Mass politics and nationalism as military revolution

4 Mass politics and nationalism as military revolution: The French Revolution and after MACGREGO R KNO X [W]ar . . . again became the affair of the people as a whole, and took on an entirely different character, or rather approached its true character, its absolute perfection.1 —Carl von Clausewitz The revolution of industrial capitalism and of science and technology is the greatest transformation in human existence since the coming of agriculture. It began in the late eighteenth century and its end is not in sight. It has given such immense power to the societies that pioneered it or adopted it that it has obscured a fundamental truth: military revolutions are changes in the nature and purposes of war itself. They are normally the military outcome of underlying processes – ideological, political, social, economic, and demographic – far deeper and broader than the advent of a particular technology or cluster of technologies. While the Industrial Revolution was achieving – for the first time in human history – self-sustaining and seemingly limitless growth in Britain’s textile mills, mines, and foundries, a political revolution with consequences almost as great erupted across the Channel. The upheaval of 1788-94 was not merely a revolution in France. It marked the beginning of the exceedingly violent end, first in France and then throughout Europe, of an entire social, political, and international order. The events in France brought mass politics and mass warfare to Europe, and ultimately to the world. The Revolution represented the political breakthrough of the notion, increasingly widespread among the pre-1789 French 1 On War, eds. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ, 1976), p. 593. This essay owes a great deal to Paret’s Yorck and the Era of Prussian Reform (Princeton, NJ, 1966), Clausewitz and the State (Oxford, 1976), and Understanding War (Princeton, NJ, 1992.), and to a wonderful lecture by Tim Blanning on “Nationalism and the French Revolution” delivered at Princeton University on 21 April 1989. 57 terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core 5« Knox intelligentsia, that France was not a dynastic unit but an ethnic-linguistic identity, la nation. Revolution swept away the old nation of king, nobles, and Church, and created with startling bloodshed a new nation of citizens theoretically free and equal under the law and the guillotine. Asserting equality within and sovereignty without plunged the new nation into war with most of Europe and forced the decapitation of the king – and of the old society he had personified – in January 1793. The war of 1792. to 1814/ 15 thus became – first unilaterally by France and then by the belated and usually hesitant response of France’s victims – the first modern war, the first war between nations.2 ‘ Far more than the religious struggles before 1648 it was a type of war potentially unlimited in both aims and methods, for nations by their very nature recognize no higher power. As the foremost theorist of the Revolution, the Abbe Sieyes, proclaimed in 1789, “the nation exists before everything; it is at the origin of everything; its will is always legal, it is the law itself.”3 BEFORE THE REVOLUTIO N The military revolution that emerged in and from the Revolution’s wars was a political-ideological revolution that remade warfare from top to bottom, from strategy, to operations and logistics, to tactics. Understanding its origins and consequences requires a brief backward glance at the framework of Old Regime politics and war. The state system that emerged after 1648 from the wars of religion rested, with a few exceptions or partial exceptions that included England and the Dutch Republic, on rigidly hierarchical societies divided into occupational groups or castes that for the most part traced their origins back to the Middle Ages. All below the monarch in these “societies of orders” were subjects, not citizens, with all the subordination and lack of initiative and independent will the word implies. Politics was almost exclusively the affair of monarchs and ministers. Under their aegis, the centralizing administrative and legal reforms characteristic of the eighteenth century remodeled the society of orders in the name of enlightenment – a word almost synonymous in practice with massive increases in state power over the individual. 2 The genuine novelty of warfare between nations compared to that between territorial princes, traditional agrarian monarchies and empires, and tribes offers of course only one possible means of defining “modern” war. The sophisticated analysis of Jonathan B. A. Bailey in Chapter 8 of this work, and the apparent suggestion of Hew Strachan (“On Total War and Modern War,” International History Review 17:2 [2000], especially pp. 350-1) that modern war is simply industrial warfare offer essentially military-technical and technological definitions. Yet ideology – unfortunately for humanity – has at least as good a claim as technology to be modernity’s defining characteristic. 3 Emmanuel Sieyes, Qu’est-ce que le Tiers etafi (Geneva, 1970 [1789]), p. 180. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core The French Revolution and after 59 Even republics – the Dutch and the free cities of the Holy Roman Empire – or parliamentary regimes such as England were in both theory and practice ruled by narrow oligarchies of merchants or landowners. The occasional riot and the carefully circumscribed roles allotted to consultative assemblies largely defined popular participation in politics. Foreign policy and war were and remained the central functions of states which resisted popular interference with the utmost jealousy. And consciousness of belonging to a broader unit than the village, region, and estate was limited. Even in France, the largest and most economically advanced society of continental western Europe, literacy was confined to perhaps a third of the population, and overwhelmingly to town-dwellers. The military implications of these conditions were many, but are swiftly summed up: social and political forces drastically curtailed both the aims and the methods of the contenders in the Old Regime’s many wars. War