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Napoleon In Paris

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The First Italian Campaign

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Statesman And Lawgiver

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Alexander And Napoleon In Council

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An Heir To The Crown

The Pope

Conscription

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A New Army

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Hundred Days

Second Abdication

Napoleon's Surrender

Sent To St. Helena

Life In Exile

Death Of Napoleon

Second Funeral Of Napoleon

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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 IX.

 

Opposition To The Centralization Of The Government - General Prosperity

 

     The centralization of France in Napoleon's hands was not to be

allowed to go on without interference.  Jacobinism, republicanism,

royalism, were deeply-rooted sentiments, and it was not long before they

began to struggle for expression.

 

     Early in the Consulate, plots of many descriptions were unearthed.

The most serious before 1803 was that known as the "Opera Plot," or "Plot

of the 3d Nivose" (December 24, 1800), when a bomb was placed in the

street, to be exploded as the First Consul's carriage passed.  By an

accident he was saved, and, in spite of the shock, went on to the opera.

 

     Madame Junot, who was there, gives a graphic description of the way

the news was received by the house:

 

     "The first thirty measures of the oratorio were scarcely played, when

a strong explosion like a cannon was heard.

 

     "'What does that mean?'exclaimed Junot with emotion.  He opened the

door of the loge and looked into the corridor. . . .  'It is strange; how

can they be firing cannon at this hour?' And then 'I should have known it.

Give me my hat; I am going to find out what it is. . . .'

 

     "At this moment the loge of the First Consul opened, and he himself

appeared with Generals Lannes, Lauriston, Berthier, and Duroc.  Smiling,

he saluted the immense crowd, which mingled cries like those of love with

its applause.  Madame Bonaparte followed him in a few seconds. . . .

 

     "Junot was going to enter the loge to see for himself the serene air

of the First Consul that I had just remarked, when Duroc came up to us

with troubled face.

 

     "'The First Consul has just escaped death,' he said quickly to Junot.

'Go down and see him; he wants to talk to you.'. . . But a dull sound

commenced to spread from parterre to orchestra, from orchestra to

amphitheatre, and thence to the loges.

 

     "'The First Consul has just been attacked in the Rue Saint Nicaise,'

it was whispered.  Soon the truth was circulated in the salle; at the same

instant, and as by an electric shock, one and the same acclamation arose,

one and the same look enveloped Napoleon, as if in a protecting love.

 

     "What agitation preceded the explosion of national anger which was

represented in that first quarter of an hour, by that crowd whose fury for

so black an attack could not be expressed by words!  Women sobbed aloud,

men shivered with indignation.  Whatever the banner they followed, they

were united heart and arm in this case to show that differences of opinion

did not bring with them differences in understanding honor."

 

     It was such attempts, and suspicion of like ones, that led to the

extension of the police service.  One of the ablest and craftiest men of

the Revolution became Napoleon's head of police in the Consulate, Fouche.

A consummate actor and skilful flatterer, hampered by no conscience other

than the duty of keeping in place, he acted a curious and entertaining

part.  Detective work was for him a game which he played with intense

relish.  He was a veritable amateur of plots, and never gayer than when

tracing them.

 

     Napoleon admired Fouche, but he did not trust him, and, to offset

him, formed a private police to spy on his work.  He never succeeded in

finding anyone sufficiently fine to match the chief, who several times was

malicious enough to contrive plots himself, to excite and mislead the

private agents.

 

     The system of espionage went so far that letters were regularly

opened.  It was commonly said that those who did not want their letters

read, did not send them by post; and though it was hardly necessary, as in

the Revolution, to send them in pies, in coat-linings, or hat-crowns, yet

care and prudence had to be exercised in handling all political letters.

 

     It was difficult to get officials for the post-office who could be

relied on to intercept the proper letters; and in 1802, the Postmaster-

General, Monsieur Bernard, the father of the beautiful Madame Recamier,

was found to be concealing an active royalist correspondence, and to be

permitting the circulation of a quantity of seditious pamphlets.  His

arrest and imprisonment made a great commotion in his daughter's circle,

which was one of social and intellectual importance.  Through the

intercessions of Bernadotte, Monsieur Bernard was pardoned by Napoleon.

The cabinet noir, as the department of the post-office which did this work

was called, was in existence when Napoleon came to the Consulate, and he

rather restricted than increased its operations.  It has never been

entirely given up, as many an inoffensive foreigner in France can testify.

 

     The theatre and press were also subjected to a strict censorship.  In

1800 the number of newspapers in Paris was reduced to twelve; and in three

years there were but eight left, with a total subscription list of

eighteen thousand six hundred and thirty.  Napoleon's contempt for

journalists and editors equalled that he had for lawyers, whom he called a

"heap of babblers and revolutionists." Neither class could, in his

judgment, be allowed to go free.

 

     The salons were watched, and it is certain that those whose habitues

criticised Napoleon freely were reported.  One serious rupture resulted

from the supervision of the salons, that with Madame de Stael.  She had

been an ardent admirer of Napoleon in the beginning of the Consulate, and

Bourrienne tells several amusing stories of the disgust Napoleon showed at

the letters of admiration and sentiment which she wrote him even so far

back as the Italian campaign.  If the secretary is to be believed, Madame

de Stael told Napoleon, in one of these letters, that they were certainly

created for each other, that it was an error in human institutions that

the mild and tranquil Josephine was united to his fate, that nature

evidently had intended for a hero such as he, her own soul of fire.

Napoleon tore the letter to pieces, and he took pains thereafter to

announce with great bluntness to Madame de Stael, whenever he met her, his

own notions of women, which certainly were anything but "modern."

