Research Subjects: Government & Politics

Napoleon's Proclamation to the French People on Brumaire

November 10, 1799 (19 Brumaire, Year VIII)

In this proclamation Napoleon, already a master propagandist, puts the best possible face on the Brumaire coup. Napoleon was to repeat in the following days his attack on factionalism and extremism. Note that even in this document, written mere hours after being named one of the Provisional Consuls, Napoleon makes no mention of his fellow consuls, Roger Ducos and Sieyès.

Proclamation of General Buonaparte.

Nov. 10, eleven oclock at night.

On my return to Paris, I found a division reigning amongst all the constituted authorities. There was no agreement but on this single point — that the constitution was half destroyed, and could by no means effect the salvation of our liberties. All the parties came to me, confided to me their designs, unveiled their secrets, and demanded my support. I refused to be a man of any party. A council of elders invited me, and I answered to their call. A plan of general restoration had been concerted by men, in whom the nation is accustomed to see the defender of its freedom and equality, and of property. This plan demanded a calm and liberal examination, free from every influence and every fear. The council of elders resolved, in consequence, that the sittings of the legislative body should be removed to St. Cloud, and charged me with the disposition of the force necessary to secure its independence, I owed it, my fellow-citizens, to the soldiers who are perishing in our armies, and the national glory, acquired at the price of their blood, to accept of this command. The councils being assembled at St. Cloud, the republican troops guaranteed their safety from without; but within, assassins had established the reign of terror. Several members of the council of five hundred, armed with poniards and fire-arms, circulated around them nothing but menaces of death. The plans which were about to be developed were laid aside, the majority was disorganized, the most intrepid orators were disconcerted, and the inutility of every wise proposition was made evident. I bore my indignation and my grief to the council of elders, I demanded of them to ensure the execution of their generous designs. I represented to them the maladies of their country, from which those designs originated. They joined themselves with me, by giving new testimonies of their uniform wishes. I then repaired to the council of five hundred without arms, and my head uncovered, such as I had been received and applauded by the elders. I wished to recall to the majority their wishes, and to assure them of their power. The poniards, which threatened the deputies, were instantly raised against their deliverer. Twenty assassins threw themselves upon me, and sought my breast. The grenadiers of the legislative body, whom I had left at the door of the hall, came up and placed themselves between me and my assassins. One of these brave grenadiers, named Thome, had his clothes struck through with a dagger [It is believed by some that Thome's sleeve may have been pierced in the scuffle by the sword of another soldier]. They succeeded in bearing me away. At this time the cry of "Outlaw!" was raised against the defender of the law. It was the ferocious cry of assassins against the force which was destined to restrain them. They pressed around the president [Napoleon's brother Lucien Bonaparte], threatened him to his face, and, ordered him to decree me out of the protection of the law. Being informed of this circumstance, I gave orders to rescue him from their power, and six grenadiers of the legislative body brought him out of the hall. Immediately after the grenadiers of the legislative body entered at the pas de charge into the hall, and caused it to be evacuated. The factious were intimidated, and dispersed themselves. The majority, released from their blows, entered freely and peaceably into the hall of sitting, heard the propositions which were made to them for the public safety[,] deliberated, and prepared the salutary resolution which is to become the new and provisional law of the republic. Frenchmen! you will recognize, without doubt, in this conduct, the zeal of a soldier of liberty, and of a citizen devoted to the republic. The ideas of preservation, protection, and freedom, immediately resumed their places on the dispersion of the faction who wished to oppress the councils, and who, in making themselves the most odious of men, never cease to be the most contemptible.

(Countersigned) BERTHIER.


The Annual Register, or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1799. London: Printed by R. Wilks for W. Otridge and Sons, etal. (Publisher varies by year.)
Published for the years 1758-1837 in 80 vols.; illus., maps; 21-23 cm.



Placed on the Napoleon Series 5/00


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