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able, but they are sanctioned by local usage, and when custom
and reason are opposed to each other, custom must carry the
day. You want to abolish[or reform the Landesgemeinden, and
yet you sing the praises of democracies and republics. Free
people have never allowed themselves to be deprived of the
direct exercise of their sovereignty. They neither understand
nor admire these modern inventions of a representative power
so constructed as to destroy the essential qualities of a Republic.
The only reform which legislators should allow themselves to
make, is to give a proportionate influence to education and
property, without seeming in any way to detract from the direct
sovereignty of the people. In Rome they did this by voting by
classes, the lowest of which comprised all the proletariat, while
the two higher ones consisted of a few hundred illustrious or
opulent citizens. But the people allowed themselves to be
perfectly contented, amusing themselves by casting their own
votes, which all told, did not outweigh those of a few nobles and
rich men. Moreover, why should you want to deprive these poor
herdsmen of the only event of their lives. With their monotonous
existence and with plenty of spare time on their hands, it is
natural that they should like to manage their own affairs. To
deprive these pastoral people of the prerogative of which they
are so proud, which is the habit of their race and which does no
harm to anyone, would be a piece of wanton cruelty.

"If at any future time they indulged in persecution or in
explosions of rage the Diet would suppress them offhand


However, if you insist upon it, and if it is not contrary to their
ancient usage, there would be no objection to limiting the
Landesgemeinden to debating only laws or orders initiated by
the Council (Landrath), or to excluding young men under
twenty. This would prevent a young lieutenant on his summer
furlough bringing forward incendiary motions or trying to over-
turn the Government.^

" As for criminal laws, they belong to the Landesgemeinden.
These small Cantons have the power of ostracising or of con-
fiscating the goods of a citizen who is supposed to be too rich.
These are strange laws, no doubt, but they belong to the nature
of a pure democracy. In Athens the whole mass of the people
acted as judges. One thing must be done. It must be made
clear in the Federal Constitution that no one is to be prosecuted
for his political action in the past, and that any citizen who does
not find himself safe in his own Canton, may settle himself in
another. This freedom of residence, and liberty to everyone to
carry out his business wherever he chooses must be general laws
for the whole of Switzerland. I hear that the small Cantons
object to this, but who would choose to settle in their villages in
the midst of the mountains ?

" They are good enough for those who are born there, but
certainly no one else would be tempted to try them. Up to the
time of the Revolution these small Cantons have always been
attached to France. If they have been disposed in recent years
to incline towards Austria, that is only a passing phase. They
cannot be envious of the fate of the Tyrol. In a short time we
shall have restored our old relations of fifteen years ago ; we shall
again take their regiments into our service, and so revive a
pecuniary resource for these impoverished peasants.

" This we shall do, not because we have need of these troops ;
I can raise as many soldiers as I need in France itself by issuing
a single order, but because it is to our interest to attract these
democracies to us. It is they who form the real Switzerland

^ Twice in the course of this conversation Bonaparte alludes to young revolutionary
subaltern officers. He is no doubt alluding to his own proceedings in Corsica in 179 1
and 1792.


to which the plains were added at a much later date. The
Swiss democrats are naturally more friendly to France than
the aristocrats. I warn these aristocratic partisans that they
will come to utter ruin if they continue blind to the important
fact that the only hope for Swiss prosperity lies in her attach-
ment to France. All your history proves this. You are an
aggregation of small democracies and free imperial cities leagued
with each other by common dangers and cemented together by
French influence. Since the Revolution you have been obstin-
ately bent on finding salvation outside France. It is not to be
found. Your history and your good sense should teach you that.

" It is in the interest of self-defence that France allies herself
to Switzerland ; it is for purposes of attack that other Powers
wish your alliance. The former is a permanent interest, the
latter depends on passing moods and events.

