Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK SECOND.: Formation and Character of the New State. - The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. I
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BOOK SECOND.: Formation and Character of the New State. - Hippolyte Taine, The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. I 
The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. 1, trans. John Durand (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1890).
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Formation and Character of the New State.
I. Conditions on which the public power can act.—Two points forgotten by the authors of the preceding constitutions.—Difficulty of the undertaking and poor quality of the available materials.—II. Results.—Insubordination of the local powers, conflict of the central powers, suppression of liberal institutions, and the establishment of an unstable despotism.—Evil-doing of the government thus formed.—III. In 1799, the undertaking is more difficult and the materials worse.—IV. Motives for suppressing the election of local powers.—The Electors.—Their egoism and partiality.—The Elected.—Their inertia, corruption, and disobedience.—V. Reasons for placing the executive central power in one hand.—Sieyès’ chimerical combinations.—Bonaparte’s objections.—VI. Difficulty of organizing a legislative power.—Fraudulent and violent elections for ten years.—Spirit and diffusion of hatred against the men and dogmas of the Revolution.—Probable composition of a freely elected Assembly.—Its two irreconcilable divisions.—Sentiments of the army.—Proximity and probable meaning of a new coup d’état.—VII. The electoral and legislative combinations of Sieyès.—Bonaparte’s use of them.—Paralysis and submission of the three legislative bodies.—The Senate as a ruling instrumentality.—Senatus-consultes and Plebiscites.—Final establishment of the Dictatorship.—Its dangers and necessity.—Public power now able to do its work.
In every human society a government is necessary, or, in other words, an organization of the power of the community. No other machine is so useful. But a machine is useful only as it is adapted to its purpose; otherwise it does not work well, or it works adversely to that purpose. Hence, in its construction, the prime necessity of calculating what work it has to do, also the quality of the materials one has at one’s disposal. It is very important to know beforehand whether it will raise a mass of 1000 or of 10,000 pounds, whether the pieces fitted together will be of iron or of steel, of sound or of unsound timber.
Legislators for ten years had never taken this into consideration; they had constituted things as theorists, and likewise as optimists, without closely studying them, or else regarding them as they wished to have them. In the national assemblies, as well as with the public, the task was deemed easy and ordinary, whereas it was extraordinary and immense, for the matter in hand consisted in effecting a social revolution and in carrying on an European war. The materials were supposed to be excellent, as manageable as they were substantial, while, in fact, they were very poor, being both refractory and brittle, for these human materials consisted of the Frenchmen of 1789 and of the following years; that is to say, of exceedingly sensitive men doing each other all possible harm, inexperienced in political business, Utopians, impatient, intractable, and over-excited. Calculations had been made on these prodigiously false data; consequently, although the calculations were very exact, the results obtained were found absurd. Relying on these data, the machine had been planned, adjusted, superposed, and set in operation. Hence, although irreproachable in theory, it turned out practically a failure; the more imposing it seemed on paper the quicker it broke down when set up on the ground.
A capital defect at once declared itself in the two principal combinations, in the working gear of the superposed powers and in the balance of the motor powers.—In the first place, the hold given to the central government on its local subordinates was evidently too feeble; with no right to appoint these, it could not select them as it pleased, according to the requirements of the service. Department, district, canton, and commune administrators, civil and criminal judges, assessors, appraisers, and collectors of taxes, officers of the national-guard and even of the gendarmerie, police-commissioners, and other agents who had to enforce laws on the spot, were nearly all recruited elsewhere, either in popular assemblies or furnished ready-made by elected bodies.1 They were for it merely borrowed instruments; thus originating, they escaped its control; it could not make them work as it wanted them to work. On most occasions they would shirk their duties; at other times, on receiving orders, they would stand inert; or, again, they would act outside of or beyond their special function, either going too far or acting in a contrary sense; never did they act with moderation and strictness, steadily, and with unanimity. For this reason any desire of the government to do its work faithfully proved unsuccessful. Its legal subordinates—incapable, timid, lukewarm, unmanageable, or even hostile—obeyed badly, did not obey at all, or wilfully disobeyed. The blade of the executive instrument, loose in the handle, glanced or broke off when the thrust had to be made.
In the second place, never could the two or three motor forces thrusting the handle act in harmony, owing to the clashing of so many of them; one always ended in breaking down the other. The Constituent Assembly had set aside the King, the Legislative Assembly had deposed him, the Convention had decapitated him. Afterward each fraction of the sovereign body in the Convention had proscribed the other; the Montagnards had guillotined the Girondists, and the Thermidorians had guillotined the Montagnards. Later, under the Constitution of the year iii, the Fructidorians had transported the Constitutionalists, the Directory had purged the Councils, and the Councils had purged the Directory.—Not only did the democratic and parliamentary institution fail in its work and break down on trial, but, again, through its own action, it became transformed into its opposite. In a year or two a coup d’état in Paris took place; a faction seized on the central power and converted it into an absolute power in the hands of five or six ringleaders. The new government at once reforged the executive instrument for its own advantage and refastened the blade firmly on the handle; in the provinces it dismissed those elected by the people and deprived the governed of the right to choose their own rulers; henceforth, through its proconsuls on mission, or through its resident commissioners, it alone appointed, superintended, and regulated on the spot all local authorities.1
Thus the liberal constitution, at its close, gave birth to a centralized despotism, and this was the worst of its species, at once formless and monstrous; for it was born out of a civil crime, while the government which used it had no support but a band of bigoted fanatics or political adventurers; without any legal authority over the nation, or any moral hold on the army, detested, threatened, discordant, exposed to the resistance of its own upholders, to the treachery of its own members, and living only from day to day, it could maintain itself only through a brutal absolutism and permanent terror, while the public power of which the first care is the protection of property, consciences, and lives, became in its hands the worst of persecutors, robbers, and murderers.
Twice in succession had the experiment been tried, the monarchical constitution of 1791, and the republican constitution of 1795; twice in succession had the same events followed the same course to attain the same end; twice in succession had the theoretical, cunningly-devised machine for universal protection changed into an efficient and brutal machine for universal oppression. It is evident that if the same machine were started the third time under analogous conditions, one might expect to see it work in the same manner; that is to say, contrary to its purpose.
Now, in 1799, the conditions were analogous, and even worse, for the work which the machine had to do was not less, while the human materials available for its construction were not so good.—Externally, the country was constantly at war with Europe; peace could not be secured except by great military effort, and peace was as difficult to preserve as to win. The European equilibrium had been too greatly disturbed; neighboring or rival States had suffered too much; the rancor and distrust provoked by the invading revolutionary republic were too active; these would have lasted a long time against pacified France even after she had concluded reasonable treaties. Although she might abandon a policy of propagandism and interference, brilliant acquisitions, domineering protectorates, and the disguised annexation of Italy, Holland, and Switzerland, the nation was bound to keep watch under arms; a government able to concentrate all its forces—that is to say, placed above and beyond all dispute and promptly obeyed—was indispensable, if only to remain intact and complete, to keep Belgium and the frontier of the Rhine.—Likewise internally, and for no other purpose than to restore civil order; for here, too, the outrages of the Revolution had been too great; there had been too much spoliation, too many imprisonments, exiles, and murders, too many violations of every kind, too many invasions of the rights of property and of persons, public and private. To insure respect for persons and all private and public possessions, to restrain at once both Royalists and Jacobins, to restore 140,000 émigrés to their country and yet satisfy 1,200,000 possessors of national property; to give back to 25,000,000 of orthodox Catholics the right, faculty, and means for worshipping, and yet not allow the schismatic clergy to be maltreated; to bring face to face in the same commune the dispossessed seigneur and the peasant holders of his domain; to compel the delegates of the Committee of Public Safety and their victims, the shooters and the shot of Vendémiaire, the Fructidorians and the Fructidorized, the Whites and the Blues of La Vendée and Brittany, to live in peace side by side,—was so much the less easy because the future laborers in this immense work, from the village mayor to the state-senator and state-councillor, had borne a part in the Revolution, either in effecting it or under subjection to it—Monarchists, Feuillantists, Girondists, Montagnards, Thermidorians, moderate Jacobins or desperate Jacobins, all oppressed in turn and disappointed in their calculations. Their passions, under this régime, had become embittered; each brought personal bias and resentment into the performance of his duties; to prevent him from being unjust and mischievous demanded a tightened curb.1 All sense of conviction, under this régime, had died out; nobody would serve gratis as in 1789;2 nobody would work without pay; disinterestedness had lost all charm; ostentatious zeal seemed hypocrisy; genuine zeal seemed self-dupery; each looked out for himself and not for the community; public spirit had yielded to indifference, to egotism, and to the need of security, of enjoyment, and of self-advancement. Human materials, deteriorated by the Revolution, were less than ever suited to providing citizens—they simply afforded functionaries. With such wheels combined together according to formulæ current between 1791 and 1795, the requisite work could not possibly be done; both the great liberal mechanisms were definitely and for a long time condemned as worthless. So long as such poor wheels lasted and such heavy work was imperative, the election of local powers and the division of the central power had to be abandoned.
All were agreed on the first point. If any still doubted, they had only to open their eyes, fix them on the local authorities, watch them as soon as born, and follow them throughout the exercise of their functions.—Naturally, in filling each office, the electors had chosen a man of their own species and calibre; their fixed and dominant disposition was accordingly well known; they were indifferent to public matters and therefore their candidate was as indifferent as themselves. Too great zeal for the State would have prevented his election; the State to them was a troublesome moralist and remote creditor; their candidate must choose between them and this interloper, side with them against it, and not act as a pedagogue in its name or as bailiff in its behalf. When power is born on the spot and conferred to-day by constituents who are to submit to it to-morrow as subordinates, they do not put the whip in the hands of one who will flog them; they demand sentiments of him in conformity with their inclinations; in any event they will not tolerate in him the opposite ones. From the beginning, this resemblance between them and him is great, and it goes on increasing from day to day because the creature is always in the hands of his creators; subject to their daily pressure, he at last becomes as they are; after a certain period they have shaped him in their image.—Thus the candidate-elect, from the start or very soon after, became a confederate with his electors. At one time, and this occurred frequently, especially in the towns, he had been elected by a violent sectarian minority; he then subordinated general interests to the interests of a clique. At another, and especially in the rural districts, he had been elected by an ignorant and brutal majority, when he accordingly subordinated general interests to those of a village.—If he chanced to be conscientious and somewhat intelligent and was anxious to do his duty, he could not; he felt himself weak and was felt to be weak;1 both authority and the means for exercising it were wanting in him. He had not the force which a power above communicates to its delegates below; nobody saw behind him the government and the army; his only resource was a national-guard, which either shirked or refused to do its duty, and which often did not exist at all.—On the contrary, he could prevaricate, pillage, and persecute for his own advantage and that of his clique with impunity; for there was no restraint on him from above; the Paris Jacobins would not be disposed to alienate the Jacobins of the province; they were partisans and allies, and the government had few others, it was bound to retain them, to let them intrigue and embezzle at will.
Suppose an extensive domain of which the steward is appointed, not by the absent owner, but by his tenants, debtors, farmers, and dependents: the reader may imagine whether rents will be paid and debts collected, whether road-taxes will be worked out, what care will be taken of the property, what its annual income will be to the owner, how abuses of commission and omission will be multiplied indefinitely, how great the disorder will be, the neglect, the waste, the fraud, the injustice, and the license.—The same in France,1 and for the same reason: every public service disorganized, destroyed, or perverted; no justice, no police; authorities abstaining from prosecution, magistrates not daring to condemn; a gendarmerie which receives no orders or which stands still; rural marauding become a habit; roving bands of brigands in forty-five departments; mail wagons and coaches stopped and pillaged even up to the environs of Paris; highways broken up and rendered impassable; open smuggling, customs yielding nothing, national forests devastated, the public treasury empty,1 its revenues intercepted and expended before being deposited; taxes decreed and not collected, arbitrary assessments of real and personal estate, no less wicked exemptions than overcharges, no tax-lists made out in many places, communes which here and there, under pretext of defending the republic against neighboring consumers, exempt themselves from both tax and conscription; conscripts to whom their mayor gives false certificates of infirmity and marriage, who do not turn out when ordered out, who desert by hundreds on the way to headquarters, who form mobs and use guns in defending themselves against the troops,—such were the fruits of the system. The government, with agents provided through the egotism and folly of rural majorities, could not constrain rural majorities. With agents furnished through the partiality and corruption of urban minorities it could not repress urban minorities. Hands are necessary, and hands as firm as tenacious, to seize conscripts by the collar, to rummage the pockets of taxpayers, and the State had no hands. These must be procured and immediately, if only to prepare and provide for urgent needs. If the western departments had to be subdued and tranquilized, relief furnished to Massena besieged in Genoa, Mélas prevented from invading Provence, Moreau’s army transported over the Rhine, the first thing was to restore to the central government the appointment of local authorities.
On this second point, the evidence was scarcely less.—And clearly, the moment the local powers owed their appointment to the central powers, it is plain that the central executive power, on which they depend, should be unique. For, this great team of functionaries, driven from aloft, could not have aloft several distinct drivers, being several and distinct, the drivers would each pull his own way, while the horses, pulling in opposite directions, would do nothing but prance. In this respect the combinations of Sieyès do not bear examination. A mere theorist and charged with preparing the plan of a new constitution, he had reasoned as if the drivers on the box were not men, but automatons: perched above all, a grand-elector, a show sovereign, with two places to dispose of and always passive, except to appoint or revoke two active sovereigns, the two governing consuls; one, a peace-consul, appointing all civil officers, and the other a war-consul, making all military and diplomatic appointments; each with his own ministers, his own council of state, his own court of judicature; all these functionaries, ministers, consuls, and the grand-elector himself, revocable at the will of a senate which from day to day could absorb them, that is to say, make them senators with a salary of 30,000 francs and an embroidered dress-coat.1 Sieyès evidently had not taken into account either the work to be done or the men who would have to do it, while Bonaparte, who was doing the work at this very time, who understood men and who understood himself, at once put his finger on the weak spot of this complex mechanism, so badly adjusted and so frail. Two consuls, “one controlling the ministers of justice, of the interior, of the police, of the treasury, and the other the ministers of war, of the navy, and of foreign affairs.”2 The conflict between them is certain; look at them facing each other, subject to contrary influences and suggestions: around the former “only judges, administrators, financiers, and men in long robes,” and round the latter “only epaulets and men of the sword.” Certainly “one will need money and recruits for his army which the other will not grant.”—And it is not your grand-elector who will make them agree. “If he conforms strictly to the functions which you assign to him he will be the mere ghost, the fleshless phantom of a roi fainéant. Do you know any man vile enough to take part in such contrivances? How can you imagine any man of talent or at all honorable contentedly playing the part of a hog fattening himself on a few millions?”—And all the more because if he wants to abandon his part the door stands open. “Were I the grand-elector I would say to the war-consul and to the peace-consul on appointing them, If you put in a minister or sign a bill I don’t like I’ll put you out.” Thus does the grand-elector become an active, absolute monarch.
