There Is Your Man

Hello, and welcome to Revolutions.

So we have somehow, amazingly, come to the end of the French Revolution. We’ve been at this together for 14 months, more than 50 episodes and over 250,000 words of transcript. But today, the Directory will be overthrown and Napoleon Bonaparte will come to power. There are lots of places to date the end of the French Revolution. The coup of Thermidor that toppled Robespierre might have actually been a good place to stop. The referendum in 1802 that makes Bonaparte First Consul for Life is another good candidate. That time, Napoleon becomes emperor in 1804. But we are stopping here today with the Coup of 18 Brumaire that brings Bonaparte to power for the first time. And we’re just going to go ahead and say that this is the end of the French Revolution. 

In the late summer of 1799, the French Republic appeared to be facing a crisis not seen since the dark days of 1793. The French armies were losing on all fronts, an invasion of France seemed not just possible, but probable, and on top of that, anger over taxes and conscription was leading to domestic uprisings, uprisings egged on by Royalist agitators still trying to bring the Republic to its knees. And the response in Paris very much echoed the response to the great crisis of 1793. The neo Jacobins were on the rise. A de facto levée en masse had been declared. Nobles and émigrés faced summary persecution, the central government was hemorrhaging legitimacy, and talk of another great revolutionary insurrection was in the air. 

But by the end of the year, the Directory would be overthrown, just not by radical revolutionaries, but rather a clique of authoritarians who believed the way forward was not liberty and democracy, but power and order.

During the summer, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, now the dominant personality in the Directory, was already organizing an effort to nip any nascent left wing revolutionary uprising in the bud. On July 20, 1799, he and his new ally, Paul Barras, contrived to appoint Joseph Fouché the Minister of Police. Fouché, remember, was one of the leaders of dechristionization, and he had played a major role in the reign of terror in Lyon, but had by now restyled himself as a Thermidorian style moderate opposed to radical Jacobinism. 

On August 13, the new Minister of Police decided the Manège Club, that neo Jacobin club that now boasted some 3,000 members, was a threat to public safety. Fouché ordered the club first to vacate the Manège and then outlawed it completely a few days later. And then just a few days after that, moderates in the legislative councils tossed out the indictments of the former directors who had been purged during the coup of Prairial. 

But then events beyond the control of Sieyès and Barras undermined these efforts. In August, Paris would be told that a) anti-conscription peasant uprisings were breaking out, b) General Joubert had been killed while getting beat by the Russians and Austrians at the Battle of Novi, and c) the British and Russians had invaded the Batavian Republic.

Now, we dealt with Joubert at the end of last week’s episode, so today we’ll take the first and third of these new threats. 

The Directory had already dealt with a full blown peasant uprising in Belgium over conscription. And though that uprising had been suppressed, the atmosphere there was still thick with resentment. It’s one of the reasons the British and Russians were about to feel so confident about invading the Netherlands. Through the spring and summer of 1799, resistance to the draft was widespread across France. Royalist agents took notice and decided to exploit it. It goes without saying that in the Western departments, the old Chouan and Catholic and Royal Army network started to reform and reconnect. Scattered raids and guerilla ambushes signaled a possible return of civil war in the west. 

But the hottest bed of resistance in 1799 turned out to be way down in the very southwest, around the city of Toulouse. At the beginning of August, a peasant mob, fully 10,000 strong, organized and started rampaging around the countryside. Unfortunately for this mob, though, the city of Toulouse itself had always been a fairly strong Jacobin stronghold. And so the city’s far better equipped, trained and led National Guard units were able to quash the uprising by the end of the month. So within weeks of finding out that an entire department was in revolt, Paris learned that it really wasn’t anymore. But this was good news and bad news for the directorial regime. Putting down a peasant revolt is always good news but it was worrisome that it had been suppressed by enthusiastic left wing Jacobins and only added further momentum to a movement the Directory was trying to squelch. 

But no sooner had this good news (bad news) come in than Paris received really bad news. The Allied victories in Switzerland and Italy had given the Second Coalition an enormous boost of confidence. So much so that the British and Russians had decided to launch a joint invasion of the Batavian Republic. Bringing the Netherlands back into the British sphere of influence was the war aim of the British on the continent. But in the larger strategic attack on France, invading the Netherlands would open up a new front in the war that would prevent the French from effectively reinforcing their armies down around the Alps and hopefully dealing with spreading domestic unrest. 

