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Art. IX. Code de la Conscription, ou Recueil Chronologique
des Lois et des Arrêtes du Gouvernement, des Décrets Imperiaux relatives à la Levée des Conscrits, à leur remplacement, aux dispenses de service, &c. depuis l'an VI jusques et compris l'an XIV. Avec Tables, &c. 8vo. pp. 270. Paris, 1806.
W e hate war, and we detest despotism; and wish earnestly
w that there were no occasion to study the organization of the one, or the resources of the other. But when war is inevitable, and despotism overbearing,--and when both together are darkening the whole horizon of the civilized world, it becomes, of all things, the most necessary to inquire, how they have been 'united, and in what manner their combination has contributed to their success. It is now our indispensable duty, we think, to make ourselves acquainted with the structure of that military establishment which has triumphed so fatally over every other to which it has yet been opposeil, -to ascertain how far its excellences may be copied among a free people,--and to determine to what extent its efficacy or permanence may be rendered precarious by the oppressions which it entails on those who are subject to it.
The perusal of the work before us, which has been recently transmitted from France, with a full commentary of facts by a diligent and judicious observer, has enabled us to lay before our readers some materials for such an inquiry; and to direct the attention of our countrymen to the internal organization of a power, which must be understood before it can be resisted; and with which we can neither be at peace nor at war in safety, till we comprehend, in some measure, the nature of the foundations on which it rests. The book is entitled Code de la Conscription,' and contains a chronological series of laws enacted since the year 1798, on the subject of the Military Conscription of France. It should be remarked, that the new French jurisprudence has been promulgated under the various titles of the Civil, Rural, Commercial, and Criminal Codes -and this, the " Code de la Conscription ;' which, no doubt, is, of the whole Napoleon Corpus Juris, most dear to the modern Justinian, and most odious to his great and good subjects. '*
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* This new jurisprudence, in the highest degree defective in the 'ory, and vexatious in practice, is created upon a principle which will be found to actuate most of their internal regulations, that in a new government every thing should be new. "Whoever,' says
Tacitus somewhere observes of Tiberius, that his speeches to the senate, by the 'involutions' of the style, at once betrayed the character of their author; and seemed to shadow out the picture of his cautious, dark, and crooked policy. This volume, consisting of two hundred and seventy close printed pages, obscure and even unintelligible in all its clauses of lenity, and clear only in its provisions of rigour, might suggest a similar observa. tion, and be traced to the ruminations of an ambitious and sanguinary despotism. In fact, the extreme difficulty which we (with no vulgar helps) have experienced in collecting the scope and import of this extraordinary volume, convinces us that, to the great majority of Frenchmen, the whole must be as incomprehensible as the mysteries of Eleusis, or the traditions of the Cabala. There is an oracle at hand, indeed, which will readily expound one half of the mystery. The Military Tribunals will soon make them understand the penalties annexed to disobedience; but they have, and can have no instruction as to their immunities. For it is a remarkable and most instructive fact, that notwithstanding the voluminous annotations daily issuing from the French press on every other branch of the Imperiał jurisprudence, no one has yet been bold enough to publish a single word to elucidate the text, or blazon the moderation of the Code de la Conscription.
It is impossible even to glance at this volume, without being struck with the extreme anxiety which these statutes betray, to enforce conformity, both in the executioner and the vietim. The enumeration of cases is so complete as to preclude the possibility of evasion. The public functionaries have their respective provinces most accurately marked out; and are furnished with disa tinct formulæ for every act of office. The severest and most unrelenting punishment is inflicted upon all who; from negligence, or corruption, or pity, give countenance to the slightest relaxation. The diseases which give right to exemption are detailed with a jealous and disgusting minuteness. Precautions are multiplied without number to secure the persons of the conscripts; and, while they are decorated with the title of ' Defenseurs de lu Patrie,' the uniform tenor of these laws, and the tone of
Machiavel, “ makes himself Lord of a state, (especially if he sus. pect his ability to keep it), must, as the best course, make every thing as new as himself ;-alter the magistracy, create new titles, confer new authorities, uncharter old corporations, advance the poor, impoverish the rich ;--that what is said of David may be said of him, “ He filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he sent cmpty Cm 2.994. " Discorsi, lib. 1. c. 26,
which pervahe trade of Waroused to armeid.
bitter reproof which pervades them, afford conclusive evidence of a general aversion for the trade of war; and serve to convince us, that these Achilleses are not easily roused to arms, whatever enthusiasm they may afterwards display in the field. * Some few provisions are introduced on the subject of voluntary enlistments; but, as no bounty is allowed, it is evident that they do not enter into the serious consideration of the government. The old compromise between the military exigencies and civil constitution of the state,-between the effeminacy of the rich and the wants of the poor,-between the ambition of the sovereign and the rights of the subject, is rejected with disdain by the Imperial republic; and the student is dragged relentlessly from his closet, and the peasant from his hiding-place, by an indiscrimi. nating and unqualified coercion. But habit soon renders submission, if not cheerful, at least easy ; rapine furnishes sources of munificence and conciliation ; courage becomes a virtue of necessity; strength is acquired by discipline; military ardour kindles with competition ; and experience too fatally proves,
* Page 81 contains a proclamation, dated in the year 1800, of General Le Febre, commander of the 15th and 17th military divia sions. It commences in this way.
