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.
LIBERTY IN FRANCE
Once Napoleonic Europe was founded, the Emperor would have proceeded, in France, to undertake the establishments of peace. He would have consolidated liberty; needing only to relax the strings of the network that he had formed.
Napoleon’s government, more than any other, could bear up liberty, for this single reason, that liberty would have reinforced his throne, whereas it overturns the thrones that have no solid base.
Liberty would have reinforced his might, because Napoleon had established in France all that should precede liberty (3); because his power reposed upon the entire mass of the nation; because his interests were the same as those of the people; because, lastly, the most complete trust reigned between those who governed and the governed.
In effect, without identical interests, without absolute trust, no authority is possible; for whatever good a government may do, or wish to do, it is condemned to perish if guilty intentions are attributed to its acts. “One of the indispensable qualities of a government”, Monsieur Thiers has said (4), “is to have this good fame that wards off justice. When it has lost it, and all things are imputed to it as crimes, the wrongs of others, and even those of Fortune, it no longer has any faculty to govern, and this impotence must condemn it … to withdraw”.
In England, in 1687, the lack of trust of the people toward the sovereign brought about unhappy consequences. King James II published, by his own authority, a declaration of freedom of conscience for all his subjects; but the nation was wary of the sovereign’s intentions, and, believing that he thus wished to favour the triumph of Catholicism, was indignant at an act that it believed to be dictated by duplicity, although the principle of it was just and generous.
For Emperor Napoleon, on the contrary, possessing the limitless trust of the people, all was easy. He had first of all surmounted the greatest difficulty, and laid the foundations of a solid establishment, by reconciling with each other all the members of the great French family. All agreed on the fundamental basis of the constitution. The interests of the majority were so mixed with those of Napoleon’s dynasty, that in 1811, on the same spot where, a few years before, people had sworn implacable hatred against royalty, all Paris, all France, salute with their acclamations the birth of a child, because this child seemed to be a guarantee of the lasting stability of the imperial government.
Beloved above all of the popular classes, could Napoleon fear to give political rights to all the citizens? When, on being named Consul for Life, he re-established the principle of the right to vote in elections, he proffered these remarkable words – “For the stability of government, the people must have a greater role in elections”. Thus, already, in 1803, Napoleon foresaw that liberty would fortify his power, having his warmest partisans among the people, the more he lowered the conditions for voting, the more his natural friends had their chances of entering the legislative assembly; the more he gave power to the masses, the more he reinforced his own.
The liberty of discussion in the chambers would not have had dangerous effects for the imperial government; for all being in agreement on the fundamental questions, the opposition would have served only to bring about a noble emulation, and instead of spending its energy in causing the fall of the government, it would have limited its efforts to improving it.
Lastly, the liberty of the press would have served only to add relief to the grandeur of Napoleon’s conceptions, to proclaiming the benefits of his reign. General, Consul, Emperor, having done everything for the people, would he have feared that he might be reproached with conquests whose results were but the prosperity and the grandeur of France, than the peace of the world? No, it was certainly not a government splendid with civil and military laurels which could dread the great day! The more an authority has moral force, the more the use of material force is necessary for it; the more opinion confers power upon it, the more it can dispense with making use of it.
Let us therefore repeat, the identity of interests between the sovereign and the people, this is the essential basis of a dynasty. A government is unshakable when it can say to itself – What will profit the greatest number, that which will ensure the liberty of the citizens and the prosperity of the country, will also be the force of my authority and will consolidate my power. But when a government has only partisans in a single class, when liberty gives arms only to its enemies, how can one hope that it will extend the system of election, that it will favour liberty? Can one ask of a government that it condemn itself to suicide?
Thus, with Napoleon, we arrived without tremors and without troubles to a state of normality, in which liberty would have been the support of power, the guarantee of general well-being, instead of being a weapon of war, a torch of discord.
It is with the impression that a stirring dream leaves afterwards that we stop in front of the painting of the happiness and stability that Europe would have presented if the Emperor’s vast projects had been accomplished. Each country, circumscribed within its natural limits, united to her neighbour by relations of interest and friendship, would have enjoyed on the interior the benefits of independence, of peace and of liberty. The sovereigns, free from fear and suspicion, would have applied themselves only to improving the lot of their peoples, and to introduce at home all the advantages of civilisation.
Instead of that, what do we have now in Europe? Each, on falling asleep in the evening, fears awakening in the morning; for the seed of evil is everywhere, and every honest soul almost dreads the good, because of the sacrifices that would be necessary to obtain it.
Men of liberty, who rejoiced at Napoleon’s fall, your error was disastrous! How many years will yet pass, how many struggles and sacrifices before you reach the point that Napoleon would have brought you to!
And you, men of the Congress of Vienna, who have been the masters of the world upon the debris of the Empire, your role could have been beautiful, but you did not understand it! You stirred up, in the name of liberty, and even revolt, the peoples against Napoleon; you condemned him to all Europe as a despot and a tyrant; you said that you had delivered the nations and ensured their repose. They believed you for an instant; but one cannot build anything solid upon a lie and upon an error! Napoleon had closed the gulf of revolutions; you have reopened it by overthrowing him. Beware that this gulf does not engulf you!
3) See the beginning of the third chapter, page 21.
4) Histoire de la Révolution, volume X, page 276.