the pursuit of power — the Roman virtues — are more useful. This raises a serious moral dilemma: when making difficult decisions in life and work, should you take the path of highest morality or the path of maximal success? Sometimes the two paths are convergent; the dilemma arises when they are not.

💭 Quote of the Week

The second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.

~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

🔭 Sunday Best

Newsletter on Modern Work, Learning, Culture & more: Boundless by Paul Millerd

100 Tips for a Better Life

Best Practices for the Conservation and Preservation of Herbaria