Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

CHAP: October, 1801, and Lauriston, who brought them from XLIII.

Paris, was drawn in triumph by the mob of London, partly glad of peace, partly in admiration of Bonaparte.

The signing of the preliminaries scarcely facilitated that of the final peace, as the hostile parties were thus enabled to know each other better and divine each other's motives. English politicians were sore and mortified, Bonaparte exultant and too ardent to condescend to the necessary decorum of diplomatic hypocrisy.

One of the first acts of the French government after the signature of the preliminaries was to despatch an expedition under the brother-in-law of Bonaparte for the reconquest of San Domingo. So mistrustful were the English of the object of the expedition that they despatched a fleet to watch it. Complete success at first attended the enterprise, and could the French commander have respected and conciliated the able coloured chiefs, who, like Bonaparte himself, had been thrown forward by the revolution, he might have succeeded in recovering the colony. But General Leclerc kidnapped Toussaint, and sent him prisoner to France. And hence when war with England subsequently broke out, the French had not a friend. With a similar view of resuscitating French colonial power, Bonaparte negotiated the retrocession of Louisiana by Spain to France. An expedition for the purpose of occupying it was subsequently prepared, and in the ports of the Low Countries, which inspired the English government, unaware of the object of the expedition, with fresh mistrust. But what alarmed it, more than efforts or designs of this kind, in the East or West Indies, was the persistence of Bonaparte's views upon Egypt, and the prospect of replacing Malta in the hands of a weak and neutral power. One of the great links between the Emperor Paul and the First Consul had been the project of a combined invasion of India, Egypt being

CHAP.
XLIII.

the first stage, and the first conquest of France. This chimera of subduing India inflated the hopes of the French

government, and the fears of the English during these years, as much and even more than the many real and substantial causes of rivalry between them.

In England the anti-Gallican opposition were loud in denouncing these forward steps to domination, which the First Consul did not shrink from making even between the signatures of the preliminaries and of the peace itself. His assuming the Presidency of the Italian republic, his seizure of Elba and progress in San Domingo, offered fertile themes for declamation. But the British government were determined on making the experiment of peace. Accordingly it was agreed that England should restore Malta to the knights, of whom none should be French or English, within three months, or to a Neapolitan garrison if the knights were ready with no other. In this way the treaty was patched up and signed at Amiens at the end of March, 1802. It was popular with the masses, but no more. Every gentleman was against it, and every blackguard for it, wrote Fox. There were loud rejoicings on the part of both peoples. “ We shall have peace in a week, and war in a month,” observed an English statesman, and George the Third considered the reply to be truthful and just.

The First Consul had thus some leisure allowed him for that rearrangement of civil government which suited his position and his designs. He had assumed power with a sincere desire to make use of it for the reconciliation of parties, and the oblivion of past quarrels. A large amnesty was extended to all the proscribed. Not only those moderate politicians, Constitutionalists or Royalists, imprisoned or transported by the Directory, had leave to return, but the obnoxious men of extreme parties such as Barrère and Carnot, as well as noted

[blocks in formation]

XLIII.

CHAP. Chouans, were allowed to tread the soil of the republic.

The list of émigrés was closed, and the Council of State declared them as apt for employ as other citizens. The Royalists indeed were so encouraged by these favours, that some of their chiefs ventured to ask the French Consul to restore the Bourbons. He replied, that their only path to the throne lay over half-a-million of corpses. But whilst rudely rejecting the demands of the Royalists, the government sought to remove all the grievances of their humble followers. The churches were reopened, full liberty of worship restored, and every indulgence announced in a proclamation to the departments of the West. These concessions did not satisfy the fanatics of either party, who, denied the means of open insurrection, had recourse to secret plots. In October, 1801, the police discovered, and itself assisted to mature, a plot of some ultra-revolutionists to assassinate the First Consul. Those who meditated it, Ceracchi, Arena, and others, were arrested and sent to be tried.