"Aux CONSCRITS. .. Les proclamations, les invitations qui vous ont été faites pour
vous, faire rentrer dans le chemin de l'honneur, n'ont pas produit * l'effet qu'on devoit en attendre.
• Vous avez été sourds et insensibles aux mesures paternelles du gouvernement à votre égard. Je vous préviens de sa part, que celles qu'il prendra a l'avenir seront terribles. Les conscrits qui ne seront pas rentré dans leur poste, à Hepoque qui va être pre• scrite, seront punis comme de laches deserteurs, des voleurs des ei
fets militaires, des ennemis de la patrie. La force publique les at
teindra dans les lieux les plus cachés. Elle se fera un devoir d'ele 6 pulser de la societé des hommes vils qui la deshonorent,' &c.
Le Febre is now Duke of Dantzig, and employed in the work f blood in Spain. The style of his proclamation reminds us of a le. ter addressed to the Commune of Paris in 1794, by one of his coadjutors, General Laval, who then commanded a body of French troops at Manheim, and is now at the head of the troops of the Conia federation of the Rhine. "Je commande devant Manheim. Nous
continuons à ravager le rich pays de nos ennemis. Nous ne laissons • que les yeux pour pleurer. Vive la republique ! Nous sommes 6 tous generaux sans-culottes de nom et d'effet. Nous t'adorons, * ô Sainte Guillotine! que tu as fait de miracles; tu vaux mieux • que cent mille hommes; ça va, ça ira! Vive la Montagne ! &c.
admit « no balanced advantages, or diverging claims.' All the capacities, and energies, and habitudes of private life, are unrelentingly wrested to the production of force, for the subjugation of the globe, or, as coordinate with this object, for the aggrandizement of the reigning family. The changes of form in their government have occasioned no remission in this pursuit. It has always been spoken of among them with confidence and zeal. Events have recently brought it more into notice; and nothing. now remains but to achieve the ultimate object, ' la grande pensée;' as it is emphatically styled in the cotéries of Paris. I
That our readers may the better understand our abstract of the laws on the Conscription, it is proper to premise, that France is divided into about 30 military governments, subject to a general of division and his staff, to which commissaries are attached as executive officers. The civil division consists of 122 departments; 2t of which have been acquired since the overthrow of the monarchy, exclusive of Tuscany, not included in any part of this statement. The departments are divided into districts or arrondissements, from 3 to 5 in number; the arrondissements into cantons, and the cantons into municipalities, amounting to about 55,000. Each department is governed by a prefect and his coun. cil, composed of a commissary of police, a mayor, and certain inspectors, denominated counsellors of prefecture. The district or arrondissement, by a subprefect and his council, of a similar for
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I For the opinions of the civil politicians of France, on the subject of Universal Monarchy, we refer the reader to Rousseau (Projet de paix perpetuelle), to Montesquieu (Esprit des lois, Liv. 9. c. 7.), and to Mably (Observations sur les Romains, Liv. 1. P. 2.) With their doctrines, he should compare the higher authority of a MILITARY statesman, Folard, one of the most amusing and instructive commentators on the Politics of Antiquity. For the edification of those who would wish to know what feeling, on this subject, has uniform- , ly prevailed in the French metropolis, we shall extract a few passages from Folard's Observations on Polybius. On peut voir par tout ceque nous avons avancé sur la politique des Romains, que l'idée de la monarchie universelle n'est pas une illusion. Ils se virent les maitres du monde en très peu de temps, c'est à dire, dès qu'ils penserent à se rendre puissans sur mer; car, sans cela, toute leur politique ne leur eût servi de rien. Je ne sais même s'ils eussent pu se maintenir sur terre. Que ceci nous serve d'un pensez-y-bicn. Cette politique est très digne de nos eloges ; et d'être imitée par des princes ambitieux et guerriers, qui se fournissent d'une milice bien entretenue et bien disciplinée. On va loin avec cela. J'admire les Romains en tout; car ce crime, dont on les accuse, de s'être frayés un chemin à la mo.