Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Modern Regime, Volume 1 [Napoleon] The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 5 by Hippolyte A. Taine

Part 7 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

all these exigencies of human and French nature. On the 14th of July,
1804,[45] the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille, Napoleon
administers the oath to the legionaries and, after a solemn mass,
distributes the insignia under the dome of the Invalides in the
presence of the empress and the court; and again one month later,
August 16, 1804, on the anniversary of the Emperor's birth, in the
camp at Boulogne, facing the ocean and in full view of the flotilla
assembled to conquer England, before one hundred thousand spectators
and the entire army, to the roll of eighteen hundred drums. No
ceremony, probably, was ever more exciting. The eminent surgeon,
Larrey, then decorated, a man of austere virtue, spoke of it with
emotion to the end of his life and never alluded that unique day but
with a trembling voice. On that day, nearly all the men of superior
and tried merit and talent in France[46] are proclaimed, each with the
title proportionate his degree of eminence - chevaliers, officers,
commanders, grand-officers, and, later on, grand-eagles; each on the
same plane with his equals of a different class, ecclesiastics
alongside of laymen, civilians alongside of soldiers; each honored by
the company of his peers, Berthollet, Laplace and Lagrange alongside
of Kellermann, Jourdan and Lefebvre, Otto and Tronchet alongside of
Masséna, Augereau, Ney, Lannes, Soult and Davout ; four cardinals side
by side with eighteen marshals, and likewise even down to corporal,
and to Egyptian veterans blinded by ophthalmia on the banks of the
Nile, comprising common soldiers who, through some brilliant
achievement, had won a sword or a gun of honor, as, for instance,
Coignet,[47] who, dashing ahead with fixed bayonet, kills five
Austrian artillerymen and takes their cannon himself alone. Six years
before this he was a stable-boy on a farm and could neither read nor
write; he is now mentioned among the first of those promoted, a
colleague and almost a comrade of Monge, the inventor of descriptive
geometry, of de Fontanes, grand-master of the university, of marshals,
admirals, and the highest dignitaries, all sharing in common an
inestimable treasure, the legitimate heirs of twelve years'
accumulated glory by the sacrifice of so many heroic lives and all the
more glorified because so few,[48] and because, in these days, a man
did not obtain the cross by twenty years of plodding in a bureau, on
account of routine punctuality, but by wonderful strokes of energy and
audacity, by wounds, by braving death a hundred times and looking it
in the face daily.

Henceforth, legally as well as in public opinion, they form the staff
of the new society, its declared, verified notables, enjoying
precedences and even privi1eges. On passing along the street the
sentinel presents arms; a company of twenty-five soldiers attends
their funeral procession; in the electoral colleges of the department
or arrondissement they are electors by right and without being
balloted for, simply by virtue of their rank. Their sons are entitled
to scholarships in La Fléche, at Saint-Cyr, and in the lycées, and
their daughters at Ecouen or Saint-Denis. With the exception of a
title, as formerly, they lack nothing for filling the place of the old
nobility, and Napoleon re-creates this title for their benefit. The
title itself of chevalier, count, duke or prince carries along with an
idea of social superiority; when announced in a drawing room, when it
precedes the first sentence of an address, those who are present do
not remain inattentive; an immemorial prejudice inclines them to award
consideration or even deference. The Revolution tried in vain to
destroy this power of words and of history; Napoleon does better: he
confiscates it; he arrogates to himself the monopoly of it, he steals
the trade-mark from the ancient Régime; he himself creates 48,000
chevaliers, 1000t barons, 388 counts, 31 dukes and 4 princes.
Furthermore, he stamps with his own mark the old nobles whom he
introduces into his nobility: he coins them anew and often with an
inferior title; this or that duke is lowered a notch and becomes
simply a count: taken at par or at a discount the feudal coin must, in
order to pass, receive the imperial stamp which gives it its
recognized value in modern figures.

But, let the old-fashioned metal be what it may, whether gold, silver
or copper, even crude and plebeian, the new coin is of good alloy and
very handsome. Frequently, like the old currency, it displays coats of
arms in high relief, a heraldic crown and the name of a locality; it
no longer bears the name of territory, and it does not call to mind a
primitive sovereignty. On the contrary, it bears the name of a victory
or of a conquest and reminds one of recent exploits. Duc de Montebello
or a Prince de la Moskowa is equivalent in the imagination
contemporaries to a Duc de Montmorency or a Prince de Rohan; for, if
the prince or duke of the empire is without ancestors, he is or will
be an ancestor himself. To these prizes coveted by vanity Napoleon
tacks on every substantial and pecuniary advantage, in ready money or
landed property, not alone large salaries, adjunctive sénatoreries,
occasional munificent gifts,

* a million at one time to General Lasalle, but likewise vast revenues
from the extraordinary domain[49],
* 32,463,817 francs a year divided amongst 4970 persons,
* pensions from 250 to 5000 francs for all legionaries,
* villas, large estates, private incomes, distinct and superb
endowments for those of the highest rank, a fortune of 100,000 livres
income and more to 34 of these,
* a fortune of 450,000 livres in the public funds to Cambacérès, of
683,000 livres in the public funds to Masséna, of 728,000 livres in
the public funds to Ney, of 910,000 livres in the public funds to
Davout, of 1,354,000 livres in the public funds to Berthier,
* and besides all this, three "sovereign principalities," Neufchatel
to Berthier, Benevento to Talleyrand, and Ponte-Corvo to Bernadotte. -

This last attraction which, in these times of violent and premature
death, is of no little account. Napoleon opens out hereditary and
undefined prospects beyond the perspectives of life and of inferior
interests. Each of the titles conferred by him, that of prince, duke,
count, baron, and even that of chevalier, is transmissible in direct
descent, according to primogeniture from father to son, and sometimes
from uncle to nephew, under specified conditions which are very
acceptable, and of which the first is the institution of an
inalienable majority, inattackable, consisting of this or that income
or real property, of bank stock or state securities, from 3000 francs
for common chevaliers up to 200,000 francs for the dukes, that is to
say, a certain fortune in perpetuity due to the sovereign's
liberality, or to the prudence of the founder, and intended to support
the dignity of the title from male to male and from link to link
throughout the future chain of successive inheritors. Through this
supreme reward, the subtle tempter has a hold on the men who care not
alone for themselves but for their family: henceforth, the work as he
does, eighteen hours a day, stand fire, and say to themselves, while
sinking at their desks or facing cannon-ball that their pre-eminence
survives them in their posterity:

"In any event my son will succeed me and even become greater by my

All the temptations which serve to overcome the natural lethargy of
human matter are simultaneously united and; with the exception of
personal conscience and the desire for personal independence, all
other internal springs are strained to the utmost. One unusual
circumstance gives to eager ambitions a further increase of energy,
impulse and enthusiasm. - All these successful or parvenu men are
contemporaries: all have started alike on the same line and from the
same average or low condition in life; each sees old comrades superior
to himself on the upper steps; he considers himself as good they are,
suffers because he is not on their level, and strives and takes risks
so as to mount up to them. But, however high he mounts, he still sees
higher yet others who were formerly his equals; consequently, no rank
obtained by them seems to him above his deserts, and no rank that he
obtains suffices for his pretensions.

"See that Masséna," exclaimed Napoleon,[50] a few days before the
battle of Wagram; "he has honors and fame enough, but he is not
satisfied ; he wants be a prince like Murat and Bernadotte: he will
risk getting shot to-morrow simply to be a prince." -

Above these princes who have only the rank, the title and the money,
come the grand-dukes and reigning viceroys like Murat, grand-duke of
Berg, and Eugene, viceroy of Italy. Above Eugene and Murat are the
vassal-kings, Louis, Joseph, Jerome, then Murat himself, who, among
these, is in a better place, and Bernadotte, the only sovereign that
is independent; all more or less envied by the marshals, all more or
less rivals of each other, the inferior aspiring to the superior
throne, Murat inconsolable at being sent to Naples and not to Spain,
and at having only five millions of subjects instead of thirteen
millions. From top to bottom of the hierarchy and even to the loftiest
places, comprising thrones, the steps rise regularly above each other
in continuous file, so that each leads to the following one, with
nothing to hinder the first-comer, provided he is lucky, has good legs
and does not fall on the way, from reaching the top of the staircase
in twenty or thirty years. "It was commonly reported in the army - he
has been promoted king of Naples, of Holland, of Spain, of Sweden, as
formerly was said of the same sort of man, who had been promoted
sergeant in this or that company." - Such is the total and final
impression which lingers on in all imaginations; it is in this sense
that the people interpret the new Régime, and Napoleon devotes himself
to confirming the popular interpretation. Accordingly, the first duchy
he creates is for Marshal Lefebvre

"purposely," as he says,[51] because "this marshal had been a private
and everybody in Paris had known him as a sergeant in the French

- With such an example before them, and so many others like it, not
less striking, there is no ambition that does not become exalted, and
often to delirium.

"At this time," says Stendhal, who seized the master-idea of the
reign, "there was no apothecary's apprentice in his back shop,
surrounded by his drugs and bottles, filtering and pounding away in
his mortar, who did not say to himself that, if he chanced to make
some great discovery, he would be made a count with fifty thousand
francs a year."

In those days there was no under-clerk who, in his labored penmanship,
inscribed names on a piece of parchment, that did not imagine his own
name appearing some day on a senatorial or ministerial diploma. At
this time the youthful corporal who dons his first stripes of gold
braid already fancies that he hears the beating of the drums, the
blast of the trumpet, and the salvos of artillery which proclaim him
marshal of the Empire.[52]

V. Self-esteem and a good Reputation.

The inward spring from 1789 to 1815. - Its force. - Its decline. - How
it ends in breaking the machine down.

A new force, extraordinary, is just apparent in history, a spiritual
force analogous to that which formerly stimulated souls in Spain in
the sixteenth century, in European the time of the crusades, and in
Arabia in the time of Mahomet. It stimulates the faculties to excess,
increases energy tenfold, transports man beyond or above himself,
creates enthusiasts and heroes, blinding or rendering men crazy, and
hence the irresistible conquerors and rulers. It stamps its imprint
and leaves its memorials in ineffaceable characters on men and things
from Cadiz to Moscow. It overrides all natural barriers and transcends
all ordinary limits. "The French soldier," writes a Prussian officer
after Jena,[53] "are small and puny. One of our Germans could whip any
four of them. But, under fire, they become supernatural beings. They
are swept along by an indescribable ardor of which there is not a
trace among our soldiers. . . . What can you do with peasants whom
nobles lead into battle, but whose danger they share without any
interest in their passions or recompenses!" - Coupled with the
physical needs which requires a certain amount of ease and of daily
food, and which, if too strenuously opposed, produces passing
jacqueries, there is a still more potent longing which, on suddenly
encountering its object, seizes on it, clings to it, gorges it, and
produces revolutions that last: this longing is the desire to
contemplate one-self with satisfaction and complacency, forming of
one's self a pleasing, flattering image, and of trying to impress and
plant this image in the minds of others; in short, the ambition for a
great self-esteem and of becoming greatly esteemed by others.[54] This
sentiment, according to the quality of the person and according to
circumstances, gives birth sometimes to the noblest virtues and the
most sublime devotion, and at other times to the worst misdeeds and
the most dangerous delirium: the man becomes transfigured, the
sleeping god or demon which both live within him is suddenly aroused.
After 1789, both appear and both together; from this date onward, says
an eye-witness,[55] and, during one quarter of a century, "for most
Frenchmen and in whatever class," the object of life is displaced;
each has put it outside of himself; from now on, the essential thing
for everybody is "to have lived," or "to have died for something," for
an idea. A man becomes the slave of his idea, gives himself up to it;
consequently, he has experienced the intense satisfaction of
considering himself a noble being, of superior essence, foremost among
the first, and of seeing himself regarded in that light and proclaimed
and glorified as such. - This keen, profound and intense pleasure was
first enjoyed by the French on listening to the Declaration of the
Rights of Man; from then, and in good faith, they felt themselves
citizens, philosophers, the destroyers of prejudices and wrongs,
zealots in behalf of truth, liberty and equality, and then, when the
war of 1792 came, the defenders of the country, missionaries and
propagators of every grand principle.[56] - Towards 1796, principles
began to recede in the background;[57] in the ideal portrait which man
makes of himself the liberator and benefactor of mankind gradually
gives way to the admirable and admired hero capable of great
achievements. This inner portrait of himself suffices for his
happiness for some years to come: vanity[58] properly so called and a
calculating ambition are not the incentives of action; if he obtains
promotion it is without asking for it; his aspiration is simply to
display himself, to be lavish of himself and live or die courageously
and gaily[59] along with his comrade; to be considered, outside the
service, the equal, friend and brother of his subordinates and of his
chiefs.[60] Pillage, nevertheless, has begun; for, a long continuance
of war depraves the conqueror; brutality, indifference to property and
to life grows on him; if callous, or he wishes to become so, he eats,
drinks and enjoys the passing hour; if provident and wary, he scrapes
together what he can or levies contributions and hoards money. - Under
the Empire, and especially towards 1808 and 1809, the ideal figure
degenerates still more; from now on, it is the successful or the
coming officer, with his rank and its accouterments, his gold-
embroidered uniform and badges, exercising authority over so many
hundreds and thousands of men and enjoying a certain notable sum of
regular salaries, besides other gratifications bestowed on him by the
master, along with the profits he can make out of the vanquished.[61]
All that he now cares for is rapid promotion, and in any way, noble or
ignoble, at first, of course, on the main road, that is in straining
himself and risking his life, but likewise on a new road, in an
affectation of zeal, in practicing and professing blind obedience, in
abandoning all political ideas, in devoting himself no longer to
France, but to the sovereign: sympathy for his comrades gives way to
harsh rivalry; soldierly friendships, under the anticipation of
advancement, die out. A vacancy due to death is for the benefit of
survivors and they know it. "At Talavera," says Stendhal, "two
officers stood together at their battery, while a ball comes and the
captain falls. 'Good,' says the lieutenant, 'now François is dead and
I shall be captain.' 'Not yet,' says François, who was only stunned
and who gets up on his feet. These two men were neither unfriendly nor
inimical, only the lieutenant wanted to rise a step higher in rank."
And this shrewd observer adds: "Such was the furious egoism then
styled love of glory and which, under this title, the Emperor had
communicated to the French."

