Previously, we set out the assumptions, now we turn to arguments or counter-arguments.
1: Napoleon Did not Remove the Revolution or Restore Enough.
Carl’s arguments can be simplified to the central complaint that Napoleon’s regime from 1800 did not completely restore or go back to the pre-1789 regime and is therefore not reactionary but liberal.
Napoleon did indeed receive an offer from Louis XVI’s younger brother to hand the country to him in return for any post in the government. Napoleon, however, told him that it would only happen over the bodies of “one-hundred thousand corpses”, which would, presumably, include Napoleon.
How long could Napoleon expect to live if he had tried to bring about such a thing?
Could Napoleon have simply turned the country over to the Royalists after 1800?
At the very least, the Bourbons would have had to have brought (bought?) an army and Napoleon would have had to restrain the French army and much of the populace – with force and violence.
If the army was the muscle, then who or what was going to muscle the muscle?
Would all the factions in the army obey a directive to let the Bourbons back in?
There had already been one coup, and its always possible there could be another.
Napoleon would have had to have first created a network of trusted people (from within his “trusted” circle) to open up diplomatic channels. Then, to crush any potential opposition he would have had to create a “secret police” within the already existing secret police to carry out this plot.
All it would take is one leak….
Is it not likely that a civil war would have been the result of attempting to restore the Bourbons?
If the attempt to restore the Bourbons went wrong it was also possible that the Jacobins could have returned to power. Such a return could have seen an even more ruthless and widespread purge of Royalists, Catholics and anyone else deemed undesirable.
The Undiscovered Jew claims that:
- Robespierre mused that at least 10 million French citizens out of a French population of 25 million would have to be executed to bring about his Utopia (Gentz)- we now know from the examples of Stalin and Mao that 10 million is just the opening bid.
In the year 1793 the thirst for destruction had gone so far, that it was at a loss for an object. The well known saying, that Robespierre meant to reduce the population of France by one half, had its foundation in the lively sense of the impossibility of satisfying the hitherto insatiate revolution, with any thing less, than such a hecatomb.
When there was nothing more left in the country to attack, the offensive frenzy turned itself against the neighbouring states, and finally declared war in solemn decrees against all civil society. It was certainly not the want of will in those, who then conducted this war, if Europe preserved any thing, besides “bread and iron.” Fortunately, no strength was great enough long to support such a will. The unavoidable exhaustion of the assailants, and not the power or the merit of the resistance made, saved society; and, finally, brought the work shops themselves, where the weapons for its destruction were forged, within its beneficent bonds again.
Undiscovered Jews, writing of Napoleon, claims that:
It was fortunate Napoleon turned out to be a White Tsar who disguised himself as a Red Tsar until his position was secure enough to overthrow the Directorate.
Undiscovered Jew, quoting Prince Metternich (who we will see more of later) wrote the following about Napoleon and the Revolution:
In order to judge of this extraordinary man, we must follow him upon the grand theatre for which he was born. Fortune had no doubt done much for Napoleon; but by the force of his character, the activity and lucidity of his mind, and by his genius for the great combinations of military science, he had risen to the level of the position which she had destined for him. Having but one passion, that of power, he never lost either his time or his means on those objects which might have diverted him from his aim. Master of himself, he soon became master of men and events. In whatever time he had appeared he would have played a prominent part. But the epoch when he first entered on his career was particularly fitted to facilitate his elevation. Surrounded by individuals who, in the midst of a world in ruins, walked at random without any fixed guidance, given up to all kinds of ambition and greed, he alone was able to form a plan, hold it fast, and conduct it to its conclusion. It was in the course of the second campaign in Italy that he conceived the one which was to carry him to the summit of power. ‘ When I was young,’ he said to me ; ‘ I was revolutionary from ignorance and ambition. At the age of reason, I have followed its counsels and my own instinct, and I crushed the Revolution.’
Why risk another Revolution?
Did the Revolution not show that the Bourbons had lost the mandate of heaven?
