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

After brief conferences with the Genoese envoys


The

destruction of the Genoese oligarchy presented no great difficulties. Both Venice and Genoa had long outlived their power, and the persistent violation of their neutrality had robbed them of that last support of the weak, self-respect. The intrigues of Faypoult and Salicetti were undermining the influence of the Doge and Senate, when the news of the fall of the Venetian oligarchy spurred on the French party to action, But the Doge and Senate armed bands of mountaineers and fishermen who were hostile to change; and in a long and desperate conflict in the narrow streets of Genoa the democrats were completely worsted (May 23rd). The victors thereupon ransacked the houses of the opposing faction and found lists of names of those who were to have been proscribed, besides documents which revealed the complicity of the French agents in the rising. Bonaparte was enraged at the folly of the Genoese democrats, which deranged his plans. As he wrote to the Directory, if they had only remained quiet for a fortnight, the oligarchy would have collapsed from sheer weakness. The murder of a few Frenchmen and Milanese now gave him an excuse for intervention. He sent an aide-de-camp, Lavalette, charged with a vehement diatribe against the Doge and Senate, which lost nothing in its recital before that august body. At the close a few senators called out, "Let us fight": but the spirit of the Dorias flickered away with these protests; and the degenerate scions of mighty sires submitted to the insults
of an aide-de-camp and the dictation of his master.

The fate of this ancient republic was decided by Bonaparte at the Castle of Montebello, near Milan, where he had already drawn up her future constitution. After brief conferences with the Genoese envoys, he signed with them the secret convention which placed their republic--soon to be renamed the Ligurian Republic--under the protection of France and substituted for the close patrician rule a moderate democracy. The fact is significant. His military instincts had now weaned him from the stiff Jacobinism of his youth; and, in conjunction with Faypoult and the envoys, he arranged that the legislative powers should be intrusted to two popularly elected chambers of 300 and 150 members, while the executive functions were to be discharged by twelve senators, presided over by a Doge; these officers were to be appointed by the chambers: for the rest, the principles of religious liberty and civic equality were recognized, and local self-government was amply provided for. Cynics may, of course, object that this excellent constitution was but a means of insuring French supremacy and of peacefully installing Bonaparte's regiments in a very important city; but the close of his intervention may be pronounced as creditable to his judgment as its results were salutary to Genoa. He even upbraided the demagogic party of that city for shivering in pieces the statue of Andrea Doria and suspending the fragments on some of the innumerable trees of liberty recently planted.


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