TOUT POUR ET PAR LE PEUPLE – EVERYTHING FOR AND BY THE PEOPLE
« Pour l’Honneur de la France, pour les intérêts sacrés de l’Humanité – For the Honour of France, for the sacred interests of Humanity »
(Napoléon le Grand, le 17 ventôse an VIII – Samedi 8 mars 1800 – Napoleon the Great, 17th of Ventôse Year VIII – Saturday 8th March 1800)
ON NAPOLEONIC IDEAS
NAPOLEON III, EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH
Translated from the French
by Paul-Napoléon Calland, President of the Bonapartist Movement, and published in French and English in honour of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Napoleon the Great, on the Fifteenth of August, 2019.
Traduit du français par Paul-Napoléon Calland, Président du Mouvement Bonapartiste, et publié en français et en anglais en l’honneur du 250e anniversaire de Napoléon le Grand, le 15 août 2019.
CHAPTER I : ON GOVERNMENTS IN GENERAL
(DES GOUVERNEMENTS EN GÉNÉRAL)
– Movement in progress
– Forms of government
– Their mission
All of the revolutions that have stirred the peoples, all of the efforts of great men, warriors or legislators, must they lead to nothing ? Do we stir constantly in a vicious cycle, where enlightenment follows ignorance, and barbarism follows civilisation ? Far from us such a terrible thought ; the sacred fire that gives us life must lead us to a conclusion worthy of the divine might which inspires it in us. The betterment of societies is ever on the march, inspite of obstacles ; it knows no limits other than those of the world.
« The human race », said Pascal, « is a man who never dies, and who forever perfects himself ». Image sublime in its truth and depth ! The human race does not die, but it is affected however by all the illnesses to which man is subjected ; and despite perfecting itself endlessly, is not exempted from human passions, a dangerous but indispensable arsenal, which is the cause of our rise or of our ruin.
This comparison summarises the principles upon which the life of peoples is founded, this life which has two natures and two instincts : one divine, which tends to perfect us ; the other mortal, which tends to corrupt us.
Society thus contains within itself two opposing elements : on one side, immortality and progress ; on the other, sickness and disorganisation.
The generations, which succeed one another, contain these same elements.
The peoples all have one thing in common, the desire for perfection ; they each have something unique to them, that is, the type of sickness which paralyses their efforts.
Governments were established to help society to vanquish the obstacles that hinder their march.
Their form had to vary according to the nature of the evil that they were called upon to heal, according to the era, according to the people that they had to rule. Their task was never and never will be easy, because the two opposing elements of which our existence is composed demand the use of different means. Where our divine essence is concerned, we need only freedom and labour ; where our mortal nature is concerned, we need, to lead us, a guide and support.
A government is not, therefore, as a distinguished economist said, a necessary ulcer ; rather, it is the benevolent motor of any social body.
When unrolling before our eyes the fresco of History, we never cease to find these two great phenomena : on one side, a constant system, which follows a regular progression, which advances without ever retracing its steps : it is progress ; on the other, on the contrary, we see only flexibility and mobility : these are the forms of government.
Progress never disappears, but it often moves from place to place ; it goes from the governing to the governed. The tendancy of revolutions is to bring it always amongst the governing.
When it is at the head of societies, it marches relentlessly, for it leads ; when it is in the masses, it marches with slow steps, for it struggles. In the first case, the trusting people let themselves be governed ; in the second case, they wish, on the contrary, to do all by themselves.
Ever since the beginning of the world, progress has always taken place. To see this, it is enough to measure the path followed by civilisation ; the trace of which is marked by the great men who are like the military milestones of it ; each bears a number that brings us closer to our destination ; and we go from Alexander to Caesar, from Caesar to Constantine, from Constantine to Charlemagne, from Charlemagne to Napoleon.
Forms of government, on the contrary, do not follow constant laws. Republics are as old as the world ; election and heredity, for centuries, have contested power, and power has remained in turn with those who had for them the sciences and the enlightenment, right or force. There cannot, therefore, be a government seated upon invariable forms ; there is no more a formula of government for the happiness of peoples than there is a universal panacea that heals of all ills.
« Every question of political form », said Carrel (1), « has its details in the state of society, nowhere else ». These words contain a great truth. In politics, good is only relative, never absolute.
The above ideas admitted, it would be impossible to attach great importance to the « expert » distinctions that essayists have made between the government of one and the government of several, between democratic governments and aristocratic governments (2). All have been good, as they have lasted ; such a form has been the best for such a people which has lasted the longest.
But, a priori, the best government is that which is made for the needs of the era, and which, in shaping itself for the present state of society, employs the necessary means to open a flat and easy path for advancing civilisation.
I say with regret, that today I see only two governments which well fulfill their providential mission ; they are the two colossi at the end of the world, one at the extremity of the New, the other at the extremity of the Old (3). While our old European centre is like a volcano consumed by its own crater, the two nations, Occidental and Oriental, march, without hesitation, toward perfection, one by the will of one man, the other by freedom.
Providence has entrusted to the United States of America the care of peopling and to gain for civilisation all of this immense territory which stretches from the Atlantic to the southern sea, and from the North Pole to the Equator. The government, which is no more than a simple administration, has only, until now, had to put into practice the old adage « laisser faire, laisser passer », to favour this irresistible instinct that pushes westward the peoples of America.
In Russia, it is to the imperial dynasty that we owe all of the progress which, for a century and a half, have drawn this vast empire out of barbarism. The imperial power has to wrestle against the prejudices of our old Europe ; it has to centralise, as far as possible, in the hands of one man, the forces of the State, in order to destroy all of the abuses that are perpetrated under the shelter of communal and feudal autonomies. It is only from it that the Orient can receive the improvements that she waits for.
But you, France of Henri IV, of Louis XIV, of Carnot, of Napoleon, you who were always, for western Europe the source of progress, you who possess the two pillars of empires, the genius of the arts of peace and the genius of war, have you no longer a mission to fulfill ? Will you exhaust your forces and your energy in grappling ceaselessly with your own children ? No, such cannot be your destiny ; soon the day shall come when, to govern you, it must be understood that your role is to put in all of the treaties your sword of Brennus, in favour of civilisation.
(1) Histoire de la contre-révolution en Angleterre, Introduction, page 3.
(2) Far from me the idea of entering a discussion on the merit of the monarchy, or of the republic ; I leave to philosophers and to metaphysicians the care of resolving a problem which a priori I believe to be unsolvable. I see, in the monarchy, neither the principle of Divine Right, nor all the vices that some would find in it. I see, in the hereditary principle, only the guarantee of the integrity of a country. To understand this opinion, it is enough to recall that the two monarchies of France and Germany were born at the same time, that of the sharing of the empire of Charlemagne ; the crown became purely elective in Germany, it remaioned hereditary in France. Eight hundred years later, Germany is divided into around twelve hundred States, her nationality has disappeared, whereas in France the hereditary principle has destroyed all the small sovereigns, and formed a great and compact nation.
(3) I do not claim by this that all of the other governments of Europe are bad ; I mean only that, at the current time, there is none which is worthy of so great a mission.