Minor punctuation errors have been changed without notice. Printer errors have been changed and are listed at the end. All other inconsistencies are as in the original.
THE HISTORY OF MY TIME.
AUTHOR OF 'MEMOIRS OF SIR ROBERT PEEL;' 'HISTORY OF OLIVER CROMWELL,' ETC. ETC.
LONDON: RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET, Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty. 1858.
JOHN EDWARD TAYLOR, LITTLE QUEEN STREET,
LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, LONDON.
OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
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FRANCE BEFORE THE RESTORATION.
My Reasons for publishing these Memoirs during my Life.—My Introduction into Society.—My First Acquaintance with M. de Chateaubriand, M. de Suard, Madame de Stael, M. de Fontanes, M. Royer-Collard.—Proposal to appoint me Auditor in the Imperial State Council.—Why the Appointment did not take place.—I enter the University and begin my Course of Lectures on Modern History.—Liberal and Royalist Parties.—Characters of the different Oppositions towards the Close of the Empire.—Attempted resistance of the Legislative Body.—MM. Laine, Gallois, Maine-Biran, Raynouard, and Flaugergues.—I leave Paris for Nismes.—State of Paris and France in March, 1814.—The Restoration takes place.—I return to Paris, and am appointed Secretary-General to the Ministry of the Interior. 1
Sentiments with which I commenced Public Life.—True Cause and Character of the Restoration.—Capital Error of the Imperial Senate.—The Charter suffers from it.—Various Objections to the the Charter.—Why they were Futile.—Cabinet of King Louis XVIII.—Unfitness of the Principal Ministers for Constitutional Government.—M. de Talleyrand.—The Abbe de Montesquieu.—M. de Blacas.—Louis XVIII.—Principal Affairs in which I was concerned at that Epoch.—Account of the State of the Kingdom laid before the Chambers.—Bill respecting the Press.—Decree for the Reform of Public Instruction.—State of the Government and the Country.—Their Common Inexperience.—Effects of the Liberal System.—Estimate of Public Discontent and Conspiracies.—Saying of Napoleon on the Facility of his Return. 27
THE HUNDRED DAYS.
I immediately leave the Ministry of the Interior, to resume my Lectures.—Unsettled Feeling of the Middle Classes on the Return of Napoleon.—Its Real Causes.—Sentiments of Foreign Nations and Governments towards Napoleon.—Apparent Reconciliation, but Real Struggle, between Napoleon and the Liberals.—The Federates.—Carnot and Fouche.—Demonstration of Liberty during the Hundred Days, even in the Imperial Palace.—Louis XVIII. and his Council at Ghent.—The Congress and M. de Talleyrand at Vienna.—I go to Ghent on the part of the Constitutional Royalist Committee at Paris.—My Notions and Opinions during this Journey.—State of Parties at Ghent.—My Conversation with Louis XVIII.—M. de Blacas.—M. de Chateaubriand.—M. de Talleyrand returns from Vienna.—Louis XVIII. re-enters France.—Intrigue planned at Mons and defeated at Cambray.—Blindness and Imbecility of the Chamber of Representatives.—My Opinion respecting the Admission of Fouche into the King's Cabinet. 58
THE CHAMBER OF 1815.
Fall of M. de Talleyrand and Fouche.—Formation of the Duke de Richelieu's Cabinet.—My Connection as Secretary-General of the Administration of Justice with M. de Marbois, Keeper of the Great Seal.—Meeting and Aspect of the Chamber of Deputies.—Intentions and Attitude of the Old Royalist Faction.—Formation, and Composition of a New Royalist Party.—Struggle of Classes under the cloak of Parties.—Provisional Laws.—Bill of Amnesty.—The Centre becomes the Government Party, and the Right, the Opposition.—Questions upon the connection between the State and the Church.—State of the Government beyond the Chambers.—Insufficiency of its Resistance to the spirit of Re-action.—The Duke of Feltri and General Bernard.—Trial of Marshal Ney.—Controversy between M. de Vitrolles and Me.—Closing of the Session.—Modifications in the Cabinet.—M. Laine Minister of the Interior.—I leave the Ministry of Justice and enter the State Council as Master of Requests.—The Cabinet enters into Contests with the Right-hand Party.—M. Decazes.—Position of MM. Royer-Collard and De Serre.—Opposition of M. de Chateaubriand.—The Country declares against the Chamber of Deputies.—Efforts of M. Decazes to bring about a Dissolution.—The King determines on it.—Decree of the 5th of September, 1816. 97
GOVERNMENT OF THE CENTRE.
Composition of the New Chamber of Deputies.—The Cabinet in a Majority.—Elements of that Majority, the Centre properly so called, and the Doctrinarians.—True character of the Centre.—True character of the Doctrinarians, and real cause of their Influence.—M. de la Bourdonnaye and M. Royer-Collard at the Opening of the Session.—Attitude of the Doctrinarians in the Debate on the Exceptional Laws.—Electoral Law of February 5th, 1817.—The part I took on that occasion.—Of the Actual and Political Position of the Middle Classes.—Marshal Gouvion St. Cyr, and his Bill for recruiting the Army, of the 10th of March, 1818.—Bill respecting the Press, of 1819, and M. de Serre.—Preparatory Discussion of these Bills in the State Council.—General Administration of the Country.—Modification of the Cabinet from 1816 to 1820.—Imperfections of the Constitutional System.—Errors of Individuals.—Dissensions between the Cabinet and the Doctrinarians.—The Duke de Richelieu negotiates, at Aix-la-Chapelle, the entire Retreat of Foreign Troops from France.—His Situation and Character.—He attacks the Bill on Elections.—His Fall.—Cabinet of M. Decazes.—His Political Weakness, notwithstanding his Parliamentary Success.—Elections of 1819.—Election and Non-admission of M. Gregoire.—Assassination of the Duke de Berry.—Fall of M. Decazes.—The Duke de Richelieu resumes Office.—His Alliance with the Right-hand Party.—Change in the Law of Elections.—Disorganization of the Centre, and Progress of the Right-hand Party.—Second Fall of the Duke de Richelieu.—M. de Villele and the Right-hand Party obtain Power. 150
GOVERNMENT OF THE RIGHT-HAND PARTY.
