« VorigeDoorgaan »
Louis XVIII. died, having long in reality ceased to reign.—Never had prince
assumed a crown with more difficulties than Louis assumed his in 1814.What party could he rely on for support ?-Universal division where there was the appearance of universal content.—The momentary force of the Restoration its permanent weakness.—The first discontent selt by the military-Causes of discontent.---The battle of Waterloo decided against the army.-The events of the Hundred Days favourable to the Bourbons. -Moderate policy of Louis XVIII. on his return.—The persecutions, however, which follow, and which unite the army and the patriots.- How far Louis XVIII. was to blame.-M. de Talleyrand resigns.-Conflict between the two sects of royalists for power.-Louis XVIII. at the head of one, Comte d'Artois at the head of the other.—The administration of the Duc de Richelieu, a compromise between these two parties.—The governments of Messrs. Dessolle and Decazes are the governments of Louis XVIII. --The character of Mons. Decazes.—The government of Dessolle and Decazes based on the new law of election.--King frighte by the election of Grégoire.—The state of the ministry and the chamber.— government must have some tendency.--Mons. Decazes determines on turning to the less liberal side for support.—Left by Mons. Dessolle.-Forms a new ministry. -Means to alter the Law of Election.—Assassination of Duc de Berry.Mons. Decazes goes out.-Fatal effects of his late policy.-Review of his government. The enemies of the tbrone take courage; men in general become more despondent as to the Restoration, and the Throne gains foes hitherto not opposed to it.
I now approach a time at which the impartiality of posterity has not yet arrived. Amidst the clamour of contending parties, struggling upon the errors of a fallen throne-where is the voice to render the Restoration justice ? Separated from his friend, enslaved by his family, debauched * by his mistress, surrounded by the last pomps of religion, and thoughtful for a dynasty of which he knew the faults and predicted the misfortunes, the brother of Louis XVI., the admirer and imitator of
* The details that are given of the last days of Louis XVIII., of his mental profligacy, of his physician's advice, of Madame —'s influence and endearments, would forin a melancholy chapter in the history of the fallen dynasty.
Henry IV., the uncle of Henry V., a prince of many royal virtues ----saw a life of vicissitudes drawing to a close. The sceptre he was still presumed to wield had already fallen from his hand; as much from indolence as impotence, he had for years renounced the hope of governing an undivided people, and consented to a system which he had the wisdom to comprehend, but not the force to resist. On the 6th of September, 1824, Louis XVIII. terminated an existence which his sufferings rendered wretched, and of which it is too probable that his excesses shortened the duration. He may be said to have reigned for ten years, and the greatness which he had shown in his misfortunes had been at times perceptible during his power. Never was crown so difficult to wear as that which, in the right of hereditary superstition, foreign hands had placed upon this king's head.
By what party was he to support himself ? From what elements could the government be formed, which would assure him a prosperous and peaceful reign ? The armies that escorted him to the Tuileries had marched over the prostrate legions of defeated France—the sovereigns who gave him a kingdom were the successful enemies of the people whose interests he was come to cherish. He could not rely upon his army then, for he was the friend of the stranger; he could not rely upon his allies, for he was sovereign of France.
There was a party who had followed bis fortunes—of gallant lineage, of tried fidelity ; they had a hold upon his prejudices, a right to his affections, and they claimed to be the counsellors of the monarch whom they had obeyed and honoured as the exile. But this party, in following the fortunes of the King of France, had stood for twenty years opposed to the fortunes of the French people ; they were aliens in the country they wished to govern : a deluge had swept over all things since their departure; and in vain they sought for the ancient world which they found every where altered, and which they wished to find every where the same. There were other parties: there were the parties of the Revolution; the parties of the Empire; there were the parties that had stormed the Tuileries . on the 10th of August; voted the death of Louis XVI. on the 21st of January (1793); assisted Bonaparte on the 18th of Brumaire (1799); and vowed allegiance to his empire on the 2nd of December (1804); there were the Republicans by principle,
the Imperialists by gratitude, habit, and interest. Could the
royalists be employed ? Could the republicans be gained ? Could the imperialists be trusted ? There was universal division, even where there was the appearance of universal content. The emigration rejoiced at the idea of a court which would breathe life into the forgotten memories of Versailles ; the more liberal of the old assemblies and the senate equally rejoiced at the substitution of a constitutional king for a military despot; and the high dignitaries of the empire imagined for a time that their services would be remembered and their origin forgotten.