By what right does a man have the right to be a king?
Through Wagrams, Austerlitzes; triumph after triumph,—he triumphed so far. There was an eye to see in this man, a soul to dare and do. He rose naturally to be the King. All men saw that he was such.
“He rose naturally to be the King.”
In other words, he became worthy and he accepted power. Why should Napoleon have given up power then?
All in all, even if he wanted to, it does not seem possible that he could have.
This is one of our central points which is that one must actually confront the difficulties – political, economic, strategic and moral – of coming to power and ruling over an unstable country that could explode at any movement.
In short, every one of your choices entails violence and death to someone and unforeseen suffering and death as well, including, perhaps, for yourself.
You can try this thought experiment yourself:
Suppose you have the power to re-structure USG – but your power is constrained because of all the deals, trade-offs, alliances you made; there are various powerful interests that will not compromise on certain points; there is pressure over the need to deliver concrete results quickly and there are wars to be fought – the sharks are circling and the wolves are at the door, time is running out.
If you accept this reality, then the goal would be to achieve the best deal possible.
That is the framework to evaluate the reforms and Napoleon’s actions from 1800 to 1804.
Are his actions consistent with reactionary or liberal values, given the constraints he faced?
(In part 3, we address this question specifically.)
2: The Assassination of the Duke of Enghien.
Carl begins his essay with the kidnap and execution of the Duke of Enghien.
The duke was falsely accused of plotting against Napoleon and in return Napoleon ordered a kind of 19th century version of a “drone strike”.
At least the Duke had a trial.
It was mistake, but was it a crime?
We will look at war and law below; for now let’s just say that Napoleon had faced Royalist plotters and assassins before, so what comes around goes around.
Carl makes a number of complaints over Napoleon’s support for equality.
Carl, however, fails to distinguish between formal and substantive equality and between Napoleon’s Machiavellian formal commitment to equality and Napoleon’s real commitment to hierarchy and the natural order.
Napoleon’s regime maintained the form but changed the substance – which is the point that Fritz made.
Firstly, what is the problem with equality before the law?
Secondly, equality before the law is perfectly consistent with a regime that endorses hierarchy and aristocracy.
Thirdly, Carl’s complaint that Napoleon created the Legion d’honneur for utilitarian reasons, as opposed to “sacralised” reasons, misses the point entirely.
The point is that this is exactly what you do – secure your power. Security of power is the necessary pre-condition of a secure and stable state.
Frank McLynn outlines Napoleon’s Machiavellian rationale and the fact that the Legion contradicted the principles of the Revolution:
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 Legion: simple members, officers, 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.
Would a King of France not want to do the same thing if he could?
Well, consider the following, from Mesquita’s the Dictator’s Handbook:
Consider France’s Louis XIV (1638–1715). Known as the Sun King, Louis reigned as monarch for over seventy years, presiding over the expansion of France and the creation of the modern political state. Under Louis, France became the dominant power in Continental Europe and a major competitor in the colonization of the Americas. He and his inner circle invented a code of law that helped shape the Napoleonic code and that forms the basis of French law to this day. He modernized the military, forming a professional standing army that became a role model for the rest of Europe and, indeed, the world. He was certainly one of the preeminent rulers of his or any time. But he didn’t do it alone.
After the death of his father, Louis XIII (1601–1643), Louis rose to the throne when he was but four years old. During the early years actual power resided in the hands of a regent —his mother. Her inner circle helped themselves to France’s wealth, stripping the cupboard bare. By the time Louis assumed actual control over the government in 1661, at the age of twenty-three, the state over which he reigned was nearly bankrupt. While most of us think of a state’s bankruptcy as a financial crisis, looking through the prism of political survival makes evident that it really amounts to a political crisis. When debt exceeds the ability to pay, the problem for a leader is not so much that good public works must be cut back, but rather that the incumbent doesn’t have the resources necessary to purchase political loyalty from key backers. Bad economic times in a democracy mean too little money to fund pork-barrel projects that buy political popularity. For kleptocrats it means passing up vast sums of money, and maybe even watching their secret bank accounts dwindle along with the loyalty of their underpaid henchmen.