Position of M. de Villele on assuming Power.—He finds himself engaged with the Left and the Conspiracies.—Character of the Conspiracies.—Estimate of their Motives.—Their connection with some of the Leaders of the Parliamentary Opposition.—M. de La Fayette.—M. Manuel.—M. D'Argenson.—Their Attitude in the Chamber of Deputies.—Failure of the Conspiracies, and Causes thereof.—M. de Villele engaged with his Rivals within within and by the side of the Cabinet.—The Duke de Montmorency.—M. de Chateaubriand Ambassador at London.—Congress of Verona.—M. de Chateaubriand becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs.—Spanish War.—Examination of its Causes and Results.—Rupture between M. de Villele and M. de Chateaubriand.—Fall of M. de Chateaubriand.—M. de Villele engaged with an Opposition springing from the Right-hand Party.—The 'Journal des Debats' and the Messrs. Bertin.—M. de Villele falls under the Yoke of the Parliamentary Majority.—Attitude and Influence of the Ultra-Catholic Party.—Estimate of their conduct.—Attacks to which they are exposed.—M. de Montlosier.—M. Beranger.—Acuteness of M. de Villele.—His decline.—His Enemies at the Court.—Review and Disbanding of the National Guard of Paris.—Anxiety of Charles X.—Dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies.—The Elections are Hostile to M. de Villele.—He retires.—Speech of the Dauphinists to Charles X. 223
My Retirement at the Maisonnette.—I publish four incidental Essays on Political Affairs: 1. Of the Government of France since the Restoration, and of the Ministry in Office (1820); 2. Of Conspiracies and Political Justice (1821); 3. Of the Resources of the Government and the Opposition in the actual State of France (1821); 4. Of Capital Punishment for Political Offences (1822).—Character and Effects of these Publications.—Limits of my Opposition.—The Carbonari.—Visit of M. Manuel.—I commence my Course of Lectures on the History of the Origin of Representative Government.—Its double Object.—The Abbe Frayssinous orders its Suspension.—My Historical Labours—on the History of England; on the History of France; on the Relations and Mutual Influence of France and England; on the Philosophic and Literary Tendencies of that Epoch.—The French Review.—The Globe.—The Elections of 1827.—My Connection with the Society, 'Help thyself and Heaven will help thee.'—My Relations with the Administration of M. de Martignac; he authorizes the Re-opening of my Course of Lectures, and restores my Title as a State-Councillor.—My Lectures (1828-1830) on the History of Civilization in Europe and in France.—Their Effect.—I am elected Deputy for Lisieux (December, 1829). 278
ADDRESS OF THE TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-ONE.
Menacing, and at the same time inactive attitude of the Ministry.—Lawful Excitement throughout the Country.—Association for the ultimate Refusal of the non-voted Taxes.—Character and Views of M. de Polignac.—Manifestations of the Ministerial Party.—New Aspect of the Opposition.—Opening of the Session.—Speech of the King.—Address of the Chamber of Peers.—Preparation of the Address of the Chamber of Deputies.—Perplexity of the Moderate Party, and of M. Royer-Collard.—Debate on the Address.—The part taken in it by M. Berryer and myself.—Presentation of the Address to the King.—Prorogation of the Session.—Retirement of MM. de Chabrol and Courvoisier.—Dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies.—My Journey to Nismes for the Elections.—True Character of the Elections.—Intentions of Charles X. 330
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HISTORIC DOCUMENTS 359
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*** This Work has been translated by J. W. Cole, Esq., who also translated the 'Celebrated Characters' of M. de Lamartine.
THE HISTORY OF MY TIME.
FRANCE BEFORE THE RESTORATION.
MY REASONS FOR PUBLISHING THESE MEMOIRS DURING MY LIFE.—MY INTRODUCTION INTO SOCIETY.—MY FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH M. DE CHATEAUBRIAND, M. SUARD, MADAME DE STAEL, M. DE FONTANES, M. ROYER-COLLARD.—PROPOSAL TO APPOINT ME AUDITOR IN THE IMPERIAL STATE COUNCIL.—WHY THE APPOINTMENT DID NOT TAKE PLACE.—I ENTER THE UNIVERSITY, AND BEGIN MY COURSE OF LECTURES ON MODERN HISTORY.—LIBERAL AND ROYALIST PARTIES.—CHARACTERS OF THE DIFFERENT OPPOSITIONS TOWARDS THE CLOSE OF THE EMPIRE.—ATTEMPTED RESISTANCE OF THE LEGISLATIVE BODY.—MM. LAINE, GALLOIS, MAINE-BIRAN, RAYNOUARD, AND FLAUGERGUES.—I LEAVE PARIS FOR NISMES.—STATE OF PARIS AND FRANCE IN MARCH, 1814.—THE RESTORATION TAKES PLACE.—I RETURN TO PARIS, AND AM APPOINTED SECRETARY-GENERAL TO THE MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR.
I adopt a course different from that recently pursued by several of my contemporaries; I publish my memoirs while I am still here to answer for what I write. I am not prompted to this by the weariness of inaction, or by any desire to re-open a limited field for old contentions, in place of the grand arena at present closed. I have struggled much and ardently during my life; age and retirement, as far as my own feelings are concerned, have expanded their peaceful influence over the past. From a sky profoundly serene, I look back towards an horizon pregnant with many storms. I have deeply probed my own heart, and I cannot find there any feeling which envenoms my recollections. The absence of gall permits extreme candour. Personality alters or deteriorates truth. Being desirous to speak of my own life, and of the times in which I have lived, I prefer doing so on the brink, rather than from the depths of the tomb. This appears to me more dignified as regards myself, while, with reference to others, it will lead me to be more scrupulous in my words and opinions. If objections arise, which I can scarcely hope to escape, at least it shall not be said that I was unwilling to hear them, and that I have removed myself from the responsibility of what I have done.
