30-RECRUITING BONAPARTE

In late 1793, when Gutle heard of the Vendean genocide, she took it very hard, for she hadn’t yet gotten over Marie-Antoinette’s execution on Oct. 14th of that same year. If her man was the most powerful banker in the world, and he was, he just had to do something about stopping the atrocities.

Mayer agreed. The time had come to put an end to the terror. When Barras returned from Toulon, he was widely acclaimed as a hero by members of the Convention, and Mayer seized the moment. He wrote to Ouvrard telling him to finance Barras and give him all the means necessary to put an end to the Paris Commune working out of Paris City Hall. Not only was Robespierre running the guillotine at full speed, but he had set up procedures for mass trials where 50 to 60 victims were executed at a time.

Barras became very affluent in a very short period of time and took charge of the Convention. When he sensed that the moderates were ready to get rid of the mad dogs (les sans-culottes) in the Assembly, he moved to have Robespierre and his lieutenants arrested on July 27th, 1794. However, Robespierre was brought to Paris City Hall that was run by his cronies, the sans-culottes. So, fearing retaliation and an attempt on his own life, Barras quickly had himself named commander of the Paris military forces and immediately went to City Hall to fetch Robespierre. Robespierre was wounded in the process, and on July 28th, 1794, he was guillotined. The following day, 80 ‘sans-culottes’ were also guillotined and the Reign of Terror ended just as suddenly as it had begun on September 2nd, 1792.

A year later, when the Royalists threatened to take control of the Convention, Barras knew how he would stop them. He employed a brilliant and idle Bonaparte by reinstating him as brigadier general. On October 5, 1795, Barras ordered the latter to stop the Royalists who were marching on the Convention. Using artillery, Bonaparte massacred 300 Royalists on the steps of St. Roch Church. The young man received all the honors of victory, and Barras praised him highly in the presence of the assembly. His appointment to the rank of general of division was voted by acclamation while his protector, Barras, settled in the Luxembourg Palace.

Barras was a completely debauched individual, and he welcomed bribes from military suppliers and big business in order to pay for his mistresses, and his aristocratic lifestyle. Ouvrard personally gave him a contract to supply the Navy. Barras was quite generous with his friends and he entertained many at the Castle of Grosbois which served both as his summer headquarters and his hunting lodge. Suppliers, solicitors, horses, and adventurers of all kinds, accompanied Barras wherever he went. Barras was the most popular of the five directors and his court presented a singular mixture of the biggest names of old aristocratic France and ‘nouveaux riches’. Being assured financial backing by Mayer through Ouvrard and having the full support of Bonaparte, to whom he had given his mistress, Joséphine Beauharnais, Barras had nothing to worry about.

Ruling from his headquarters at Luxemburg Palace, Barras was called ‘le roi pourri’ (rotten king) by his fellow citizens. Of course, his dictatorship didn’t please the Royalists either, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. They were almost totally excluded from power, and they didn’t dare take to the streets, especially since Bonaparte was in charge of the Paris garrison. After the Toulon massacre, when Barras had asked Bonaparte to take charge of the Paris Garrison and protect the Convention, he had warned Barras, “Once my sword is drawn, it will not be sheathed until order is restored”.

On March 9, 1796, Bonaparte married Josephine de Beauharnais. Two days after his marriage, Barras sent him off to take charge of the Army of Italy. It seemed like quite a promotion, but it was in fact a way to keep him out of the way. Not surprisingly, what Bonaparte found was an army that was weak, hungry, tired, and running out of supplies. Nonetheless, in less than one year, he had recruited one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers, five hundred and forty cannons, not to mention horses, uniforms and weapons for all.

When he went to Italy, he was quite aware that his future rested on the shoulders of his ‘grognards’(grumblers), and he set about turning them into soldiers. In no time, he had them eating out of his hand, and if they called him ‘petit caporal’, it was not because of his rank or his size, it was an affectionate term they used in addressing a great general who spoke their language. He made them feel he was one of them by showing great familiarity without ever jeopardizing his commander status. He was a man of stature who treated them with respect.

