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)
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
The predominant idea which presided over all that the Emperor established at home is the desire to found a civil order (16). France is surrounded by powerful neighbours. Since Henri IV she is the butt of the jealousy of Europe. She must have a permanent great army, to maintain her independence. This army is organised, it has colonels, generals, marshals; but the rest of the nation is not; and alongside this military hierarchy, alongside these dignities to which glory gives so much luster, there must be also civil dignities with the same preponderance; lest the government always be in danger of falling into the hands of some fortunate soldier. The United States offer us a striking example of the disadvantages that the weakness of civil authority brings.
While in this country there are none of these ferments of discord that will long boil yet in Europe, the civil power being weak, all organisation independent of it frightens it, as a menace to it. It is not only the military power that is feared, but the power of money, the bank: from which, the division of the parties. The governor of the bank could have more influence than the president; all the more a victorious general would soon eclipse the civil power. In the Italian republics, as in England, the aristocracy was the civil order organised; but France, happily no longer having privileged bodies, it was for a democratic hierarchy that we could procure the same advantages without offending the principles of equality.
Let us examine, from this point of view, the constitutions of the Empire.
Napoleon is the supreme head of State, the elect of the people, the representative of the nation. In his public acts, the Emperor always takes glory in the fact of owing all to the French people. When, surrounded by kings and homages, at the foot of the Pyrenees, he distributes thrones and empires, he holds energetically to the title of first representative of the people that some seem to wish to give exclusively to the Legislative Body (17).
The imperial power alone is transmitted by hereditary right. There is no other hereditary position in France; all are accorded by election or merit.
There are two houses: the Senate and the Legislative Body.
The Senate, whose name is more popular than that of the chamber of peers, is composed of members proposed by the electoral colleges: a third only is left to nomination by the Emperor. It is presided by a member named by the head of State; it watches over the maintaining of the constitution, it is the guarantor of individual liberty and of the liberty of the press (18). The Senate, being, after the sovereign, the first power in the State, the Emperor sought, as far as circumstances allowed it, to give it the greatest importance; for when the influence exerted by the constituted bodies does not follow the order of their place in the political hierarchy, it is obvious proof that the constitution is not in harmony with the public spirit; it becomes a machine whose cogs do not function in their respective order.
Therefore, to give influence to the Senate, the Emperor’s idea is not to make it merely a court of justice, nor a refuge for all the ministers condemned by public opinion, but on the contrary to compose it of the most enlightened of men, and to make it the guardian and guarantor of the liberties of the nation (19).
To render the Senators independent, and to attach them to the soil of the provinces, in each arrondissement of an appeals court, a sénatorerie was established, which provided to its titular senator 20,000 to 25,000 pounds in lifelong income.
The Legislative Body is named by the electoral colleges of the départements; the members of this body are paid during the sessions.
It is essential to recall here the method of election introduced by Napoleon. In the constitution of Year VIII [of the French Republic], Sieyès had invented a system of notabilities which took from the people all participation in elections. Although Sieyès, former member of the Constituant Assembly, of the Convention, and of the Directory, was a friend of liberty, he was obliged by circumstances and maintaining the Republic to act thus; for before the 18th of Fructidor, the elections brought Royalists to the Legislative Body: this day chased them from it. Then came the turn of the Jacobins; the 20th of Floréal drove them out; at the next elections, they succeeded in holding on and readied themselves to remove their rivals. There was thus nothing stable; every year was the triumph of a party, as Thibaudeau himself says.
But the resolute and national march of the Consulate had already created a strong and compact France; and the ship of State was less in danger of running aground upon the two reefs that still remained to be feared, the Terror and the Ancien Régime.