Other reasons, also, have induced this decision. Memoirs, in general, are either published too soon or too late. If too soon, they are indiscreet or unimportant; we either reveal what would be better held back for the present, or suppress details which it would be both profitable and curious to relate at once. If too late, they lose much of their opportunity and interest; contemporaries have passed away, and can no longer profit by the truths which are imparted, or participate in their recital with personal enjoyment. Such memoirs retain only a moral and literary value, and excite no feeling beyond idle curiosity. Although I well know how much experience evaporates in passing from one generation to another, I cannot believe that it becomes altogether extinct, or that a correct knowledge of the mistakes of our fathers, and of the causes of their failures, can be totally profitless to their descendants. I wish to transmit to those who may succeed me, and who also will have their trials to undergo, a little of the light I have derived from mine. I have, alternately, defended liberty against absolute power, and order against the spirit of revolution,—two leading causes which, in fact, constitute but one, for their disconnection leads to the ruin of both. Until liberty boldly separates itself from the spirit of revolution, and order from absolute power, so long will France continue to be tossed about from crisis to crisis, and from error to error. In this is truly comprised the cause of the nation. I am grieved, but not dismayed, at its reverses. I neither renounce its service, nor despair of its triumph. Under the severest disappointments, it has ever been my natural tendency, and for which I thank God as for a blessing, to preserve great desires, however uncertain or distant might be the hopes of their accomplishment.
In ancient and in modern times, the greatest of great historians, Thucydides, Xenophon, Sallust, Caesar, Tacitus, Macchiavelli, and Clarendon, have written, and some have themselves published, the annals of the passing age and of the events in which they participated. I do not venture on such an ambitious work; the day of history has not yet arrived for us, of complete, free, and unreserved history, either as relates to facts or men. But my own personal and inward history; what I have thought, felt, and wished in my connection with the public affairs of my country; the thoughts, feelings, and wishes of my political friends and associates, our minds reflected in our actions,—on these points I can speak freely, and on these I am most desirous to record my sentiments, that I may be, if not always approved, at least correctly known and understood. On this foundation, others will hereafter assign to us our proper places in the history of the age.
I only commenced public life in the year 1814. I had neither served under the Revolution nor the Empire: a stranger to the first from youth, and to the second from disposition. Since I have had some share in the government of men, I have learned to do justice to the Emperor Napoleon. He was endowed with a genius incomparably active and powerful, much to be admired for his antipathy to disorder, for his profound instincts in ruling, and for his energetic rapidity in reconstructing the social framework. But this genius had no check, acknowledged no limit to its desires or will, either emanating from Heaven or man, and thus remained revolutionary while combating revolution: thoroughly acquainted with the general conditions of society, but imperfectly, or rather, coarsely understanding the moral necessities of human nature; sometimes satisfying them with the soundest judgment, and at others depreciating and insulting them with impious pride. Who could have believed that the same man who had established the Concordat, and re-opened the churches in France, would have carried off the Pope from Rome, and kept him a prisoner at Fontainebleau?
It is going too far to apply the same ill-treatment to philosophers and Christians, to reason and faith. Amongst the great men of his class, Napoleon was by far the most necessary for the times. None but himself could have so quickly and effectually substituted order in place of anarchy; but no one was so chimerical as to the future, for after having been master of France and Europe, he suffered Europe to drive him even from France. His name is greater and more enduring than his actions, the most brilliant of which, his conquests, disappeared suddenly and for ever, with himself. In rendering homage to his exalted qualities, I feel no regret at not having appreciated them until after his death. For me, under the Empire, there was too much of the arrogance of power, too much contempt of right, too much revolution, and too little liberty.
It is not that at that period I was much engaged in politics, or over-impatient for the freedom that should open to me the road I desired. I associated myself with the Opposition, but it was an Opposition bearing little resemblance to that which we have seen and created during the last thirty years. It was formed from the relics of the philosophic world and liberal aristocracy of the eighteenth century, the last representatives of the saloons in which all subjects whatever had been freely proposed and discussed, through the impulse of inclination, and the gratification of mental indulgence, rather than from any distinct object of interest or ambition. The errors and disasters of the Revolution had not led the survivors of that active generation to renounce their convictions or desires; they remained sincerely liberal, but without practical or urgent pretension, and with the reserve of men who had suffered much and succeeded little in their attempts at legislative reform. They still held to freedom of thought and speech, but had no aspirations after power. They detested and warmly criticized despotism, but without any open attempt to repress or overthrow existing authority. It was the opposition of enlightened and independent lookers-on, who had neither the opportunity nor inclination to interfere as actors.
After a long life of fierce contention, I recur with pleasure to the remembrance of this enchanting society. M. de Talleyrand once said to me, "Those who were not living in and about the year 1789, know little of the enjoyments of life." In fact, nothing could exceed the pleasure of a great intellectual and social movement, which, at that epoch, far from suspending or disturbing the arrangements of the world, animated and ennobled them by mingling serious thoughts with frivolous recreations, and as yet called for no suffering, or no sacrifice, while it opened to the eyes of men a dazzling and delightful perspective. The eighteenth century was, beyond all question, the most tempting and seductive of ages, for it promised to satisfy at once the strength and weakness of human nature; elevating and enervating the mind at the same time; flattering alternately the noblest sentiments and the most grovelling propensities; intoxicating with exalted hopes, and nursing with effeminate concessions. Thus it has produced, in pellmell confusion, utopians and egotists, sceptics and fanatics, enthusiasts and incredulous scoffers, different offspring of the same period, but all enraptured with the age and with themselves, indulging together in one common drunkenness on the eve of the approaching chaos.
