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

The Concordat was bitterly assailed by the Jacobins


Concordat was bitterly assailed by the Jacobins, especially by the military chiefs, and had not the infidel generals been for the most part sundered by mutual jealousies they might perhaps have overthrown Bonaparte. But their obvious incapacity for civil affairs enabled them to venture on nothing more than a few coarse jests and clumsy demonstrations. At the Easter celebration at Notre Dame in honour of the ratification of the Concordat, one of them, Delmas by name, ventured on the only protest barbed with telling satire: "Yes, a fine piece of monkery this, indeed. It only lacked the million men who got killed to destroy what you are striving to bring back." But to all protests Bonaparte opposed a calm behaviour that veiled a rigid determination, before which priests and soldiers were alike helpless.

In subsequent articles styled "organic," Bonaparte, without consulting the Pope, made several laws that galled the orthodox clergy. Under the plea of legislating for the police of public worship, he reaffirmed some of the principles which he had been unable to incorporate in the Concordat itself. The organic articles asserted the old claims of the Gallican Church, which forbade the application of Papal Bulls, or of the decrees of "foreign" synods, to France: they further forbade the French bishops to assemble in council or synod without the permission of the Government; and this was also required for a bishop to leave his diocese, even if he were

summoned to Rome. Such were the chief of the organic articles. Passed under the plea of securing public tranquillity, they proved a fruitful source of discord, which during the Empire became so acute as to weaken Napoleon's authority. In matters religious as well as political, he early revealed his chief moral and mental defect, a determination to carry his point by whatever means and to require the utmost in every bargain. While refusing fully to establish Roman Catholicism as the religion of the State, he compelled the Church to surrender its temporalities, to accept the regulations of the State, and to protect its interests. Truly if, in Chateaubriand's famous phrase, he was the "restorer of the altars," he exacted the uttermost farthing for that restoration.

In one matter his clear intelligence stands forth in marked contrast to the narrow pedantry of the Roman Cardinals. At a time of reconciliation between orthodox and "constitutionals," they required from the latter a complete and public retractation of their recent errors. At once Bonaparte intervened with telling effect. So condign a humiliation, he argued, would altogether mar the harmony newly re-established. "The past is past: and the bishops and prefects ought to require from the priests only the declaration of adhesion to the Concordat, and of obedience to the bishop nominated by the First Consul and instituted by the Pope." This enlightened advice, backed up by irresistible power, carried the day, and some ten thousand constitutional priests were quietly received back into the Roman communion, those who had contracted marriages being compelled to put away their wives. Bonaparte took a deep interest in the reconstruction of dioceses, in the naming of churches, and similar details, doubtless with the full consciousness that the revival of the Roman religious discipline in France was a more important service than any feat of arms.

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