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"Bonaparte put an end to the first republican experience in our history"


FIGAROVOX / TRIBUNE - Alexis Corbière, deputy of France Insoumise, is opposed to the celebration of the bicentenary of the death of Napoleon. For him, Bonaparte put an end to the Republic by betraying these ideas and by setting up an authoritarian regime.

Alexis Corbière is deputy for France Insoumise in Seine-Saint-Denis.

Should the Republic celebrate the bicentenary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte on May 5, 1821?

The controversy has stirred historians, intellectuals and politicians for several weeks.

For my part, I consider that the Republic cannot pay an official homage to the one who was the gravedigger by putting an end to the first republican experiment in our history to create an authoritarian regime.

Let's be clear.

I am in favor of this Napoleonic bicentenary being the occasion for numerous conferences, debates, publications and other legitimate initiatives which will make it possible to make better known the person of Bonaparte and the major period in the history of France that he shaped.

Let us count on the community of historians to renew scientific knowledge.

Hopefully the media will be able to report it without idolatry or anachronistic caricature.

No bad controversy therefore.

However, this position has already earned me the wrath of several Bonapartophiles (or napoléonolatres?).

According to the historian Thierry Lentz, in Le Figaro, I would have "

given up admitting the complexity

" since two hundred years ago "

the Republic had hardly any institutional implication


He adds that with Bonaparte, "

the principles of the Revolution, foremost among which the equality of citizens, were saved

" and that "

when Napoleon became emperor, at the end of a popular plebiscite, it was said "

Emperor of the Republic".

It is therefore legitimate to ask if Bonaparte "fixed", "consolidated" the principles of the revolution or if he not rather "betrayed" and "flouted" them.

If not being complex, let's at least try to be precise.

To what revolution is Bonaparte exactly the heir?

As we know, the conspirators of the coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire Year VIII, of which he was one of the first actors, declared "

the Revolution is fixed to the principles which started it, it is finished."


But what exactly was it talking about?

The principle of equality of citizens before the law has been preserved.


However, the Civil Code of 1804 stipulates that "

the master is believed on his assertion

" when the worker must provide evidence.

It even liquidates revolutionary advances in the field of civil law by a strict framework for divorce which makes it very difficult to obtain, the reintroduction of discrimination against natural children, the reaffirmation of the paternal omnipotence and the situation of legal minor for the women.

To read also:

Arthur Chevallier: "The Republic owes its survival to Napoleon in 1799"

And what did Bonaparte do with the other principles proclaimed by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of August 1789?

With censorship, tight control of the press and publishing, Bonaparte denied some of the most fundamental freedoms conquered in 1789. By the Concordat of 1801, he abolished the first separation of State and Church , gives back to religion some of its old rights and undermines freedom of conscience.

In the colonies, he re-established slavery, abolished by the Republic in February 1794.

Under the Consulate then the Empire, the elective functions were suppressed or reduced to the figuration in institutions without real power.

The local assemblies were subjected to the rule of the prefects, giving rise to a centralism abusively qualified as “


” whereas it was the negation of the desired decentralization from 1789 and amplified by the democratic revolution of 1792. As for the Bonapartist practice of the plebiscite, remember that it was a public and not secret ballot, with registration of his vote next to his name on a register of the administration!

Read also:

Napoleon: "celebrating the emperor is a national cause"

It is therefore legitimate to ask whether Bonaparte "


", "


" the principles of the Revolution or whether he not rather "


" and "


" them.

Everything ultimately depends on the definition of these principles and the scope that we recognize them.

If the Revolution is only a "

bourgeois revolution

", which paradoxically enough both classic Marxist and conservative historiographies agree, then Bonaparte did consolidate the essential: the power of the owners - of the land, of the slaves and manufactures - what its Civil Code will sanctify.

What a Republican could possibly celebrate about a regime whose leader has concentrated all the powers in his hands.

But the Revolution carried many other emancipatory and egalitarian promises.

On August 10, 1792, the advent of the republic in September and the revolutionary government of Year II began to translate them into action: universal male suffrage, democratic expansion of the power of local assemblies, sharing of national property, regulation of markets. in the name of the right to subsistence, emancipation of slaves in the colonies ...

The fall of the Mountain Republic shattered many of these hopes.

The proponents of the proprietarist ideology who triumphed in 1795, four years later, needed a saber to consolidate, not the republican ideals but their power and their financial interests.

This is the historical importance of Bonaparte since he will establish between 1799 and 1815 a legal and administrative framework which still resists.

For an heir to Brumaire's coup d'état, emptying the Republic of its revolutionary horizon and at the same time celebrating Napoleon is necessary and logical.

But for those who remain faithful to all the social and democratic promises of the French Revolution, Bonaparte, like the men of money and twists and turns who brought him to power, remain opponents.

What could a republican celebrate with a regime whose leader has concentrated all powers in his hands, proclaimed himself consul for life and then emperor, instituted a new nobility of "


", a erased the very name of republic from official acts (in 1806) and reestablished the dynastic principle at the head of state?

The question is addressed first of all to the President of the Republic whose decision is unknown to this day.

Making use of the past necessarily draws a future.

If Emmanuel Macron were to pay homage to Napoleon in the name of the Republic, he would not only take the risk of celebrating yesterday's authoritarian power but above all of tracing what could be perceived as the outline of a political program for tomorrow.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2021-03-03

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