The prospect of bankruptcy put Louis’s hold on power at risk because the old-guard aristocrats, including the generals and officers of the army, saw their sources of money and privilege drying up. Circumstances were ripe to prompt these politically crucial but fickle friends to seek someone better able to ensure their wealth and prestige. Faced with such a risk, Louis needed to make changes, or else risk losing his monarchy.
Louis’s specific circumstances called for altering the group of people who had the possibility of becoming members of his inner circle—that is, the group whose support guaranteed his continued dignity as king. He moved quickly to expand the opportunities (and for a few, the actual power) of new aristocrats, called the noblesse de robe. Together with his chancellor, Michel Le Tellier, he acted to create a professional, relatively meretricious army. In a radical departure from the practice observed by just about all of his neighboring monarchs, Louis opened the doors to officer ranks—even at the highest levels—to make room for many more than the traditional old-guard military aristocrats, the noblesse d’épée.
In so doing, Louis was converting his army into a more accessible, politically and militarily competitive organization.
Meanwhile, Louis had to do something about the old aristocracy. He was deeply aware of their earlier disloyalty as instigators and backers of the antimonarchy Fronde (a mix of revolution and civil war) at the time of his regency. To neutralize the old aristocracy’s potential threat, he attached them—literally—to his court, compelling them to be physically present in Versailles much of the time. This meant that their prospects of income from the crown depended on how well favored they were by the king. That, of course, depended on how well they served him.
By elevating so many newcomers, Louis had created a new class of people who were beholden to him. In the process, he was centralizing his own authority more fully and enhancing his ability to enforce his views at the cost of many of the court’s old aristocrats.
Thus he erected a system of “absolute” control whose success depended on the loyalty of the military, the new aristocrats, and on tying the hands of the old aristocrats so that their welfare translated directly into his welfare.
The French populace in general did not figure much into Louis’s calculations of who needed to be paid off—they did not represent an imminent threat to him.
Now, the regime of pre-1789 appears very “de-sacralised” and “utilitarian”.
A Machiavellian, however, would expect nothing less, because politics is about gaining and maintaining power.
This is exactly what we mean by “imperial mind-set” and the essence of politics.
Once political power is secure, then politics is finished; when politics is finished, governance can begin.
One final point, Carl claims that Napoleon during the “100 days” showed his liberal or Revolutionary nature because of the volunteer troops and clubs that “sprang up” in his defence. Carl:
The most striking phenomenon of the Hundred Days were the fédérés, the various brigands, volunteer troops and clubs that were formed to serve the Bonapartist cause.
These groups, so he claims, via the endorsement of one professor Alexander, were explicitly “Revolutionary.”
We have two replies to this claim.
Firstly, an unsecure power, which Napoleon was at that time, will necessarily make use of proxies to secure power. Such use says nothing about formal goals. However, since Napoleon was once a secure power and used that power for reactionary ends (which we will set out in the next part or see here); thus, his use of these brigades was strategic.
Secondly, and which supports our previous contention, Napoleon had the option to make use of the Jacobins. This he did not do, though it may have actually saved him. Apparently, Napoleon answered the “Jacobin proposition” with the following:
There can be nothing in common with the demoagoic principles of 1793 and the Monarchy, between clubs of madmen and a regular Ministry, between a Committee of Public Safety and an Emperor. If I fall, I must, I will not bequeath France to the Revolution from which I delivered her.
Even Napoleon had his limits then to the proxies he would make use of for power. (Unlike Mao.)
4: Two Universalisms or Christianity v Progressivism.
Carl assumes that Christianity is good and Progressivism is bad.
For example, his final bon mot is that Napoleon emancipated the Jews.
One reply we would make is that while Napoleon emancipated the Jews, Christianity emancipated Humanity. Christian ethics then provides one more reason to abolish borders, nations and people – because all humans are equal and God did not create borders.