When I first mixed with the world in 1807, the storm had for a long time burst; the infatuation of 1789 had completely disappeared. Society, entirely occupied with its own re-establishment, no longer dreamed of elevating itself in the midst of mere amusement; exhibitions of force had superseded impulses towards liberty. Coldness, absence of fellow-feeling, isolation of sentiment and interests,—in these are comprised the ordinary course and weary vexations of the world. France, worn out with errors and strange excesses, eager once more for order and common sense, fell back into the old track. In the midst of this general reaction, the faithful inheritors of the literary saloons of the eighteenth century held themselves aloof from its influence; they alone preserved two of the noblest and most amiable propensities of their age—a disinterested taste for pleasures of the mind, and that readiness of sympathy, that warmth and ardour of curiosity, that necessity for moral improvement and free discussion, which embellish the social relations with so much variety and sweetness.
In my own case, I drew from these sources a profitable experience. Led into the circle I have named, by an incident in my private life, I entered amongst them very young, perfectly unknown, with no other title than a little presumed ability, some education, and an ardent taste for refined pleasures, letters, and good company. I carried with me no ideas harmonizing with those I found there. I had been brought up at Geneva, with extremely liberal notions, but in austere habits and religious convictions entirely opposed to the philosophy of the eighteenth century, rather than in coincidence with or in admiration of its works and tendencies. During my residence in Paris, German metaphysics and literature had been my favourite study; I read Kant and Klopstock, Herder and Schiller, much more frequently than Condillac and Voltaire. M. Suard, the Abbe Morellet, the Marquis de Boufflers, the frequenters of the drawing-rooms of Madame d'Houdetot and of Madame de Rumford, who received me with extreme complaisance, smiled, and sometimes grew tired of my Christian traditions and Germanic enthusiasm; but, after all, this difference of opinion established for me, in their circle, a plea of interest and favour instead of producing any feeling of illwill or even of indifference. They knew that I was as sincerely attached to liberty and the privileges of human intelligence as they were themselves, and they discovered something novel and independent in my turn of thought, which inspired both esteem and attraction. At this period, they constantly supported me with their friendship and interest, without ever attempting to press or control me on the points on which we disagreed. From them especially, I have learned to exercise in practical life, that expanded equity, joined to respect for the freedom of others, which constitute the character and duty of a truly liberal mind.
This generous disposition manifested itself on every opportunity. In 1809, M. de Chateaubriand published 'The Martyrs.' The success of this work was at first slow, and strongly disputed. Amongst the disciples of the eighteenth century and of Voltaire, a great majority treated M. de Chateaubriand as an enemy, while the more moderate section looked on him with little favour. They rejected his ideas even when they felt that they were not called upon to contest them. His style of writing offended their taste, which was divested of all imagination, and more refined than grand. My own disposition was entirely opposed to theirs. I passionately admired M. de Chateaubriand in his ideas and language: that beautiful compound of religious sentiment and romantic imagination, of poetry and moral polemics, had so powerfully moved and subdued me, that, soon after my arrival at Paris in 1806, one of my first literary fantasies was to address an epistle, in very indifferent verse, to M. de Chateaubriand, who immediately thanked me in prose, artistically polished and unassuming. His letter flattered my youth, and 'The Martyrs' redoubled my zeal. Seeing them so violently attacked, I resolved to defend them in the 'Publicist,' in which I occasionally wrote. M. Suard, who conducted that journal, although far from coinciding with the opinions I had adopted, lent himself most obligingly to my desire. I have met with very few men of a natural temperament so gentle and liberal, and with a mind at the same time scrupulously refined and fastidious. He was much more disposed to criticize than to admire the talent of M. de Chateaubriand; but he admitted the great extent of his ability, and on that ground dealt with him gently, although with delicate irony. Besides which, the talent was full of independence, and exerted in opposition to the formidable tendencies of Imperial power. These qualities won largely upon the esteem of M. Suard, who, in consequence, allowed me an unfettered course in the 'Publicist,' of which I availed myself to espouse the cause of 'The Martyrs' against their detractors.
M. de Chateaubriand was deeply affected by this, and hastened to express his acknowledgments. My articles became the subject of a correspondence between us, which I still refer to with pleasure. He explained to me his intentions and motives in the composition of his poem, discussed with susceptibility and even with some degree of temper concealed under his gratitude, the strictures mixed with my eulogiums, and finished by saying: "In conclusion, Sir, you know the tempests raised against my work, and from whence they proceed. There is another wound, not exhibited, which is the real source of all this rage. It is that Hierocles massacres the Christians in the name of philosophy and liberty. Time will do me justice, if my work deserves it, and you will greatly accelerate this justice by the publication of your articles, provided you could be induced to change and modify them to a certain point. Show me my faults, and I will correct them. I only despise those critics who are as base in their language as in the secret motives which induce them to speak. I can find neither reason nor principle in the mouths of those literary mountebanks hired by the police, who dance in the gutters for the amusement of lacqueys.... I do not give up the hope of calling to see you, or of receiving you in my hermitage. Honest men should, particularly at present, unite for mutual consolation; generous feelings and exalted sentiments become every day so rare, that we ought to consider ourselves too happy when we encounter them.... Accept, I entreat you, once more, the assurance of my high consideration, of my sincere devotion, and if you will permit, of a friendship which we commence under the auspices of frankness and honour."
Between M. de Chateaubriand and myself, frankness and honour, most certainly, have never been disturbed throughout our political controversies; but friendship has not been able to survive them. The word is too rare and valuable to be hastily pronounced.