On this slope the slide is rapid and abject. Each, at first, thinks of
himself; the individual makes of himself a center. The example,
moreover, comes from above. Is it for France or for himself that
Napoleon works?[62] So many immense enterprises, the conquest of
Spain, the expedition into Russia, the installation of his brothers
and relations on new thrones, the constant partition and rearrangement
of Europe, all those incessant and more and more distant wars, is it
for the public good and common safety that he accumulates them? What
does he himself desire if not to push his fortunes still farther? - He
is too much ambitious (trop ambitionnaire), say his own soldiers;[63]
and yet they follow him to the last. "We have always marched along
with him," replied the old grenadiers,[64] who had traversed Poland to
penetrate into Russia; "we couldn't abandon him this time and leave
him alone by himself." - But others who see him nearer by, those who
stand first and next to him, do as he does; and, however high these
have mounted, they want to mount still higher, or, otherwise, to keep
their places, or, at least, provide for themselves and hold on to
something substantial. Masséna has accumulated forty millions and
Talleyrand sixty;[65] in case of a political crash the money remains.
Soult tried to have himself elected king of Portugal,[66] and
Bernadotte finds means to have himself elected king of Sweden. After
Leipsic, Murat bargains with the allies, and, to retain his Neapolitan
kingdom, he agrees to furnish a contingent against France; before the
battle of Leipsic, Bernadotte is with the allies and fights with them
against France. In 1814, Bernadotte and Joseph, each caring for
himself, the former by intrigues and with the intriguers of the
interior, also by feeling his way with the foreign sovereigns while
the latter, in the absence of Napoleon, by "singular efforts" and
"assiduities" beforehand with Marie Louise thinks of taking the place
of the falling emperor.[67] Prince Eugene alone, or almost alone,
among the great personalities of the reign, is really loyal, his
loyalty remaining always intact exempt from concealed motives and
above suspicion. Everywhere else, the coming crash or sinister rumors
are heard or anticipated; alarm descends from high places, spreads
through the army and echoes along the lines of the lowest ranks. In
1815, the soldier has full confidence in himself and in Napoleon; "but
he is moody, distrustful of his other leaders. . . . Every march
incomprehensible to him makes him uneasy and he thinks himself
betrayed."[68] At Waterloo, dragoons that pass him with their swords
drawn and old corporals shout to the Emperor that Soult and Vandamme,
who are at this moment about going into battle, are haranguing their
troops against him or deserting him; that General Dhénin, who has
repulsed a charge of the enemy and whose thigh is fractured by a
cannon-ball, has just passed over to the enemy. The mechanism which,
for fifteen years, has worked so well, breaks down of itself through
its own action; its cog-wheels have got out of gear; cracks show
themselves in the metal which seemed so sound; the divinations of
popular instinct verify this; the exaggerations of the popular
imagination expand it and suddenly the whole machine rattles down to
the ground.

All this is due to Napoleon having introduced into it the craving for
success as central motor, as the universal main-spring, unscrupulous
ambition, in short, a crude egoism, and in the first place his own
egoism, [69] and this incentive, strained to excess,[70] puts the
machine out of order and then ruins it. After him, under his
successors, the same machinery is to work in the same manner, and
break down in the same way, at the expiration of a more or less
extensive period. Thus far, the longest of these periods has lasted
less than twenty years.



[1] Most of the French provinces down to the time of Richelieu still
possessed a special representative body which consented to and levied
the taxes; most of these bodies were supported by the all-powerful
minister and replaced by intendants who, from that time on,
administered, or rather exhausted, the country, divided into thirty-
two generalities. A few provinces, however, Brittany, Burgundy,
Languedoc, a part of Provence, Flanders, Artois, and some small
districts in the Pyrenees kept their old representative body and were
called pays d'état, whilst other provinces were designated, by a
strange abuse of language, under the name of pays d'élection."
(Translated from" Madame de Staël et son Temps," vol. I., p. 38.) TR.

[2] Cf. on the antiquity of this sort of mind, evident from the
beginning of society and of French literature, my "History of English
Literature," vol. I., and "La Fontaine et ses fables," pp.10 to 13.

[3] In relation to this sentiment, read La Fontaine's fable of "The
Rat and the Elephant." La Fontaine fully comprehended its social and
psychological bearing. "To believe one's self an important personage
is very common in France. . . . A childish vanity is peculiar to us.
The Spaniards are vain, but in another way. It is specially a French

[4] Beugnot, "Mémoires," I., 317. "This equality which is now our
dominant passion is not the noble kindly sentiment that affords
delight by honoring one's self in honoring one's fellow, and in
feeling at ease in all social relationships; no, it is an aversion to
every kind of superiority, a fear lest a prominent position may be
lost; this equality tends in no way to raise up what is kept down, but
to prevent any elevation whatever."

[5] D'Haussonville, "l'Église romaine et le Premier Empire," I., chs
X. and XI.

[6] Decree of March 17, 1808, on the organization of the Israelite
cult. The members of the Israelite consistories and the rabbis must
be accepted by the government the same as the ministers of the other
cults; but their salary, which is fixed, must be provided by the
Israelites of the conscription; the State does not pay this, the same
as with curés or pastors. This is not done until under the monarchy of
July, when the assimilation of the Israelite with the other Christian
cults is effected.

[7] "Travels in France during the years 1814 and 1815 "(Edinburgh,
1806) I., 176. "The nobility, the great landed proprietors, the
yeomanry, the lesser farmers, all of the intermediate ranks who might
oppose a check to the power of a tyrannical prince, are nearly
annihilated." - Ibid., 236. "Scarcely an intermediate rank was to be
found in the nation between the sovereign and the peasant." - Ibid.,
II. 239. "The better class of the inhabitants of the cities, whether
traders and manufacturers or the bourgeoisie of France, are those who
were the most decided enemies of Bonaparte."

[8] Napoleon, desirous of forming an opinion of him, said to Roederer,
"Send me his books." "But," said Roederer, "he is only a translator."
"No matter," replied Napoleon, "I will read his prefaces,"

[9] Cf. the "Dictionnaire biographique," published at Leipsic, 1806-
1808 (by Eymory) 4 vols., and the "Almanach impérial" for 1807 to
1812; many other historic names are found there, and among these the
ladies of the palace. In 1810, Comte de la Rochefoucauld is ambassador
to Holland and Comte de Mercy-Argenteau ambassador to Bavaria.

[10] The Revolution," II., 323. (Ed. Laffont I. 773, note 1)

[11] "The Revolution," vol. III., PP. 318~322. (Ed. Laff. II. pp. 237-

[12] "The Ancient Régime," pp. 116-119, 128. (Ed. Laff. I. pp. 90-92,

[13] De Tilly, "Mémoires," I., 153. "The difference between the tone
and language of the court and that of the city was about as great as
that between Paris and the provinces."

[14] Hence the lack of success of the Maupeou parliament.

[15] See the collections of songs previous to the Revolution,
especially military songs such as " Malgré la bataille," - "Dans les
gardes françaises," etc. - At the time of the Restoration, the
pastoral or gallant songs of Florian, Bouffiers and Berquin were still
sung in bourgeois families, each person, young or old, man or woman,
singing one at the dessert. This undercurrent of gayety, geniality and
amiability lasted throughout the Revolution and the Empire. ("Travels
through the South of France, 1807 and 1808," p.132, by Lieutenant-
Colonel Pinkney, of the United States.) "I must once for all say that
the Memoirs of Marmontel are founded in nature." He cites a great many
facts in proof of this, and testifies in all classes to a prompt and
social nature, a natural benevolence or habitual civility which leads
them instinctively, and not unfrequently impertinently, into acts of
kindness and consideration." - The same impression is produced on
comparing the engravings, fashion-plates, light subjects and
caricatures of this period with those of the present epoch. The
malicious sentiment begins only with Béranger; and yet his early
pieces ("Le Roi d'Yvetot," "le Sénateur") display the light air,
accent and happy, instead of venomous, malice of the old song. Nobody
now sings in the lower bourgeoisie or in gatherings of clerks or
students, while, along with the song, we have seen the other traits
which impressed foreigners disappear, the gallantry, the jesting
humor, the determination to regard life as so many hours (une serie de
quarts d'heures, each of which may be separated from the others, be
ample in themselves and agreeable to him who talks and to him or her
who listens.

[16] Read the novels of Pigault-Lebrun: books of the epoch the best
adapted to the men of the epoch, to the military parvenus, swift,
frank, lusty and narrow-minded.

[17] Candide (Récit de la Vieille).

[18] "Souvenirs", by PASQUIER (Etienne-Dennis, duc), chancelier de
France, Librarie Plon, Paris 1893. "I am sure that his imagination
was more taken with Ghengis-Khan than with Caesar."

[19] "The Revolution," II., 12, 22. (Laff. I. pp. 574, 582.) (Articles
by Mailet-Dupan, "Mercure de France," Dec. 30, 1791, and April 7,
1792.) - Napoleon, "Mémorial" (Sept. 3, 1816), thinks so too and
states the essential characteristic of the Revolution. This consisted
in "telling everybody who held office, every one who had a place or a
fortune: 'Get out.'"

[20] Roederer, III., 534 (January 1809, on Normandy), "Children in
every situation think of becoming soldiers to get the cross (legion of
honor), and the cross secures the chevalier. The desire of
distinction, of passing ahead of some one else, is a national

[21] "The Revolution," II., 248. (Laff. I. p. 747.)

[22] Napoleon, "Mémoires "(edited by M. de Montholon, III., 11-19), on
the extraordinary ignorance of Cartaux. - Ibid., 23, on Doppet's
incapacity, the successor of Cartaux.

[23] "The Revolution," III., 310. (Laff. II. pp. 178-179.)

