William O'Connor Morris.

The French revolution and first empire : an historical sketch online

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resulting perils. The Dictatorship, however,

^ ^ Its merits.

of the First Consul, vicious though it was as
a scheme of government and destined to end in terrible
misfortune, had nevertheless the real excellences that it
secured internal quiet to the State and gave France a
variety of institutions which have stood the infallible test
of time, and that it alike protected the order of things
which had grown up under the Revolution, and recon-

194 The Consulate. Renewal of War. ch. xi.

ciled it in some degree with the past ; and it is for this,

among other reasons, that it remains dear to the memory

of Frenchmen. As the administration of

Wise Adniin-

istmtion of the Bonaparto at home was generally at this
period moderate, the benefits that followed
were almost unmixed. He, indeed, showed himself im-
placably severe to the remaining dregs of the Jacobin
faction ; and more than once treated with unsparing
tyranny those whom he called the "men of the Septem-
ber massacres." But he went on steadily with the aus-
picious work of reconciling and moderating parties ; and
he finally closed the list of the emigres, and admitted
numbers of the exiles into the service of the State. At
the same time the noble system of public works which
have illustrated his era was set on foot ; the canals and
roads which had been the pride of the ancient Monarchy,
and for many years had been in a state of decay, were
restored ; and new towns springing up in La Vendee, the
capital adorned with magnificent buildings, and the Alps
spanned by vast military lines, attested the energy of the
chief to whom France had committed her fate.

Meanwhile Bonaparte already wearing, as

He encourages •. -jdi-i ij c ^ •'^ "

the movement it was saicl, the sliadow ot a kingly crown,
LTch'^'^^ ^^^"" promoted carefully, by indirect means, the
domination he had directly established, and
hastened the movement towards monarchy which had
been visible even before his time. He abolished the
ceremonies in which the Republic commemorated the
execution of Louis XVL, and caused the remains of
Turenne — the great hero warrior of the most glorious
days of Louis XIV., which even Jacobin frenzy had
spared, though during the excesses of the Reign of Ter-
ror it had desecrated the rest of the Bourbon kings — to
be transported solemnly to the Invalides, and buried with

1802-3. The Consulate. Renewal of War. 195

extraordinary pomp. He had already taken up his abode
at the Tuileries, and effaced the marks which revolution-
ary passion or republican frenzy had left on the spot ;
and he held what really was a Court, with its accessories
of etiquette and splendor, in that seat of fallen yet not
forgotten royalty. At the same time he adopted a regal
style in his correspondence with foreign Powers ; and
though in his relations with the Bodies of the State he
preserved forms of simple equality, and spoke and bore
himself as a private citizen, he always appeared in Paris
with a magnificent retinue, and flattered the populace
with the display of grandeur. He also encouraged in
every way the luxury and taste of the Bourbon days, and
spoke with contempt to those in his confidence of the
savageness of revolutionary manners and of the absurd-
ity of republican ways ; and in his serious moments he
would often dwell on the instability of the institutions of
France, on the necessity of settled power in an old State,
on the evil effects of the philosophic theories — the ideology
he scornfully called them — which had swayed the minds
of men a few years previously. Nor were the tendencies
of which he set an example less clearly apparent in the
tone of general opinion, practice, and sentiment. France
teemed with addresses shedding incense on "the new
Saviour of social order ;" and the Press, lately so anarchic
and wild, but now controlled by a watchful police,
poured forth homage in floods to greet the ruler who had
" closed the terrible age of Revolution," In

" . Change of

the same way the mimicry of Republican manners in
tastes which had been the mode of a short
time before disappeared in the salons of the capital ; the
cant of classical liberty was heard no more ; ladies put
off the Ionic costume of the Aspasias and Phrynes, of
Greek times ; and military brilliancy, costly liveries, and

