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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 felt 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. DecazesThe government of Dessolle and Decazes based on the new law of election -King frightened by the election of Gregoire-The state of the ministry and
the chamber-A 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 Law of Election- Assassination of Duc de Berri — Mons. Decazes goes out--Fatal effects of his late policy-Review of his government—The enemies of the throne 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 ruins 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 had predicted the misfortunes, the brother of Louis XVI., the admirer and imitator of 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
* 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 form a melancholy chapter in the history of the fallen dynasty.
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 the sovereign of France.
There was a party who had followed his 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 everywhere altered, and which they wished to find everywhere 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 Berri, 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
* 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.