[24] They called themselves exclusives under the Directory. - Cf. "The
Revolution, II., 23, 187, 196, 245, 297-303, 340-351, 354; book III.,
ch, 2 and 3, and book IV. (Ed. Laff. I. pp. 582, 701, pp. 709-710,
745, 782-787, 821-823 and in Vol. II. pp. 131-167, pp. 167-215 and pp

[25] The declaration of Human Rights in 1789 stated that: "art. 1st,
§ 5. Tous les citoyens sont egalement admissible aux emplois publics.
Les peuples ne connaissent d'autres motifs de préference, dans
élections, que les vertus et les talents." Virtue in French is virtue
in English while talent in French must be translated as being both
talent and skill. (SR.)

[26] Madame de Rémusat, passim. - Roederer, III., 538 (January 1809).
(Words of Napoleon) "I took a few of the old court into my
household. They remained two years without speaking to me and six
months without seeing me . . . I don't like them - they are no good
for anything - their conversation is disagreeable to me."

[27] Napoléon, "Mémoires."

[28] Roederer, "Mémoires."

[29] Taine uses the French expression "esprit" which might both mean
spirit, wit, mind or sense.

[30] Roederer, "Mémoires, "III., 281. "Men, under his government, who
had hitherto been considered incapable are made useful; men hitherto
considered distinguished found themselves mixed in with the crowd; men
hitherto regarded as the pillars of the State found themselves useless
. . . An ass or a knave need never be ambitious to approach Bonaparte,
they will make nothing out of him."

[31] Fiévée, "Correspondance," III., 33. - Roederer, III., 381.

[32] Beugnot, "Mémoires," II., 372.

[33] Lefebvre, a former sergeant in the French guards, who became
marshal of the empire and Duc de Dantzig, with 150,000 francs a year,
received the visit of a comrade who, instead of having mounted the
ladder as he had done, had remained at the bottom of it. The marshal,
a fine fellow, welcomed his comrade heartily, and showed him over his
hotel. The visitor's face gradually grew somber, and bitter words
escaped from his lips; he often murmured, "Ah, how lucky you are!" -
At last, the marshal, impatient, said to him, "Well, I will make all
this over to you on one condition." - "What is it?" - "You must go
down into the court. I will post two grenadiers at the window with
their guns, and they shall fire at you. If they miss, you shall have
the hotel and everything in it." - "Ah, no, thanks!" - "My friend,
more shots than these have been fired at me and nearer by!"

[34] Roederer, III., 332 (Aug. 2, 1800).

[35] Papers of Maine de Biran. (Note communicated by M. Naville.)
Letter of Baron Maurice, prefect of Dordogne, to M. Maine de Biran,
sub-prefect of Bergerac, transmitting to him by order of the minister
of the interior a blank form to be filled up by him presenting the
"Statistics of young ladies belonging to the most notable families of
the arrondissement." The form annexed contained several columns, one
for names and given names, others for the future inheritance of real
and personal estate, etc. A clever or energetic prefect, provided with
this list, was able and was expected to take an active part in
marriages and see that all the large dowries were appropriated on the
right side. - "Memoires de Madame de -------," part 3rd, ch. VIII., p.
154. (These very instructive memoirs by a very sincere and judicious
person are still unpublished. I am not authorized to give the name of
the author.) "It was at this time that the emperor took it into his
head to marry as he saw fit the young girls who had more than 50,000
livres rental." A rich heiress of Lyons, intended for M. Jules de
Polignac, is thus wedded to M. de Marbœuf. M. d'Aligre, by dint of
address and celerity, evades for his daughter first M. de Caulaincourt
and then M. de Faudoas, brother-in-law to Savary, and in stead weds
her to M. de Pommereu. - Baron de Vitrolles, Mémoires, I. 19. (His
daughter was designated by the prefect of the Basses-Alpes.) - Comte
Joseph d'Estourmel, "Souvenirs de France et d'Italie," 239. (Details
of this description of the young ladies to be married and the circular
from the duke de Rovigo, minister of police.) the eight column of the
form was "reserved to describe the physical charms and deformities,
the talents, the conduct and the religious principles of each of the
young ladies."

[36] "Statistiques des Préfets." (Doubs, by Debry, p. 60; Meurthe, by
Marquis, p. 115, Ain, by Bossi, p.240.)

[37] "Statistique de l'Ain," by Bossi, p. 1808. From 1140 in 1801, the
number of employees and others under state pay amounts to 1771 in
1806. This increase is attributed by the prefect to causes just

[38] Napoleon, "Correspondance." (Note of April 11, 1811.) "There will
always be at Hamburg, Bremen and Lubeck from 8,000 to 10,000 French,
either employees or gendarmes, in the customs and depots."

[39] One officer may be counted to every 50 men in the infantry; in
the cavalry 1 officer to every 25 or 30 men, - This ratio of one
officer to every fifty men indicates that, among the 1,700,000 men who
perished between 1804 and 1815, there were 24,000 officers, which
gives about 3,000 vacancies per annum, to which must be added the
vacancies due to the wounded, disabled and and retired. It must be
noted, moreover, that the death or retirement of an officer above the
grade of second-lieutenant makes several vacancies, vacancies which
are more numerous the higher the rank. When a captain is killed
there are three promotions and so on.

[40] "The Revolution" III., 335. (Laff. II. p. 250) - Already, in
1795, the need of competent and specialized men was so great that the
government sought, even among royalists, for financial and diplomatic
heads of these services; it made offers to M. Dufresne and to M. de
Rayneval. -Ib. 406. - (Cf. "Mémoires" by Gaudin, Miot de Melito and

[41] Words of Bouquier, reporter of the law on education (session of
the Convention, Frimaire 22, year II).

[42] The reader is recommended to do as I have done and consult
biographies on point, also the souvenirs of his grandparents.

[43] Thibaudeau, "Mémoires sur la Consulat," p.88. (Exposition of
motives by Roederer to the corps Législatif, Floréal 25, year X.)
"After all, it is the creation of a new currency of quite different
value from that which issues from the public treasury, a currency of
unchangeable worth and of an inexhaustible mine, since it lies in
French honor; a currency which can solely reward actions regarded as
above any recompense."

[44] Thibaudeau, ibid., 83. (Address by the First Consul to the
council of State, Floréal 14, year X.) - Also "Mémorial": "Old and
corrupt nations are not governed the same as young and virtuous ones;
sacrifices have to be made to interest, to enjoyments, to vanity. This
is the secret of the return to monarchical forms, to titles. crosses,
ribbons, harmless baubles suited to exciting the respect of the
multitude while at the same time enforcing self-respect."

[45] "La Légion d'honneur," by M. Mazas, passim. Details on the
nomination ceremonials. "The veritable date was July 15th, as the 14th
was Sunday. Augereau and about sixty officers, "bad fellows" who
disliked the mass, refused to go into the chapel and remained outside
in the court.

[46] Several generals, Lecourbe, Souham , etc., were excluded as being
too republican or suspect and hostile. Lemercier, Ducis, Delille, and
Lafayette refused. Admiral Truguet, through pique and discontent, had
at first declined the grade of grand-officer, but finally changed his
mind and became at first commander and then grand-officer.

[47] "Les Cahiers du capitaine Coignet," passim and pp. 95, 145. "When
the ceremony was over, handsome women who could get at me to examine
my cross, asked me if they might give me a kiss." - At the Palais
Royal the proprietor of a café says to him: "Order whatever you want,
the Legion of Honor is welcome to anything."

[48] Mazas, ibid., p. 413. - Edmond Blanc, "Napoléon, ses institutions
civiles et administratives," p. 279. - The number of decorated, at
first, was to be 6,000. In 1806, the emperor had nominated 14,500, and
taking his entire reign, until his fall, about 48,000. The real force
of legionaries, however, then living does not surpass at this time
30,000, of which only 1,200 are in civil careers. At the présent time,
December 1, 1888 (documents furnished by the records of the Légion
d'honneur), there are 52.915 decorated persons, of which 31,757 are
soldiers and 21,158 civilians. Under the empire there was in all 1
cross to every 750 Frenchmen; at that time, out of 50 crosses there
were 2 for civil services, while in our day there are nearly 20. (QUID
informs us that on 30-11-1994 the strength amounted to 207,390
persons. SR.)

[49] Edmond Blanc, ibid., 276-299, 325 and 326. (List of titles of
prince and duke conferred by the emperor, and of gifts of 100,000
francs rental or of above that sum.)

[50] Mathieu Dumas, "Mémoires," III., 363.

[51] Napoleon, "Mémoires."

[52] Compare with the Brothers Grimm's fairytale: "The Fisherman and
his Wife."

[53] Thiers, "Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire," V. III., p. 210.

[54] Thiers, ibid., p.195 (October 1806). Napoleon, in one of his
bulletins, had mentioned Murat's cavalry alone, omitting to mention
the infantry of Lannes, which behaved as well. Lannes, disappointed,
did not dare read this bulletin to his men, and spoke to the emperor
about it. 'What reward can they look for if they don't find their
names published by the hundred-tongued voice of Fame which is under
your control!" Napoleon replies: "You and your men are children -
glory enough for all! . . . One of these days your turn will come in
the bulletins of the grand army." Lannes reads this to his troops on
the great square of Stettin and it is received with outbursts of

[55] Madame de Rémusat. III., 129.

[56] The Revolution," pp. 356-358. (Laff. I. pp. 825-826.) - Marmont,
"Mémoires," I. 122. (Letter to his mother, January 12, 1795.) "Behold
your son zealously fulfilling his duties, deserving of his country and
serving the republic. . . . We should not be worthy of liberty if we
did nothing to obtain it."

[57] Compare the "Journal du sergent Fricasse," and "les Cahiers du
capitaine Coignet." Fricasse is a volunteer who enlists in the defence
of the country; Coignet is a conscript ambitious of distinguishing
himself, and he says to his masters: "I promise to come back with the
fusil d'honneur or I shall be dead."

[58] Marmont, I., 186, 282, 296. (In Italy, 1796.) "At this epoch, our
ambition was quite secondary; we were solely concerned about our
duties and amusements. The frankest and most cordial union existed
amongst us all. . . . No sentiment of envy, no low passion found room
in our breasts. (Then) what excitement, what grandeur, what hopes and
what gayety! . . . Each had a presentiment of an illimitable future
and yet entertained no idea of personal ambition or calculation." -
George Sand, "Histoire de ma vie." (Correspondence of her father,
Commander Dupin.) - Stendhal, "Vie de Napoléon." "At this epoch
(1796), nobody in the army had any ambition. I have known officers to
refuse promotion so as not to quit their regiment or their mistress.

[59] Roederer, III., 556. (Burgos, April 9, 1809, conversation with
General Lasalle written down the same evening.) " You pass through
Paris?" "Yes, it's the shortest way. I shall get there at five in the
morning; I shall order a pair of boots, get my wife with child and
then leave for Germany." - Roederer remarks to him that one risks
one's life and fights for the sake of promotion and to profit by
rising in the world. "No, not at all. One takes pleasure in it. One
enjoys fighting; it is pleasure enough in itself to fight! You are in
the midst of the uproar, of the action, of the smoke. And then, on
acquiring reputation you have had the fun of making it. When you have
got your fortune you know that your wife and children won't suffer.
That is enough. As for myself, I could die to-morrow." (The details of
this conversation are admirable; no document gives a better idea of
the officer of the epoch.)

[60] Compare with the idea of an ideal Chaver (kibbutznik).: Melford
E. Spiro, wrote "Kibbutz. Venture in Utopia." 60 and described how
the Israeli kibbutzim as early as 1917 wanted the ideal kibbutzim to

Loyal to his people
A brother to his fellows
A man of truth
A helpful and dependable brother
A lover of nature
Obedient to the orders of his leaders
Joyful and gay
Economical and generous
A man of courage
Pure in thoughts, words, and deeds (opposition to drinking, smoking
and sexual relationships).

