Make Haste Slowly.

We are pleased to see “Boney” getting some recognition – even if it has not yet been fully digested (we will reply to this talented, but impudent, fellow shortly).

Mr Quaslacrimas has made some very insightful comments on the challenges of post-restoration politics. Mr Quaslacrimas writes:

 However it may be, when the reactionaries are ready to act the “lost” property (recovery of which is a powerful motive to them) already has publicly recognized owners. In many cases these lands have accumulated in the hands of men of wealth and power. In other cases, to get them back would require confiscating a large part of the property of an entire class of men. In all cases, the difficulty of figuring out which émigré should recover what from whom represents a formidable barrier to any actual restoration of the confiscated property to its pre-revolutionary owners. To avoid the chaos and uncertainty of such a process, and even more importantly to win the support of the power-brokers of the revolutionary regime (and the acquiescence of its former foot soldiers), the ruler who restores order typically recognizes some or all of the revolutionary property-transfers. To keep the loyalty of the enemies of the revolution (or to gain it), he offers only compensation — typically, the tyranny of finance ministers being what it is, partial compensation.” (Underline mine.)


Mr Quaslacrimas:

This arrangement facilitates the restoration immensely: the ruler who “ends the revolution” can purchase the support of most of the (important) remaining revolutionaries and most of the enemies of the revolution while only meeting part of the demands of each.” (Underline mine.)


What follows is a great discussion of the need to balance competing interests, which we recommend reading. He ends with this conclusion:

There are many lessons you could draw from these dynamics. I will only make one very modest point: post-revolutionary settlements tend to be driven by two factors (the need to compensate émigrés without alienating existing stakeholders, and the corresponding desire for an apolitical civil service) which are irrelevant today. Today, reactionaries have no concrete reparations-bill drawn up, and consider the technocratic state itself to be their most powerful enemy and their chief target. (Underline mine.)

Good Good. We have, however, a few caveats.

The “émigrés” of today are not physical but moral or spiritual “émigrés” – the Red State folks who are religious or otherwise. For these folks it is not so much the recovery of property, but the restoration of liberty – the removal of Procrustean legal restrictions and permitting private contract and voluntary association. With these liberties restored, dignity will also be restored with time.

Secondly, the point about the “technocratic state” is exactly right.

If the technocratic state is the “blue pill” of blue America, then what is the “red pill” for a restorationist America?

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the pill that must be taken.

Napoleon’s path to political mastery – from Coup leader to First Consul to Emperor – followed the same strategic design that he used on the battlefield.

The following is from David Chandler’s Campaigns of Napoleon:

Napoleon’s ideal combination of these two apparently conflicting factors was “a well-reasoned and circumspect defensive followed by a rapid and audacious attack” 23— that is to say, he preferred to attack from a strong position or “center of operations,” with the knowledge that his communications were secure after allowing just sufficient time to elapse for the enemy to reveal his broad intentions, and at the same time the errors of his dispositions and calculations. (Underline mine.)

Chandler, David G.. The Campaigns of Napoleon (Kindle Locations 3240-3241). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

This strategy was replicated on the operational level in war as well. Napoleon’s goal was always to crush the enemy army by defeating it in detail by either attacking from the rear (surprise) or by attacking from the flanks and “rolling” the army up (incoherence).

In battle, one of Napoleon’s Marshalls, with a fully self-sufficient unit, would “fix” an enemy army into place – the anvil. At the same time, Napoleon’s other Marshals move in to “close the net” – cutting off the enemies’ communications, supply line and re-enforcements. This would either force the enemy to stay and fight and thus be smashed or retreat – divide and conqueror, in other words.

Politically, Napoleon’s “centre of operations” was the army. His first problem was the “Jacobins” and the other leftists. He began by fixing them into position by drawing a line under the transfer of property. This in itself was insufficient but it was only to “fix”, remember.