“But,” you may say, “the senate in its turn will absorb the grand-elector.”—“The remedy is worse than the disease; nobody, according to this plan, has any guarantees,” and each, therefore, will try to secure them to himself, the grand-elector against the senate, the consuls against the grand-elector, and the senate against the grand-elector and consuls combined, each uneasy, alarmed, threatened, threatening, and usurping to protect himself; these are the wheels which work the wrong way, in a machine constantly getting out of order, stopping, and finally breaking down entirely.
Thereupon, and as Bonaparte, moreover, was already master, all the executive powers were reduced to one, and this power was vested in him.1 In reality, “to humor republican opinion”2 they gave him two associates with the same title as his own; but they were appointed only for show, simply as consulting, inferior, and docile registrars, with no rights save that of signing their names after his and putting their signatures to the procès verbal declaring his orders; he alone commanded, “he alone had the say, he alone appointed to all offices,” so that they were already subjects as he alone was already the sovereign.
It remained to frame a legislative power as a counterpoise to this executive power, so concentrated and so strong.—In organized and tolerably sound communities this point is reached through an elective parliament which represents the public will; it represents this because it is a copy, a faithful reduction of that will on a small scale; it is so organized as to present a loyal and proportionate expression of diverse controlling opinions. In this case, the electoral selection has worked well; one superior right, that of election, has been respected, or, in other words, the passions excited have not proved too strong, which is owing to the most important interests not having proved too divergent.—Unfortunately, in France, rent asunder and discordant, all the most important interests were in sharp antagonism; the passions brought into play, consequently, were furious; no right was respected, and least of all that of election; hence the electoral test worked badly, and no elected parliament was or could be a veritable expression of the public will. Since 1791, the elections, violated and deserted, had brought intruders only to the legislative benches, under the name of mandatories. These were endured for lack of better; but nobody had any confidence in them, and nobody showed them any deference. People knew how they had been elected and how little their title was worth. Through inertness, fear, or disgust, the great majority of electors had not voted, while the voters at the polls fought among themselves, the strongest or least scrupulous expelling or constraining the rest. During the last three years of the Directory the electoral assembly was often divided; each faction elected its own deputy and protested against the election of the other. The government then chose between the two candidates elected, arbitrarily and always with barefaced partiality; and again, if but one candidate was elected, and that one an adversary, his election was invalidated. In sum, for nine years, the legislative body, imposed on the nation by a faction, was scarcely more legitimate than the executive power, another usurper, and which, later on, filled up or purged its ranks. Any remedy for this defect in the electoral machine was impossible; it was due to its internal structure, to the very quality of its materials. At this date, even under an impartial and strong government, the machine could not have answered its purpose, that of deriving from the nation a body of sober-minded and respected delegates, providing France with a parliament capable of playing its own part, or any part whatever, in the conduct of public business.
For, suppose that the new governors show uncommon loyalty, energy, and vigilance, remarkable political abnegation and administrative omnipresence, factions kept down without suppression of discussion, the central powers neutral yet active, no official candidature, no pressure from above, no constraint from below, police-commissioners respectful and gendarmes protecting the entrance to every electoral assembly, all proceedings regular, no disturbance inside, voting perfectly free, the electors numerous, five or six millions of Frenchmen gathered at the polls, and see what choice they will make. After Fructidor, there is a renewal of religious persecution and of excessive civil oppression; the brutality and unworthiness of the rulers have doubled and diffused hatred against the men and the ideas of the Revolution.—In Belgium, recently annexed, the regular and secular clergy had just been proscribed in a mass,1 and a great rural insurrection had broken out. The uprisal had spread from the Waes country and the ancient seignory of Malines, around Louvain as far as Tirlemont, and afterward to Brussels, to Campine, to South Brabant, to Flanders, to Luxembourg, in the Ardennes, and even to the frontiers of Liège; many villages had to be burned, and many of their inhabitants killed, and the survivors keep this in mind. In the twelve western departments,1 at the beginning of the year 1800, the royalists were masters of nearly the whole country and had control of forty thousand armed men in regimental order; undoubtedly these were to be overcome and disarmed, but they were not to be deprived of their opinions, as of their guns.—In the month of August, 1799,2 sixteen thousand insurgents in Haute Garonne and the six neighboring departments, led by Count de Paulo, had unfurled the white flag; one of the cantons, Cadours, “had risen almost entirely;” a certain town, Muret, sent all its able-bodied men. They had penetrated even to the faubourgs of Toulouse, and several engagements, including a pitched battle, were necessary to subdue them. On one occasion, at Montréjean, 2000 were slain or drowned. The peasants fought with fury, “a fury that bordered on frenzy;” “some were heard to exclaim with their last breath, ‘Vive le Roi!’ and others were cut to pieces rather than shout, ‘Vive la République!’ ” From Marseilles to Lyons the revolt lasted five years on both banks of the Rhone, under the form of brigandage; the royalist bands, increased by refractory conscripts and favored by the inhabitants whom they spared, killed or pillaged the agents of the republic and the buyers of national possessions.1 There were thus, in more than thirty departments, intermittent and scattered Vendées. In all the Catholic departments there was a latent Vendée. Had the elections been free during this state of exasperation it is probable that one-half of France would have voted for men of the ancient régime—Catholics, Royalists, or, at least, the Monarchists of 1790.
Let the reader imagine facing this party, in the same chamber, about an equal number of representatives elected by the other party; the only ones it could select, its notables, that is to say, the survivors of preceding assemblies, probably Constitutionalists of the year iv and the year v, Conventionalists of the Plain and of the Feuillants of 1792, from Lafayette and Dumolard to Daunou, Thibaudeau and Grégoire, among them Girondists and a few Montagnards, Barère,2 with others, all of them wedded to the theory the same as their adversaries to traditions. To one who is familiar with the two groups, behold two inimical doctrines confronting each other; two irreconcilable systems of opinions and passions, two contradictory modes of conceiving sovereignty, law, society, the State, property, religion, the Church, the ancient régime, the Revolution, the present and the past; it is civil war transferred from the nation to the parliament. Certainly the “Right” would like to see the First Consul a Monk, which would lead to his becoming a Cromwell; for his power depends entirely on his credit with the army, then the sovereign force; at this date the army is still republican, at least in feeling if not intelligently, imbued with Jacobin prejudices, attached to revolutionary interests, and hence blindly hostile to aristocrats, kings, and priests.1 At the first threat of a monarchical and Catholic restoration it will demand of him an eighteenth Fructidor; otherwise, some Jacobin general, Jourdan, Bernadotto, or Augereau, will make one without him, against him, and they fall back into the rut from which they wished to escape, into the fatal circle of revolutions and coups d’état.
Sieyès comprehended this: he detects on the horizon the two spectres which, for ten years, have haunted all the governments of France, legal anarchy and unstable despotism; he has found a magic formula with which to exorcise these two phantoms; henceforth “power is to come from above and confidence from below.”2 —Consequently, the new constitutional act withdraws from the nation the right to elect its deputies; it will simply elect candidates to the deputation and through three degrees of election, one above the other; thus, it is to take part in the choice of its candidates only through “an illusory and metaphysical participation.”3 The right of the electors of the first degree is wholly reduced to designating one-tenth among themselves; the right of those of the second degree is also reduced to designating one-tenth among themselves; the right of those of the third degree is finally reduced to designating one-tenth of their number, about six thousand candidates. On this list, the government itself, by right and by way of increasing the number, inscribes its own high functionaries; evidently, on such a long list, it will have no difficulty in finding men devoted to it, its creatures. Through another excess of precaution, the government, on its sole authority, in the absence of any list, alone names the first legislature. Last of all, it is careful to attach handsome salaries to these legislative offices, 10,000f., 15,000f., and 30,000f. a year; parties canvass with it for these places the very first day, the future depositaries of legislative power being, to begin with, solicitors of the antechamber.—To render their docility complete, there is a dismemberment of this legislative power in advance; it is divided among three bodies, born feeble and passive by institution. Neither of these has any initiative; their deliberations are confined to laws proposed by the government. Each possesses only a fragment of function; the “Tribunat” discusses without passing laws, the “Corps Législatif” decrees without discussion, the conservative “Sénat” is to maintain this general paralysis. “What do you want?” said Bonaparte to Lafayette.1 “Sieyès everywhere put nothing but phantoms, the phantom of a legislative power, the phantom of a judiciary, the phantom of a government. Something substantial had to be put in their place. Ma foi, I put it there,” in the executive power.
There it is, completely in his hands; other authorities to him are merely for show or as instruments.2 The mutes of the Corps Législatif come annually to Paris to keep silent for four months; one day he will forget to convoke them, and nobody will remark their absence.—As to the Tribunat, which talks too much, he will at first reduce its words to a minimum “by putting it on the diet of laws;” afterward, through the interposition of the senate, which designates retiring members, he gets rid of troublesome babblers; finally, and always through the interposition of the senate, titular interpreter, guardian, and reformer of the constitution, he ventilates and then suppresses the Tribunat itself.—The senate is the grand instrument by which he reigns; he commands it to furnish the senatus-consultes of which he has need. Through this comedy played by him above, and through another complementary comedy which he plays below, the plébiscite, he transforms his ten-year consulate into a consulate for life, and then into an empire, that is to say, into a permanent, legal, full, and perfect dictatorship. In this way the nation is handed over to the absolutism of a man who, being a man, cannot fail to think of his own interest before all others. It remains to be seen how far and for how long a time this interest, as he comprehends it, or imagines it, will accord with the interest of the public. All the better for France should this accord prove complete and permanent; all the worse for France should it prove partial and temporary. It is a terrible risk, but inevitable. There is no escape from anarchy except through despotism, with the chance of encountering in one man, at first a savior and then a destroyer, with the certainty of henceforth belonging to an unknown will fashioned by genius and good sense, or by imagination and egoism, in a soul fiery and disturbed by the temptations of absolute power, by success and universal adulation, in a despot responsible to no one but himself, in a conqueror condemned by the impulses of conquest to regard himself and the world under a light growing falser and falser.
Such are the bitter fruits of social dissolution. Public force perishes or becomes perverted; each uses it for his own purposes, and nobody is disposed to intrust it to a third party. The usurpers who possess themselves of it remain its depositaries only on condition that they may abuse it; when it works in their hands it is only to work against its office. The risk must be taken for better or for worse, when, through a final usurpation, it falls into the only hands able to restore it, organize it, and apply it at last to the service of the public.
I. Principal service rendered by the public power.—It is an instrumentality.—A common law for every instrumentality.—Mechanical instruments.—Physiological instruments.—Social instruments.—The perfection of an instrument increases with the convergence of its effects.—One given purpose excludes all others.—II. Application of this law to the public power.—General effect of its intervention.—III. It acts against its function. Its encroachments are attacks on persons and property.—IV. It badly fills the office of the bodies it supplant.—Cases in which it usurps their powers and refuses to be their substitute.—Cases in which it violates or profits by their mechanism.—In all cases it is a bad or mediocre substitute.—Reasons derived from its structure compared with that of other bodies.—V. Other consequences.—Suppressed or stunted bodies cease to grow.—Individuals become socially and politically incapable.—The hands into which public power then falls.—Impoverishment and degradation of the social body.
What is the service which the public power renders to the public?—The principal one is the protection of the community against the foreigner, and of private individuals against each other.—Evidently, to do this, it must in all cases be provided with indispensable means, namely: diplomats, an army, a fleet, arsenals, civil and criminal courts, prisons, a police, taxation and tax-collectors, a hierarchy of agents and local supervisors, who, each in his place and attending to his special duty, will co-operate in securing the desired effect.—Evidently, again, to apply all these instruments, the public power must have, according to the case, this or that form or constitution, this or that degree of impulse and energy; according to the nature and gravity of external or internal danger, it is proper that it should be concentrated or divided, emancipated from control or under control, authoritative or liberal. No indignation need be cherished beforehand against its mechanism, whatever this may be. Properly speaking, it is a vast engine in the human community like any given industrial machine in a factory, or any set of organs belonging to the living body. If the work cannot be done without the engine, let us accept the engine and its structure: whoever wants the end wants the means. All we can ask is that the means shall be adapted to the end; in other terms, that the myriads of large or small local or central pieces shall be determined, adjusted, and co-ordinated in view of the final and total effect to which they co-operate nearly or remotely.
But, whether simple or compound, every engine which does any work is subject to one condition; the better it is suited to any distinct purpose the less it is suited to other purposes; as its perfection increases, so does its application become limited.—Accordingly, if there are two distinct instruments applied to two distinct objects, the more perfect they are, each of its kind, the more do their domains become circumscribed and opposed to each other; as one of them becomes more capable of doing its own work it becomes more incapable of doing the work of the other; finally, neither can take the place of the other, and this is true whatever the instrument may be, mechanical, physiological, or social.