Napoleon, created Consul for Life, suppressed the lists of notabilities of Sieyès, and established canton assemblies, composed of all the citizens resident in the canton. These assemblies named the members of the electoral colleges of the arrondissement and the département. Those eligible to be members of the electoral colleges were required to be the most taxed of the département; but ten members could be added to the colleges of arrondissements, and twenty to the colleges of départements, who were not landowners, taken from amongst the members of the Legion of Honour, or among the men who had rendered services. The colleges presented two candidates to the vacant seats in the Legislative Body; the colleges of départements alone proposed candidates for the seats of senators; one of the two candidates had to be chosen from outside of the college which presented him.
In examining the spirit which dictated these laws, at a time when we were emerging from violent dissensions, and where war constantly threatened; when even the most sincere friends of liberty saw the necessity of restricting electoral rights, we cannot but recognise that the intention of the Emperor was to re-establish election upon the broadest bases; and the following words of the spokesman of the government of the time confirm this opinion : “The electoral colleges tie the high authorities to the people reciprocally; they are intermediary bodies between power and the people; they entail classification of the people, an organisation of the nation. In this classification, the opposing interests of landowners and proletarians had to be combined, because property is the fundamental basis of all political association; the landless too had to be called to it, so as not to close the way to talent and genius”.
The Council of State was one of the foremost cogs in the clockwork of the Empire. Composed of the most distinguished men, it formed the private council of the sovereign. The men who were members of it, freed from all embarrassments, not seeking to produce an effect, and stimulated by the presence of the sovereign, elaborated the laws with no other preoccupation than the interests of France. The orators of the Council of State were required to submit to the sanction of the houses of parliament the laws that had been prepared by the council.
The Emperor created auditors to the Council of State; their number was raised to three hundred and fifty; they were divided into three classes and attached to all the administrations. The Council of State thus formed a nursery of learned and enlightened men, capable of well administering the country. Familiar with all of the highest questions of policy, they received important missions from the government.
This institution filled a great void; for when, in a country, there are schools for learning the art of law, the art of healing, the art of war, for theology, etc., is it not shocking that there not be schools for the art of governing, which is certainly the most difficult of all, for it embraces all the exact, political and moral sciences ? (20)
“I was preparing for my son a most happy situation”, said the Emperor at Saint Helena. “I was raising precisely for him a new school, the numerous class of the auditors to the Council of State. Their education completed, and their age arrived, they would, one fine day, have taken up all of the positions of the Empire; strong in our principles and the examples of our predecessors, they would have found themselves, all, twelve to fifteen years older than my son; which would have placed him precisely between two generations and their advantages: maturity, with experience and wisdom, above; youth, with celerity and activity below”.
The council of disputes was instituted as a special tribunal for judging public officials, for the appeals of councils of prefecture, for questions related to the furnishing of subsistence, for violations of the laws of State, etc.
The Emperor’s desire to raise the position of the political bodies manifests itself by the creation of the dignity of grand elector, by the honours with which he surrounds the president of the Legislative Body (21), by the detailed presentations of the state of the Empire that he had presented to the Legislative Body, by the importance that he gave to the opening sessions. Considering himself to be the first representative of the nation, he believed himself obliged to render an account of his actions before the constituted bodies. Thus the opening of the Legislative Body was never, under his reign, a vain ceremony; he did not come to sit upon a throne, with all the pomp of sixteenth century royalty, to repeat banally the words of his ministers. On the contrary, standing before the Legislative Body, he communicated his ideas to it frankly. It was not weakness that hid itself under the apparatus of strength; it was, on the contrary, strength which of its own free will, paid homage to the constituted bodies.
Instead of influencing the elections, we observe Napoleon recommend often to those in his entourage not to stand as candidates to the Senate; he told them that they could arrive at this position by another route, that they should leave this satisfaction to the notabilities of the provinces.
The principles which directed the Emperor in the choice of public functionaries were far more rational than those by which proceedings are carried out today. When he names the head of an administration, he does not consult the political shade of colour of the man, but his capacity as a functionary. It is thus that instead of researching the political antecedents of the ministers he employs, he asks only of them specialised knowledge: Chaptal, the famous chemist, is charged with opening new roads for industry; the scholar Denon is named director of the museum of arts; Mollien minister of the Treasury. If the public finances were so prosperous under the Empire, it is to a great extent because Gaudin, duke of Gaeta, entered the ministry of Finance under the Consulate, and because he only left it in 1814.