aims that required efforts or summoned up risks that might imperil internal order and the exclusive control of politics by king and ministers were rare indeed. Exceptions did exist: fanatics such as Charles XII of Sweden or icy gamblers such as Frederick the Great might risk the very existence of their states on the battlefield. Occasionally, as in the coalition of France, Austria, and Russia against Prussia in the Seven Years’ War or the collusion of Austria, Prussia, and Russia in the partition of Poland, powers might aim at the total destruction of other powers. But no state seriously entertained the notion of arming its subjects irrespective of their estate. The greatest tactical theorist of the Old Regime, the comte Francois de Guibert, scornfully and accurately summed up in 1772 the normal pattern of warfare: States have neither treasure nor surplus population. Their expenditure outstrips their revenues even in peace. Nevertheless they declare war. They take the field with armies they can neither recruit nor pay. Victors and vanquished alike are exhausted. The mass of the national debt increases. Credit falls. Money grows scarce. Fleets are at a loss for sailors and armies for soldiers. The ministers on both sides feel it is time to negotiate. Peace is made. A few colonies or provinces change masters. Often the source of the quarrels is not dried up, and each side sits on its shattered remains while it attempts to pay its debts and sharpen its weapons.4 Both the imperative of maintaining political control and the relative lack of military means – despite the increasing centralization and efficiency of Europe’s states – kept aims limited. The military art of the Old Regime suffered from interlocking and crippling constraints on mass, mobility, and decisiveness that were irremediable within its social and political order. Almost all these limits stemmed not from technological constraints 4 Quoted in David Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon (New York, 1966), p. 140. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core 6o Knox overcome in the revolutionary era, but from social and military-organizational bottlenecks in the recruitment, nature, and motivation of the individual soldier on the one hand and in the system of command and control on the other. The soldiers of the Old Regime were the product of military institutions inextricable from the society of orders that they defended. In France, the sweepings of the taverns of cities and market towns predominated, along with Swiss and other foreign mercenaries; in Russia, the state snatched serfs from their villages for twenty-five years of service; in Prussia from the 173 os, peasant conscription as well as voluntary and foreign recruitment filled the ranks of the line infantry. A few far-seeing contemporaries understood fully the military consequences of this situation, and Guibert was predictably scathing: Today all the armies of Europe, with small differences, have the same character, that is an imperfect one, that poorly exploits the available means, and that rests neither on honor nor on patriotism. All armies are composed of the lowest [la plus vile] and most pitiful segment of the citizens, [and] of foreigners, of vagabonds, of men who, for the slightest cause, [such as] personal interests or discontents, are ready to desert. These are the armies of governments, not those of nations.5 They were also armies largely devoid of command articulation. Controlmania was the foremost characteristic of the eighteenth century’s philosophy of command. The ideal was the great Frederick sternly directing the machinelike advance of his battalions from a low hill, the Feldherrenhugel, that commanded a view of the entire battlefield. Only around mid-century did French theorists such as Guibert and Pierre de Bourcet pioneer the notion of self-contained infantry-artillery and all-arms divisions, urge supply by plunder rather than wagon train, and propose concentration during rather than before battle.6 Four principal factors thus frustrated attempts to assemble and move large masses of men. First, in all these societies the higher and middle estates along with virtually all gainfully employed townspeople enjoyed exemptions from service ordained by custom or law, and by the state’s pressing interest in tax revenue. That deprived the armies of significant numbers and of much of the state’s stock of talent. Second, the prevailing tactical and disciplinary system further restricted numbers. States recognized that domestic enlistees and foreign mercenaries were exceedingly expensive and time-consuming to train in the “battle 5 Essai general de tactique (Liege, 1773), vol. 1, pp. 13-14 (emphasis supplied). 6 See especially Guibert, Essai, vol. 1, pp. xii, lxv-lxvii, vol. z, pp. 14-9, 73-4, 184, and Agar Gat, The Origins of Military Thought: From the Enlightenment to Clausewitz (Oxford, 1989), pp. 43-53. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core The French Revolution and after 61 culture of forbearance,” and even more expensive and difficult to maintain. The troops’ lack of inner motivation other than compulsory esprit de corps required – or was thought to require – the inculcation of Kadavergehorsam – “corpse-obedience” – as the Prussian service jestingly described the conditioned reflexes designed to keep even the dead in line, advancing and discharging ordered volleys. And the punishments required – or believed to be required – to convert the lower orders into automatons, to prevent their subsequent escape, and to keep them rigidly in line on the battlefield were drastic and frequent. Frederick summed up the prevailing command view in 1768 in a much-quoted remark: the troops must fear their officers more than all the dangers to which they may be exposed. Otherwise no one will be able to lead them to the attack in the face of three hundred muskets thundering at them. Good will can never induce the common man to defy such dangers; fear must therefore do the job.7 Fear without propaganda – of which the Old Regime was incapable – required the sacrifice of most other forms of motivation, and thus curtailed further the meager manpower resources available to the state. Third, the tendency