The belief inside the British ministry was that the French occupation of the Netherlands was really unpopular and that any force they landed would be greeted as liberators. So a deal was struck between Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and Tsar Paul. In exchange for a boatload of British money, the Russians would provide 17,000 troops to augment a British expeditionary force, 13,000 to 20,000 strong. Together, they would invade the Batavian Republic and evict the French without breaking a sweat. 

But as I mentioned back in Episode 3.47, though the Dutch were not thrilled with their burdensome alliance with the French, they were not at all interested in welcoming back the British supported William Prince of Orange. William had become even more reactionary than the exiled king, Louis XVIII, and he was promising to restore the old Orange’s oligarchy in its entirety and exact reprisals on anyone who had help boot him out of his country. But the British didn’t know this because they were getting their intelligence from agents of William, Prince of Orange, and they were spinning great whoppers about how ready the Dutch were to rise up against the French and welcome William home. 

Full of optimism, the British sailed down advanced units towards the port of Den Helder at the end of August. And their initial optimism was reinforced when the Dutch fleet that should have been preventing a landing just sailed out of the way and let the British pass. On August 27, 1799, the British established a beachhead, and three days after that, the crews of the Dutch fleet mutinied and defected to the Allies. But the demoralized Dutch sailors who wanted no part of fighting the British navy, did not really reflect the general attitude of their countrymen, as the British and Russians would soon discover. 

Opposing the British was a Dutch army about 20,000 strong, backed up by a French occupation force of about 15,000. That was the army that was supposed to be 25,000, and that’s what the Dutch were paying for, but it’s still only just 15,000. Not knowing where the British planned to land, these forces were spread out all along the coast, and it took a few days to concentrate once the British put in at Den Helder. But even when they did, they got beat at Craven Dam on September 10, which paved the way for the Russians to land their half of the Allied army, plus additional British reinforcements. By the second week of September, the combined British and Russian army numbered over 40,000. 

Back in Paris, this new crisis triggered a showdown between the resurgent neo Jacobins and the more moderate leaders of the Thermidorian variety, who were both appalled and terrified that the Left was getting ready to drag France back into the horrors of year II. This battle culminated with a proposal by General Jourdan. Jourdan was deeply annoyed with the Directory for mismanaging the war and constantly sending him out there to lose and so was now firmly aligned with the neo Jacobin opposition. 

On September the 13th, Jourdan rose and proposed that the Councils declared the country in danger, just as the Legislative Assembly had done in July of 1792. If the Council so declared, the normal constitution would be suspended and emergency powers would go into effect. The neo Jacobins said this was an absolutely necessary step if France is going to survive, the old revolutionary spirit must be renewed and nothing could be allowed to stand in the way of that renewed revolutionary spirit. 

But the moderate center was not at all convinced that this was the case. Emergency powers had been necessary when we didn’t have a stable constitution, they said, but we have one now and we should let it work. Everyone has the authority they need to organize and rally the nation to victory. We just need to let them do their jobs. Plus, in case you’ve somehow forgotten, it was the declaration that the country was in danger that led directly to the insurrection of August 10, the September Massacres and eventually the Reign of Terror and we do not want to go back to that. When the vote was taken the next day, the memory of all that had been bad about emergency powers outweighed the memory of all that had been good about it. In the Council of 500, the motion was defeated 245 to 171. 

Then, as luck would have it, the moderates were proven entirely correct. They did not, in fact, need emergency powers to win the war. And just as the spring and summer had brought nothing but bad news from the front, the fall brought nothing but good news.

Up in the Netherlands, the British and Russian invasion was already stalling out. Despite their hefty numerical advantage, or perhaps because of it, the British and Russians were having trouble collaborating with each other. They were sweeping south across a wide front, but not showing particularly strong discipline or coordination. On top of that, large parts of the countryside were starting to flood and supply lines became treacherous, washed out, or impassable. And of course, the kicker was that the Dutch were absolutely not rallying to their cause, but instead rallying against it. The Franco-Dutch army scored a victory at Bergen on September 19 and then fought the Allies to a draw at Alkmaar on October 2, though they did leave the Allies in strategic control of the field. That set up what turned out to be the decisive battle of the campaign at Castricum on October 6. After an all day fight, the British and Russians were broken into a chaotic retreat. This defeat led to a strategic retreat all the way back to their original beachhead. When they got there, the weather took a terrible turn, making resupply and reinforcement from the North Sea nearly impossible.