Next, he allowed the émigrés to return – rushing in against what they thought would be an easy victory against “General Monk”. However, to their surprise, Napoleon turned their “flank” by making a deal with the Catholic Church and thus robbing the Royalists of their support from among the rural peasantry. This, as you see below, was very risky and it risked his support from among the Army. Napoleon here, as on the battlefield, took risks and put his “army” in “danger” by this manoeuvre – yet it worked. Finally, however, he rolled his enemies up with his creation of a Légion d’honneur and then making himself emperor. His victory was then followed up by “aggressive pursuit” of the fleeing enemy with a “cavalry” of legal and economic reforms (and military victories) that cemented his power, popularity and authority.

So, Napoleon reformed but he did not reform too much at once.  Below are extracts from Caesar Himself.

Part 2: Master of the Revolution:

August 29, 1823. — There was but one single man in France who understood how to master the Revolution, and that man was Bonaparte. The King’s Government inherited from him, not the Revolution, but the counter-Revolution….

Memoirs of Prince Metternich. Prince Metternich.

We have done with the romance of the Revolution,’ he told an early meeting of his Conseil État, ‘we must now commence its history.’ Napoleon gave the Conseil direction, purpose and the general lines of policy, which have been accurately summed up as ‘a love of authority, realism, contempt for privilege and abstract rights, scrupulous attention to detail and respect for an orderly social hierarchy.


Napoleon the Great. Andrew Roberts.

A third source of potential opposition was the Church. Bonaparte was well aware of the deep-seated conservatism of the French peasantry in religious matters and he set himself to harness this loyalty for his own benefit by seeking a reconciliation with the Papacy. “The people must have a religion,” he once remarked, “and that religion must be in the hands of the Government.

This was probably the boldest decision of his life and in some ways was one of the heaviest blows he aimed against the Revolutionary settlement. Republican sympathizers in the Council of Ministers, freethinkers in the Tribunate and, most significantly of all, the violently secular partisans in the army, all raised a storm of protest at the proposed Concordat, and Bonaparte was forced to see it through virtually singlehanded. Although the formal treaty was signed with the Papal envoys in July 1801, Bonaparte only dared publish the articles a year later, and even then the matter called for great personal courage and determination. The advantages, however, far outweighed the risks involved. At one blow, the First Consul knocked away one of the Royalists’ most effective propaganda weapons; henceforward the Bourbons could no longer be represented as the sole defenders of the Christian traditions of France. At the same time it assisted the pacification of La Vendée, and improved the Consulate’s relations with Catholic Belgium and Italy.

First Consul also made ruthless use of the executive clauses of the Organic Articles to remove Bourbonist bishops and to turn the ordinary clergy into State stipendiaries and educationalists; he was to find the pulpit a most useful means of disseminating propaganda to the peasantry in the years that followed.

Another source of difficulty in 1800 was the indifferent attitude of many of his senior servants and generals. The men at the top were clearly more concerned with assuring the continuation of their personal careers than in identifying themselves body and soul with their present leader. The preceding ten years had seen heads of government come and go, and many members of the upper-middle classes had become experts in survival after the manner of the Vicar of Bray. The problem of the “trimmers” in high places was tackled with customary Napoleonic zeal and cunning. Determined to make the most of the innate snobbery of the French bourgeoisie, the First Consul instituted an awards system in 1801, the first medals and titles of the Légion d’Honneur being distributed the following May. The proposal faced a new storm of protest from the legislative chambers on the grounds that it threatened to destroy the revolutionary principle of égalité, but the Government forced the measure through in the usual manner under the conviction that “it is with baubles that men are led.” Bonaparte was convinced that any society needs a definite social hierarchy to be truly prosperous and disciplined and he deliberately set out to re-create one in France, but the means to preferment was ability, not birth or station. The coveted white-enamel crosses on their strips of red ribbon proved a useful means of binding men to his service, although the returned aristocracy disdained the new decoration, considering it no substitute for the ancient Orders of St. Louis or St. Esprit. Striving to achieve a stratified French society, Napoleon went a stage further in 1804 when he created the beginnings of a new nobility; at first the greater number of titles were awarded to his family, court functionaries and a few soldiers of distinction, being used to supplement the creation of the Marshalate in the same year. Each of the eighteen marshals was eventually given the title of duke and a large grant of lands and hard cash to enable them to keep up the standards of their new stations in life.

