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FrRevol_451-500.indd 3 3/16/12 1:11 PM CHAPTER VI Ofthe Solemn Celebration ofthe Concordat at Notre-Dame. At the epoch of the accession of Bonaparte the sincerest partisans of the Catholic faith, after having long been victims of a political inquisition, aspired to nothing more than perfect religious liberty. The general wish ofthe nation was limited to this: that all persecution ofpriests should cease for the future; that no kind ofoath should be required ofthem any longer; that the state, in short, should in no respect interfere with anyone's religious opinions. The Consulargovernment, therefore, would have satisfied opinion by maintaining in France a complete toleration, like what exists in America, among a people whose constant piety and severe mores, which are its proof, cannot be called in question. But the First Consul was occupied with no such holy thoughts; he knew that if the clergy resumed a political consistence, their influence would promote the interests ofdespotism ; and his intention was to prepare the way for his arrival at the throne. He needed a clergy, as he needed chamberlains, titles, decorations, in short, all the ancient caryatides of power; and he alone was in a situation to restore them. Complaints have been made of the return of old institutions ; and it must never be forgotten that it was Bonaparte who brought them back. It was he who reorganized the clergy to render them subservient to his designs. The revolutionaries, who, fourteen years ago, were still formidable, would never have allowed a political existence to be thus restored to the priests ifa man whom they considered in some respects as one of their party had not assured them, when he presented a concordat with the Pope, that the measure was the result ofprofound combinations and would be useful in maintaining the new institutions. The revolution- FrRevol_451-500.indd 4 3/16/12 1:11 PM PART IV aries, with a few exceptions, are more violent than shrewd, and for that very reason are flattered by being treated as able men. Bonaparte assuredly is not religious; and the species ofsuperstition of which some traces have been discovered in his character relates solely to the worship ofhimself. He has faith in his own fortune and has manifested the sentiment in different ways. But from Mahometanism to the religion ofthe fathers ofthe desert, from the agrarian law to the ceremonial ofthe court of Louis XIV, his understanding is ready to conceive, and his character to execute, what circumstances may require. As his natural inclination , however, was toward despotism, he liked what favored it; and he would have preferred the old regime of France more than any person if he could have persuaded the world that he was lineally descended from St. Louis. He has often expressed his regret that he did not reign in a country where the monarch was also head ofthe church, as in England and Russia; but as he found the French clergy still devoted to the court of Rome, he chose to negotiate with it. One day he assured the prelates that, in his opinion, there was no religion but the Catholic, which was truly founded on ancient traditions; and on this subject he usually displayed to them some erudition acquired the day before. Then, when he was with the philosophers , he said to Cabanis,1 Doyou know what this concordat is which I havejust signed? It is the vaccination ofreligion, and infifty years there will be none in France. It was neither religion nor philosophy which he cared for in the existence of a clergy entirely submissive to his will; but as he had heard mention made ofthe alliance between the altar and the throne, he began by raising up the altar. The celebration of the concordat was, therefore, if we may use the expression, a full-dressed rehearsal of his coronation. In the month of April, 1802, he ordered a grand ceremony at NotreDame . He was present with regal pomp and named for orator at this inauguration , whom? the Archbishop of Aix, the same who had delivered r. Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis (r7)7-18o8) was a close friend of Mirabeau's and a prominent member ofthe French Ideologues. He was elected deputy to the Council ofFive Hundred and was later an opponent of Napoleon. FrRevol_451-500.indd 5 3/16/12 1:11 PM cHAPTER vI. Celebration ofConcordat the coronation sermon in the cathedral of Rheims on the day when Louis XVI was crowned...


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