With neither side looking to get bogged down in the siege through the winter, the French and British negotiated an agreement that allowed the Allied forces to withdraw under very favorable terms, including keeping the ships they had captured from the Dutch. Signed on October 18, the Allies started to evacuate, and the brief Anglo-Russian invasion of the Batavian Republic was over. 

Meanwhile, down in Switzerland, the French were about to enjoy a similar run of success. As a consequence of the invasion of the Batavian Republic, the Austrian and Russian forces down in Switzerland and Italy were shuffled around, much to the great dread of their two best generals, Archduke Charles for the Austrians and the old, undefeated Alexander Suvorov for the Russians. In mid August, new orders came in from the Austrian High Command. Archduke Charles was to withdraw the bulk of his army from Switzerland and march them north to anchor the Rhineland, leaving behind 25,000 Austrians and about 30,000 Russians to hold Switzerland. 

To replace Charles’s army, Suvorov was ordered to stop his attacks on the French in Italy and instead come north to replace the Austrians in Switzerland. Neither commander was happy about these orders, and Charles, like, intentionally lingered and delayed as long as possible before leaving Zurich. His entirely justified concern was that the French General André Masséna, had gathered 80,000 men, and the window between Charles leaving and Suvorov arriving would leave Masséna with a local numerical advantage, as there would only be about 50,000 Russians and Austrians left holding Zurich. 

When Charles withdrew, Masséna was like, Oh, happy day! and immediately drew up plans to retake Zurich before Suvorov arrived. On September 25, Masséna led his army on an attack on the city and found the Russian defenders overconfident and underprepared and coordination between them and the Austrians profoundly lacking. After heavy fighting, the French pushed the Allies back into Zurich itself, and then the next day, expelled them from the city in chaos and confusion. The Allies lost something like 13,000 killed, captured, wounded, and the Russians were now in full flight out of the mountains. 

Meanwhile, Suvorov was just now pushing his way up to reinforce Zurich, only to find that it had already been taken by the French, who were now pivoting south to trap Suvorov in the mountains. But Suvorov slipped the trap and was forced to go on a pretty brutal march through the now snow covered Alps to escape. His men were exhausted, starving, and frostbitten when they got out. But they got out. 

Tsar Paul received word that his two armies in the west were in full retreat at almost the same moment. First news that the invasion of the Netherlands had just flat out gone nowhere, and then that his great armies in Switzerland and Italy, who had been steamrolling the French, were now in a bloody, broken and exhausted retreat. Paul blamed the Austrians for setting his forces up to fail and so he did what the Austrians had been worried he would do before they decided to form the Second Coalition in the first place. In October 1799, Tsar Paul tore up the alliance with the Austrians and withdrew from the war

Now, Paul was also pretty ticked off at the British because the Russians had endured the majority of the casualties in the invasion of the Netherlands. The final break with the British would not come until mid 1800, though, by which point the Tsar was chatting it up with French First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte about the possibility of a mutually beneficial alliance and the stately quadrille danced on. 

Ironically, the great victories of the French in the fall of 1799 and the sudden withdrawal of the Russians from the Second Coalition did not strengthen and stabilize the Directory, but instead paved the way for its overthrow. And that brings us to the final act of our drama, the Coup of 18 Brumaire.

Now, the thing about the Coup of 18 Brumaire is that Napoleon Bonaparte was not, in fact, its principal mastermind. That honor goes to recently elected Director Sieyès, who was ably aided behind the scenes by recently ousted Foreign Minister Talleyrand

Now, Sieyès, as we’ve already established, has never been a fan of the Directory and his primary goal in joining it seems to have been tearing it down from the inside. And this is something that he had been planning pretty much from the beginning and then really super planning when the neo Jacobins started to rise back up again. Sieyès believed it would be disastrous for France to fall back into the dark chaos of revolutionary democracy. To accomplish his goal, Sieyès said that he would need a head and a sword. The head would, of course, be his own, so all he really needed was a sword. 

Sieyès had initially settled on young General Joubert to be his sword and had engineered Joubert’s promotion to head the army of Italy in order to enhance Joubert’s reputation. But then Joubert got beaten, killed at the Battle of Novi and Sieyès was back to square one. None of the other possible candidates, though, were reliable. Jourdan was clearly allied with the neo Jacobins and the Minister of War, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was too. And indeed, at that same moment, those neo Jacobins were talking to Bernadotte about possibly leading a coup from the left. But that never went anywhere. Sieyès I finally came around to call on General Moreau, who appears to have hated the Directory with a passion, but he was a soldier, not a politician, and didn’t want to lead any political revolution. 

