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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

Where Sieyes had only contrived wheels


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executive now claims a brief notice. The well-worn theory of the distinction of powers, that is, the legislative and executive powers, was maintained in Sieyes' plan. At the head of the Government the philosopher desired to enthrone an august personage, the Grand Elector, who was to be selected by the Senate. This Grand Elector was to nominate two Consuls, one for peace, the other for war; they were to nominate the Ministers of State, who in their turn selected the agents of power from the list of Notabilities of the Nation. The two Consuls and their Ministers administered the executive affairs. The Senate, sitting in dignified ease, was merely to safeguard the constitution, to elect the Grand Elector, and to select the members of the _Corps Legislatif_ (proper) and the Tribunate.

Distrust of the former almost superhuman activity in law-making now appeared in divisions, checks, and balances quite ingenious in their complexity. The Legislature was divided into three councils: the _Corps Legislatif_, properly so called, which listened in silence to proposals of laws offered by the Council of State and criticised or orally approved by the Tribunate.[131] These three bodies were not only divided, but were placed in opposition, especially the two talking bodies, which resembled plaintiff and defendant pleading before a gagged judge. But even so the constitution was not sufficiently guarded against Jacobins or royalists. If by any chance a dangerous

proposal were forced through these mutually distrustful bodies, the Senate was charged with the task of vetoing it, and if the Grand Elector, or any other high official, strove to gain a perpetual dictatorship, the Senate was at once to _absorb_ him into its ranks.

Moreover, lest the voters should send up too large a proportion of Jacobins or royalists, the first selection of members of the great Councils and the chief functionaries for local affairs was to be made by the Consuls, who thus primarily exercised not only the "power from above," but also the "confidence" which ought to have come from below. Perhaps this device was necessary to set in motion Sieyes' system of wheels within wheels; for the Senate, which was to elect the Grand Elector, by whom the executive officers were indirectly to be chosen, was in part self-sufficient: the Consuls named the first members, who then co-opted, that is, chose the new members. Some impulse from without was also needed to give the constitution life; and this impulse was now to come. Where Sieyes had only contrived wheels, checks, regulator, break, and safety-valve, there now rushed in an imperious will which not only simplified the parts but supplied an irresistible motive power.

The complexity of much of the mechanism, especially that relating to popular election and the legislature, entirely suited Bonaparte. But, while approving the triple winnowing, to which Sieyes subjected the results of manhood suffrage, and the subordination of the legislative to the executive authority,[132] the general expressed his entire disapproval of the limitations of the Grand Elector's powers. The name was anti-republican: let it be changed to First Consul. And whereas Sieyes condemned his grand functionary to the repose of a _roi faineant_, Bonaparte secured to him practically all the powers assigned by Sieyes to the Consuls for Peace and for War. Lastly, Bonaparte protested against the right of absorbing him being given to the Senate. Here also he was successful; and thus a delicately poised bureaucracy was turned into an almost unlimited dictatorship.


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