At the very lowest grade of human industry the savage possesses but one tool; with his cutting or pointed bit of stone he kills, breaks, splits, bores, saws, and carves; the same instrument suffices, in the main, for all sorts of services. After this come the lance, the hatchet, the hammer, the punch, the saw, the knife, each adapted to a distinct purpose and less efficacious outside of that purpose: one cannot saw well with a knife, and one cuts badly with a saw. Later, highly-perfected engines appear, and, wholly special, the sewing-machine and the typewriter: it is impossible to sew with the typewriter or write with the sewing-machine.—In like manner, when at the lowest round of the organic ladder the animal is simply a shapeless jelly, homogeneous and viscous, all parts of it are equally suited to all functions; the amœba, indifferently and by all the cells of its body, can walk, seize, swallow, digest, breathe, and circulate all its fluids, expel its waste, and propagate its species. A little higher up, in the fresh-water polyp, the internal sac which digests and the outer skin which serves to envelop it can, if absolutely necessary, change their functions; if you turn the animal inside out like a glove it continues to live; its skin, become internal, fulfils the office of a stomach; its stomach, become external, fulfils the office of an envelope. But, the higher we ascend, the more do the organs, complicated by the division and subdivision of labor, diverge, each to its own side, and refuse to take each other’s place. The heart, with the mammal, is only good for impelling the blood, while the lungs only furnish the blood with oxygen; one cannot possibly do the work of the other; between the two domains the special structure of the former and the special structure of the latter interpose an impassable barrier.—In like manner, finally, at the very bottom of the social scale—lower down than the Andamans and the Fuegians—we find a primitive stage of humanity in which society consists wholly of a herd. In this herd there is no distinct association in view of a distinct purpose; there is not even a family—no permanent tie between male and female; there is simply a contact of the sexes. Gradually, in this herd of individuals, all equal and all alike, particular groups define themselves, take shape, and separate: we see appearing more and more precise relationships, more and more distinct habitations, more and more hereditary homesteads, fishing, hunting, and war groups, and small workshops; if the people is a conquering people, castes establish themselves. At length, we find in this expanded and solidly-organized social body provinces, communes, churches, hospitals, schools, corporate bodies and associations of every species and dimension, temporary or permanent, voluntary or involuntary, in brief, a multitude of social engines constructed out of human beings who, on account of personal interest, habit, and constraint, or through inclination, conscience, and generosity, co-operate according to a public or tacit statute in effecting in the material or spiritual order of things this or that determinate undertaking: in France, to-day, there are, besides the State, eighty-six departments, thirty-six thousand communes, four church bodies, forty thousand parishes, seven or eight millions of families, millions of agricultural, industrial, and commercial establishments, hundreds of institutions of science and art, thousands of educational and charitable institutions, benevolent and mutual-aid societies, and others for business or for pleasure by tens and hundreds of thousands, in short, innumerable associations of every kind, each with a purpose of its own, and, like a tool or a special organ, carrying out a distinct work.
Now, each of these associations so far as it is a tool or an organ is subject to a common law; the better it is in one direction, the more mediocre it is in other directions; its special competency constitutes its general incompetency. Hence, with a civilized people, no particular one can well supply the place of the others. “An academy of painting which should also be a bank would, in all probability, exhibit very bad pictures and discount very bad bills. A gas company which should also be an infant-school society would, we apprehend, light the streets ill and teach the children ill.”1 And the reason is that an instrument, whatever it may be, a mechanical tool, or physiological organ, or human association, is always a system of pieces whose effects converge to a given end; it matters little whether the pieces are bits of wood and metal, as in the tool, cells and fibres, as in the organ, souls and understandings, as in the association; the essential thing is the convergence of their effects; for the more convergent these effects, the more efficient is the instrument in the realization of its end. But, through this convergence, it takes one direction exclusively and cannot take any other; it cannot operate at once in two different senses; it cannot possibly turn to the right and at the same time turn to the left. If any social instrument devised for a special service is made to act additionally for another, it will perform its own office badly as well as the one it usurps. Of the two works executed by it, the first injures the second and the second injures the first one. The end, ordinarily, is the sacrifice of one to the other, and, most frequently, the failure of both.
Let us follow out the effects of this law when it is the public power which, beyond its principal and peculiar task, undertakes a different task and puts itself in the place of corporate bodies to do their work; when the State, not content with protecting the community and individuals against external or internal oppression, takes upon itself additionally the government of churches, education, or charity, the direction of art, science, and of commerical, agricultural, municipal, or domestic affairs.—Undoubtedly, it can intervene in all corporate bodies other than itself; it has both the right and the duty to interfere; it is bound to do this through its very office as defender of persons and property, to repress in these bodies spoliation and oppression, to compel in them the observance of the primordial statute, charter, or contract, to maintain in them the rights of each member fixed by this statute, to decide according to this statute all conflicts which may arise between administrators and the administrated, between directors and stockholders, between pastors and parishioners, between deceased founders and their living successors. In doing this, it affords them its tribunals, its constables, and its gendarmes, and it affords these to them only with full consent after having looked into and accepted the statute. This, too, is one of the obligations of its office: its mandate hinders it from placing the public power at the service of despoiling and oppressive enterprises; it is interdicted from authorizing a contract for prostitution or slavery, and above all, for the best of reasons, a society for brigandage and insurrections, an armed league, or ready to arm itself, against the community, or a part of the community, or against itself.—But, between this legitimate intervention which enables it to maintain rights, and the abusive interference by which it usurps rights, the limit is visible, and it oversteps this limit when, to its function of justiciary, it adds a second, that of governing or supporting another corporation. In this case two series of abuses unfold themselves; on the one side, the State acts contrary to its primary office, and, on the other, it discharges the duties of its superadded office badly.1
For, in the first place, to govern another corporate body, for example the Church, the State at one time appoints its ecclesiastical heads, as under the old monarchy after the abolition of the Pragmatic Sanction by the Concordat of 1516; at another, as with the Constituent Assembly in 1791, without appointing its heads, it invents a new mode of appointment by imposing on the Church a discipline contrary to its spirit and even to its dogmas. Sometimes it goes further still and reduces a special body into a mere administrative branch, transforming its heads into revocable functionaries whose acts it orders and directs; such under the Empire as well as under the Restoration, were the mayor and common-councillors in a commune, and the professors and head-masters of the University. One step more and the invasion is complete: naturally, either through ambition or precaution, or through theory or prejudice, on undertaking a new service it is tempted to reserve to itself or delegate its monopoly. Before 1789 there existed one of these monopolies to the advantage of the Catholic Church, through the interdiction of other cults, also another to the advantage of each corporation of “Arts et Métiers,” through the interdiction of free labor; after 1800, there existed one for the benefit of the University through all sorts of shackles and constraints imposed on the establishment and maintenance of private schools.—Now, through each of these constraints the State encroaches on the domain of the individual; the more extended its encroachments the more does it prey upon and reduce the circle of spontaneous initiation and of independent action, which constitute the true life of the individual; if, in conformity with the Jacobin programme, it pushes its interference to the end, it absorbs in itself all other lives;1 henceforth, the community consists only of automata manœuvred from above, infinitely small residues of men, passive, multilated, and, so to say, dead souls; the State, instituted to preserve persons, has reduced them to nonentities.
The effect is the same with property when the State supports other organizations than its own. For, to maintain these, it has no other funds than those of the taxpayers; consequently, using its collectors, it takes the money out of their pockets; all, indiscriminately, willingly or not, pay supplementary taxes for supplementary services, whether this service benefits them or is repugnant to them. If I am a Protestant in a Catholic State, or a Catholic in a Protestant State, I pay for a religion which seems wrong to me and for a Church which seems to me mischievous. If I am a skeptic, a free-thinker, indifferent or hostile to positive religions in France, I pay to-day for the support of four cults which I regard as useless or pernicious. If I am a provincial or a peasant, I pay for maintaining an “Opéra” which I never attend and for a “Sèvres” and “Gobelins” of which I never see a vase or a piece of tapestry.—In times of tranquillity the extortion is covered up, but in troublous times it is nakedly apparent. Under the revolutionary government, bands of collectors armed with pikes made raids on villages as in conquered countries;2 the cultivator, collared and kept down by blows from the butt end of a musket, sees his grain taken from his barn and his cattle from their stable; “all scampered off on the road to the town;” while around Paris, within a radius of forty leagues, the departments fasted in order that the capital might be fed. With gentler formalities, under a regular government, a similar extortion occurs when the State, employing a respectable collector in uniform, takes from our purse a crown too much for an office outside of its competency. If, as with the Jacobin State, it claims all offices, it empties the purse entirely; instituted for the conservation of property, it confiscates the whole of it.—Thus, with property as with persons, when the public power proposes to itself another purpose than the preservation of these, not only does it overstep its mandate but it acts contrary to its mandate.
Let us consider the other series of abuses, and the way in which the State performs the service of the corporate bodies it supplants.
In the first place there is a chance that, sooner or later, it will shirk this work, for this new service is more or less costly, and, sooner or later, it seems too costly.—Undoubtedly the State has promised to defray expenses; sometimes even, like the Constituent and Legislative assemblies, the revenues for this having been confiscated, it has to furnish an equivalent; it is bound by contract to make good the local or special sources of revenue which it has appropriated or dried up, to furnish in exchange a supply of water from the grand central reservoir, the public treasury.—But if the water becomes low in this reservoir, if the taxes in arrears stop the regular supply, if a war happens to effect a large breach in it, if the prodigality and incapacity of the rulers multiply its fissures and leaks, there is no money on hand for accessory and secondary services; the State, which has adopted this service, drops it: we have seen under the Convention and the Directory how, having taken the property of all corporations, provinces, and communes, of institutions of education, art, and science, of churches, hospitals, and asylums, it performed their functions; how, after having been a despoiler and a robber, it became insolvent and bankrupt; how its usurpation and bankruptcy ruined and then destroyed all other services; how, through the double effect of its intervention and desertion, it annihilated in France education, worship, and charity; why the streets in the towns were no longer lighted nor swept; why, in the provinces, roads went to decay, and dikes crumbled; why schools and churches stood empty or were closed; why, in the asylum and in the hospital, foundlings died for lack of milk, the infirm for lack of clothing and food, and the sick for lack of broth, medicines, and beds.1
In the second place, even when the State respects a service or provides the means for it, there is a chance that it will pervert this simply because it comes under its direction.—When rulers lay their hands on an institution it is almost always for the purpose of making something out of it for their own advantage and to its detriment: they render everything subordinate to their interests or theories, they put some essential piece or wheel out of shape or place; they derange its action and put the mechanism out of order; they make use of it as a fiscal, electoral, or doctrinal engine, as a reigning or sectarian instrument.—Such, in the eighteenth century, was the ecclesiastical staff with which we are familiar,2 court bishops, drawing-room abbés imposed from above on their diocese or their abbey, non-residents, charged with functions which they do not fulfil, largely-paid idlers, parasites of the Church, and, besides all this, worldly, gallant, often unbelievers, strange leaders of a Christian clergy and which, one would say, were expressly selected to undermine Catholic faith in the minds of their flocks, or monastic discipline in their convents.—Such, in 1791,3 is the new constitutional clergy, schismatic, excommunicated, interlopers, imposed on the orthodox majority to say masses which they deem sacrilegious and to administer sacraments which they refuse to accept.
In the last place, even when the rulers do not subordinate the interests of the institution to their passions, to their theories, or to their own interests, even when they avoid mutilating it and changing its nature, even when they loyally fulfil, and as well as they know how, the supererogatory mandate which they have adjudged to themselves, they infallibly fulfil it badly, at least worse than the special and spontaneous bodies for which they substitute themselves, for the structure of these bodies and the structure of the state are different.—Unique of its kind, alone wielding the sword, acting from above and afar by authority and constraints, the State acts over the entire territory through uniform laws, through imperative and minute regulations, by a hierarchy of obedient functionaries, which it maintains under strict instructions. Hence, it is not adapted to business which, to be well done, needs springs and processes of another species. Its springs, wholly exterior, are insufficient, too weak to support and push undertakings which require an internal motor like private interest, local patriotism, family affections, scientific curiosity, charitable instincts, and religious faith. Its wholly mechanical processes, too rigid and too limited, cannot urge on enterprises which demand of whoever undertakes them delicate and safe handling, supple manipulation, appreciation of circumstances, ready adaptation of means to ends, constant contrivance, the initiative, and perfect independence. On this account the State is a poor head of a family, a poor commercial or agricultural leader, a bad distributor of labor and of subsistences, a bad regulator of production, exchanges, and consumption, a mediocre administrator of the province and the commune, an undiscerning philanthropist, an incompetent director of the fine arts, of science, of instruction, and of worship.1 In all these offices its action is either dilatory or bungling, according to routine or oppressive, always expensive, of little effect and feeble in returns, and always beyond or apart from the real wants it pretends to satisfy. And because it starts from too high a point and extends over too vast a field. Transmitted by hierarchical procedures, it lags along in formalism, and loses itself in “red-tape.” On attaining its end and object it applies the same programme to all territories alike—a programme devised beforehand in the Cabinet, all of a piece, without experimental groping and the necessary corrections; a programme which, calculated approximatively according to the average and the customary, is not exactly suited to any particular case; a programme which imposes its fixed uniformity on things instead of adjusting itself to their diversity and change; a sort of model coat, obligatory in pattern and stuff, which the government dispatches by thousands from the centre to the provinces, to be worn, willingly or not, by figures of all sizes and at all seasons.
And much worse. Not only does the State do the work badly on a domain not its own, bunglingly, at greater cost, and with less fruit than spontaneous organizations, but, again, through the legal monopoly which it deems its prerogative, or through the overwhelming competition which it exercises, it kills or paralyzes these natural organizations or prevents their birth; and hence so many precious organs, which, absorbed, atropic or abortive, are lost to the great social body.—And still worse, if this system lasts, and continues to crush them out, the human community loses the faculty of reproducing them; entirely extirpated, they do not grow again; even their germ has perished. Individuals no longer know how to form associations, how to co-operate under their own impulses, through their own initiative, free of outside and superior constraint, all together and for a long time in view of a definite purpose, according to regular forms under freely-chosen chiefs, frankly accepted and faithfully followed. Mutual confidence, respect for the law, loyalty, voluntary subordination, foresight, moderation, patience, preseverance, practical good sense, every disposition of head and heart, without which no association of any kind is efficacious or even viable, have died out for lack of exercise. Henceforth spontaneous, pacific, and fruitful co-operation, as practised by a free people, is unattainable; men have arrived at social incapacity and, consequently, at political incapacity.—In fact, they no longer choose their own constitution or their own rulers; they put up with these, willingly or not, according as accident or usurpation furnishes them; the public power with them belongs to the man, the faction, or the party sufficiently unscrupulous, sufficiently daring, sufficiently violent, to seize and hold on to it by force, to make the most of it as an egotist or charlatan, aided by parades and prestiges, along with bravura songs and the usual din of ready-made phrases on the rights of man and on the public salvation.—This central power itself has nothing in its hands to receive impulsions but an impoverished, inert, or languid social body, solely capable of intermittent spasms or of artificial rigidity according to order, an organism deprived of its secondary organs, simplified to excess, of an inferior or degraded kind, a people no longer anything but an arithmetical sum of separate, juxtaposed units, in brief, human dust or mud.