As the story goes, Sieyès was meeting with Moreau in mid October 1799, trying to convince him to be the sword, when word came through that General Bonaparte had landed in France. Both were shocked at the news, as no one knew that Bonaparte had secretly ditched Egypt at the end of August. But Moreau allegedly turned to Sieyès and said, there is your man!

Bonaparte had finally arrived in France on October 10 after a 40 plus day voyage of successfully dodging British naval patrols. After he landed, word spread like wildfire that the conquering hero had come home, and as he traveled to Paris, he was greeted by jubilant celebrations in every town he passed through. Local dignitaries would come out and meet him and glad-hand him and generally just cheer and wave their hats. This enthusiastic reception was based primarily on Bonaparte’s reputation as the bringer of peace. Everyone knew that it was Bonaparte who had ended the war, and everyone knew that when he left, it had just started back up again. Of course, everyone did not know about Bonaparte’s failures in Egypt yet, or the central role his invasion had played in starting the war of the Second Coalition in the first place. The people wanted peace and they believed Bonaparte could deliver it. But if that was really the dream, then wow, guys, Bonaparte is really not your man. 

When young Bonaparte arrived in Paris, now almost 30 years old, he was scrupulously reserved about what his intentions were, and everyone in the capital projected their hopes on him. Men who supported the Directory wanted him to support the Directory. The neo-Jacobins wanted him to lead a coup from the left. Sieyès in his faction wanted him to lead an authoritarian coup from the middle. The only men who didn’t see Bonaparte as a potential champion were the Royalists

It was Talleyrand who took the lead in drawing Bonaparte towards the conspiracy surrounding Sieyès. Sieyès may have been looking everywhere for a sword, but Talleyrand had picked his man right from the moment he returned from his exile in America. All that was left was to convince Sieyès that Bonaparte was in fact the guy. But there was a problem, Bonaparte and Sieyès detested each other. Sieyès saw Napoleon as a rustic, uneducated provincial with an overinflated ego. Napoleon saw Sieyès as a pompous aristocrat of dubious loyalties with an overinflated ego. Their partnership nearly failed before it even started due to a standoff between their mutually overinflated egos. 

When Bonaparte arrived in Paris, both men wanted the other to pay the first call. Sieyès couldn’t believe Bonaparte wouldn’t come round to pay his respects, and Bonaparte said, I pay calls on no one! and was angry Sieyès wouldn’t come to him. It became like a whole thing. Finally, Talleyrand went round to Napoleon and said, you’re being an ass, you have to make the first move, so just do it. And Bonaparte reluctantly agreed. It was the last time he would let Sieyès win. 

For the next two weeks, secret meetings were regularly held to plot the fall of the Directory. Besides Bonaparte, Sieyès, and Talleyrand, the other principal conspirators turned out to be Napoleon’s brother, Lucien, who was helpfully about to be elected President of the Council of 500, Police Minister Joseph Fouché, who wasn’t supposed to begin on it, but who said, I’ll help out when his spies uncovered the plot. Also included were two of the four other directors, Pierre Roger Ducos and Paul Barras. But Barras was included in the plot specifically to prevent him from spilling the beans if he got wind of it. The secret, secret plan was to purge Barras along with everyone else when the time came because nobody trusted him. For now, though, he was allowed to believe he was one of the inner circle conspirators. 

The coup was arranged to unfold in three stages. First, all five Directors would resign simultaneously. Second, the Legislative Councils would be induced to appoint a new provisional executive to replace the Directory. And then, third, that provisional executive would draft a new constitution. But despite their careful planning, the coup was a very near run thing. Partly because it was planned to unfold too slowly, partly because it paid too much attention to constitutional protocol, and partly because Bonaparte himself was impetuous and impatient. As Duff Cooper says in his classic biography of Talleyrand, if you’re going to stage a coup, it has to be fast, it has to be willing to break the law, and you need a level head. And that does not really describe the Coup of 18 Brumaire. 

But because there wasn’t a real emergency out there that the conspirators could point to and say, hey, we need to rewrite the constitution because emergency, emergency, they had to invent one. For this, they could have gone one of two ways: either trump up a Royalist insurrection or trump up a neo Jacobin insurrection. After multiple discussions, the plotters settled on and invented insurrection from the Left. The Left was stronger and would likely fight harder, and so it would be helpful to take them out at the knees before they knew what hit them. After securing the services of some friendly printers to pump out propaganda, financing from some friendly bankers, and assurances from a cadre of officers that they would follow Bonaparte when the time came, there was nothing left to do but do it! 

