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NAPOLEON IN COUNCIL.*
It is utterly impossible that any work be no doubt that many parts of it have which communicates to us any authentic hitherto been mystified-some by design, information as to the most minute par- and some unintentionally-it occurred to ticulars of the life of Napoleon, should me that a trustworthy statement, coming be without its interest. The volume from a person who has enjoyed peculiar before us contains information which, advantages for ascertaining the truth, we believe, may be perfectly relied on.
might still be considered acceptable. It is, in fact, an authentic record of the
“ Mons. Pelet's means of obtaining opinions delivered by Bonaparte in the information arose from bis having occuCouncil of State, by a note-taker of pied high and confidential situations, first unexceptionable fidelity, a member of under the Consulate and the Empire, the Council
, who turned his opportu- afterwards during the Restoration, and nities to account, and attempted to
more recently under the present governpreserve for posterity the conversations his talents, and his habits of business,
ment of France; while his rank in society, of the extraordinary man to whose enabled him to profit by the ample opporcouncils he was admitted. Thus writes tunities which a position so advantageous the Baron Pelet :
gave him, during these successive political * At the enthusiastic age at which I epochs. became a member of the Council of State,t
“Under Napoleon, the author was long I watched with avidity every word Napo
a member of the Council of State, and leon let fall, and as I recorded them at
Administrator of the Roval Forests of the moment, in the expectation of their
the Civil List; both of which situations proving of interest to posterity, I often brought him frequently in contact with thought how much we should now give to
the head of the Goverunent. have such notices of Alexander the Greator
“During the Restoration, he enjoyed the of Julius Cæsar! Posterity, indeed, in the title of Councillor of State, and for four case of Bonaparte, has come much sooner
years was Prefect of the Loire and Cher, than I had expected; and I venture to
of which department he was elected a present it with a docuinent which will aid deputy in 1827, a seat which he has occuessentially in estimating the character of pied up to this time. one of the most extraordinary men who
“ Since the accession of Louis Philippe has ever appeared on earth, and whose
to the throne, he has been Vice-President catastrophe and melancholy end have of the Chamber of Deputies, and for some placed their seal on what was wonderful
time held the important office of Minister in his history.”
of Public Instruction.
Finally, by his marriage with the Before we proceed to make our read- daughter of Mons. Otto (who, it may be ers in some degree acquainted with the remembered, negotiated the preliminaries contents of this most interesting vo of the Treaty of Amiens, and afterwards lume, it may perhaps be necessary to filled various high diplomatic situations inform them of the opportunities which on the continent,) Mons. Pelet came into the author of the original enjoyed, and
the possession of many valuable official of the credit which we may attach to
documents, several of which, so far as I his narrations. The translator has pre. know, are now for the first time laid before fixed a preface, in which he thus alludes the public." to these points :
The work is divided into two parts : “ From an intimate personal acquain. the first, including fifteen chapters, all tance with the author, Monsieur Pelet (de of a most pleasantly rcadable length, in la Lozere), I feel thoroughly persuaded which conversations of Napoleon are that the whole is written in good faith, reported, in connexion with the narand that every incident or conversation rative of the events to which they refer. here recorded, is perfectly authentic. In the second portion there are seven
“The subject, it may perhaps be thought, teen chapters, equally to be commended is well nigh worn out; but as there can for their judicious brevity, which are
* Napoleon in Council, or the Opinions delivered by Bonaparte in the Council of State. Translated from the French of Barou Pelet (de la Lozère,) Member of the Chamber of Deputies, and late Minister of Public Instruction, by Captain Basil Hall, R. N. Robert Cadell, Edinburgh, Whittaker and Co. London. 1837.
+ The author was then only 19 years of age.
exclusively occupied with discussions sure of Napoleon. He appears, hor. in the council of state.
ever, to have treated this body with In the singular constitution which, some species of deference, and to have at the close of the year 1799 termi- encouraged the members to speak their nated the French republic, the Council sentiments freely. The entire procred. of State was one of the bodies pro- ings of this body were as singular as its vided to wield the powers of the ex- original constitution; it was virtually ecutive and legislature. The system the cabinet of a despot, without one of this new constitution required four certainly essential characteristic-its separate bodies--the Legislative Body, secrecy ; a deliberative council, with. the Conservative Senate, the Tribunal, out even the shadow of independence ; and the Council of State. This clumsy a legislative body, without the power to working of checks and counterchecks pass a single law. was framed only to be inefficient, and It is not, however, our present object admirably did it answer the ends for to discuss the anomalies of a which it was designed. The Council lutionary constitution, but to bring of State, the members of which were before our readers a few passages illus. nominated by the consuls, and which trative of what may be termed the was intended to be a kind of cabinet cabinet politics of Napoleon. We will council to submit measures to a com aim at no connection either in subject or plicated revision by the other three in time, but just transcribe the passages bodies, became very soon the govern as they strike us. We extract, in the ing power.