"Switzerland can never defend her own lowlands without
French assistance. France is open to attack throughout her
Swiss frontier. Austria is in no such danger. I would have
gone to war and sacrificed a hundred thousand lives rather than
allow Switzerland to remain in the power of the leaders of your
last insurrection ; ^ so great is the importance of your country to
France. The interests of other countries in yours is infinitely
less. England might be prepared to pay you a few millions, but
that is no permanent support. Austria has no money, while she
has plenty of men. Neither England nor Austria is ready to
enrol Swiss regiments in their service ; but France is. I declare
that since I found myself at the head of the Government no
foreign Power has shown the slightest interest in the fate of
Switzerland. The King of Prussia and the Emperor have
reported to me all the movement of Aloys Reding. Which of
the Powers would sustain you against France? It was I who
secured the recognition of the Helvetic Republic at Lunéville.
Austria took no interest whatever in it. At Amiens again I
wished to do the same ; it was England that refused to recognise
you, but England has no business in Switzerland. If she had
expressed her fear of my becoming your Landamman I would
^ Reding, Rudolf von Erlach, and the other leaders of the " Swiss Brotherhood."


myself have been your Landamman then and there. I anî told
that England interested herself in your last insurrection ; if the
English had taken any diplomatic steps in that direction, or if I
had found a word about it in the Londo7i Gazette^ I should have
annexed you. I repeat, if the aristocrats continue to seek
foreign aid they will ruin themselves, and France will end the
difficulty by turning them out of the country.

" That is what ruined Reding and Mulinen ; for that matter, it
is the aristocratic party that has ruined Switzerland, And what
(turning to the Deputies of the Aristocratic party) do you
complain of? In saying you, of course, you understand that I
mean your party, not yourselves. You say you have thwarted
the Revolution to save your own lives and properties.

" The Republicans did you no harm. Even in the worst
crisis, in the time of La Harpe, they shed none of your blood.
They were guilty of neither violence nor persecution. They
did not even abolish the tithes or the cens (land-tax).

" If they had done away with the cens the people would have
rallied to them. It was precisely because they refused to abolish
the tithes and the cens without any indemnity, and would not
consent to popular elections, that the party in favour of a
unified Republic lost their hold on the people ; but in doing so
they furnished ample proof of being no revolutionists, while you,
the moment you regained your power you began arresting and
persecuting, at Lucerne, at Zurich, at Aarau. You have no-
where shown the moderation of the Republican party.

" There has been a tremendous outcry against the bombard-
ment of Zurich,^ much more outcry than the matter deserved.
After all, it was only a rebellious town. If any of my Depart-
ments refused to obey my orders I should treat it in the same
way. And you yourselves, did you not bombard Fribourg and
Berne? It was not violence of which the Unified Republicans
were guilty, but weakness. They ought to have held Berne, and
known how to die, not to have run away like a pack of cowards
from Wattcnwyl and his few hundred men (in September 1802).

' Zurich was Ijcsiegcd and bombarded by General Andennalt, commanding the
forces of the Central Government, in September 1S02.


" Look at the disgraceful conduct of Doldcr, letting himself be
taken in his own room.^ A man who chooses to play the part
of ruler should know how to take his life in his hands, and be
prepared for assassination at any time. I have heard a good
many criticisms on Monod's Proclamations.- For my part, I
heartily approve of them. I admire and esteem energy, and he
has shown plenty of it. But your Central Government has been
contemptible since Reding's time. Reding himself showed
neither intelligence nor good sense.*^

"He came here (April 1802), which was running no small
risk, but he might have got some advantage out of it had
he not kept on harping upon the Valais and the Vaud,
although I told him that the sun would go round the wrong
way before the Vaud was given back to Berne. Finally, he
committed the folly of sending Diesbach to Vienna after we
had refused to receive him here."

TJie Grisons

Addressing Sprecker, Bonaparte said : " You would like to
have the Valtellina,'* but you deserved to lose it, and I can hold

^ In July 1802, Bolder, who held the post of Landamman in the Government o.
the Centralised party in 1802, was kidnapped and carried into the country by some
young men of his own party, who thought him too weak to be at the head of the
Government. After two days' confinement in a country chalet he escaped and
returned to Berne.