This building of a new social élite undoubtedly represented a departure from the ideal of social equality enunciated by the leaders of the early Revolution….

The Campaigns of Napoleon. David Chandler.

Yet the sequel to the ‘infernal machine’ showed Napoleon for once outfoxing the fox. He was determined to use the occasion to purge the Left opposition and, despite reluctance from his colleagues, he forced through an extraordinary measure: 130 known republicans were dubbed ‘terrorist’ and proscribed without legal process. They were then either interned or sent to a slow “death in Guyana and Devil’s Island. An enraged Fouché took no more than a few days to bring Napoleon incontrovertible proof that the perpetrators of the ‘infernal machine’ were royalist, not republicans. Napoleon authorized the guillotining of the new batch of prisoners but did not free the deported Jacobins. His cunning emerges in the wording of the emergency decree, which condemned the 130 Jacobins in phrases which referred to the safety of the state in general, not to the Christmas Eve outrage.

Throughout the year 1800 Napoleon proved himself a master at navigating the political shoals, playing off one party against another, now appearing to incline to the Right, now to the Left. He leaked his correspondence with Louis XVIII to the Jacobins to show that he had no royalist sympathies, then purged the Jacobins to reassure the Right.

It will be clear enough from the foregoing that in no sense can Napoleon be considered an heir of the French Revolution and its principles. It is possible to see him as a man of the Revolution “only if one ignores the social and political tendencies of the early years 1789 – 93, to say nothing of the radical phase in 1793 – 94. Those who claim that Napoleon was in tune with Revolutionary principles are forced back on the absurd argument that the Revolution was really about returning to the status quo ante, before the legacy of the American war of 1775 – 83, which almost bankrupted France, forced Louis XVI to tamper with a fragile social fabric. On this view the Revolution was purely an economic and administrative transformation, and Jacobinism was simply the Revolution taking a wrong turning; equality and fraternity and all the rest of it was just so much hot air. Another influential view is that French history is a perennial quest for social order, which is why it is punctuated by bouts of absolutism and Caesarism; the obvious implication is that Napoleon was an organic growth but the Revolution was an aberration.

Napoleon himself always made his position crystal-clear to his intimates. He told them he became disenchanted with the Jacobins very early because they prized equality over liberty. He always favoured the old nobility over the Jacobins and, beyond France, his attempts to introduce even the most basic rights of the Revolution were spasmodic. Outside France, administrative positions in the conquered territories were invariably filled by nobles, which made it impossible to carry out radical agrarian reforms and in turn meant that the peasantry outside France was always lukewarm about him. His apologists say that he favoured the foreign nobility because of the poor level of education outside France, but the truth is that for Napoleon la carrière ouverte aux talents was largely a meaningless slogan. As he once told Molé explicitly, the ideas of 1789 were ‘nothing but weapons in the hands of malcontents, ambitious men and ideologues’.

Napoleon. Frank McLynn.

From 4: Master of Religion:

Anti-clericalism had been a driving force during the French Revolution, which had stripped the Catholic Church of its wealth, expelled and in many cases murdered its priests, and desecrated its altars. Yet Napoleon sensed that many among his natural supporters  conservative, rural, hard-working skilled labourers, artisans and smallholders – had not abjured the faith of their fathers and yearned for a settlement between the Roman Catholic Church and the Consulate they were growing to admire. Any settlement, however, would have to ensure that those who had acquired biens nationaux previously owned by the Church (known as acquéreurs) should be allowed to retain their property, and there could be no return to the old days when the peasantry were forced to pay tithes to the clergy.

…he had promised ‘to remove all obstacles in the way of a complete reconciliation between France and the head of the Church’.

There were to be new dioceses and parishes. Ten archbishops (each on a 15,000-franc annual salary) and fifty bishops (10,000 francs each) would be appointed by Napoleon and the Pope together; bishops would swear to do nothing to ‘disturb the public tranquillity’ and would communicate all information about those who did to the government; all divine services would include a prayer for the Republic and the consuls; although the bishops would appoint the parish priests, they couldn’t appoint anyone unacceptable to the government. The Concordat cemented the land transfers of the Revolution; all former Church property belonged to the acquéreurs ‘for ever’.