first place, a few sentences from Baron
Pelet's able sketch of the Council. “ The Council of State alone preserved its character of a deliberative assembly,
“ The meetings of the Council of State and took any real share in the business of were held at Paris, in the palace itselfthe country. It inherited the attributes or, if Napoleon happened to be at St. of its defunct companions; and it alone Cloud, the members were summoned could give no offence to Napoleon, for, there. They met at least twice a week, since all its members were nominated and the interval being employed by the sections dismissed by him, they acted merely as his in separate deliberation. The orders of the council, and their authority had no impulse day, that is, the affairs for discussion, were or direction but in his will and pleasure.
divided into lesser and greater orders. Napoleon, however, took the greatest Those which were of minor importance pains in the formation of this Council, as might be taken into consideration in the it afforded him the only check on the absence of the Emperor – the others were errors of his ministers; in fact, it formed reserved till he was present. The different the only body whose concurrence really proposals were always printed and distrilent to his acts the countenance of public buted to the members previously to their opinion. He called to his assistance, being considered in ('ouncil. accordingly, all the best qualified persons
Napoleon sometimes gave notice of his he could find in every department of intention to be at the meeting ; at other government, and wherever he could lay times he entered unexpectedly, the sound his hands upon them.
In this manner,
of the drum on the Tuilleries' Stairs giving Merlin and Portalis were selected to
the first intimation of his approach. His assist in the business of legislation - chamberlain went before him, while the Fourcroy and Chaptal in science-Fleu- aid-de-camp on duty followed, and both rieu in naval affairs, and Gouvion Saint- took their station behind him. Cyr in those relating to military matters.
“ His seat was raised one step above Besides these, there were many others the floor, at the end of the room; and on whose names are well known to the world. bis right and left sat the princes and other Having formed his Council, he divided it dignitaries. In front were placed the long into sections, to each of which he referred tables at which the councillors of State the various projects proposed to him by
The Emperor's seat rehis ministers to be separately considered. mained always in its place, even when he The same matters were afterwards dis was absent with the army, and on those cussed by the assembled Council, and occasions the High Chancellor (l'Archi. generally in his presence."
Chancelier), seated on the right of the
vacant chair, presided in his absence. The Council of State was, in fact, “ Business proceeded but slowly when all that stool between France and the Napoleon presided — for he sometimes most unlimited despotism; how slight sunk into a profound reverie, during was the barrier will be understood which the discussion of course languished from the fact, that all the members were --and at other times be wandered far from nominated and dismissed at the plea- the subject. These political digressions,
however, were full of interest, as they quickly together,--and as it was farther often betrayed the internal state of his supposed possible that they might be Ininu, or let out the secret of his intended favoured with dark nights and calm weaprojects.
ther, they inight slip past and reach the - Whoever wished to speak bad only to shallow parts of the English coast without say so; and Napoleon often urged those being impeded, and then the large ships persons to speak whose opinions he desired could not attack them for want of water to learn. The style of address was simple, to come near enough. and without flourish; for the eloquence of “ To these encouraging speculations the Tribune would have been considered was added the assurance that the Rochford quite ridiculous in the Council.
A new and Toulon fleets, starting ostensibly for member, who had gained a certain degree India, and having drawn off the English of reputation as a public speaker, wished to ships, would suddenly double upon thein, set out with the oratorical manner he had and return to the channel to cover our found succeed in public assemblies; but he passage across. The more wonderful these soon discovered that he was only laughed wild combinations really were, the more at in the ('ouncil, and speedily lowered they pleased the fancy and raised the spirits his tone. There was no method in that of the troops—who readily believed that place of concealing the want of ideas the grand secret of this invasion was found under the profusion of words: what was out by their chief, to whose genius nothing, required was substantial matter, and a they firmly believed, was impossible. So mind stored with facts. Not only was that every individual soldier indulged every description of knowledge repre- bimself confidently in anticipated glory sented in the Council of State, but every and fortune!" different epoch. Napoleon's principle, indeed, in its formation, was not merely
We have not room to extract the to draw into it inen possessed of all kinds most amusing account of the manner ot information, but persons of all different in which the revival of a monarchical shades of politics. In this spirit he called government was elected in the person to his assistance not only those who had of Napoleon--a proposal to this effect most distinguished themselves in the pre- having been submitted to the senate, ceding assemblies, but he recalled those they were told by way of quickening who, though not hostile to the revolution, their deliberations, make up your minds, had been expatriated by its early political or you will be accelerated by the voice storms, such as Malouet, Mouneir, Ségur, of the troops.” The result of the deliand others. In this way the Council beration was, that they called on the exhibited all the different parties of the First Consul to accept the imperial state, fused, as it were, into one mass." There is much that is amusing inter- their call with some stipulations for
The senate however acocmpanied mingled with much that is terrible and
themselves gloomy in the portraiture of Bonaparte which is here presented to us. No 1st, “ That the office of senator might, thing can be better adapted to excite a in like manner, be made hereditary, and smile than the curious calculations by that they should be tried only by their which the success of the formidable peers of the Senate. invasion of England was made a matter 2d, “ That the Senate should have the of expectation. An immense number initiative in proposing laws, or that they of Hat-bottomed boats and pinnaces should possess a Veto upon
them. were to transport the invading army
3d, “ That the Council of State should across the channel.
not be the interpreters of the • Senatus
('onsultes.' " It has often been asked how a flotilla, 4th, “That two commissioners should consisting of such a multitude of small be nominated out of the Senate; one to vessels, could, by possibility, get past the protect the liberty of the press, the other English fleet without being knocked to to secure freedom of persons. pieces? And this difficulty became all “ The First ('onsul expressed, in the the greater when it was considered that Council of State, the highest displeasure several successive tides, and, consequently, at these pretensions which the Senate had different days, were required to get the presumed to set up. whole to sea, and, consequently, that they "• The day may come,' exclaimed he, would be attacked and demolished piece when the Senate will take advantage of meal before they could form into line. It the weakness of my successors to seize the was, however, hoped that, by exercising reins of government for themselves. The the Hotilla sufficiently in the outer roads, spirit of that body is quite well known; it they might acquire the babit of getting stimulates them to strengthen their power
by all possible means. They would de- these days of nicknames, has been teromolish the Legislative Body if they could; ed democratic liberty. and if an opportunity were to present
"I propose, for the present, to exclude itself, they would make a compact with
from my political succession two of my the Bourbons at the expense of the nation. The senators wish to be legislators, elec- brothers; one because, in spite of all his tors, and judges, all in one! But such a
abilities, he has made a ridiculous mar.
riage, (un mariage de carnival). union of powers is monstrous. They affect , forsooth, to consider themselves without my consent, to marry an Americas
other, because he took upon himnself, and as the guardians of the liberties of the
lady. If they agree to give up their wires, country; but what better guardian can
I shall give them back their political rights they have than the prince? Besides,
As to the husbands of my sisters, they should he choose to attack them, who could make head against him? The
can have no pretensious on this occasion. Senate are mightily mistaken if they pire in right of succession, but by the will
I do not come into possession of this em. faney they have any national or repres of the people; and I may call whom I sentative character. Their authority is
please to share fortunes with me.” one which emanates from the government, like the rest, and is constituted as The conclusive reasoning of the last they are. As a body, a certain degree of sentence contains, we repeat, the conpower is ascribed to them ; but as for the centrated essence of what is called demembers, considered individually, they mocracy: I have it by the will of the are nothing at all.
people, and I will do what I like with "• These pretensions,' he continued, it. So convenient is it for those who of the Senate, are merely old recoilec- desire arbitrary power, to receive it tions of the English Constitution; but unshackled by any ancient prescription,
two things can be more dissimilar and derived from an authority so unthan France and England. The French- limited in its extent as the sovereignty man lives under a clear sky, drinks a
of the people. brisk and joyous wine, and lives on food The institution of the trial by jury which keeps his senses in constant activity. found no great favour in Napoleoa's Your Englishman, on the other hand,
eyes. dwells on a damp soil, under a sun which is almost cold, swills beer or porter, and
«« « Juries,' he exclaimed, 'almost always demolishes a quantity of butter and cheese, let off the guilty. Even the English admit (consomme beaucoup de laitages). Ac- this; and, if they still continue the system, cordingly, the blood of the people not
it is less for judicial than political purposes being composed of the same elements, for they consider it a guarantee against their characters are unlike. The French the power of the crown. But is it to be man is vain, giddy, bold, and, above all supposed that a tyrant will have less power things on earth, food of equality: and thus of influencing a jury than he has of influ. we have seen them at all periods of their encing judges for life? What signifies, history declaring war against the distinc. at this hour of the day, the question of its tions of rank and fortune. The other, the original intention? Is it not a double Englishman, is rather proud thau vain; function, since the power of pardon given he is naturally grave, and does not trouble to the Sovereign enables bim to soften himself with petty distinctions, but attacks the too great rigour of the laws in certain serious abuses. He is far more solicitous to maintain his own rights than to invade
And lawyers were not much better those of others. An Englishman is at
liked : once haughty and humble, independent and submissive. What folly, then, to
“ On this occasion, Napoleon comdream of giving the same institutions to plained bitterly of the conduct of the two such different people! Moreover, I lawyers of Paris. One of these gentle. should like to ask who is to protect the
men,' said he, had the temerity, during French Chambers against a prince who the trial of Moreau, to pronounce a public has at his dieposal an army of four hun. eulogium on the Count d'Artois; and dred thousand men, whom the geogra.