of the troops to desert if unsupervised by officers or NCOs restricted the size and mobility of armies. Commanders could not allow their line infantry to forage; operations remained tied to regular supply by wagon trains from magazines. That laborious technique could not support, even in the few areas of western Europe with roads that were not mud-wallows, armies larger than perhaps 70,000 men. It also drastically limited operational movement, for fifty to seventy miles was the furthest from a magazine that an army could move without losing its supply links, and the decisive importance of those same links made armies fatally vulnerable to flank attack. Logistical inadequacy also magnified the importance of manmade bottlenecks – the many fortresses controlling road or river junctions around which much of eighteenth century warfare revolved. Finally, the absence of divisional organization and of adequate staffs for the theater commander further reinforced the logistical constraints on operations, for even had larger armies been available, operational control would scarcely have been possible. These limits made Old Regime warfare profoundly indecisive. At the strategic level, limited aims – “a few colonies or provinces” – did not warrant great risks or any rethinking of the domestic order. Troops were too expensive and difficult to procure and train to hazard lightheartedly on the battlefield. And the brittleness of armies held together largely by coercion 7 Testament of 1768, quoted in Reinhard Hohn, Scbarnhorsts Vermdchtnis (Frankfurt a. M , znd ed., 1972), p. 193. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core 62 Knox argued powerfully against seeking a decision at all costs, a precept only the most skilled and ruthless of Old Regime commanders – Marlborough and Frederick the Great – dared to disregard. Operationally, unalterable restrictions likewise condemned combatants to protracted and indecisive struggle. The logistical restraints on field army size limited commanders’ chances of outflanking or trapping the enemy. Armies dared not outrun their supply trains. Even small threats to their communications immobilized them. Movement required foresight and planning to avoid the confusion that might offer the troops yet more opportunities to desert. Dispersed movement was difficult or impossible, given the character of the troops and the lack of divisional organization and specialized staffs. Reconnaissance was available only to the few armies well-provided with reliable light cavalry or light infantry whose primary motivation was loyalty rather than fear. Finally, decision at the tactical level was unusually difficult. Fear of desertion and control-mania crippled tactical reconnaissance and delayed or prevented the introduction – except for specially trained picked troops – of open-order combat or skirmishing. The relative absence of skirmishers in turn drastically reduced the effectiveness of the attack. It prevented major actions in broken terrain except in exceptional circumstances, it restricted the firefight largely to frontally delivered volleys, and it deprived commanders seeking decision of the surprise in the strength and direction of the attack that screens of skirmishers alone could provide. Night attacks risked loss of tactical and disciplinary control even more than did skirmishing, and were correspondingly rare. Finally and most decisively, the kind of pursuit needed to destroy beaten enemies and convert battlefield success into strategically binding decision offered too great a risk of chaos to be practical for most eighteenth-century armies. These restraints on what Clausewitz later described as war’s true nature were social, political, and organizational rather than technological. With the sole important exception of the French royal army’s mobile field artillery, a significant but evolutionary change dating from the reforms of the comte de Gribeauval in the 1770s, the powers fought the great war of 1792.-1815 with the technology of the wars of Frederick the Great. What changed was ideas and politics. THE REVOLUTION AT WAR A quarter of a century before the revolution that was to give his tactical, operational, and strategic ideas full scope, Guibert dedicated his General Essay on Tactics to his Fatherland (Patrie). The king was for him still the father of the Patrie; the people of France were its children – an image that anticipated the famous first line of the Marseillaise. Guibert’s fondest hope terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core The French Revolution and after 63 was that “one could return to this term Patrie all its significance and energy, [and] make it the cry of the nation.” That was a hope widely shared in the advanced and fashionable Paris circles in which Guibert’s book enjoyed – precisely because it invoked the Patrie – a success unprecedented for a military-technical work. The monarchy’s subsequent downfall was in large part a delayed consequence of the offense that royal military and fiscal incompetence had given to the exalted sense of the nation that the educated and enlightened held.8 The monarchy’s prestige never recovered from stinging defeat at Frederick’s hands at Rossbach in 1757, and the catastrophic effect of the Seven Years’ War and the War of the American Revolution on its finances were the root of its political and administrative collapse in 1787-89. The inability of king and ministers to translate into policy the revolutionaries’ lofty view of the dignity of the fatherland unhinged from the beginning the disastrous experiment of constitutional monarchy in 1789- 92. Nationalist fanaticism, egalitarian zeal, revolutionary paranoia inflamed by the king’s failed flight and continuing contacts with the emigre nobility, and cold political calculation led the Legislative Assembly of 1791-92 to challenge all of Europe.9 From the fall of 1791 onward the Girondin wing of the revolutionaries proclaimed openly to the Assembly that “this war will be a true blessing; a national blessing; and the only calamity France has to fear is not to have war.” The national interest “required war, for the nation must will its dignity, its majesty, its security, and its credit, and can only reconquer them at sword-point.”10 The new France was incompatible with the old system of dynastic interstate relations: “the treaties of princes cannot govern the rights of nations.”11 The new France was “invincible if it remained united”; “With 400,000 slaves Louis XIV could defy all the powers of Europe: should we, with our millions of armed men, fear them?”11 And the new France had a cosmic mission: “The French have become the most noteworthy people in the universe; their conduct must now correspond to their new destiny.”13 8 Blanning, “Nationalism and the French Revolution.” 