When we have lived under a system of real and serious liberty, we feel both an inclination and a right to smile when we consider what, in other times, has been classed as factious opposition by the one side, and courageous resistance by the other. In August, 1807, eighteen months before the publication of 'The Martyrs,' I stopped some days in Switzerland, on my way to visit my mother at Nismes; and with the confident enthusiasm of youth, as anxious to become acquainted with living celebrities as I was myself unknown, I addressed a letter to Madame de Stael, requesting the honour of calling upon her. She invited me to dinner at Ouchy, near Lausanne, where she then resided. I was placed next to her; I came from Paris; she questioned me as to what was passing there, how the public were occupied, and what were the topics of conversation in the saloons. I spoke of an article by M. de Chateaubriand, in the 'Mercury,' which was making some noise at the moment of my departure. A particular passage had struck me, which I quoted according to the text, as it had strongly impressed itself on my memory. "When, in the silence of abject submission, we hear only the chains of the slave and the voice of the informer, when all tremble before the tyrant, and it is as dangerous to incur favour as to merit disgrace, the historian appears to be charged with the vengeance of nations. It is in vain that Nero triumphs. Tacitus has been born in the Empire; he grows up unnoticed near the ashes of Germanicus, and already uncompromising Providence has handed over to an obscure child the glory of the master of the world." My tone of voice was undoubtedly excited and striking, as I was myself deeply moved and arrested by the words. Madame de Stael, seizing me by the arm, exclaimed, "I am sure you would make an excellent tragedian; remain with us and take a part in the 'Andromache.'" Theatricals were at that time the prevailing taste and amusement in her house. I excused myself from her kind conjecture and proposal, and the conversation returned to M. de Chateaubriand and his article, which was greatly admired, while at the same time it excited some apprehension. The admiration was just, for the passage was really eloquent; neither was the alarm without grounds, for the 'Mercury' was suppressed precisely on account of this identical paragraph. Thus, the Emperor Napoleon, conqueror of Europe and absolute master of France, believed that he could not suffer it to be written that his future historian might perhaps be born under his reign, and held himself compelled to take the honour of Nero under his shield. It was a heavy penalty attached to greatness, to have such apprehensions to exhibit, and such clients to protect!
Exalted minds, who felt a little for the dignity of human nature, had sound reason for being discontented with the existing system; they saw that it could neither establish the happiness nor the permanent prosperity of France; but it seemed then so firmly established in general opinion, its power was so universally admitted, and so little was any change anticipated for the future, that even within the haughty and narrow circle in which the spirit of opposition prevailed, it appeared quite natural that young men should enter the service of Government, the only public career that remained open to them. A lady of distinguished talent and noble sentiments, who had conceived a certain degree of friendship for me, Madame de Remusat, was desirous that I should be named Auditor in the State Council. Her cousin, M. Pasquier, Prefect of Police, whom I sometimes met at her house, interested himself in this matter with much cordiality, and, under the advice of my most intimate friends, I acceded to the proposition, although, at the bottom of my heart, it occasioned me some uneasiness. It was intended that I should be attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. M. Pasquier named me to the Duke of Bassano, then at the head of the department, and to Count d'Hauterive, Comptroller of the Archives. The Duke sent for me. I also had an interview with M. d'Hauterive, who possessed a fertile and ingenious mind, and was kindly disposed towards young men of studious habits. As a trial of ability, they ordered me to draw up a memorial on a question respecting which, the Emperor either was, or wished to appear, deeply interested—the mutual exchange of French and English prisoners. Many documents on the subject were placed in my hands. I completed the memorial; and, believing that the Emperor was sincere, carefully set forward those principles of the law of nations which rendered the measure desirable, and the mutual concessions necessary for its accomplishment. My work was duly submitted to the Duke of Bassano. I have reason to conclude that I had mistaken his object; and that the Emperor, looking upon the English detained in France as of more importance than the French confined in England, and believing also that the number of the latter pressed inconveniently on the English Government, had no serious intention of carrying out the proposed exchange. Whatever might be the cause, I heard nothing more either of my memorial or nomination, a result which caused me little regret.
Another career soon opened to me, more suitable to my views, as being less connected with the Government. My first attempts at writing, particularly my Critical Notes on Gibbon's 'History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,' and the 'Annals of Education,' a periodical miscellany in which I had touched upon some leading questions of public and private instruction, obtained for me the notice of literary men. With gratuitous kindness, M. de Fontanes, Grand Master of the University, appointed me Assistant Professor to the Chair of History, occupied by M. de Lacretelle, in the Faculty of Letters in the Academy of Paris. In a very short time, and before I had commenced my class, as if he thought he had not done enough to evince his esteem and to attach me strongly to the University, he divided the Chair, and named me Titular Professor of Modern History, with a dispensation on account of age, as I had not yet completed my twenty-fifth year. I began my lectures at the College of Plessis, in presence of the pupils of the Normal School, and of a public audience few in number but anxious for instruction, and with whom modern history, traced up to its remote sources, the barbarous conquerors of the Roman Empire, presented itself with an urgent and almost contemporaneous interest. In his conduct towards me, M. de Fontanes was not entirely actuated by some pages of mine he had read, or by a few friendly opinions he had heard expressed. This learned Epicurean, become powerful, and the intellectual favourite of the most potent Sovereign in Europe, loved literature for itself with a sincere and disinterested attachment. The truly beautiful touched him as sensibly as in the days of his early youth and poetical inspirations. What was still more extraordinary, this refined courtier of a despot, this official orator, who felt satisfied when he had embellished flattery with noble eloquence, never failed to acknowledge, and render due homage to independence. Soon after my appointment, he invited me to dinner at his country-house at Courbevoie. Seated near him at table, we talked of studies, of the different modes of teaching, of ancient and modern classics, with the freedom of old acquaintances, and almost with the association of fellow-labourers. The conversation turned upon the Latin poets and their commentators. I spoke with warm praise of the great edition of Virgil by Heyne, the celebrated professor of the University of Goettingen, and of the merit of his annotations. M. de Fontanes fiercely attacked the German scholars. According to him, they had neither discovered nor added anything to the earlier commentaries, and Heyne was no better acquainted with Virgil and the ancients than Pere La Rue. He fulminated against German literature in the mass, philosophers, poets, historians, or philologists, and pronounced them all unworthy of attention. I defended them with the confidence of conviction and youth; when M. de Fontanes, turning to his neighbour on the other side, said to him, with a smile, "We can never make these Protestants give in." But, instead of taking offence at my obstinacy, he was cordially pleased with the frankness of this little debate. His toleration of my independence was, not long after, subjected to a more delicate trial.