[61] Balzac has closely studied and admirably portrayed this type in a
"Ménage de Garçon." - See other similar characters in Mérimée ("Les
Mécontens," and "les Espagnols en Danemark"); in Stendhal ("le
Chasseur vert"). I knew five or six of them in my youth.

[62] Words of Marshal Marmont: "So long as he declared 'Everything for
France,' I served him enthusiastically; when he said, 'France and
myself' I served him zealously; when he said, 'myself and France,' I
served him with devotion. It is only when he said, 'Myself without
France,' that I left him."

[63] An expression found by Joseph de Maistre.

[64] An expression heard by Mickiewicz in his childhood.

[65] These sums are given, the former by Mérimée and the latter by
Sainte- Beuve.

[66] M. de Champagny "Souvenirs," III., 183. Napoleon, passing his
marshals in review, said to him (1811): "None of them can take my
place in the command of my armies; some are without the talent, and
others would carry on war for their own benefit. Didn't that burly
Soult want to be king of Portugal?" "Well, sire, war need not be
carried on any longer." "Yes, but how maintain my army? And I must
have an army."

[67] "Souvenirs", by PASQUIER (Etienne-Dennis, duc), chancelier de
France. in VI volumes, Librarie Plon, Paris 1893. IV., 112.
(According to the papers of Savary, many of Napoleon's letters and
statements by M. de Saint-Aignan.)

[68] "Mémorial," Aug.26, 1816.

[69] The driving motor of unlimited capitalism as well, a driving
force only to be tempered by the law and by a desire for social
admiration of different kinds. (SR.)

[70] "Travels in France during the years 1814 and 1815." (Edinburgh,
1816, 2 vols.) - The author, a very good observer, thus sums up the
principle of the system: "To give active employment to all men of
talent and enterprise." There is no other condition: "Birth,
education, moral character were completely set aside." - Hence the
general defect of the system. "The French have literally no idea of
any duties which they must voluntarily, without the prospect of
reward, undertake for their country. It never enters their heads that
a man may be responsible for the neglect of those public duties for
the performance of which he receives no regular salary."

BOOK FOURTH. Defect and Effects of the System.

CHAPTER I. Local Society.

I. Human Incentives.

The two Stimuli of human action. - The egoistic instinct and the
social instinct. - Motives for not weakening the social instinct. -
Influence on society of the law it prescribes. - The clauses of a
statute depend on the legislator who adopts or imposes them. -
Conditions of a good statute. - It favors the social instinct. -
Different for different societies. - Determined by the peculiar and
permanent traits of the society it governs. - Capital defect of the
statute under the new régime.

So long as a man takes an interest only in himself, in his own
fortune, in his own advancement, in his own success, his interests are
trivial: all that is, like himself, of little importance and of short
duration. Alongside of the small boat which he steers so carefully
there are thousands and millions of others of like it; none of them
are worth much, and his own is not worth more. However well he may
have provisioned and sailed it, it will always remain what it is,
slight and fragile; in vain will he hoist his flags, decorate it, and
shove ahead to get the first place; in three steps he has reached its
length. However well he handles and maintains it, in a few years it
leaks; sooner or later it crumbles and sinks, and with it goes all his
effort. Is it reasonable to work so hard for this, and is so slight an
object worth so great an effort?

Fortunately, man has, for a better placement of his effort, other
aims, more vast and more substantial: a family, a commune, a church, a
country, all the associations of which he is or becomes a member, all
the collective undertakings in behalf of science, education, and
charity, of local or general utility, most of them provided with legal
statutes and organized as corporations or even as a legal entity. They
are as well defined and protected as he is, but more precious and more
viable: for they are of service to a large number of men and last for
ever. Some, even, have a secular history, and their age predicts their
longevity. In the countless fleet of boats which so constantly sink,
and which are so constantly replaced by others, they last like top
rated liners. The men from the flotilla now and then sign on these
large vessels, and the result of their labor is not, as it is at home,
futile or short-lived; it will remain above the surface after he and
his boat have disappeared. It has entered into the common mass of work
which owes its protection to its mass; undoubtedly the portion he
contributes may be worked over again later on; but its substance
remains, and often also its form:

* like a precept of Jesus,
* like Archimedes' theorem

which rests a definite acquisition, intact and permanently fixed for
two thousand years, immortal from the first day. - Consequently, the
individual may take an interest, no longer merely in his own boat, but
again in some ship, in this or that particular one, in this or that
association or community, according to his preferences and his
aptitudes, according to attractiveness, proximity, and convenience of
access, all of which is a new motivation for his activities, opposing
his egoism, which, powerful as it may be, may still be overcome, since
a soul might be very generous or qualified by long and special
discipline. Out of this issues every sacrifice, the surrender of
one's-self to one's work or to a cause,

* the devotion of the sister of charity or of the missionary,
* the abnegation of the scientist who buries himself for twenty years
in the minutia of a thankless task,
* the heroism of the explorer who risks himself on a desert or among
* the courage of the soldier who stakes his life in defense of his

But these cases are rare; with the mass of men, and in most of their
actions, personal interest prevails against common interest, while
against the egoistic instinct the social instinct is feeble. Hence the
danger of weakening this. The temptation of the individual to prefer
his own boat to the large ship is only too great; if it is desirable
for him to go aboard and work there, he must be provided with the
facilities and motives which prompt him to go aboard and do the work;
at the very least, he must not be deprived of them. Now, that depends
on the State, a sort of central flag-ship, the only one that is armed,
and which has all subordinate vessels under its guns; for, whatever
the society may be, provincial or municipal, educational or
charitable, religious or laic, it is the State which sanctions or
adopts its statues, good or bad, and which, by its laws, tribunals,
and police, insures their execution, whether rigidly or carelessly.
Therefore, on this point, it is responsible; it must adopt or impose
the proper statute, the most suitable social form for strengthening
the social instinct, for maintaining disinterested zeal, for the
encouragement of voluntary and gratuitous labor.

This form, of course, differs according to different societies; the
same charter or constitution is not proper for a church system and a
commune, nor for a Protestant church and a Catholic church, nor for a
town of one hundred thousand inhabitants and a village of five
hundred. Each association has its own peculiar and distinctive
features, which grade it according to its kind, according to its
spiritual or temporal aims, according to its liberal or authoritative
spirit, according to is small or large dimensions, according to the
simplicity or complexity of its affairs, according to the capacity or
incapacity of its members: features which within it are both efficient
and permanent; whatever the legislator may do, these will remain and
will regulate all activity. Thus let him, in each case, keep this in
mind. But in all cases his office is the same; always, on drawing up
and countersigning a statute, he intervenes in the coming conflict
between the social instinct and the egoistic instinct; every provision
which he enacts will contribute, nearby or at a distance, to the final
ascendancy of the former or of the latter. Now, the legislator the
natural ally of the former, for the former is his indispensable
auxiliary. In every work or enterprise of public utility, if the
legislator is the external promoter, social instinct is the internal
promoter; and on the inner spring becoming weak or breaking, the
impulsion from outside remains without effect. Hence it is that, if
the legislator would accomplish anything, otherwise than on paper, he
must, before any object or interest, concern himself with the social
instinct[1]; thus preserving and humoring it; find room for it and its
usefulness; let it have full play; getting all the service it is
capable of rendering, and especially not twist or release it. - In
this respect, any blunder might prove disastrous; and in every statute
for each society, for each of the human vessels which gather together
and serve as a retinue of individual vessels, there are two capital
errors. On the one hand, if the statute, in fact and practically, is
or becomes too grossly unjust, if the rights and benefits which it
confers are not compensated by the duties and obligations it imposes;
if it multiplies excessive burdens for some and sinecures for others;
if, at last, the exploited individual discovers that he is overcharged
beyond his due, - thereafter he refuses on his own to add voluntarily
to his load. Let others, let the favored and the privileged bear the
gratuitous, extra weight. Far from stepping forward and offering his
shoulders, he gets out of the way, hides himself, and lightens his
load as much as he can; he even rebels when he has a chance, and
violently casts off every legal burden, be it tax or due of any kind.
Thus did the ancient régime perish. - On the other hand, if the
statute withdraws the management of the ship from those who are
concerned; if, on this vessel, which belongs to them, it permanently
installs a foreign crew, which assumes and exercises all command, then
the owner of the vessel, reduced to the humble condition of a mere
subject and quiescent taxpayer, will no longer feel concerned. Since
the intruders exercise all authority, let them have all the trouble;
the working of the ship concerns them and not him; he looks on as a
spectator, without any idea of lending a hand; he folds his arms,
remains idle, and becomes critical. - Against the first defect, the
new régime is on its guard: there must be neither the preferred nor
the disgraced, neither favors nor exemptions, neither exclusions nor
releases, no more misappropriation, embezzlement, or robbery, not
alone in the State, but elsewhere in any direction, - in the
department, in the commune, in the Church, or in educational and
benevolent institutions. It excels in practicing distributive justice.
The second defect is its hidden flaw: the legislator having introduced
this into all local and special statutes, its effects differ according
to different societies; but all these effects converge, paralyzing in
the nation the best half of the soul, and, worse still, to leading the
will astray and perverting the public mind, transforming generous
impulses into evil outbursts, and organizing lasting inertia, ennui,
discontent, discord, feebleness, and sterility.[2]

II. Local Community.

Local societies. - Their principal and distinctive character. - Their
type on a small scale. - A dwelling-house in Annecy or Grenoble. -
Compulsory association of its inmates. - Its object and limits. -
Private in character.

Let us first consider local society whether a province, a department,
or a county. For the past ten years (1789-99), the legislator has
unceasingly deformed and assaulted. On his side, he refuses to open
his eyes; preoccupied with theories, he will not recognize it for what
it is in reality, a society of a distinct species, different from the
State, with its own peculiar aims, its limits marked out, its members
prescribed, its statutes drawn up, everything formed and defined
beforehand. As it is local, it is founded on the greater or less
proximity of its habitations. Thus, to comprehend it, we must take a
case in which this proximity is greatest that of certain houses in
some of our southeastern towns, as, for example, Grenoble and Annecy.
Here, a house often belongs to several distinct owners, each
possessing his story, or apartment on a story, one owning the cellar
and another the attic, each enjoying all the rights of property over
his portion, the right of renting it, selling it, bequeathing it, and
mortgaging it, but all holding it in common for the maintenance of the
roof and the main walls. - Evidently, their association is not a free
one; willingly or not, each forms a member of it, for, willingly or
not, each benefits or suffers through the good or bad state of the
roof and the principal walls: therefore, all must furnish their quota
of the indispensable expenses; even a majority of votes would not rid
them of these; one claimant alone would suffice to hold them
responsible; they have no right to impose on him the danger which they
accept for themselves, nor to shirk expenses by which they profit as
well as himself. Consequently, on the report of an expert, the
magistrate interferes, and, willingly or not, the repairs are made;
then, willingly or not, both by custom and in law, each pays his
quote, calculated according to the locative value of the portion
belonging to him. - But here his obligations cease. In fact as in law,
the community (of property) is restricted; the associates take good
care not to extend this, not to pursue other aims at the same time,
not to add to their primitive and natural purpose a different and
supplementary purpose, not to devote one room to a Christian chapel
for the residents of the house, another room for a kindergarten for
the children that live in it, and a side room to a small hospital for
those who fall ill; especially, they do not admit that a tax may be
imposed for these purposes and each of them be subject to a
proportional increase of assessment at so many additional centimes per
franc.[3] For, if the proprietor of the ground-floor is an Israelite,
the proprietor of a room on the second story is a bachelor, the
proprietor of the fine suite of rooms on the first story is rich, and
has a doctor visit him at the house, these must pay for a service for
which they get no return. - For the same reason, their association
remains private; it does not form part of the public domain; they
alone are interested in it; if the State let us use its tribunals and
officials, it is the same as it is with ordinary private individuals.
It would be unjust both against it and against itself if it would
exclude or exempting it from common right, if it put it on its
administrative rolls. It would deform and disrupt its work if it
interfered with its independence, if added to its functions or to its
obligations. It is not under its tutelage, obliged to submit its
accounts to the prefect; it delegates no powers and confers no right
of justice, or police; in short, it is neither its pupil nor its
agent. Such is the lien which permanent proximity establishes between
men; we see that it is of a singular species: neither in fact, nor in
law, can the associates free themselves from it; solely because they
are neighbors, they form a community for certain indivisible or
jointly owned things, an involuntary and obligatory community. To make
amends, and even owing to this, I mean through institution and in the
natural order of things, their community is limited, and limited in
two ways, restricted to its object and restricted to its members,
reduced to matters of which proprietorship or enjoyment is forcibly in
common, and reserved to inhabitants who, on account of situation and
fixed residence, possess this enjoyment or this property.i

III. Essential Public Local Works.

Analysis of other local societies, commune, department, or province. -
Common interests which necessitate local action. - Two objects in
view: care of public roads and means of protection against spreading
calamities. - Why collaboration is an obligation. - Neighbors
involuntarily subject to a common bond on account of proximity. -
Willingly or not each shares in its benefits. - What portion of the
expense belongs to each. - Equal advantages for each. - The unequal
and proportionate advantages for each in his private expenses,
industrial or commercial gains, and in the locative value of his real
estate. - Each person's quota of expense according to his equal and
proportionate share in advantages.

