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Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine

Book:        Life Of Napoleon

Author:      Tarbell, Ida

 

Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine

Book:        Life Of Napoleon

Author:      Tarbell, Ida

 

Chapter VI.

 

Napoleon As Statesman And Lawgiver - Finances - Industries - Public Works

 

     "Now we must rebuild, and, moreover, we must rebuild solidly," said

Napoleon to his brother Lucien the day after the coup d'etat which had

overthrown the Directory and made him the temporary Dictator of France.

 

     The first necessity was a new constitution.  In ten years three

constitutions had been framed and adopted, and now the third had, like its

predecessors, been declared worthless.  At Napoleon's side was a man who

had the draft of a constitution ready in his pocket.  It had been promised

him that, if he would aid in the 18th Brumaire, this instrument should be

adopted.  This man was the Abbe Sieyes.  He had been a prominent member of

the Constituent Assembly, but, curiously enough, his fame there had been

founded more on his silence and the air of mystery in which he enveloped

himself than on anything he had done.  The superstitious veneration which

he had won, saved him even during the Terror, and he was accustomed to say

laconically, when asked what he did in that period.  "I lived."

 

     It was he who, when Napoleon was still in Egypt, had seen the

necessity of a military dictatorship, and had urged the Directory to order

Napoleon home to help him reorganize the government - an order which was

never received.

 

     Soon after the 18th Brumaire.  Sieyes presented his constitution.  No

more bungling and bizarre instrument for conducting the affairs of a

nation was ever devised.  Warned by the experience of the past ten years,

he abandoned the ideas of 1789, and declared that the power must come from

above, the confidence from below.  His system of voting took the suffrage

from the people; his legislative body was composed of three sections, each

of which was practically powerless.  All the force of the government was

centered in a senate of aged men.  The Grand Elector, as the figurehead

which crowned the edifice was called, did nothing but live at Versailles

and draw a princely salary.

     Napoleon saw at once the weak points of the structure, but he saw how

it could be re-arranged to serve a dictator.  He demanded that the Senate

be stripped of its power, and that the Grand Elector be replaced by a

First Consul, to whom the executive force should be confided.  Sieyes

consented, and Napoleon was named First Consul.

 

     The whole machinery of the government was now centered in one man.

"The state, it was I," said Napoleon at St. Helena.  The new constitution

was founded on principles the very opposite of those for which the

Revolution had been made, but it was the only hope there was of dragging

France from the slough of anarchy and despair into which she had fallen.

 

     Napoleon undertook the work of reconstruction which awaited him, with

courage, energy, and amazing audacity.  He was forced to deal at once with

all departments of the nation's life - with the finances, the industries,

the emigres, the Church, public education, the codification of the laws.

 

     The first question was one of money.  The country was literally

bankrupt in 1799.  The treasury was empty, and the government practised

all sorts of makeshifts to get money to pay those bills which could not be

put off.  One day, having to send out a special courier, it was obliged to

give him the receipts of the opera to pay his expenses.  And, again, it

was in such a tight pinch that it was on the point of sending the gold

coin in the Cabinet of Medals to the mint to be melted.  Loans could not

be negotiated; government paper was worthless; stocks were down to the

lowest.  One of the worst features of the situation was the condition of

the taxes.  The assessments were as arbitrary as before the Revolution,

and they were collected with greater difficulty.

 

     To select an honest, capable, and well-known financier was Napoleon's

first act.  The choice he made was wise - a Monsieur Gaudin, afterward the

Duke de Gaete, a quiet man, who had the confidence of the people.  Under

his management credit was restored, the government was able to make the

loans necessary, and the department of finance was reorganized in a

thorough fashion.  Napoleon's gratitude to Monsieur Gaudin was lasting.

Once when asked to change him for a more brilliant man, he said:

 

     "I fully acknowledge all your protege is worth; but it might easily

happen that, with all his intelligence, he would give me nothing but fresh

water, whilst with my good Gaudin I can always rely on having good crown

pieces."

 

     The famous Bank of France dates from this time.  It was founded under

Napoleon's personal direction, and he never ceased to watch over it

jealously.

 

     Most important of all the financial measures was the reorganization

of the system of taxation.  The First Consul insisted that the taxes must

meet the whole expense of the nation, save war, which must pay for itself;

and he so ordered affairs that never, after his administration was fairly

begun, was a deficit known or a loan made.  This was done, too, without

the people feeling the burden of taxation.  Indeed, that burden was so

much lighter under his administration that it had been under the old

regime, that peasant and workman, in most cases, probably did not know

they were being taxed.

