Coup of 18 Brumaire

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Coup d'état of 18 Brumaire
Bouchot - Le general Bonaparte au Conseil des Cinq-Cents.jpg
General Bonaparte during the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire in Saint-Cloud, painting by François Bouchot, 1840
Date9 November 1799
LocationFrance
Participants Napoleon Bonaparte, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, Charles-Maurice Talleyrand, Roger Ducos, Paul Barras, Lucien Bonaparte, Joseph Bonaparte, Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, Charles François Lebrun and others
OutcomeThe Consulate; adoption of a constitution under which the First Consul, a position Bonaparte was to hold, had the most power in the French government

The Coup of 18 Brumaire brought General Napoleon Bonaparte to power as First Consul of France and in the view of most historians ended the French Revolution. This bloodless coup d'état overthrew the Directory, replacing it with the French Consulate. This occurred on 9 November 1799, which was 18 Brumaire, Year VIII under the French Republican Calendar.

Napoleon 18th/19th-century French monarch, military and political leader

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader of Italian descent who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Historian person who studies and writes about the past

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Some historians are recognized by publications or training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.

Contents

Context

After Habsburg-controlled Austria declared war on France on 12 March 1799, emergency measures were adopted and the pro-war Jacobin faction triumphed in the April election. With Napoleon and the republic's best army engaged in the Egypt and Syria campaign, France suffered a series of reverses on the battlefield in the spring and summer of 1799. The Coup of 30 Prairial VII (18 June) ousted the Jacobins and left Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, a member of the five-man ruling Directory, the dominant figure in the government. France's military situation improved following the Second Battle of Zurich, fought on 25–26 September. As the prospect of invasion receded, the Jacobins feared a revival of the pro-peace Royalist faction. When Napoleon returned to France on 9 October, both factions hailed him as the country's savior.

Habsburg Monarchy former Central European empire (1526–1804)

The Habsburg Monarchy – also Habsburg Empire, Austrian Monarchy or Danube Monarchy – is an unofficial umbrella term among historians for the countries and provinces that were ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg between 1526 and 1780 and then by the successor branch of Habsburg-Lorraine until 1918. The Monarchy was a typical composite state composed of territories within and outside the Holy Roman Empire, united only in the person of the monarch. The dynastic capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague. From 1804 to 1867 the Habsburg Monarchy was formally unified as the Austrian Empire, and from 1867 to 1918 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Jacobin The most radical group in the French Revolution

The Society of the Friends of the Constitution, after 1792 renamed Society of the Jacobins, Friends of Freedom and Equality, commonly known as the Jacobin Club or simply the Jacobins, became the most influential political club during the French Revolution of 1789 and following. The period of their political ascendency is known as the Reign of Terror, during which time tens of thousands were put on trial and executed in France, many for political crimes.

French campaign in Egypt and Syria military conflict

The French Campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798–1801) was Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in the Ottoman territories of Egypt and Syria, proclaimed to defend French trade interests, weaken Britain's access to British India, and to establish scientific enterprise in the region. It was the primary purpose of the Mediterranean campaign of 1798, a series of naval engagements that included the capture of Malta.

Dazzled by Napoleon's campaign in the Middle East, the public received him with an ardor that convinced Sieyès he had found the general indispensable to his planned coup. [1] However, from the moment of his return, Napoleon plotted a coup within the coup, ultimately gaining power for himself rather than Sieyès.

Probably the weightiest possible obstacles to a coup were in the army. Some generals, such as Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, honestly believed in republicanism; others, such as Jean Bernadotte, believed themselves capable of governing France. Napoleon worked on the feelings of all, keeping secret his own intentions. [1]

Jean-Baptiste Jourdan Marshal of France

Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, 1st Comte Jourdan, enlisted as a private in the French royal army and rose to command armies during the French Revolutionary Wars. Emperor Napoleon I of France named him a Marshal of France in 1804 and he also fought in the Napoleonic Wars. After 1815, he became reconciled to the Bourbon Restoration. He was one of the most successful commanders of the French Revolutionary Army.