This is what the intervention of the State leads to. There are laws in the social and moral world as in the physiological and physical world; we may misunderstand them, but we cannot elude them; they operate now against us, now for us, as we please, but always alike and without heeding us; it is for us to heed them; for the two conditions they couple together are inseparable; the moment the first appears the second inevitably follows.
I. Precedents of the new organization.—In practical operation.—Anterior usurpations of the public power.—Spontaneous bodies under the Ancient Régime and during the Revolution.—Ruin and discredit of their supports.—The central power their sole surviving dependence.—II. The Theory.—Agreement of speculative ideas with practical necessities.—Public rights under the Ancient Régime.—The King’s three original rights.—Labors of the legists in extending royal prerogatives.—Historical impediments.—The primitive or ulterior limits of royal power.—The philosophic and revolutionary principle of popular sovereignty.—Unlimited extension of State power.—Application to spontaneous bodies.—Convergence of ancient and new doctrines.—Corporations considered as creations of the public power.—Centralization through the universal intervention of the State.—III. The Organizer.—Influence of Napoleon’s character and mind on his internal and French system.—Exigencies of his external and European rôle.—Suppression of all centres of combination and concord.—Extension of the public domain and what it embraces.—Reasons for maintaining the private domain.—The part of the individual.—His reserved enclosure.—Outlets for him beyond that.—His talents are enlisted in the service of public power.—Special aptitude and temporary vigor, lack of balance, and doubtful future of the social body thus formed.—IV. General aspect and characteristics of the new State.—Contrast between its structure and that of other contemporary or pre-existing States.—The plurality, complexity, and irregularity of ancient France.—The unity, simplicity, and regularity of modern France.—To what class of works it belongs.—It is the modern masterpiece of the classic spirit in the political and social order of things.—V. Its analogue in the antique world.—The Roman State from Diocletian to Constantine.—Causes and bearing of this analogy.—Survival of the Roman idea in Napoleon’s mind.—The new Empire of the West.
Unfortunately, in France at the end of the eighteenth century the bent was taken and the wrong bent. For three centuries and more the public power had unceasingly violated and discredited spontaneous bodies.—At one time it had mutilated them and decapitated them; for example, it had suppressed provincial governments (états) over three-quarters of the territory, in all the electoral districts; nothing remained of the old province but its name and an administrative circumscription.—At another time, without mutilating the corporate body it had enervated and deformed it, or dislocated and disjointed it. For instance, in the towns, through changes made in old democratic constitutions, through restrictions put upon electoral rights and repeated sales of municipal offices,1 it had handed over municipal authority to a narrow oligarchy of bourgeois families, privileged at the expense of the taxpayer, half separated from the main body of the public, disliked by the commonalty, and no longer supported by the confidence or deference of the community.2 Thus, in the parish and in the rural canton, it had taken away from the seigneur his office of resident protector and hereditary patron, reducing him to the odious position of a mere creditor, and, if he were a man of the court, to the yet worse position of an absentee creditor.3 Thus, as to the clergy, it had almost separated the head from the trunk by superposing (through the Concordat) a staff of gentleman prelates, rich, ostentatious, unemployed, and skeptical, upon an army of plain, poor, laborious, and believing curates.4 —In fine, again, through a protection as untimely as it was aggressive, it had conferred on the corporation oppressive privileges which rendered it offensive and mischievous, or else petrified through some obsolete form which paralyzed its action or corrupted its service. Such was the case with the corporations of arts and industries to which, in consideration of financial aid, it had conceded monopolies onerous to the consumer and a clog on industrial enterprises. Such was the case with the Catholic Church to which, every five years, it granted, in exchange for its voluntary gift (of money), cruel favors or obnoxious prerogatives, the prolonged persecution of Protestants, the censorship of intellectual speculation, and the right of controlling schools and education.5 Such was the case with the universities benumbed by routine; with the latest provincial “États,” constituted in 1789, as in 1489; with noble families subjected by law to the antique system of substitutions and of primogeniture, that is to say, to a social constraint which, devised for private as well as for public interests in order to secure the transmission of local patronage and political power, became useless and corrupting, fecund in pernicious vanities,1 in detestable calculations, domestic tyrannies, forced vocations, and private bickerings, from the time when the nobles, become frequenters of the court, had lost political power and renounced local patronage.
Corporate bodies, thus deprived of, or diverted from, their purpose, had become unrecognizable under the crust of the abuses which disfigured them; nobody, except a Montesquieu, could comprehend why they should exist; on the approach of the Revolution, they seemed, not organs, but excrescences, deformities, and, so to say, superannuated monstrosities. Their historical and natural roots, their living germs far below the surface, their social necessity, their fundamental utility, their possible usefulness, were no longer visible. Only their present inconvenience was felt; people suffered by their friction and burdensomeness; their incongruities and incoherencies excited dissatisfaction; annoyances due to their degeneracy were attributed to radical defects; they were judged to be naturally unsound and were condemned, in principle, because of the deviations and laws which the public power had imposed on their development.
Suddenly, the public power, which had produced the evil by its intervention, pretended to remove it by a still greater intervention: in 1789 it again intruded itself on corporate bodies, not to reform them, not to restore each to its proper channel, not to confine each within proper limits, but to destroy them outright. Through a radical, universal, and extraordinary amputation, the like of which is not mentioned in history, with the rashness of the theorist and the brutality of the butcher, the legislator extirpated them all, as far as he could, even including the family, while his fury extended beyond the present into the future. To legal abolition and total confiscation, he added the systematic hostility of his preventive laws, together with a fresh obstacle in the shape of his new constructions; during three successive legislatures1 he provided against their future regeneration, against the permanent instincts and necessities which might one day resuscitate stable families, distinct provinces, and an orthodox church, against artistic, industrial, financial, charitable, and educational corporations, against every spontaneous and organized group, and against every collective, local, or special enterprise. In place of these he installed factitious institutions, a Church without believers, schools without pupils, hospitals without incomes, a geometrical hierarchy of improvised powers in the commune, district, and department, all badly organized, badly recruited, badly adjusted, out of gear at the start, overweighted with political functions, as incapable of performing their proper duties as their supplementary duties, and, from the very beginning, either powerless or mischievous.2 Changes repeatedly marred by arbitrariness from above or from below, set aside or perverted now by the mob and again by the government, inert in the country, oppressive in the towns, we have seen the state into which they had fallen at the end of the Directory; how, instead of a refuge for liberty, they had become haunts for tyranny or sinks for egoism; why, in 1800, they were as much decried as their predecessors in 1788, why their two successive props, the old one and the most recent, historic custom and popular election, were now discredited and no longer resorted to.—After the disastrous experience of the monarchy and the still worse experience of the republic, another prop had to be sought for; but one remained, that of the central power, the only one visible and which seemed substantial; in default of others they had recourse to this.3 In any event, no protestation, even secret and moral, longer hindered the State from superadding corporate bodies to itself by way of self-extension, in order to use them for its own purposes as instruments or appendages.
The theory in this respect was in accordance with the necessity of the case, and not alone the recent theory, but again the ancient theory. Long before 1789, public right had elevated the prerogative of centralized power into a dogma and exaggerated it beyond measure.
There are three titles under which this power was conferred.—Feudal seignior, and suzerain, that is to say, commander-in-chief of the great resident army whose willing forces had served to reconstruct society in the ninth century, the King, through the remotest of his origins—that is to say, through the immemorial confusion of sovereignty with property—was the owner of France, the same as an individual owns his private domain.1 —Married, moreover, to the Church since the first Capets, consecrated and crowned at Rheims, anointed by God like a second David,2 not only was he believed to be authorized from on high, like other monarchs, but, from Louis le Gros, and especially after the time of St. Louis, he appeared as the delegate from on high, invested with a laic sacerdotalism, clothed with moral power, minister of eternal justice, redresser of wrongs, protector of the weak, benefactor of the humble—in short, “His Most Christian Majesty.”—At length, after the thirteenth century, the recent discovery and diligent study of the ancient codes of Justinian had shown in his person the successor of the Cæsars of Rome and of the Emperors of Constantinople. According to these codes the people in a body had transferred its rights to the prince; now, in antique cities, all rights were vested in the community, and the individual had none;1 accordingly, through this transfer, all rights, public or private, passed into the hands of the prince; henceforth he could exercise them as he pleased, under no restriction and no control. He was above the law, since he made it; his powers were illimitable and his decision absolute.2
On this triple frame the legists, like State spiders, had, from Philippe le Bel down, spun their web, and the instinctive concordance of their hereditary efforts had attached all its threads to the omnipotence of the King.—Being jurisconsults—that is to say, logicians—they were obliged to deduce, and their minds naturally recurred to the unique and rigid principle to which they might attach their arguments.—As advocates and councillors of the crown they espoused the case of their client and, through professional zeal, derived or forced precedents and texts to his advantage.—By virtue of being administrators and judges the grandeur of their master constituted their grandeur, and personal interest counselled them to expand a prerogative in which, through delegation, they took part.—Hence, during four centuries, they had spun the tissue of “regalian rights,” the great net in the meshes of which, since Louis XIV., all lives found themselves caught.3
Nevertheless, however close this network, there were openings in it, or, at least, very weak spots.—And first, of the consequences flowing from these three principles in their hands, two of them had hindered the third from unwinding its skein to the end: owing to the fact that the King was formerly Count de Paris and Abbot of St. Denis, he could not become a veritable Augustus, an authentic Diocletian: his two French titles limited his Roman title. Without regard to the laws, so-called fundamental, which imposed his heir on him beforehand, also the entire line of his successive heirs, the tutor, male or female, of his minor heir, and who, if he derogated from immemorial usage, broke his will like that of a private individual, his quality of suzerain and that of Most Christian, were for him a double impediment. As hereditary general of the feudal army he was bound to consider and respect the hereditary officers of the same army, his old peers and companions in arms—that is to say, the nobles. As outside bishop, he owed to the Church not alone his spiritual orthodoxy, but, again, his temporal esteem, his active zeal, and the aid furnished him by his secular arm. Hence, in applied right, the numerous privileges of the nobles and the Church, so many immunities and even liberties, so many remains of antique local independence, and even of antique local sovereignty,1 so many prerogatives, honorific or serviceable, maintained by the law and by the tribunals. On this side, the meshes of the monarchical netting had not been well knit or remained loose; and the same elsewhere, with openings more or less wide, in the five provincial governments (états), in the Pyrenees districts, in Alsace, at Strasbourg, but especially in Languedoc and in Brittany, where the pact of incorporation, through a sort of bilateral contract, associated together on the same parchment and under the same seal the franchises of the province and the sovereignty of the King.
Add to these original lacunæ the hole made by the Prince himself in his net already woven: he had with his own hand torn away its meshes, and by thousands. Extravagant to excess and always needy, he converted everything into money, even his own rights, and, in the military order, in the civil order, in commerce and in industry, in the administration, in the judicature, and in the finances, from one end of the territory to the other, he had sold innumerable offices, imposts, dignities, honors, monopolies, exemptions, survivorships, expectancies—in brief, privileges which, once conferred for a money consideration, became legal property,1 often hereditary and transmissible by the individual or corporation which had paid for them; in this way the King alienated a portion of his royalty for the benefit of the buyer. Now, in 1789, he had alienated a great many of these portions; accordingly, his present authority was everywhere restricted by the use he had previously made of it.—Sovereignty, thus, in his hands had suffered from the double effect of its historic origins and its historic exercise; the public power had not become, or had ceased to be, omnipotency. On the one hand it had not reached its plenitude, and on the other hand it had deprived itself of a portion of its own completeness.
The philosophers were disposed to remedy this double infirmity, innate and acquired, and, to this end, had transported sovereignty out of history into the ideal and abstract world, with an imaginary city of mankind reduced to the minimum of man, infinitely simplified, all alike, equal, separate from their surroundings and from their past, veritable puppets, all lifting their hands in common rectangular motion to vote unanimously for the contrat social. In this contract “all classes are reduced to one,1 the complete surrender of each associate, with all his rights, to the community, each giving himself up entirely, just as he actually is, himself and all his forces, of which whatever he possesses forms a part,” each becoming with respect to himself and every act of his private life a delegate of the State, a responsible clerk, in short, a functionary, a functionary of the people, henceforth the unique, the absolute, and the universal sovereign. A terrible principle, proclaimed and applied for ten years, below by the mob and above by the government! Popular opinion had adopted it; accordingly the passage from the sovereignty of the King to the sovereignty of the people was easy, smooth,2 and to the novice in reasoning, the old-fashioned taxable and workable subject, to whom the principle conferred a portion of the sovereignty, the temptation was too great. At once, according to their custom, the legists put themselves at the service of the new reign; besides this no dogma better suited their authoritative instinct; no axiom furnished them so convenient a fulcrum on which to set up and turn their logical wheel. This wheel, which they had latterly managed with care and caution under the ancient régime, had suddenly in their hands turned with frightful speed and effect in order to convert into practical, rigid, universal, and applied laws the intermittent processes, the theoretical pretensions, and the worst precedents of the monarchy; that is to say, the use of extraordinary commissions, accusations of lèse majesté, the suppression of legal formalities, the persecution of religious beliefs and of personal opinions, the right of condemning publications and of coercing thought, the right of instruction and education, the rights of pre-emption, of requisition, of confiscation, and of proscription, in short, pure and perfect despotism. The result is visible in the deeds of Treilhard, of Berlier, of Merlin de Douai, of Cambacérès, in those of the Constituant and Legislative Assemblies, in the Convention, under the Directory, in their Jacobin zeal or hypocrisy, in their talent for combining despotic tradition with tyrannic innovation, in their professional skill in fabricating on all occasions a snare of plausible arguments with which to decently strangle the individual, their adversary, to the profit of the State, their eternal patron.
