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Unformatted text preview: NAPOLEON BONAPARTE AND THE LEGACY OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French Revolution MARTYN LYONS Macmillan Education ISBN 978-0-333-57291-7 DOI 10.1007/978-1-349-23436-3 ISBN 978-1-349-23436-3 (eBook) © Martyn Lyons 1994 Softcover reprint ofthe hardcover 1st edition 1994 All rights rese~ed. For information, write: Scholarly and Reference Division, St. Martin's Press, Inc., 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y lOOlO First published in the United States of America in 1994 ISBN 978-0-312-12122-8 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-312-12123-5 (paper) Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lyons, Martyn. Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French Revolution / Martyn Lyons. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-312-12122-8 (cloth) - ISBN 978-0-312-12123-5 (paper) 1. Napoleon I, Emperor ofthe French, 1769-1821. 2. France-History-Revolution, 1789-1799-lnfluence. 3. France-History-Consulate and Empire, 1799-1815. 4. Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815. I. Title. DC201.L96 1994 944.05'092-dc20 93-44280 CIP Without power, ideals cannot be realised; with power, they rarely survive Fidel Castro My wife and I, we have the Emperor in our guts A distillery worker in Provence, 1822 Contents List of Plates VIU List of Maps IX List ofFigures and Tables X List ofDocuments Xl Abbreviations XU The Revolutionary Calendar Xlll Acknowledgements XIV 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Introduction Bonaparte the Jacobin Bonaparte the Republican The Coup of Brumaire France in 1800 Republic of Notables: The Constitution of the Year 8 The Concordat Law Codes and Lycees Dictatorship by Plebiscite Opposition: The Politics of Nostalgia The Empire in the Village "Masses of Granite": The Sociology of an Elite Art, Propaganda and the Cult of Personality The Unsheathed Sword, 1: War and International Relations, 1800-10 The Unsheathed Sword, 2: Britain, Spain, Russia The Napoleonic Revolution in Europe The Napoleonic Empire: Collaboration and Resistance The Economy at War Deb.1cle and Resurrection, 1813-15: Napoleon the Liberal Conclusion 1 5 15 29 43 60 77 94 III 129 142 160 178 195 213 229 244 260 278 294 Notes 301 Further Reading 330 Index 334 VII List of Plates 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Cradle of the King of Rome, 1811 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) The Intervention of the Sabine Women, 1796-9: J.-L. David (Paris, Musee du Louvre) Study for Bonaparte on the Bridge at Arcole, 1796: AJ. Gros (Paris, Musee du Louvre) Bonaparte Visiting the Victims of the Plague at Jaffa, 1804: AJ. Gros (Paris, Musee du Louvre) Napoleon at the Battle ofEylau, 1807: AJ. Gros (Paris, Musee du Louvre) Bonaparte Crossing the Great St Bernard, 1801-2: J.-L. David (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) Coronation of Napoleon I, 1806-7:J.-L. David (Paris, Musee du Louvre) Coronation of Napoleon (detail):J.-L. David (Paris, Musee du Louvre) The Emperor in his Study in the Tuileries, 1812: J.-L. David (Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art) Vlll List of Maps 2.1 3.1 3.2 9.1 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 19.1 Corsica and its Neighbours in the Eighteenth Century Italy on the Eve of the Revolutionary Wars The Egyptian Campaign Abstention Rate in Napoleonic Plebiscites Europe at the Peace of Luneville, 1801 Europe in 1806, after the Treaty of Press burg Europe after the Treaty of Tilsit, 1807 The French Empire in 1812 Europe after the Congress of Vienna, 1815 IX 8 17 27 115 201 202 209 210 282 List ofFigures and Tables Figures 2.1 5.1 5.2 6.1 8.1 15.1 The Bonaparte Family Tree Marriage Rate in France, 1801-25 Birth Rate in France 1801-25 The French Government under the Constitution of the Year 8 Divorces Decreed in Rouen, 1792-1816 British Exports in the Continental Blockade 7 48 48 62 101 218 Tables 6.1 9.1 9.2 9.3 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 14.1 14.2 17.1 Votes in Approval of Revolutionary Constitutions Plebiscites of the Consulate and Empire Voting in Toulouse, 1793-1815 Official Reasons for Prohibition or Modification of Sampled Censorship Cases, 1799-1830 Socia-professional Status of the Notables in 1810 Napoleon's Marshals and their Social Origins Social Origins of Napoleon's Prefects Grand Dignitaries of the Empire, est. 1808 The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars Main French Victories and Defeats A Provincial Labourer's Wages, 1790-1819 x 72 113 115 122 162 168 170 174 211 212 261 List of Documents 3.1 6.1 6.2 7.1 9.1 9.2 11.1 13.1 13.2 15.1 17.1 19.1 Bonaparte's Policy in Egypt Lucien Bonaparte, Minister of the Interior, Explains the Mission of the Prefects in 1800 The Restoration of Order, 1800-1 Religious Conflicts after the Concordat Instructions to Censors, 1812 A Censor's Report Lamartine Recalls his Childhood The Disaster in Russia, 1812 Le Roi d 'Yvetot by Beranger A Spanish Catechism The