Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

SIEYÈS CONSTITUTION

209

arrondissements were substituted for the 44,000 municipalities. The arrondissement thus became the primary territorial division and the first electoral unit in place of the petty commune. The electoral system on which the scheme was based was somewhat complicated. There were to be three great lists, the list of the arrondissement, the list of the department, and the national list. The first was formed by all the male adults in each arrondissement, who selected by ballot one-tenth of their number as their representatives. These acted as electors of the second list, which was formed by a reduction of their number to one-tenth. These in their turn were electors of the third list, which was formed by a similar decimal reduction. Communal offices were to be filled from the first, departmental from the second, and national from the third list. And to ensure the absolute purity of elections provision was made for a possible disqualification of another tenth from all these lists, so that suspicious names which had passed the tests of the ballot and the indirect election might be expunged. Yet one more precaution was added in the shape of a revival of the old Athenian device, ostracism.

The government was to be divided into legislative, executive, and what Sieyès called

constituent." The legislative bodies were two. The Tribunate was to keep in touch with popular ideas, receive petitions, and initiate measures in response to demand. The Legislative Body was to vote on their proposals without discussion. The executive was to consist of a Grand Elector, his two consuls with their Council of State, and lesser officers nominated by them. The “constituent " was to consist of a College of Conservators enjoying life membership and charged with

210

COMPARISON WITH OCEANA

the duties of selecting the two legislative bodies and the Grand Elector from the national list and generally with watching over the Constitution. Though the legislative bodies were actually two, and had the same duties as the two bodies in “Oceana,” no fewer than four had the power to deal with legislation. Proposals came either from the popular source, the Tribunate, or the governmental source, the legally trained Council of State ; they were argued by both bodies before the Legislative Body, who recorded their votes in silence; but even their decisions could be vetoed as unconstitutional by the College of Conservators.

Two more features of the plan may be noticed. Firstly, the system of rotation was extended from local to central government, one quarter of the Legislative Body retiring annually and being ineligible for immediate re-election. Secondly, although manhood suffrage was instituted and property qualifications

were deliberately rejected, the Grand Elector and the members of the College were to be very highly paid-and to be paid in land.

The parallel between this and “Oceana striking. Departments, districts, arrondissements stand for tribes, hundreds, parishes. Where onefifth of the whole number of voters were selected in Oceana"

to form the first list, one-tenth were chosen in Sieyès scheme. The two schemes of indirect election differ in detail but are the same in principle. Ballot and rotation appear in both, and in both debating and voting are differentiated. Both, too have their imitations of the Spartan ephorate, “Oceana ” its Council of War, Sieyès' scheme its College of Conservators. Finally there is the striking provision in Sieyès' scheme that the highest officials of the country must have large landed pro

[ocr errors]

is very NAPOLEON BONAPARTE

211

was

perty. It is absurd to imagine that every detail of Sieyès'ideal state was borrowed from “Oceana.” The ballot, rotation, and indirect election had long been known in France, and Rousseau had already proposed a revival of the Spartan ephorate. But it would be more absurd to attribute nothing to its influence. We know that Sieyès' was a doctrinaire type of mind, we know that he read English political writings, we know that Harrington was sufficiently respected in France to find a translator, and we know that it was believed at the time that Sieyès imitating him. We may therefore conclude that Sieyès did study and borrow from his own counterpart in the English Rebellion.

The scheme formed the basis of the Constitution of the year 1800, which was introduced by Bonaparte. Bonaparte was no admirer of Sieyès. At the best he was an “idéologue,” at the worst "a mediocre intelligence."1 But some constitution was necessary for a nation in the throes of disorder, and Sieyès' scheme was not without possibilities. Bonaparte therefore accepted it, but mortified Sieyès by insisting on introducing certain modifications into a plan, which had been cherished for years as perfect and therefore unalterable. The changes were not important nor did they affect the Harringtonian features of the Constitution to a serious extent, but they showed the tendency of things. No provisions, however elaborate, could prevent Bonaparte from gradually asserting his personality. His first consulship was soon made perpetual and, before four years had passed, he had assumed the title as well as the powers of Emperor.

For a long time he permitted the weakened Tri1 Thibaudeau, “ Bonaparte and the Consulate," p. 136 and xxxviii.

1 ܙܙ

[blocks in formation]

bunate and the Council of State to appoint their orators to present his proposals before the silent legislature. The legislative body, unlike those in Carolina and Pennsylvania, apparently was contented with its mute existence. But Bonaparte himself could never understand the system of checks and balances. A speechless assembly appeared silly. “ Three hundred men who never speak a word ! What an absurdity!”i he said on one occasion; and on another, “ these deaf and dumb legislators invented by Sieyès are simply ridiculous.”For some time he let them be, but in 1804 he gave them the power of discussing legislative proposals in secret committee; and the final attempt to work a lower chamber on Harrington's principle failed.

Although Harrington's idea of a representative referendum was thus rejected, another of his theories, which had been almost entirely disregarded, was now partly accepted and put into practice. In 1796 Burke had written of the Revolution in the following strain : “We have not considered as we ought the dreadful energy of a state, in which the property has nothing to do with the government. Reflect, my dear sir, reflect again and again, on a government, in which the property is in complete subjection, and where nothing rules but the mind of desperate men. The conditions of a commonwealth not governed by its property, was a combination of things, which the learned and ingenious speculator Harrington, who had tossed about society into all forms, never could imagine to be possible. We have seen it; the world has felt it; and if the world will shut their eyes to this state of things, they will feel it more. The rulers there have found their · Thibaudeau, " Bonaparte and the Consulate," p. 45.

Ibid. p. 267.

THE BALANCE OF PROPERTY

213

܀ ܙܙ

resources in crimes."1 Burke here diagnosed the cause of much of the confusion with his usual penetrative insight, and France under the Consulate began to realise the truth of his criticism.

As in Carolina and Pennsylvania it was first proposed to form a “house of proprietors ” to ensure the representation of property, probably in imitation of the House of Lords. The idea was never accepted, but certain steps were taken to bring the position of property more closely into line with the altered conditions. In the first place property qualifications were instituted for the permanent Electoral Colleges, which Bonaparte had substituted for Sieyès' lists. As Bonaparte himself said, doubtless unconscious of his authority,

we must have men of property in the Electoral Colleges, because property is the fundamental basis of all political power. In the second place the property of the Emigrés was declared national property, open to purchase by supporters of the Republic. In the third place a new nobility was formed of Princes, Counts, Barons, and Knights, to whom lands were assigned outside France with the recommendation to exchange them for lands in France as opportunity offered. Princes were given seats in the powerful Senate, already made more powerful. All four orders were made hereditary for those who could pass down to their heirs a sufficiently large property, and to make this more easy the fourth provision for bringing power and property together -the equal division of property among the children - was modified for them.

That property must rule was a commonplace that may have been taken from the English Whigs

extracted from decadent feudalism. Unlike

or

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »