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

On the 2nd and 4th of Pluviose January 22nd and 24th


"They will do what you want without your needing even to show your desire. What they think you desire will immediately become law."[192]

The ground having been thus thoroughly worked, Bonaparte and Josephine, accompanied by a brilliant suite, arrived at Lyons on January 11th, and met with an enthusiastic reception. Despite the intense cold, followed by a sudden thaw, a brilliant series of fetes, parades, and receptions took place; and several battalions of the French Army of Egypt, which had recently been conveyed home on English ships, now passed in review before their chief. The impressionable Italians could not mistake the aim of these demonstrations; and, after general matters had been arranged by the notables, the final measures were relegated to a committee of thirty. The desirability of this step was obvious, for urgent protests had already been raised in the Consulta against the appointment of a foreigner as President of the new State. When a hubbub arose on this burning topic:

"Some officers of the regiments in garrison at Lyons appeared in the hall and imposed silence upon all parties. Notwithstanding this, Count Melzi was actually chosen President by the majority of the Committee of Thirty; but he declined the honour, and suggested in significant terms that, to enable him to render any service to the country, the committee had better fix upon General Bonaparte

as their Chief Magistrate. This being done, Bonaparte immediately appointed Count Melzi Vice-President."[193]

Bonaparte's determination to fill this important position is clearly seen in his correspondence. On the 2nd and 4th of Pluviose (January 22nd and 24th), he writes from Lyons:

"All the principal affairs of the Consulta are settled. I count on being back at Paris in the course of the decade."

"To-morrow I shall review the troops from Egypt. On the 6th [of Pluviose] all the business of the Consulta will be finished, and I shall probably set out on my journey on the 7th."

The next day, 5th Pluviose, sees the accomplishment of his desires:

"To-day I have reviewed the troops on the Place Bellecour; the sun shone as it does in Floreal. The Consulta has named a committee of thirty individuals, which has reported to it that, considering the domestic and foreign affairs of the Cisalpine, it was indispensable to let me discharge the first magistracy, until circumstances permit and I judge it suitable to appoint a successor."

These extracts prove that the acts of the Consulta could be planned beforehand no less precisely than the movements of the soldiery, and that even so complex a matter as the voting of a constitution and the choice of its chief had to fall in with the arrangements of this methodizing genius. Certainly civilization had progressed since the weary years when the French people groped through mists and waded in blood in order to gain a perfect polity: that precious boon was now conferred on a neighbouring people in so sure a way that the plans of their benefactor could be infallibly fixed and his return to Paris calculated to the hour.


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