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

That the terrorists were the authors of this attempt


"There are in it," Bonaparte at once remarked, "neither nobles, nor Chouans, nor priests. They are men of September (_Septembriseurs_), wretches stained with blood, ever conspiring in solid phalanx against every successive government. We must find a means of prompt redress."

The Councillors at once adopted this opinion, Roederer hotly declaring his open hostility to Fouche for his reputed complicity with the terrorists; and, if we may credit the _on dit_ of Pasquier, Talleyrand urged the execution of Fouche within twenty-four hours. Bonaparte, however, preferred to keep the two cleverest and most questionable schemers of the age, so as mutually to check each other's movements. A day later, when the Council was about to institute special proceedings, Bonaparte again intervened with the remark that the action of the tribunal would be too slow, too restricted: a signal revenge was needed for so foul a crime, rapid as lightning:

"Blood must be shed: as many guilty must be shot as the innocent who had perished--some fifteen or twenty--and two hundred banished, so that the Republic might profit by that event to purge itself."

This was the policy now openly followed. In vain did some members of the usually obsequious Council object to this summary procedure. Roederer, Boulay, even the Second Consul himself, now perceived how trifling was their

influence when they attempted to modify Bonaparte's plans, and two sections of the Council speedily decided that there should be a military commission to judge suspects and "deport" dangerous persons, and that the Government should announce this to the Senate, Corps Legislatif, and Tribunate. Public opinion, meanwhile, was carefully trained by the official "Moniteur," which described in detail various so-called anarchist attempts; but an increasing number in official circles veered round to Fouche's belief that the outrage was the work of the royalists abetted by England. The First Consul himself, six days after the event, inclined to this version. Nevertheless, at a full meeting of the Council of State, on the first day of the year 1801, he brought up a list of "130 villains who were troubling the public peace," with a view to inflicting summary punishment on them. Thibaudeau, Boulay, and Roederer haltingly expressed their fears that all the 130 might not be guilty of the recent outrage, and that the Council had no powers to decide on the proscription of individuals. Bonaparte at once assured them that he was not consulting them about the fate of individuals, but merely to know whether they thought an exceptional measure necessary. The Government had only

"Strong presumptions, not proofs, that the terrorists were the authors of this attempt. _Chouannerie_ and emigration are surface ills, terrorism is an internal disease. The measure ought to be taken independently of the event. It is only the occasion of it. We banish them (the terrorists) for the massacres of September 2nd, May 31st, the Babeuf plot, and every subsequent attempt."[169]


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