Problem of Food Supplies The Betrayal of the Generals Xl 25 70 75 90 123 125 153 180 184 221 262 283 Abbreviations PCRE American Historical Review Annates du Midi Annates - economies, societes, civilisations Annates historiques de la Revolution fran{:aise Tulard, Jean, Dictionnaire Napolion (Paris: Fayard 1987) French Historical Studies Journal of Modern History Past and Present Soboul, A. et al., Les Pays sous Domination franr;aise, 1799-1814 (Paris: Centre de documentation universitaire, 1968) Proceedings of the Consortium on Revolutionary Europe, RE RH Rhmc Revue economique Revue historique Revue d 'histoire moderne et contemporaine AmHistRev AM AESC AhRf DN FHS JMH P&P PSDF 1770-1850 xu The Revolutionary Calendar The revolutionary calendar was introduced by decree in October 1793, and remained officially in operation untion 1806. Every month had thirty days, and the new months were named as follows: Vendemaire Brumaire Frimaire Nivose Pluvi6se Vent6se Germinal Floreal Prairial Messidor Thermidor Fructidor 22 September-21 October 22 October-20 November 21 November-20 December 21 December-19 January 20 January-18 February 19 February-20 March 21 March-19 April 20 April-19 May 20 May-18June 19 June-18 July 19 July-17 August 18 August-16 September Year 1 of the Republic began retrospectively on 21 September 1792, in the Gregorian calendar, and Year 2 was the equivalent of Year 3 Year 4 YearS Year 6 Year 7 Year 8 Year 9 Year 10 Year 11 Year 12 Year 13 Year 14 22 September 1793-21 September 1794 22 Sepember 1794-21 September 179S 22 Sepember 179S-21 September 1796 22 Sepember 1796-21 September 1797 22 Sepember 1797-21 September 1798 22 Sepember 1798-21 September 1799 22 Sepember 1799-21 September 1800 22 Sepember 1800-21 September 1801 22 Sepember 1801-21 September 1802 22 Sepember 1802-21 September 1803 22 Sepember 1803-21 September 1804 22 Sepember 1804-21 September 180S 22 Sepember 180S-21 September 1806 Xlll Acknowledgements The author and publishers are grateful for permission to reproduce copyright material for the following: Armand Colin Editeur for diagrams from "Mariages et Naissances sous Ie Consulat et l'Empire" by A. Armengaud in the journal Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine (vol. 17, 1970). Constable Publishers for a map from Pasquale Paoli: An Enlightened Hero by Peter Adam Thrasher. Cambridge University Press for maps from France under the Directory by Martyn Lyons. Hachette for maps copied from La Revolution, 1770-1880, by Fralll;:ois Furet, © Hachette, 1988. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. for a table from The Napoleonic Revolution by Robert B. Holtman. Text Copyright © 1967 by Robert B. Holtman. Maps and charts copyright © 1967 by J.P. Lippincott Company. Reprinted by permission. Librairie Droz SA for a map from Le Plebiscite des CentJours, 1815 by F. Bluche. Oxford University Press for a diagram from Family Breakdown in late 18th Century France: Divorces in Rouen, 1792-1803 (1980) by Roderick Phillips. Every effort has been made to contact all the copyright-holders, but if any have been inadvertently omitted the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangement at the earliest opportunity. XIV 1 Introduction Napoleon Bonaparte, for his enemies and admirers, was the "Ogre", the Corsican brigand, the man of destiny, a new Attila, a latter-day Nero, a Prometheus chained to his rock by the mean-spirited British. It has apparently been impossible to discuss Bonaparte without squandering superlatives or attributing diabolical or mythical dimensions to the man. British cartoonists knew him more candidly as "Boney", although later in the Empire, when older and more corpulent, he became "Fleshy".! For most commentators, traditional historians and novelists, the personality of Bonaparte dominates a twenty-year period of European and even world history. In the light of the mass of histories, biographies and Bonapartiana in print since 1815, it seems slightly ridiculous to claim that the Napoleonic era has suffered from neglect. The trouble is that so much writing about the Napoleonic era has focused solely on Bonaparte himself, and sometimes solely on the trivial details of his life and death. This tradition, which the French call "la petite histoire", usually fails to illuminate Bonaparte's historical context and overall historical significance. This is a historical tradition obsessed with such items as his sexuallife (did he really love Josephine? was he impotent? did he have an incestuous relationship with his sister Pauline?2), or the contents of his stomach (did the British poison him with arsenic on St Helena?). To satisfy the curious and clear the decks, let me attempt to dispel a few myths. Napoleon was indeed in love with Josephine, although he later regarded this as a youthful aberration, and it is very doubtful whether his passion was reciprocated. He was not impotent, judging by the son he had with his mistress Eleonore Denuelle, and the son he had with Marie Walewska in 1810, not to mention the unfortunate King of Rome, born to the Empress Marie-Louise in 1811 (Plate 1). He was a short man, even by the standards of the day, measuring 5 ft 2 in. in his later years. 