Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

historical response, * while the Monarch, with a fatal firmness, declared that the choice which alarmed his people was the irrevocable resolution of the crown. There was a long controversy in the cabinet. The Government, however, could have but one course to pursue: a dissolution was the first step : on the second chamber being as unfavourable as the one preceding it, and that it was so, soon appeared : either the decision pronounced irrevocable was to be revoked, or an appeal to the people be succeeded by an appeal to the sword.

For some time prior to July there hung upon the public mind a heavy cloud, which, with the fatal inspiration of calamitous times, every one felt to be charged with the dread burthen of great events.

The mysterious stillness which brooded over the royal councils rather excited than dulled expectation ; and when the two famous ordonnances appeared, there was nobody out of the Diplomacy who had been deceived. They who best know Charles X. know that the greater part of his life had been passed in schemes of similar catastrophes. The first victim to the events of 1789, the long years of his exile had gone by amidst meditations on the manner in which those events might have been averted; and with a royal confidence in his own ability, he always imagined that he was peculiarly fit for essaying those perilous shocks of fortune, by which a crown is lost or made secure. From the moment then that M. de Martignac came into office, Charles X. had looked to the famous XIVth Article* as the basis of a daring plan, which, if the conciliatory plans of his Minister were unsuccessful, would release majesty in a more summary manner from the vulgar opposition of the commons.

* See Appendix.

With more ability than is usually attributed to him, he saw at once, on the retreat of M. de Villèle, the future difficulties of his situation; he saw that he should be asked for great concessions- that he might be obliged to make a great resistance.

Certain concessions he was prepared to make, larger ones he was resolved to refuse. Trying the milder system first, “Let it fail,” said Charles X. “ and fail I think it will, and I will take a Minister of my

* Art. 14. DE LA CHARTE.-Le roi est le chef sua prême de l'état; il commande les forces de terre et de mer, déclare la guerre, fait les traités de paix, d'alliance et de commerce, nomme à tous les emplois d'administra, tion publique, et fait les réglemens et ordonnances nécessaires pour l'exécution des lois et la sûreté de l'état. VOL. II.

D

own choice, of my own faction, in whom I can entirely rely. I will have at my disposal the whole force of royalty. The country may possibly yield when I display that force; if not, I am determined to use it." 66 La Chambre joue un gros jeu,” said he, after receiving the address, of the two hundred and twenty-one, “il pourra bien lui en cuire de blesser ainsi ma couronne !” And thus amidst a series of events which we may call fortuitous, but which were so intertwined in the great mesh of human affairs as to make one almost believe that each was the necessary consequence of the other; thus, the two principles which had once contended came again into conflict, and a new example was bequeathed to posterity of the wisdom of the philosopher who, many years previous to our first Revolution, declared that “all restorations were impossible.” I acknowledge for my own part, that the more I linger over this period of history, the more I marvel; not that the Restoration should have at length perished, but that it should have so long endured. A frank and honest recognition of the great principles of civil liberty, and a practical policy in accordance with those principles, must have led to the declaration and acknowledgment that the monarch held his crown from

the people, and not the people their liberties from the crown. This would have been, in point of fact, the Revolution, the Revolution of July. It would have separated the monarch altogether from the emigration, from the nobility, from the priesthood; it would have put down the maxim--that wise emanation of kingcraft, “That the king had never ceased to reign."

But in this sentence the Restoration was contained; and, let us confess the truth, without it the descendant of St. Louis and Henry IV., brought into France by foreign bayonets, had far less right than ‘General Buonaparte' to the French throne. Without this sentence then, the hereditary Restoration was unjust; with it, a large and open system of liberty was impossible. Between these two difficulties the mon. archy was kept in a state of miserable fluctuation.

“ Act up to the constitution you have granted !” said one set of men. But no sooner did the sovereign prepare to do this, than he found himself at war with the principle on which that liberty was given.

“ Assert and maintain the prerogative, which, after all, only gave these free concessions as a favour,” said another party: and, lo! the crown

conces

found itself in conflict with its own sions.

Thrice a mean-way system of moderation was tried — by M. de Talleyrand, by M. Decazes, by M. de Martignac. The first experiment was, perhaps, too early; the second I consider to have been too late ; there were many circumstances in favour of M. Decazes. Could he have saved the dynasty ? The question is difficult, and I have ventured to give my own opinion. But what historians may dispute, history has decided. • The Restoration' with its roots struck deep into the past, with its long hopes extending into the future, is no more; and I repeat, that we may marvel at its long duration when we consider the agitation by which it was accompanied.* In fifteen years it was fairly worn out. Every new system of violence excited new passions ; every new departure from moderation made new and irreconcilable enemies. Not once was the Chamber liberal,' but that it passed to doctrines which were hostile to the sacred prerogatives of the crown: not once was the Chamber royalist,' but that it insisted upon a policy which was inimical to

con

* Under the Restoration 2192 persons were demned for political offences, of whom 108 were put to death.

« VorigeDoorgaan »