another, who was engaged to go to Lyons phical situation of the country renders it
to defend a man who had killed a genalways necessary should be kept on darme employed to arrest him, actually foot ?'
preached up the doctrine of resistance to
authority! These lawyers are ever ready, Iu a debate on the propriety of ex he continued, “ to intermeddle with political cluding two of his brothers from the affairs—they attack, on all occasions, the succession, there is a most amusing law of divorce-and that of the national concentration of the spirit of what, in property. It is thus that they sap all
foundations of government. I shall for- unconsciously to warp the judgments of bid their pleading any where out of Paris this extraordinary mind. without permission from the grand judge —and that shall be granted only to those “ SITTING OF THE 7T4 FEBRUARY, 1804. who will not make a bad use of it. If – The fresh plots,' observed Napoleon, that is not found to answer, I shall find which have been discovered, render it still more effectual means of managing necessary that commissary generals of
lice be established at Lyons and other cities. There is some truth, and more
It is quite a mistake to suppose that the shrewdness, in the following remarks: quired on this occasion ; on the contrary,
intervention of the legislative body is re" There does not exist in the world,' I consider it quite out of their way to said he, on the 9th of January, 1808, attend to matters of police; taxation and single constitution which is acted up to. the formation of general laws for civil Every thing is in a state of change. The affairs are their topics. A single session government of England, for instance, has of a month or six weeks, once a year, is fallen into the hands of forty or fifty great quite enough for these purposes. Every families, who found no difficulty in giving thing relating to executive business, public the law to the House of Brunswick, who security, or police, is out of their beat; were strangers in the land; but that cannot and so are politics, both internal and exlast. In France, things are not a whit ternal. Indeed, the long residence of the more firmly established. A corporal might deputies in the country unfits them for take possession of the government at the these matters. moment of any crisis, for the constitution “« The government is no longer, as it used does not give the government power to be, an emanation of the legislative body, enough; and whenever the government with which it has now only remote relations. is feeble the army are the masters. It The legislative body is the guardian of the ought not, therefore, to be in the power public property; and, accordingly, their of the legislature to check the march of office is to see to the taxes. So long as they government by stopping the supplies. object to laws merely local, I shall let them The taxes, accordingly, when once fixed, pursue their own way; but if there should ought to be collected by simple decrees, grow up amongst them such an opposition for it is absurd to suppose that in the as might be strong enough to clog the interval between the sessions there shall
movements of government, I shall have not exist an authority to promulgate such recourse to the senate to prorogue them; laws as the circumstances of the period or change them; or dissolve them; and, may require.
The Court of Cassation in case of need, I shall appeal to the naconsiders my decrees as laws, and unless tion which is behind all these. Various it were so, there would be no government opinions will be expressed on this head, at all in the country.'
but I care not. Tomfoolery (la badauderie) In penal matters, his discriminating is the characteristic of the nation ever since judgment perceived the necessity of the days of the Gauls !"
“ At the sitting of the 29th of March, some dispensing power in the consti.
I can see no inconve
1806, he said : tution. * While men,” he said, “ have nience likely to arise from declaring the some bowels, the laws have none." The office of a legislator compatible with those maxim, however, is as old as the days of a judge and a magistrate. I should of Tarquin, or at least as those of Livy. When, on the expulsion of the kings the members of the judicial class should have
even say it is of public utility that many republican sternness of the supremacy seats in the legislature, in order that the of law succeeded to the more pliant government might not promulgate laws forms of monarchical administration, it inconsistent with the established juriswas felt at Rome that there was an prudence, which can never vary. inconvenience in having a tribunal • • I have no desire that such a legislawhere there was no dispensing power tive body shall be got up as shall require -a judge to whom no palliating cir- nothing at my hands; and care must be cumstances could be pleaded--and a taken not to render it weaker than it now sentence that could not vary with any is, otherwise it might be unable to serve changing modifications of guilt--"leges me. The legislative body ought to be res surde et immutabiles.”
composed of members who, after their
time of service expires, should be able to In the following remarks there is a maintain themselves on their fortunes, withstrange mixture of profound sagacity out having places given them. As things and political shrewdness, with an over are now arranged, there are sixty legis. wcening selfishness, which seems almost lators going out annually, whom one does