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by the puissance of a reiterated consent and a second contract.
The senatus consultum next invests Louis Napoleon with the right to adopt an heir, in default of a direct successor. Adoption, which is a common right in private families, cannot be an exception in dynastic families; for, when no natural heir exists, it is a principle in public law that the choice of the monarch belongs to the people. But that rule is that of ordinary times, and cannot suit in an absolute manner an order of things which again resumes a new course after a long interruption, and in the midst of the most extraordinary circumstances.
Louis Napoleon, the depository of the confidence of the people, charged by it to draw up a constitution, can, on infinitely stronger grounds, receive the mandate to provide for certain eventualities, and to prevent certain crises in which that constitution might perish. The strokes of nature have been often terrible in reigning families, and have set at naught the counsels of wisdom. The French people will not imagine that it makes too great a sacrifice of its rights in abandoning itself once more to the prudence of the prince whom it has made the arbiter of its destinies. This provision, besides, is borrowed from the imperial constitution. The empire which revives ought not to be less powerful in its means than was the empire at its commencement. And, in order to remain within the letter and the spirit of that precedent, the senatus consultum proposes to you not to admit of such adoption, except for the male descendants, natural and legitimate, of the brothers of Napoleon I. The right of unlimited adoption would be in manifest contradiction with the popular wish for the re-establishment of the empire, which is the guiding-star of our deliberations. In fact, the empire is inseparable from the name of Bonaparte ; and cannot be conceived without a member of that family with which the
new form of the monarchy was stipulated in France. Everything ought to remain consistent in the work which we are .considering
But above that combination, solely of a political character, France places a hope which more than anything constitutes her faith in the future; and that is, that, at no distant period, a wife will take her place on the throne which is about to be raised, and will give to the emperor scions worthy of his great name and of this great country. That debt was imposed on the prince on the day when the cries of “ Vive l’Empereur” bailed him on his passage; and he will accept it virtually but necessarily the day when the crown will be placed on his head. For, since the empire is established with a view to the future, it ought to carry with it all the legitimate consequences which preserve that future from uncertainty and shocks.
In default of the direct line and of the adoptive line, the case of succession in the collateral line must be provided for. On that point we propose to you a clause, by which the people should confer on Louis Napoleon the right of regulating by an organic decree that order of succession in the Bonaparte family. By that means, our senatus consultum will remain more perfectly, in accord with the popular wish, which in its unlimited confidence has placed in Louis Napoleon's hands the destinies of the country; it will likewise be more in conformity with the political changes which France has entered into since 2d December. The greatest political genius of Italy, in the sixteenth century, was accustomed to say, in those rare and solemn moments in which the question is to found a new state, that the will of a single man was indispensable. (1.) That is what the nation comprehended so admirably when it remitted to Louis Napoleon the task of drawing up the constitution which governs us. At present, that a capital modification is taking place in
one of the very foundations of that constitution, it appears natural and logical to again confer on Louis Napoleon a portion of the constituent power, in order that, in the special point which concerns most intimately the interests of the dynasty of which the nation declares him the head, he may fix on such provisions as appear to him best appropriated to the public interest and the interest of the monarch. For his family, as well as for the country, Louis Napoleon is the man of an exceptional situation, and no fear must be entertained of adding to his power, in order that, with the assent of all, he may settle it by the authority of a single person. We, therefore, propose to you, after a conference with the organs of the government, which has led to unanimity of opinion, an article thus worded: “Art. 4. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte regulates, by an organic decree addressed to the senate and deposited in the archives, the order of succession to the throne in the Bonaparte family, in case he should not leave any direct or adopted heir.”
It is not necessary for us to say to you that in this system the formula to be submitted to the French people ought to contain an express mention of that delegation. It will be necessary, according to the constitution, that the French people be called on to declare whether it desires or not to invest Louis Napoleon with the power which we conceive ought to be conferred on him.
After having thus spoken of the succession to the imperial crown, the senatus consultum carries the attention to the condition of the family of the emperor. It divides it into two parts : 1, the imperial family, properly so called, composed of the persons who may by possibility be called to the throne, and of their descendants of both sexes; and, 2, of the other members of the Bonaparte family.
The situation of the princes and princesses of the imperial family is to be regulated by senatus consulta; and they cannot marry without the emperor's consent. Art. 6 pronounces for any infraction of this regulation of public interest the penalty of losing all right to the succession, with the proviso, however, that in case of the dissolution of the marriage by the death of the wife, without issue, the right is at once recovered.
As to the other members of the Bonaparte family, who compose the civil family, it is to the emperor, and not any longer to senatus consulta, that it appertains to fix by statutes their titles and situation. It is useless to insist on this distinction, as it is explained by the difference which exists between the civil family and that uniting in itself the double character of civil family and political family.
We have also to request your special attention to the final paragraph of article six, which confers on the emperor full and entire authority over all the members of his family. These special powers are called for by the gravest considerations, and belong to the right generally instituted for reigning families. Princes are placed in so elevated a position by public right and national interest, that they are, in many respects, out of the pale of the common law. The greater their privileges are, the more their duties are immense towards the country. Montesquieu has said: “It is not for the reigning family that the order of succession is established, but because it is for the interest of the state that there should be a reigning family.” They belong, therefore, to the state by stricter ties than other citizens, and on account even of their very greatness must be retained in a sort of perpetual ward-dom, under the guardianship of the emperor, the defender of their dignity, the appreciator of their actions, and serving to them as father as much as guardian, in order to preserve to the nation this patrimony in fact.
If these reasons do not apply in all their extent to the
members of the private family, there are others of not less importance, which are drawn from the conjoint responsibility imposed by a name which is the property of the nation, as much as of the persons who have the honor of bearing it.
Besides, several of these persons have the privilege of being the only ones in the state that the emperor can place by adoption in the rank of the persons who may succeed to the crown. But there is no public privilege which ought not to be paid for by duties specially created to justify its necessity, and to co-operate in the object of its establishment.
There is another point which it is sufficient for us to remind you of—the maintenance of the Salic law in the imperial dynasty. In France, the Salic law is, so to speak, incorporated with the monarchy, and, although its origin goes back to the remotest periods, it has so completely penetrated into our way of thinking, and is so completely in accord with the rules of French policy, that it is inseparable from all transformations in the monarchical principle.
Finally, gentlemen, the senatus-consultum provides for the case in which the throne should be vacant; “if ever the nation should be so unfortunate as to experience this affliction,” (to use the language of the celebrated edict of July, 1717,)“it would be for the nation itself to repair it.” Article 5 formally recognizes this fundamental, essential, and inalienable right. At the same time it provides for the means of preparing a choice worthy of the French people, by its prudence and maturity. In consequence, an organic senatus consultum, proposed to the senate by the ministers formed into a council of government, with the addition of the president of the senate, the president of the