Bélissa, Marc: Les patriotes européens et l’ordre républicain cosmopolitique 1795-1802

9782915596106fsBélissa analyses the conquests made by the new French Republic in Italy (an IV-V), Switzerland (an VI-VII), Holland (an III), and Belgium (an III-IV). These countries are called “sister-Republics.” Patriots in these “sister-Republics” are European militants and support the French Republic, at first, in its fight against monarchical Europe (91).
These patriots have conscious to be part of a “republican order” of free peoples, thought of as the first “truly European political, social and cultural project” (92). This project must realise the cosmopolitan imperative of the revolution: a peaceful order based on the rights of nations against tyranny (92).
In the first days of conquests, numerous voices advise to behave as occupant armies and seize everything possible (93). To justify France’s domination over Belgium and Holland, a brutal vision of law is expressed: the peoples are incapable of revolutionising themselves; they have no autonomy or Enlightenment (93). The Republic offers them rational administration and the end of archaic and feudal institutions; order and progress justifying domination (93). Moreover, France cannot let nations escape her orbit and risk an ingratitude characteristic to all peoples (93). “… the independence of the peoples must always be under control to stay compatible with the prosperity and power of the French Republic” (94).

“Republicanism is thus conceived not as an ethical and cosmopolitan model but as an institutional administrative structure and universalisable under the direction of the French power” (94).

The Directoire is then putting itself in a paradoxical situation of putting these republics in the impossibility to defend the European order by refusing local free and revolutionary republicanism (94).
Still the rhetoric of the liberation of peoples does not disappear under the Directoire and all republicans consider that France must aid to the propagation of the principles of property and liberty (95). But to free the peoples does not necessarily mean to respect the free expression of their sovereignty (95).
France wants to propagate the principles of the revolution, but does not want to have revolutions. It is a republican order that she wants to encourage, a “Republic without revolution” (96). In order to achieve this objective, France treat the republics as “executives” and not “partners”, and does not hesitate to make alliances with princes and kings against the republics to achieve this order (97).
The project for a republican order under the Directoire is thus not a federation as the enlightened philosophers conceived, but an hegemony, dominating without any institutional compensation (97).
Bonaparte’s coup-d’Etat was at first well received by the republics, as putting an end to the instrumentalisation achieved by the Directoire. However, soon it will be obvious that the revolution and France are no longer a universalist reference for humanity (105).


Bélissa, Marc (2005) “Les patriotes européens et l’ordre républicain cosmopolitique 1795-1802.” In Cosmopolitismes, patriotismes: Europe et Amériques 1773-1802, edited by Marc Bélissa and Bernard Cottret, 91-107. Rennes: Les Perséides.

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