- Henri Monod, a member of the Centralised Government, issued a proclamation,
in July 1802, forbidding the meetings of the "Swiss Brotherhood," and declaring
their conduct treasonable.

•* Reding's visit to Paris was in April 1S02, while he still occupied the post of
Landamman in the Federalist Government, which was replaced by the Centralised
party in June 1802.

•* The Valtellina became subject to the Grisons in the sixteenth century. The
refusal of the Grison people to give the valley the rights of citizenship led to many
revolts, notably that of July 1620, known as the "St. Bartholomew of the
Valtellina." The Grisons being in the main Protestant and the Valtellina Roman
Catholic by no means lessened the hardship of the valley as a dependency. When
Bonaparte formed Lombardy into the Cisalpine Republic the inhabitants cf the
Valtellina petitioned to be annexed to it. It was on this occasion that Bonaparte
uttered the famous political maxim, " No people can be subject to another people
against their will without violating the laws of nature." The annexation of the
Valtellina to the Cisalpine Republic was ratified by the Treaty of Canipo f^ormio,
17th October 1797.


out no hope of your recovering it. There were some properties
sequestrated in the Valtellina which really belonged to the
Grisons, some of which have not been sold. Anyhow, I have
forwarded your Memorandum to Milan. In reply to one of the
Deputies, who pointed out that if the Valtellina belonged to
Switzerland it would prevent the Austrians from using it as a
highway to Italy, Bonaparte replied that as part of the Italian
Republic, the Valtellina would be more useful to France for
purposes of attack.

The Aristocratic Cantons {Berner Fribowg, Soleure, Basle y
Zurichy Lucer7ie, and other's).

Bonaparte: " In the Aristocratic Cantons your chief objections
are to the conditions of eligibility for election, to the Grabeau,^
and to the duration of office. The Grabeau seems to me an
absolute necessity in these aristocratic Governments, All
aristocracies tend to form themselves into bodies independent
of the governed classes, and indifferent to their wishes and
opinions, until they become at last incompetent to govern and
hateful to the people.

" The only cure for these evils, or at least the only way of
checking their growth and of saving the aristocratic Governments
from anarchical insurrections, is the Grabeau. All aristocracies
have had some such machinery. In fact, it is absolutely neces-
sary. The Censors of Rome, the Grand Inquisitors of Venice,
always anxious to maintain the respect and esteem of the public,
never dared to defy public opinion, and found themselves obliged
to get rid of Senators who had been either contemptible or un-
popular. All the obligations of the ancient world had their
Grabeau in one form or another. We can prevent the abuse of
this system by regulations. It had better be abolished as regards

^ Thibaudeau's note. — "The Grabeau is a verbal examination to which each
member of the Government (both administrative and judicial officials) in these
Cantons had to submit in turn at Easter. At the end of this examination a vote was
taken on the re-election of the member whose acts had been inquired into. The
whole business had degenerated into a form, but it was always possible, if the col-
leagues of the magistrate who was undergoing this description of trial desired it, to
turn it into a reality, wiiich might lead to his suspension, or to a legal process. The
institution is still preserved in some Cantons."


the lesser Council, one-third of which is renewable every alter-
nate year, but the posts in the Great Council, which are for life,
make it absolutely necessary, though it need only be brought
into use every second year. These life appointments are
necessary to give stability and dignity to the Government.
New aristocracies are bound to arise and if they are to be
stable, firm, and orderly they must have some immovable
centralised power to sei"ve as a fixed point around which men
can rally in periods of transition. As to the pecuniary qualifica-
tions, they should not be fixed too low, for the sake of the
country districts. If the country members of the Great Council
are too poor, they will bring contempt on their constituencies
and on the whole Council by the meanness of their households
in towns where well-to-do tradesmen will be spending much
more than they can afford. Direct elections are preferable to
Electoral Colleges, which are especially liable to intrigues and
cabals. That has been our experience in France throughout
the Revolution, and you " (turning to the Deputies of the
Aristocratic Cantons) " will gain by the direct method. The
people themselves are more likely to be influenced by the
prestige of a man of rank or wealth than an Electoral Assembly.
The present qualification of 1000 francs might be halved, so as
to make it necessary for voters to have not less than 5CK) francs
and the citizenship of the Canton. In poorer districts, like the
Oberland, a smaller minimum may be fixed upon. Marriage or
widowhood has hitherto been an essential qualification for the
electorate, but this had better be so far modified as to allow
votes to unmarried men when they reach the age of thirty. I
fix this age because it is important to prevent some young
soldier who has no family to bind him to his country, and who
only lives at home for a few months or a year, from giving you
a lot of trouble."