All local societies are of this kind, each limited to a certain
territory and included with others like it inside a larger area, each
possessing two budgets depending on whether it is a distinct body or
member of a larger corporation, each, from the commune to the
department or province, instituted on a basis of interests which make
them jointly but involuntarily liable. - There are two of these
important interests which, as in the Annecy building, elude human
arbitrariness, which demand common action and distribution of the
expense, because, as in the Annecy building, they are the inevitable
results of physical proximity:

First, comes care for the public highways, by land or by water, river
navigation, canals, towing-paths, bridges, streets, public squares,
by-roads, along with the more or less optional and gradual
improvements which public roads demand or prescribe, such as their
laying-out, sidewalks, paving, sweeping, lighting, drainage, sewers,
rolling, ditches, leveling, embankments, and other engineering works,
which establish or increase safety and convenience in circulation,
with facilities for and dispatch in transportation.

Next, comes protection against the spread of calamities, such as
fires, inundations, contagious diseases, epidemics, along with the
more or less optional and remote precautions which this protection
exacts or recommends, night watchers in Russia, dikes in Holland,
levees in the valleys of the Po and the Loire, cemeteries and
regulations for interment, cleanliness of the streets, ventilation of
holes and corners, drainage of marshes, hydrants, and supplies of
drinkable water, disinfecting of contaminated areas, and other
preventive or necessary hygienic measures which remove or prevent
insalubrities growing out of neighborhood or contact.

All this has to be provided for, and the enterprise, if not wholly and
in its developments, at least in itself and in what is necessary,
imposes itself, collectively, on all the inhabitants of the
conscription, from the highest to the lowest. For, in the absence of a
public road, none of them can do his daily work, travel about, or even
leave his premises; while transportation ceases and trade is
suspended; hence, commerce and other pursuits languish, industry is
arrested, agriculture becomes impracticable or fruitless; the fields
are no longer cultivated; while provisions, food, including bread,[4]
everything is wanting; the dwellings becoming uninhabitable, more so
than the Annecy houses when the roofs fall in and let in the rain. -
On the other hand, for lack of protection against calamities, these
get a free rein: the day arrives when an equinoctial tide submerges
the flat coastal area, when the river overflows and devastates the
countryside, when the conflagration spreads, when small-pox and the
cholera reach a contagious point, and life is in danger, far more
seriously imperiled than when, in the Annecy domicile, the main walls
threaten to tumble down.[5]

Undoubtedly, I can personally accept this miserable condition of
things, resign myself to it, and consent, as far as I am concerned, to
shut myself up within my own walls, to fast there, and run the risk,
more or less imminent, of being drowned, burnt, or poisoned; but I
have no right to condemn another to do this, nor to refuse my
contribution to a protection by which I am to profit. As to my share
of the expense it is fixed beforehand, and fixed through my share in
the benefit:

Whoever receives, owes, and in proportion to what he receives;

such is an equitable exchange; no society is prosperous and healthy
without this; it is essential that, for each member of it, the duties
should exactly compensate the advantages, and that the two sides of
the scale should balance. In the local community, the care taken of
public roads and the precautions taken against natural calamities are
useful in two ways: one, which especially improves the condition of
persons, and the other, which especially improves the condition of
things. The first is equal and the same for all. The poor man, quite
as much as the rich one, needs to go and come and to look after his
affairs; he uses the street, pavement, sidewalks, bridges, highways,
and public fountains quite as much; he equally benefits by the
sweeping and lighting of the public gardens. It may be claimed that,
in certain respects, he derives more benefits from all this; for he
suffers sooner and more keenly when bad roads stop transportation,
arrest labor, and increase the cost of food; he is more subject to
contagion, to epidemics, to all physical ills; in case of a fire, the
risks of a workman in his garret, at the top of steep, narrow stairs,
are greater than those of the opulent proprietor on the first story,
in a mansion provided with a broad range of steps. In case of
inundation, the danger is more suddenly mortal for the humble
villager, in his fragile tenement, than for the gentleman farmer in
his massive constructions. Accordingly, under this heading, the poor
man owes as much as the rich one; the rich man, at least, owes no more
than the poor one; if, each year, the poor man cannot pay but one
franc, the rich one, each year, should not pay more than that sum
likewise. - The second advantage, on the contrary, is not equal for
all, but more or less great for each, according to what he spends on
the spot, according to his industrial or commercial gains, and
according to his local income. Indeed, the more perfect the public
highway is, the more are the necessities and conveniences of life;
whatever is agreeable and useful, even distant and remote, more within
reach, and at my disposition, in my very hands, I enjoy it to the
utmost, the measure of my enjoyment of it being the importance of my
purchases, everything I consume, in short, my home expenditure.[6] If
I am, besides, industrial or in commerce, the state of the public
highway affects me even more; for my transportation, more or less
costly, difficult and slow, depends on that, and next, the receipt of
my raw materials and goods, the sale of my manufactures, the dispatch
of my merchandise, bought and sold, while the measure of this special
interest, so direct and so intense, is the annual sum-total of my
business, or, more strictly speaking, the probable sum of my
profits.[7] If, finally, I own real estate, a house or land, its
locative value increases or diminishes according to the salubrity and
convenience of its site, together with its facilities for cultivating,
selling, and distributing its crops, for its various outlets, for its
security against floods and fires, and, after this, to improvements in
public transit, and to the collective works which protect both soil
and buildings against natural calamities.[8] It follows that the
inhabitant who benefits from these services, owes a second
contribution, greater or lesser according to the greater or lesser
advantage which he derives from them.

IV. Local associations.

Local society, thus constituted, is a collective legal entity. - The
sphere of its initiation and action. - Its relation to the State. -
Distinction between the private and the public domain.

Such is in itself local society and, with or without the legislator's
permission, we find it to be a private syndicate,[9] analogous to many
others.[10] Whether communal or departmental, it concerns, combines,
and serves none but the inhabitants of one circumscription; its
success or failure does not interest the nation, unless indirectly,
and through a remote reaction, similar to the slight effect which, for
good or ill, the health or sickness of one Frenchman produces on the
mass of Frenchmen. That which directly and fully affects a local
society is felt only by that society, the same as that which affects a
private individual is felt only by him; it is a close corporation, and
belongs to itself within its physical limits, the same as he, in his,
belongs to himself; like him, then, it is an individual, less simple,
but no less real, a human combination, endowed with reason and will,
responsible for its acts, capable of wronging and being wronged; in
brief, a legal entity. Such, in fact, it is, and, through the explicit
declaration of the legislator, who constitutes it a legal entity,
capable of possessing, acquiring, and contracting, and of prosecuting
in the courts of law: he likewise confers on the eighty-six
departments and on the thirty-six thousand communes all the legal
capacities and obligations of an ordinary individual. The State,
consequently, in relationship to them and to all collective persons,
is what it is with respect to a private individual, neither more nor
less; its title to intervene between them is not different. As
justiciary, it owes them justice the same as to private persons,
nothing more or less; only to render this to them, it has more to do,
for they are composite and complex. By virtue even of its mandate, it
is bound to enter their domiciles in the performance of its duty, to
maintain probity and to prevent disorder, to protect there not alone
the governed against the governors and the governors against the
governed, but again the community, which is lasting, against its
directors, who are temporary, to assign to each member his quota of
dues or of charges, and his quote of influence or of authority, to
regulate the way in which the society shall support and govern itself,
to decide upon and sanction the equitable statute, to oversee and
impose its execution, that is to say, in sum to maintain the right of
each person and oblige each to pay what he owes. - This is difficult
and delicate. But, being done, the collective personality is, as much
as any individual, complete and defined, independent and distinct from
the State; by the same title as that of the individual, it has its own
circle of initiation and of action, its separate domain, which is its
private affair. The State, on its side, has its own affairs too, which
are those of the public; and thus, in the nature of things, both
circles are distinct; neither of them should prey upon or encroach on
the other. - Undoubtedly, local societies and the State may help each
other, lend each other their agents, and thus avoid employing two for
one; may reduce their official staff, diminish their expenses, and,
through this interchange of secondary offices, do their work better
and more economically. For example, the commune and the department may
let the State collect and deposit their "additional centimes," borrow
from it for this purpose its assessors and other accountants, and thus
receive their revenues with no drawback, almost gratis, on the
appointed day. In the like manner, the State has very good reason for
entrusting the departmental council with the re-distribution of its
direct taxes among the districts, and the district council with the
same re-distribution among the communes: in this way it saves trouble
for itself, and there is no other more effective mode of ensuring an
equitable allocation. It will similarly be preferable to have the
mayor, rather than anybody else, handle petty public undertakings,
which nobody else could do as readily and as surely, with less
trouble, expense, and mistakes, with fewer legal document, registers
of civil status, advertisements of laws and regulations, transmissions
by the orders of public authorities to interested parties, and of
local information to the public authorities which they need, the
preparation and revision of the electoral lists and of conscripts, and
co-operation in measures of general security. Similar collaboration is
imposed on the captain of a merchant vessel, on the administrators of
a railway, on the director of a hotel or even of a factory, and this
does not prevent the company which runs the ship, the railway, the
hotel, or the factory, from enjoying full ownership and the free
disposition of its capital; from holding meetings, passing
resolutions, electing directors, appointing its managers, and
regulating its own affairs, preserving intact that precious faculty of
possessing, of willing and of acting, which cannot be lost or
alienated without ceasing to be a personality. To remain a
personality (i.e. a legal entity), such is the main interest and right
of all persons, singly or collectively, and therefore of local
communities and of the State itself; it must be careful not to
abdicate and be careful not to usurp. - It renounces in favor of local
societies when, through optimism or weakness, it hands a part of the
public domain over to them; when it gives them the responsibility for
the collection of its taxes, the appointment of its judges and police-
commissioners, the employment of its armed forces, when it delegates
local functions to them which it should exercise itself, because it is
the special and responsible director, the only one who is in a
suitable position, competent, well provided, and qualified to carry
them out. On the other side, it causes prejudice to the local
societies, when it appropriates to itself a portion of their private
domain, when it confiscates their possessions, when it disposes of
their capital or income arbitrarily, when it imposes on them excessive
expenses for worship, charity, education, and any other service which
properly belongs to a different association; when it refuses to
recognize in the mayor the representative of the commune and the
government official, when it subordinates the first of these two
titles to the second, when it claims the right of giving or taking
away, through with the second which belongs to it, the first which
does not belong to it, when in practice and in its grasp the commune
and department cease to be private companies in order to become
administrative compartments. - According to the opportunity and the
temptation, it glides downhill, now toward the surrender of its duty,
and now toward the meddlesome interference of an intruder.

V. Local versus State authority.

Case in which the State abdicates. - Anarchy during the Revolution. -
Case in which the State usurps. - Regime of the year VIII. - Remains
of local independence under the ancient regime. - Destroyed under the
new regime. - Local society after 1800.

