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CHAPTER III: Of the Establishment of the Consular Constitution. - Germaine de Staël, Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.) 
Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution, newly revised translation of the 1818 English edition, edited, with an introduction and notes by Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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Of the Establishment of the Consular Constitution.
The most potent charm which Bonaparte employed for the establishment of his power was, as we have said, the terror which the very name of Jacobinism inspired, although every person capable of reflection was aware that this scourge could not revive in France. We willingly assume the air of fearing vanquished factions to justify general measures of rigor. All those who wish to favor the establishment of despotism are constantly endeavoring to keep the crimes of demagogues strongly in our recollection. It is an easy strategy which has little difficulty. Accordingly, Bonaparte paralyzed every kind of resistance to his will by these words: Would you have me deliver you up to the Jacobins? France bent before him; nor was there a man bold enough to reply, We will combat both the Jacobins and you. In fine, he was not loved, even at that time, but he was preferred: he has almost always presented himself simultaneously with some other source of alarm, which might cause his power to be accepted as the lesser evil of the two.
The task of discussing with Bonaparte the constitution which was to be proclaimed was entrusted to a commission of fifty members selected from the Five Hundred and from the Ancients.1 Some of those members, who the evening before had leaped from a window to escape from the bayonets, treated seriously the abstract question of new laws, as if it had been possible to suppose that their authority was still respected. This coolness would have been noble had it been joined to energy; but abstract questions were discussed only that tyranny might be established; as in Cromwell’s days, passages of the Bible were sought out to justify absolute power.
Bonaparte allowed these men, accustomed to the tribune, to dissipate in words what remained to them of character; but when their theory approached too near to practice, he cut short every difficulty by a threat of interfering no more in their affairs; that is to say, of bringing them to a conclusion by force. He took considerable pleasure in these tedious discussions, because he is himself very fond of speaking. His species of dissimulation in politics is not silence: he chooses rather to mislead by a perplexed discourse which favors alternately the most opposite opinions. In truth, deceit is often practiced more effectually by speaking than by silence. The least sign betrays those who say nothing; while, on the other hand, the impudence of active lying tends more directly to produce conviction. Bonaparte, therefore, lent himself to the subtleties of a committee which discussed the establishment of a social system like the composition of a book. There was, then, no question of ancient bodies to be treated with respect, of privileges to be preserved, or even of usages to be respected; the Revolution had so cleared away all recollections of the past from France that the plan of the new constitution was not obstructed by any remains of preceding edifices.
Fortunately for Bonaparte, in such a discussion there was no need of profound knowledge; he had only to combat reasonings, a species of weapon with which he played as he liked, and to which he opposed, when his convenience required, a logic in which nothing was intelligible except the declaration of his will. Some have believed that Bonaparte was well informed on every subject, because in this respect, as in many others, he made use of the tricks of quackery. But, as he had read little in the course of his life, his knowledge was confined to what he had picked up in conversation. By accident he may speak to you on any subject whatsoever with exactness, and even with considerable science, if he has met some person who gave him information upon it immediately before; but the next instant you discover that he does not know what every well-educated person has learned in his youth. Doubtless much of a certain kind of talent—the talent of adroitness—is necessary to enable him thus to disguise his ignorance; but none except men enlightened by sincere and regularly pursued studies can entertain just ideas on the government of nations. The old doctrine of perfidy succeeded with Bonaparte only because he added to it the prestige of victory. Without this fatal association, there would not have been two different opinions concerning such a man.
The meetings of Bonaparte with his committee were related to us every evening, and the accounts might have amused, had they not thrown us into a deep sadness as to the future lot of France. The servile spirit of courtiers began to unfold itself in the men who had shown the greatest degree of revolutionary harshness. These ferocious Jacobins were rehearsing the parts of barons and counts, which were allotted to them afterward; and everything announced that their personal interest would be the true Proteus, who would assume at will the most different appearances.