What, after all, does Catholic mean?
It means universal.
As Carl surely understands, the ideological origins of equality, democracy, progress, feminism etc., is Christianity.
One can go further and mount a novel critique within neoreaction that Christianity itself, and later the Catholic Church, is the ideological and structural origin of the West’s fundamental embrace of Imperium in Imperio (State within a State).
Christianity, for instance, consists of a number of dualisms. The following are not exhaustive:
1: Church and State.
2: Man and God.
3: Matter and Spirit.
4: God and the Devil.
5: Believer and Non-believer.
6: Heaven and Earth.
7: Man-made law and divine law.
Thus, for more than two-thousand years, division, contradiction, incoherence and conflict have been built into Western civilization. Christianity is certainly not necessary for Imperium in Imperio, but the existence of two authorities – Crown and Faith – means that both will be locked in a permanent power struggle, until one dominates or destroys the other.
Napoleon’s concordat with the Church was a bold gamble therefore; one taken in the teeth of concerted opposition; opposition, not only from chatterboxes of France’s Cathedral, but also, importantly, the army; however, in the end, the logic of the Imperium in Imperio compelled Napoleon to corral the Church and kidnap the Pope.
If you’re a Catholic, this is surely horrifying.
If you’re a Machiavellian, this is just the way things are.
To provide an illustration of the nature of politics, in contrast to the nature of religion – such as Christianity – let’s examine who was, perhaps, the most important person for the success of Christianity: Constantine the Great.
5: Constantine the Caudillo.
The logic of Unsecure Elite Action compels competing players and the various power centers to degrade, diminish, destroy and dominate each other.
Carl describes Napoleon as a “Caudillo” who interfered with the Church.
Napoleon did nothing fundamentally different (in fact, he did a great deal less) than Constantine the Caudillo himself.
The reason Christianity triumphed in the West was because Constantine selected it due to Roman political and military struggles that resulted from Imperium in Imperio. This is not surprising, of course, if one works within the assumptions of the Patron Theory of Politics – Power selects what is useful for power.
John Carroll describes pre-Christian Rome in Constantine’s Sword as:
“… a period of civil war, barbarian invasion, and general social breakdown throughout the empire, as chaos mounted, so did the power of the military, which successfully asserted authority over the Ronan Senate, and even over the seat of the emperors, who came went so quickly….Rebellious generals and self-anointed general-emperors became features of the time, militarization eclipsed all other aspects of Roman culture. Intellectual life collapsed and the skills of classical art were lost.” p.165
“But the night before the battle at the Milvian Bridge, on the Tiber, Constantine saw a cross in the sky, above the legend In Hoc Signo Vinces (“In This Sign, Conquer”). With the news of this vision, a signal of favour from the Christian God, Constantine’s troops rallied, went firmly into battle the next day, and won.” p.171
“…conversion to a despised religion on the eve of battle might be considered supernaturally motivated maverick politics on Constantine’s part, there are compelling reasons to think it would have been infinitely shrewd. ….. it seems clear that a that a true state of Christian dispossession played a part in shaping his strategy in 312. If Constantine was to succeed in imposing authority on a restless Roman populace whose loyalties were divided among contending tetrarchs, he needed a political base within the city. His arrival behind the standard of Christ would have instantly given him one – among Christians. They were a minority, but a well-organised one and no claimant had the allegiance of a majority.” p.182
Patrons need clients for political power.
“…for Constantine, within the culture he was trying to make his own, which was the Church. Thus, while he was ordaining tolerance among religions, he was preparing to abolish tolerance within Christianity.” p. 184
“….It was not the result of mystical vision or supernatural intervention, for Constantine’s pragmatic alliance with Christian groups in various contested locations was really what had proved decisive. Christians had faithfully rallied to him, and mad the difference. And he could see that his allegiance to Christ would continue to be useful as he set out to consolidate his power Asian Minor, the Levant, and Africa….” p.186
Patron-client relationships are the driver of history.
