Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Lee, 10 August 1802

From William Lee

Agency of the United States
Bordeaux August 10th 1802


I take the liberty to enclose the Moniteur of the 6th inst containing the new Organization and have the honour to remain with much respect your humble servant

William Lee

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 5 Oct. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Gazette Nationale ou le Moniteur Universel, 18 Thermidor Year 10 (6 Aug. 1802), containing the text of the sénatus-consulte organique of 16 Thermidor (see below).

NEW ORGANIZATION: on 3 Aug., the Sénat of France certified the results of the national plebiscite. The official count included more than 3.5 million votes in favor of granting Bonaparte life tenure as first consul and fewer than 8,400 votes in opposition. Bonaparte had already supervised the drafting of a new frame of government, which became the constitution of the Year 10. The Conseil d’État received it on 4 Aug. in the form of a sénatus-consulte, or senate decree, which the Conseil approved the next day. In addition to making Bonaparte first consul for life, the instrument gave him the power to choose his successor. The Corps Législatif lost potency and the role of the Sénat, which Bonaparte would be able to control, increased. The constitution created a system of electoral assemblies at the canton level, but they had no direct role in choosing members of the governing bodies. The constitutional changes gave Bonaparte the means to rule France unencumbered by elections or an independent legislature (Thierry Lentz, Le Grand Consulat, 1799–1804 [Paris, 1999], 341–6; Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 498–501).

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