3 He was born under the sign of Leo, and his favourite foods were beans and lentils. He was not left-handed. He was not an epileptic. His stomach did contain arsenic, although it had most probably been taken deliberately for medicinal purposes. He died of a stomach cancer, which was probably linked to an ulcer.4 1 2 NAPOLEON BONAPARTE My intention in this book is not to retell Bonaparte's life, or to rehearse the battles he fought, which have been thoroughly analysed by military historians far more competent than I am in the matter. The aim of this book is to examine the importance of the Napoleonic period for the social, economic, political and cultural history of France. Since French conquests made the period a formative one for Italy and Germany, too, its impact on Europe as a whole will be assessed in later chapters. The reader should therefore expect neither an exercise in hagiography nor a treatise on the history of warfare. My subject is rather the transformation of post-revolutionary French society and of the French state. The Napoleonic era straddles two centuries. It must be understood in the context of what went before it and also with reference to what followed. Thus the main theme of this study is Bonaparte's connection with the French Revolution. How far Bonaparte squandered his revolutionary inheritance and how far he strengthened the legacy of the Revolution, are questions which historians will continue to debate. This book will emphasise Napoleon's role as the heir and executor of the French Revolution rather than his role as the liquidator of revolutionary ideals. Napoleon will be discussed as a part of the Revolution, preserving its social gains and consecrating the triumph of the bourgeoisie. Historians will also continue to argue about the question: when did the French Revolution end? It went on for another hundred years, some respond, although I am not sure if this answer is a genuine attempt to illuminate the history of the nineteenth century, or just a way of avoiding the question. The French Revolution ended for some in 1794 when the revolutionary terror effectively ended, which implies a Robespierrist interpretation of events (when Robespierre fell, it assumes, the Revolution was over). For others, the Revolution ended when Bonaparte seized power in the Coup of Brumaire Year 8 - an interpretation which sees the Napoleonic period as totally reactionary. Perhaps it ended in 1815, when the Bourbon monarchy was definitively restored - an interpretation which locates the entire Napoleonic saga firmly within the history of the French Revolution. Perhaps, this book will suggest, a case can be made for a closing date somewhere in between, such as 1804, when Napoleon was crowned hereditary Emperor, or 1808, when he created the new imperial nobility, or 1812, when the absurd logic of the war pushed the French army to its destruction in the depths of Russia. Every date implies a particular interpretation of the Revolution and of Napoleon. Every attempt INTRODUCTION 3 at periodisation makes a statement about Napoleon Bonaparte's relationship with his revolutionary legacy. The nineteenth century must also be kept in mind, to assess how much of Napoleon's work in France and Europe endured after his fall from power. Napoleon's regime must ultimately be contrasted with the Bourbon Restoration, and not only with the First French Republic, if we are to see it in perspective against the backdrop of the revolutionary years. Bonapartism and not just Bonaparte must be considered as a political tradition with a long life ahead of it. Bonaparte was more than an individual, he also represented a political system based on a strong executive, seeking legitimacy in direct consultation with the electorate rather than in cooperation with its elected representatives. On the whole, then, I intend to steer away from a personal and heroic interpretation of the period. Great individuals only achieve historical significance within the broad historical movements and profound social changes of which they are the unconscious expression. This study will explore developments in French society, taking account of recent research into the social, demographic and economic life of the period. From this angle the Napoleonic period has perhaps suffered from neglect, particularly in Britain. With the exception of Geoffrey Ellis's excellent monograph on the Continental Blockade in Alsace, very little attention had been paid to the Consulate and Empire by British historians until the very recent work of Forrest and Broers. 