Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

for its modification. In an evil hour for legitimacy, M. Decazes abandoned the opportunity by which he might for ever have crushed the two parties—here struggling against the dynasty, there against the nation. With Benjamin Constant, Foy, Ternaux, and he would at that time have had Laffitte, added to the whole force of the Doctrinaires, and his own personal party on the centre gauche, M. Decazes, strong in his own ability, strengthened by the popular voice, would have been able to wield the whole force of the country and of the monarchy, and to have smitten down his enemies on either side. Attached to the king, exposed to the remonstrances of the Carlsbad confederacy, irritated, perchance, by some injudicious liberal attacks, he resolved, I repeat, in an evil hour, to retrace his steps. It is fair to acknowledge, however, that he did not do this in the ungenerous spirit of a renegade: moderate in his advance, he was moderate in his retreat. Lest by M. Dessolle, he had to form a new government, and he composed it of men of high character, of superior abilities, and of principles as temperate as he could adopt for the course he had determined to pursue :--by this he hoped to reconquer the favour of the court, and to preserve the support of the Constitutionalists. This he hoped-and what in reality took place? He offended the one party as much as if he had pleased the other.

The waves of opinion ran too high for such a system of peace, and dashed on either side over a ministry which, at once assailed by two oppositions, had to repel the double attack of Labourdonnaye and Lafayette. Stigmatized as the timid deserter of their cause by the Liberals, still regarded as their disguised and humbled enemy by the Royalists, both parties threw in the face of his present policy his past professions.* An event was only wanting to overturn the government, which no person ardently supported. A terrible event came: the only popular prince of the Bourbon family was stabbed by the knife of Louvel. The blow fell like a thunderbolt upon the ministry: it annihilated-it beat it to atoms. Nobly defended by

It is impossible, in recurring to this part of French history, not to apply it to what is taking place in England and in our own times, ay, even at the moment at which I am writing, when a cabinet is yet to be formed. Whatever result from the late resignations, let me express an earnest hope that the policy so fatal to the dynasty of France may find no imitators here. July 11, 1834.

the party he had left, infamously aspersed by the party he had approached, M. Decazes resigned-nor could he have stood an hour. He had no longer the nation at his back; the Comte d'Artois and the Duchesse d'Angoulême insisted on his dismissal; the court even clamoured for his impeachment; and M. de Chateaubriand, with one of his great charlatanisms of expression, declared, " That the foot of M. Decazes had slipped in the blood of the Duc de Berry.

I have dwelt at some length on the events of this time, not only because it is the critical time of the Restoration, but because it is a time which all statesmen, now living, acting, and thinking, would do well to study!

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

With the fall of Monsieur Decazes fell the courage of Louis XVIU., who, first glad to interpose Monsieur de Richelieu between the two systems, finally resigned himself to the dictation of his brother, and the government of M. de Villèle; while the hearts of many grew dead to the hope of reconciling the existing race with free institutions, and vast numbers went over to swell the ranks of the faction, already hostile to the legitimate throne.

From the ordonnance of September to the death of the Duc de Berri, is the great epoch of the Restoration; and to M. Decazes more especially is owing the impulse given at this time to the industry of France, and which since that time has carried on the nation with giant steps in a new career.

Then was instituted a board for the amelioration of agriculture; then was formed a council for the inspection and improvement of prisons; then was shown most earnest solicitude for elementary and popular education; then were manufactures encouraged by a national exposition, at which the artisan met the monarch, and received the prize, which society owed him, from the royal hand.* This period was a period of improvement-a period of impartiality, a period at which the nation made an immeasurable advance—at which the destinies of the throne were yet undecided. To M. Decazes the people owed in some degree the Revolution ; he developed the people's energies-

* A table of this exposition is to be found in the vol. of M. Chabrol, to which I have alluded in my appendix,

to M. Decazes the monarchy might have owed its securityhe would have united the monarchy with the nation.

The Duc de Berri was assassinated the 13th of February 1820, and in the September following was born the Duc de Bordeaux, heir to a throne which was at the same time assailed by an adverse superstition of hatred and devotion. On all sides-violence: here the ill-concerted plans of republicans put down, there the unhappy schemes of royalists successful : in Europe, the same struggle between abstract doctrines and arbitrary rule.

The war against Spain displayed the principles of the French government abroad ; the Septennial Act asserted them at home —while the press crawled seebly on, under the weight of the censorship, and through the trammels of corruption... Such was the state of things when Louis XVIII. died.*

His brother passed from the chamber of death; the royal doors unfolded to the new King

Le Roi, Messieurs,” said M. de Blacas according to ancient usage, and Charles the Tenth received the homage of the princes and great officers of the crown.

* The following words are given to Louis XVIII. just previous to his death, and seem, from what I can learn, to have been, with some verbal inaccuracies, really addressed to his brother.