196 The Consulate. Renewal of ]Var. CH. xr,

the graces, the finery, and the frivohty of \>rsailles,
showed themselves again in the new masquerade in which
the high hfe of Paris and France figured. The First
Consul had hterally become the "mould of form" for
nine-tenths of Frenchmen, and all France yielded to the
spell of his influence.
^ ■ ^ .. While Bonaparte had been thus extendinsr

s oreign Policy . ^ °

of the First his sway, and reorganizing and transform-
Consul. . ' 11^1 \ 1

ing r ranee, he had not been less active

and stirring abroad. In his foreign relations at this
period he pursued the policy of craft and interest incon-
sistent with the ideas of 1789, which had distinguished
his earliest efforts, and he displayed an imperious will
and grasping ambition ; but if he gave proof of that
lust for power and domination which was to end in ruin,
it should be recollected that the circumstances of the
time, and even the conduct of some foreign Powers, con-
tributed to place him in the position he assumed. As
if to show his contempt of Republican dreams, he made
the Infant of Spain, whom he had chosen for the pur-
pose, King of the ceded Grand Duchy of Tuscany ;
and in this manner he riveted a yoke already becoming
difficult to bear, on the abject necks of the Spanish
Bourbons. At the same time he annexed

Its craft and i i i i

ambition. Piedmont to France, on the plea that the

King had given up the throne ; and though he checked
revolutionary ideas in Italy, he made the Pope and King
of Naples feel that they held their possessions at his
will and pleasure. Meanwhile he increased the hold of
France on her new conquests and dependent Repubhcs ;
and, as might have been expected, he fashioned the oft"-
spring to the submission to himself which the parent
displayed. As President he ruled the Cisalpine Repub-
hc, considerably enlarged by the treaty of Limeville,

I So 2 -3- The Consulate. Renewal of War. 197

and given the general name of the Itahan nation ; he
managed Holland through a Constitution on the model
of that existing in France, and though he left Switzer-
land nominally free, he practically controlled it as a
French Province. The most remarkable ^

trench inter-

advance in his power, however, arose from vention in
his intervention in Germany, due mainly ^"'^'^"y-
to the quarrels of German potentates. The seculariza-
tion of the Bishoprics, which had been a principle of the
Peace of Luneville, led to angry contentions between
the German Courts, each eager for a greater share of
the spoil ; and Austria and Prussia made such exorbitan -
demands that the Sovereigns of the lesser States ap-
plied to the powerful ruler of France for aid. The First
Consul gladly became a mediator, and secured a con-
siderable increase of territory to Bavaria, Baden, and
Wurtemberg, while, to the extreme satisfaction of Prus-
sian statesmen, he still further enlarged the bounds of
Prussia with the view of strengthening her against Aus-
tria, thus following traditional French policy which he
had made in a special way his own. In this manner the
influence of France, great in Germany since the day of
Richelieu, was increased in an extraordinary degree ;
but if the policy of Bonaparte was hard and calculating,
and Germans learned to lament the results, they might
bear in mind who called in a protector when they in-
dulge in homilies on French aggression.

In this way, in the midst of apparent
peace, the domination of France was ex- sion'^ofVreifch

tended, and her ruler became the undis- gciwerand in-

puted arbiter of Europe from the Baltic to
the Mediterranean. It was impossible but that the
growth of this power should vex and alarm the only
State which had as yet contended successfully with

198 The Consulate. Rcficwal of War. ch. xi.

France ; and English statesmen, who had perceived
from the first that the peace of Amiens could not last
long, began to apprehend that war was near. This was
not the case, it was universally felt, of a Republic weak
and distracted at home, though strong in its arms and
ideas abroad, the existence of which was always pre-
carious ; it was that of a gigantic Despotism, directed
and swayed by commanding genius, and all-powerful in
France as well as in Europe ; and Whigs and Tories
equally agreed that the present state of the Continent
was a danger to England, In this condition of feeling
causes of dissension arose quickly between the two
Powers: English politicians not unjustly complained
, of the enormous extension of French power

Disputes with . ^

England. and influence, and Bonaparte retaliated by

March to May, j ■ ^^ ^ • ^

1803. denouncmg the asylum given to conspn^a-

tors against his rule in England, and the
hostility of the English Press, of which the freedom
shocked his despotic instincts. Meanwhile, on the
ground of the virtual infraction of the treaty of Amiens
by French ambition, Malta was not ceded at the time
arranged; and recriminations on this subject ended in
a scene of violence in which the First Consul, breakino-
out into a real or feigned passion, spoke menacingly to
our envoy in Paris. The publication of a French State
paper, revealing a design of regaining Egypt, increased
the quickening elements of discord, and a kind of
challenge which Bonaparte, with his usual scorn of popu-
lar forces, threw out generally to the English Nation,
aroused an indignation impossible to allay,
war withEnc;- After fruitless negotiations touching Malta,
Iso- ^^^■^' ^^' which, though a principal occasion of the
strife, had become merely an incident in it,
war was renewed between the two countries ; and in