9 T. C. W. Blanning, The Origin of the French Revolutionary Wars (London, 1986) offers a brilliant introduction, despite perhaps excessive emphasis on the extent to which Austrians and Prussians also helped to precipitate war. 10 Brissot, 29 December 1791, Archives Parlementaires de 1789 d i860, premiere serie (Paris, 1867-1980), vol. 36, pp. 607, 608; see also (among other similar remarks) Gensonne, ibid., vol. 37, p. 412 (14 January 1792). 11 Merlin de Douai, 28 October 1790, ibid., vol. 20, p. 83. 12 Isnard, 5 January 1792, ibid., vol. 37, p. 85; Dubois-Du Bais, 22 October 1791, ibid., vol. 34, p. 348. 13 Brissot, 29 December 1791, ibid., vol. 35, p. 441. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core 64 Knox Externally, war would be “the salvation both of France and of the human race,” a world revolutionary war of “peoples against kings”; “the French people only had to cry out, and all other peoples would answer its call and the earth would fill with fighting men; and, at a single blow, the enemies of equality would be expunged from the rolls of the living.”14 War would be total: “the French are lions, and would defend themselves in a manner that would leave no man alive nor tree standing; they would bury themselves under the ruin of their great houses and peasant hovels. . . . The soil of France would be enslaved, but [the French] would die free, together with [their] wives, [their] children, and [their] flocks [applause].”15 And war would also be internal, against the “snares and perfidy” of the Revolution’s enemies: “no citizen, priest, general, minister, king or anyone else shall deceive us with impunity; the die is cast; we resolve on equality even if we are to find it only in the grave – yet before we descend there ourselves, we shall hurl down into it all the traitors.”16 This war – as the two principal orators and leaders of the Girondins both summed it up – was simultaneously foreign and domestic. War was “indispensable for consummating the revolution.”17 The collective wisdom of the industrial democracies at the turn of the twenty-first century tends to discount heroic oratory of the kind quoted above. Advertising for the masses and post-modernism for the elite have between them devalued “rhetoric” or “discourse” – life is all TV. But in 1792-94 the more perceptive officers of the Prussian and Austrian armies soon recognized that French rhetoric dictated battlefield reality. Clausewitz, who first saw action in 1793 at the age of twelve, had little doubt about the nature of the connection: “the colossal weight of the whole French people, unhinged by political fanaticism, came crashing down upon us.”18 In this first great conflict of the era of mass politics, fanaticism abolished all theoretical limits on the aims and methods of warfare. The Revolution’s practice and its development by Napoleon were the living models for Clausewitz’s Kantian abstract notion of absolute war: “war is an act of force, and there is no logical limit to the application of that force.”19 The revolutionary government’s aim of world revolution ordained an empire 14 Cloots, 13 December 1791; Isnard, 29 November and 5 January 1792, ibid., vol. 35, p. 412., vol. 37, p. 87. 15 Cloots, 13 December 1791, ibid., vol. 36, p. 79. 16 Isnard, 6 March, 20 January 1792, ibid., vol. 39, p. 416, vol. 37, p. 547. 17 Isnard, 5 January 1792; Brissot, 17 January 1792 (“la guerre . . . consomme la revolution”), ibid., vol. 37, pp. 85, 471. For the future of this concept, see MacGregor Knox, Common Destiny: Dictatorship, Foreign Policy, and War in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany (Cambridge, 2000), especially pp. 1-4 and Chapter 2. 18 On War, p. 518 (emphasis added). 19 On War, pp. 582-4, 75-7; also 217, 592-3. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core The French Revolution and after 65 that stretched to the Rhine and beyond. The passing of the wave of revolutionary enthusiasm in 1794 had no moderating effect, and Bonaparte’s growing thirst for universal domination after 1799 was simply a personalization, in the name of a shared Patrie, of the revolutionaries’ mission of saving the human race through sacred violence by the French nation. The new politics abolished, along with the society of orders, all theoretical limits on the state’s actions. Individual lives and property were unconditionally at the nation’s service. Pervasive police surveillance, persecution and extermination of real and imagined enemies on a scale and with a brutality unseen again in Europe until 1917-45, and quasi-universal military service became the order of the day. Abroad as at home, the revolutionaries acknowledged no limits either of custom or pity; they turned swiftly and savagely on all of France’s neighbors who obtusely “refuse[d] to accept liberty and equality, and renouncing it, might wish to preserve, recall, or negotiate with their prince or privileged castes.” By September 1793 France had solemnly “renounced] from henceforth every philanthropic idea previously adopted by the French people for the purpose of making foreign nations appreciate the value and the benefits of liberty.” France, as Guibert had preached – invoking Cato the Elder – would henceforth “nourish war by war.”20 The French state asserted an unlimited right of conquest and officially proclaimed plunder as its system of logistics. Finally, the Revolution abolished the limits on warfare embodied in the character of the Old Regime’s armies. The troops were now not social outcasts but “our friends, fellows, citizens, and soldiers of the Patrie.” Revolutionary nationalist propaganda built around the defense and international self-assertion of that