“I have dealt with all parties as did Henry IV.; and, more fortunate than Henri IV. l die in my bed. Do you do as I have done, and you will die as I die. I forgive you all the pain you have caused me :” and subsequently, when the Duc de Bordeaux was presented to him, “Let Charles X. have a care for that child's crown!" Hist. de la Restauration.

I believe I may be permitted to say that I have seen in different parts of his private correspondence, very extraordinary proofs of Louis's great sagacity, of the fears he entertained for the projects of the Comte d'Artois, and of his sense of the danger to which those projects would expose the throne of his nephew.

161

RESTORATION.

PERIOD II.

Charles X. popular, though the Comte d'Artois so unpopular. -The French

hailed a King who could ride on horseback. The abolition of the censorship.--Reaction against the King.-The Jesuits.-M. de Villèle carries the powers of the Constitution to the extremest verge.—The system which he essayed left in its failure no resource.--The character of M. de Villèle.Ministry of Martignac.--Steps towards liberty.-Why unsuccessful.---The march taken by the nation during the Ministry of Villèle.--Opinions of M. de Martignac.- Ideas of Charles X.-Dificulties of situation, and causes. -Advantage of popular names to avert too sudden popular concessions.Reasons why this advantage should exist.–Danger of choosing unpopular names.—Example in M. de Polignac.--Feelings in the country.-Course of the King.-Ordonnances consistent with Charles X.'s character.-Considerations.--Great difficulty of preserving the institutions of 1814, and the principle on which they were given. —The three mean-way systems failed. -Not once was the chamber liberal, but that it passed to doctrines hostile to the sacred prerogatives of the Crown; not once was the Chamber royalist, but that it insisted on a policy inimical to the accorded liberties of the people.-Weakness never so fatal to its possessor as when accompanied by violence.-An absolute theory worst enemy of a constitutional throne.

STRANGE to say, never was king at the commencement of his reign more popular than the unpopular heir to the throne. With the happy levity of their character, the French forgot the religious prejudices, the constitutional repugnance of the Comte d'Artois on the accession of Charles X. Change itself was no inconsiderable blessing to such a people ; and wearied . with a decrepit monarch, swathed in flannel, they delighted themselves in the possession of a king who enjoyed the pre

* Often, and even lately, I have heard people, looking back to this time, speak of the change that took place, the kind of religious enthusiasm that was suddenly kindled in favour of Charles X., as one of the most remarkable political phenomena of their changeful day ; and when one considers Charles the Tenth's known opinions, known personal attachments, it does appear far more astonishing that his manners should, even for a moment, have deceived his people, than that their confidence should have so fatally and so decidedly deceive d himself.

*

eminent advantage of bearing himself gallantly on horseback. Charles X. courted popularity, and had in his favour all the external circumstances which procure it. Courteous, dignified, with a peculiarly royal air, and a singular grace of expression, his manner and his conversation were far superior to himself, though it is very erroneous, notwithstanding all his errors, to suppose that he did not possess a certain ability.

I remember being in Paris about this time.—It is impossible to describe the enthusiasm which pervaded it when the abolition of the censorship wound up to the highest pitch the popular excitement.* But this enthusiasm, wide as it spread, was neither calculated to last long, nor did it penetrate deep : it was upon

the surface of the nation. Those who had approached the King in the transaction of affairs, knew the préjudices which guided him, and the incompatibility which must exist between his future government and his momentary popularity. Those, into whom the last reign had inspired a deep and almost desperate dissatisfaction, paused, it is true, for a moment in their thoughts and plans—would have been willing to pardon, at the price of almost impossible concessions—but first doubting, finally disappointed, they added to the list of their wrongs the vainness of those hopes that had been excited, and with a more dark and determined spirit pursued their reveries of revenge.

In vain did the new Monarch, with a noble policy that did honour to his advisers, attempt to unite all the feelings, and all the generations, old and young, of his people, in the solemn

Charles the Tenth owed the greater part of his short-lived popularity to a certain grace of language, and a certain chivalry of manner, of which it is impossible for any one but a Frenchman to understand the value. The removal of the censorship, however, was a new title to applause, and seems at first sight to militate against what has previously been said of the views and policy of this Prince. But it is a singular fact, that the extreme Royalists were always favourable to the liberty of the press—partly because they had been in opposition when the government of Louis XVIII. had proposed to control that liberty, partly because they really and sincerely believed, that in spite of the republic and the empire, the antique adoration for royalty still lingered in the hearts of men, and that it only required to be frankly and loyally appealed to. Charles X. then, fond of scenes, fond of popular applause, mas what monarch, dreaming despotism, is not ?-seized, with delight, an opportunity which, as he thought, would untimately extend his power, and which, at all events, rendered him for three days the lol of Paris.

« VorigeDoorgaan »