1803-4. 7 he Empire to Tilsit. u.,


May, 1803, the great Powers of tlie West had again
closed in mortal encounter. It is vain to measure the
provocation on either side, though in view of the recent
aggrandizement of France, the retention of Malta was
not contrary to tlie real spirit of the treaty of Amiens,
and though in defying the ir^ti:^ opinion of England, the
First Consul made a signal mistake which illustrates one
of his chief defects as a politician. But if the war was,
perhaps, inevitable— for the preponderance of France
was perilous in the extreme to England, and this justi-
fies the acts of our statesmen — the renewal of the con-
test was to be deplored. It was to end in frightful mis-
fortune to France, after raising her to the summit of
glory ; it was to give England imperishable renown,
indeed, and yet to expose her to terrible danger., to
retard her social progress for years, and to involve her
in a system of politics with which her people could have
no symjjathy.



The new war between England and France
was embittered by passion, and a death- Consui'piang
struggle from the first. The First Consul L^iS" "'''
now took up with ardor the idea of invading our shores,
which he had considered premature a few years before ;
and he applied for months his commanding intellect to
preparing the means of a formidable descent. Times
had changed since he had advised the Directory to
pause, and not to run the risk of the enterprise ; he had

200 The Empire to Tilsit. ch. xii.

absolute control of the naval resources of France, Hol-
land, and Italy, largely increased, with those of Spain
soon to be added to them ; his military forces over-
awed Europe, and nothing seemed too difficult for the
daring warrior who had hardly met a check in his
career of triumphs. Within a short time an immense
flotilla, comprising more than two thousand boats, and
light vessels with powerful guns, had been constructed
along the seaboard extending from La Rochelle to An-
twerp ; and by degrees this menacing array was drawn
together to the coast of Picardy, and, under the protec-
tion of miles of batteries, was collected in the narrowest
part of the Channel, within sight of the white cliffs of
„. „ ... Dover. Meanwhile troops had been marched

The flotilla . ^

and camp of in thousands from all parts of the dominions
of France ; and before long the country
from Dunkirk to Etaples bristled with the camps of the
warlike masses which had been marshalled for the great
expedition. Boulogne, and the small adjoining ports,
were chosen as the places of embarkation ; and the
arrangements of Bonaparte were so well laid that his
whole army, with its vast material, could be moved on
board in a few hours, and the flotilla could be made
ready for sea within the space of a single tide. It was
not the purpose, however, of this great commander to
expose this armament, formidable as it appeared, with-
out ample protection, to the English fleets ; and to ac-
complish this object he matured designs which have
. always ranked among his ablest projects,

covering the He Calculated that the English Admiralty,
la^rge^fleet^in imagining that the descent would be tried
the Channel. ^.-^j^ <^^ powerfully armed flotilla alone,
would guard the Channel chiefly with small vessels ; and
if so, it might become feasible, notwithstanding the naval

1804. 1^1^ Empire to Tilsit. 201

strength of England, to bring a great fleet into the narrow
seas, and under its cover, at the decisive point, to effect
in safety the dangerous passage. For this purpose he
planned a variety of schemes to draw away our squad-
rons from the waters of Europe, and to concentrate an
armada of fifty sail of the line in the straits that divide
the two countries ; and though his combinations ulti-
mately failed, they were more nearly successful than is
commonly supposed.

While Bonaparte was thus straining every
nerve to master what he called "the wet Cnnspiracy

of the emi-

ditch" of the Channel, a lamentable inci- ^r.'s against

1 1 1 • 1 1 1 r 1 • '^he First

dent occurred which has left a deep stam consul,
on his public life, and was ultimately at-
tended with eventful results. The First Consul had, we
have seen, shown generous clemency to the emigres, and
most of them had returned to France, and even largely
entered his service. A certain number, however, had
remained in exile ; and a part of these men, associated
with one or two chiefs of the late western insurgents, had
joined in conspiring against the ruler whose power it
was hopeless to shake openly. As far back as 1801 an
attempt had been made against the life of Bonaparte,
by firing what was called an infernal machine, as he was
proceeding to the opera ; and this was undoubtedly a
royalist plot, though attributed at first by its intended
victim to the survivors of the anarchist faction. These
machinations, which had never ceased, became more
active when the war again broke out, and a project to
assassinate the First Consul and to destroy his govern-
ment was formed in England, though it is unnecessary
to notice the monstrous charge that English statesmen
connived at it. The Count of Artois, to his lasting dis-
credit, was cognizant of this criminal purpose, and it is