Patrie and resting on ideological terror powerfully motivated the troops. The aim, in the words of the Revolution’s minister of war, was thinking obedience, “not the obedience of slaves, but that of free men.”21 Once in the field, the new soldiers deserted less than their Old Regime counterparts – and desertion mattered less, for men were now plentiful and cheap. They faced the enemy willingly and fought inventively and tenaciously. And their leaders were also new men, for the collapse of the society of orders in 1789-90 and the increasing radicalization of the Revolution had entailed the emigration of the vast majority of the old army’s aristocratic officer corps. The resulting vacuum, the ideology of equality, and the revolutionary fervor and paranoia that prompted the execution of seventeen generals in 1793 and sixty-seven in 20 National Convention decrees, 15 December 1792 and 15 September 1793, Archives parlementaires, vol. 55, pp. 74-6 and vol. 74, p. 231; Guibert, Essai, vol. 1, p. xiii, vol. 2, p. 184. 21 Camille Desmoulins and Jean-Baptiste Bouchotte, quoted in John A. Lynn, Bayonets of the Republic: Motivation and Tactics in the Army of Revolutionary France, 1791-94 (Champaign, IL, 1984), pp. 64, 100. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core 66 Knox 1794 brought the “career open to talent” in warfare – and general officers who a few years before had been privates, or sergeants, or (like Bonaparte) lieutenants. Almost half of the officer corps of summer 1794 had not served even as private soldiers under the Old Regime.” The prospect of further promotion combined powerfully with devotion to France and fear of the guillotine – “sword of equality” – to drive them and their men forward into battle. Strategically, the Revolution’s unlimited aims and growing means – 750,000 men in the field by mid-1794 – demanded the destruction of the enemy armies by battle. And the new French armies soon proved they had the cohesion even in defeat to warrant taking extreme risks for victory. Operationally, the new soldier made unprecedented movement possible. Nationalism made the logistics of plunder practical; troops foraged merrily but usually did not desert.z3 That freed armies to move dispersed and bypass the many fortresses built to stalemate the hesitant forces of the Old Regime. Commanders no longer tied to fixed bases and supply lines could swiftly change the direction and speed of large units, and move great distances into an unsuspecting enemy’s rear. Confusion on the march was no longer a prelude to disintegration; broken country no longer a deterrent. And the new logistics, when combined with the brigade and divisional organization systematized in the Army Regulations of 1791 and in war after 1792, allowed dispersed movement and concentration on the field of battle itself. Tactically, the new soldiers gave us the modern battlefield, peopled increasingly – as firepower intensified – by dispersed individuals rather than closeorder formations. At first largely from improvisation, then by design, the French armies of 1792-9 5 preceded their advance with clouds of skirmishers. Behind them came the ordre mixte of column for swift movement and line for the firefight outlined by Guibert and enshrined in the great Regulations of 1791. Commanders could freely alternate skirmishers, column, or line depending on terrain and situation. The mobile artillery of Gribeauval offered close support, and the infantry was trustworthy enough for the pursuit that could alone transform enemy defeat into rout and total destruction. NAPOLEONIC SYNTHESIS, PRUSSIAN RESPONSE The Revolution had transformed war; war also transformed the Revolution. By the late 1790s the immense prestige of victory and the delights of plunder had made the army rather than the politicians the motor of French expansion and the embodiment of French nationalism. Lynn, Bayonets, p. 75. See the figures for the Armee du Nord in Lynn, Bayonets, pp. 110-13. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core The French Revolution and after 67 Its most striking figure, the young General Bonaparte, added only a few personal touches to his political, organizational, and doctrinal inheritance after seizing supreme power in 1799. As an artilleryman, he privileged his branch and used it lavishly to make up for the growing lack of tactical subtlety of his infantry as years passed and losses mounted. He perfected the divisional system by grouping divisions and other units flexibly, according to the task at hand, into all-arms army corps. Huge armies of 150,000 to 500,000 men divided into corps could thus move dispersed a day’s or two day’s marches apart, linked by screening cavalry and couriers. Each corps was small enough to avoid logistical embarrassment but by design strong enough to face an enemy army for a day or two, until the remaining French corps, under Napoleon’s fierce urging, could close on the enemy flank or rear. To control these widely dispersed formations Napoleon created a staff system and headquarters that despite a lack of decision-making power and many structural deficiencies was of a size and complexity never before seen; by 1812 it numbered 3,500 officers and 10,000 men including escort troops. Finally, the emperor provided a degree of unity of command in the field and at the summit of the state only equaled in recent memory by Frederick the Great, and a fertility in operational expedients, a driving energy, and a speed of execution all his own/ 4 From 1800 onward he routinized and made permanent the mass recruitment and nationalist passion of the revolutionary armies. The dichotomy sometimes drawn between the nation-in-arms of 1793 moved by revolutionary enthusiasm and the professional soldiers of the late 1790s and the Napoleonic Empire moved solely or primarily by honors and esprit de corps is implausible/5 The amateurs of ’93 were professional enough to defeat the best troops of the Old Regime through skill as well as enthusiasm. The professionals of Austerlitz and Jena-Auerstadt and after were recruited overwhelmingly by the quasi-universal annual conscription authorized by General Jourdan’s law of 1798 and so expanded by Napoleon that the army raised two million troops between 1800 and i8i4. i 6 The Emperor himself had no doubt about the system’s central importance to France: “Without conscription,” he wrote in 1804, “neither national power nor national independence is possible . . . our success and the strength of our position depend on our having a national army; we must take care to preserve this advantage.”17 24 See the excellent summaries in Chandler, Campaigns, pp. 133-201 (operations), 332-78 (tactics and command technique). 