« PreviousContinue »
mation. The cantons and municipalities are under the supervis sion of an administration, composed of the civil authorities, with a president at their head. A mayor, a commissary of police, and two officers of the government, styled adjuncts, are allotted to every division having a population above 5000 souls. * These several authorities are in strict subordination to each other, and at the controul of the prefects and subprefects; who, themselves, are charged with a weighty and inflexible responsibility as to the military levies.
The Conscription was first published in the form of a general law by the Council of Antients in the year 1798, and has since undergone some slight modifications. † The directorial plan is ata tributed to Carnot, who, in the revolutionary language, is said "to have organized victory in the French armies.' Its author, who was enthusiastically devoted to the forms of antiquity, and still preserves, within the rays of the imperial purple, all the sim. plicity of antient manners, found his model in the constitution of the Roman Republic, which made every citizen a soldier before the age of forty-six,--in their annual levies, which admitted of no exception--and in the peremptory orders issued by their consuls to the magistrates of Italy, specifying the number of troops required, and the place of assemblage.
By the law of the Directory, all Frenchmen are pronounced soldiers; and when the country is declared in danger, are liable to be summoned to its defence. In any other conjuncture, the mants of the army are relieved by the Conscription; and the requi. site number of conscripts is determined by the Senate or Legisla. tive Body, at the suggestion of the executive government. The law which limits the whole number, regulates, at the same time, the contingent of each department, proportionally to its population. Within eight days after publication, the prefect distributes this contingent among the districts, by the same rule; and the
garchie universelle par tant de guerres injustes, peut fournir une très umple matiere d'éloge l’un prince qui entreprendra un semblable dessein avec les mêmes moyens et les mesures necessaires. On accuse Louis XIV d'avoir aspiré à la monarchie universelle ; et moi je l’en loue. Cela eût reussi infalliblement, s'il eût toujours eu à la tête de ses armées, ile ces hommes, qui semblent nés pour être ensemble la terreur et l'admiration de la terre. Avec ce secours, il eût sans difficulté fait la conquête de toute l'Europe. Il me seroit très aisé de le prouver,' &c. (Obseru. T. 2. ch. 18.)
* Peuchet, Statistique de la France, 1807.
* The. Requisition' which preceded this system, was of a characjer still more arbitrary. Mr Burke entitles it, ' A Sweeping Law $f Unprecedented Despotism?
subprefect among the cantons and municipalities. All Frenchmen between the full age of twenty and twenty-five complete, are liable to the conscription. They are each year thrown into five classes ; the first of which, consists of those who have completed their twentieth year on the 1st Vendemaire, or 16th September preceding; the second of those who, at the same period, have terminated their twenty-first year, and so on, in the order of seniority. Thus, the conscript, who has attained the full age of twenty-five, remains liable, until the month and day just mentioned. The municipal administrations are bound to prepare lists framed from the registers of births, and from common notoriety, which particularize the name, domicile, stature, &c. of all the individuals subject to the conscription, within their jurisdiction. The same individuals are also bound to enrol themselves, with a similar specification, at the office of the municipality, as soon as the law is published. Both lists are then transmitted to the prefects, who are responsible for their accuracy, and who immediately consign them over to the minister of war.
Eight days are allotted to the preparation of the lists. The con'scripts * are then assembled in each canton, and examined by the administration, or by a special commission, created ad hoc by the . prefect. The merits of all pleas of exemption are scrutinized at these meetings. Such as plead infirmities, if able to attend, are examined on the spot; and if not, are visited at their dwellings by
the inspectors' and health-officers. The latter, generally physicians in the army, are not selected until the moment of examination; and, to obviate collusion, must belong to a district different from that of the conscript. The final decision of all cases of exemption, is referred to a commission of higher resort, composed of the prefect, the general officers and commissaries of the department. When these claims are disposed of, lists are formed of those who are adjudged competent to serve, whether present or absent; and the subprefect then proceeds to the drawing,' or designation by lot, of such as, are to constitute the quota of the district. Tickets regularly numbered to the amount of the names on the list, are publicly deposited in an urn, and indiscriminately drawn out by the conscripts or their friends. The lot falls upon those who draw the numbers below the amount of the quota. The higher numbers drawn by the rest are annexed to their names, in order : that they may be forthcoming in their order, should any casualty disable their predecessors. Absentees not presenting them
* Two brigades of Gendarmerie usually attend. This is a body of military having the same functions as our constables, and abott 16,000 in number.-Peuchet.