 

     As the centralization of the government increased, Madame de Stael

and her friends criticized Napoleon more freely and sharply than they

would have done, no doubt, had she not been incensed by his personal

attitude towards her.  This hostility increased until, in 1803, the First

Consul ordered her out of France.  "The arrival of this woman, like that

of a bird of omen, has always been the signal for some trouble," he said

in giving the order.  "It is not my intention to allow her to remain in

France."

 

     In 1807 this order was repeated, and many of Madame de Stael's

friends were included in the proscription:

 

     "I have written to the Minister of Police to send Madame de Stael to

Geneva.  This woman continues her trade of intriguer.  She went near Paris

in spite of my orders.  She is a veritable plague.  Speak seriously to the

Minister, for I shall be obliged to have her seized by the gendarmerie.

Keep an eye upon Benjamin Constant; if he meddles with anything I shall

send him to his wife at Brunswick.  I will not tolerate this clique."

 

     But when one compares the policy of restriction during the Consulate

with what it had been under the old regime and during the Revolution, it

certainly was far in advance in liberty, discretion, and humanity.  The

republican government to-day, in its repression of anarchy, and socialism

has acted with less wisdom and less respect for freedom of thought than

Napoleon did at this period of his career; and that, too, in circumstances

less complicated and critical.  If there were still dull rumors of

discontent, a cabinet noir, a restricted press, a censorship over the

theatre, proscriptions, even imprisonments and executions, on the whole

France was happy.

 

     "Not only did the interior wheels of the machine commence to run

smoothly," says the Duchesse d'Abrantes, "but the arts themselves, that

most peaceful part of the interior administration, gave striking proofs of

the returning prosperity of France.  The exposition at the Salon that year

(1800) was remarkably fine.  Guerin, David, Gerard, Girodet, a crowd of

great talents, spurred on by the emulation which always awakes the fire of

genius, produced works which must some time place our school at a high

rank."

 

     The art treasures of Europe were pouring into France.  Under the

direction of Denon, that indefatigable dilettante and student, who had

collected in the expedition in Egypt more entertaining material than the

whole Institute, and had written a report of it which will always be

preferred to the "Great Work," the galleries of Paris were reorganized and

opened two days of the week to the people.  Napoleon inaugurated this

practice himself.  Not only was Paris supplied with galleries; those

department museums which today surprise and delight the tourist in France

were then created at Angers, Antwerp, Autun, Bordeaux, Brussels, Caen,

Dijon, Geneva, Grenoble, Le Mans, Lille, Lyons, Mayence, Marseilles,

Montpellier, Nancy, Nantes, Rennes, Rouen, Strasburg, Toulouse, and Tours.

The prix de Rome, for which there had been no money in the treasury for

some time, was reestablished.

 

     Every effort was made to stimulate scientific research.  The case of

Volta is one to the point.  In 1801 Bonaparte called the eminent physicist

to Paris to repeat his experiments before the Institute.  He proposed that

a medal should be given him, with a sum of money, and in his honor he

established a prize of sixty thousand francs, to be awarded to any one who

should make a discovery similar in value to Volta's.^* An American -

Robert Fulton - was about the same time encouraged by the First Consul.

Fulton was experimenting with his submarine torpedo and diving boat, and

for four years had been living in Paris and besieging the Directory to

grant him attention and funds.  Napoleon took the matter up as soon as

Fulton brought it to him, ordered a commission appointed to look into the

invention, and a grant of ten thousand francs for the necessary

experiments.

 

[Footnote *: The Volta prize has been awarded only three or four times.

An award of particular interest to Americans was that made in 1880 to Dr.

Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone.  The amount of the

prize was a little less than ten thousand dollars.  Dr. Bell, being

already in affluent circumstances upon receiving this prize, set it apart

to be used for the benefit of the deaf, in whose welfare he had for many

years taken a great interest.  He invested it in another invention of his,

which proved to be very profitable, so that the fund came to amount to one

hundred thousand dollars.  This he termed the Volta Fund.  Some of this

fund has been applied by Dr. Bell to the organization of the Volta Bureau,

which collects all valuable information that can be obtained with

reference to not only deaf-mutes as a class, but to deaf-mutes

individually.  Twenty-five thousand dollars has been given to the

Association for the Promotion of Teaching Speech to the Deaf.  Napoleon is

thus indirectly the founder of one of the most interesting and valuable

present undertakings of the country.]

 

     The Institute was reorganized, and to encourage science and the arts

he founded, in 1804, twenty-two prizes, nine of which were of ten thousand

francs each, and thirteen of five thousand francs each.  They were to be

awarded every ten years by the emperor himself, on the 18th Brumaire.  The

first distribution of these prizes was to have taken place in 1809, but

the judges could not agree on the laureates; and before a conclusion was

reached, the empire had fallen.

 

     In literature and in music, as in art and science, there was a

renewal of activity.  A circle of poets and writers gathered about the

First Consul.  Paisiello was summoned to Paris to direct the opera and

conservatory of music.  There was a revival of dignity and taste in strong

contrast to the license and carelessness of the Revolution.  The

incroyable passed away.  The Greek costume disappeared from the street.

Men and women began again to dress, to act, to talk, according to

conventional forms.  Society recovered its systematic ways of doing

things, and soon few signs of the general dissolution which had prevailed

for ten years were to be seen.

 

     Once more the traveller crossed France in peace; peasant and laborer

went undisturbed about their work, and slept without fear.  Again the

people danced in the fields and "sang their songs as they had in the days

before the Revolution." "France has nothing to ask from Heaven," said

Regnault de Saint Jean d'Angely, "but that the sun may continue to shine,

the rain to fall on our fields, and the earth to render the seed

fruitful."

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