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FrRevol_501-550.indd 6 3/16/12 1:12 PM CHAPTER XV Ofthe Legislation andAdministration Under Bonaparte. The unlimited despotism and the shameless corruption of the civil government under Bonaparte has not yet been sufficiently delineated. It might be supposed that after the torrent of abuse which is always poured forth in France against the vanquished, there would remain no ill to be spoken against a fallen power which the flatterers of the subsequent regime have not exhausted. But as they who attacked Bonaparte wished still to spare the doctrine of despotism; as many of those who load him with reproach today had praised him yesterday, they were obliged, in order to introduce some consistency into conduct in which nothing is systematic exceptbaseness , to carry their outrages even beyond what the man deserves, and yet in many respects to observe a prudent silence on a system from which they still wanted to benefit. The greatest crime of Napoleon, however, that for which every man of reflection, every writer qualified to be the dispenser ofglory among posterity, will never cease to accuse him before mankind, was the mode in which he established and organized despotism. He founded it on immorality; for so much knowledge was diffused through France that absolute power, which elsewhere rests on ignorance, could there be maintained only by corruption. Is it possible to speak of legislation in a country where the will of a single man decided everything-where this man, uncertain and fluctuating as the waves of the sea during a tempest, was unable to endure the barriers of his own will if the regulation of the evening was opposed to the next day's desire ofchange? A counselor ofstate once thought proper to represent to him that the resolution which he was about to take was inconsistent with the CodeNapoleon. Verywell, said he, the CodeNapoleon 5o6 FrRevol_501-550.indd 7 3/16/12 1:13 PM cHAPTER X v. Legislationh4.dministration Under Bonaparte was madefor the welfare ofthe people; and ifthat welfare requires other measures , we must adopt them. What a pretext for unlimited power is the public welfare! Robespierre did well in giving that name to his government. Shortly after the death of the Duke d'Enghien, while Bonaparte was still troubled at the bottom of his soul by the horror which that assassination had inspired, he said in a conversation upon literature with an artist very capable offorming a judgment upon the subject: "Reason ofstate, do you observe, has with the moderns supplied the place of the fatalism of the ancients. Corneille is the only French tragic writer who has felt this truth. Had he lived in my time, I would have made him my prime minister." There were two kinds of instruments ofimperial power, laws and decrees . The laws received the sanction of the semblance of a legislative body; but the real exercise of authority was to be found in the decrees which emanated directly from the Emperor and were discussed in his council. Napoleon left the fine speakers of the Council of State, and the mute deputies of the legislative body, to deliberate and decide on some abstract questions in jurisprudence, with the view of giving his government a false air of philosophical wisdom. But when laws relative to the exercise of power were concerned, all the exceptions, as well as all the rules, were under the jurisdiction ofthe Emperor. In the Code Napoleon, and even in the criminal code, some good principles remain, derived from the ConstituentAssembly: the institution ofjuries, for instance, the anchor of French Hope-and several improvements in the mode of procedure which have brought that branch of jurisprudence out of the darkness in which it lay before the Revolution, and in which it still lies in several states of Europe. But of what value were legal institutions when extraordinary tribunals named by the Emperor, special courts, and military commissions judged all political offenses-that is to say the very offenses in which the unchangeable aegis ofthe law is most required? In the succeedingvolume we shall show how the English have multiplied precautions in political prosecutions to protect justice more efficaciously from the encroachments of power. What examples has not Bonaparte's reign exhibited of those extraordinary tribunals, which became habitual! For when one arbitrary act is permitted, the poison spreads itselfthrough all the affairs ofthe state. Have not rapid and dark executions polluted the soil ofFrance? The mili5o :; FrRevol_501-550.indd 8 3/16/12 1...


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