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FrRevol_401-450.indd 41 3/16/12 1:11 PM CHAPTER IV Progress ofBonaparte to Absolute Power. The first symptoms of tyranny cannot be watched too carefully: for when once it has matured to a certain point, it can no longer be stopped. A single man enchains the will of a multitude of individuals, the greater part of whom, taken separately, would wish to be free, but who nevertheless submit because they dread one another and dare not communicate their thoughts freely. A minority not very numerous is often sufficient to resist in succession every portion of the majority which is unacquainted with its own strength. In spite of the differences of time and place, there are points of resemblance in the history of all nations who have fallen under the yoke. It is generally after long civil troubles that tyranny is established, because it offers the hope ofshelter to all the exhausted and timorous factions. Bonaparte said of himself with reason that he could play admirably upon the instrument of power. In truth, as he is attached to no principles, nor restrained by any obstacles, he presents himselfin the arena ofcircumstances like a wrestler, no less supple than vigorous, and discovers at the first glance the points in every man or association ofmen which may promote his private designs. His scheme for arriving at the dominion of France rested upon three principal bases-to satisfy men's interests at the expense of their virtues, to deprave public opinion by sophisms, and to give the nation war for an object instead of liberty. We shall see him follow these different paths with uncommon ability. The French, alas! seconded him only too well; yet it is his fatal genius which should be chiefly blamed; for as an arbitrary government had at all times prevented the nation from acquiring fixed ideas upon any subject, Bonaparte set its passions in motion without having to struggle against its principles. He had it in his power to do honor to France and to establish himselffirmly by respectable 44l FrRevol_401-450.indd 42 3/16/12 1:11 PM PART IV institutions; but his contempt of the human race had quite dried up his soul, and he believed that there was no depth but in the region of evil. We have already seen him decree a constitution1 in which there existed no guarantees. Besides, he took great care to leave the laws that had been published during the Revolution unrepealed, that he might at his pleasure select from this accursed arsenal the weapon which suited him. The extraordinary commissions, the transportations, the banishments, the slavery ofthe press, measures unfortunately introduced in the name ofliberty, were extremely useful to tyranny. When he employed them, he alleged as a pretext sometimes reasons of state, sometimes the urgency of the conjuncture, sometimes the activity ofhis adversaries, sometimes the necessity of maintaining tranquillity. Such is the artillery of the phrases by which absolute power is defended, for circumstances never have an end; and in proportion as restraint by illegal measures is increased, the disaffected become more numerous, which serves to justify the necessity of new acts ofinjustice. The establishment ofthe sovereigntyoflaw is always deferred till tomorrow, a vicious circle of reasoning from which it is impossible to escape; for the public spirit that is expected to produce liberty can be the outcome only of that very liberty itself. The constitution gave Bonaparte two colleagues: he chose with singular sagacity, for his assistant consuls, two men who were of no use but to disguise the unity ofhis despotism: the one was Cambaceres,Z a lawyer of great learning, who had been taught in the convention to bend methodically before terror; the other, Lebrun/ a man of highly cultivated mind and highly polished manners, who had been trained under the Chancellor Maupeou, under that minister who, not satisfied with the degree of arbitrary power which he found in the monarchy as it then existed, had substituted for the parlements of France one named by himself. Cambaceres was the interpreter of Bonaparte to the revolutionaries, Lebrun to 1. The Constitution ofYear VIII. The text can be found in Les constitutions de la France, I09-18. 2. Carbaceres (17)3-1824), a deputy to the Council of Five Hundred, was appointed minister of justice on July 20, '799· 3· Lebrun (1739-I824), a deputy to the Estates General and the Council of Five Hundred. 442 FrRevol_401-450.indd 43 3/16/12 1:11...


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