Home >> Cyclopedia Of Knowledge >> Census to Constable >> Conscription_P1

Conscription

levy, army, conscripts, law, lists, levied, bound and senatus

Page: 1 2

CONSCRIPTION is the name given to the mode of recruiting the French army under the Republic and the Empire. Under the old French kingdom the army was recruited chiefly by volun tary enlistment, and the soldiers were taken mostly from the peasantry, by whom the change from the condition of a daily labourer to that of a soldier was considered as an improvement. The officers were appointed from among the higher or educated classes. When the revolution commenced, the old army was broken up, the whole nation was called to arms, and volunteers were found in abundance. But as the soldiers were bound by no permanent obligation, a sys tem of requisition was enforced, by which every district was bound to furnish a cer tain number of men for the regular army. But even this proved insufficient, and the Executive Directory found itself in want of soldiers to supply the numerous armies on the frontiers. In 1798 General Jour dan presented to the Council of Five Hundred a project of a law for a new mode of recruiting, under the name of Conscription. This project was approved by the legislature, and passed into a law 5th of September, 1798. After setting down as a principle that every French man is bound to defend his country when in danger, the law went on to say, that independently of danger to the country, every Frenchman from the age of twenty to twenty-five is liable to be called out to serve in the regular army. Every year lists were made in every department of the young men of the age above stated, divided into five classes, the first being those between twenty and twenty-one years ; the second from twenty-one to twenty-two; and so forth. The number of men required for that year being made known by the government, and voted by the legislature, a distribution was made among the departments and districts of the quota which each was to furnish. The number required was then taken by lot from the first or junior class, and when that was exhausted, from the se cond, and so on. This operation was re peated every year. The first levy by conscription in 1799 was 200,000 men. Bonaparte, when first consul, found the system already established, and he applied himself strenuously to render it more effective and to carry it to the utmost ex tent. At the beginning of 1802 a levy was made of 120,000 conscripts, 60,000 of whom were to fill up vacancies in the army on the peace establishment, and the other 60,000 to form a reserve in case of war. In April, 1803, 120,000 more con

scripts were levied out of the conscription lists for the years xi. and six. In Oc tober of the same year 60,000 more were levied out of the lists of the year XIII. By an arrete 19 Vendemiaire, year mi. (12 October, 1803), severe penalties were enacted against refractory conscripts, that is, those who had not joined their regi ments. Eleven cl6pots in various citadels were marked out for them, where they were to be kept under arrest, and work at the fortifications. They were also con demned to a fine, payable by their rela tions. In January, 1804, 60,000 men of the list of the year xiv. were levied. On this occasion Bonaparte said to the Coun cil of State that the law of the conscrip tion was the dread and desolation of fa milies, but that it formed the security of the state. (Thibaudeau, tome v. p. 319.) In 1805, just before the war of Austerlitz, a Senatus Consultum ordered a levy of 80,000 men. Till then the levies had been voted by the legislative body, but henceforth a Senatus Consultum was deemed sufficient.

In December, 1806, a levy was ordered of 80.000 men ; in 1808, 80,000, besides 80,000 more of the conscription lists of 1810, to be called out in 1809. This was on account of the Spanish war, which the senate said was "politic, just, and neces sary." Instead of men of twenty years complete, according to the original law, the young men now taken were not nine teen. In 1809 a new Senatus Consultum, 18th April, ordered a levy of 40,000 ; and on the 5th October, another of 36,000. In 1810 there was a levy of 120,000 of the lists of 1811, besides 40,000 conscripts of the maritime departments for the ser vice of the navy. In 1811 the levy was 120,000 conscripts, besides those levied in Tuscany, the Roman states, Holland, and the Hanseatic towns recently annexed to the empire. As the levies increased, the repugnance of young men to the ser vice became greater, and the severity of the government against refractory con scripts increased in proportion. A re ward of twenty-five francs was given for seizing one. When there was a consider able number of refractory conscripts in a department, a moveable column was formed to hunt after 'them, and the sol diers were quartered in the houses of the relations of the fugitives, who were obliged to board them.

Page: 1 2