Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER III. - The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. I
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CHAPTER III. - 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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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.
Object and Merits of the System.
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.)