Charles XIV John of Sweden King of Sweden and Norway between 1818-1844. Prince of Ponte Corvo 1806-1810 and French field marshal

Charles XIV John or Carl John, from 1818 until his death was King of Sweden and King of Norway and served as de facto regent and head of state from 1810 to 1818. He was also the Sovereign Prince of Pontecorvo, in south-central Italy, from 1806 until 1810.

Prior to the coup, troops were conveniently deployed around Paris. The plan was, first, to persuade the Directors to resign, then, second, to get the Council of Ancients and the Council of Five Hundred (the upper and lower houses of the legislature) to appoint a pliant commission that would draw up a new constitution to the plotters' specifications.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

Council of Ancients the upper house of the French Directory, a.k.a. Council of Elders

The Council of Ancients or Council of Elders was the upper house of French legislature under the Constitution of the Year III, during the period commonly known as the Directory, from 22 August 1795 until 9 November 1799, roughly the second half of the period generally referred to as the French Revolution.

Council of Five Hundred lower house of the legislature of France during the period commonly known as the Directory (Directoire)

The Council of Five Hundred, or simply the Five Hundred, was the lower house of the legislature of France under the Constitution of the Year III. It existed during the period commonly known as the Directory (Directoire), from 26 October 1795 until 9 November 1799: roughly the second half of the period generally referred to as the French Revolution.

Events of 18 Brumaire, Year VIII

Lucien Bonaparte, President of the Council of Five Hundred, who engineered the coup that brought his brother to power Francois-Xavier Fabre (Studio) - Portrait de Lucien Bonaparte.jpg
Lucien Bonaparte, President of the Council of Five Hundred, who engineered the coup that brought his brother to power

On the morning of 18 Brumaire, Lucien Bonaparte falsely persuaded the Councils that a Jacobin coup was at hand in Paris, and induced them to depart for the safety of the suburban Château de Saint-Cloud. [2] Napoleon was charged with the safety of the two Councils and given command of all available local troops. [3]

Lucien Bonaparte French statesman

Lucien Bonaparte, Prince Français, 1st Prince of Canino and Musignano, the third surviving son of Carlo Bonaparte and his wife Letizia Ramolino, was a French statesman, who served as the final President of the Council of Five Hundred at the end of the French Revolution.

Château de Saint-Cloud historic palace in France

The Château de Saint-Cloud was a palace in France, built on a site overlooking the Seine at Saint-Cloud in Hauts-de-Seine, about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) west of Paris. On the site of the former palace there is currently a large park, the Parc de Saint-Cloud, that is owned by the state.

Later that morning, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès and Roger Ducos resigned as Directors. [1] The now former 1797-1799 2nd Minister of Foreign Affairs Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a close ally of Napoleon, pressured Director Paul Barras to do the same.

The resignation of three of the five Directors on day one of the coup prevented a quorum and thus practically abolished the five man Directory, but the two Jacobin Directors, Louis-Jérôme Gohier and Jean-François-Auguste Moulin, continued to protest furiously. Both men were arrested on day two by Napoleon's ally General Jean Victor Marie Moreau, and by the following day they were compelled to give up their resistance. [4]

In contrast to the Directory, the two Councils were not yet intimidated and continued meeting.

Events of 19 Brumaire

By the following day, the deputies had, for the most part, realized that they were facing an attempted coup rather than being protected from a Jacobin rebellion. Faced with their recalcitrance, Napoleon stormed into the chambers, escorted by a small force of grenadiers. While perhaps unplanned, this proved to be the coup within the coup: from this point, this was a military affair.

Napoleon found the Ancients resistant "despite a massive show of military strength." [3] He met with heckling as he addressed them with such "home truths" as, "the Republic has no government" and, most likely, "the Revolution is over." One deputy called out, "And the Constitution?" Napoleon replied, referring to earlier parliamentary coups, "The Constitution! You yourselves have destroyed it. You violated it on 18 Fructidor; you violated it on 22 Floreal; you violated it on 30 Prairial. It no longer has the respect of anyone."

