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

Aimed at improving the secondary education

"In his opinion nothing could restore good morals and order in the country but 'la roue et la religion de nos ancetres.' He knew, he said, that the English did not think so, but we knew nothing of the people. Fox was deeply shocked at the idea of restoring the wheel as a punishment in France."[167]

This horrible punishment was not actually restored: but this extract from Romilly's diary shows what was the state of feeling in official circles at Paris, and how strong was the reaction towards older ideas. The reaction was unquestionably emphasized by Bonaparte's influence, and it is noteworthy that the Penal and other Codes, passed during the Empire, were more reactionary than the laws of the Consulate. Yet, even as First Consul, he exerted an influence that began to banish the customs and traditions of the Revolution, except in the single sphere of material interests; and he satisfied the peasants' love of land and money in order that he might the more securely triumph over revolutionary ideals and draw France insensibly back to the age of Louis XIV.

While the legislator must always keep in reserve punishment as the _ultima ratio_ for the lawless, he will turn by preference to education as a more potent moralizing agency; and certainly education urgently needed Bonaparte's attention. The work of carrying into practice the grand educational aims of Condorcet and his coadjutors in the French

Convention was enough to tax the energies of a Hercules. Those ardent reformers did little more than clear the ground for future action: they abolished the old monastic and clerical training, and declared for a generous system of national education in primary, secondary, and advanced schools. But amid strifes and bankruptcy their aims remained unfulfilled. In 1799 there were only twenty-four elementary schools open in Paris, with a total attendance of less than 1,000 pupils; and in rural districts matters were equally bad. Indeed, Lucien Bonaparte asserted that scarcely any education was to be found in France. Exaggerated though this statement was, in relation to secondary and advanced education, it was proximately true of the elementary schools. The revolutionists had merely traced the outlines of a scheme: it remained for the First Consul to fill in the details, or to leave it blank.

The result can scarcely be cited as a proof of his educational zeal. Elementary schools were left to the control and supervision of the communes and of the _sous-prefets_, and naturally made little advance amidst an apathetic population and under officials who cared not to press on an expensive enterprise. The law of April 30th, 1802, however, aimed at improving the secondary education, which the Convention had attempted to give in its _ecoles centrales_. These were now reconstituted either as _ecoles secondaires_ or as _lycees_. The former were local or even private institutions intended for the most promising pupils of the commune or group of communes; while the _lycees_, far fewer in number, were controlled directly by the Government. In both of these schools great prominence was given to the exact and applied sciences. The aim of the instruction was not to awaken thought and develop the faculties, but rather to fashion able breadwinners, obedient citizens, and enthusiastic soldiers. The training was of an almost military type, the pupils being regularly drilled, while the lessons began and ended with the roll of drums. The numbers of the _lycees_ and of their pupils rapidly increased; but the progress of the secondary and primary schools, which could boast no such attractions, was very slow. In 1806 only 25,000 children were attending the public primary schools. But two years later elementary and advanced instruction received a notable impetus from the establishment of the University of France.

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