25 See Lynn, “Army of Honor,” especially pp. 159-60; Jean-Paul Bertaud, La vie quotidienne des soldats de la Resolution 1789-17519 (Paris, 1985), p. 115. 26 For the figure, Lynn, “Army of Honor,” p. 158. 27 Quoted in Marcel Baldet, La vie quotidienne dans les armee’s de Napoleon (Paris, 1964), P- 32- terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core 68 Knox The soldiers of this army went into battle for France as well as for their units, leaders, and emperor, and for the honors and rewards he offered. Napoleon for his part strengthened his always precarious legitimacy by the continued invocation of patriotic-revolutionary symbols; he had the “Chant du depart” most famous of the fighting songs of the early 1790s besides the Marseillaise, played to fire the troops on the morning of Austerlitz.28 Clausewitz’s description of the Napoleonic army as “this juggernaut of war, based on the strength of the entire people” was not verbal excess.29 Napoleon’s most lasting achievement was twofold: to make the French army the army of the nation on a permanent basis, and to thereby durably if partially militarize that same nation. The peasantry inevitably resisted, and the state grudgingly conceded exemptions for those wealthy enough to pay a tax and a substitute. But evasion of conscription gradually diminished, reaching remarkably low levels in 1811-13.30 The emperor had “rendered honorable, because compulsory, the calling of the private soldier.”31 Nor did Napoleon have any intention of allowing wealth to escape. With the enthusiastic backing of the army, he sought to make the officer corps the dominant component of France’s post-revolutionary elite, and to lure or compel the sons of France’s notables to serve in it. Astonishingly high pay and lavish perquisites, rising to stratospheric heights for generals and marshals, was one element in this program of social engineering. Another was military precedence in ceremonial protocol at all levels, from the village, to the prefecture, to Paris itself. Soldiers and officers predominated crushingly among those awarded the Legion of Honor. By imperial order, high school students paraded in uniform; “war was in, and the drum muffled in my ear the voices of the schoolmasters,” as Alfred de Vigny later recalled.32 First the Revolution and then Napoleon – his victories, institutions, and memories – made France, for the next century and more, a military nation as it had never been under the Old Regime.33 Its adversaries inevitably responded in kind – but only one took up the challenge fully in the revolutionary era itself. “Peoples’ war” as practiced against the French invaders by Calabrian banditi, Spanish guerrillas, 28 Numbers: Jean Morvan, Le soldat imperial (Paris, 1904), vol. 1, p. no ; Imperial motivation by revolutionary-patriotic song: Maurice Choury, Les grognards et Napoleon (Paris, 1968), pp. 145-6. 29 On War, p. 592. 30 See Isser Woloch, “Napoleonic Conscription: State Power and Civil Society,” Past and Present 111 (1986), pp. 122-5. 31 Morvan, Le soldat imperial, vol. 1, p. 120. 32 Servitudes et grandeurs militaires (Paris, 1959 [1835]), p. 26. 33 On the militarization of society, see especially Jean-Paul Bertaud, La Revolution arme’e: les soldats-citoyens et la Revolution frangaise (Paris, 1979), pp. 342-5, and “Napoleon’s Officers,” Past and Present 112 (1986) pp. 91-111. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core The French Revolution and after 69 Tyrolese mountaineers, and Russian serfs and Cossacks was not modern. Austria, despite its invocation of the “German nation” in 1809, was structurally incapable of following the French example very far, even had the Archduke Charles, its most perceptive and successful military leader, so wished.34 Britain’s staggering level of manpower mobilization by 1812- 14 and its outstripping of French military and naval expenditure by a factor of perhaps five helped create a fragile sense of nationhood among its disparate peoples. But that effort did not require revolutionary changes, either political or military, to an Old Regime that survives to the present.35 Only one power – indeed one institution – took up the French challenge with almost Jacobin zeal: the army of Prussia. Prussia’s transformation followed Napoleon’s crushing defeat of its army at Jena-Auerstadt in October 1806, and was in part a consequence of Prussian peculiarities. War was Prussia’s reason for existence, and even the most timid or recalcitrant of its conservative-noble military caste perceived after 1806 that Prussia must learn to win battles again, or cease to exist. But Prussia’s transformation was also a consequence of the dynamics of nationalism. France had led the way – and the German-speaking lands had been its first victim. The armed hordes of the French had brutalized a people whose intelligentsia, for all the cosmopolitanism sometimes ascribed to it, contributed as much to the theory of nationalism as the French themselves. Modern German literature, born as the eighteenth century wore on among the small Protestant middle class of pastors and bureaucrats, was in part a reaction to the aping of French letters and manners by the aristocracy of western Germany. “Spew out the ugly slime of the Seine / Speak German, O you German!” thundered Friedrich Gottlieb Herder, the virtual inventor both of the theory of ethnic-linguistic nationalism and of nationalism’s German variant.36 French conquest of Germany’s borders in the 1790s and of its central core in 1800-06 transformed literary movement into political religion. The prophets of the German nation, from writers of patriotic verse such as Arndt, to philosophers such as Fichte, to dramatists such as Heinrich von Kleist, created a national cult that rested on the Protestant apocalypse, highly colored fantasies of the Germanic-tribal and medieval-imperial past, the French revolutionaries’ Rousseauvian vision of a regenerated 34 See especially Gunther E. Rothenberg, “The Archduke Charles and the Question of Popular Participation in War,” Consortium on Revolutionary Europe Proceedings (1981), pp. 214-14. 