Page images
PDF
EPUB

but a few years since he renounced the Christian for the Mahommedan religion.' Buonaparte calls Paris, his good city, in imitation of Henry IV. in the year 1795 he cannonaded this good city, and strewed its streets with the bodies of its slaughtered inhabitants,' &c. &c. Such are the topics of this chapter, which might just as well have been written by a person who had never been in France, as by a sober, and well-informed public functionary. We beg pardon; there are, we perceive in looking it over again, three sentences which we verily believe could not bave been written by a person who never had been in France; they have, if we possess any critical judgment, the French mark upon them; and furnish not the least equivocal proof of the genuineness of the work.

* Buonaparte thinks he can do every thing; but the present time will never be the past.'-p. 134.

• Buvnaparte has restored the old calander, but the old calander is not the old times.'---p. 138.

* Buonaparte, by aping old times, makes an ape of the present, of his nation and his age.'---p. 139.

But Buonaparte, whether he apes old practices, or differs from them, is equally the object of M. Faber's ridicule, which is never very lively, and of his censure, which is too often indiscriminate. Those circuits, which as Consul and as Emperor, he is in the habit of making through various portions of his dominions, for the purpose of seeing with his own eyes the state of his dominions, appear to M. Faber the mere activity of disquiet, petulance, and vanity. His visits he describes as inflictions; the benetits he confers, as disguised burthens; his inquiries, those of presumptuous ignorance, and his demeanour that of a sullen and thankless tyrant. In this sketch there are, unquestionably, some strong touches of truth; but surely it must, on the whole, be overcharged.

In these 'tournées,' the most remarkable feature is the extraordinary activity of Buonaparte; on foot, on horseback, and in carriages ; on the roads, in the plains, in the towns; at audiences, at reviews; amongst the magistrates, the bishops, the generals; he is every where, sees every thing, asks every thing, and does every thing, but repose. From the great object of his journey, nothing diverts or distracts him; popular acclamation, triumphal arches, he hears and sees as if he neither saw nor heard : amidst the most violent and incessant labours he will not bestow a gesture on the applauding people for whose sake he appears to toil; the shouts of the multitude, the adulation of the public functionaries, he suffers rather than receives, and his whole demeanour is cold, ab' stracted, and sullen. He affects to show that his thoughts are not confined to the spot he visits, and that his mind is capacious of the most remote and dissimilar objects. At Turin he makes laws for

regulating

regulating the accounts of the hospitals in the interior of France; at Milan he publishes decrees for the acceptance of legacies left to the poor-houses of the department of the Puy-du-Dôme, or Calvados; for a school at Treves, and for the appointment of a mayor of Brussels; at Boulogne he regulates the tolls of Genoa ; from Braunau, in Upper Austria, he scatters near thirty decrees over the interior of France, and at Austerlitz he issues orders for the canal of St. Quentin..

We now arrive at the consideration of the most important and extraordinary of the internal arrangements of France, that, we mean, which has for its object the levy and maintenance of the military force; that, in comparison of which all other measures are, in the mind of the ruler, inconsiderable, and, to the feelings of the people, tolerable ; that, on which the imperial seat is built, and by which the degradation of the nation is secured ; that, finally, which makes France at once odious and burthensome to herself, and terrible to the rest of Europe.

The military force of the French empire consisted, at the time M. Faber wrote, of, 1. The national guard. 2. The reserve. 3. The army.

1. The national guard is no longer that voluntary and gratuitous association which gave strength and energy to the civil and foreign warfare of the revolution : that body was disarmed, and we may add, abolished by the directory after the 13th Vindémiaire, year IV. when, with the assistance of Buonaparte, they had overcome the armed sections of Paris. In its stead, or rather under its name, motley and miserable groups performed the service vot of soldiers, but of policemen, until, on the attempt of Pichegru's to reorganize. them, the directory, justly afraid of any thing that might afford even the foundation of a national force, suppressed it altogether.

On Buonaparte's accession to the consulate, it revived, though in name only, until 1805, when he conferred upon himself, by a decree of the senate, the power of calling out, at pleasure, the whole population capable of bearing arms, between the ages of twenty and sixty, to maintain order in the interior, and defend the fortifications on the coast and frontiers. The organization of this body, however, appears to have proceeded slowly to the time at which M. Faber wrote: but we have reason to believe that, in the Prussian and Austrian campaigns, its ranks were filled to the full extent of the public means, and, we apprehend, that it is now brought to a state of efficiency which enables Buonaparte to withdraw, on any emergency, his regular troops from any particular district of his empire; but we doubt whether he has ever dared to push this measure as far as he would have us believe. He puts little trust in the national guard, and is jealous of their assem. blage in arms. We can easily enter into his feelings on the subVOL. VI. NO. XI.

ject.

[ocr errors]

ject. An armed force only can shake his dominion; the army is devotedly his; what then has he to fear? The national guardwhich, composed of citizens-suffers all the oppression of his tyranny, unmitigated by feelings of personal attachment or of military glory. If foreign war is to operate the overthrow of Buonaparte, it will only be by drawing away the regular troops, and leaving the interior open to some sudden and energetic movement of the armed citizens.

2. The reserve consists of conscripts equal in numbers to the active quota of the year, but who are not obliged to march out of their own district, except (a very frequent exception) when the original contingent requires to be completed, or some pressing exigency of the state calls for their enrolment in the army; as happened at the opening of the campaign of 1805, when all the conscripts of reserve of the years 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 were placed on the lists of active service. Thus,' says M. Faber, those that belong to the reserve remain at all times on the rack of uncertainty.' This uncertainty, however, is now at an end; Buonaparte has thrown off the slight constraint thus put upon his gigantic operations--the name of reserve and the exemptions which it copferred, were, in 1810, abolished. The same numbers continue to be conscribed; but they are thrown into the general mass of disposables, and are liable, like the rest, to immediate service: thus, by a single decree, were doubled at once the military means and internal misery of France.