In reply to an observation that it would be an advantage to
renew a large proportion of the Grand Council, Bonaparte replied
that it would be better to wait for some years, at the end of
which period there would be a good many new members
required. He acquiesced in a demand that the voters should


have the power to nominate candidates in the other divisions of
the Canton, not in their own. He observed that this would
certainly be an advantage to the towns, which offered a far
larger choice of candidates than the country districts. All the
Deputies of the Aristocratic party approved of this, with the
exception of Reinhard of Zurich.

" What is the reason," asked Bonaparte, " of the animosity
between town and country in your Canton ? " " It is due," replied
Reinhard, " to several causes, physical and moral, — above all,
to the fact that the peasants are rich."

New Cantons {St. Gall, TJmrgau, Vaud, Aargau, Grisons,

It was agreed that in the new Cantons the Grabeau should
be dispensed with, since election to the Grand Council was not
for life. An alteration in the Article on the Judicial Organisa-
tion, to allow of the establishment of juries, was demanded.
Bonaparte replied —

" This Article should be drawn up in the most general terms.
A Constitution should never go too much into detail ; it should
simply determine how laws are to be made. If it goes beyond
this, and actually makes laws which cannot be altered, it is
certain that the Constitution itself will be violated in con-
sequence. As to juries, we find great difficulties in working
them in France. Juries are too often influenced, in giving their
judgments, by political passion. It may be that as these
passions calm down we shall derive more advantage from them
than we do at present.

" We have come in France to realise that judges should be
appointed for life, and that they should be chosen from the
legal profession. When this is the case they do not merely
work from a sense of duty, but take an interest and pride in
their profession."

The Federal Bond. The United Republic.

Bonaparte: "You might have had a Unified Republic if your

social life, your history, and your relations with foreign Powers

had tended in that direction, but all these powerful influences

have naturally led you to a federal system. No form of


Government which is not the result of a long series of events,
the misfortunes, efforts, enterprises of a nation, can ever strike
deep roots in a country. Passing circumstances, the interests
of the moment, may seem to render an opposite system
advisable, and may even cause its adoption, but it will never
be lasting or stable.

" Take our own case. We have had our federalists, as
Marseilles and Bordeaux know only too well. The habits of
the French people, and the part which France is obliged by its
position and by the character of its people to play in Europe,
made it impossible for it to submit to being parcelled out in
a manner contrary to its customs and its greatness. But you
are in a condition entirely different. Peace and obscurity are
best suited to your welfare In an age when your neighbours
were not more powerful than yourselves you could play a part
in history, but to-day what have you to oppose to the great
Powers of Europe if they choose to attack you ? You would
need at least six thousand men to support your Centralised
Government, and how could you raise or pay such an army.
Neither your finances nor your population permit you to play
a great part. You would always be weak and your Centralised
Government would inspire no respect abroad.

" On the contrary, as an example of a federation, Switzerland
has always enjoyed the sympathy of Europe, and will do so
in future. Rather than have a Centralised Government you
would do well to become Frenchmen. The French are a people
who can always hold their heads in the air."

A Deputy observed that Switzerland would never be able
to bear the taxation of France.