 

     "Before 1789," says Taine, "out of one hundred francs of net revenue,

the workman gave fourteen to his seignor, fourteen to the clergy, fifty-

three to the state, and kept only eighteen or nineteen for himself.  Since

1800, from one hundred francs income he pays nothing to the seignor or the

Church, and he pays to the state, the department, and the commune but

twenty-one francs, leaving seventy-nine in his pocket." And such was the

method and care with which this system was administered, that the state

received more than twice as much as it had before.  The enormous sums

which the police and tax-collectors had appropriated now went to the

state.  Here is but one example of numbers which show how minutely

Napoleon guarded this part of the finances.  It is found in a letter to

Fouche, the chief of police:

 

     "What happens at Bordeaux happens at Turin, at Spa, at Marseilles,

etc.  The police commissioners derive immense profits from the gaming-

tables.  My intention is that the towns shall reap the benefit of the

tables.  I shall employ the two hundred thousand francs paid by the tables

of Bordeaux in building a bridge or a canal. . . ."

 

     A great improvement was that the taxes became fixed and regular.

Napoleon wished that each man should know what he had to pay out each

year.  "True civil liberty depends on the safety of property," he told his

Council of State.  "There is none in a country where the rate of taxation

is changed every year.  A man who has three thousand francs income does

not know how much he will have to live on the next year.  His whole

substance may be swallowed up by the taxes."

 

     Nearly the whole revenue came from indirect taxes applied to a great

number of articles.  In case of a war which did not pay its way, Napoleon

proposed to raise each of these a few centimes.  The nation would surely

prefer this, to paying it to the Russians or Austrians.  When possible the

taxes were reduced.  "Better leave the money in the hands of the citizens

than lock it up in a cellar, as they do in Prussia."

 

     He was cautious that extra taxes should not come on the very poor, if

it could be avoided.  A suggestion to charge the vegetable and fish

sellers for their stalls came before him.  "The public square, like water,

ought to be free.  It is quite enough that we tax salt and wine. . . . It

would become the city of Paris much more to think of restoring the corn

market."

 

     An important part of his financial policy was the rigid economy which

was insisted on in all departments.  If a thing was bought, it must be

worth what was paid for it.  If a man held a position, he must do its

duties.  Neither purchases nor positions could be made unless reasonable

and useful.  This was in direct opposition to the old regime, of which

waste, idleness, and parasites were the chief characteristics.  The saving

in expenditure was almost incredible.  A trip to Fontainebleau, which cost

Louis XVI. four hundred thousand dollars, Napoleon would make, in no less

state, for thirty thousand dollars.

 

     The expenses of the civil household, which amounted to five million

dollars under the old regime, were now cut down to six hundred thousand

dollars, though the elegance was no less.

 

     A master who gave such strict attention to the prosperity of his

kingdom would not, of course, overlook its industries.  In fact, they were

one of Napoleon's chief cares.  His policy was one of protection.  He

would have France make everything she wanted, and sell to her neighbors,

but never buy from them.  To simulate the manufactories, which in 1799

were as nearly bankrupt as the public treasury, he visited the factories

himself to learn their needs.  He gave liberal orders, and urged, even

commanded, his associates to do the same.  At one time, anxious to aid the

batiste factories of Flanders, he tried to force Josephine to give up

cotton goods and to set the fashion in favor of the batistes; but she made

such an outcry that he was obliged to abandon the idea.  For the same

reason he wrote to his sister Eliza: "I beg that you will allow your court

to wear nothing but silks and cambrics, and that you will exclude all

cottons and muslins, in order to favor French industry."

 

     Frequently he would take goods on consignment, to help a struggling

factory.  Rather than allow a manufactory to be idle, he would advance a

large sum of money, and a quantity of its products would be put under

government control.  After the battle of Eylau, Napoleon sent one million

six hundred thousand francs to Paris, to be used in this way.

 

     To introduce cotton-making into the country was one of his chief

industrial ambitions.  At the beginning of the century it was printed in

all the factories of France, but nothing more.  He proposed to the Council

of State to prohibit the importation of cotton thread and the woven goods.

There was a strong opposition, but he carried his point.

 

     "As a result," said Napoleon to Las Cases complacently, "we possess

the three branches, to the immense advantage of our population and to the

detriment and sorrow of the English; which proves that, in administration

as in war, one must exercise character. . . . I occupied myself no less in

encouraging silks.  As Emperor, and King of Italy, I counted one hundred

and twenty millions of income from the silk harvest."

 

     In a similar way he encouraged agriculture; especially was he anxious

that France should raise all her own articles of diet.  He had Berthollet

look into maple and turnip sugar, and he did at last succeed in persuading

the people to use beet sugar; though he never convinced them that Swiss

tea equalled Chinese, or that chicory was as good as coffee.

 

     The works he insisted should be carried on in regard to roads and

public buildings were of great importance.  There was need that something

be done.

 

     "It is impossible to conceive, if one had not been a witness of it

before and after the 18th Brumaire [said the chancellor Pasquier], of the

widespread ruin wrought by the Revolution. . . .  There were hardly two or

three main roads [in France] in a fit condition for traffic; not a single

one was there, perhaps, wherein was not found some obstacle that could not

be surmounted without peril.  With regard to the ways of internal

communication, they had been indefinitely suspended.  The navigation of

rivers and canals was no longer feasible.