In effect, not only had they almost strangled their adversary, but likewise, through reaction, their patron: France, after fourteen months of suffocation, was approaching physical suicide.1 Such success, too great, had obliged them to stop; they had abandoned one-half of their destructive creed, retaining only the other half, the effect of which, less imminent, was less apparent. If they no longer dared paralyze individual acts in the man, they persisted in paralyzing in the individual all collective acts.—There must be no special associations in general society; no corporations within the State, especially no spontaneous bodies endowed with the initiative, proprietary and permanent; such is Article II. of the revolutionary creed, and the direct consequence of the previous one which posits axiomatically the sovereignty of the people and the omnipotence of the State. Rousseau,1 inventor of the first, had likewise enunciated the second; the constituent assembly had solemnly decreed it and applied it on a grand scale,2 and successive assemblies had applied it on a still grander scale;3 it was a faith with the Jacobins, and, besides, in conformity with the spirit of Roman imperial right and with the leading maxim of French monarchical right. On this point the three known jurisprudential systems were in accord, while their convergence brought together around the same table, the legists of the three doctrines in a common task, ex-parliamentarians and ex-members of the Committee of Public Safety, former proscribers and the proscribed, the purveyors of Sinamari with Treilhard and Merlin de Douai, returned from Guiana, alongside of Simeon, Portalis, and Barbé-Marbois. There was nobody in this conclave to maintain the rights of spontaneous bodies; the theory, on all three sides, no matter from whom it proceeded, refused to recognize them for what they are originally and essentially, that is to say, distinct organisms equally natural with the State, equally indispensable in their way, and, therefore, as legitimate as itself; it allowed them only a life on trust, derived from above and from the centre. But, since the State created them, it might and ought to treat them as its creatures, keep them indefinitely under its thumb, use them for its purposes, act through them as through other agencies, and transform their chiefs into functionaries of the central power.
A new France, not the chimerical, communistic, equalized, and Spartan France of Robespierre and St. Just, but a possible, real, durable, and yet levelled and uniform France, logically struck out at one blow, all of a piece, according to one general principle, a France, centralized, administrative, and, save the petty egoistic play of individuals, managed in one entire body from top to bottom,—in short, the France which Richelieu and Louis XIV. had longed for, which Mirabeau after 17901 had foreseen, is now the work which the theories of the monarchy and of the Revolution had prepared, and toward which the final concurrence of events, that is to say, “the alliance of philosophy and the sabre,” led the sovereign hands of the First Consul.
Accordingly, considering his well-known character, the promptitude, the activity, the reach, the universality, and the cast of his intellect, he could not have proposed to himself a different work nor reduced himself to one of a lower standard. His need of governing and of administrating was too great; his capacity for governing and administrating was too great; his genius was absorbing.—Moreover, for the outward task that he undertook he required internally, not only uncontested possession of all executive and legislative powers, not only perfect obedience from all legal authorities, but, again, the entire subversion of all moral authority but his own, that is to say, the silence of public opinion and the isolation of each individual, and therefore the abolition, preventive and systematic, of any religious, ecclesiastic, pedagogic, charitable, literary, departmental, or communal initiative that might at present or in the future group men against him or alongside of him. Like a good general he provides for his retreat. At strife with all Europe, he so arranges it as not to allow in the France he drags along after him refractory souls or bodies which might form platoons in his rear. Consequently, and through precaution, he suppresses in advance all eventual rallying points or centres of combination. Henceforth, every wire which can stir up and bring a company of men together for the same object terminates in his hands; he holds in his firm grasp all these combined wires, guards them with jealous care, in order to strain them to the utmost. Let no one attempt to loosen them, and, above all, let no one entertain a thought of getting hold of them; they belong to him and to him alone, and compose the public domain, which is his domain proper.
But, alongside of his proper domain, he recognizes another in which he himself assigns a limit to the complete absorption of all wills by his own; he does not admit, of course in his own interest, that the public power, at least in the civil order of things and in common practice, should be illimitable nor, especially, arbitrary.1 —This is due to his not being an utopian or a theorist, like his predecessors of the Convention, but a perspicacious statesman, who is in the habit of using his own eyes. He sees things directly, in themselves; he does not imagine them through book formulæ or club phrases, by a process of verbal reasoning, employing the gratuitous suppositions of humanitarian optimism or the dogmatic prejudices of Jacobin imbecility. He sees man just as he is, not man in himself, the abstract citizen, the philosophic manikin of the Contrat Social, but the real individual, the entire living man, with his profound instincts, his tenacious necessities, which, whether tolerated or not by legislation, still subsist and operate infallibly, and which the legislator must take into consideration if he wants to turn them to account.—This individual, a civilized European and a modern Frenchman, constituted as he is by several centuries of tolerable police discipline, of respected rights and hereditary property, must have a private domain, an inclosed area, large or small, which belongs and is reserved to him personally, to which the public power interdicts access and before which it mounts guard to prevent other individuals from intruding on it. Otherwise his condition seems intolerable to him; he is no longer disposed to exert himself, to set his wits to work, or to enter on any enterprise. Let us be careful not to mar or relax in him this powerful and precious spring of action; let him continue to work, to produce, to economize, if only that he may be in a condition to pay taxes; let him continue to marry, to bring forth and raise up sons, if only to serve the conscription. Let us ease his mind with regard to his inclosure;1 let him exercise full proprietorship over it and enjoy it exclusively; let him feel himself at home in his own house in perpetuity, safe from any intrusion, protected by the code and by the courts, not alone against his enemies, but against the administration itself. Let him in this well-defined, circumscribed abode be free to turn round and range as he pleases, free to browse at will, and, if he chooses, to consume all his hay himself. It is not essential that his meadows should be very extensive: most men live with their nose to the ground; very few look beyond a very narrow circle; men are not much troubled by being penned up; the egoism and urgent needs of daily life are already for them ready-made limits; within these natural barriers they ask for nothing but to be allowed to graze in security. Let us give them this assurance and leave them free to consult their own welfare.—As to the rest, in very small number, more or less imaginative, energetic, and ardent, there is, outside the inclosure, an issue expressly provided for them; the new administrative and military professions offer an outlet to their ambition and to their self-love which, from the start, keeps on expanding until, suddenly, the First Consul points to an infinite perspective on the horizon.1 According to an expression attributed to him, henceforth, “the field is open to all talents,” and henceforth all talents, gathered into the central current and precipitated headlong through emulation, swell with their afflux the immensity of the public power.
This done, the principal features of modern France are traced; a creature of a new and strange type arises, defines itself, and issues forth, its structure determining its destiny. It consists of a social body organized by a despot and for a despot, calculated for the use of one man, excellent for action under the impulsion of a unique will, with a superior intelligence, admirable so long as this intelligence remains lucid and this will remains healthy; adapted to a military life and not to civil life, and therefore badly balanced, hampered (géné) in its development, exposed to periodical crises, condemned to precocious debility, but viable for a long time, and, for the present, robust, alone able to bear the weight of the new dominion and to furnish for fifteen successive years the crushing labor, the conquering obedience, the superhuman, murderous, insensate effort which its master exacts.
Let us take a nearer view of the master’s idea and of the way in which, at this moment, he figures to himself the society which is assuming new shape in his hands. All the leading features of the plan are fixed beforehand in his mind: they are already deeply graven on it through his education and through his instinct. By virtue of this instinct, which is despotic, by virtue of this education, which is classic and Latin, he conceives human associations not in the modern fashion, Germanic and Christian, as a concert of initiations starting from below, but in the antique fashion, pagan and Roman, as a hierarchy of authorities imposed from above. He puts his own spirit into his civil institutions, the military spirit; consequently, he constructs a huge barracks wherein, to begin with, he lodges thirty million men, women, and children, and, later on, forty-two million, all the way from Hamburg to Rome.
The edifice is, of course, superb and of a new style. On comparing it with other societies in surrounding Europe, and particularly France as she was previous to 1789, the contrast is striking.—Everywhere else the social edifice is a composition of many distinct structures—provinces, cities, seignories, churches, universities, and corporations. Each has begun by being a more or less isolated block of buildings where, on an inclosed area, a population has lived apart. Little by little the barriers have given way; either they have been broken in or have tumbled down of their own accord; passages have been made between one and the other and new additions have been put up; at last, these scattered buildings have all become connected and soldered on as annexes to the central pile. But they combine with it only through a visible and clumsy juxtaposition, through incomplete and bizarre communications: the vestiges of their former independence are still apparent athwart their actual dependence. Each still rests on its own primitive and appropriate foundations; its grand lines subsist; its main work is often almost intact. In France, on the eve of 1789, it is easily recognized what she formerly was; for example, it is clear that Languedoc and Brittany were once sovereign States, Strasbourg a sovereign town, the Bishop of Mende and the Abbess of Remiremont, sovereign princes;1 every seignior, laic, or ecclesiastic, was so in his own domain, and he still possessed some remnants of public power. In brief, we see thousands of states within the State, absorbed, but not assimilated, each with its own statutes, its own legal customs, its own civil law, its own weights and measures; several with special privileges and immunities; some with their own jurisdiction and their own peculiar administration, with their own imposts and tariffs like so many more or less dismantled fortresses, but whose old feudal, municipal, or provincial walls still rose lofty and thick on the soil comprehended within the national enclosure.
Nothing could be more irregular than this total aggregate thus formed; it is not really an entire whole, but an agglomeration. No plan, good or bad, has been followed out; the architecture is of ten different styles and of ten different epochs. That of the dioceses is Roman and of the fourth century; that of the seignories is Gothic and of the ninth century; one structure dates from the Capetians, another from the Valois, and each bears the character of its date. Because each has been built for itself and with no regard to the others, adapted to an urgent service according to the exigencies or requirements of time, place, and circumstance; afterward, when circumstances changed, it had to adapt itself to other services, and this constantly from century to century, under Philippe le Bel, under Louis XI., under Francis I., under Richelieu, under Louis XIV., through constant revision which never consists of entire destruction, through a series of partial demolitions and of partial reconstructions, in such a way as to maintain itself, during the transformation, in conciliating, well or ill, new demands and rooted habits, in reconciling the work of the passing generation with the works of generations gone before.—The central seignory itself is merely a donjon of the tenth century, a military tower of which the inclosure has extended so as to embrace the entire territory, and of which the other buildings, more or less incorporated with it, have become prolongations.—A similar medley of constructions—disfigured by such mutilations, adjuncts, and patches, a pell-mell so complicated with such incongruous bits and fragments—can be comprehended only by antiquaries and historians; ordinary spectators—the public—pronounce it absurd; it finds no favor with that class of reasoners who, in social architecture as in physical architecture, repudiate disorder, posit theories, deduce consequences, and require that every work shall proceed from the application of a simple idea.
And worse still, not only is good taste offended but, again, good sense often murmurs. Practically, the edifice fails in its object, for, erected for men to dwell in, it is in many places scarcely habitable. Because it endures it is found superannuated, ill-adapted to prevailing customs; it formerly suited, and still suits, the feudal, scattered, and militant way of living; hence it no longer suits the unity and repose of modern life. New-born rights obtain no place in it alongside of established rights; it is either not sufficiently transformed or it has been transformed in an opposite sense, in such a way as to be inconvenient or unhealthy, badly accommodating people who are useful and giving good accommodations to useless people, costing too much to keep up and causing discomfort and discontent to nearly all its occupants.—In France, in particular, the best apartments, especially that of the King, are for a century past too high and too large, too sumptuous and too expensive. Since Louis XIV. these have imperceptibly ceased to be government and business bureaus; they have become in their disposition, decoration, and furnishing, saloons for pomp and conversation, the occupants of which, for lack of other employment, delight in discussing architecture and in tracing plans on paper for an imaginary edifice in which everybody will find himself comfortable. Now, underneath these, everybody finds himself uncomfortable, the bourgeoisie in its small scanty lodgings on the ground-floor and the people in their holes in the cellar, which are low and damp, wherein light and air never penetrate. Innumerable vagabonds and vagrants are still worse off, for, with no shelter or fireside, they sleep under the stars, and as they are without anything to care for, they are disposed to pull everything down.—Under the double pressure of insurrection and theory the demolition begins, while the fury of destruction goes on increasing until nothing is left of the overthrown edifice but the soil it stood on.
The new one rises on this cleared ground and, historically as well as structurally, it differs from all the others.—In less than ten years it springs up and is finished according to a plan which, from the first day, is definite and complete. It forms one unique, vast, monumental block, in which all branches of the service are lodged under one roof; in addition to the national and general services belonging to the public power, we find here others also, local and special, which do not belong to it, such as worship, education, charity, fine arts, literature, departmental and communal interests, each installed in a distinct compartment. All the compartments are ordered and arranged alike, forming a circle around the magnificent central apartment, with which each is in communication by a bell; as soon as the bell rings and the sound spreads from division to sub-division, the entire service, from the chief clerk down to the lowest employee, is instantly in motion; in this respect the arrangement, as regards despatch, co-ordination, exactitude, and working facilities, is admirable.1
On the other hand, its advantages and attractions for employees and aspirants of every kind and degree are not mediocre. There is no separation between the stories, no insurmountable barrier or inclosure between large and small apartments; all, from the least to the finest, from the outside as well as from the inside, have free access. Spacious entrances around the exterior terminate in broad, well-lighted staircases open to the public; everybody can clamber up that pleases, and to mount these one must clamber; from top to bottom there is no other communication than that which they present. There is no concealed and privileged passage, no private stairway or false door; glancing along the whole rectilinear, uniform flight, we behold the innumerable body of clerks, functionaries, supernumeraries, and postulants, an entire multitude, ranged tier beyond tier and attentive; nobody advances except at the word and in his turn.—Nowhere in Europe are human lives so well regulated, within lines of demarcation so universal, so simple, and so satisfactory to the eye and to logic: the edifice in which Frenchmen are henceforth to move and act is regular from top to bottom, in its entirety as well as in its details, outside as well as inside; its stories, one above the other, are adjusted with exact symmetry; its juxtaposed masses form pendants and counterpoise; all its lines and forms, every dimension and proportion, all its props and buttresses combine, through their mutual dependencies, to compose a harmony and to maintain an equilibrium. In this respect the structure is classic, belonging to the same family of productions which the same spirit, guided by the same method, had produced in Europe for the previous one hundred and fifty years.1 Its analogues, in the physical order of things, are the architectural productions of Mansard, Le Notre, and their successors, from the structures and gardens of Versailles down to and embracing the Madeleine and the Rue de Rivoli. In the intellectual order, its analogues consist of the literary forms of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the superb oratorical prose and correct, eloquent poetry, especially epics and tragedies, including those still manufactured according to rule about the year 1810. It corresponds to these and forms their pendant in the political and social order of things, because it emanates from the same deliberate purpose. Four constitutions, in the same style, preceded it; but these were good only on paper, while this one stands firm on the ground. For the first time in modern history we see a society due to ratiocination and, at the same time, substantial; the new France, under these two heads, is the masterpiece of the classic spirit.
