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THE CONSULATE AND THE EMPIRE.
The constitution of Abbé Sièyes-Excellent, but formed without
consideration for the persons who were to perform its parts-Bonaparte at Corsica–At Toulon-As first consul-Destroyed liberty, maintained equality ; sensible of literary influence, and calling him. self membre de l'institut, and founding the legion of honour-Took as the foundation of his power the passions of mankind, but could not understand their virtues--His genius was to materialize every thing--His empire a great mass, which he rolled along, but which without him had no vitality, no power to move-The consulate employed in preparing for the empire-Bonaparte's situation before the war with Spain-All his faults concentrated and made visible in his marriage-Greater than the greatest legitimate kings as their enemy, far smaller than the smallest as the suitor for their allianceThe rising of Germany—The last war-He fell easily, for he stood unsupported— The energies of the nation he represented, pulver. ized under the weight of his image-Bonaparte not to be judged as an ordinary general—The conduct of the English in persevering in a war against him justified-His statue now put up-There is a generosity approaching to meanness—The effects of the empire-Advantages and disadvantages-It contains three epochs-Bonaparte mistook public opinion, but always valued it.
THERE never was, perhaps, a government so vast in its conception, so simple and yet so various in its details, so proper as it appeared for the time, as that proposed after the triumph of Bonaparte by Abbé Sièyes. It offered order, it preserved liberty-immense in its basis, and rising regularly to its apex, it was popular, it was strong, and it gave neither to the masses nor to one man' a power that could be against the will and the interests of the community. It was an immense design, but it had the fault which on a less stage has frequently marred the effect of genius ; it was formed without sufficient consideration of the persons for whom its parts were destined. The soldier who had returned from Egypt to drive the 500 from the Orangery at the point of the bayonet, was not the indolent citizen to be satisfied with the idle guards, or the insignificant splendour of “grand electeur.” Sièyes's system was rejected; Sièyes's name was kept as a kind of emblem to the constitution of VIII. This constitution, however, imperfect as it was, obtained double the number of votes that had appeared in favour of the two preceding ones : so powerful was the desire for repose-so great was the name of Bonaparte. Already in 1792 this enterprising and ambitious soldier had seen the throne of France in his horizon : advised to return to Corsica, and offered the prospect of Paoli's succession, he had said, " Il est plus aisé de dévenir roi de France que roi de Corse,” and from that day his star rose steadily and proudly, and as if by an irresistible influence, above the destinies of his contemporaries.
A second-rate officer of artillery at Toulon, and having Marescot, the most expert engineer of his time, for rival, he maintained his opinions before the terrible tribunal which pronounced death when it pronounced censure, and spoke already with the voice and superiority of a master. Commanding under Barras at the battle of Vendémiare, he gave his name to the victory that was obtained, and established for a time the tottering republic that he was doomed to overthrow. Sent as a general to Italy, he assumed the part of a sovereign, received ambassadors, concluded treaties, and formed and overthrew states. Impatient of repose, from Italy he passed to the East, with the desire and the hope of imprinting his genius upon the soil over which the shadow of so many mighty conquerors has passed, and faded; and at last he returned to take his place in the revolution--which had known many chiefs, but which in him received for the first time a master.
With that instinct, the attribute of those who are born to command, he saw at once the despotism that was possible, and the characteristics of the time and of the nation he aspired to govern. He quarrelled with no faction--for he wished to found a new system, and was willing to comprehend all parties who were willing to compromise their opinions. The sentiment of equality is natural to all men, and if admitted into
society takes a deep and eternal root. The love of liberty is a passion that requires long growth; it is remote in its ramifications, difficult in its definition, and for the most part associated with particular laws, and particular institutions, that must have entered into our habits in order to take a firm hold upon our hearts.