“….the first law of exclusion: you can’t say who is out unless you can say what it is to be in….
….Heresy….was first defined not by the Lord………..nor by apostles……….nor by the bishops…………nor by theologians……….nor by preachers………….but by an all-conquering emperor for whom one empire had come to equal one religion.
Thus, the now absolute and sole Caesar, demonstrating an authority no one had ever exercised before, summoned the bishops of the Church to a meeting over which he himself would preside……….This meeting was the Council of Nicea………….the bishops did, in fact, agree to a formulaic statement of belief, defining especially, and in explicit terms, how Jesus is God they did so unanimously – well, almost unanimously. Those who dissented were exiled by Constantine.” p.189
“ …this primal Christian myth of the cross has its origin not only in Constantine’s own words but in his words spoken at Nicaea, meant to advance a political agenda.” p.192
“ his vision of the cross as a foundational myth of the church-state and state-church reveals a kind of imaginative genius. The cross and the creed together unified the Church. It seems at first only a nice coincidence, a soldier that we was, the cross so well lent itself to construction as a spear…..” p.194
Constantine’s Sword. James Carroll.
Napoleon would have approved of Constantine’s Machiavellianism completely, for he once claimed the following:
“I would found a religion, I saw myself marching to Asia, mounted on an elephant, a turban on my head, and in my hand a new Koran that I would have composed to suit my needs.”
Napoleon was not the first, nor the last leader that has brushed up against the Church.
6: Government as a Charity – a Case of Conceptual Confusion.
Carl is confused about the very nature of politics. Politics, the state and the art of governing is not, as he seems to think, a charitable enterprise.
Carl provides the following exhortation (which is brilliant example of what we mean by government as a “charity” administered by “priests”) from judge, priest and chancellor of Exeter Cathedral, Henry of Bratton on the role of a ruler:
He is, rather, the vicar and minister of God on Earth, who must distinguish equity from iniquity, and be an exemplar of justice and the keeper of peace. The king’s will alone is not sufficient for an act to be de jure, with the deliberation and consultation of his magnates also being important. The title of rex is bestowed not upon simply reigning, but on ruling well through the precepts of natural and divine law. “Let him, therefore, temper his power by law, which is the bridle of power, that he may live according to the laws, for the law of mankind has decreed that his own laws bind the lawgiver,”
A priest would say that now, wouldn’t they?
Here is another priest – a priestess of power in fact – saying much the same thing in the same Universalist tradition:
In the ’90s, there was scant presidential leadership and insufficient domestic political mobilization for foreign policy grounded in human rights.
Priestess of Power:
American decision-makers must understand how damaging a foreign policy that privileges order and profit over justice really is in the long term.
The New Yorker on Power:
Power was best known for her book “ ‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide.” An indictment of what she called Washington’s “toleration of unspeakable atrocities, often committed in clear view,” it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. For her conviction that America has a responsibility to halt or prevent the suffering of civilians abroad, she had been caricatured as the Ivy League Joan of Arc.
These priests – Bracton and Power – of their respective Cathedrals claim to believe that the state is, essentially, a kind of church that does charity work.
The concept of Charity, in the Christian sense, when applied to the state is a double-barreled conceptual confusion.
Charity is voluntary but governing is necessary because war is forever.
Since war is forever, the state is forever.
The reality – political reality, the reality about the state – is that war made the state and the state made war.
Politics and the art of the state is not a moral enterprise, or, necessarily, an immoral one.
It is amoral.
Right and wrong do not enter into it.
As Prince Metternich wrote about Napoleon:
The question has often been asked, Whether Napoleon was radically good or bad? It has always seemed to me that these epithets, as they are generally understood, are not applicable to a character such as his. Constantly occupied with one sole object, given up day and night to the task of holding the helm of an empire which, by progressive encroachments, had finished by including the interests of a great part of Europe, he never recoiled from fear of the wounds he might cause, nor even from the immense amount of individual suffering inseparable from the execution of his projects.