Two carriages left the Tuileries for a concert at the Opera-house on Christmas-eve of the same year, 1801. In the first were Bonaparte and his aide-decamp, in the second Josephine. In the narrow rue St. Nicaise, the escort pushed aside what appeared to be a water-carrier's barrel, drawn by one horse, and the horse held by a girl. The consular carriage drove rapidly past, whilst Josephine's was at some distance behind. Between them the machine exploded, driving horse and girl into fragments, killing seven persons, one of them a cavalier of the guard, and wounding twentyseven others. The First Consul was welcomed at the Opera with acclamations of sympathy; he had most narrowly escaped destruction. Who had done this ? Bonaparte said instantly, it was the Jacobins. The previous plots corroborated this opinion. But Fouché declared it must be the Chouans or dregs of the Royalists. And there ensued a long dispute between the

XLIII.

First Consul and the minister of police. Bonaparte's idea prevailed, and 130 individuals, those best known to have been ultra-revolutionists and terrorists, were ordered to be seized and transported without trial. Amongst them were nine known murderers of September, with whom were included such men as General Rossignol, Charles de Hesse, and the Conventionalists, Choudieu and Talot. There was a long debate in the Council of State, whether the sentence on these men should be passed simply by government, or by the council. The former opinion prevailed. It was a repetition of the summary justice of the Committee of Public Safety or the Directory. About the same time, Arena, Cerrachi, and the first batch of conspirators, were executed.*

Scarcely had these acts of severity been accomplished, when Fouché brought forward proofs that the infernal machine was the result of a Chouan plot, and that George Cadoudal was privy to it. The immediate actors in it, San Regent and Cambon, were seized, the formers till suffering from the wound inflicted by the explosion. This discovery shook the convictions, and modified the purposes, of Bonaparte. He had been allowing the émigrés to return and resume such of their property, chiefly in forest, which had been unsold. He now issued contrary decrees. The émigré was again considered to be civilly dead, whilst those who obtained permission to return, no longer recovered their property sold or unsold. Bonaparte had been much inclined to restore some of the old institutions of the monarchy. He deplored the want of an aristocracy, even in a republic. Intermediate grades and ranks between the supreme magistracy and the people were indispensable, he said. It was disgraceful to see those who had held the highest authority in the state descend to poverty

* Thibaudeau, Rapp's Memoirs, Bourrienne.

XLIII.

CHAP. and neglect. War of course would produce a military

hierarchy. But if society was not to be overshadowed and browbeaten by it, a class of civilian dignitaries were required. With this view the First Consul created the Legion of Honour, loudly and most inconsistently denounced, even by the democratic wearers of epaulettes, as an aristocracy.

But neither his Legion of Honour nor his Senate, nor aught that Bonaparte instituted, succeeded in forming a civilian body, like the noblesse, to counterbalance the high ranks of the army. And the result was that the Imperial system remained essentially a military one. The court was a camp, and the council, such as the government formed and presided, was one of war, not peace.

To restore the landed aristocracy was indeed impossible. The peasant had become proprietor even in La Vendée. There were no elective rights left to the people, no judicial or administrative privilege to the locality. A landed gentry thus, whatever its wealth, could have no influence. Functionaries might have replaced it, but functionaries, like gentry, require independence to command respect. The service of the State, the Law, and the Church formed three professions into which had liberty been infused, the civilian element might have risen to counterbalance the military. But without freedom of speech, what was the bar, that freedom of speech developing liberty, and talent in its turn commanding place? Bonaparte would have none of these things.

He sedulously undertook to reform the Code, a task which the lawyers of the Convention had commenced. At first, its articles when framed were laid before the tribunate to be discussed. But the First Consul was irritated at any opposition, and disliked all discussion, save in his own presence and under his own control. He therefore withdrew the Code from the tribunate, and settled the disputes on different points in the Council of

« AnteriorContinuar »