Bonaparte authorized his soldiers to take what they needed in an orderly way, and because northern Italy was such a rich region, the conquering army soon started looking like one. As Bonaparte’s fame and fortune grew, so did his soldiers’ self-esteem, for they were the recipients of many promotions and decorations and they basked in glory. In no time at all, the grumblers were draped in well-fitting uniforms, had shining weaponry, and the officers were riding spirited horses. The medals that were handed out in profusion made the spectacular uniforms even more striking. It was only natural for Bonaparte to feel at home in Italy, for he had Italian blood and spoke Italian. He accumulated victory upon victory, worked on his propaganda machine, and enjoyed much success generally.

While in Italy, Bonaparte never stopped chasing the Austrians. Throughout the autumn of 1796, he whittled away at the Austrian army with victories at Castiglione, Bassano and Arcole. In March 1797, just two months after routing the enemy at Rivoli and driving them from northern Italy, he crossed the Alps into Austria itself, and by April 7, 1797, he was within seventy-five miles of Vienna. Stunned by the rapid advance of the French army, the Austrian emperor admitted defeat and ratified the Treaty of Campo Formio.

Bonaparte had found new ways to do battle. For instance, since armies needed first and foremost bread and fodder to survive, he first worked on that aspect. If bread and fodder could not be requisitioned in the occupied countries, the armies had no choice but to live off their own stores, which considerably limited troop movement. So, in order to live entirely off the land and move his army quickly, Bonaparte chose the right growing season to engage in battle, moved quickly through the most fertile areas, and sent his storekeepers ahead to negotiate and buy the necessary supplies from farmers and artisans.

Militarily, he used a much greater number of troops than was the norm, which he equipped with long-range muskets. He also used long-range cannons, that were lightweight, had greater accuracy and that he could move around with lighting speed. More importantly, he invented the division system where the artillery, the cavalry and the infantry became separate units. Finally, by attacking the enemy from the rear and the flank, it meant he could herd the enemy into the area where he wanted the battle to take place which in the process had the effect of breaking down enemy morale. He, on the other hand, had troops with good morale because his soldiers were fighting for the ideas of the Revolution and were very motivated. However, the techniques of rapid movement, of attacking from unusual directions and of pursuing the retreating army used by Bonaparte were deplored by the commanders of the old school who had never seen such barbaric behavior.

Each victory was not only related in detail, often in advance, but embellished as well. In every French village, it was a common occurrence to hear the church bells heralding a news bulletin describing the great exploits of Bonaparte, the crier never failing to stress the General’s great courage and prowess. The fact that these bulletins were more often than not written by the great man himself didn’t seem to bother anybody. The French were a battered people and they couldn’t get enough of these great military feats involving brave Frenchmen. Bonaparte was building a solid reputation that no one in metropolitan France would dare attack, not even the newly-entrenched landed gentry. Understandably, when he returned to France in 1797, he was acclaimed as a hero.

11-VERSAILLES

 

France had so many indirect taxes, and they were so complex, that the king, who was forever broke, was quite happy to farm out the tax-collecting chores to accelerate cash flow. The Farmers General, as they were called, would buy a six-year lease for a price corresponding to the total amount of taxes they deemed they could collect in that period of time. Obviously, the estimates were always on the low side, but the king, forever short of money and anxious to get at these huge upfront sums of money, wasn’t inclined to negotiate to any great extent. As one would expect, since the Farmers General kept all the taxes collected and acted in the name of the king, they used very aggressive tactics in dealing with the citizens.

The Farmers General became fabulously rich, pocketing as much as half of the total taxes paid out by the citizens. They would also routinely coerce and blackmail the producers in order to buy their goods at ridiculously low prices, and then they would sell the same goods to city merchants at the other end at exorbitant prices. They were the most hated men of the realm and much of the bitterness was directed at the king, for they acted in his name. When a finance minister was to be named, they directly influenced the king in his choice, thus getting the most accommodating candidate. When Nicolas Fouquet was named Superintendent of Finances, the East India Company shareholders were offered a great opportunity.

