DES IDÉES NAPOLÉONIENNES CH.III 1ère partie – ON NAPOLEONIC IDEAS CHAPTER THREE Part One



MOUVEMENT BONAPARTISTE – BONAPARTIST MOVEMENT

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)
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ON NAPOLEONIC IDEAS
BY
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 III : INTERNAL MATTERS / QUESTION INTÉRIEURE

General trend. – Principles of fusion, of equality, of order, of justice. – Administrative organisation. – The Judicial Order. – Finances. – Welfare establishments, municipalities, agriculture, industry, commerce. – Public instruction. – Of the Army. – Political organisation. Fundamental principles. – Accusations of despotism. – Of military government. – Answers to these accusations.

THE various governments which had succeeded one another since 1789 had, despite their excesses, obtained great results. The independence of France had been upheld, feudalism had been destroyed, salutary principles had been spread. However, nothing was yet solidly established; too many contrary elements were present.

At the time when Napoleon came to power, the genius of the legislator consisted in assessing at a glance the relationship between the past and the present, the present and the future.

The following questions had to be resolved –

What are the ideas which belong henceforth to the past?
Which ideas should triumph after them?
Finally, which ideas may be applied immediately, and will hasten the reign of those which should prevail?

The Emperor made this distinction in one glance, and, while foreseeing the future possibilities, he set himself the boundaries of accomplishing the possibilities of the time.

The great difficulty of revolutions is to avoid confusion in the ideas of the people. The duty of any government is to combat false ideas and to direct true ideas, by putting itself hardily at their head; for if, instead of leading, a government allows itself to be dragged along, it goes to its doom, and it compromises society instead of protecting it.

It is because the Emperor was the representative of the true ideas of his century that he so easily acquired the most immense ascendency. As for harmful ideas, he never attacked them frontally, but struck from the rear, parlayed, treated with them, and finally obtained their submission by moral influence; for he knew that violence is worthless against ideas.

Having always his eyes upon his goal, he employed, according to circumstances, the promptest means for attaining it.

What is his goal? Liberty.

Yes, liberty! … And the more we shall study the story of Napoleon, the more we will be convinced of this truth. For liberty is like a river: for her to bring abundance and not devastation, a wide and deep bed must be dug for her. If, in her regular and majestic flow, she remains within her natural boundaries, the lands that she crosses bless her passage; but if she comes like a torrent that overflows, she will be seen as the most terrible of afflictions; she awakens all hatreds, and it is then that we see men, in their apprehension, refuse liberty because she destroys, as if we should banish fire because it burns, and water because it floods.

Liberty, some will say, was not ensured by the imperial laws! Her name was not, it is true, at the head of all the laws, nor displayed at every crossroads, but each law of the Empire prepared her peaceful and certain reign.

When, in a country, there are parties hostile to one another, and violent hatreds, these parties must disappear, these hatreds cease, before liberty be possible.
When, in a country democratised, as France was, the principle of equality is not generally applied, it must be introduced into all the laws, before liberty be possible.
When there is no longer, nor public spirit, nor religion, nor political faith, at least one of these three things must be recreated, before liberty be possible.
When old customs have been destroyed by a social revolution, new ones must be recreated, in accordance with the new principles, before liberty be possible.
When the government, whatever its form, has neither strength nor prestige; so that order exists neither in the administration nor in the State, prestige must be recreated, order must be re-established, before liberty be possible.
When, in a nation, there is no longer an aristocracy and nothing organised but the army, a civil order must be reconstituted, based upon a precise and regular organisation, before liberty be possible.
Finally, when a country is at war with her neighbours and holds still in her bosom partisans of foreign foes, the enemies must be vanquished and firm allies made, before liberty be possible.

We must pity those peoples who wish to reap before ploughing the field, sowing the earth, and giving the plant time to germinate, hatch out and ripen. A fatal error it is, to believe that a declaration of principles suffices to constitute a new order of things!