202 The Empire to Tilsit ch. xii.

said, even took part in it ; and though the leaders were
men who had fought in the ranks of the Breton royahsts,
Pichegru, who had been exiled since Fructidor i8, was
an accomplice to a certain extent ; and Moreau, who
had become hostile to Bonaparte, unwisely listened to
the tempter's voice, though innocent of any murderous
intent. The heads of the conspiracy, with Pichegru and
Moreau, were arrested in Paris before they could effect
their purpose ; and one of the prisoners having deposed
that a Bourbon prince was to join in the enterprise, the
attention of Bonaparte was unhappily turned to the Duke
of Enghien, a scion of the race, whose presence on the
borders of the Black Forest had, with other circum-
stances, aroused suspicion. The unfortunate prince was
suddenly arrested, though on German terri-
^Ahe"D°"k to^'Y' ^^^ hurried to Paris ; and though

of Enghien, guiltless of all real crime, was shot by the sen-
March 21 . .
1804. ' tence of a military commission, after a trial

which does not deserve the name. Some of
the conspirators were afterwards justly executed ; and
the tragedy was closed by the banishment of Moreau,
and by the suicide of Pichegru* in his place of confine-

The death of the Duke of Enghien was a crime which
shows what despotism could effect in France, though
largely entitled to national gratitude, and seldom marked
by mere vulgar cruelty. It is, however, unfair to regard
this act as an assassination of the worst kind, for there were
grounds to suspect the Bourbon princes ; allowance must
be made for that dread of murder which has unhinged
even the most powerful intellects ; and Bonaparte had a

* There seem to be no grounds for the charge that Pichegru was
strangled in prison by the order of the First Consul.

1804. The Empire to Tilsit. 203

right to make an example of the emigres, who wickedly
sought his life, though he unfortunately selected an in-
nocent victim. The deed, moreover, was less culpable
than the slaughter of the French envoys at Rastadt;
and if it can be only at best palliated, it is right to bear
in mind that the age had acquired a character of vio-
lence and angry passion. The immediate effect of this
tragic event was to hasten the movement towards Mo-
narchy to which everything had been inclining. The
possibility of the sudden death of Bonaparte,
which had been brought before the public This evem
mind, caused men to hope that the evil re- movement
suits of his disappearance would be at least Monarchy,
lessened if he were at once placed on an
hereditary throne ; and the sentiments of the Nation
made it eager to surround its ruler with the pomp of
sovereignty. The First Consul naturally flattered these
ideas, but whether from a desire to draw a distinction
between the position of the Bourbons and his own, or
from a wish for new and peculiar greatness, he refused
to accept the title of King. At last he selected the
ancient dignity which had come down from the time of
Charlemagne ; and amidst enthusiastic de-
monstrations of joy he was proclaimed Consulpro-
Emperorof the French in May 1804, design- claimed
ing himself Napoleon, by his Christian the French.
name, according to the usage of Crowned 1804. '
Heads. The Empire, limited to his descen-
dants, was upheld by dignitaries, in part borrowed from
the Germanic model, and in part from that established
by the ancient Kings of France ; and its military charac-
ter was fitly expressed by the appointment of sixteen
marshals chosen from among the principal chiefs of the
Republican armies. At the same time fresh changes

204 Ihe Einpire to Tilsit. ch. xii.

were made in the shadowy institutions of the work of
Sieyes ; and the senate was enlarged, while the popular
tribunate was still further weakened, and at last sup-
pressed. More important, certainly, than this mere
shifting of the apparatus of despotic power, was the
inauguration of the imperial Court, in which the aristoc-
racy of the new era vied with survivors of the old noblesse^
in flattery, vanity, and ostentation.
Coronation of Qn December 2, Paris flocked to witness