Bonaparte: "Of course not. It would not suit you at all.
No one seriously thinks of such a thing. I never myself
believed for a moment that you could be formed into a
Republic, one and indivisible. When I was passing through
Switzerland (November 1797) on my way to Rastadt it seemed
to me that your affairs could easily be arranged. The Directors
at that time consulted me, and I expressed my opinion that
it would be well to take advantage of your then condition to


bind you more closely to France. I suggested the separation
of the Vaud from Berne, and its formation into a separate
Canton. That would have been an advantage to France in
many ways. Also I wished to quadruple the number of ruling
families in Berne and the other aristocratic Cantons, so as to
secure a majority friendly to France, but I never had any desire
to see a Swiss Revolution. The idea of mediating between you
has caused a great deal of embarrassment, and I hesitated for
a long time before I made up my mind. But at last I was sure
that it must be done. I find it exceedingly difficult to dictate
constitutions for countries of which I have only a very imperfect
knowledge. If I fail I shall be hissed, a thing for which I have
no liking."

The question was raised of the withdrawal of the French

Bonaparte : " They must remain until your new Constitution
is put into working order, but as soon as the arrangements
are completed here you will cease to pay for them. It has
not been from impecuniosity — I have plenty of money at
present — that I have made you pay for them hitherto, but to
punish the Diet at Schwyz,^ which behaved so badly as to make
me send troops.

"It should either have put down its arms or have fought,
but it did neither. You said (addressing the Deputies of
the Aristocratic party) that you wanted to see the French
Grenadiers. Very well, you have seen them. All Europe is
waiting to see France settle the affairs of Switzerland. It is
everywhere recognised that Italy and Holland as well as
Switzerland are at the disposal of France."

The Deputy from Berne (Herr Wattenwyl) observed that
the Swiss Aristocratic party had never been hostile to France
itself, but only to the revolutionary and insurrectionary spirit
of the Directory.

Bonaparte : " But, Monsieur Wattenwyl, does not your party
even to-day disapprove of your coming to Paris?"

Wattejtzvyl: "Only some five or six individuals."

* Which formed the Swiss Brotherhood. See Introductory note.


Bonaparte: "Oh! very well."

The Aristocratic party demanded that each Canton should
have, as formerly, a single vote in the National Diet ; the
Republican party contested this point.^ Bonaparte inclined
towards leaving the question to be decided by the will of the

As to the convents, after learning how many there were in
each Canton, and what the Deputies of each Canton desired,
Bonaparte said : " They are public monuments ; a sort of opera
houses for the mountain people."

A long discussion followed on the liquidation of the debts
of the Helvetic Republic. Bonaparte closed it with the words :
" The question is not yet quite ripe." He then dictated the
following decisions to Roederer, as representing the propositions
m.ade by the Aristocratic party : —

1. The property of each Canton shall be restored to it.

2. Each Canton shall buy the property belonging to the
capital as communal property.

3. The property of convents and corporations shall be

4. Each Canton shall pay the debts it contracted before the

5'. The debt of the Helvetic Republic shall be shared by
the Cantons, in proportion to the property handed over to

6. The debts of the Cantons carved out of the Canton of
Berne shall be paid out of the property given back to them
by Berne.

7. The National Diet shall be charged with the liquidation.
A demand was made for a permanent settlement of the

National Government in one Canton.-

Bonaparte : " This would be a return towards a centralised

^ The question was settled by granting to the Cantons containing 100,000
inhabitants or upwards two votes in the Diet, and those with less than 100,000 one

* It was ultimately decided that the seat of Government should alternate between
Fribourg, Berne, Soleure, Basle, Zurich, and Lucerne, each being the capital in turn
for one year, during which the burgomeistcr should be Landaraman of the Federation.


Government. The Landamman, if he came from another
Canton, would not find the necessary respect and considera-
tion ; he might fall under the dominating influence of a
municipality, say of Berne. It would be better that the
National Diet should fix each year the place where it would
sit during the following year. In case of an insurrection in
any Canton the Landamman should be empowered by either
the greater or the lesser Council to send troops against it.
Each Canton may coin its own money, but the coins must be
of the same type and value." To the request of one of the

Online LibraryAntoine-Claire ThibaudeauBonaparte and the consulate → online text (page 30 of 37)