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

I would make myself your Landamman


Hostilities,

however, were for the present avoided. In face of the overwhelming force which Ney had close at hand, the chiefs of the central cantons shrank from any active opposition; and Moore, finding on his arrival at Constance that they had decided to submit, speedily returned to England. Ministers beheld with anger and dismay the perpetuation of French supremacy in that land; but they lacked the courage openly to oppose the First Consul's action, and gave orders that the stipulated cessions of French and Dutch colonies should take effect.

The submission of the Swiss and the weakness of all the Powers encouraged the First Consul to impose his will on the deputies from the cantons, who assembled at Paris at the close of the year 1802. He first caused their aims and the capacity of their leaders to be sounded in a Franco-Swiss Commission, and thereafter assembled them at St. Cloud on Sunday, December 12th. He harangued them at great length, hinting very clearly that the Swiss must now take a far lower place in the scale of peoples than in the days when France was divided into sixty fiefs, and that union with her could alone enable them to play a great part in the world's affairs: nevertheless, as they clung to independence he would undertake in his quality of mediator to end their troubles, and yet leave them free. That they could attain unity was a mere dream of their metaphysicians: they must rely on the cantonal organization, always provided that the

French and Italian districts of Vaud and the upper Ticino were not subject to the central or German cantons: to prevent such a dishonour he would shed the blood of 50,000 Frenchmen: Berne must also open its golden book of the privileged families to include four times their number. For the rest, the Continental Powers could not help them, and England had "no right to meddle in Swiss affairs." The same menace was repeated in more strident tones on January 29th:

"I tell you that I would sacrifice 100,000 men rather than allow England to meddle in your affairs: if the Cabinet of St. James uttered a single word for you, it would be all up with you, I would unite you to France: if that Court made the least insinuation of its fears that I would be your Landamman, I would make myself your Landamman."

There spake forth the inner mind of the man who, whether as child, youth, lieutenant, general, Consul, or Emperor, loved to bear down opposition.[227]

In those days of superhuman activity, when he was carving out one colonial Empire in the New World and preparing to found another in India, when he was outwitting the Cardinals, rearranging the map of Germany, breathing new life into French commerce and striving to shackle that of Britain, he yet found time to utter some of the sagest maxims as to the widely different needs of the Swiss cantons. He assured the deputies that he spoke as a Corsican and a mountaineer, who knew and loved the clan system. His words proved it. With sure touch he sketched the characteristics of the French and Swiss people. Switzerland needed the local freedom imparted by her cantons: while France required unity, Switzerland needed federalism: the French rejected this last as damaging their power and glory; but the Swiss did not ask for glory; they needed "political tranquillity and obscurity": moreover, a simple pastoral people must have extensive local rights, which formed their chief distraction from the monotony of life: democracy was a necessity for the forest cantons; but let not the aristocrats of the towns fear that a wider franchise would end their influence, for a people dependent on pastoral pursuits would always cling to great families rather than to electoral assemblies: let these be elected on a fairly wide basis. Then again, what ready wit flashed forth in his retort to a deputy who objected to the Bernese Oberland forming part of the Canton of Berne: "Where do you take your cattle and your cheese?"--"To Berne."--"Whence do you get your grain, cloth, and iron?"--"From Berne."--"Very well: 'To Berne, from Berne'--you consequently belong to Berne." The reply is a good instance of that canny materialism which he so victoriously opposed to feudal chaos and monarchical ineptitude.


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