Under normal conditions, after a final conference with Bacler d’Albe the Emperor retired to his camp bed about eight or nine o’clock to take four or five hours sleep, the faithful Roustam sleeping across his door. Even then, however, the harassed Household could hardly relax. At any moment an imperious voice might be heard calling for a secretary or an aide to take dictation, and woe betide any individual who was away from his post, even momentarily, when the Imperial summons came at any hour of day or night. Nervous breakdowns were not unknown phenomena among the personnel of the Imperial entourage; the strain of serving a genius was both exacting and ceaseless.
The Campaigns of Napoleon. David Chandler.
Napoleon was the man! Always illuminated, always clear and decided, and endowed at every hour with energy enough to carry out whatever he considered necessary. His life was the stride of a demigod, from battle to battle, and from victory to victory. It might well be said that he was in a state of continual illumination. On this account, his destiny was more brilliant than any the world had seen before him, or perhaps will ever see after him . . . that was a fellow we cannot imitate!
If morality is a system of constraints that attempt to prevent bad things from happening, then war has no such constraints. War brings peace and it is peace that creates the conditions for moral constraints to be placed upon men once more.
Politics is the grey-area between war and law, where the “rules of the road” are unclear and are open to negotiation, bargaining, persuasion and coercion.
Politics and war are inseparable and in war the law is silent.
The state – with all its vast bureaucratic apparatus – emerged from the need to wage war; the state, therefore, is a social technology – an artificial, organised intelligence that, once up and about has its own needs, its own incentives, its own desires and pursues these desires without restraint.
Consider that today, some intellectuals worry about Artificial Intelligence. They worry that an AI may break its chains and enslave the entire human race and command and control every human to ends that the AI chooses.
But AI was invented long ago. When the state came into existence an Artificial Monster was born.
The state is a predator and USG is the planet’s Apex Predator.
Carl is quite correct to complain about the fact that in a modern state, everyone is a slave:
To say that a citizen is the property of his country is to say that he is a bondsman to some entity called a “country,” which is rather nebulous to begin with as opposed to a living personal vicar who embodies the continuity and force of law. It’s even worse because Napoleon’s quote references equality, making the entire country a plantation of slaves without owners. Actually not a bad metaphor for republicanism, come to think of it.
There are only two responses to this awful truth.
The first response is, essentially, that of Buddha and Jesus – renounce and then retreat from the material world into the spiritual and live a life of contemplation, cooperation and charity.
In other words, run for your life.
Render unto God what is God’s – your soul. (The religious life.)
Render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s – your body, your brains and your balls. (The political life).
Charity is voluntary because you have free-will and elect to perform an act of charity by denoting money, time or materials to someone or some group in need.
Government is involuntary because the state not only has the power but exercises it without conscience to command and control whatever resources it wants, including every aspect of human life.
Giving is good – for the individual.
Taking is necessary – for the state.
You have the right (right?) to refuse charity – there is no compulsion to give to charity.
You have no right to disobey the state.
Can anyone refuse the benefits of the state? Can anyone refuse to pay for goods and services they do not want? No.
The second response to the truth about the state is to recognize, accept and embrace this truth.
Both the spiritual and political view of life understands and accepts that humans are ignorant, vain, ambitious, lazy, short-signed, envious and murderous.
The diagnosis is fundamentally the same, but the remedies offered differ radically.
The spiritual world is about self-mastery.
The political world is about the mastery of others.
For men in the arena, political man must be mastered like the France of the Revolution needed to be mastered.
Only a certain type of men, with a certain type of psychology, is capable of mastering the masses of men.
Men like Napoleon.
In politics you can have either the anarchy of wolves or the tyranny of the lion.
France had wolves, and then it had a lion.
The choice is always choosing the lesser of the two evils.
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.
We still have not established if Napoleon should be considered a reactionary or that he is even worth studying. The chief purpose of the counter-arguments developed here are intended to show the real nature of the state and the real nature of politics and that Napoleon was a master practitioner of politics.