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 III : INTERNAL MATTERS / QUESTION INTÉRIEURE
Communes. – The administration of France was a machine in the process of organising itself. It was necessary, as it was said above, to centralise everything, to improve, vivify, and found, with the intention to later distribute, at the circumference, its due share of power, which the centre had temporarily absorbed.
The Emperor felt the importance of a good communal administration, and he said that care must be taken not to destroy municipal spirit. He often sided with the mayors against the prefects, and desired that they be present at the inauguration of the mayors. It was his opinion that the taxes levied upon goods entering cities and towns should be administered, in the interest of the communes, by the mayors, and the prefects should confine themselves to simply overseeing.
To encourage, in the rural communes, exchanges and settlements, calculated to do away with the evils of excessive partition, and of the tying up of titles to land, the government exempted from paying the fees of registration, the first commune whose inhabitants should accomplish what was desired by a general mutual agreement.
The communal spirit is essentially conservative; all that it acquires, whether it be an abuse or an advantage, it holds with equal tenacity. In order to regenerate the communes, it was necessary to deprive them of a part of their rights, until their training should be completed; then, only, would have been granted to them a greater independence, without danger to the general welfare. The prosperity of the communes was the object of the Emperor’s most anxious solicitude. The plan he had conceived for improving their condition is developed in a letter that he wrote to the minister of the Interior.
“To work”, he said, “for the prosperity of 36,000 communes, is to work for the prosperity of 30,000,000 of the population, by simplifying the question, and by diminishing the difficulty pertaining to great numbers, whose difference is indicated by the proportion between 36,000 and 30,000,000”. With this view the Emperor divided the communes into three classes: communes which were in debt; communes whose accounts were balanced; and communes having disposable resources. By way of means which he explained to the minister of the Interior, five years would have sufficed for the arrears of indebted communes to disappear; there would then have remained only two classes of communes, i.e., communes with disposable resources, and those with balanced accounts; and ten years hence France would have had only communes in possession of disposable resources.
“The alienation of the property of the communes, considered in relation to the progress of agriculture, was”, the Emperor said, “the greatest question of economic policy which could have been brandished”. It was decided by the imperious necessities of war. In 1813, the lands, houses, and factories, belonging to the communes were sold; they retained the woods, pastures, peat fields, and other properties which the inhabitants enjoyed in common, or from which they received no rent, as well as the buildings turned over to public service, and the places which contributed to public health or leisure. The property to be sold was ceded to the sinking fund. The communes received, in five per cent stock, a revenue equal to the net income from the ceded property.
We may see clearly, from what precedes, that the intentions of the Emperor were all borne toward the improvement of the material well-being of the country. We see also that when the disasters of war forced him to have recourse to expedients, the resources that he knew how to make for himself are not disastrous for the country, and that they resemble very little the means employed by other governments in similar circumstances. There was neither paper money, nor forced loans, nor crushing borrowing, nor depreciation of the value of currency, as happened under Frederick the Great.