Louis XIV was a born megalomaniac, and in 1661, he was humiliated by Nicolas Fouquet who was suspected of having doubtful dealings with the Farmers General. Fouquet had invited the king to his magnificent château de Vaux-le-Vicomte that he had just built, and the king upon seeing the magnificence and the beauty of the domain, not only envied his achievement but wondered where all the money to build it had come from. Smelling a rat, he confiscated Fouquet’s assets and threw him in prison.

The shareholders of the East India Company seized the opportunity and relieved the King’s rancour by making all necessary credit available through third parties so that he could build the most sumptuous kingly residence in the world, the chateau de Versailles. Louis XIV proceeded to hire the great artisans that had created the château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, architect Louis Le Vau, painter Charles Le Brun, and garden designer André le Nôtre, and construction began.

By this time, the owners of the East India Company were the masters of international trade and commerce and their navy ruled the oceans of the world. The shareholders of the East India Company were Jews and Huguenots, and although they were business men and bankers first and foremost, they harbored a festering hatred directed at the Holy Roman Empire, the politico-religious institution that had persecuted them for centuries. They were intent on bringing it down, and the obvious starting point was France, the cornerstone of that empire. In financing the construction of the chateau de Versailles, they were looking well ahead. They had found a way to divide in order to better conquer when the time came. By separating the seat of power from the people, Versailles was twenty kilometers from Paris, the king would become vulnerable. Eventually, Versailles would be perceived as a den of vipers living off the misery of the people, and the King would easily be brought down. The occult financing of the chateau de Versailles by the Amsterdam financiers was the seed that would develop into the French Revolution a hundred years later.

By 1789, bread continued to be the most important ingredient in a Frenchman’s diet. It was central to people’s lives, and though it was the corrupt Farmers General who controlled the supply of cereal and created famines, the bakers were the ones perceived as profiting from dearth and famine and making huge profits by selling this vital commodity at a high price. Bakers were often accused of hoarding stocks and were frequently assaulted. Being lynched became the occupational hazard of bakers. So, limiting the supply of cereal was a very easy way to create unrest in the major urban centers.

There was such unrest in the realm when the tennis court oath under the leadership of Mirabeau in June, 1789, the taking of the Bastille under the sponsorship of Louis-Phillippe d’Orléans in July, and the March on Versailles under the guard of Lafayette in October, were carried out. These incidents were obviously organized by well-paid East India Company agents, and the March on Versailles is perhaps the one that best shows that. In October of that year, a very odd crowd of transvestites went to Versailles to fetch the royal family, “the baker, the baker’s wife, and the baker’s apprentice” as their chant went. The untypically aggressive ‘ladies’ even entered the royal residence while Lafayette and his mounted guard made no attempt to stop them. How such an ungainly disguised group could go to Versailles, capture and bring back the royals to Paris with Lafayette’s National Guard standing by is a mystery that the history books fail to examine.

The East India Company was established in 1600 and was made up of patient and determined men. It took control of international commerce as early as 1624 when it established a foothold on the shores of the Hudson River in America and especially when it took possession of Cape Town in 1652. The owners created democracy by financing an independent parliament in 1689, and creating the Bank of England in 1694. Sure of having their loans repaid by the people’s parliament, they financed unlimited research and development which became known as the Industrial Revolution.

Following a hundred years of mindboggling growth and wealth, they were ready to launch the French Revolution in 1789. In 1810, even though the Bank of England was taken over by the banking dynasty that had created the Bank of North America in 1781, the transition was harmonious, and investments in R&D continued to grow exponentially worldwide. The dynasty that took control of the Bank of England and the City then is the same that rules the financial world today, and we should consider ourselves very fortunate indeed.