Home ›Studies› Proclamation of Bonaparte, 19 Brumaire Year VIII, 10 November 1799
Title: Proclamation of Bonaparte, 19 Brumaire year VIII.
Creation date : 1799
Date shown: November 10, 1799
Dimensions: Height 53 - Width 42
Technique and other indications: Proclamation by General-in-Chief Bonaparte. The 19th Brumaire, eleven o'clock in the evening. (November 10, 1799) Printed poster
Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website
Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website
Picture reference: AE / II / 1895
Proclamation of Bonaparte, 19 Brumaire year VIII.
© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop
Publication date: December 2009
The first modern coup
The coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire originated in political instability linked to the dysfunctions of the Directory regime. Bonaparte's return from Egypt comes as an opportunity to offer "a sword" to the plotters. But it is for his benefit that what can be described as the first coup d'état in the modern sense of the term will be done.
The course of the days of 18 and 19 Brumaire 
The proclamation that Bonaparte addressed to the French on the evening of 19 Brumaire was printed on a poster measuring 53 by 42 cm. The heading, written in capital letters, surmounts a text arranged in two columns, which gives a solemn character to this proclamation. The date and time, on the other hand, evoke its hot topical character, and the name of Bonaparte, which stands out in large letters, introduces a personalization of political life unknown until then under the Revolution.
The text of the poster recounts the stormy meeting of 19 Brumaire at the Council of Five Hundred. This account corresponds only in part to that given by Lucien Bonaparte. The latter recounts that it is himself, Lucien, president of the Cinq-Cents, who, to resist "the terror of a few representatives with styluses who besiege the platform", reacts strongly to the threats of the deputies hostile to Bonaparte and calls help the army, while his brother waited outside the council chamber. In Bonaparte's story, the roles are reversed: it is he who saved Lucien by calling his brave grenadiers to the rescue. Bonaparte acts as a savior, when he almost thwarted the plot by losing his temper in the face of an unexpected opposition.
The justification given for his coup is simple: disorder reigned, all parties called on him. Threatened with assassination by factions, he was saved by the army and put his zeal at the service of the French. Bonaparte is indeed the savior of the nation. In his proclamation, enemies are referred to as "assassins", "factions". These are of course the Jacobins. Bonaparte therefore proceeds with a second reversal of the facts, presenting the opponents of the coup d'etat as precisely those who threaten public order.
A man of public safety, Bonaparte outlines some axes of his program in this brief proclamation. The words freedom, equality, respect for the Republic indicate the desire to be part of the continuity of the Revolution. With the reference to property and to “conservative, tutelary and liberal ideas”, for Bonaparte it is indeed a question of ensuring his personal power, and of imposing the return to order and the safeguarding of the fundamental gains of 1789. This will materialize very quickly in the drafting of the Constitution of year VIII, which sets up the regime of the Consulate and thus closes the revolutionary period.
- 18 and 19 Brumaire year VIII
- Bonaparte (Napoleon)
- Napoleonic propaganda
- Abbot Sieyès
A. SOBOUL The Directory and the Consulate PUF, 1967 (1st ed.) François FURET, Mona OZOUF Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, Events Flammarion, 1992. Lucien BONAPARTE Brumaire Revolution Paris, 1945.
1. 18 Brumaire (November 9) 5h. Convocation of the Council of Elders for 7 hours, excluding the deputies opposed to the coup. 6h. Barras resignation letter written by Talleyrand. 7h. Bonaparte receives many officers, ready for action. 8h. The Elders voted for the decree to transfer the Councils to Saint-Cloud and appointed Bonaparte commander of the troops and the national guard of the 17th military division (Paris and its suburbs). 9h. As the decree provided for, Bonaparte came to take an oath before the Elders. At the Luxembourg Palace, the two directors hostile to the operation are under military guard. 12h. Meeting of the Council of Five Hundred at its usual time. Reading of the transfer decree by President Lucien Bonaparte. Protests of the Jacobins. At the Luxembourg Palace, Barras signs his resignation, after Sieyès and Ducos. 2 p.m. The troops guard Paris and the road to Saint-Cloud. 19 Brumaire (November 10) 8 a.m. Development work in the Château de Saint-Cloud. Members of Parliament are starting to arrive, but cannot settle. The troops are deployed in the park to "protect" the Councils. The tension is gradually rising among the deputies. 11:30 am. Bonaparte and his escort leave Paris, greeted by the population. 12:30 p.m. Arrival at Saint-Cloud. 1:30 p.m. Opening of the meeting at the Cinq-Cents under the chairmanship of Lucien Bonaparte. Atmosphere hostile to Bonaparte. A deputy proposes to take the oath to the Constitution. 2 p.m. Opening of the meeting to the Elders. Protests of the Jacobins, not convened the day before. The Elders are reluctant to go out of legality and appoint a new government. 3:30 p.m. To force their hand, Bonaparte enters the room and protests his devotion to freedom. 4.30 p.m. Bonaparte seeks to intervene among the Cinq-Cents. Conspired, jostled, he is protected by four grenadiers who drag him towards the exit. The deputies want to put him "outlaw". His brother Lucien, giving up making himself heard, left the room, theatrically leaving his toga. 4:35 p.m. Sieyès advises Bonaparte, very shaken, to make the troop march. 5 p.m. Bonaparte harangues his soldiers. 5.30 p.m. Entry of the soldiers to the Five Hundred. The deputies are "invited" to withdraw. Most of them flee through the windows, leaving their gowns. 6:45 p.m. The Elders, by decree, appoint three provisional consuls: Bonaparte, Sieyès and Ducos. 7 p.m. Bonaparte and Sieyès do not want to be satisfied with this decree and decide to recall the deputies of the Cinq-Cents who are favorable to them. 9 p.m. About fifty deputies, chaired by Lucien, vote for the institution of a provisional government under the terms of the Decree of the Elders, and the exclusion of sixty-two Jacobin deputies or deemed such. 23h. The Elders officially record the acts voted by the Five Hundred. 2h. On the night of 19 to 20 Brumaire, the new consuls took an oath not to the disappeared Constitution, but to the Republic.
To cite this article
Marianne CAYATTE, "Proclamation of Bonaparte, 19 Brumaire Year VIII, 10 November 1799"