Dec. 2, 1804. the spectacle of the Coronation. In grati-
tude to the restorer of the faith in France, the Pope had
come from Rome to hallow the pageant, and had departed
from the usage which his predecessors had imposed on
the haughtiest of the German Emperors. The Pontiff,
attended by a procession, in which mitres and crosses
were strangely mixed with the sabres and banners of
the imperial guard, passed along the Seine to the an-
cient Cathedral, raised centuries before by the good St.
Louis, and still towering in lofty state above the wrecks
of the revolutionary tempest. The walls of Notre Dame
were hung with tapestry rich with the golden bees of the
new Sovereign ; the dim light, which showed nave and
aisle, fell on the ranks of the Bodies of the State, of the
representatives of foreign Powers, of deputations from
the chief towns of the Empire, all arrayed in costly and
orderly pomp ; and, as the sacred procession entered,
choir and organ pealed forth a solemn chant, and the
prelates of the renovated Church of France knelt reve-
rently to implore the apostolic blessing. Meanwhile
Napoleon had left the Tuileries, escorted by the new
great officers of State, and with the company of his
marshals by his side ; and as he moved slowly along
the ways which had seen all that was worst in the Reign
of Terror, cheers burst exultingly from the thronging

iSo4- The Empire to Tilsit. 205

crowds, hailing a master as they had hailed liberty. On
the arrival of the Emperor the assemblage in the Church
stood up to greet him, amidst the swell of sacred music
and the blare of trumpets ; and it was with sentiments
of mingled curiosity and awe that the spectators beheld
the conquering soldier, wearing the golden laurel of the
Csesars on his brow, do homage to the successor of the
Galilean fisherman. The ceremony now began, and
Pius VII. poured the mystic oil on the kneeling Sove-
reign, and invested him with the lesser emblems of
power, the consecrated Sword, and imperial Sceptre ;
but as he was about to complete the rite. Napoleon took
the Crown from the hand of the Pontiff, and, with a
significant gesture, placed it on his head himself, in wit-
ness of the supremacy of the State, and of his own pa-
ramount and chief authority. The Emperor then
ascended a throne, encircled by a following in which
great names of the Bourbon Monarchy stood by the
side of republican soldiers and politicians ; and as the
hymn arose which had fallen on the ear of Charlemagne
when saluted Emperor of the West, the acclamations
that echoed from Notre Dame were caught up by the
vast crowds outside, and the roar of artillery joined in
concert. The satirist may ridicule whatever was incon-
gruous or out of date in the spectacle, but History notes
its more suggestive features — how the Revolution, in
Napoleon's hands, arrayed itself in the forms of the
Past, did external reverence at least to the symbols of
majesty, order, and antique tradition, and embodied it-
self, so to speak, in the type of contented servitude and
military despotism.

Before long, however, pageants of this ^^^ coalition
kind g-ave way to the sterner scenes of war against


renewed over the greater part of the Con-

2o6 The Ejnpire to Tilsit. ch. xii.

tinent. The execution of the Duke of Enghien, and
the violation of the territory of a German State, had
given natural offence to the Powers of Europe ; and
fresh causes of irritation arose, when, by a transforma-
tion expressive of his power. Napoleon converted the
Italian Republic into a vassal Monarchy ruled by him-
self, and incorporated Genoa into the French Empire.
Mr. Pitt, too, had returned to office ; and his efforts, in
the increasing peril of England, to reunite a confederacy
against her foe, soon shaped alarm into definite purpose,
and revived the Coalition ever ready to combine. By
the summer of 1805 England, Austria, Russia, Sweden,
and Naples, had entered into a close alliance ; and it
was hoped that even Prussia would join the league, as
the overwhelming preponderance of France had begun
to afi'ect the policy of that Power, and to make it appre-
hensive for its own safety. Four lines of invasion were
„, , , marked out by those who directed the Allied

Plan of the at- •'

tack of the councils ; the first by the North German
seaboard, the second up the valley of the
Danube, the third from the Adige into Italy, and the
fourth along the Neapolitan coast ; but the second at-
tack only was to be made in force ; and the Austrians
and Russians who were to attempt it were separated
from each other by the immense distance between Ba-
varia and the Galician frontier. These faulty

Campaign of .... ,

1805. dispositions were not lost on the great sol-

dier who had so often triumphed over disunited and
ill-led enemies ; and Napoleon prepared to defeat the
Napoleon Allies by operations worthy of his genius for

logne, and war. Comparatively neglecting the subor-
surrounds and ^jnate attacks, he resolved to meet the se-

captures an ...

Austrian army cond in irresistible strength, and to crush
19, 1805. the Austrians before the Russians could

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Online LibraryWilliam O'Connor MorrisThe French revolution and first empire : an historical sketch → online text (page 17 of 26)