In order that the road be open to all improvements, the Court of cassation was charged with doing for the laws what the Institute accomplished for the sciences. Every year it was required to present an account of the improvements that the various areas of legislation might benefit from, and to make known the flaws and defects that experience had observed.
We should also remark, in the constitutions of the Empire, a continuous movement, which from the circumference acts upon the centre, and from the centre returns to the circumference, like the blood which, in the human body, flows toward the heart, and from the heart flows back to the extremities. On the one hand, we see the people participating, by election, in all the political positions; on the other, the political bodies presided by men named by the power in the centre. The grand dignitaries of the Empire presided the electoral colleges of the largest cities, the other grand officers or members of the Legion of Honour presided the other colleges (22).
The councilors of State on extraordinary service were sent to the départements to watch over the administration; they transmitted the projects of the government and received the complaints and wishes of the populations. The senators, who enjoyed the benefits of the sénatoreries, were bound to three months residence per year in their arrondissement, in order to take the opinion of the centre to it, and to take back to Paris the opinion of the arrondissement.
The creation of the Legion of Honour, which divided French territory into sixteen arrondissements with a designated chef-lieu, was, according to the expression of the bearer of the law, a political institution which placed, in society, intermediaries by whom the actions of power were translated faithfully to public opinion and benevolence, and by which opinion could communicate with power.
The immense good produced by the introduction of the Code Napoléon is well known; it had put several parts of the legislation in harmony with the principles of the Revolution, and it considerably diminished litigation by making a host of cases understandable to all. But this code did not yet fulfil all the desires of the Emperor; he planned a universal code, in order that there no longer be other laws than those inscribed in this single code, and that we might proclaim, once and for all, null and void all that would not be in it. “For”, he added, “with a handful of old edicts by Chideric or by Pharamond, disinterred for the purpose, there is no one who can say that they are safe from being duly and legally hanged”.
To sum up the imperial system, we may say that the base of it is democratic, because all of the powers come from the people; while the organisation is hierarchical, because there are, in society, different degrees, to stimulate all capacities.
Thus, politically: canton assemblies, electoral colleges, Legislative Body, Council of State, Senate, grand dignitaries.
For the army, every man is a soldier, every solder may become an officer: colonel, general, marshal.
For the Legion of Honour, all merits have the same right to it: civil, military, industrial, ecclesiastical, scientific services; all may obtain the ranks of legionaries, officers, commandants, grand officers, grand eagles.
Public instruction has its primary schools, its secondary schools, its lycées, and the Institute as the head of the whole edifice.
Justice has its first instance tribunals, its imperial courts, its Court of cassation.
Finally, the administration has its mayors, its deputy mayors, its under-prefects, its prefects, its ministers, its councilors of State.
Napoleon was thus in a sense the hearth around which all the national forces gathered together. He had divided France administratively into communal arrondissements and prefectures; politically with electoral colleges and sénatoreries; militarily, with the military divisions; judicially, with the imperial courts; religiously by the bishoprics; philosophically, by the lycées; morally, by the arrondissements of the Legion of Honour.
The body politic, like the teaching body, like the administrative body, had its feet in the municipalities and its head in the Senate.
The government of the Emperor was thus, to avail ourselves of a comparison, a colossal pyramid with a broad base and a high peak.
CONSEIL D’ÉTAT III NIVÔSE AN VIII
COOPÉREZ AUX DESSEINS QUE JE FORME
POUR LA PROSPÉRITÉ
COUNCIL OF STATE
COUNCIL OF STATE III NIVÔSE YEAR VIII
COOPERATE IN THE PLANS THAT I FORM
FOR THE PROSPERITY
OF THE PEOPLES