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

Though Bonaparte declared it needless


The

question has been discussed whether the First Consul was a party to this device. Theiner asserts that he knew nothing of it: that it was an official intrigue got up at the last moment by the anti-clericals so as to precipitate a rupture. In support of this view, he cites letters of Maret and Hauterive as inculpating these men and tending to free Bonaparte from suspicion of complicity. But the letters cannot be said to dissipate all suspicion. The First Consul had made this negotiation peculiarly his own: no officials assuredly would have dared secretly to foist their own version of an important treaty; or, if they did, this act would have been the last of their career. But Bonaparte did not disgrace them; on the contrary, he continued to honour them with his confidence. Moreover, the First Consul flew into a passion with his brother Joseph when he reported that Consalvi could not sign the document now offered to him, and tore in pieces the articles finally arranged with the Cardinal. On the return of his usually calm intelligence, he at last allowed the concessions to stand, with the exception of two; but in a scrutiny of motives we must assign most importance, not to second and more prudent thoughts, but to the first ebullition of feelings, which seem unmistakably to prove his knowledge and approval of Hauterive's device. We must therefore conclude that he allowed the antagonists of the Concordat to make this treacherous onset, with the intention of extorting every possible demand
from the dazed and bewildered Cardinal.[158]

After further delays the Concordat was ratified at Eastertide, 1802. It may be briefly described as follows: The French Government recognized that the Catholic apostolic and Roman religion was the religion of the great majority of the French people, "especially of the Consuls"; but it refused to declare it to be the religion of France, as was the case under the _ancien regime_. It was to be freely and publicly practised in France, subject to the police regulations that the Government judged necessary for the public tranquillity. In return for these great advantages, many concessions were expected from the Church. The present bishops, both orthodox and constitutional, were, at the Pope's invitation, to resign their sees; or, failing that, new appointments were to be made, as if the sees were vacant. The last proviso was necessary; for of the eighty-one surviving bishops affected by this decision as many as thirteen orthodox and two "constitutionals" offered persistent but unavailing protests against the action of the Pope and First Consul.

A new division of archbishoprics and bishoprics was now made, which gave in all sixty sees to France. The First Consul enjoyed the right of nomination to them, whereupon the Pope bestowed canonical investiture. The archbishops and bishops were all to take an oath of fidelity to the constitution. The bishops nominated the lower clerics provided that they were acceptable to the Government: all alike bound themselves to watch over governmental interests. The stability of France was further assured by a clause granting complete and permanent security to the holders of the confiscated Church lands--a healing and salutary compromise which restored peace to every village and soothed the qualms of many a troubled conscience. On its side, the State undertook to furnish suitable stipends to the clergy, a promise which was fulfilled in a rather niggardly spirit. For the rest, the First Consul enjoyed the same consideration as the Kings of France in all matters ecclesiastical; and a clause was added, though Bonaparte declared it needless, that if any succeeding First Consul were not a Roman Catholic, his prerogatives in religious matters should be revised by a Convention. A similar Concordat was passed a little later for the pacification of the Cisalpine Republic.


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