“Old Bill” Suggests—
Any venture, from a business to a war, derives its real power from the common man. When he really works or really fights, success is amazing. Usually this implies self-interest.
Philip Guedalla, commenting on the failure of formal European armies against Napoleon’s troops in 1793-4, observed that generals playing war like chess were disconcerted when pieces refused to be taken. Revolutionary units threatened with complete (if theoretical) disaster, pressed obstinately forward, unconscious of strategic trandition that they ought to be overcome.
That was the common man more than generalship. Another observation, by Emil Ludwig, shows the change fifteen years later. At first, as the thrifty French peasant well understood, Bonaparte set out to carry the idea of revolution to nations groaning under the rule of emperors and kings. That he also gained money and new provinces showed his genius.
Later, when the goal was obscure or obviously personal, when Napoleon began to use mass and heavy casualties instead of skill, when Frenchmen began to buy exemption from military service, the morale of the average soldier became no higher than that of the professional troops of the nations he had wantonly disturbed.
The business man who gives his employees the feeling of partnership, under any system, usually succeeds. One clever enough to achieve actual partnership without losing discipline or skill of direction might scale heights in peaceful production of wealth that would make Napoleon look like a piker.
ROYAL F. MUNGER