 

     "In all directions, public buildings, and those monuments which

represent the splendor of the state, were falling into decay.  It must

fain be admitted that if the work of destruction had been prodigious, that

of restoration was no less so.  Everything was taken hold of at one and

the same time, and everything progressed with a like rapidity.  Not only

was it resolved to restore all that required restoring in various parts of

the country, in all parts of the public service, but new, grand, beautiful

and useful works were decided upon, and many were brought to a happy

termination.  This certainly constitutes one of the most brilliant sides

of the consular and imperial regime."

 

     In Paris alone vast improvements were made.  Napoleon began the Rue

de Rivoli, built the wing connecting the Tuileries and the Louvre, erected

the triumphal arch of the Carrousel, the Arc de Triomphe at the head of

the Champs Elysees, the Column Vendome, the Madeleine, began the Bourse,

built the Pont d'Austerlitz, and ordered, commenced, or finished, a number

of minor works of great importance to the city.  The markets interested

him particularly.  "Give all possible care to the construction of the

markets and to their healthfulness, and to the beauty of the Halle-aux-

bles and of the Halle-aux-vins.  The people, too, must have their Louvre."

 

     The works undertaken outside of Paris in France, and in the countries

under her rule in the time that Napoleon was in power were of a variety

and extent which would be incredible, if every traveller in Europe did not

have the evidence of them still before his eyes.  The mere enumeration of

these works and of the industrial achievements of Napoleon, made by Las

Cases, reads like a fairy story.  "You wish to know the treasures of

Napoleon?  They are immense, it is true, but they are all exposed to

light.  They are the noble harbors of Antwerp and Flushing, which are

capable of containing the largest fleets, and of protecting them against

the ice from the sea; the hydraulic works at Dunkirk, Havre, and Nice; the

immense harbor of Cherbourg; the maritime works at Venice; the beautiful

roads from Antwerp to Amsterdam, from Mayence to Metz, from Bordeaux to

Bayonne; the passes of the Simplon, of Mont Cenis, of Mount Genevre, of

the Corniche, which open a communication through the Alps in four

different directions, and which exceed in grandeur, in boldness, and in

skill of execution, all the works of the Romans (in that alone you will

find eight hundred millions); the roads from the Pyrenees to the Alps,

from Parma to Spezia, from Savona to Piedmont; the bridges of Jena,

Austerlitz, Des Arts, Sevres, Tours, Roanne, Lyons, Turin; of the Isere,

of the Durance, of Bordeaux, of Rouen, etc.; the canal which connects the

Rhine with the Rhone by the Doubs, and thus unites the North Sea with the

Mediterranean; the canal which joins the Scheldt with the Somme, and thus

joins Paris and Amsterdam; the canal which unites the Rance to the

Vilaine; the canal of Arles; that of Pavia, and the canal of the Rhine;

the draining of the marshes of Bourgoin, of the Cotentin, of Rochefort;

the rebuilding of the greater part of the churches destroyed by the

Revolution; the building of others: the institution of numerous

establishments of industry for the suppression of mendicity; the gallery

at the Louvre; the construction of public warehouses, of the Bank, of the

canal of the Ourcq; the distribution of water in the city of Paris; the

numerous drains, the quays, the embellishments, and the monuments of that

large capital; the works for the embellishment of Rome; the

reestablishment of the manufactures of Lyons; the creation of many

hundreds of manufactories of cotton, for spinning and for weaving, which

employ several millions of workmen; funds accumulated to establish upwards

of four hundred manufactories of sugar from beet-root, for the consumption

of part of France, and which would have furnished sugar at the same price

as the West Indies, if they had continued to receive encouragement for

only four years longer; the substitution of woad for indigo, which would

have been at last brought to a state of perfection in France, and obtained

as good and as cheap as the indigo from the colonies; numerous

manufactories for all kinds of objects of art, etc.; fifty millions

expended in repairing and beautifying the palaces belonging to the Crown;

sixty millions in furniture for the palaces belonging to the Crown in

France, in Holland, at Turin, and at Rome; sixty millions of diamonds for

the Crown, all purchased with Napoleon's money; the Regent (the only

diamond that was left belonging to the former diamonds of the Crown)

withdrawn from the hands of the Jews at Berlin, in whose hands it had been

left as a pledge for three millions.  The Napoleon Museum, valued at

upwards of four hundred millions, filled with objects legitimately

acquired, either by moneys or by treaties of peace known to the whole

world, by virtue of which the chefs-d'oeuvres, it contains were given in

lieu of territory or of contributions.  Several millions amassed to be

applied to the encouragement of agriculture, which is the paramount

consideration for the interest of France; the introduction into France of

merino sheep, etc.  These form a treasure of several thousand millions

which will endure for ages."

 

     Napoleon himself looked on these achievements as his most enduring

monument.  "The allied powers cannot take from me hereafter," he told

O'Meara, "the great public works I have executed, the roads which I made

over the Alps, and the seas which I have united.  They cannot place their

feet to improve where mine have not been before.  They cannot take from me

the code of laws which I formed, and which will go down to posterity."

 

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