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

Paris in particular felt his renovating hand


Paris

in particular felt his renovating hand. With the abrupt, determined tones which he assumed more and more on reaching absolute power, he one day said to Chaptal at Malmaison:

"I intend to make Paris the most beautiful capital of the world: I wish that in ten years it should number two millions of inhabitants." "But," replied his Minister of the Interior, "one cannot improvise population; ... as it is, Paris would scarcely support one million"; and he instanced the want of good drinking water. "What are your plans for giving water to Paris?" Chaptal gave two alternatives--artesian wells or the bringing of water from the River Ourcq to Paris. "I adopt the latter plan: go home and order five hundred men to set to work to-morrow at La Villette to dig the canal."

Such was the inception of a great public work which cost more than half a million sterling. The provisioning of Paris also received careful attention, a large reserve of wheat being always kept on hand for the satisfaction of "a populace which is only dangerous when it is hungry." Bonaparte therefore insisted on corn being stored and sold in large quantities and at a very low price, even when considerable loss was thereby entailed.[176] But besides supplying _panem_ he also provided _circenses_ to an extent never known even in the days of Louis XV. State aid was largely granted to the chief theatres, where

Bonaparte himself was a frequent attendant, and a willing captive to the charms of the actress Mlle. Georges.

The beautifying of Paris was, however, the chief means employed by Bonaparte for weaning its populace from politics; and his efforts to this end were soon crowned with complete success. Here again the events of the Revolution had left the field clear for vast works of reconstruction such as would have been impossible but for the abolition of the many monastic institutions of old Paris. On or near the sites of the famous Feuillants and Jacobins he now laid down splendid thoroughfares; and where the constitutionals or reds a decade previously had perorated and fought, the fashionable world of Paris now rolled in gilded cabriolets along streets whose names recalled the Italian and Egyptian triumphs of the First Consul. Art and culture bowed down to the ruler who ordered the renovation of the Louvre, which now became the treasure-house of painting and sculpture, enriched by masterpieces taken from many an Italian gallery. No enterprise has more conspicuously helped to assure the position of Paris as the capital of the world's culture than Bonaparte's grouping of the nation's art treasures in a central and magnificent building. In the first year of his Empire Napoleon gave orders for the construction of vast galleries which were to connect the northern pavilion of the Tuileries with the Louvre and form a splendid facade to the new Rue de Rivoli. Despite the expense, the work was pushed on until it was suddenly arrested by the downfall of the Empire, and was left to the great man's nephew to complete. Though it is possible, as Chaptal avers, that the original design aimed at the formation of a central fortress, yet to all lovers of art, above all to the hero-worshipping Heine, the new Louvre was a sure pledge of Napoleon's immortality.


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