may, on soliciting the indulgence, be transferred to the reserve. The same privilege is accorded to those who have taken the order of subdeacon in the ecclesiastical seminaries. Parents continue responsible for their absent children, until they can produce an of. ficial attestation of their death. *
The Directory admitted of no substitution ; but the severity of this principle is now relaxed in favour of such as are adjudged • incapable of sustaining the fatigues of war,' or, ' whose labours and studies are deemed more useful to the state' than their military service.' Proxies are therefore received only ad libituin ; not as a matter of right; and never without a special mandate from the Minister of War. The conscript furnishes a sum of about 51. (100 francs) for the equipment of his substitute, who must be between the age of twenty-five and forty, of the middle size at least, of a robust constitution, of a good character cer. tified by his municipality, and himself beyond the reach of the conscription laws. He bears the surname of his principal, in order that the latter may be known and compelled to march, should his proxy desert, or be lost from any other cause than death, or wounds received in battle w thin the term of two years.
All the enacting clauses of this system are fortified by heavy denunciations against public functionaries, parents, or others who contribute to defeat or retard its operation. Any health-officer or other functionary convicted of furnishing a false certificate of infirmity, &c. is subjected to five years imprisonment in irons.
* We firid, on the subject of dispensation, two decrees which should be noted. One, p. 100, of the year ninety-nine, by which all workmen engaged in the manufacture of arms and of gunpowder, or employed in the national magazines of saltpetre, &c. are exempted; and another, p. 104, of the year 1802, enacting, that congés equal in number to the one fourth of the whole body of soldiers and subalterns in the army, should be given to such as had served irreproachably during the whole war, or during five c::mpaigns, as soon as they could be replaced by new recruits. The inspector charged with the distribution of these congés, is enjoined, however, to remind the soldiers how much they are in the wrong to abandon thie first of professions (le premier des etats). In the year ninety-eight, the law was repealed which exempted married persons from the conscription. Depere, and with him Malthus, attributes the increased proportion of births in the country, anterior to that period, to premature marriages, to avoid the military levies. (Malthus, b. 2. c. 6.) • Les mariages prematurés et multipliés par la crainte des loix militaires,' are particularly noticed in the statistical reports of the prefects for the year eight,
All civil and military officers, even of the highest rank, convicted of favouring the escape, or concealing the retreat of a fugitive, are exposed to excessive fines. Conscripts detected in counterfeiting infirmities, or mutilating their selves, are placed • at the disposition of the government' for five years, to be employed in such public labours as may be judged most useful to the state. The absentees or refractory conscripts, whose appre. hension is secured by the most minute and efficient precautious, besides undergoing the corporal punishment entailed on their offence, are aimerced in a sum of fifteen hundred francs, equivalent, from the comparative value of money in the two countries, to about one hundred and twenty pounds Sterling. This sum, together with the expenses incurred in the pursuit, is levied inexorabiy on the real property of the father or mother, should the fugitive possess none in his own right. *
* It will not be impertinent to exemplify, here, the immoderate rigour exercised on the points now before us, by a few paragraphs taken at random from the journals of the country. The following is from the Mercure de France of August 1807. - Jean Vidal se. (nier, of the Commune of Orbon, in order to enfranchise his son < from the conscription, had employed a false document, knowing < it to be false. This document was the record of his birth, in which "it was stated that he was born in 1734, although the real period
of his birth was 1741. His object was, to be considered as havoing attained the age of 71, and therefore entitled to claim for his • son the indulgence of the law. The Special Court of Criminal « Justice has, by a decree of the 21st July, condemned this person < to eight year's labour in irons, to be branded rith a hot iron on the
left shoulder, to an exposition of six hours, and to the expenses of the
prosecution, and of 400 copies of the decrec.' The two following are from the “ Journal de L'Empire' of August 2d and 7th. • The « Tribunal of Corrective Police (Police Correctionelle ) of Paris, finishsed yesterday the trial of seven persons charged with extortion from
conscripts,-_-" Escroquerie en maticre de conscription.” Tessiaire, sa surgeon's apprentice, was accused of having blown into the eyes of a 6 multitude of conscripts, a powder calculated to excite inflammation, 6 and of having received from their friends, for this service, various sums
between two and three thousand livres, somewhat more than 2001. 6 from each. Six other persons were accused of making him known
to different conscripts, and of sharing in his profits. While one of
these, a goldsmith, called Lugot, the father of three children, took • his place at the b:ır, his wife was carried to the grave, having died 6 of fright, when she was told that her husband had been summon