Napoleon made a number of concessions, none too onerous. The ten-day week was suppressed and Sunday was restored as the day of rest; the Gregorian calendar eventually returned in January 1806; children were to be given saints’ or classical rather than wholly secular or revolutionary names; salaries were paid to all clergy; orders of nuns and of missionaries were reintroduced in a minor way, and primary education was restored to the clergy’s remit.

Napoleon got what he wanted. With the end of the schism, no fewer than 10,000 Constitutional priests returned to the bosom of the Roman Church and one of the deepest wounds of the Revolution was healed.

The Concordat won Napoleon the soubriquet ‘Restorer of Religion’ from the clergy,

Napoleon the Great. Andrew Roberts.

From 5: Master of Law and Order:

The essence of the Code was its eclecticism and its clear intention to benefit the new bourgeoisie, the bulwark of Napoleon’s power. Essentially a compromise between old and new law, between the modalities of pre-1789 and the new circumstances and conceptions of the Revolution

It is sometimes said that the Code was progressive, but such a view does not survive a scrutiny of the various clauses. The propertyless emerged with very few rights at all. The Code proclaimed freedom of labour but did nothing whatever to safeguard workers’ rights; in any labour dispute the word of the employer was to be taken as gospel. Napoleon’s anti-worker stance was in any case overt. By decrees of 1803 and 1804 he placed all proletarians under police supervision, obliged them to carry identity cards, prohibited unions and strikes on pain of imprisonment and charged the Prefect of Police with the arbitrary settlement of wage disputes. Amazingly, in the years of his success Napoleon was not perceived as being anti-labour. The workers supported him because of his policy of low food prices – to ensure which he placed bakers and butchers under state control – and the rising wages caused by a revival of industry. His victories in the field attracted their workingclass chauvinism, so that the proletariat always listened to Bonapartist propaganda rather than the criticisms of the liberal opposition.

The most reactionary aspect of the Code, however, was its treatment of women. Until 1794 feminism and women’s rights enjoyed halcyon days: in September 1792 the revolutionaries enacted a law allowing divorce by mutual consent, with the unsurprising result that for the rest of the 1790s one in three French marriages ended in divorce. The Directory had attempted to reverse the progressive legislation of 1791 – 94, but the death blow to feminist aspirations was dealt by the Code Napoléon.

Some historians have even claimed that Napoleon devised his eponymous code as a kind of infrastructure for the future conquests he envisaged. Centralization and uniformity, after all, would be useful tools for crushing local and national customs. The cardinal purpose of the Code for Napoleon personally was the replacement of ancien régime inefficiency with a streamlined centralized bureaucracy whose main purpose would be raising troops and money. In the rest of Europe the Code could be used for putting Napoleon’s power and that of his vassals beyond dispute. The purpose of destroying feudal privileges was to place all property not entailed at the disposition of his vassal rulers. The hollowness of the Code would be seen later but even in 1802 – 04 Napoleon showed how little it meant, in his governance of Italy. There the estates of deposed princes, émigrés and the clergy provided a steady stream of money, but often the income was in the form of tithes and feudal benefits, officially outlawed by the Code. Where money collided with the Code, Napoleon ignored his own ‘masterpiece’ and took the money.

Napoleon. Frank McLynn.

From 9: Master of the Masses:

By 1804 Napoleon’s grip on France was complete. His power rested on a social basis of support from the peasantry and the upper bourgeoisie or ‘notables’. Normally a single socio-economic class forms the basis of a régime’s power, but the Napoleonic period was an era of transition, with the declining class (the aristocracy) too weak to dominate and the ascending class (the bourgeoisie) not yet quite strong enough. Napoleon held “the ring, so to speak, by a trans-class coalition of peasantry and bourgeoisie based ultimately on the sale of national property. Napoleon was not a man of the Revolution, but it was the economic upheaval of the Revolution that made his autocracy possible.

