Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

puted the administration of affairs ;* and constituting a cabinet of his own, aspired to impose upon the royal councils the resolutions of the Pavillon Marsan.'t Louis XVIII. was of a temporizing disposition ; the same feelings which made him favourable to a moderate line of policy, made him hostile to an open quarrel with those who urged a violent one. Besides, he was not altogether beyond the influences of his youth, and felt a respect--that was involuntary—for that man in his family who was most fashionable with his Court.

The first and second administrations of the Duc de Richelieu were administrations of compromise between the two brothers and the two parties. But, named twice under the auspices of the Comte d'Artois, the Duc de Richelieu was each time eventually honoured by his disapprobation :—first, when he would not pass a universal sentence of proscription upon all that prince's enemies; secondly, when he would not give all the places at bis disposal to that prince's friends. I

* He had already assumed, in 1814, the title of Lieutenant-General, without authority, to the great dissatisfaction of the King.

+ That part of the Tuileries where the Comte d'Artois resided.

* It was for this reason that this administration was opposed ; and the Duc de Richelieu's illness and death were mainly to be attributed, it is said, to the disgust and vexation which he felt at the Comte d'Artois' attack upon his government a government which he (the Duc de Richelieu) had only undertaken under the express promise of Monsieur's support and assistance.

The governments of Dessolle and Decazes, which may both be considered as formed under the influence and representing the opinions of Monsieur Decazes, though under different circumstances and in different degrees—the governments of Messrs. Dessolle and Decazes, intervening between the two administrations of Monsieur de Richelieu, represented the ideas of the King, of the more moderate royalists, and stood at once uncompromisingly opposed to the whole power of the Pavillon Marsan.'

This is the interesting and critical period of the restoration. In the contest at issue were engaged the destinies of the monarchy and the two policies which the restoration had to follow. It was impossible for the moderate party to be more fortunate than it was in its chief. Monsieur Decazes, now placed in so prominent a position, had in early life been secretary to Madame Bonaparte ; he was subsequently known as a distinguished magistrate,* and,

* De la cour d'assises du département de la Seine.

remarkable during the hundred days for the zeal and ability which he displayed in favour of the Bourbons, had been named Préfet de Police,' under Fouché, at their return. Favoured by accident with an interview with Louis XVIII., the monarch, pleased by his address, struck by his capacity, and anxious to be independent of the political probity of the Duc d'Otrante, desired the 'préfet’ to submit his reports directly to himself,* and expressed a wish to improve the acquaintance.

This was the commencement of M. Decazes' favour. At the time I am speaking of, that favour was at its height. Monsieur Decazes then was the intimate friend (such was the appellation which Louis XVIII. gave him) of the sovereign : he had great popularity in the country, many friends in the chamber. To these advantages he joined habits of official business, an easy and conciliating eloquence, and the quality, so important in a difficult ministerial situation, of soothing the irritation

* Louis XVIII., in common with all the Bourbon family, had a great pleasure in the political gossip with which it is easy for a minister, w has the police at his disposal, to decorate his reports; and here M. Decazes had an opportunity, which few in his situation would have neglected, of improving any favourable impression he might first have made.

and satisfying the 'amour propre’ of a doubtful and displeased adherent. The minister had a graceful manner, an imposing person-a countenance noble, handsome, and agreeable-great tact, considerable talent -- and very wise and large views in favour of the industry and the intelligence of the country.

Attached to no party, he professed to stand upon the general ground of moderate men and moderate opinions. He wished to make the king --“not as Henry III. the chief of the Leaguers, but as Henry IV. the father of his people.” This was the idea, as this was the comparison, which above all others pleased Louis XVIII.

Shortly after the dissolution of 1815, he himself had said to M. Ravez, “ Trop d'agitations ont malheureusement troublé la France : elle a besoin de repos ; il lui faut pour en jouir des députés attachés à ma personne, à la légitimité, et à la Charte, mais surtout modérés et prudens.To another person his language had been the

same :

“ Les sages amis de la légitimité et de la charte," he had said, “ veulent avec moi et comme moi le bonheur de la France

ils sont convaincus que ce bonheur est dans le repos, et que le repos ne peut naître que de la modération.”

These were the views of the King: these were the views of bis minister. From September 5th, up to the retirement of M. de Richelieu, and the nomination of M. Dessolle, there had been a continued series of mild but popular concessions. The formation of the army, the election of the chamber, had undergone two great and liberal alterations ; the press, though still fettered, was more free - and France, beginning to enjoy the blessings of internal liberty, had delivered herself on better terms than she might have expected from foreign occupation.

The ministry of M. Dessolle had been formed on the determination to maintain the new law of election. This law contained no violent scheme of popular government, for it gave but eighty thousand electors to a people of twentyseven millions ; but it had almost completely excluded the extrème droite,' (the more bigoted royalists,) and brought Grégoire and Manuel into the chamber. A little more parliamentary experience would have taught the monarch that he had nothing to fear from two or three obnoxious elections, and that, on the contrary, a government gains by meeting chiefs of a hostile party front to front in a place of public discussion. The nomination, however, of the ex

« VorigeDoorgaan »