Nevertheless, on going back beyond modern times, beyond the Middle Ages, as far as the antique world, we encounter in the age of Diocletian and Constantine another monument whose architecture, equally regular, is developed on a still grander scale, and because, in that remote era, we breathe the natal atmosphere and stand on the natal soil of the classic spirit.—At this date, human materials, much more thoroughly broken up and better prepared than in France, existed likewise in the requisite condition. At this date, we likewise see at work the prearranging reasoning faculty which simplifies in order to deduce, which leaves out historic customs and local diversities, which fixes attention on man as he is, which treats individuals as units and the people as totals, which forcibly applies its general outlines to all special lives, and which glories in constituting, legislating, and administering by rule according to the measurements of square and compass.—At this date, in effect, the turn of mind, the talent, the ways of the Roman architect, his object, his resources and his means of execution, are already those of his French successor; the conditions around him in the Roman world are equivalent; behind him in Roman history the precedents, ancient and recent, are almost the same.
In the first place, there is, since Augustus, the absolute monarchy, and, since the Antonines, administrative centralization;1 after this, all the old national and municipal communities broken up or crushed out, all collective existences chilled or extinguished, the slow wearing away of local patriotism, the increasing diminution of individual initiative, and, under the invasive interference, direction, and providence of the State, one hundred millions of men more and more separated from each other and passive;2 consequently, in full enjoyment of peace and internal prosperity under the appearances of union, force, and health, latent feebleness, and, as in France on the approach of 1789, a coming dissolution.—There is next, as after 1789 in France, the total collapse, not from below and among the people, but from above and through the army, a worse collapse than in France, prolonged for fifty years of anarchy, civil wars, local usurpations, ephemeral tyrannies, urban seditions, rural jacqueries, brigandage, famines, and invasions along the whole frontier, with such a ruin of agriculture and other useful activities, with such a diminution of public and private capital, with such a destruction of human lives that, in twenty years, the number of the population seems to have diminished one-half.3 There is, finally, as after 1799, in France, the re-establishment of order brought about more slowly, but by the same means, the army and a dictatorship, in the rude hands of three or four great military parvenus, Pannonians or Dalmatians, Bonapartes of Sirmium or of Scutari, they too, of a new race or of intact energy, adventurers and children of their own deeds, the last Diocletian, like Napoleon, a restorer and an innovator; around them, as around Napoleon, to aid them in their civil undertakings, is a crowd of expert administrators and eminent jurisconsults, all practitioners, statesmen, and business men, and yet men of culture, logicians, and philosophers, imbued with the double governmental and humanitarian idea, which for three centuries Greek speculation and Roman practice had introduced into minds and imaginations, at once levelling and authoritative, tending to exaggerate the attributes of the State and the supreme power of the prince,1 no less inclined to putting natural right in the place of positive law,2 to preferring equity and logic to antiquity and to custom, to restoring the dignity of manhood to every human being, to raising the condition of the slave, of the provincial, of the debtor, of the bastard, of woman, of the child, and to forcing into human community all its inferior members, foreign or degraded, which the ancient constitution of the family and of the city had excluded from it.
Accordingly, in the political, legislative, and judicial organizations which extend from Diocletian to Constantine, and beyond these down to Theodosius, Napoleon found the grand lines of his own work traced back, and, at the base, popular sovereignty;3 the powers of the people delegated unconditionally to one man; this omnipotence, conferred, theoretically or apparently, through the free choice of citizens, but really through the will of the army; no protection against the Prince’s arbitrary edict, otherwise than a no less arbitrary rescript from the same hand; his successor designated, adopted, and qualified by himself; a senate for show, a council of state for business; all local powers conferred from above; cities under tutelage; all subjects endowed with the showy title of citizen, and all citizens reduced to the humble condition of taxpayers and of people under control; an administration of a hundred thousand arms which takes all services into its hands, comprising public instruction, public succor, and public supplies of food, together with systems of worship, at first pagan cults, and afterward, after Constantine, the Christian cult; all these services classified, ranked, co-ordinated, carefully defined in such a way as not to encroach on each other, and carefully combined in such a way as to complete each other; an immense hierarchy of transferable functionaries kept at work from above on one hundred and eighty square leagues of territory; thirty populations of different race and language—Syrians, Egyptians, Numidians, Spaniards, Gauls, Britons, Germans, Greeks, Italians—subject to the same uniform régime; the territory divided like a checker-board, on arithmetical and geometrical principles, into one hundred or one hundred and twenty small provinces; old nations or States dismembered and purposely cut up so as to put an end forever to natural, spontaneous, and viable groups; a minute and verified census every fifteen years to correctly assign land taxes; an official and universal language; a State system of worship, and, very soon, a Church and State orthodoxy; a systematic code, full and precise, admirable for the rule of private life, a sort of moral geometry in which the theorems, rigorously linked together, are attached to the definitions and axioms of abstract justice; a scale of grades, one above the other, which everybody may ascend from the first to the last; titles of nobility more and more advanced, suited to more and more advanced functions; spectabiles, illustres, clarissimi, perfectissimi, analogous to Napoleon’s Barons, Counts, Dukes, and Princes; a programme of promotion once exhibiting, and on which are still seen, common soldiers, peasants, a shepherd, a barbarian, the son of a cultivator (colon), the grandson of a slave, mounting gradually upward to the highest dignities, becoming patrician, Count, Duke, commander of the cavalry, Cæsar, Augustus, and donning the imperial purple, enthroned amid the most sumptuous magnificence and the most elaborate ceremonial prostrations, a being called God during his lifetime, and after death adored as a divinity, and dead or alive, a complete divinity on earth.1
So colossal an edifice, so admirably adjusted, so mathematical, could not wholly perish; its hewn stones were too massive, too nicely squared, too exactly fitted, and the demolisher’s hammer could not reach down to its deepest foundations.—This one, through its shaping and its structure, through its history and its duration, resembles the stone edifices which the same people at the same epoch elevated on the same soil, the aqueducts, amphitheatres, and triumphal arches, the Coliseum, the baths of Diocletian and of Caracalla; the mediæval man, using their intact foundations and their shattered fragments, built here and there, haphazard, according to the necessities of the moment, planting his Gothic towers between Corinthian columns against the panels of walls still standing.2 But, under his incoherent masonry, he observed the beautiful forms, the precious marbles, the architectural combinations, the symmetrical taste of an anterior and superior art; he felt that his own work was rude; the new world, to all thinking minds, was miserable compared with the old one; its languages seemed a patois, its literature mere stammering or drivelling, its law a mass of abuses or a mere routine, its feudality anarchy, and its social arrangements, disorder.—In vain had the mediæval man striven to escape through all issues, by the temporal road and by the spiritual road, by the universal and absolute monarchy of the German Cæsars, and by the universal and absolute monarchy of the Roman pontiffs. At the end of the fifteenth century the Emperor still possessed the golden globe, the golden crown, the sceptre of Charlemagne and of Otho the Great, but, after the death of Frederick II., he was nothing more than a majesty for show; the Pope still wore the tiara, still held the pastoral staff and the keys of Gregory VII. and of Innocent III., but, after the death of Boniface VIII., he was nothing more than a majesty of the Church. Both abortive restorations had merely added ruins to ruins, while the phantom of the ancient empire alone remained erect amid so many fragments. Grand in its outlines and decorations, it stood there, august, dazzling, in a halo, the unique masterpiece of art and of reason, as the ideal form of human society. For ten centuries this spectre haunted the mediæval epoch, and nowhere to such an extent as in Italy.
It reappears the last time in 1800, starting up in and taking firm hold of the magnificent, benighted imagination of the great Italian,1 to whom the opportunity afforded the means for executing the grand Italian dream of the Middle Ages; it is according to this retrospective vision that the Diocletian of Ajaccio, the Constantine of the Concordat, the Justinian of the Civil Code, the Theodosius of the Tuileries and of St. Cloud reconstructed France.
This does not mean that he copies—he restores; his conception is not plagiarism, but a case of atavism; it comes to him through the nature of his intellect and through racial traditions. In the way of social and political conceptions, as in literature and in art, his spontaneous taste is ultra-classic. We detect this in his mode of comprehending the history of France; State historians, “encouraged by the police,” must make it to order; they must trace it “from the end of Louis XIV. to the year viii,” and their object must be to show how superior the new architecture is to the old one.1 “The constant disturbance of the finances must be noted, the chaos of the provincial assemblies, . . . the pretensions of the parliaments, the lack of energy and order in the administration, that parti-colored France with no unity of laws or of administration, being rather a union of twenty kingdoms than one single State, so that one breathes on reaching the epoch in which people enjoy the benefits of the unity of the laws, of the administration, and of the territory.” In effect, he breathes; in thus passing from the former to the latter spectacle, he finds real intellectual pleasure; his eyes, offended with Gothic disorder, turn with relief and satisfaction to majestic simplicity and classic regularity; his eyes are those of a Latin architect brought up in the “École de Rome.”
This is so true that, outside of this style, he admits of no other. Societies of a different type seem to him absurd. He misconceives their local propriety and the historical reasons for their existence. He takes no account of their solidity. He is going to dash himself against Spain and against Russia, and he has no comprehension whatever of England.1 —This is so true that, wherever he places his hand he applies his own social system; he imposes on annexed territories and on vassal2 countries the same uniform arrangements, his own administrative hierarchy, his own territorial divisions and subdivisions, his own conscription, his civil code, his constitutional and ecclesiastical system, his university, his system of equality and promotion, the entire French system, and, as far as possible, the language, literature, drama, and even the spirit of his France,—in brief, civilization as he conceives it, so that conquest becomes propagandism, and, as with his predecessors, the Cæsars of Rome, he sometimes really fancies that the establishment of his universal monarchy is a great benefit to Europe.
“The Revolution,” p. 193 and following pages, also p. 224 and following pages. The provisions of the constitution of the year iii, somewhat less anarchical, are analogous; those of the “Mountain” constitution (year ii) are so anarchical that nobody thought of enforcing them.
“The Revolution,” vol. iii., pp. 446, 450, 476.
Sauzay, “Histoire de la persécution révolutionnaire dans le département du Doubs,” x., 472 (Speech of Briot to the five-hundred, Aug. 29, 1799): “The country seeks in vain for its children; it finds the chouans, the Jacobins, the moderates, and the constitutionalists of ’91 and ’93, clubbists, the amnestied, fanatics, scissionists and anti-scissionists; in vain does it call for republicans.”
“The Revolution,” iii., 427, 474.—Rocquain, “L’état de la France au 18 Brumaire,” 360, 362: “Inertia or absence of the national agents . . . . It would be painful to think that a lack of salary was one of the causes of the difficulty in establishing municipal administrations. In 1790, 1791, and 1792, we found our fellow-citizens emulously striving after these gratuitous offices and even proud of the disinterestedness which the law prescribed.” (Report of the Directory, end of 1795.) After this date public spirit is extinguished, stifled by the Reign of Terror.—Ibid., 368, 369: “Deplorable indifference for public offices . . . . Out of seven town officials appointed in the commune of Laval, only one accepted, and that one the least capable. It is the same in the other communes.”—Ibid., 380 (Report of the year vii): “General decline of public spirit.”—Ibid., 287 (Report by Lacuée, on the 1st military division, Aisne, Eure-et-Loire, Loiret, Oise, Seine, Seine-et-Marne, (year ix): “Public spirit is dying out and is even gone.”
Rocquain, Ibid., p. 27 (Report of François de Nantes, on the 8th military division, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhone, Var, Basses-Alpes, and Alpes-Maratimes, year ix): “Witnesses, in some communes, did not dare furnish testimony, and, in all, the justices of the peace were afraid of making enemies and of not being re-elected. It was the same with the town officials charged with prosecutions and whom their quality as elected and temporary officials always rendered timid.”—Ibid., 48: “All the customs directors complained of the partiality of the courts. I have myself examined several cases in which the courts of Marseilles and Toulon decided against the plain text of the law and with criminal partiality.—Archives nationales, series F7, Reports “on the situation, on the spirit of the public,” in many hundreds of towns, cantons, and departments, from the year iii to the year viii and after.
Cf. “The Revolution,” iii., book ix., ch. 1.—Rocquain, passim.—Schmidt, “Tableaux de la Révolution française,” iii., parts 9 and 10.—Archives nationales, F7, 3250 (Letter of the commissioner of the executive directory, Fructidor 23, year vii): “Armed mobs on the road between Saint-Omer and Arras have dared fire on the diligences and rescue from the gendarmerie the drawn conscripts.”—Ibid., F7, 6565. Only on Seine-inférieure, of which the following are some of the reports of the gendarmerie for one year.—Messidor, year vii, seditious mobs of conscripts and others in the cantons of Motteville and Doudeville. “What shows the perverted spirit of the communes of Gremonville and of Héronville is that none of the inhabitants will make any declaration, while it is impossible that they should not have been in the rebels’ secrets.”—Similar mobs in the communes of Guerville. Millebose, and in the forest of Eu: “It is stated that they have leaders, and that drilling goes on under their orders.”—(Vendémiarie 27, year viii.) “Twenty-five armed brigands or drafted men in the cantons of Réauté and Bolbec have put cultivators to ransom.”—(Nivôse 12, year viii.) In the canton of Cuny another band of brigands do the same thing.—(Germinal 14, year viii.) Twelve brigands stop the diligence between Neufchâtel and Rouen; a few days after, the diligence between Rouen and Paris is stopped and three of the escort are killed.—Analogous scenes and mobs in the other departments.