35 On the creation of the British “nation,” see especially Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1S37 (New Haven, CT, 1992); on the war effort, Chapter 10 of Geoffrey Best, War and Society in Revolutionary Europe (London, 1982) remains an excellent summary. 36 Quoted in Elie Kedourie, Nationalism (London, 1966), p. 59. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core 70 Knox nation of citizens rendered incapable of disobeying the general will, and a sense of world mission that made the Jacobins seem tame. Pitiless hostility to the French was the lowest common denominator; Kleist, in his bloodthirsty verse drama on Arminius’ destruction of the Roman invaders in 9 A.D., summed up the general sentiment when he commanded the extermination of the enemy in biblical tones: “Strike him dead: the Last Judgment will not ask your reasons!”37 These ideas fused, perceptibly if as yet imperfectly, with the traditions of the Prussian army and state after 1806-07. Their bearers were the cadre of reformers, many of them neither Prussian nor noble by origin, to whom King Frederick William III grudgingly turned after Jena: Heinrich von und zum Stein for the civilians, and for the army Gerhard von Scharnhorst, August von Gneisenau, Hermann von Boy en, Karl von Grolman, and (as Scharnhorst’s assistant) Carl von Clausewitz.38 The military reformers had two revolutionary answers to Napoleon: the thinking combatants that only universal military service could provide, and a thinking officer corps and staff system honed by Bildung – systematic professional study and the cultivation of decision-making skill. To make universal service possible, the reformers proposed something wholly new and alien to Prussian absolutism: an “alliance of government and people.”39 The state decreed the abolition of serfdom in 1807, and the army ended corporal punishment in 1808. In 1813, after Napoleon’s defeat in Russia allowed Prussia to break with France, the reformers organized militia formations and volunteer light infantry units for the middle classes alongside the infantry of the line.40 The following year, after a revived Prussian army of almost 300,000 men had helped drive Napoleon from Germany and his throne, they promulgated Europe’s first genuine universal service law, the Wehrgesetz. The law, which after radical increases in scope in 1860-67 remained in essence in effect until 1918, proclaimed the militarization of society with a thoroughness that had escaped even Napoleon: the new army was to be the “chief school of the nation for war.” Unlike France, Prussia barely flinched at middle-class distaste for service in the ranks. Not substitution, but a one-year term of service and opportunity to become a reserve officer or NCO was Prussia’s principal conces37 See Gordon Craig, “German Intellectuals in Politics, 1789-1815: The Case of Heinrich von Kleist,” Central European History 2:1 (March, 1969), pp. 8-10. 38 The nationalism of the reformers, although inevitably exaggerated by later German nationalists, was genuine and operative. See for instance Clausewitz’s passionate and chaotic “Profession of Faith” (Bekenntnisdenkschrift) of February 181Z, in Carl von Clausewitz, Schriften-Aufsdtze-Studien-Briefe, ed. Werner Hahlweg (Gottingen, 1966), especially Clausewitz’s almost Fichtean disparagement of the French, p. 735. 39 See Hohn, Scharnhorsts Verma’chtnis, pp. 18 iff. 40 See especially Dennis E. Showalter, “The Prussian Landwehr and its Critics, 1813- 1819,” Central European History 14:3 (1971), pp. 4-12. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core The French Revolution and after 7 i sion to wealth and status, and that concession promised and ultimately delivered the most military-minded middle classes in the world. The officer corps changed as much as the troops. To expunge defeat and open the way for talent, the reformers carried through a purge that surpassed in rigor any such measure ever inflicted upon itself by a sizable modern military-bureaucratic institution; Napoleon helped by demanding a massive reduction in the army’s size. In the end, barely over half the officer corps of 1806 fought in the wars of 1813-15.41 Simultaneously, the reformers ended the jealous noble quasi-monopoly of the officer corps upon which the great Frederick had insisted; from August 1808 the officer caste was open to all possessing “knowledge and education [Bildung] in peacetime . . . and in war outstanding bravery and military judgment.” Prospective officers now entered the ranks as officer candidates, and had to pass competitive written examinations before being coopted, subject to royal approval, by the officers of their regiment.41 Bildung was at the root of the new operational methods and tactics that combined the distilled essence of the best in French practice with the results of analysis and experiment, and made the Prussian army of 1813-15 at last equal or superior to its enemy in movement, flexibility, inventiveness, and fighting power. The Regulations of 1812, endpoint of the army’s retraining after Jena, made light infantry tactics the common property of all infantry units, which now trained in the swift and interchangeable employment of skirmishing, line, and column and the use of artillery and cavalry support.43 Bildung was also at the center of a fourth great reform, after the revolutions in recruitment, officer selection, and operational and tactical technique: that of the high command. Scharnhorst’s reflections on Napoleon’s campaigns and his first-hand experience of Prussia’s floundering without a Frederick the Great in 1806 had persuaded him that the army must find a way to do without genius at the top.44 His answer was a reformed staff system based on specialized military education for the very brightest junior and middle-level officers. The center of that education was critical thought 41 Rainer Wohlfeil, “Vom stehenden Heer des Absolutismus zur allgemeinen Wehrpflicht (1789-1814),” Militargeschichtliches Forschungsamt, Handbuch der deutschen Militdrgeschichte 1648-1939 (Frankfurt am Main and Munich, 1964-81), vol. 2, p. 141 gives the most balanced account of the purge; 1,791 (or 23 percent) of the 7,096 officers of 1806 remained active by September 1808, and only 3,898 (or 54 percent) of the officers of 1806 fought in 1813-15. 