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
ON THE ARMY
On the army. – It would be outside of our subject to examine all of the improvements that the organisation of the army underwent, and to tell the great deeds that shed luster upon it. The whole universe knows of the heroic soldiers who, from Arcola to Waterloo, seconded the gigantic undertakings of Napoleon, and died happily for him, because they knew that it was to die for France. It would moreover be too long to retrace all that the army did for the Emperor, and all that the Emperor did for it, let us examine military organisation from a social point of view alone.
Conscription, which sadly weighed so heavily upon France because of the prolongation of the war, was one of the great institutions of the century. Not only did it consecrate the principle of equality, but, as General Foy [Guerre de la Péninsule, Volume I, p.54] said, “it was to be the palladium of our independence, because, putting the nation in the army, and the army in the nation, it furnishes defence with inexhaustible resources”. The principle which had presided over the institution of the law on conscription was to receive greater developments, and we may say that the ideas of the Emperor have been put into practice by other governments, among others, by Prussia. Il was not sufficient in effect, that the army be recruited from all the nation; it was necessary that that the nation be able, in the event of misfortune, to serve as a reserve to the army. The Emperor said that “never a nation, when she pushes back an invasion, lacks for men, but too often for soldiers”. The military system of Prussia offers immense advantages; it makes the barriers that separate the citizen from the soldier disappear; it gives the same motive and the same aim to all the armed men, the defence of the soil of the country; it furnishes the means of maintaining a great military force with the least possible expense; it renders all of a people capable of successfully resisting an invasion. The army in Prussia is a great school where all the youth comes to learn the trade of arms; the Landwehr, which is divided into three classes, is the reserve of the army. In the military organisation, there are thus several classifications, but all of them branching out from the same source, they have the same goal: there is emulation between the organised bodies, not rivalry.
We know that the national guard, of which the institution had fallen into abeyance in the last years of the Republic, was re-established by Napoleon in 1806. In 1812 it was divided into three bans, composed, firstly, of men aged between 20 and 26, of the six previous classes of conscription, who had not been put into active service; the second, of all the able-bodied men of 26 to 40 years; the third, or rear-ban, of men aged between 40 and 60. We may see that this system was completely alike to the one that is in effect today in Prussia.
“In peacetime”, said the Emperor, “I would have led all the sovereigns to no longer have other forces than their guards alone; I would have proceeded to organise the national guard in such a manner that each citizen would know his post if need be; then”, he added, “we would have had, truly, a nation built with quicklime and sand, capable of defying centuries and men”.