Yet unquestionably the greatest beneficiaries of the Napoleonic period were the moneyed élite, or upper bourgeoisie, who enjoyed continuous good fortunes from before 1789 to 1815. The big business people and bankers of the ancien régime were also the plutocrats of the Napoleonic empire. Behind them in economic fortunes, but still doing well, were the middle bourgeoisie from politics and administration and the new breed of post-Thermidor entrepreneurs, speculators in national property, colonial produce, assignats and military supplies; men from this stratum often ascended to the upper bourgeoisie through conspicuous success or intermarriage. In Napoleon’s time the foundations for a true bourgeois society, in which money rather than rank was the salient consideration, were laid, although in some ways, as will become clear, the Napoleonic system also acted as a bar on the development of a society dedicated to Mammon alone.

The key to Napoleon’s social and administrative system was the rule of the so-called ‘notables’. These, in a word, were the people in each Department who paid the highest taxes. Typically, the notables were landowners, rentiers and lawyers with an annual income of more than 5,000 francs from real estateFinanciers, merchants and manufacturers joined the ranks of the notables by investing in land their profits from colonial produce or those generated by the boom given industry by new continental outlets. A man who was one of the six hundred most highly taxed people in his Department had a chance of entering the electoral college in the principal towns or being appointed a Senator or Deputy to the Legislature. The amount of land-tax paid was the determinant of a notable, who was often in any case a highly paid official. It did not take much to reach the magic figure of 5,000 francs from real estate when lavish salaries were being paid to officialdom: a Councillor of State was on 25,000 francs a year plus perks, a Parisian prefect received an annual salary of 30,000 francs, a provincial prefect anywhere between 8 – 24,000, an inspector-general of “civil engineering 12,000 and a departmental head 6,000. Even the lower officials were in with a chance of ultimate distinction: a departmental deputy received an annual salary of 4,500, an ordinary solicitor or drafter of deeds 3,500 and a clerk 3,000.

Yet Napoleon was a clever politician who liked to camouflage and obfuscate what he was doing. The most consummate act of mystification was the introduction of the Legion of Honour, instituted on 19 May 1802. To offset his own imperial demeanour and the obvious dominance of the notables and upper bourgeoisie, Napoleon tried to pretend that he was still wedded to the Revolutionary ideal of meritocracy by seeming to introduce a parallel élite based on talent and achievement. There were to be four classes in the Legionsimple membersofficers, commanders and grand officers; the highest award was the Grand Eagle. Originally divided into sixteen cohorts with 408 award holders each, the Legion by 1808 contained 20,275 members.

Napoleon’s honours system was a great success, and there was keen competition for the familiar white enamel crosses on strips of red ribbon. Seeing in the Legion the germ of a new nobility “nobility, the returned émigrés hated and despised it, but they were not alone. The Legislature, packed with notables, absurdly opposed the Legion because it offended the principle of inequality; they saw no such offence in the glaring inequality of wealth and property of which they were the beneficiaries. It is a perennial peculiarity of societies to object to inequalities of race, sex, title, distinction and even intellect while remaining blithely untroubled about the most important form of inequality: the economic. A more telling criticism, which few made at the time, was that the honours system was overwhelmingly used to reward military achievement, usually to honour generals.

Napoleon. Frank McLynn.

From 10: Master Of France:

In less than fifteen weeks Napoleon had effectively ended the French Revolution, seen off the Abbé Sieyès, given France a new constitution, established her finances on a sound footing, muzzled the opposition press, started to end both rural brigandage and the long-running war in the Vendée, set up a Senate, Tribunate, Legislative.

A recent study of Rouen during the Consulate concluded that Napoleon’s most popular measures to have been the Concordat, the defeat of brigandage and the guaranteeing of the land-ownership rights of the acquéreurs, in that order.

Napoleon the Great. Andrew Roberts.

(Bold and underline mine.)

Next Article Will see STEEL-cameralism Compared to Steel Anarchism. 



3 thoughts on “Make Haste Slowly.

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