Napoleon’s policy between 1800 and 18 1 5 aimed at stabiliza tion of his régime at home, and at dynamic conquest abroad. After Bonaparte had “arrived” by the success of great military campaigns, he proceeded gradually to establish a personal dictatorship by skilfully exploiting the weaknesses of the Directorate and the desire of the masses for order with glory rather than for revolution with disgrace. The bankruptcy of the Jacobins as well as the fear of the return of the reactionary Bourbons who would have dispossessed the present owners of emigre property played into the hand of a military dictatorship. Napoleon could maintain it by advancing coldly and cautiously. The coup d'état of 1799, decided through the presence of mind of his brother Lucien rather than through the courage of Bonaparte, did not at once lead to an autocracy but to a Government of three Consuls, of whom Napoleon was to be No. 1. Nobody cared about names, everybody wanted to see the end of the chaos in the administration which had marked the last years of the Directorate. Whilst the executive and legislative had quarrelled with each other, the army had become the decisive factor. It is true, Napoleon had seized power without the consent of the people, but he was anxious not to rule expressly against them. At least during the first years of his régime he held-to use a formula of the Abbé Siéyès-that confidence must come from below, authority from above. It was he who introduced the modern technique of plebiscitarian dictatorship, with its ear to the ground, through open and secret channels. Napoleon sug gested to the people that they should trust and install him and they responded by electing him First Consul in 1802 and Emperor in 1804. As in every dictatorship, the people were allowed to agree with him but forbidden to voice their disagreement. Why did the masses prove so docile ? Because they cared less for
liberty than for security. They were tired of the eternal struggle between émigrés, Girondins and Jacobins, and resented not so much the familiar interference in their private lives as the end less war of all against all and the permanent insecurity of life. Napoleon closed the process of the revolution by acting more as its executor than as its destroyer. His dictatorship was founded on the primacy of the army and on the balance maintained be tween the various social and political groups. Members of all of them were allowed to serve him and to be controlled by him. He based his régime less on one faction than on the levelling down of all. It was a dictatorship which used equality as a means, not as an end. Everybody who opposed it was destroyed, but-what was of greater significance-everyone willing to serve loyally was given his chance to rise. É migrés served in Napoleon’s household, in the Senate, in the Army, and former Girondins and Jacobins became members of the State Council and of the Councils of the provinces. As H. A. L. Fisher has shown, Napoleon succeeded after years of insecurity in making “ life safe and easy for the ordinary householder” (1).