On the morning of November 9, 1799, 18 Brumaire year VIII, Paris woke to find posters plastered all over the city warning of a Jacobin plot to overthrow the government. Sieyès then dispatched a summons to the delegates of the Council of 500 to meet for an early emergency session, a summons he accidentally forgot to give 60 delegates identified as most likely to be hostile. When this emergency session met, Council President Lucien Bonaparte stood up and said, gentlemen, we are all in imminent danger, a mob uprising, not seen since the old days of revolutionary chaos is in the making. Lucien then recommended the Council immediately quit Paris and relocate to the nearby town of Saint Cloud. The bewildered and nervous delegates agreed. When the Council of Ancients met a few hours later, they were surprised to find the Council of 500 had already approved the move and that they all had to beat it out of town right away. 

To protect the fleeing delegates and defend the government, the Council of 500 transferred command of all Paris area soldiers to General Napoleon Bonaparte. After all, General Bonaparte had once saved the government from a Royalist uprising on 13 Vendémiaire with his fabled whiff of grapeshot. Who better to protect us? And so the sword was given his sword. So, so far, things are going pretty good. As the Councils evacuated Paris, it was time for the five Directors to resign. But only two of them were actually in on it, though, Sieyès and Roger Ducos. 

Barras, like I said, thought he was in on it. But then, on the morning of 18 Brumaire, Sieyès and Ducos dropped out of sight and Barras could not locate them or contact them. Then the other two directors, General Moulins and Louis-Jerome Gohier started sending Barras frantic messages. What is going on? You have to do something. And Barras must have been like, Well, I thought I was doing something, but it looks like something is being done to me. Then Talleyrand came round to Barras’ house with a pre-written letter of resignation and said, Sorry, old chum, but you need to go

Realizing he had been dealt a fake hand, Barras decided it wasn’t worth fighting. It’s also, like 99% certain that Talleyrand also delivered an enormous bribe to make this all go down easier, though Barras later denied it.

Barras was in his carriage and on his way out of Paris by the end of the day. In the meantime, Sieyès and Ducos already signed their own resignations, leaving Moulins and Gohier as an impotent rump. Then General Moreau played his part in the coup. He showed up at their apartments with a company of soldiers, arrested the two Directors and kept them under lock and key until they too agreed to resign. 

But then things started to get dicey and dicey, in part because this was all planned to unfold over two days instead of being wrapped up by day one. Because when the Councils convened in Saint Cloud the following day, they discovered there was shockingly little evidence to support Lucien Bonaparte’s claim about this alleged Jacob an uprising. It was starting to become very clear that they had been duped, but to what end and for what purpose, they did not yet know. And that is when Napoleon blundered in, under the impression that the Councils would compliantly agree to create a new provisional government and then go away, he was annoyed that this was all taking too long, so he pushed his way into the Council of Ancients flanked by soldiers, and the delegates were like, Oh, we get it now. Bonaparte is trying to overthrow us! 

The General tried to address them, to demand that they order constitutional revisions, but he was heckled pretty mercilessly, causing him to lose his temper and storm out. He marched over to the Council of 500, and there received an even more hostile reception. They, too, shouted him down, called him a tyrant, calls went out to outlaw him, declare him an enemy of the state. Some of the delegates went so far as to actually manhandle Bonaparte and push him out of the hall, cutting his cheek in the process. 

Bonaparte had stormed into the Councils to cow them into submission and instead had left him agitated and emboldened and not wanting to go along with anything. The success of the coup was now very much in doubt.

The Bonaparte who saved the day was Lucien. He followed his brother out of the Council of 500 and spun a wild lie to the assembled soldiers that a company of ultra radical delegates were inside, that they had daggers, that they had just tried to assassinate Napoleon and were threatening the Councils with further violence. 

Led by Joachim Murat, the man who had led the cavalry charge against the Turks in the last battle in Egypt, and who was one of the few officers chosen to return home with Bonaparte. The assembled soldiers charged in and cleared the halls, sending some of the delegates literally running into the woods to hide.