5 French historical studies in Britain have deflected attention away from the Napoleonic era - the influence of Richard Cobb has much to answer for in this respect. There are several reasons for this neglect. The attractions of the anarchic tendencies of the French Revolution have little competition during a regime of order and stability. The historian of popular movements, moreover, has little scope for his or her talents in a period of relative prosperity and efficient political repression. Historians who, like some sans-culottes, have a visceral hatred of bureaucracy put themselves at a disadvantage when trying to come to terms with the workings of the Consular or Imperial administration. I do have a debt, however, to a multitude of researchers in the field. This is fully acknowledged in my footnotes but I must express my gratitude to a few colleagues in particular. First, any work like this which tries to incorporate the findings of research in the social history of the Empire is indebted to the work of Louis Bergeron. His work on the notables, economic life and social hierarchies have sparked a new 4 NAPOLEON BONAPARTE interest in the period. Second, I am grateful to Jean Tulard, whose encyclopaedic Dictionnaire Napolion is a fundamental tool of reference. Third, Stuart Woolfs recently published work and personal interest have greatly encouraged this enterprise. My linguistic range cannot match that of Professor Woolf. It will be clear that my knowledge of sources in English and French is supplemented only by occasional forays into the secondary literature in Italian and Spanish. Lastly, I should like to thank all past and present students of early modern Europe at the University of New South Wales. The difficult and unexpected questions they have posed over the years have shaped much of what follows; for the answers offered, however, I accept full responsibility. 2 Bonaparte the Jacobin Eighteenth-century Corsica was a wild, mountainous island inhabited by feuding clans, illiterate shepherds, and a succession of foreign garrisons. Its sparse population of about 120 000 lived mainly on what was produced by its own coastal farmers. Except for a few olives and chestnuts, and a little wine, Corsica's main exports were soldiers and sailors. Like Bonaparte, they sought their fortune outside the island in the armed forces of France, Genoa or Naples. There were few roads and no industry but an abundance of clerics. According to the English traveller Boswell, mid-century Corsica had no less than sixty-five convents of friars.l Kinship networks dominated social and political life. They demanded absolute loyalty from relatives and clients, for whom they operated as sources of patronage and huge mutual aid societies. Although occupying forces might control the ports, real power in the interior tended to lie with local groups of brothers or cousins. In the hereditary vendetta, they exacted a brutal vengeance against their enemies, the sons of their enemies, and the sons of their enemies' sons. There was, however, another side of eighteenth-century Corsicaan enlightened and progressive side. For a short period in the 1750s and 1760s, Corsica was hailed as an exciting laboratory of enlightened legislation. The Genoese Republic had ruled Corsica for 400 years, exploiting the vendetta to turn clan against clan, in a classic divide-and-rule strategy. 2 In 1756, however, an insurrection led by Pasquale Paoli drove the Genoese from all their strongholds, except for that of the capital, Bastia. From his headquarters in Corte, in the interior, Paoli began to introduce a series of enlightened reforms. He reduced taxation, planned to build a fleet and inaugurated a university. He encouraged trade and agriculture. He tried to end the vendetta and even established a Constitution, but in deference to Corsica's clan structure Paoli only gave the vote to heads of families. 3 In all this, he kept the support of Corsica's fiercely patriotic clergy. For Jean:Jacques Rousseau, and other enthusiasts of enlightened reforms, Paoli's Corsica seemed an ideal arena in which to test the powers of reason. It was an old world, but 5 6 NAPOLEON BONAPARTE a simple and an unspoilt one, where virtue was still theoretically attainable. Corsica appeared uncontaminated by the sophistication and corruption of modernity. These two contradictory faces of Corsica were to reappear later in the career of Napoleon Bonaparte. On the one hand, there was his youthful advocacy of Rousseauism and of egalitarian ideas, followed by the enlightened and moderate rationalism of the Consulate. On the other hand, blood ties were strong in the Bonaparte family. Their influence was to envelop all Europe as, at the height of Empire, the clan and its clients appropriated all the foreign thrones within their grasp. Napoleon Bonaparte was a member of a large family from Ajaccio, on the west coast. He was the second surviving son of a family of eleven children, of whom three died in infancy. A large family, which could establish multiple connections and alliances by marriage, was a sign of wealth and power (Figure 2.1). Napoleon's father was a lawyer, comfortably well-off, at least by Corsican standards. 4 Bonaparte came to personifY the idea of careers open to talent and the new prospects for social advancement available in postrevolutionary society. Bonaparte himself, however, did not rise to fame from the humblest ...
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