After a revolution, the priority is not to make a constitution, but to adopt a system which, based upon the popular principles, possesses all the strength necessary to found and establish, and which, while surmounting the difficulties of the time, has in it that flexibility that enables us bend with circumstances. Moreover, after a struggle, can a constitution be its own guarantee against reactionary passions? And what danger is there not in translating into general principles transitory demands (1)! “A constitution”, said Napoleon, “is the work of time; we cannot leave too large a way for improvements”.

We are going to cover, from the preceding points of view, the actions of the Emperor. To judge, is to compare. We shall thus compare his reign with the era that preceded it, and with the era that followed it. We will judge his projects according to what he did when victorious, and according to what he left despite his defeat.

When Napoleon returned from Egypt, all France welcomed him with joy; people saw in him the saviour of the revolution, which was about to perish. Exhausted by so many successive efforts, pulled between so many different parties, France had fallen asleep to the sound of her victories, and seemed ready to lose the fruits of everything she had acquired. The government was without moral strength, without principles, without virtues. The suppliers and profiteers were at the head of society, and held the highest rank in the midst of corruption. The generals of armies, such as Championnet in Naples and Brune in Lombardy (2), feeling themselves the stronger, began to no longer obey the government, and imprisoned its representatives. Credit was annihilated, the treasury was empty, public stock had fallen to eleven francs; waste was widespread in the administration; the most odious brigandage infested France, and the West was still in insurrection. Lastly, the Old Régime advanced in a terrifying manner, ever since the axe of the lictor had ceased to be visible alongside the bonnet of liberty.

Everyone spoke endlessly of liberty and equality, but each party only wanted them for itself. We want equality, said some, but we do not want to accord the rights of citizens to the families of nobles and emigrants; we want to leave one hundred and forty-five thousand French people in exile (3). We want equality, said others, but we do not want to give offices to conventionalists. Finally, we want liberty; but we want to maintain the law which condemns to death those whose writings tend to recall the former régime; we are for maintaining the law of hostages, which destroys the security of two hundred thousand families (4); we are for maintaining the impediments which render null liberty of worship, etc., etc.

Contradictions such as these, between professed principles and their practical application, tended to introduce confusion into ideas and into things. It had to be so, so long as there was not a national power, which, by its stability and its conscious strength, was exempt from passion, and able to give protection to all parties, without losing anything of its popular character.

Men have, in all times, had the same passions. The causes which produce great changes are different, but the effects are often the same. It is almost always seen that, in times of trouble, the oppressed cry out for liberty for themselves, and having obtained it, that they refuse to grant it to those who were their oppressors. There existed in England, in the 17th century, a religious and republican sect, which, being persecuted by the intolerance of the clergy and the government, resolved to quit the country of their ancestors, and go beyond the seas to an uninhabited world, there to enjoy that sweet and holy liberty which the old world refused to grant. Victims of intolerance, and conscious of the ills which it inflicts, certainly these independent men will, in the new country which they go to found, be more just than their oppressors! But – inconstancy of the human heart! – the very first law passed by the Puritans founding a new society in the State of Massachusetts, is one declaring the penalty of death for those who should dissent from their religious doctrine!

Let us admire the Napoleonic spirit, which was never exclusive or intolerant. The Emperor, superior to the petty passions of parties, and generous as the people whom he was called to rule, professed always this maxim, that in politics evils should be remedied, never avenged.

The abuse of royal power, and the tyranny of the nobility, had caused that tremendous reaction, which is called the Revolution of 1789. This brought on other reactions of a contrary and most calamitous nature. With the accession of Napoleon, all the reactionary passions ceased. Strong in the sympathy of the people, he proceeded rapidly to abolish all unjust laws; healed all wounds, rewarded all merits, adopted every glory, and brought all of the French to concur in one sole object, the prosperity of France.

