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

They strike the keynote of the era of the Consulate


Court of Naples also made peace with France by the treaty of Florence (March, 1801), whereby it withdrew its troops from the States of the Church, and closed its ports to British and Turkish ships; it also renounced in favour of the French Republic all its claims over a maritime district of Tuscany known as the Presidii, the little principality of Piombino, and a port in the Isle of Elba. These cessions fitted in well with Napoleon's schemes for the proposed elevation of the heir of the Duchy of Parma to the rank of King of Tuscany or Etruria. The King of Naples also pledged himself to admit and support a French corps in his dominions. Soult with 10,000 troops thereupon occupied Otranto, Taranto, and Brindisi, in order to hold the Neapolitan Government to its engagements, and to facilitate French intercourse with Egypt.

In his relations with the New World Bonaparte had also prospered. Certain disputes between France and the United States had led to hostilities in the year 1798. Negotiations for peace were opened in March, 1800, and led to the treaty of Morfontaine, which enabled Bonaparte to press on the Court of Madrid the scheme of the Parma-Louisiana exchange, that promised him a magnificent empire on the banks of the Mississippi.

These and other grandiose designs were confided only to Talleyrand and other intimate counsellors. But, even to the mass of mankind, the transformation scene ushered in by the nineteenth

century was one of bewildering brilliance. Italy from the Alps to her heel controlled by the French; Austria compelled to forego all her Italian plans; Switzerland and Holland dominated by the First Consul's influence; Spain following submissively his imperious lead; England, despite all her naval triumphs, helpless on land; and France rapidly regaining more than all her old prestige and stability under the new institutions which form the most enduring tribute to the First Consul's glory.

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"We have done with the romance of the Revolution: we must now commence its history. We must have eyes only for what is real and practicable in the application of principles, and not for the speculative and hypothetical." Such were the memorable words of Bonaparte to his Council of State at one of its early meetings. They strike the keynote of the era of the Consulate. It was a period of intensely practical activity that absorbed all the energies of France and caused the earlier events of the Revolution to fade away into a seemingly remote past. The failures of the civilian rulers and the military triumphs of Bonaparte had exerted a curious influence on the French character, which was in a mood of expectant receptivity. In 1800 everything was in the transitional state that favours the efforts of a master builder; and one was now at hand whose constructive ability in civil affairs equalled his transcendent genius for war.

I propose here briefly to review the most important works of reconstruction which render the Consulate and the early part of the Empire for ever famous. So vast and complex were Bonaparte's efforts in this field that they will be described, not chronologically, but subject by subject. The reader will, however, remember that for the most part they went on side by side, even amidst the distractions caused by war, diplomacy, colonial enterprises, and the myriad details of a vast administration. What here appears as a series of canals was in reality a mighty river of enterprise rolling in undivided volume and fed by the superhuman vitality of the First Consul. It was his inexhaustible curiosity which compelled functionaries to reveal the secrets of their office: it was his intelligence that seized on the salient points of every problem and saw the solution: it was his ardour and mental tenacity which kept his Ministers and committees hard at work, and by toil of sometimes twenty hours a day supervised the results: it was, in fine, his passion for thoroughness, his ambition for France, that nerved every official with something of his own contempt of difficulties, until, as one of them said, "the gigantic entered into our very habits of thought."[149]

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