3. Of the nature of the active army, we need say nothing : it has been seen and felt through all Europe; we ourselves, though not on English ground, have witnessed its bravery, its discipline, and, indeed, all the other qualities of officers and soldiers that constitute an excellent army. This praise it deserves, and this praise it requires now no great stretch of candour to give. We should not, under any circumstances, have been deterred from doing justice to an enemy; but it is with feelings of honest pride that we recollect that excellent as this arnry is, there is yet one more excellent; that victorious against so many nations, there is one by whom it has been vanquished; that it has in courage, and in skill, in individual battles, and in whole campaigns, been foiled and defeated by British armies led by British officers.

We now return to the account of the manner in which the armies of France are recruited ; and we shall endeavour to reduce it into as small a compass as the confused and wandering statements of our author will permit. In the year 1798,* General Jourdan, a deputy of Upper Vienne, presented to the council of five hundred the project of a law for a new mode of recruiting, under the name of a Conscription. This project, which, in the discussion, was very justly denominated a permanent levy en masse of the youth of France, was passed into a law, and soon after put into active execution by a conscription of 200,000 men, destined to fill up the deficiencies occasioned by disasters which the French armies suffered about that period.

* So says M. Faber; others attribute the project of the conscription to Carnot, celebrated, beyond all other distinction, for his bold, but legal oppositiou to Buonaparte's Usurpation

The basis of the system is this: lists are prepared from the parish registers, with the utmost accuracy, of every male who on the first day of the year had attained any age between twenty and twentyfive; these names are divided into five classes, the first composed of those who have completed twenty years, but not attained twentyone; the second, of those who are between twenty-one and twentytwo, and so on. Thus it appears, that every Frenchman stands for five successive years on the lists of conscription, though in a different class, as he who this year belongs to the first, as being twenty, will next year belong to the second class, as being twentyone. It is true, that the first class has hitherto sufficed for the demands of government; but it is also to be observed that Buonaparte has, by an evasion of his own law, extended the liability to the conscription to persons under twenty years of age; by anticipating the conscription of future years, or, in plainer words, by forcing into the army youths who will not have completed their twentieth year till one or two years afterwards. That frequent recourse has been had to this violent expedient, we have the evidence of official decrees ; but we have also reason to believe that the average of the ages of French soldiers now prisoners in England, proves that it has been carried beyond any thing stated in the Moniteur; that three years, at least, have been anticipated, and boys of seventeen prematurely forced into the limits of the conscription.

The lists, being thus prepared, are transmitted to the war-office in Paris, and the contingent of the year is apportioned to the different departments and districts; by what scale or measure M. Faber does not say: but he acquaints us incidentally, and we believe erroneously, that 200 is the maximum which any one 'arrondissement' is called upon to furnish. Here again we have to lament his laxity of statement; this most important point of the apportionment of the quota, which includes in itself so many valuable political considerations, is not even mentioned.

The district lists being revised, the quotas ascertained and measures taken for making sure of the individuals on whom the lot may fall, the mayor notifies the day of drawing.

It is a day of public mourning, and of agony in every family. All labour is abandoned ; every one has a melancholy interest in being preR 2

sent

sent at the solemnity. The drawing is performed in the public hall of the town. At the hour appointed the conscripts assemble; or in place of the absent, their parents, tutors, delegates, and respondents. The business is performed in the presence of the municipal council, under the presidency of the mayor; and if it is a chief town, the prefect or sub-prefect assists. A mournful silence reigns in the hall; not even a breath is heard ; a sigh occasionally bursts. The mayor makes a short harangue; the name of each conscript is called ; the conscript advances; he stretches out his hand to the urn; the destiny of many is included with his; he draws his own.'--pp. 234, 235.

The conscripts who have drawn numbers within that of the quota, are taken for immediate service, and, as any casualties occur, they are supplied in order from those who have drawn the numbers above the quota—these deficiencies are so fluctuating, but always so great (principally on account of desertion) that no person can for a considerable time be certain of having escaped the danger: latterly, indeed, supplementary numbers have been drawn for every individual of the original conscription, and, in the last levies, obliged to march with the column to head quarters, for the purpose of being at hand to supply the vacancies which exemption, desertion, or death may have made. The first march of the conscripts is to the chief town of the subprefecture, where the columns of all the mayoralties of the district assemble. The second is to the capital of the prefecture where all the conscripts of the subprefectures are collected. In thèse depots they learn the rudiments of discipline, to march, to face to the right or left, and to handle their muskets; they are taught merely what war requires, and what war will perfect; they are then hurried away to the army and scattered through the regiments, where the leaders of their file and their right and left hand men serve them as instructors, and a short time accomplishes their military education.

As soon as they are collected in their departments they become entitled to pay, but like all the French soldiers are paid very irregularly. Their dress is utterly neglected. The musket, the bayonet, and the cartouch box, the necessaries of war, are all that the government, in the first instance, gives them. In their private clothes, with the addition of a kind of foraging cap, the motley groups set out for the army; if they pass through a hostile or allied country it is laid under contribution to clothe them; if not, they receive from the commissaries slowly, and by degrees, those articles of which they are in immediate want: of all soldiers,' says our author,

the French have the least advantage in point of appearance, either as to size, dress, equipment, or manual dexterity; a regiment of French infantry just completed has only (with the exception of the grenadiers) the appearance of a number of raw recruits picked

up

« PreviousContinue »