[PW] Quote Query: If the earth were a single state, Constantinople would be its capital.

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Sat Aug 30 07:40:47 PDT 2014

Your help is requested to avoid an international diplomatic incident
(That is a joke). A speechwriter contacted me about a saying
attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte I. Here are two versions in English:

If the earth were a single state, Constantinople would be its capital.
If the earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.

Of course, the name of the city was officially changed from
Constantinople to Istanbul long after the death of Napoleon. A
preliminary examination only finds recent evidence for this quotation.
Here is an unverified match in Google Books in 2009:

Year: 2009
Title: The Demon In Diplomacy: Alliances Based On Affinity
Author: Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Ph. D.
Page: Unnumbered
Database: Google Books Preview

[Begin excerpt]
Napoleon Bonaparte once said that if the world were a single state,
its capital would be Constantinople.
[End excerpt]

The most interesting citation I've located presented a thematic match
in a compilation of sayings ascribed to Napoleon. The 1916 book was in
English, and Napoleon died in 1823; hence, the citation was very late.
The translators preface stated that the original title in French was
"Virilities", but I have been unable to locate a copy of "Virilities"
by Jules Bertaut.

[ref] 1916, Napoleon In His Own Words (Napoleon Bonaparte), Original
work in French by Jules Bertaut, Translated from French by Herbert
Edward Law and Charles Lincoln Rhodes, Quote Page 145, Published by A.
C. McClurg & Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link


[Begin excerpt]
Whoever possesses Constantinople ought to rule the world.
[End excerpt]

The quotation above suggested that Constantinople was in some way the
central city of the world in Napoleon's eyes.

HathiTrust has a relevant 1919 work in French by Jules Bertaut who
authored the original French collection above, but there was no match
for "Constantinople" within the work according to the search engine.

Year: 1919
Title: Manuel du Chef : Maximes Napoleoniennes Choisies par Jules Bertaut
Main Author: Napoleon I, Emperor of the French
Compiler: Jules Bertaut
Language: French
Publisher: Payot et Cie, Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris, France


Earlier citations for either of the expressions above in English or
French would be quite welcome. Earlier evidence of similar statements
by Napoleon would be interesting also.

Garson O'Toole

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