The COUP OF 18 BRUMAIRE brought General
Napoleon Bonaparte to power
First Consul of
France , and, in the view of most historians ,
French Revolution . This bloodless coup d\'état overthrew
the Directory , replacing it with the
French Consulate . This occurred
on 9 November 1799, which was 18
Brumaire , Year VIII under the French
Republican Calendar .
* 1 Context
* 2 Events of 18 Brumaire, Year VIII
* 3 Events of 19
* 4 Aftermath
* 4.1 Marx
* 5 References
* 6 External links
After Habsburg-controlled Austria declared war on 12 March 1799,
France returned to a war footing. Emergency measures were adopted and
Jacobin faction triumphed in the April election. With
Napoleon and the republic's best army engaged in the Egypt and Syria
France suffered a series of reverses on the battlefield in
the spring and summer of 1799. The
Coup of 30 Prairial VII (18 June)
ousted the Jacobins and left
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès , a member of the
five-man ruling Directory, the dominant figure in the government.
France's military situation improved following the Second Battle of
Zurich , fought on 25–26 September. As the prospect of invasion
receded, the Jacobins feared a revival of the pro-peace Royalist
Napoleon returned to
France on 9 October, both factions
hailed him as the country's savior.
Dazzled by Napoleon's campaign in the Middle East, the public
received him with an ardor that convinced Sieyès he had found the
general indispensable to his planned coup. However, from the moment
of his return,
Napoleon plotted a coup within the coup, ultimately
gaining power for himself rather than Sieyès.
Perhaps the gravest potential obstacles to a coup were in the army.
Some generals, such as
Jean-Baptiste Jourdan , honestly believed in
republicanism; others, such as Jean Bernadotte , believed themselves
capable of governing France.
Napoleon worked on the feelings of all,
keeping secret his own intentions.
Prior to the coup, troops were conveniently deployed around
The plan was, first, to persuade the Directors to resign, then,
second, to get the
Council of Ancients and the Council of Five Hundred
(the upper and lower houses of the legislature) to appoint a pliant
commission that would draw up a new constitution to the plotters'
EVENTS OF 18 BRUMAIRE, YEAR VIII
Lucien Bonaparte , President of the
Council of Five Hundred ,
who engineered the coup that brought his brother to power
On the morning of 18 Brumaire,
Lucien Bonaparte falsely persuaded the
Councils that a
Jacobin coup was at hand in Paris, and induced them to
depart for the safety of the suburban
Château de Saint-Cloud .
Napoleon was charged with the safety of the two Councils and given
command of all available local troops.
Later that morning,
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès and
Roger Ducos resigned
as Directors. Former foreign minister Charles Maurice de
Talleyrand-Périgord , a close ally of Napoleon, pressured Director
Paul Barras to do the same.
The resignation of three of the five Directors prevented a quorum and
thus practically abolished the Directory, but the two Jacobin
Louis-Jérôme Gohier and
Jean-François-Auguste Moulin ,
continued to protest furiously. Both men were arrested by Napoleon's
Jean Victor Marie Moreau , and by the following day they
were compelled to give up their resistance.
In contrast to the Directory, the two Councils were not yet
intimidated and continued meeting.
EVENTS OF 19 BRUMAIRE
By the following day, the deputies had, for the most part, realized
that they were facing an attempted coup rather than being protected
Jacobin rebellion. Faced with their recalcitrance, Napoleon
stormed into the chambers, escorted by a small force of grenadiers .
While perhaps unplanned, this proved to be the coup within the coup:
from this point, this was a military affair.
Napoleon found the Ancients resistant "despite a massive show of
military strength." He met with heckling as he addressed them with
such "home truths" as, "the Republic has no government" and, most
likely, "the Revolution is over." One deputy called out, "And the
Napoleon replied, referring to earlier parliamentary
coups, "The Constitution! You yourselves have destroyed it. You
violated it on 18 Fructidor ; you violated it on 22 Floreal ; you
violated it on 30 Prairial . It no longer has the respect of anyone."
In Exit liberté à la François (1799),
James Gillray caricatured
Napoleon and his grenadiers driving the
Council of Five Hundred from
Napoleon's reception by the
Council of Five Hundred was even more
hostile. His grenadiers entered just as the legality of Barras'
resignation was being challenged by the Jacobins in the chamber. Upon
Napoleon was first jostled, then outright assaulted.
Depending on whose account is accepted, he may or may not have come
close to fainting. It was not
Napoleon himself, but his brother
Lucien, President of the Council, who called upon the grenadiers to
defend their leader.
Napoleon escaped, but only through the use of
A motion was raised in the
Council of Five Hundred to declare
Napoleon an outlaw. At this point,
Lucien Bonaparte apparently slipped
out of the chamber and told the soldiers guarding the Councils that
the majority of the Five Hundred were being terrorized by a group of
deputies brandishing daggers. Then, according to Michael Rapport, "He
pointed to Napoleon's bloody, pallid face as proof. Then, in a
theatrical gesture, he seized a sword and promised to plunge it
through his own brother's heart if he were a traitor." Lucien ordered
the troops to expel the violent deputies from the chamber. Grenadiers
under the command of General
Joachim Murat marched into the Orangerie
and dispersed the Council. This was effectively the end of the
The Ancients passed a decree which adjourned the Councils for three
months, appointed Napoleon, Sieyès, and Ducos provisional consuls,
and named the
Corps législatif . Some tractable members of the Five
Hundred, rounded up afterwards, served to give these measures the
confirmation of their House. Thus the Directory and the Councils came
to an end.
The Directory was crushed, but the coup within the coup was not yet
complete. The use of military force had certainly strengthened
Napoleon's hand vis à vis Sieyès and the other plotters. With the
Council routed, the plotters convened two commissions, each consisting
of twenty-five deputies from the two Councils. The plotters
essentially intimidated the commissions into declaring a provisional
government, the first form of the Consulate with Napoleon, Sieyès,
and Ducos as Consuls. The lack of reaction from the streets proved
that the revolution was, indeed, over. "A shabby compound of brute
force and imposture, the 18th
Brumaire was nevertheless condoned, nay
applauded, by the French nation. Weary of revolution, men sought no
more than to be wisely and firmly governed." Resistance by Jacobin
officeholders in the provinces was quickly crushed. Twenty Jacobin
deputies were exiled, and others were arrested. The commissions then
drew up the "short and obscure
Constitution of the Year VIII
Constitution of the Year VIII ", the
first of the constitutions since the Revolution without a Declaration
Bonaparte thus completed his coup within a coup by the adoption of a
constitution under which the First Consul, a position he was sure to
hold, had greater power than the other two. In particular, he
appointed the Senate and the Senate interpreted the constitution. The
Sénat conservateur allowed him to rule by decree, so the more
independent Conseil d\'État and
Tribunat were relegated to
unimportant roles. It led ultimately to the rise of the First French
Karl Marx wrote The Eighteenth
Brumaire of Louis Napoleon
about a much later event, the coup d\'état of 1851 against the Second
Napoleon III , who was Napoleon's nephew. Marx considered
Napoleon a trifling politician compared to his world-conquering
uncle, as expressed in Marx's oft-quoted opening bon mot : "Hegel
remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages
appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as
tragedy, the second time as farce."
* ^ A B C D E F Holland 1911 .
* ^ Doyle, p.374.
* ^ A B C D E Doyle, p. 375.
* ^ Lefebvre, p. 199.
* ^ Rapport, 1998
* ^ Crook, Malcolm (1999). "The Myth Of The 18 Brumaire". H-France