When the dust settled, the conspirators rounded up enough compliant delegates to form a quorum and induced them to call for a six week recess while changes to the constitution were discussed. Then they appointed three provisional Consuls to take the lead in those discussions. And wouldn’t you know it, those three were Sieyès, Bonaparte, and Roger Ducos. 

The Councils then appointed 50 men to stay in session to work with the Consuls on the revisions to the constitution, while the rest of the delegates went home to wait for the results. They would wait forever. The temporary recess turned out to be permanent. When the Council of 500 and Council of Ancients went home on November 10, 1799, they were never recalled. The Directory was dead

But as you can see, the Coup of 18 Brumaire doesn’t quite get Napoleon all the way into power. He’s one of the three provisional Consuls, sure, but Sieyès obviously believes that he is going to be the dominant personality of the new government. Now that the sword has done his work, Sieyès believed he would be able to run political circles around Bonaparte. The head is craftier than the sword, right? Except, my God, we’re talking about Napoleon Bonaparte here. So obviously, Sieyès has wildly underestimated his man. 

Bonaparte was able to exploit the fact that the Coup of Brumaire would not have been possible without armed intervention from the army. And because that army was loyal to Bonaparte, Napoleon wound up playing a super active role in the writing of the Constitution of Year VIII, which set up what we call the French Consulate. Napoleon and Sieyès did agree on a few things, otherwise they wouldn’t have even gotten into the business of using each other to seize power. They agreed, for example, that too much democracy, too many destabilizing elections was not a good thing. So the Constitution of Year VIII created this unwieldy apparatus where Commune’s voters would get together and vote 10% of their members to a Departmental Assembly, who would vote 10% of their members to a National Assembly, and then from that assembly, a wholly new unelected institution called the Senate, would pick 100 men to serve in a Tribunate and 300 men to serve in a Legislative Assembly. 

The Tribunes would be allowed to debate a bill. The Legislative Assembly would be allowed to vote on it. But neither would have the right to introduce a bill in the first place. That would be left to a small and also unelected Council of State. The entire thing was designed to keep the people as far away from the process as possible. 

But Bonaparte and Sieyès differed on the all important Executive. Both believed it must be the central power of the State. Sieyès, though, wanted to create two Consuls, one for domestic affairs and one for foreign affairs. Sieyès planned obviously, to be one of the first two Consuls, but he did not want the other to be Bonaparte, and Bonaparte knew it. Sieyès instead dreamed up this office he called the Grand Elector. The Grand Elector would be appointed for life and serve as a constitutional figurehead and beyond the power to appoint the Consuls, the Grand Elector would have no other power. And that is where Sieyès wanted Bonaparte to go. Bonaparte famously said, though, that he would not play the part of a fatted pig and push to keep the system of three Consuls in place. 

And once he had this concession in hand, Bonaparte ensured that it would be an unequal triad, with the First Consul enjoying all kinds of special prerogatives and wouldn’t you know it, Bonaparte got himself appointed First Consul. Totally out maneuvered, Sieyès was shuffled off into the Senate, where he would play an important role, but one clearly subordinate to First Consul Bonaparte, who turned out to have been both the head and the sword. 

When the Constitution of Year VIII was promulgated, it came with a preface that ended by saying that it was based on the sacred rights of property, equality and liberty that the Revolution had been dedicated to from the beginning, that the new constitution would be strong and stable, that it would protect the rights of citizens and the health of the state. Citizens, it said, the Revolution is established on the principles with which it began. It is over. And indeed it was. The Constitution of Year VIII was the first Constitution since the beginning of the Revolution that was not prefaced with a clear Declaration of Rights. The Revolution was indeed over. 

But though we know what comes next, no one at the time could have possibly known that it really was the end of the Revolution, and that inside of five years First Consul Bonaparte would transform into Emperor Napoleon I.

Drawing a line between the Revolution and the age of Napoleon is a tricky and inexact and ultimately futile business. The run from the fall of the Bastille to Waterloo is all one continuous story. But our story is now done. Napoleon Bonaparte is the de facto ruler of France. But I am not just going to leave you hanging like that. 

Next week, we will return for one last plunge into the breach with a special two part finale. One episode that looks backward over the ground we’ve covered to try to make some sense of what we’ve witnessed, and one episode that looks forward to give you at least a summary of what comes next, and then take a look at what remains of the Revolution after the restoration in 1815. Then I am off to welcome our new baby into the world. And so I may as well mention that if you’ve enjoyed the show and are sad that I will be taking two months off, now would be a great time to donate and support the show at

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