From and after 1789, the State, passing through intermittent fits and
starts of brutal despotism, had resigned its commission. Under its
almost nominal sovereignty, there were in France forty-four thousand
small States enjoying nearly sovereign power, and, most frequently,
sovereignty in reality.[11] Not only did the local community manage
its private affairs, but again, in the circumscription, each exercised
the highest public functions, disposed of the national guard, of the
police force, and even of the army, appointed civil and criminal
judges, police commissioners,[12] the assessors and collectors of
taxes. In brief, the central State handed over, or allowed the seizure
of the powers of which it ought never to deprive itself, the last of
its means by which alone it acts effectively and on the spot,

* its sword, which it alone should wield,
* its scales of justice, which it alone should hold,
* its purse, for it to fill,

and we have seen with what harm to individuals, to the communes, and
to itself, with what a lamentable series of disastrous results:

* universal, incurable, persistent anarchy,
* impotence of the government,
* violation of the laws,
* complete stoppage of revenue, an empty treasury,
* despotism of the strong, oppression of the weak,
* street riots,
* rural brigandage,
* extortions and waste at the town halls,
* municipal usurpations and abdications,
* ruin of the highways, and all useful public works and buildings, and
* the ruin and distress of the communes.[13]

In contrast with this, and through disgust, the new Régime takes the
other side, and even goes to the other extreme; the central State, in
1800, no longer a party that has resigned, as formerly, becomes the
interloper. Not only does it take back from local communities the
portion of the public domain which had been imprudently conceded to
them, but, again, it lays its hand on their private domain; it
attaches them to it by way of appendices, while its systematic,
uniform usurpation, accomplished at one blow, spread over the whole
territory, again plunges them all, communes and departments alike,
into a chaos in which, under the old monarchy, they would never have

Before 1789, collective legal entities (persons), provincial and
communal, still existed. On the one hand, five or six great local
bodies, represented by elective assemblies, full of life and
spontaneously active, among others those of Languedoc and Brittany,
still provided for and governed themselves. The other provinces, which
the central power had reduced to administrative districts, retained,
at least, their historic cohesion, their time-honored name, the lament
for, or at least the souvenir of, their former autonomy, and, here and
there, a few vestiges or fragments of their lost independence; and,
better yet, these old, paralyzed, but not mutilated bodies, had just
assumed new life, and under their renewed organism were striving to
give the blood in their veins a fresh start. Twenty-one provincial
assemblies, instituted over the entire territory, between 1778 and
1787, and provided with powers of considerable importance, undertook,
each in its own sphere, to direct provincial interests. Communal
interest, also, had its representatives in the urban or rural
communes. In the towns, a deliberative assembly, composed of the
leading notables and of delegates elected by all the corporations and
communities in the place, formed an intermittent municipal council the
same as to-day, but much more ample, which voted and passed
resolutions on important occasions; there was a board of management at
the head of it, "the town corps," comprising the various municipal
officials, the mayor, his lieutenant, sheriffs, prosecuting attorney,
treasurer, and clerk,[14] now elected by the deliberative assembly,
now the legal purchasers, heirs, and proprietors of their office, the
same as a notary or advocate of to-day owns his office, protected
against administrative caprices by a royal acquittance, and, for a
money consideration, titular in their towns, the same as a
parliamentarian in his parliament, and hence planted in, or grafted
upon, the commune like a parliamentarian among his peers, and, like
him, defenders of local interests against the central power. - In the
village, the heads of families met together on the public square,
deliberated in common over common affairs, elected the syndic,
likewise the collectors of the taille, and deputies to the intendant;
of their own accord, but with his approval, they taxed themselves for
the support of the school, for repairs to the church or fountain, and
for beginning or carrying on a suit in court. - All these remains of
the ancient provincial and communal initiative, respected or tolerated
by monarchical centralization, are crushed out and extinguished. The
First Consul very soon falls upon these local societies and seizes
them in his claws; in the eyes of the new legislator they scarcely
seem to exist; there must not be any local personalities for him. The
commune and department, in his eyes, are merely territorial districts,
physical portions of the public domain, provincial workshops to which
the central State transfers and uses its tools, in order to work
effectively and on the spot. Here, as elsewhere, he takes the business
entirely in his own hands; if he employs interested parties it is only
as auxiliaries, at odd times, for a few days, to operate with more
discernment and more economy, to listen to complaints and promises, to
become better informed and the better to apportion changes; but,
except this occasional and subordinate help, the members of the local
society must remain passive in the local society; they are to pay and
obey, and nothing more. Their community no longer belongs to them, but
to the government; its chiefs are functionaries who depend on him, and
not on it; it no longer issues its mandate; all its legal mandatories,
all its representatives and directors, municipal or general
councilors, mayors, sub-prefects or prefects, are imposed on it from
above, by a foreign hand, and, willingly or not, instead of choosing
them, it has to put up with them.

VI. Local Elections under the First Consul.

Lists of notables. - Sénatus-consultes of the year X. - Liberal
institution becomes a reigning instrument. - Mechanism of the system
of appointments and candidatures. - Decree of 1806 and suppression of

At the beginning, an effort was made to put in practice the
constitutional principle proposed by Sieyès: Power in future,
according the accepted formula, must come from above and confidence
from below. To this end, in the year IX, the assembled citizens
appointed one-tenth of their number, about 500,000 communal notables,
and these, likewise assembled, appointed also one-tenth of their
number, about 50,000 departmental notables. The government selected
from this list the municipal councilors of each commune, and, from
this second list, the general councilors of each department. - The
machine, however, is clumsy, difficult to set going, still more
difficult to manage, and too unreliable in its operation. According to
the First Consul, it is an absurd system, "a childish piece of
ideology; a great nation should not be organized in this way."[15] At
bottom,[16] "he does not want notables accepted by the nation. In his
system, he is to declare who the notables of the nation shall be and
stamp them with the seal of the State; it is not for the nation to
present them to the head of the State stamped with the national seal."
Consequently, at the end of a year, he becomes, through the
establishment of electoral colleges, the veritable grand-elector of
all the notables; he has transformed, with his usual address, a
liberal institution into a reigning instrumentality.[17]
Provisionally, he holds on to the list of communal notables, "because
it is the work of the people, the result of a grand movement which
must not prove useless, and because, moreover, it contains a large
number of names. . . . offering a wide margin from which to make good
selections.[18] He brings together these notables in each canton, and
invites them to designate their trusty men, the candidates from which
he will choose municipal councilors. But, as there are very few
cultivated men in the rural districts, "nearly always it is the old
seignior who would get himself designated";[19] it is essential that
the hand of the government should not be forced, that its faculty of
choosing should not be restricted. Thus, the presentation of municipal
councilors of that category must cease, there must no longer be any
preliminary candidates. Now, according the sénatus-consulte, this
category is a large one, for it comprises all communes of less than
5000 souls, and therefore over 35,000 municipal councils out of
36,000, whose members are appointed arbitrarily, without the citizens
whom they represent taking any part in their nomination. - Four or
five hundred average or large communes still remain, in which for each
municipal post, the cantonal assembly designates two candidates
between whom the government chooses. Let us see this assembly duly
installed and at work.

Its president, as a precautionary step, is imposed upon it. He is
appointed in advance by the government, and is well informed as to
what the government wants. He alone controls the police of the chamber
and the order of all deliberations. On opening the session, he draws a
list from his pocket, which list, furnished by the government,
contains the names of one hundred of the heaviest taxpayers of the
canton, from whom the assembly must select its candidates. The lists
lies spread out on the table, and the electors advance in turn, spell
the names, and try to read it over. The president would not be very
adroit and show but little zeal did he not help them in reading it,
and if he did not point out by some sign, a tone of the voice, or even
a direct word, what names were agreeable to the government. Now, this
government, which has five hundred thousand bayonets at command,
dislikes opposition: the electors know it, and look twice before
expressing any counter opinion; it is very probable that most of the
names suggested by the government are found on their ballots; were
only one-half of them there, these would suffice; of the two
candidates proposed for each place, if one is acceptable this one will
be elected; after making him a candidate the government makes sure
that he will become titular. The first act of the electoral comedy is
played, and it is not long before no trouble whatever is taken to play
it. After January, 1806, by virtue of a decree which has passed
himself, Napoleon is the only one[20] who will directly fill every
vacancy in the municipal councils; from now on these councils are to
owe their existence wholly to him. The two qualities which constitute
them, and which, according to Sieyès, are derived from two distinct
sources, are now derived from only one source. Only the Emperor can
confer upon them both public confidence and legal power.

The second act of the comedy begins; this act is more complicated, and
comprises several scenes which end, some of them, in the appointment
of the arrondissement councils, and others in that of the council-
general of the department. We will take only the latter, the most
important;[21] there are two, one following the other, and in
different places. - The first one[22] is played in the cantonal
assembly above described; the president, who has just directed the
choice of municipal candidates, draws from his portfolio another list,
likewise furnished to him by the prefect, and on which six hundred
names of those who pay the heaviest taxes in the department are
printed. It is from among these six hundred that the cantonal assembly
must elect ten or twelve members who, with their fellows, chosen in
the same way by the other cantonal assemblies, will form the electoral
college of the department, and take their seats at the chief town of
the prefecture. This time again, the president, who is the responsible
leader of the cantonal flock, takes care to conduct it; his finger on
the list indicates to the electors which names the government prefers;
if need be, he adds a word to the sign he makes, and, probably, the
voters will be as docile as before; and all the more because the
composition of the electoral college only half interests them. This
college, unlike the municipal council, does not touch or hold any of
them on their sensitive side; it is not obliged to tighten or loosen
their purse-strings; it does not vote the "additional centimes"; it
does not meddle with their business; it there only for show, to
simulate the absent people, to present candidates, and thus perform
the second electoral scene in the same way as the first one, but at
the chief town of the prefecture and by new actors. These extras are
also led by a head conductor, appointed by the government, and who is
responsible for their behavior, "a president who has in sole charge
the police of their assembled college," and must direct their voting.
For each vacancy in the council-general of the department, they are to
present two names; certainly, almost without any help, and with only a
discrete hint, they will guess the suitable names. For they are
smarter, more open-minded, than the backward and rural members of a
cantonal assembly; they are better informed and better "posted," they
have visited the prefect and know his opinion, the opinion of the
government, and they vote accordingly. It is certain that one-half, at
least, of the candidates whom they present on the list are good, and
that suffices, since twice the required number of candidates have to
be nominated. And yet, in Napoleon's eye, this is not sufficient. For
the nomination of general councilors,[23] as well as that of municipal
councilors, he suppresses preliminary candidature, the last remnant of
popular representation or delegation. According to his theory, he is
himself the sole representative and delegate of the people, invested
with full powers, not alone in the State, but again in the department
and commune, the prime and the universal motor of the entire machine,
not merely at the center, but again at the extremities, dispenser of
all public employments, not merely to suggest the candidate for these
and make him titular, but again to create directly and at once, both
titular and candidate.

VII. Municipal and general councillors under the Empire.

Quality of municipal and general councilors under the Consulate and
the Empire. - Object of their meetings. - Limits of their power. -
Their real role. - Role of the prefect and of the government.