The love of liberty, then, could not exist in France, where no form of liberty had existed long. The sentiment of equality, on the contrary, had instantaneously penetrated into the core of the nation. Bonaparte crushed at once that which was lightly loved and carelessly defended : he maintained that which was difficult, if not impossible, to destroy. You see this double action in all his works—you see it in his codes -where he attempts to make every citizen equal before the law, and to raise every act of his power above the law. You see it in his administration, where his justice as governor supplied that justice which should have been found in the statutes of his government, and where he punished with severity the vexations and oppressions which he forbade the nation to punish. His despotism was terrible, but his despotism was just and glorious, and buoyed up gracefully and majestically by many of the dispositions of the French.
When I said that Louis XVI. might perhaps have continued to reign if he could have flattered the literary ambition of the eighteenth century, by destroying the privileges of the court, which only accorded honours to arms, and restricted the use of arms to the nobility-when I said that the old monarchy was perhaps possible, if the aristocracy could have been regenerated by the new ideas which Voltaire had promulgated from his throne at Ferney, and which gave to literature and the arts the position in the state which they were accorded in society-when I said this, I said that which Bonaparte saw. when he assumed as his proudest title, previous to the consulate, “ Membre de l'institut,” and when, as first consul, he founded the legion of honour, and gave to Massena the first general
and David the first painter of the kingdom, the same mark, and the same title of distinction.
It was thus that he united the vanity natural to the French with the passion for equality, which had become to them a second nature, and threw upon the moving sands of the revolution which every wind had previously dispersed, those masses of granite on which many still believe that his edifice might have stood with security if it had not aspired to the skies. Carried beyond the pitch of his intentions by the ardour of his character, the policy of Napoleon was, notwithstanding, everywhere profound. He took as the foundation of his power the passions of mankind: religion is one-he re-established religion; war is another--he indulged in war to an excess that would sooner have wearied any other nature than that of the Gauls.
The aim of the present to appear gigantic to the future was ever present to his eyes, and in roads, canals, bridges, he has traced on every side of him those vast characters on which prosperity is transmitted to distant generations. But, great in his designs, great in himself, he saw little beyond the weaknesses, the material wants of his fellow-men: he beheld in the revolution the ambition which distracted and lost it-but he neither beheld nor believed (in spite of the courage of Carnot) the disinterestedness and the devotion which had ennobled and produced it. This was his
The superiority of virtue over vice in government is, that in vice there is no fecundity, no productive principle of duration. If you wish your machine to last, you will harden and elevate the elements it is composed of. You must govern men according to the passions of mankind—but if you wish your government to endure, you will infuse into those passions something of that sublime and immaterial nature which furnishes
us with the conception of eternity. Now the genius of Bonaparte, especially mathematic, was to materialize every thing. He saw and
seized at once those feelings which he found, and out of which his government was to be shaped; he combined, consolidated those feelings into a form, compact, solid, strong ; but in their composition he destroyed their vitality. His empire became an immense mass, wieldy in his gigantic hands, and which he rolled impetuously along : under his guidance, and together, it was terrible, and for a long time irresistible ;-deprived of him (broken by the shock of a still mightier, because a more moral, force), it was nothing ; for it had no life, no individuality, no soul.
The consulate was employed in collecting the materials for the empire; and in his generals, his solicitors, and his senate, Napoléon found the marshals, the chamberlains, and the ministers that were to support and decorate the imperial throne. The office which he held ostensibly from the nation, but which in reality he owed to his sword, was to be sanctioned before his soldiers by a victory, and the campaign which terminatedat Marengo placed the modern Hannibal above the most renowned generals of antiquity. The assumption of the imperial purple demanded a similar exploit, and the battle of Austerlitz raised the destinies of the empire above the glories of the republic.
Here is the point where Napoléon might at once have consulted his security and his ambition: absolute over France and over Italy, as emperor and kingover Spain, by the servility of its minister-over Switzerland, by the act of moderation--over Holland and Naples, by his two brothers—and having at his orders the kings of Bavaria and Wirtemberg, and the Confederation of the Rhine-what enemy had he to fear-save his own mind ? His tyranny had hitherto been applauded, and he reigned over the greatest part of Europe without shocking the feelings of its inhabitants.
Thus may reason the philosopher and the historian : thus rarely reason those upon whose deeds the philosopher and the historian meditate, and who have usually shown more temerity and more madness in the