“Mémoires” (unpublished) of M. X——, i., 260. Under the Directory, “one-day, in order to despatch a special courier, the receipts of the Opera had to be taken because they were in coin. Another day, it was on the point of sending every gold piece in the musée of medals to be melted down (worth in the crucible from 5000 to 6000 francs).”
“Théorie constitutionnelle de Sieyès.” (Extract from unpublished memoirs by Boulay de la Meurthe.) Paris, 1866, Renouard.
“Correspondance de Napoléon Ier” xxx., 345. (“Mémoires.”)—“Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène.
“Extrait des Mémoires” de Boulay de la Meurthe, p. 50. (Words of Bonaparte to Rœderer about Sieyès, who raised objections and wanted to retire.) “If Sieyès goes into the country, draw up for me at once the plan of a constitution. I will summon the primary assemblies in a week and make them accept it after discharging the (Constituant) committees.”
“Correspondance de Napoléon Ier” xxx., 345, 346. (“Mémoires.”) “Circumstances were such as to still make it necessary to disguise the unique magistracy of the president.”
“The Revolution,” iii., 458, 417.—“Mercure britannique,” nos. for November 1798 and January 1799. (Letters from Belgium.)—“More than 300 millions have been seized by force in these desolated provinces; there is not a landowner whose fortune has not been ruined, or sequestrated, or fatally sapped by forced levies and the flood of taxes which followed these, by robberies of movable property and the bankruptcy due to France having discredited claims on the emperor and on the governments, in short through confiscation.”—The insurrection breaks out, as in Vendée, on account of the conscription; the war-cry of the insurgents is, “Better die here than elsewhere.”
De Martel, “Les Historiens fantaisistes,” part 2 (on the Pacification of the West, according to reports of the royalist leaders and of the republican generals).
Archives nationales, F7, 3218. (Summary of despatches arranged according to dates.—Letters of Adjutant-General Vicose, Fructidor 3, year vii.—Letters of Lamagdelaine, commissioner of the executive Directory, Thermidor 26 and Fructidor 3, year vii.)—“The rascals who led the people astray had promised them, in the King’s name, that they should not be called on for further taxes, that the conscripts and requisitionnaires should not leave, and, finally, that they should have the priests they wanted.”—Near Montréjean “the carnage was frightful, nearly 2000 men slain or drowned and 1000 prisoners.”—(Letter of M. Alquier to the first consul, Pluviôse 18, year viii.) “The insurrection of Thermidor caused the loss of 3000 cultivators.”—(Letters of the department administrators and of the government commissioners, Nivôse 25 and 27, Pluviôse 13, 15, 25, 27, and 30, year viii.)—The insurrection is prolonged through a vast number of isolated outrages, with sabres or guns, against republican functionaries and partisans, justices of the peace, mayors, etc. In the commune of Balbèze, fifty conscripts, armed deserters with their knapsacks, impose requisitions, give balls on Sunday, and make patriots give up their arms. Elsewhere, this or that known patriot is assaulted in his house by a band of ten or a dozen young folks who make him pay a ransom, shout “Vive le Roi!” etc.—Cf. “Histoire de l’insurrection royaliste de l’an vii,” by B. Lavigne, 1887.
Archives nationales, F7, 3273 (Letter of the commissioner of the executive Directory, Vaucluse, Fructidor 6, year vii.): “Eighty armed royalists have carried off, near the forest of Suze, the cash-box of the collector, Bouchet, in the name of Louis XVIII. These rascals, it must be noted, did not take any of the money belonging to the collector himself.”—(Ibid., Thermidor 3, year vii.) “On looking around among our communes I find all of them under the control of royalist or town-councillors. That is the spirit of the peasants generally. . . . Public spirit it so perverted, so opposed to the constitutional régime, that a miracle only will bring them within the pale of freedom.”—Ibid., F7, 3199. (Similar documents on the department of Bouches-du-Rhone.) Outrages continue here far down into the consulate, in spite of the vigor and multitude of military executions.—(Letter of the sub-prefect of Tarascon, Germinal 15, year ix.) “In the commune of Eyragues, yesterday, at eight o’clock, a band of masked brigands surrounded the mayor’s house, while some of them entered it and shot this public functionary without anybody daring to render him any assistance. . . . Three-quarters of the inhabitants of Eyragues are royalists.”—In series F7, 7152 and those following may be found an enumeration of political crimes classified by department and by the month, especially for Messidor, year vii.
Barère, representative of Hautes Pyrénées, had preserved a good deal of credit in this remote department, especially in the district of Argèles, with populations which knew nothing about the “Mountain.” In 1805, the electors presented him as a candidate for the legislative body and the senate; in 1815, they elected him deputy.
“Mémoires” (unpublished) of M. X——, i., 366. At the time the Concordat was under consideration the aversion to “priest rule” was very great in the army; there were secret meetings held against it. Many of the superior officers took part in them, and even some of the leading generals. Moreau was aware of them although he did not attend them. In one of these gatherings, things were carried far enough to resolve upon the assassination of the first consul. A certain Donnadieu, then of a low rank in the army, offered to strike the blow. General Oudinot, who was present, informed Davoust, and Donnadieu, imprisoned in the Temple, made revelations. Measures were at once taken to scatter the conspirators, who were all sent away more or less farther off; some were arrested and others exiled, among them General Mounier, who had commanded one of Desaix’s brigades at Marengo. General Lecourbe was also one of the conspirators.
“Extrait des Mémoires de Boulay de la Meurthe,” p. 10.
Napoleon’s words. (“Correspondance,” xxx., 343, memoirs dictated at Saint Helena.)
Lafayette, “Mémoires,” ii., 192.
Pelet de la Lozère, “Opinions de Napoléon au conseil d’état,” p. 63: “The senate is mistaken if it thinks it possesses a national and representative chamber. It is merely a constituted authority emanating from the government like the others.” (1804.)—Ibid., p. 147: “It must not be in the power of a legislative body to impede government by refusing taxes; once the taxes are established they should be levied by simple decrees. The court of cassation regards my decrees as laws; otherwise, there would be no government.” (January 9, 1808.)—Ibid., p. 149: “If I ever had any fear of the senate I had only to put fifty young state-councillors into it.” (December 1, 1803.)—Ibid., p. 150: “If an opposition should spring up in the legislative corps I would fall back on the senate to prorogue, change it, or break it up.” (March 29, 1806.)—Ibid., p. 151: “Sixty legislators go out every year which one does not know what to do with; those who do not get places go and grumble in the departments. I should like to have old land-owners married, in a certain sense, to the state through their family or profession, attached by some tie to the commonwealth. Such men would come to Paris annually, converse with the emperor in his own circle, and be contented with this little bit of vanity relieving the monotony of their existence.” (Same date.)—Cf. Thibaudeau, “Mémoires sur le Consulat,” ch. xiii., and M. de Metternich, “Mémoires,” i., 120 (Words of Napoleon at Dresden, in the spring of 1812): “I shall give the senate and the council of state a new organization. The former will take the place of the upper chamber, the latter that of the chamber of deputies. I shall continue to appoint the senators; I shall have the state councillors elected one-third at a time on triple lists; the rest I will appoint. Here will the budget be prepared and the laws elaborated.”—We see the corps législatif, docile as it is, still worrying him, and very justly; he foresaw the session of 1813.
Macaulay, “Essays: Gladstone on Church and State.”—This principle, of capital importance and of remarkable fecundity, may be called the principle of specialties. Adam Smith first applied it to machines and to workmen. Macaulay extended it to human associations. Milne-Edwards applied it to the entire series of animal organs. Herbert Spencer largely develops it in connection with physiological organs and human societies in his “Principles of Biology” and “Principles of Sociology.” I have attempted here to show the three parallel branches of its consequences, and, again, their common root, a constitutive and primordial property inherent in every instrumentality.
Cf. “The Revolution,” iii., book vi., ch. 2. The encroachments of the State and their effect on individuals is there treated. Here, the question is their effects on corporations. Read, on the same subject, “Gladstone on Church and State,” by Macaulay, and “The Man versus the State,” by Herbert Spencer, two essays in which the close reasoning and abundance of illustrations are admirable.
“The Revolution,” iii., 346.
Ibid., iii., 284.
“The Revolution,” iii., 353, 416.
“The Ancient Régime,” 64, 65, 76, 77, 120, 121, 292.
“The Revolution,” i., 177 and following pages.
The essays of Herbert Spencer furnish examples for England under the title of “Over-legislation and Representative Government.” Examples for France may be found in “Liberté du Travail,” by Charles Dunoyer (1845). This work anticipates most of the ideas of Herbert Spencer, lacking only the physiological “illustrations.”
De Tocqueville, “l’Ancien régime et la Révolution,” p. 64 and following pages, also p. 354 and following pages.—“The Ancient Régime,” p. 368.
“The Revolution,” i., book i., especially pp. 16, 17, 55, 61, 62-65.
“The Ancient Régime,” pp. 36-59.
Ibid., pp. 72-77.
Ibid., pp. 78-82.
Cf. Frédéric Masson, “Le Marquis de Grignan,” vol. i.
“The Revolution,” i., p. 161 and following pages; ii., book vi., ch. i., especially p. 80 and following pages.
Ibid., i., p. 193 and following pages, and p. 226 and following pages.
“Mémoires” (in manuscript) of M. X——, i., 340 (in relation to the institution of prefects and sub-prefects): “The perceptible good resulting from this change was the satisfaction arising from being delivered in one day from a herd of insignificant men, mostly without any merit or shadow of capacity and to whom the administration of department and arrondissement had been surrendered for the past ten years. As nearly all of them sprung from the lowest ranks in society, they were only the more disposed to make the weight of their authority felt.”
Guyot, “Répertoire de jurisprudence” (1785), article King: “It is a maxim of feudal law that the veritable ownership of lands, the domain, directum dominium, is vested in the dominant seignior or suzerain. The domain in use, belonging to the vassal or tenant, affords him really no right except to its produce.
Luchaire, “Histoire des institutions monarchiques de la France sous les premiers Capétiens,” i., 28, 46. (Texts of Henry I., Philip I., Louis VI., and Louis VII.) “A divine minister.”—(Kings are) “servants of the kingdom of God.”—“Gird on the ecclesiastical sword for the punishment of the wicked.”—“Kings and priests alone, by ecclesiastical ordination, are made sacred by the anointing of holy oils.”
“The Revolution,” iii., p. 94.
Janssen, “L’Allemagne à la fin du moyen âge” (French translation), i., 457. (On the introduction of Roman law into Germany.)—Declaration of the legists at the Diet of Roncaglia: “Quod principi placuit, legis habet vigorem.” Edict of Frederick I., 1165: “Vestigia prædecessorum suorum, divorum imperatorum, magni Constantini scilicet et Justiniani et Valentini, . . . sacras eorum leges, . . . divina oracula. . . . Quodcumque imperator constituerit, vel cognoscens decreverit, vel edicto præceperit, legem esse constat.”—Frederick II.: “Princeps legibus solutus est.”—Louis of Bavaria: “Nos qui sumus supra jus.”
Guyot, ibid., article Régales: “The great ‘régales,’ majora regalia, are those which belong to the King, jure singulari et proprio, and which are incommunicable to another, considering that they cannot be divorced from the sceptre, being the attributes of sovereignty, such as . . . the making of laws, the interpretation or change of these, the last appeal from the decisions of magistrates, the creation of offices, the declaration of war or of peace, . . . the coining of money, the augmentation of titles or of values, the imposition of taxes on the subjects, . . . the exemption of certain persons from these, the award of pardon for crimes, . . . the creation of nobles, the foundation of universities, . . . the assembling of the états-généraux or provinciaux, etc.”—Bossuet, “Politique tirée de l’Écriture sainte:” “The entire state exists in the person of the prince.”—Louis XIV., “Œuvres,” i., 50 (to his son): “You should be aware that kings can naturally dispose fully and freely of all possessions belonging as well to persons of the church as to laymen, to make use of at all times with wise economy, that is to say, according to the general requirements of their government.”—Sorel, “L’Europe et la Révolution française,” i., 231 (Letter of the “intendant” Foucault): “It is an illusion, which cannot proceed from anything but blind preoccupation, that of making any distinction between obligations of conscience and the obedience which is due to the King.”
“The Ancient Régime,” p. 9 and following pages.—“Correspondance de Mirabeau et du Comte de le Marck,” ii., 74 (Note by Mirabeau, July 3, 1790): “Previous to the present revolution, royal authority was incomplete: the king was compelled to humor his nobles, to treat with the parliaments, to be prodigal of favors to the court.”
“The Revolution,” iii., p. 318.—“The Ancient Régime,” p. 10.—Speech by the Chancellor Séguier, 1775: “Our kings have themselves declared that they are fortunately powerless to attack property.”
Rousseau’s text in the “Contrat Social.”—On the meaning and effect of this principle cf. “The Revolution,” i., 217 and following pages, and iii., book vi., ch. 1.
The opinion, or rather resignation, through which omnipotence was conferred on the central power, goes back to the second half of the fifteenth century, after the Hundred Years’ war, and is due to that war; the omnipotence of the king was then the only refuge against the English invaders, and the ravages of the Écorcheurs.—Cf. Fortescue, “In leges Angliæ,” and “The Difference between an Absolute and a Limited Monarchy” (end of the fifteenth century), on the difference at this date between the English and the French government.—The same decision is found in the despatches of the Venetian embassadors of this date: “In France everything is based on the will of the king. Nobody, whatever might be his conscientious scruples, would dare express an opinion opposed to his. The French respect their king to such an extent that they would not only sacrifice their property for him, but again their souls.” (Janssen, “L’Allemagne à la fin du moyen âge,” i. 484.)—As to the passage of the monarchical to the democratic idea, we see it plainly in the following quotations from Restif de la Bretonne: “I entertained no doubt that the king could legally oblige any man to give me his wife or his daughter, and everybody in my village (Sacy in Burgundy) thought so too.” (“Monsieur Nicolas,” i., 443.)—In relation to the September massacres: “No, I do not pity them, those fanatical priests. . . When a community or its majority wants anything, it is right. The minority is always culpable, even when right morally. Common-sense is all that is needed to appreciate that truth. It is indisputable that the nation has the power to sacrifice even an innocent person.” (“Nuits de Paris,” XVth, p. 377.)
“The Revolution,” iii., 393.
