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.
Although the Emperor was able to dispose as he pleased, of the destiny of so many peoples, he always had them cooperate in the laws that he gave to them. His conduct is the same toward all the countries whose governments he changes. In 1800, he has the members of parliament of northern Italy come to Lyons, and discusses with them the constitution that must rule them (6). In 1805, another extraordinary consultation meets in Paris to constitute the Kingdom of Italy.
In Holland, it is the Legislative Body of this country which is charged with making the constitution. For Switzerland, the Act of Mediation is also the work of the deputies of the cantons gathered in Paris.
The Emperor’s system, which consisted in calling to his side the most distinguished people of a country to work for her regeneration, having brought about such happy results for Switzerland and Italy, he resolves to apply it, in 1809, to Spain, which, more than any other nation, needed a political resurrection.
The Emperor did not go to Bayonne with the intention of dethroning the kings of Spain; but when he saw Carlos IV and Ferdinand at his feet, and was able to see for himself their incapacity, he took pity on a great people, and as he said himself, seized by the hair the opportunity which Fortune presented to him, to reconstitute Spain and unite her intimately to his system. He had an extraordinary national junta meet in Bayonne, composed of members elected by all the provinces. A draft constitution was submitted to the free discussion of the junta; this draft proposed a senate, a council of State, Cortes, or assemblies of the nation, divided into three bans; it adopted the French judicial order; equality was guaranteed in the payment of taxes and for admission into public employment; the majorats were reduced in number, freedom of the press was authorised, two years after the coming into effect of the constitution; lastly, this Charter guaranteed all the rights that the Spanish nation could desire, and destroyed all of the old abuses, such as the Inquisition and feudal privileges (7).
On making his intentions known to the people of the Peninsula, the Emperor addressed to them these beautiful words:
“Spaniards! After a long agony, your nation was perishing. I saw your ills, I will remedy them. I do not wish to reign over your provinces, but I wish to earn eternal rights to the love and recognition of your posterity. Your monarchy is old, I wish to rejuvenate it. I will improve all your institutions, and will cause you to enjoy, if you second me in this, the benefits of a reform with no hurt, disorder or confusion.
“Spaniards! I have had a general assembly of the deputations of the provinces and of the towns and cities. I wish to ensure, myself, the satisfaction of your wishes and your needs, and will myself place afterwards your glorious crown upon the head of another, promising you a constitution which conciliates the easy and salutary authority of the sovereign with the freedom and privileges of the people; for I want your most distant nephews to conserve my memory and say “He was the regenerator of our country”.
But no nation was less prepared than Spain to undergo social change. She was deaf to such noble language, and pushed away the only hand that could save her. Today, her sentiments of regret must be all the more bitter that the Emperor’s terrible prediction on Saint Helena is coming to pass. “I would have spared them”, he said, “the awful tyranny that tramples them, the terrible agitation that awaits them!”
If war is the scourge of humanity, this scourge loses much of its unfortunate influence when force of arms is called upon to found, instead of destroying. The wars of the Empire were like the overflowing of the Nile; when the waters of this river cover the countryside of Egypt, we might believe that we are seeing devastation; but barely have they receded, than abundance and fertility are born from their passage!
(6) This extraordinary consultation contained in it all the notabilities of the Republic – the clergy, the magistrates, the administrations of the départements and of the principal cities, the chambers of commerce, the academies and universities, the national guards and the troops of the line. All classes, all professions had sent their representatives to it.
(7) On arriving in Madrid, the Emperor abolished the Inquisition. He reduced the number of convents, while giving an honourable existence to the clergy, and increasing the stipend of rural parish priests. He suppressed feudal rights and taxes. He transferred customs offices to the frontiers of the State. Lastly, the alienation of certain civil and ecclesiastical taxes, by virtue of a donation, was revoked, and all seigneurial justice abolished. (Bignon, volume VIII, page 34).