When I was about to commence my course, in December, 1812, he spoke to me of my opening address, and insinuated that I ought to insert in it a sentence or two in praise of the Emperor. It was the custom, he said, particularly on the establishment of a new professorship, and the Emperor sometimes demanded from him an account of these proceedings. I felt unwilling to comply, and told him, I thought this proposal scarcely consistent. I had to deal exclusively with science, before an audience of students; how then could I be expected to introduce politics, and, above all, politics in opposition to my own views? "Do as you please," replied M. de Fontanes, with an evident mixture of regard and embarrassment; "if you are complained of, it will fall upon me, and I must defend you and myself as well as I can."
He displayed as much clear penetration and good sense as generosity, in so quickly and gracefully renouncing the proposition he had suggested. In regard to the master he served, the opposition of the society in which I lived had in it nothing of practical or immediate importance. It was purely an opposition of ideas and conversation, without defined plan or effective influence, earnest in philosophic inquiry, but passive in political action; disposed to be satisfied with tranquil life, in the unshackled indulgence of thought and speech.
On entering the University, I found myself in contact with another opposition, less apparent but more serious, without being, at the moment, of a more active character. M. Royer-Collard, at that time Professor of the History of Philosophy, and Dean of the Faculty of Letters, attached himself to me with warm friendship. We had no previous acquaintanceship; I was much the younger man; he lived quite out of the world, within a small circle of selected associates; we were new to each other, and mutually attractive. He was a man, not of the old system, but of the old times, whose character had been developed, though not controlled, by the Revolution, the principles, transactions, and leading promoters of which he judged with rigid independence, without losing sight of the primary and national cause. His mind, eminently liberal, highly cultivated, and supported by solid good sense, was more original than inventive, profound rather than expanded, more given to sift thoroughly a single idea than to combine many; too much absorbed within himself, but exercising a singular power over others by the commanding weight of his reason, and by an aptitude of imparting, with a certain solemnity of manner, the unexpected brilliancy of a strong imagination, continually under the excitement of very lively impressions. Before being called to teach philosophy, he had never made this particular branch of science the object or end of his special study, and throughout our political vicissitudes between 1789 and 1814 he had never taken an important position, or connected himself prominently with any party. But, in youth, under the influence of the traditions of Port-Royal, he had received a sound classical and Christian education; and after the Reign of Terror, under the government of the Directory, he joined the small section of Royalists who corresponded with Louis XVIII., less to conspire, than to enlighten the exiled Prince on the true state of the country, and to furnish him with suggestions equally advantageous for France and the House of Bourbon, if it were destined that the House of Bourbon and France should be re-united on some future day. He was therefore decidedly a spiritualist in philosophy, and a royalist in politics. To restore independence of mind to man, and right to government, formed the prevailing desire of his unobtrusive life. "You cannot believe," he wrote to me in 1823, "that I have ever adopted the word Restoration in the restricted sense of an individual fact; but I have always regarded, and still look upon this fact as the expression of a certain system of society and government, and as the condition on which, under the circumstances of France, we are to look for order, justice, and liberty; while, without this condition, disorder, violence, and irremediable despotism, springing from things and not from men, will be the necessary consequence of the spirit and doctrines of the Revolution." Passionately imbued with this conviction, an aggressive philosopher and an expectant politician, he fought successfully in his chair against the materialistic school of the eighteenth century, and watched from the retirement of his study, with anxiety but not without hope, the chances of the perilous game on which Napoleon daily staked his empire.
By his lofty and intuitive instincts, Napoleon was a spiritualist: men of his order have flashes of light and impulses of thought, which open to them the sphere of the most exalted truths. In his hours of better reflection, spiritualism, reviving under his reign, and sapping the materialism of the last century, was sympathetic with and agreeable to his own nature. But the principle of despotism quickly reminded him that the soul cannot be elevated without enfranchisement, and the spiritualistic philosophy of M. Royer-Collard then confused him as much as the sensual ideology of M. de Tracy. It was, moreover, one of the peculiarities of Napoleon's mind, that his thoughts constantly reverted to the forgotten Bourbons, well knowing that he had no other competitors for the throne of France. At the summit of his power he more than once gave utterance to this impression, which recurred to him with increased force when he felt the approach of danger. On this ground, M. Royer-Collard and his friends, with whose opinions and connections he was fully acquainted, became to him objects of extreme suspicion and disquietude. Not that their opposition (as he was also aware) was either active or influential; events were not produced through such agencies; but therein lay the best-founded presentiments of the future; and amongst its members were included the most rational partisans of the prospective Government.