Observe the selections which he imposes on himself beforehand; these
selections are those to which he has tied down the electoral bodies.
Being the substitute of these bodies, he takes, as they do, general
councilors from those in the department who pay the most taxes, and
municipal councilors from those most taxed in the canton. One the
other hand, by virtue of the municipal law, it is from the municipal
councilors that he chooses the mayor. Thus the local auxiliaries and
agents he employs are all notables of the place, the leading
landowners and largest manufacturers and merchants. He systematically
enrolls the distributors of labor on his side, all who, through their
wealth and residence, through their enterprises and expenditure on the
spot, exercise local influence and authority. In order not to omit any
of these, and be able to introduce into the general council this or
that rich veteran of the old régime, or this or that parvenu of the
new régime who is not rich, he has reserved to himself the right of
adding twenty eligible members to the list, "ten of which must be
taken from among citizens belonging to the Legion of Honor, or having
rendered important services, and ten taken from among the thirty in
the department who pay the most taxes." In this way none of the
notables escape him; he recuits them as he pleases and according to
his needs, now among men of the revolution who he does not want to see
discredited or isolated,[24] now among men of the old monarchy whom he
wants to rally to himself by favor or by force. Such is the Baron de
Vitrolles,[25] who, without asking for the place, becomes mayor of
Versailles and councilor-general in Basses-Alps, and then, a little
later, at his peril, inspector of the imperial sheepfolds. Such is the
Count de Villèle, who, on returning to his estate of Morville, after
an absence of fourteen years, suddenly, "before having determined
where he would live, either in town or in the country," finds himself
mayor of Morville. To make room for him, his predecessor is removed
and the latter, "who, since the commencement of the Revolution, has
performed the functions of mayor," is let down to the post of
assistant. Shortly after this the government appoints M. de Villèle
president of the cantonal assembly. Naturally the assembly, advised
underhandedly, presents him as a candidate for the general council of
Haute-Garonne, and the government places him in that office. -"All the
notable land-owners of the department formed part of this council, and
the Restoration still found us there seven years afterwards. General
orders evidently existed, enjoining the prefects to give preference in
their choice to the most important land-owners in the country."
Likewise, Napoleon everywhere selects the mayors from the rich and
well-to-do class"; in the large towns he appoints only "people with
carriages."[26] Many of them in the country and several in the towns
are legitimists[27], at least at heart, and Napoleon knows it; but, as
he says; "these folks do not want the earthquake"; they are too much
interested, and too personally, in the maintenance of order.[28]
Moreover, to represent his government, he needs decorative people; and
it is only these who can be so gratis, be themselves, look well, at
their own expense, and on the spot. Besides, they are the most
informed, the best able to supervise accounts, to examine article by
article the budgets of the department and commune, to comprehend the
necessity of a road and the utility of a canal, to offer pertinent
observations, to proclaim wise decisions, to obey orders as discreet
and useful collaborators. All this they will not refuse to do if they
are sensible people. In every form of government, it is better to be
with the governors than with the governed, and in this case, when the
broom is wielded from above and applied so vigorously and with such
meticulousness to everybody and everything, it is well to be as near
the handle as possible.

And what is still better, they will volunteer, especially at the
beginning, if they are good people. For, at least during the first
years, one great object of the new government is the re-establishment
of order in the local as well as in the general administration. It is
well-disposed and desires to mend matters; it undertakes the
suppression of robbery, theft, embezzlement, waste, premeditated or
unintentional arrogation of authority, extravagance, negligence and

"Since 1790,"[29] says the First Consul to the minister of the
interior, "the 36,000 communes represent, in France, 36,000 orphans .
. . girls abandoned or plundered during ten years by their municipal
guardians, appointed by the Convention and the Directory. In changing
the mayors, assistants, and councilors of the commune, scarcely more
has been done than to change the mode of stealing; they have stolen
the communal highway, the by-roads, the trees, and have robbed the
Church;[30] they have stolen the furniture belonging to the commune
and are still stealing under the spineless municipal system of year

All these abuses are investigated and punished;[31] he thieves are
obliged to restore and will steal no more. The county budget, like of
the State, must now be prepared every year,[32] with the same method,
precision, and clearness, receipts on one side and expenses on the
other, each section divided into chapters and each chapter into
articles, the state of the liabilities, each debt, the state of the
assets and a tabular enumeration of distinct resources, available
capital and unpaid claims, fixed income and variable income, certain
revenue and possible revenue. In no case must "the calculation of
presumable expenditure exceed the amount of presumable income." In no
case must "the commune demand or obtain an extra tax for its ordinary
expenses." Exact accounts and rigid economy, such are everywhere
indispensable, as well as preliminary reforms, when a badly kept house
has to be transformed into one which is kept in good order. The First
Consul has at heart these two reforms and he adheres to them. Above
all there must be no more indebtedness; now, more than one-half of the
communes are in debt. "Under penalty of dismissal, the prefect is to
visit the communes at least twice a year, and the sub-prefect four
times a year.[33] A reward must be given to mayors who free their
commune of debt in two years, and the government will appoint a
special commissioner to take charge of the administration of a commune
which, after a delay of five years, shall not be liberated. The fifty
mayors who, each year, shall have most contributed to unencumber their
commune and assure that is has resources available, shall be summoned
to Paris at the expense of the State, and presented in solemn session
to the three consults. A column, raised at the expense of the
government and placed at the principal entrance of the town or
village, will transmit to posterity the mayor's name, and, besides,
this inscription: 'To the guardian of the commune, a grateful
country.' "

Instead of these semi-poetic honors adapted to the imaginations of the
year VIII, take the positive honors adapted to the imaginations of the
year XII, and the following years, brevets and grades, decorations of
the Legion d'Honneur, the titles of chevalier, baron, and count,[34]
presents and endowments, - the rewards offered to the representatives
of local society, the same as to the other functionaries, but on the
same condition that they will likewise be functionaries, that is to
say, tools in the hands of the government. In this respect, every
precaution is taken, especially against those who, forming a
collective body, may be tempted to consider themselves a deliberative
assembly, such as municipal and general councils, less easily handled
than single individuals and, at times, capable of not being quite so
docile. None of these can hold sessions of more than fifteen days in
the year; each must accept its budget of receipts and expenses, almost
complete and ready made, from the prefecture. In the way of receipts,
its powers consist wholly in voting certain additional and optional
centimes, more or less numerous, at will, "within the limits
established by law";[35] again, even within these limits, its decision
can be carried out only after an examination and approval at the
prefecture. There is the same regulation in regard to expenses; the
council, indeed, municipal or general, is simply consultative; the
government delegates the mayor, sub-prefect, or prefect, who
prescribes what must be done. As the preliminary steps are taken by
him, and he has constant direction of the local council for two weeks,
and finally the right of confirmation, he controls it, and then for
eleven months and a half, having sole charge of the daily and
consecutive execution of its acts, he reigns in the local community.
Undoubtedly, having received and expended money for the community, he
is accountable and will present his yearly accounts at the following
session; the law says[36] that in the commune, "the municipal council
shall listen to and may discuss the account of municipal receipts and
expenses." But read the text through to the end, and note the part
which the law, in this case, assigns to the municipal council. It
plays the part of the chorus in the antique tragedy: it attends,
listens, approves, or disapproves, in the background and subordinate,
approved or rebuked, the principal actors remain in charge and do as
they please; they grant or dispute over its head, independently, just
as it suits them. In effect, it is not to the municipal council that
the mayor renders his accounts, but "to the sub-prefect, who finally
passes them," and gives him his discharge. Whatever the council may
say, the approval is valid; for greater security, the prefect, if any
councilor proves refractory, "may suspend from his functions" a
stubborn fellow like him, and restore in the council the unanimity
which has been partially disturbed. - In the department, the council-
general must likewise "listen" to the accounts for the year; the law,
owing to a significant omission, does not say that is may discuss
them. Nevertheless, a circular of the year IX requests it to "make
every observation on the use of the additional centimes" which the
importance of the subject demands, to verify whether each sum debited
to expenses has been used for the purpose assigned to it, and even "to
reject expenses, stating the reasons for this decision, which have not
been sufficiently justified." And better still, the minister, who is a
liberal, addresses a systematic series of questions to the general
councils, on all important matters,[37] "agriculture, commerce, and
manufactures, asylums and public charities, public roads and other
works, public instruction, administration properly so called, state of
the number of population, public spirit and opinions," collecting and
printing their observations and desires. After the year IX, however,
this publication stops; it renders the general councils too important;
it might rally the entire population of the department to them and
even of all France that could read; it might hamper the prefect and
diminish his ascendancy. From now on, it is the prefect alone who
replies to these questions, and of which the government gives an
analysis or tables of statistics;[38] then, the publication of these
ceases; decidedly, printing always has its drawbacks - manuscript
reports are much better; local affairs are no longer transacted
outside the bureaus, and are managed with closed doors; any report
that might spread outside the prefect's cabinet or that of the
minister, is carefully toned down or purposely stifled, and, under the
prefect's thumb, the general council becomes an automaton.

In private, dealing directly with the Emperor's representative, it
appears as if one is dealing directly with the Emperor. Consider these
few words - in the presence of the Emperor; they carry an immeasurable
weight in the scales of contemporaries. For them, he has every
attribute of Divinity, not only omnipotence and omnipresence, but
again omniscience, and, if he speaks to them, what they feel far
surpasses what they imagine. When he visits a town and confers with
the authorities of the place on the interests of the commune or
department, his interlocutors are bewildered; they find him as well
informed as themselves, and more clear-sighted; it is he who explains
their affairs to them. On arriving the evening before, he calls for
the summaries of facts and figures, every positive and technical
detail of information, reduced and classified according to the method
taught by himself and prescribed to his administrators.[39] During
the night he has read all this over and mastered it; in the morning,
at dawn, he has taken his ride on horseback; with extraordinary
promptness and accuracy, his topographical glance has discerned "the
best direction for the projected canal, the best site for the
construction of a factory, a harbor, or a dike."[40] To the
difficulties which confuse the best brains in the country, to much
debated, seemingly insoluble, questions, he at once presents the sole
practical solution; there it is, ready at hand, and the members of the
local council had not seen it; he makes them touch it with their
fingers. They stand confounded and agape before the universal
competence of this wonder genius. "He's more than a man" exclaimed the
administrators of Dusseldorf to Beugnot.[41] "Yes," replied Beugnot,
"he's the devil!" In effect, he adds to mental ascendancy the
ascendancy of force; we always see beyond the great man in him the
terror-striking dominator; admiration begins or ends in fear; the soul
is completely subjugated; enthusiasm and servility, under his eye,
melt together into one sentiment of impassioned obedience and
unreserved submission.[42] Voluntarily and involuntarily, through
conviction, trembling, and fascinated, men abdicate their freedom of
will to his advantage. The magical impression remains in their minds
after he has departed. Even absent, even with those who have never
seen him, he maintains his prestige and communicates it to all who
command in his name. Before the prefect, the baron, the count, the
councilor of state, the senator in embroidered uniform, gilded and
garnished with decorations, every municipal or general council loses
his free will and becomes incapable of saying no, only too glad if not
obliged to say yes "inopportunely," to enter upon odious and
disagreeable undertakings, to simulate at one's own expense, and that
of others, excessive zeal and voluntary self-sacrifice, to vote for
and hurrah at patriotic subscriptions of which it must contribute the
greatest portion and for supplementary conscriptions[43] which seize
their sons that are except or bought out of service.[44] It allows
itself to be managed; it is simply one of the many wheels of our
immense machine, one which receives its impulsion elsewhere, and from
above, through the interposition of the prefect. - But, except in rare
cases, when the interference of the government applies it to violent
and oppressive schemes, it is serviceable; fixed in position, and
confining itself to turning regularly and noiselessly in its little
circle, it may, in general, still render the double service demanded
of it in the year IX, by a patriotic minister. According to the
definition which Chaptal then gave the general councils, fixing their
powers and competence, they exist for two purposes and only two:[45]
they must first "insure to the governed impartiality in the assessment
of taxes along with the verification of the use of the latest levies
in the payment of local expenses," and next, they must, with
discretion and modesty, "obtain for the government the information
which alone enables it to provide for the necessities of each
department and improve the entire working of the public

VIII. Excellence of Local Government after Napoleon.

The institution remains intact under the Restoration. - Motives of the
governors. - Excellence of the machine. - Abdication of the