In Exit liberte a la Francois (1799), James Gillray caricatured Napoleon and his grenadiers driving the Council of Five Hundred from the Orangerie Buonaparte closing the farce of Egalite.jpg
In Exit liberté à la François (1799), James Gillray caricatured Napoleon and his grenadiers driving the Council of Five Hundred from the Orangerie

Napoleon's reception by the Council of Five Hundred was even more hostile. [3] His grenadiers entered just as the legality of Barras' resignation was being challenged by the Jacobins in the chamber. Upon entering, Napoleon was first jostled, then outright assaulted. Depending on whose account is accepted, he may or may not have come close to fainting. It was not Napoleon himself, but his brother Lucien, President of the Council, who called upon the grenadiers to defend their leader. Napoleon escaped, but only through the use of military force. [1]

A motion was raised in the Council of Five Hundred to declare Napoleon an outlaw. At this point, Lucien Bonaparte apparently slipped out of the chamber and told the soldiers guarding the Councils that the majority of the Five Hundred were being terrorized by a group of deputies brandishing daggers. Then, according to Michael Rapport, "He pointed to Napoleon's bloody, pallid face as proof. Then, in a theatrical gesture, he seized a sword and promised to plunge it through his own brother's heart if he were a traitor." [5] Lucien ordered the troops to expel the violent deputies from the chamber. [3] Grenadiers under the command of General Joachim Murat marched into the Orangerie and dispersed the Council. This was effectively the end of the Directory. [3]

The Ancients passed a decree which adjourned the Councils for three months, appointed Napoleon, Sieyès, and Ducos provisional consuls, and named the Corps législatif. Some tractable members of the Five Hundred, rounded up afterwards, served to give these measures the confirmation of their House. Thus the Directory and the Councils came to an end. [1]

Aftermath

Completion of the coup

The Directory was crushed, but the coup within the coup was not yet complete. The use of military force had certainly strengthened Napoleon's hand vis à vis Sieyès and the other plotters. With the Council routed, the plotters convened two commissions, each consisting of twenty-five deputies from the two Councils. The plotters essentially intimidated the commissions into declaring a provisional government, the first form of the Consulate with Napoleon, Sieyès, and Ducos as Consuls. The lack of reaction from the streets proved that the revolution was, indeed, over. "A shabby compound of brute force and imposture, the 18th Brumaire was nevertheless condoned, nay applauded, by the French nation. Weary of revolution, men sought no more than to be wisely and firmly governed." [1] Resistance by Jacobin officeholders in the provinces was quickly crushed. Twenty Jacobin deputies were exiled, and others were arrested. The commissions then drew up the "short and obscure Constitution of the Year VIII", the first of the constitutions since the Revolution without a Declaration of Rights. [6]

Bonaparte thus completed his coup within a coup by the adoption of a constitution under which the First Consul, a position he was sure to hold, had greater power than the other two. In particular, he appointed the Senate and the Senate interpreted the constitution. The Sénat conservateur allowed him to rule by decree, so the more independent Conseil d'État and Tribunat were relegated to unimportant roles. It led ultimately to the rise of the First French Empire.

Reception by Karl Marx

In 1852, Karl Marx wrote The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon about a much later event, the coup d'état of 1851 against the Second Republic by Napoleon III, who was Napoleon's nephew. Marx considered Louis Napoleon a trifling politician compared to his world-conquering uncle, as expressed in Marx's oft-quoted opening bon mot : "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." [7]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Holland 1911.
  2. Doyle, p.374.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Doyle, p. 375.
  4. Lefebvre, p. 199.
  5. Rapport, 1998
  6. Crook, Malcolm (1999). "The Myth Of The 18 Brumaire". H-France Napoleon Forum. Archived from the original on 18 January 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2007.
  7. Marx, Karl (1852). "Chapter I"  . The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon  . New York, New York: Die Revolution via Wikisource.

Sources