42 Ernst Rudolf Huber, Deutsche Verfassungsgescbichte seit 1789 (Stuttgart, 1957-90), vol. 1, pp. 232-8. 43 See especially Paret, Yorck, pp. 181-9, and Dennis E. Showalter, “Manifestation of Reform: The Rearmament of the Prussian Infantry, 1806-1813,” Journal of Modern History 44:4 (1972), pp. 364-80. 44 For the genesis of this notion long before Jena, see among other sources Charles Edward White, The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militdrische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-180; (New York, 1989), pp. 64ff. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core 72 Knox resting on thorough professional and military-historical understanding; its aim was aptitude and eagerness for independent action. Scharnhorst aimed to make staff officers not merely assistants to commanders, but a sort of central nervous system for strategic planning and operational control that would harness the collective wisdom of the best minds the army could recruit. The mass armies created in the French military revolution thus secured a reliable mechanism, independent of individual genius, for ensuring that hundreds of thousands of men would “fight in the right place at the right time.”45 CONCLUSION: TO 1941 AND BEYOND The victors of 1814-15 failed to suppress for long either nationalist revolution or the military revolution it had launched. No one could “disinvent” mass politics or mass warfare. Governments and armies ignored the pressing need for thinking warriors at their peril; the storm of steel of the Industrial Revolution increasingly emptied the battlefield of formations, reducing even junior leaders’ span of control to the few men they could reach by crawling. And demographic expansion continually increased the size of armies and the necessity of ever more sophisticated mechanisms of command and control – which only some approximation of the Prussian staff system could provide. Scharnhorst and his colleagues had remolded the Prussian army-state for the age of mass politics. Perhaps contrary to their partly liberal intentions, they and their less liberal successors produced Europe’s most perfectly militarized society and most professional mass army. German nationalism’s peculiarly violent character and limitless aspirations then combined with the new-won military self-assurance of the German people to carry strategic-ideological lunacy far beyond the high standards that the Girpndins, Jacobins, and Bonaparte had set. The final lineal descendant of the reformed Prussian army of 1813-15 was the “National Socialist people’s army” of 1939-45, which fought the greatest war in history to consummate a racist world revolution, and realized the Prussian reformers’ career open to talent in ways that would have filled them with horror.46 The increasingly automated firepower of the permanent revolution of science and technology is at last ending the age of the armed horde that began in 1792-94. But the political religion of the nation-state remains 45 Clausewitz on the aim of “the whole of military activity,” On War, p. 95. 46 See particularly Knox, “The ‘Prussian Idea of Freedom’ and the Career Open to Talent: Battlefield Initiative and Social Ascent from Prussian Reform to Nazi Revolution, 1807- 1944,” in Knox, Common Destiny; also Knox, “1 October 1942: Adolf Hitler, Wehrmacht Officer Policy, and Social Revolution,” The Historical Journal 43:3 (zooo), pp. 801-25. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core The French Revolution and after 73 mighty on Europe’s fringes and among the rising powers of East Asia. The German Revolution’s terrifying combination of professional military organization and technological mastery with mass fanaticism – Panzerdivisionen, V-2S, and racial-ideological extermination – should warn against overestimating the military decisiveness of technology alone, or its ability to define the nature of warfare. terms of use, available at Downloaded from University of Sussex Library, on 04 Mar 2019 at 23:22:16, subject to the Cambridge Core

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Mass politics and nationalism as military revolution
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay

How to place an order?

Take a few steps to place an order on our site:

  • Fill out the form and state the deadline.
  • Calculate the price of your order and pay for it with your credit card.
  • When the order is placed, we select a suitable writer to complete it based on your requirements.
  • Stay in contact with the writer and discuss vital details of research.
  • Download a preview of the research paper. Satisfied with the outcome? Press “Approve.”

Feel secure when using our service

It's important for every customer to feel safe. Thus, at University Study, we take care of your security.

Financial security You can safely pay for your order using secure payment systems.
Personal security Any personal information about our customers is private. No other person can get access to it.
Academic security To deliver no-plagiarism samples, we use a specially-designed software to check every finished paper.
Web security This website is protected from illegal breaks. We constantly update our privacy management.

Get assistance with placing your order. Clarify any questions about our services. Contact our support team. They are available 24\7.

Still thinking about where to hire experienced authors and how to boost your grades? Place your order on our website and get help with any paper you need. We’ll meet your expectations.

Order now Get a quote

error: Content is protected !!
Open chat
Need assignment help? You can contact our live agent via WhatsApp using +1 718 717 2861

Feel free to ask questions, clarifications, or discounts available when placing an order.

Order your essay today and save 30% with the discount code STUDY