“Contrat Social,” book 1st, ch. iii.: “It is accordingly essential that, for the enunciation of the general will, no special organization should exist in the State, and that the opinion of each citizen should accord with that. Such was the unique and sublime law of the great Lycurgus.”
“The Revolution,” i., 170.
Ibid., ii., 93; iii., 78-82.
“Correspondance de Mirabeau et du Comte de la Marck,” ii., 74 (Letter of Mirabeau to the King, July 3, 1790): “Compare the new state of things with the ancient régime . . . . One portion of the acts of the national assembly (and that the largest) is evidently favorable to monarchical government. Is it to have nothing, then, to have no parliaments, no provincial governments, no privileged classes, no clerical bodies, no nobility? The idea of forming one body of citizens would have pleased Richelieu: this equalized surface facilitates the exercise of power. Many years of absolute rule could not have done so much for royal authority as this one year of revolution.”—Sainte-Beuve, “Port-Royal,” v., 25 (M. Harlay conversing with the supérieure of Port-Royal): “People are constantly talking about Port-Royal, about these Port-Royal gentlemen: the King dislikes whatever excites talk. Only lately he caused M. Arnaud to be informed that he did not approve of the meetings at his house; that there is no objection to his seeing all sorts of people indifferently like everybody else, but why should certain persons always be found in his rooms and such an intimate association among these gentlemen? . . . The King does not want any rallying-point; a headless assemblage in a State is always dangerous.”—Ibid., p. 33: “The reputation of this establishment was too great. People were anxious to put their children in it. Persons of rank sent theirs there. Everybody expressed satisfaction with it. This provided it with friends who joined those of the establishment and who together formed a platoon against the State. The King would not consent to this: he regarded such unions as dangerous in a State.”
“Napoléon Ier et ses lois civiles,” by Honoré Pérouse, 280: “I have for a long time given a great deal of thought and calculation to the re-establishment of the social edifice. I am to-day obliged to watch over the maintenance of public liberty. I have no idea of the French people becoming serfs.”—“The prefects are wrong in straining their authority.”—“The repose and freedom of citizens should not depend on the exaggeration or arbitrariness of a mere administrator.”—“Let authority be felt by the people as little as possible and not bear down on them needlessly.”—(Letters of January 15, 1806, March 6, 1807, January 12, 1809, to Fouché, and of March 6, 1807, to Regnault.)—Thibaudeau, “Mémoires sur le Consulat,” p. 178 (Words of the first consul before the council of state): “True civil liberty depends on the security of property. In no country can the rate of the tax-payer be changed every year. A man with 3000 francs income does not know how much he will have left to live on the following year; his entire income may be absorbed by the assessment on it. . . . A mere clerk, with a dash of his pen, may overcharge you thousands of francs. . . . Nothing has ever been done in France in behalf of real property. Whoever has a good law passed on the cadastre (an official valuation of all the land in France) will deserve a statue.”
Honoré Pérouse, Ibid., 274 (Speech of Napoleon to the council of state on the law on mines): “Myself, with many armies at my disposition, I could not take possession of any one’s field, for the violation of the right of property in one case would be violating it in all. The secret is to have mines become actual property, and hence sacred in fact and by law.”—Ibid., 279: “What is the right of property? It is not only the right of using but, again, of abusing it. . . . One must always keep in mind the advantage of owning property. The best protection to the owner of property is the interest of the individual; one may always rely on his activity. . . . Legislation should favor the proprietor. . . . He must be allowed great freedom of action, because whatever interferes with the use of property displeases the citizen. . . . A government makes a great mistake in trying to be too paternal; liberty and property are both ruined by over-solicitude.”—“If the government prescribes the way in which property shall be used it no longer exists.”—Ibid., 284 (Letters of Aug. 21 and Sept. 7, 1809, on expropriations by public authority): “It is indispensable that the courts should supervise, stop expropriation, receive complaints of and guarantee property-owners against the enterprises of our prefects, our prefecture councils and all other agents. . . . Expropriation is a judicial proceeding. . . . I cannot conceive how France can have proprietors if anybody can be deprived of his field simply by an administrative decision.”—In relation to the ownership of mines, to the cadastre, to expropriation, and to the portion of property which a man might bequeath, Napoleon was more liberal than his legists.—Madame de Staël, “Dix années d’exil,” ch. xviii. (Napoleon conversing with the tribune Gallois): “Liberty consists of a good civil code, while modern nations care for nothing but property.”—“Correspondance,” letter to Fouché, Jan. 15, 1805. (This letter gives a good summary of his ideas on government.) “In France, whatever is not forbidden is allowed, and nothing can be forbidden except by the laws, by the courts, or by police measures in all matters relating to public order and morality.”
Rœderer, “Œuvres complètes,” iii., 339 (Speech by the First Consul, October 21, 1800): “Rank, now, is a recompense for every faithful service—the great advantage of equality, which has converted 20,000 lieutenancies, formerly useless in relation to emulation, into the legitimate ambition and honorable reward of 400,000 soldiers.”—Lafayette, “Mémoires,” v., 350: “Under Napoleon, the soldiers said, he has been promoted King of Naples, of Holland, of Sweden, or of Spain, as formerly it was said that a man had been promoted sergeant in this or that company.”
“The Ancient Régime,” book i., ch. 2, the Structure of Society, especially pp. 19-21.
“Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène.”—Napoleon, speaking of his imperial organization, said that he had made the most compact government, one with the quickest circulation and the most nervous energy, that ever existed. And, he remarked, nothing but this would have answered in overcoming the immense difficulties around us, and for effecting the wonderful things we accomplished. The organization of prefectures, their action, their results, were admirable and prodigious. The same impulsion affected at the same time more than forty millions of men, and, aided by centres of local activity, the action was as rapid at every extremity as at the heart.”
“The Ancient Régime,” book iii., chs. 2 and 3.
Gibbon, “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” chs. 1, 2, 3, and 13.—Duruy, “Histoire des Romains” (illustrated edition), tenth period, chs. 82, 83, 84, and 85; twelfth period, chs. 95 and 99; fourtenth period, ch. 104.—(The reader will find in these two excellent works the texts and monuments indicated to which it is necessary to resort for a direct and satisfactory impression.)
See in Plutarch (Principles of Political Government) the situation of a Greek city under the Antonines.
Gibbon, ch. 10.—Duruy, ch. 95. (Decrease of the population of Alexandria under Gallien, according to the registers of the alimentary institution, letter of the bishop Dionysius.)
“Digest,” i., 4, I.: “Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem, utpote, cum lege regia, quæ de imperio ejus lata est, populus ei et in eum omne suum imperium et potestatem conferat. Quodcumque igitur imperator per epistolam et subscriptionem statuit, vel cognoscens decrevit, vel de plano interlocutus est, vel edicto præcepit, legis habet vigorem.” (Extracts from Ulpian.)—Gaïus, Institutes, i., 5: “Quod imperator constituit, non dubium est quin id vicem legis obtineat, quum ipse imperator per legem imperium obtineat.”
“Digest,” i., 2 (Extracts from Ulpian): “Jus est a justitia appellatum; nam, ut eleganter Celsus definit, jus est ars boni et æqui. Cujus merito quis nos sacerdotes appellat: justitiam namque colimus, et boni et æqui notitiam profitemur, æquum ab iniquo separantes, licitum ab illicito discernentes, . . . veram, nisi fallor, philosophiam, non simulatam affectantes. . . . Juris præcepta sunt hæc: honeste vivere, alterum non lædere, suum cuique tribuere.”—Cf. Duruy, 12th period, ch. 87.
Cf., on this immemorial principle of the entire body of Roman public law, “Histoire des institutions politiques et privées de l’ancienne France,” vol. i., book ii., ch. 1, p. 66 and following pages.
Read the “Notitia dignitatum tam civilium quam militarium in partibus orientis et occidentis.” It is the imperial almanac for the beginning of the fifth century. There are eleven ministers at the centre, each with his bureaux, divisions, subdivisions and squads of superposed functionaries.
Cf. Piranesi’s engravings.
We can trace in Napoleon’s brain and date the formation of this leading idea. At first, it is simply a classic reminiscence, as with his contemporaries; but suddenly it takes a turn and has an environment in his mind which is lacking in theirs, and which prevents the idea from remaining a purely literary phrase. From the beginning he speaks of Rome in the fashion of a Rienzi. (Proclamation of May 20, 1796.) “We are the friends of every people, and especially of the Brutuses, the Scipios, and of the great men whom we have chosen as models. To re-establish the Capitol, to place there with honor the statues of heroes who render it famous, to arouse the Roman people benumbed by centuries of slavery, such will be the fruit of our victories.”—Fifteen months afterwards, on becoming master of Italy, his historic meditations turn into positive ambition: henceforth, the possession of Italy and of the Mediterranean is to be with him a central and preponderant idea. (Letter to the Directory, Aug. 16, 1797, and correspondence on the subject of Corsica, Sardinia, Naples, and Genoa; letters to the pacha of Scutari, to the Maniotes, etc.) “The islands of Corfu, Zante, and Cephalonia are of more interest to us than all Italy put together. . . . The Turkish empire is daily tottering; the possession of these islands will enable us to support it as long as possible, or to take our portion of it. The time is not remote when we shall feel that, for the real destruction of England, we must get possession of Egypt.” Formerly, the Mediterranean was a Roman lake; it must become a French lake. (Cf. “Souvenirs d’un Sexagénaire,” by Arnault, vol. iv., p. 102, on his dream, in 1798, of making Paris a colossal Rome.)—At this same date, his conception of the State is fixed and wholly Roman. (Conversations with Miot, June 1797, and letter to Talleyrand, Septem. 19, 1797.) “I do not see but one thing in fifty years well defined, and that is the sovereignty of the people. . . . The organization of the French nation is still only sketched out. . . . The power of the government, with the full latitude I give to it, should be considered as really representing the nation.” In this government, “the legislative power, without rank in the republic, deaf and blind to all around it, would not be ambitious and would no longer inundate us with a thousand chance laws, worthless on account of their absurdity.” It is evident that he describes in anticipation his future senate and legislative corps.—Repeatedly, the following year, and during the expedition into Egypt, he presents the Romans as an example to his soldiers, and views himself as a successor to Scipio and Cæsar.—(Proclamation of June 22, 1798.) “Be as tolerant to the ceremonies enjoined by the Koran as you are for the religion of Moses and Jesus. The Roman legions protected all religions.”—(Proclamation of May 10, 1798.) “The Roman legions that you have often imitated but not yet equalled fought Carthage in turn on this wall and in the vicinity of Zama.”—Carthage at this time is England: his hatred of this community of merchants which destroys his fleet at Aboukir, which forces him to raise the siege of Saint-Jean d’Acre, which holds on to Malta, which robs him of his substance, his patrimony, his Mediterranean, is that of a Roman Consul against Carthage; it leads him to conquer all western Europe against her and to “resuscitate the empire of the Occident.” (Note to Otto, his ambassador at London, Octo. 23, 1802.)—Emperor of the French, king of Italy, master of Rome, suzerain of the Pope, protector of the confederation of the Rhine, he succeeds the German emperors, the titularies of the Holy Roman Empire which has just ended in 1806; he is accordingly the heir of Charlemagne and, through Charlemagne, the heir of the ancient Cæsars.—In fact, he reproduces the work of the ancient Cæsars by analogies of imagination, situation and character, but in a different Europe, and where this posthumous reproduction can be only an anachronism.
“Correspondance,” note for M. Cretet, minister of the interior, April 12, 1808.
Metternich, “Mémoires,” i., 107 (Conversations with Napoleon, 1810): “I was surprised to find that this man, so wonderfully endowed, had such completely false ideas concerning England, its vital forces and intellectual progress. He would not admit any ideas contrary to his own, and sought to explain these by prejudices which he condemned.”—Cf. Forsyth, “History of the Captivity of Napoleon at Saint-Helena,” iii., 306, (False calculations of Napoleon at Saint-Helena based on his ignorance of the English parliamentary system,) and Stanislas Girardin, iii., 296, (Words of the First Consul, Floréal 24, year xi, quoted above.)
Cf., amongst other documents, his letter to Jerome, King of Westphalia, October 15, 1807, and the constitution he gives to that kingdom on that date, and especially titles 4 to 12: “The welfare of your people concerns me, not only through the influence it may exercise on your fame and my own, but likewise from the point of view of the general European system. . . . Individuals who have talent and are not noble must enjoy equal consideration and employment from you. . . . Let every species of serfage and of intermediary lien between the sovereign and the lowest class of people be abolished. The benefits of the code Napoleon, the publicity of proceedings, the establishment of juries, will form so many distinctive characteristics of your monarchy.”—His leading object is the suppression of feudalism, that is to say, of the great families and old historic authorities. He relies for this especially on his civil code: “That is the great advantage of the code; . . . it is what has induced me to preach a civil code and made me decide on establishing it.” (Letter to Joseph, King of Naples, June 5, 1806.)—“The code Napoleon is adopted throughout Italy. Florence has it, and Rome will soon have it.” (Letter to Joachim, King of the Two Sicilies, Nov. 27, 1808.)—“My intention is to have the Hanseatic towns adopt the code Napoleon and be governed by it from and after the 1st of January.”—The same with Dantzic: “Insinuate gently and not by writing to the King of Bavaria, the Prince-primate, the grand-dukes of Hesse-Darmstadt and of Baden, that the civil code should be established in their states by suppressing all customary law and confining themselves wholly to the code Napoleon.” (Letter to M. de Champagny, Oct. 31, 1807.)—“The Romans gave their laws to their allies. Why should not France have its laws adopted in Holland? . . . It is equally essential that you should adopt the French monetary system.” (Letter to Louis, King of Holland, Nov. 13, 1807.)—To the Spaniards: “Your nephews will honor me as their regenerator.” (Allocution addressed to Madrid Dec. 9, 1808.)—“Spain must be French. The country must be French and the government must be French.” (Rœderer, iii., 529, 536, words of Napoleon, Feb. 11, 1809.)—In short, following the example of Rome, which had Latinized the entire Mediterranean coast, he wanted to render all western Europe French. The object was, as he declared, “to establish and consecrate at last the empire of reason and the full exercise, the complete enjoyment of every human faculty.” (Mémorial.)