Hitherto they had ventured nothing beyond vague and half-indulged conversations, when the Emperor himself advanced their views to a consistence and publicity which they were far from assuming. On the 19th of December, 1813, he convened together the Senate and the Legislative Body, and ordered several documents to be laid before them relative to his negotiations with the Allied Powers, demanding their opinions on the subject. If he had then really intended to make peace, or felt seriously anxious to convince France, that the continuance of the war would not spring from the obstinacy of his own domineering will, there can be no doubt that he would have found in these two Bodies, enervated as they were, a strong and popular support. I often saw and talked confidentially with three of the five members of the Commission of the Legislative Body, MM. Maine-Biran, Gallois, and Raynouard, and through them I obtained a correct knowledge of the dispositions of the two others, MM. Laine and Flaugergues. M. Maine-Biran, who, with M. Royer-Collard and myself formed a small philosophical association, in which we conversed freely on all topics, kept us fully informed as to what passed in the Commission, and even in the Legislative Assembly itself. Although originally a Royalist (in his youth he had been enrolled amongst the bodyguards of Louis XVI.), he was unconnected with any party or intrigue, scrupulously conscientious, even timid when conviction did not call for the exercise of courage, little inclined to politics by taste, and, under any circumstances, one of the last men to form an extreme resolution, or take the initiative in action. M. Gallois, a man of the world and of letters, a moderate liberal of the philosophic school of the eighteenth century, occupied himself much more with his library than with public affairs. He wished to discharge his duty to his country respectably, without disturbing the peaceful tenor of his life. M. Raynouard, a native of Provence and a poet, had more vivacity of manner and language, without being of an adventurous temperament. It was said that his loud complaints against the tyrannical abuses of the Imperial Government, would not have prevented him from being contented with those moderate concessions which satisfy honour for the present, and excite hope for the future. M. Flaugergues, an honest Republican, who had put on mourning for the death of Louis XVI., uncompromising in temper and character, was capable of energetic but solitary resolutions, and possessed little influence over his colleagues, although he talked much. M. Laine, on the contrary, had a warm and sympathetic heart under a gloomy exterior, and an elevated mind, without much vigour or originality. He spoke imposingly and convincingly when moved by his subject; formerly a Republican, he had paused as a simple partisan of liberal tendencies, and being promptly acknowledged as the head of the Commission, consented without hesitation to become its organ. But, like his colleagues, he had no premeditated hostility or concealed engagement against the Emperor. All were desirous of conveying to him a true impression of the desires of France; externally for a pacific policy, and internally for a respect for public rights and the legal exercise of power. Their Report contained nothing beyond a guarded expression of these moderate sentiments.
With such men, animated by such views, a perfect understanding was anything but difficult. Napoleon would not even listen to them. It is well known how he suddenly suppressed the Report and adjourned the Legislative Body, and with what rude but intentional violence he received the Deputies and their Commissioners on the 1st of January, 1814. "Who are you who address me thus? I am the sole representative of the nation. We are one and inseparable. I have a title, but you have none.... M. Laine, your mouthpiece, is a dishonest man who corresponds with England through the Advocate Deseze. I shall keep my eye upon him. M. Raynouard is a liar." In communicating to the Commission the papers connected with the negotiation, Napoleon had forbidden his Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Duke of Vicenza, to include that which specified the conditions on which the Allied Powers were prepared to treat, not wishing to pledge himself to any recognized basis. His Minister of Police, the Duke of Rovigo, took upon himself to carry to extremity the indiscretion of his anger. "Your words are most imprudent," said he to the members of the Commission, "when there is a Bourbon in the field." Thus, in the very crisis of his difficulties, under the most emphatic warnings from heaven and man, the despot at bay made an empty parade of absolute power; the vanquished conqueror displayed to the world that the ostensible negotiations were only a pretext for still trying the chances of war; the tottering head of the new dynasty proclaimed himself that the old line was there, ready to supplant him.
The day had arrived when glory could no longer repair the faults which it still covers. The campaign of 1814, that uninterrupted masterpiece of skill and heroism, as well on the part of the leader as of his followers, bore, nevertheless, the ineffaceable stamp of the false calculations and false position of the Emperor. He wavered continually between the necessity of protecting Paris, and the passion of reconquering Europe; anxious to save his throne without sacrificing his ambition, and changing his tactics at every moment, as a fatal danger or a favourable change alternately presented itself. God vindicated reason and justice, by condemning the genius which had so recklessly braved both, to sink in hesitation and uncertainty, under the weight of its own incompatible objects and impracticable desires.
While Napoleon in this closing struggle wasted the last remnants of his fortune and power, he encountered no disappointment or obstacle from any quarter of France, either from Paris or the departments, the party in opposition, or the public in general. There was no enthusiasm in his cause, and little confidence in his success, but no one rose openly against him; all hostility was comprised in a few unfavourable expressions, some preparatory announcements, and here and there a change of side as people began to catch a glimpse of the approaching issue. The Emperor acted in full liberty, with all the strength that still pertained to his isolated position, and the moral and physical exhaustion of the country. Such general apathy was never before exhibited in the midst of so much national anxiety, or so many disaffected persons abstaining from action under similar circumstances, with such numerous partisans ready to renounce the master they still served with implicit docility. It was an entire nation of wearied spectators who had long given up all interference in their own fate, and knew not what catastrophe they were to hope or fear to the terrible game of which they were the stake.
I grew impatient of remaining a motionless beholder of the shifting spectacle; and not foreseeing when or how it would terminate, I determined, towards the middle of March, to repair to Nismes, and pass some weeks with my mother, whom I had not seen for a considerable time. I have still before my eyes the aspect of Paris, particularly of the Rue de Rivoli (then in progress of construction), as I passed along on the morning of my departure. There were no workmen and no activity; materials heaped together without being used, deserted scaffoldings, buildings abandoned for want of money, hands, or confidence, and in ruins before completion. Everywhere, amongst the people, a discontented air of uneasy idleness, as if they were equally in want of labour and repose. Throughout my journey, on the highways, in the towns, and in the fields, I noticed the same appearance of inactivity and agitation, the same visible impoverishment of the country; there were more women and children than men, many young conscripts marching mournfully to their battalions, sick and wounded soldiers returning to the interior; in fact, a mutilated and exhausted nation. Side by side with this physical suffering, I also remarked a great moral perplexity, the uneasiness of opposing sentiments, an ardent longing for peace, a deadly hatred of foreign invaders, with alternating feelings, as regarded Napoleon, of anger and sympathy. By some he was denounced as the author of all their calamities; by others he was hailed as the bulwark of the country, and the avenger of her injuries. What struck me as a serious evil, although I was then far from being able to estimate its full extent, was the marked inequality of these different expressions amongst the divided classes of the population. With the affluent and educated, the prominent feeling was evidently a strong desire for peace, a dislike of the exigencies and hazards of the Imperial despotism, a calculated foreshadowing of its fall, and the dawning perspective of another system of government. The lower orders, on the contrary, only roused themselves up from lassitude to give way to a momentary burst of patriotic rage, or to their reminiscences of the Revolution. The Imperial rule had given them discipline without reform. Appearances were tranquil, but in truth it might be said of the popular masses as of the emigrants, that they had forgotten nothing, and learned nothing. There was no moral unity throughout the land, no common thought or passion, notwithstanding the common misfortunes and experience. The nation was almost as blindly and completely divided in its apathy, as it had lately been in its excitement. I recognized these unwholesome symptoms; but I was young, and much more disposed to dwell on the hopes than on the perils of the future. While at Nismes, I soon became acquainted with the events that had taken place in Paris. M. Royer-Collard wrote to press my return. I set out on the instant, and a few days after my arrival, I was appointed Secretary-General to the Ministry of the Interior, which department the King had just confided to the Abbe de Montesquiou.