During this discussion, I met a member of the Convention whom I shall not name; for why give names where the truth of the picture does not require it? I expressed to him my worries for liberty: “Oh! Madam,” replied he, “we have come to such a point that we must think of saving, not the principles of the Revolution, but only the men who made it.” This wish certainly was not that of France.
It was expected that Sieyès would present already drafted that famous constitution which had been talked of for ten years as the ark of alliance which was to unite all parties; but by a singular oddity, he had written nothing on the subject. Sieyès’ superiority of talent could not prevail over the misanthropy of his character: he dislikes the human race and cannot deal with it: one might say that he would rather have to do with any other beings than men, and that he renounces all business because he cannot find upon earth a species more to his taste. Bonaparte, who wasted his time neither in the contemplation of abstract ideas nor in being discouraged, perceived very quickly how the system of Sieyès might be useful to him. It was in the very artful annihilation of popular elections. Sieyès substituted for them lists of candidates,2 out of which the Senate was to choose the members of the legislative body and of the Tribunate; for in that constitution there were, I know not for what reason, three bodies, and even four if we reckon the Council of State, of which Bonaparte afterward availed himself so well. When the choice of deputies is not made purely and directly by the people, the government is no longer representative; hereditary institutions may accompany that of election, but it is in election that liberty consists. The important point therefore, for Bonaparte, was to paralyze popular election, because he knew it to be irreconcileable with despotism.
In this constitution, the Tribunate, composed of a hundred persons, was to speak, while the legislative body, which consisted of two hundred and fifty members, was to be silent; but it is not easy to conceive why this permission was given to the one, or this constraint imposed upon the other. The Tribunate and the legislative body were not sufficiently numerous in proportion to the population of France; and all political importance was concentrated in the conservative Senate, which united all authority but that which arises from independence of fortune. The senators had no resources except the appointments which they received from the executive power. The Senate was in effect nothing else than the mask of tyranny; it made the orders of an individual appear as if they had been discussed by many.
When Bonaparte was sure of having to deal only with men dependent on their salaries, who were divided into three bodies and named by one another, he thought himself certain of attaining his end. The glorious name of tribune denoted a pension for five years; the noble appellation of senator meant a benefice for life; and he perceived quickly enough that the one class would wish to acquire what the other would desire to preserve. Bonaparte communicated his will in different tones—sometimes by the sage voice of the Senate, sometimes by the commanded cries of the tribunes, sometimes by the quiet scrutiny of the legislative body; and this tripartite choir was reckoned the organ of the nation, though subject to the absolute control of a single master.
Sieyès’ work was without doubt altered by Bonaparte. His long hawk-eyed sight made him identify and suppress whatever in the proposed institutions might, on a future day, occasion resistance: but Sieyès had ruined liberty by providing any kind of substitute for popular election.
Bonaparte himself would not perhaps have been strong enough to effect at that time so great a change in generally admitted principles; it was necessary that the philosopher should here aid the designs of the usurper. Not assuredly that Sieyès wished to establish tyranny in France; justice requires us to admit that he never took any share in it; and besides, a man of so much talent cannot love the authority of a single individual, unless that individual be himself. But he confused with his metaphysics the very simple question of elections; and it was under the shadow of the clouds thus raised that Bonaparte passed on with impunity to despotism.
[1. ] On 19 Brumaire, deputies who were favorably disposed toward Napoléon met and created a Consular Commission that included Napoléon and two directors (Sieyès and Ducos). The deputies then divided themselves into two other committees (of twenty-five members each), which were supposed to draft a new constitution.
[2. ] Sieyès proposed three listes de notabilités: communal, departmental, and national. The system was extremely complex and confusing, and it amounted to abolishing popular elections by giving to the executive body the final power to choose the representatives from these lists. For more information, see Godechot, Les Institutions, 558–70; also see Les Constitutions et les principales lois politiques de la France depuis 1789, de la France, 109–20.