Such is the spirit of the institution and such is its form. After 1814
and 1815, after the fall of the Empire and the Restoration, the
institution subsists and remains as it was before in form and in
spirit: it is always the government which appoints and directs all the
representatives of local society, in the department, in the commune,
and in the intermediate circumscriptions, the prefect, sub-prefects,
mayors and assistants, the councilors of the department, of the
arrondissement and of the commune. Whatever the ruling power may be it
is repugnant to any change; never does it voluntarily restrict itself
in its faculty of bestowing or withholding offices, authority,
consideration, influence, or salaries, every desirable and every
desired good thing; as far as it can, it retains these in its own
hands to distribute them as it pleases, and in its own interest to
bestow them on its partisans and to deprive its adversaries of them,
to attract clients and create minions. The four thousand offices of
prefect, sub-prefect, and councilors of the prefecture, department,
and arrondissement, the four hundred thousand offices of mayor,
assistants, and municipal councilors, and added to these, the
innumerable salaried employments of auxiliary or secondary agents,
from the secretary-general of the prefecture down to the secretary of
the mayor, from the scribes and clerks of the prefecture and sub-
prefecture down to the staff of the municipal police and of the octroi
in the towns, from the city or department architect down to the lowest
road-surveyor, from the watchmen and superintendents of a canal or
harbor down to the field-guards and stone-breakers or the highway,
directly or indirectly, the constitutional government disposes of them
in the same fashion as the imperial government, with the same
interference in the most trifling details and in the most trifling
affair. Commune or department, such local society remains under the
second Régime what it was under the first one, an extension of the
central society, an appendix of the State, an adjunct of the great
establishment of which the seat is at Paris. In these adjuncts,
controlled from above, nothing is changed, neither the extent and
limits of the circumscription, nor the source and hierarchy of powers,
nor the theoretic framework, nor the practical mechanism, not even the
names.[46] After the prefects of Empire come the prefects of the
Restoration, the same in title and uniform, installed in the same
mansion, to do the same work, with equal zeal, that is to say, with
dangerous zeal, to such an extent that, on taking leave of their final
audience, on setting out for their department, M. de Talleyrand, who
knows men and institutions profoundly, gives them, as his last
injunction, the following admirable order: "And, especially, no zeal!
" - According to the recommendation of Fouché, "the Bourbons slept in
the bed of Napoleon," which was the bed of Louis XIV., but larger and
more comfortable, widened by the Revolution and the Empire, adapted to
the figure of its latest occupant, and enlarged by him so as to spread
over the whole of France. When, after twenty-five years of exile, one
returns home, it is pleasant to find such a bed in the house ready
made, taking down and remaking the old one would give double trouble;
moreover, in the old one, one was less at his ease; let us profit by
all that rebels and the usurper have done that was good. In this
particular, not alone the king, but again the most antiquated of the
Bourbons are revolutionaries and Bonapartists; despotic traditionally,
and monopolists through their situation, they accept with no regrets
the systematic demolition effected by the Constituent Assembly, and
the systematic centralization instituted by the First Consul. The Duc
d'Angoulême, when, in 1815, he was paraded about the country, among
the bridges, canals, and splendid roads of Languedoc, on being
reminded that these fine works were formerly executed by the "Ètats"
of the province, dryly replied "We prefer the departments to the

With the exception of a few antiquarian and half-rustic royalists,
nobody objects; there is no thought of reconstructing the machine on
another plan; in sum, nobody is dissatisfied with the way it works. It
works well, most effectively; under the Restoration as under the
Empire, it renders to those who are interested the service demanded of
it; it goes on providing better and better for the two grand objects
of local society, care for the public highways and protection against
natural calamities. In 1814, its net results are already admirable and
do it credit - reparation of the ruins accumulated by the
Revolution,[48] the continuation and completion of former projects,
new and striking enterprises, dikes against the sea and the rivers,
basins, moles, and jetties in the harbors, quays, and bridges, locks
and canals, public edifices, 27,200 kilometers of national roads and
18,600 kilometers of departmental roads,[49] without counting the
district roads just laid out; all this done regularly, exactly, and
economically, Charles Nicolas, "Les Budgets de la France depuis le
commencement du XIXe siècle." In 1816, the four direct contributions
returned, in principal, 249 millions, and, in additional centimes, 89
millions only. For a long time the additional centimes applied to the
local service and voted by the department or by the commune are not
many and do not exceed 5 %. of the principal. by competent
functionaries, employed and superintended, who at first through fear
are compelled to be prudent, and then through habit and honor have
become honest accountants; there is no waste, no underhand stealing,
no arbitrary charges; no sum is turned aside between receipts and
expenses to disappear and be lost on the road, or flow out of its
channel in another direction. The sensitive taxpayer, large or small,
no longer smarts under the painful goad which formerly pricked him and
made him jump. Local taxation, annexed to the general tax, is found to
be reformed, lightened, and duly proportioned. Like the principal, the
"additional centimes" are an equitable charge, graduated according to
the sum of net revenue; like the principal, they are assessed
according to the assumed sum of this net revenue by the councils of
the arondissements among the communes, and by the communal assessors
among the inhabitants. They are collected by the same collector, with
the same formalities, and every taxpayer who thinks himself taxed too
heavily finds a court of appeal in the council of the prefecture,
before which he can make his claim and obtain the release or reduction
of his quota. - Thus no crying iniquity exists, nor keen suffering; on
the other hand, there are the infinite conveniences and daily
enjoyment of possessions, the privation of which, to the modern man,
is equal to the lack of fresh, pure air, physical security and
protection against contagion, facilities for circulation and
transport, pavements, light, the salubrity of healthy streets purged
of their filth, and the presence and vigilance of the municipal and
rural police. All these benefits, the objects of local society, are
due to the machine which works with little cost, without breaking down
or stopping for any long time, as lately under the Republic, and
without any extortion and clashing, as in the times of the ancient
Régime. It works by itself, almost without the help of the parties
interested, and which, in their eyes, is not its least merit; with it,
there is no bother, no responsibility, no elections to attend to, no
discussions to maintain, no resolutions to pass. There is only one
bill to be settled, not even a specified bill, but a surplus of
centimes added to each franc, and included with the principal in the
annual quota. Just like an owner who, by his correct, exact, and
somewhat slow although punctual and capable supervisors, are relieved
of the care of his property. He may dismiss the head steward of his
domain in a fit of ill-humor, but, if he changes his stewards, he does
not change the system; he is too accustomed to it, and his indolence
demands it; he is not tempted to take care and trouble on himself, nor
is he qualified to become his own intendant.

And what is worse, in the present case the master has forgotten that
he is the owner of his domain, he hardly remembers that he is a
personality. Whether large or small, department or commune, local
society has no longer the consciousness of being a natural body,
composed of involuntarily united members with common interests; this
sentiment, already weakened and drooping at the end of the ancient
régime, lost under the multiplied attacks of the Revolution and under
the prolonged compression of the Empire. During twenty-five years it
has suffered too much; it has been too arbitrarily manufactured or
mutilated, too frequently recast, and made and unmade. - In the
commune, everything has been upset over and over again, the
territorial circumscription, the internal and external system, all
collective property. To the 44,000 municipalities improvised by the
Constituent Assembly, there succeeded under the Directory 6000 or 7000
cantonal municipalities, a sort of local syndicate, represented in
each commune by a subaltern agent, and then, under the Consulate,
36,000 distinct and permanent communes. Sovereign at the start,
through the improvidence and abdication of the Constituent Assembly,
the communes become, in the hands of the Convention, so many timorous
subjects surrendered to the brutality of perambulating pashas and
resident agas, imposed upon them by Jacobin tyranny; then under the
Empire, a docile herd governed in a correct way from above, but
possessing no authority of their own, and therefore indifferent to
their own affairs and utterly wanting in public spirit. Other more
serious blows affect of the them still more deeply and acutely.
Through a decree of the Legislative Assembly, in every commune where a
third of the inhabitants demand a partition of the communal property,
the commune is stripped, and its time-honored patrimony is set off in
equal lots, in portions according to families or per head, and
converted into small private holdings. (Page 319/584)Through a decree
of the Convention, the whole of the communal fortune, its debts and
assets, are swallowed up by the public fortune and engulfed along with
that in the sale of real property, in the discredit of the assignats,
and in the final bankruptcy. After this prolonged process, communal
property, even when disgorged and restored by the exchequer, is not
what it was before; once out of the monster's stomach, the remains of
it, dismembered, spoilt, half-digested, are no longer held sacred and
inviolable; a settlement of accounts intervenes; "there are a good
many communes," says Napoleon[50] "whose debts have been paid and
whose property was not sold; there are many others whose property has
been sold and whose debts are not paid . . . . The result is that many
pieces of property in certain communes are not considered reputable."
Consequently, he first deprives these of one-tenth of their income
from land, and then one-quarter of the produce of their extra cuttings
of timber,[51] and finally, their capital. the whole of their real
property,[52] estimated at 370 millions ; in exchange, he gives them
138 millions in the rentes; the loss to them as well as the gain to
him, is thus 232 millions, while the sale of communal properties at
auction, begun in 1813, continues under the Restoration in 1814, 1815,
and even in 1816. A human community treated in this way for one
quarter of a century, ceases to be a personality, and becomes a mere
material object; as far as this is concerned, its members have come to
believe, that it is and must be so and cannot be otherwise.

Above the commune, nearly dead, is the department, completely dead;
here local patriotism is stamped out at the beginning by the
destruction of the provinces. Among so many political crimes and other
outrages committed by the Revolution against France, this is one of
the worst. The Constituent Assembly has dismantled long-established
associations, the accumulated work of ten centuries, historic and
powerful names, each of which aroused enthusiasm in thousands of
breasts and cemented together thousands of wills, centers of
spontaneous co-operation, firesides warm with generous feeling, zeal,
and devotion, a practical school of high political education, an
admirable theater for available talent, noble careers open to
legitimate ambition, in short, the small patrimony whose instinctive
cult forms the first step out of egoism and a march onward toward
thoughtful devotion to the large patrimony. Cut apart by geometrical
shears, and designated by an entirely new geographical term, small
sections of the province became so many factitious agglomerations of
juxtaposed inhabitants, human assemblages without any soul; and, for
twenty years, the legislator fails to communicate to them that
semblance of spirit, the judicial quality of which it disposes; it is
only after 1811 that the departments arrive at civil proprietorship
and personality: this dignity, besides, the State confers only to
disburden itself and to burden them, to impose expenses on them which
hardly concern them but which do concern it, to compel them in its
place to support the costly maintenance of its prisons, police
quarters, courts of justice, and prefectorial mansions; even at this
late date, they are not yet, in the eyes of jurisconsults or before
the Council of State, incontestable proprietors and complete
personalities;[53] they are not to be fully qualified in this sense
until the law of 1838.

Local society, accordingly, proves abortive over the whole 27,000
square leagues of territory; it is simply a legal figment, an
artificial grouping together of neighbors who do not find themselves
bound and incorporated together by neighborhood; in order that their
society might become viable and stimulating would require both commune
and department to have in mind and at heart the following idea, which
they no longer entertained:

"We are all aboard the same ship, it is ours and we are its crew. We
are here to manage it ourselves, with our own hands, each according to
his rank and position, each taking his part, little or big, in doing
his own work."



[1] My understanding, today in 1999, that all people other animals by
nature are 'built' as egoists, that is to look out for themselves, to
preserve their life, protect their property and family. As far as the
social (or gregarious) instincts are concerned then there are several
which manifest themselves in the correct and timely order during our
entire existence. Some will regulate falling in love, others
procreation, others relationship between man and woman, others between
parents and children, at yet others the group and its choice and
submission to a leader. One of the results is that everyone wants to
be important and accepted, another that a mob has drives or instincts
which may galvanize it into compassion, anger, fear and action. To
this must be added that all people can remember, not only what they
have tried, but also what they have seen or heard about. They also
tend to imagine that others react in the same way as they themselves
do. This allows them to look ahead and imagine various possible
scenarios. They are also aware of how they would want to be dealt with
by others. (SR.)

[2] That is what has happened during communism where men worked as
little as possible since the principle of equality made most effort
rest without reward.

[3] The so-called "Centimes additionels" was an increase in certain
taxes to be paid to the communes and departments.

[4] Rocquain, "L'État de la France au 18 Brumaire" (report by
Fourcroy, pp. 138, 166)": A sack of wheat worth 18 francs at Nantes
costs an equal sum for its cartage to Brest. I have seen carters
plodding along, seven or eight in a line, each with six or eight

Book of the day: