The Last Days of Absolute Monarchy - The French Revolution
After his disembarkation at Alexandria, the whole of the French fleet at Aboukir, owing to the carelessness of the admiral, was defeated and captured by the English naval hero, Nelson; and Napoleon was in consequence obliged to make arrangements for a longer stay. In July, he march ed from Alexandria through the Egyptian desert to Cairo. The distress of the army, unprovided with water or sufficient necessaries, in the burning heat, was very great. In the battle of the Pyramids, July 21st 1798, 'from the tops of which 4,000 years looked down upon the combatants,' the Mamalukes, who at that time swayed Egypt under the Turkish government, were defeated; whereupon Bonaparte marched into Cairo, and established a new government, police, and taxation, upon the European pattern, and ordered the curiosities of this wonderful land to be examined, and its monuments and antiquities to be collected and described, by the artists and men of learning who accompanied his army.
A dreadful insurrection broke out in Cairo, October 21st 1798, which could only be suppressed with difficulty by the superiority of European tactics, after nearly 6,000 Mahommedans had been slain. Napoleon made use of the victory to extort money, and then marched with his Turkish troops against Syria. After the conquest of Jaffa, where he ordered 2,000 Arnauts, whom he had a second time taken prisoners, to be shot as perjured, he proceeded to the siege of Jean d'Acre. It was there that the fortune of Napoleon met with its first rebuff. The Turks, provided with artillery by the English admiral, Sir Sidney Smith, repelled the assaults of the enemy, despite their wonderful valor. At the same time, a Turkish army threatened the European soldiers in the interior of the country. The former was, indeed, defeated and dispersed by Junot at Nazareth, and at Mount Tabor by Kleber; nevertheless, upon the plague breaking out among his troops, Napoleon found himself compelled to give up Acre and to commence a retreat. The horses were laden with the sick: the soldiers suffered the most dreadful privations; the dangers and the distresses of the war were frightful. Napoleon shared all the fatigues with the meanest of his army; he is even said to have visited a hospital filled with those sick of the plague. He again reached Cairo in June, and in the following month, defeated a Turkish army of three times his number, at Aboukir. A short time after this, he learned the disasters of the French in Italy from some newspapers; and the intelligence produced such. an effect upon him, that he determined upon returning to France. He quietly made his preparations for departure with the greatest expedition. After transferring the command of the Egyptian army to Kleber, Napoleon sailed from the harbor of Alexandria with two frigates and a few small transports, and about 500 followers, and, guided by the star of his fortunes, reached the coast of France undiscovered by the English, and landed at Frejus amidst the acclamations of the people.
Upon his arrival in Paris, Napoleon embraced the resolution of overthrowing the directoral government which had lost all authority and consideration. With this purpose, he made himself secure of the officers and troops that were in Paris, and consulted with Sieyes, one of the directors, and his own brother, Lucien Bonaparte, who had been elected president of the Five Hundred, on the means of carrying his plan into execution. Lucien transferred the sittings of the council to St. Cloud, for the purpose of bringing the members within the power of the soldiers. There, Napoleon first attempted to win over the members to his plans by persuasion; when he found that he could not succeed in this, but rather, that he was overwhelmed with threats and reproaches, he commanded his grenadiers to clear the room with leveled bayonets. The republicans, who presented a bold front to the danger, were at length compelled to yield to superior force, and sought their safety through the doors and windows. This done a commission of fifty persons was appointed to draw up a fresh constitution, November 9th 1799. Thus ended the violent procedure of the 18th Brumaire, in consequence of which Napoleon Bonaparte took the conduct of affairs into his own strong hands.
According to the consular constitution, the power of the state was divided in the following manner: - 1. To the Senate, which consisted of eighty members, belonged the privilege of selecting from the list of names sent in by the departments the members of the legislative power, and the chief officials and judges. 2. The legislative power was divided into the Tribunate, which numbered one hundred members, and whose office it was to examine and debate upon the proposals of the government; and the legislative bodies, who had only to receive or reject these proposals unconditionally. 3. The government consisted of three Consuls, who were elected for ten years. Of these Consuls, the first, Bonaparte, exercised the powers of government, properly so called; whilst the second and third Consuls (Cambacéres and Lebrun) were merely placed at his side as advisers. Bonaparte, as first Consul, surrounded himself with a state council and a ministry, for which he selected the most talented and experienced men. Talleyrand, the dexterous diplomatist, was minister of the exterior; the astute Fouché superintended the police; Berthier held the staff of general.
Bonaparte was at first engaged in reconciling the old with the new, in combining the results of the Revolution with the forms and manners of the monarchical period. But he very soon made known his preference for the ancient system, by the restoration of all the former arrangements and customs.