Scarcely was the First Consul invested with power, than he revoked the laws which excluded the relatives of emigrants and of former nobles from the exercise of political rights and of the functions of public offices. The law of forced loans was recalled and replaced by an extraordinary levy, additional to the regular taxes. Napoleon put an end to the requisitions, and abolished the law of hostages. He recalled the writers condemned to deportation by the law of the 19th of Fructidor, Year V, such as Carnot, Portalis and Siméon. He allowed the conventionalists Barrère and Vadier to return. He opened the doors of France to more than one hundred thousand emigrants, among whom were the members of the constituent assembly. He caused to be restored to their public offices certain conventionalists whom some factions wished to exclude. He pacified the Vendée. He organised the administration of the municipalities in the cities of Lyons, Marseilles and Bordeaux. He announced, to the Council of State, on one occasion, these words: “To rule by means of a party is to put oneself sooner or later in dependence upon it. I shall not fall into that trap; I am national. I make use of all who have the capacity and the will to march with me. This is the reason why I have composed my Council of State of Constituents who were called moderates, or feuillants, such as Defermon, Roederer, Regnier and Regnault; of royalists, such as Devaines and Dufresnes; finally, of Jacobins, such as Brune, Réal, and Berlier. I love honest men of all parties”.

Prompt to reward recent services, as to shed luster on great memories, Napoleon placed in the Hôtel des Invalides, alongside the statues of Hoche, Joubert, Marceau, Dugommier and Dampierre, the statue of Condé, the ashes of Turenne, and the heart of Vauban. He revived, in Orléans, the memory of Jeanne d’Arc, in Beauvais that of Jeanne Hachette. In 1800, he made the restoration of a great citizen, Lafayette, an indispensable condition of a treaty. Later, he took as aides-de-camp, officers (Drouot, Lobau, Bernard) who had been opposed to the Consulate for Life; and he treated with the same benevolence senators who had voted against the establishment of the Empire. Always faithful to the principles of conciliation, the Emperor, in the course of his reign, granted a pension to the sister of Robespierre, as he did to the mother of the Duke of Orléans (5). He consoled and assisted in her misfortunes the widow of Bailly, President of the Constituent Assembly, and supported in her old age the last descendant of Du Guesclin.

To reunite all the national forces against the enemy, to reorganise the country upon principles of equality, order and justice, this was the task of Napoleon. He found under his hand many elements full of antipathy, and, according to his own expression, instead of ripping them out, he united them by amalgamating them.

Divisions existed not only in political parties, by also in other bodies of the nation. The clergy was divided between the old and the new bishops, the high and low church, priests sworn partisans of the revolution, and refractory priests. These last were the favourite children of the Pope. Profiting from the influence which the protection of the head of their religion gave them, they perverted minds through writings printed abroad, which they scattered over the country. The Emperor, by his Concordat, removed the leader of this misguided flock, and brought back the clergy to ideas of concord and submission (6).

The republic of letters was divided between the Institute and the old Academy. He merged the members of the Academy into the Institute, and the scholars lived in peace, uniting their intelligence to illuminate the nation, and hasten the progress of science. There existed ancient names, to some of which were annexed memories of glory; and titles, whose influence was not entirely extinct. Napoleon reconciled the ancient and the new France, by mingling with the inherited titles, new titles acquired by meritorious services. The Jews formed a nation within the nation; some of their dogmas were contrary to the French civil laws. The Emperor caused to be convoked the Great Sanhedrin, which, in concert with the imperial commissioners, reformed those political regulations of the law of Moses, which were susceptible to modification; and the Jews became citizens. The barriers which separated them from the rest of the nation gradually disappeared.

Especially let us not overlook the fact that all which Napoleon undertook and accomplished, in order to effect a general fusion, was done without renouncing the principles of the Revolution. He recalled the emigrants without touching the principle of the sale of national property. He re-established the Catholic religion at the same time that he proclaimed liberty of conscience, and gave equal pecuniary assistance to the ministers of every form of worship. He caused himself to be consecrated by the sovereign Pontiff, without subscribing to any of the concessions trenching on the liberties of the Gallican church which the Pope demanded. He wedded the daughter of the Emperor of Austria, without surrendering any of the rights of France to the conquests that she had made. He re-established titles of nobility, but without annexing to them privileges or prerogatives. These titles were open to all classes, all services, and all professions. Under the Empire all idea of caste was destroyed; no one aspired to boast of his parchments. It was asked what he had done, not what was his birth.