The momentary force of the Restoration was in its giving hopes to all; the permanent weakness of the Restoration was, in the necessity of its giving disappointment to all. The satisfaction was immediate; it surrounded the horse of the Comte d'Artois, and applauded his graceful air; it followed the coach of the royal exile from Hartwell, and in spite of the bonnet of the Duchesse d'Angouleme,* and the Englishified aspect of the Duc de Berry, remarked the wit of Louis's conversation, the dignity of his manner, and the benevolence of his countenance. The satisfaction was immediate—the dissatisfaction gradually developed itself—until each party had assaulted the system which each party had expected to control. The military were the first to feel disgusted at the change. The veterans of the vieille garde of the grande armée could little brook the insolence of those favoured troops, who, reviving the old names, the old uniforms, the old prejudices of a by-gone system, considered it their principal distinction to have escaped the contaminating victories of an usurper. Offended at the loss of their eagles, passionately fond of their ancient colours, the soldiery received a new provocation in the order to change the numbers of their regiments; and obeyed, with ill-smothered indignation, the command which severed them from the last of their military recollections. And, if the soldiery considered themselves aggrieved, so also did the generals and the marshals of the empire deem they had their causes of complaint. The recent genealogies of the camp lost their illustration before the ancient chivalry of the court. Trusted with high commands,
Nothing, however, tended, at the time, more to add to the dislike, and to increase the contempt with which a certain portion of the Parisians regarded the royal family, than to find them--so ill dressed.
the great officers of Napoleon were treated with little respect ; while their wives-long accustomed to the homage of that ardent and warlike youth who passed with alternate passions from the battle to the ball—long accustomed to have their charms undisputed and adored—now galled by the contempt of a new race of rivals, now disconcerted by the formal hauleur of the old courtier, and the supercilious disregard of the young noble-filled the saloons of the Queen Hortense, listened with sparkling eyes to the vivacious sallies of Mad. Hamelin, and sighed for the graceful confidences of Josephine, and the splendid days of Marie Louise. The army then was the first to be disgusted; the battle of Waterloo decided that the wishes of the army could not be obeyed.
Nothing could have happened more fortunate for the Bourbons than the events of the Hundred Days; those events had alarmed the civil part of the nation at the power which the military part possessed; they had rendered the nation jealous of the army--they had dispersed and dispirited the army itself
- they had shown France that she could only obtain a change by a war with Europe, and that for such a war she was too weak; and more than all this, they had furnished a comparison between the additional act of the empire, and the constitutional charta of the Restoration.
If Bonaparte, by his defeat on the field of battle, attached to his name some melancholy and affectionate remembrances, the recollections which Louis XVIII. had left in the legislative assembly—the calm courage and the noble dignity with which, in the presence of his military rival, he had held the charta as a buckler before the throne, were favourable to his person, and threw a constitutional halo round the renewal of his reign.
* The Hundred Days might fairly be called “the revolution of the women;" and among the ladies engaged in the intrigues of the time, the most conspicuous for her talents, ber conversation, her energy, her charms, and the confidence of Bonaparte, was that lady wbom I have just mentioned !
† It was before quitting Paris that Louis XVIII., who had, from the first landing of Napoleon, shown calmness, firmness, and dignity, made the attempt to excite a constitutional enthusiasm by appearing to the chambers, and delivering one of those remarkable discourses which no one better knew how to utter or compose. “ Celui qui vient alluner parmi nous les torches de la guerre civile y apporte aussi le fléau de la guerre étrangère : il vient remettre notre patrie sous son joug de fer ; il vient enfin détruire cette Charte constitutionelle que je vous ai donnée, cette Charte, mon plus beau titre aux yeux
The remonstrances of foreign diplomacy, the manisest faults which the royalists had themselves committed, the bitter lesson that Bonaparte brought with him from Elba, the certainty that the nation was neutral, and the army hostile—the good sense of Louis XVIII. himself, who saw that his policy must be to unite under the wing of the monarchy the different factions into which an attachment to the old régime, a prominent part in the revolution, or a situation under the empire, had split his agitated and divided people-procured for a moment the appearance of moderation, which the dismissal of the Duc de Blacas, and the appointment of Fouché, a regicide, and Guizot, a protestant, to office, seemed to guarantee. But how often is it deemed impossible to adopt a general system of conciliation without a partial display of force. The party who clamour for punishment must be appeased, while there is something fatally flattering to human vanity in the demonstration that if we choose to be generous, we dare to be severe. Hence those fatal executions and proscriptions which overshadowed the great name of the Duke of Wellington, and revived the worst memories of the French republic. Hence the exile of Carnot, the assassination of Labédoyère,* while Nismes, Toulouse, and Marseilles were disgraced by the madness of an infuriated populace, t and the blood of Marshal Brune at Avignon disgraced the cause of royalty and religion.
It was now that a new class of persons, attached to the Bourbons at the commencement of their reign, began to wish and to conspire for their overthrow. The republicans and the more liberal part of the constitutionalists had welcomed the Restoration from their hatred of Bonaparte : and though the senate felt that the octroyisation of the charta was an attack in point of form upon the privileges of the nation, still it felt also that that charta did in fact assure those privileges. We find
de la postérité, cette Charte, que tous les Francais chérissent, et que je jure ici de maintenir.” “We'll die for the King,” shouted the people; but liberty was not at that time a habit, and Bonaparte marched to Paris at the head of his troops.
* Labédoyère was not actually brought to trial until the ministry of Riche• lieu.
+ It is but justice to observe, that the state of the Protestants in the South excited the attention of the British and Prussian governments, who insisted on the repressiou of these disorders.