« AnteriorContinuar »
the Vistula as he was already of the Elbe and the Rhine. If the minor powers of Oldenburg and Mecklenburg were restored, it was only on the condition that their ports should be garrisoned by French in order to enforce the active English blockade. Portugal was at the same time summoned to close its ports against the arch enemy Great Britain, and in the prevision of its refusal, a French army was immediately ordered to be assembled at Bayonne.
It may be questioned whether Napoleon had reached the zenith of his power and glory in 1807 after Tilsit, or two years later, when, after having overcome Austria in the field of Wagram, he took for his empress the daughter of the Cæsar. We are inclined to consider 1807 as forming the culminating point of his career, his hold over the continent becoming after that period, despite of Wagram, insecure by the gradually increasing estrangement of Russia, and the open resistance of the Peninsula, where English courage and resources enabled Spanish nationality to hold its ground against the French. In 1807 also Napoleon completed the edifice of his internal government. The foundation and the walls were indeed of simple construction, that of absolute power and centralized despotism. The peculiarity, if there was any, lay in the exorbitant cost of the decoration. On this his efforts were chiefly lavished; nor did he seem to care from what school or what epoch his ornaments were borrowed. Thus there was the semblance of a constitution, it being thought decorous to preserve the ghost at least of that modern requireinent. There was a Senate, which obsequiously registered imperial decrees for the levy of men and money. There was a legislative assembly, which was forbidden to discuss legislative measures. There was still in 1807 a body called the tribunate, but as it criticised his acts, and as critics were held in horror by the emperor, the tribunate was suppressed,
and its members consigned to the same mutism as the legislative corps.
The political drama in France being thus confined to pantomime, it was necessary to supply the want of words and of action by dresses and decorations. For this purpose Napoleon deemed that an aristocracy was required. The French indeed would not feed, much less respect an aristocracy of and on their own soil. A noblesse then of either the middle ages, or of the Versailles epoch being impossible, the emperor went back to the days of Charlemagne, and resuscitated the grand dignitaries and feudal dukes of ten centuries previous, their titles taken and revenues derived from foreign and subject lands. Italy furnished some halfdozen, Germany as many more. By the side of these grand dukes, half barbaric, half Byzantine, some offices were taken from the middle ages. One of Napoleon's young brothers who had never wielded a sword, had that of Constable thrust upon his hands, and Louis Buonaparte was to have figured in the character of Duguesclin. The efforts to found a patriciate were not confined to the Byzantine model, or to that of Charlemagne. An imperial decree declared such titles to be hereditary, and gave the founder or the wearer the right to create a majorat, that is, to entail a certain amount of property upon the title. Nothing so glaringly offensive to French prejudice could be imagined. But the entails were built on the quicksands of foreign conquest, and people consoled themselves for what was unequal and unjust by the conviction that it was also ephemeral.
That the revolution might be represented, there was a grand elector in memory of Sieyès, and a most fit personage was found to accept the empty title, being no other than the cynic Talleyrand, whose destiny it teciras to survive and to bury all the friends, the policies, 5or the dynasties and constitutions that he had served of or
known. * Then there were chancellor and treasurer, each and all with an “ Arch” before their titles, their persons empurpled and embroidered and befeathered, far surpassing the aspirations of any noble of the old courts. Kings too formed portions of the imperial circle. Louis had long been King of Holland, a king with enough of the republican in him to kick against imperialism. Joseph was for the moment King of Naples, out of which realm he had expelled the Bourbons. Jerome was enthroned at Cassel. All of these, however, sovereigns and dignitaries, were mere pillars hanging from the roof of the edifice, and leaning upon no foundation whatever in the soil to support it.
It is with regret that we speak thus slightingly of Napoleon in his greatness, for he himself was a great man. Neither can we attribute altogether to his character the institution or the crime of tyranny. The freedom of which he had deprived France was worse than anarchy, it was misery and bloodshed. By concentrating power in his own hands, he had not only restored peace to the country, but in a great degree prosperity too. It is no wonder therefore that a soldier little read in historical or political science, should make the mistake of considering his dictatorial rule as the best not only for France but for all subject countries; and indeed it may be admitted, that absolute power wielded by a first-rate intellect, succeeding to an epoch of great freedom, in which ideas have been largely ventilated, national defects and aspirations and tendencies fully made known, can by taking for its mission the realisation of these ideas and hopes, do more for a people, and for an age and their requirements, than a constitutional executive could do. The mistake lies in supposing that
* There were six Grand Digni. one of the State, an Arch Treasurer, taries, or functionary Grandeeships, a Constable, and a Great Admiral. borrowed from the old German They each received upwards of empire ; The Grand Elector; two 12,0001. a year. Archchancellors, one of the Empire,
a dictatorship, good for fighting a battle, or driving a nail, can be aught but an extinguisher, an oppression and a curse, when rendered the permanent and normal régime of any country. But Napoleon knew no other mode of government. With more enlarged knowledge of political science, he might, beyond or within his frontiers, have attracted the populations to their new rulers, and endowed them with governments so far superior in freedom as well as in energy to what they had before known, that no reverses or misfortune would have shaken them. Instead of this, not only was such science foreign to his thoughts, but he was indignant when any of his relatives, like Louis, King of Holland, attempted to consult the interests of his subjects, or deserve their esteem. His whole system was thus essentially ephemeral, and even if military disasters had not befallen him and exploded his
government could not have survived. The French would have no more borne absolutism for succeeding generations, than Europe would have submitted to be deprived of men, money, independence, and honourable existence, for the glorification of even an heroic idol.
Yet that Napoleon thought his own system the best, is evident from his letters to Jerome and the Constitution which he devised for his brother's new kingdom. As his system was the same everywhere, we may describe his arrangements for Westphalia. In the first place, the new king chose throughout his provinces the men of wealth and consideration likely to be faithful to him. These he formed into colleges of departments, which elected 100 members to form the Estates, 70 of whom were to be landed proprietors, 15 commercial men, 15 professional or literary. They answered to the possidenti, commercianti, and dotti of his Italian dependencies. By the side of this mockery of representation was a Council of State, which with the government, its ministers and prefects, wielded all authority. As to freedom of speech
or printing, Napoleon would tolerate none; and although CHAP. he pretended to allow the sovereigns of the Confederation of the Rhine full independence, he insisted on the proscription, or even execution, of such book-makers or book-publishers as called his omniscience in question. But with all this Napoleon insured the solid benefits of the revolution, the abolition of the privileges of nobility, and the equality of the entire population before the taxation and the law. Whilst thus abrogating fiscal or other advantages to natives, he unfortunately intruded an equally onerous burden upon subject countries, by taxing them for the support of France. Half the State property, including the Church domains of Westphalia, was confiscated and applied to the dotation of the French army and its generals, in other words to the aristocracy of the French empire. Napoleon enforced everywhere the introduction of the Code Napoleon with its important conditions for the division of property ; and whilst he created, and even endowed, an hereditary aristocracy of his own at home, he destroyed abroad the old aristocracy, that which alone had any root for keeping life in the institution.*
He thus hoped that the new states and their governments would present a favourable contrast with the old. At home, indeed, he was able to present a most flattering contrast between his own government and that of the republic. The reformation of the country's finance was, as we have seen, his first object of attention on attaining the Consulship. And he never lost sight of it. His task was in one respect facilitated by the bankruptcy and cancelling of two-thirds of the debt under the Directory. But, on the other hand, such a fact precluded the possibility of borrowing. The interest of the debt (the consolidated third) and of arrears founded by the government amounted to
Memoirs and Correspondence of King Jeroine. VOL. V.