The first quality of a people that aspires to a free government is respect for the law. Now a law possesses no force, except in the interest which each citizen has to respect or to break it. In order to ingraft in the people respect for the law, it was necessary that the law should be executed for the common good, and that it should consecrate the principle of equality in all its extent; it was necessary to revive the prestige of authority, and to plant deep in the manners and customs the principles of the revolution; for manners and customs are the sanctuary of institutions. At the birth of a new society, the legislator makes the manners and customs, or corrects them, while at a later period the manners and customs make the laws, or preserve them from age to age. When institutions are in harmony, not only with the interests, but still more with the sympathies and the habits of a people, then is formed that public and national spirit which forms the strength of a country, because it serves as a bulwark against every encroachment of power, and every attack of parties. “There is in every nation”, says Montesquieu, “a general public spirit upon which power itself is founded; when it shocks that public spirit, the shock is communicated to itself, and necessarily comes to a standstill”.

This public spirit, so difficult to create after a revolution, was formed, under the Empire, by the establishment of those codes of law which settled the rights of everyone, through the severe morality introduced into the administration, through the promptitude with which authority repressed all injustice. Finally, through the zeal which the Emperor constantly exhibited to satisfy the material and the moral wants of the nation. His government did not commit the fault common to so many others, of separating the interests of the soul from those of the body, casting the former into the regions of chimera, and admitting the latter only into the domain of reality. Napoleon, on the contrary, in giving an impulse to all the elevated passions, and showing that merit and virtue lead to riches and honours, proved to the world that the noble sentiments of the human heart are but the flag of the material interests of man well understood, precisely as the Christian morality is sublime because, even as a civil law, it is the safest guide we can follow, and the best counsellor of our private interests.

But it was not sufficient, in order to reconstruct the nation, that the Emperor should repair the evils caused by the injustice of former governments, or that he should derive support from all classes without distinction; it was also necessary that he should organise France.

A system of government embraces an administrative organisation and a political organisation. In a democratic state, such as France was, the administrative organisation was the most important; for it governed, to a certain degree, the political organisation. In an aristocratic country, political action being in the hands of a whole class, the holders of power reign rather by personal than by administrative influence; the governmental force is distributed among all the patrician families (7). But in a government of which the foundation is democratic, the chief alone possesses governmental power: as the moral force is derived solely from him, so everything returns to him, whether love or hatred. In such an order of society, centralisation should be stronger than in any other; for the agents of authority have only that prestige which authority lends to them, and in order that they may preserve this prestige, it is necessary that they should have considerable power without ceasing to be absolutely dependent upon the chief, so that they may be subjected to the most vigilant surveillance.

 

NOTES

(1) We could quote a thousand examples in support of this assertion; we will limit ourselves to recalling that in 1792, to prevent the authorities from indirectly re-establishing inequality in sharing inheritances, one had, as it were, stripped the citizens of the liberty to bequeath. Napoleon reformed this reactionary law. Under the Restoration, in France, the Swiss troops were hated, and better paid than the French troops. After the revolution of 1830, rather than be content to send them away, an article was introduced into the Charter that forbade the government to hire foreign troops. A year later the misfortunes of Poland arose; 6,000 Poles sought asylum in France, it was hoped to enroll them; the reactionary law of the eve opposed it!

(2) Thiers, Histoire de la révolution, volume X, p.2.

(3) This number is the one fixed by the report of the minister of Police, Year VIII of the Republic

(4) Bignon, volume 1, p.11.

(5) The Emperor granted to the mother of the present king, Louis Philippe, a pension of 400,000 francs, and one of 200,000 francs to the Duchess of Bourbon.

(6) By article 3 of the Concordat, the Pope undertook to procure the renunciation of the emigrant bishops, whose letters mandatory and pastoral continued to sow trouble in their ancient dioceses. Article 13 sanctioned the alienation of ecclesiastical property, and declared the title of possession valid in the hands of purchasers and their heirs.

(7) England furnishes an example in support of this opinion. The lord-lieutenants of the counties have not half the power of the prefects of France, but they have twice their moral influence. Their influence is derived from their position in society, not from their office; it is the lord who governs, much more than the lieutenant of government.

 

 

 

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