[Footnote 1: I have inserted, amongst the "Historic Documents" at the end of the Volume, three of the letters which M. de Chateaubriand addressed to me, at the time, on this subject. (Historic Documents, No. I.)]
[Footnote 2: Amongst the "Historic Documents" at the end of this volume, I have included a letter, addressed to me from Brussels, by the Count de Lally-Tolendal, on the 'Annals of Education,' in which the character of the writer and of the time are exhibited with agreeable frankness. (Hist. Documents, No. II.)]
[Footnote 3: Notwithstanding its imperfections, of which, no one is more sensible than I am, this address may be read, perhaps, with some little interest. It was my first historical lecture and first public discourse, and remains locked up in the Archives of the Faculty of Letters, from the day when it was delivered, now forty-five years ago. I have added it to the "Historic Documents" (No. III.).]
SENTIMENTS WITH WHICH I COMMENCED PUBLIC LIFE.—TRUE CAUSE AND CHARACTER OF THE RESTORATION.—CAPITAL ERROR OF THE IMPERIAL SENATE.—THE CHARTER SUFFERS FROM IT.—VARIOUS OBJECTIONS TO THE CHARTER.—WHY THEY WERE FUTILE.—CABINET OF KING LOUIS XVIII.—UNFITNESS OF THE PRINCIPAL MINISTERS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT.—M. DE TALLEYRAND.—THE ABBE DE MONTESQUIOU.—M. DE BLACAS.—LOUIS XVIII.—PRINCIPAL AFFAIRS IN WHICH I WAS CONCERNED AT THAT EPOCH.—ACCOUNT OF THE STATE OF THE KINGDOM LAID BEFORE THE CHAMBERS.—BILL RESPECTING THE PRESS.—DECREE FOR THE REFORM OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION.—STATE OF THE GOVERNMENT AND THE COUNTRY.—THEIR COMMON INEXPERIENCE.—EFFECTS OF THE LIBERAL SYSTEM.—ESTIMATE OF PUBLIC DISCONTENT AND CONSPIRACIES.—SAYING OF NAPOLEON ON THE FACILITY OF HIS RETURN.
Under these auspices, I entered, without hesitation, on public life. I had no previous tie, no personal motive to connect me with the Restoration; I sprang from those who had been raised up by the impulse of 1789, and were little disposed to fall back again. But if I was not bound to the former system by any specific interest, I felt no bitterness towards the old Government of France. Born a citizen and a Protestant, I have ever been unswervingly devoted to liberty of conscience, equality in the eye of the law, and all the acquired privileges of social order. My confidence in these acquisitions is ample and confirmed; but, in support of their cause, I do not feel myself called upon to consider the House of Bourbon, the aristocracy of France, and the Catholic clergy, in the light of enemies. At present, none but madmen exclaim, "Down with the nobility! Down with the priests!" Nevertheless, many well-meaning and sensible persons, who are sincerely desirous that revolutions should cease, still cherish in their hearts some relics of the sentiments to which these cries respond. Let them beware of such feelings. They are essentially revolutionary and antisocial; order can never be thoroughly re-established as long as honourable minds encourage them with secret complaisance. I mean, that real and enduring order which every extended society requires for its prosperity and permanence. The interests and acquired rights of the present day have taken rank in France, and constitute henceforward the strength and vitality of the country; but because our social system is filled with new elements, it is not therefore new in itself; it can no more deny what it has been, than it can renounce what it has become; it would establish perpetual confusion and decline within itself, if it remained hostile to its true history. History is the nation, the country, viewed through ages. For myself, I have always maintained an affectionate respect for the great names and actions which have held such a conspicuous place in our destinies; and being as I am, a man of yesterday, when the King, Louis XVIII., presented himself with the Charter in his hand, I neither felt angry nor humiliated that I was compelled to enjoy or defend our liberties under the ancient dynasty of the Sovereigns of France, and in common with all Frenchmen, whether noble or plebeian, even though their old rivalries might sometimes prove a source of mistrust and agitation.
It was the remembrance of foreign intervention that constituted the wound and nightmare of France under the Government of the Restoration. The feeling was legitimate in itself. The jealous passion of national independence and glory doubles the strength of a people in prosperity, and saves their pride under reverses. If it had pleased Heaven to throw me into the ranks of Napoleon's soldiers, in all probability that single passion would also have governed my soul. But, placed as I was, in civil life, other ideas and instincts have taught me to look elsewhere than to predominance in war for the greatness and security of my country. I have ever prized, above all other considerations, just policy, and liberty restrained by law. I despaired of both under the Empire; I hoped for them from the Restoration. I have been sometimes reproached with not sufficiently associating myself with general impressions. Whenever I meet them sincerely and strongly manifested, I respect and hold them in account, but I cannot feel that I am called upon to abdicate my reason for their adoption, or to desert the real and permanent interest of the country for the sake of according with them. It is truly an absurd injustice to charge the Restoration with the presence of those foreigners which the mad ambition of Napoleon alone brought upon our soil, and which the Bourbons only could remove by a prompt and certain peace. The enemies of the Restoration, in their haste to condemn it from the very first hour, have plunged into strange contradictions. If we are to put faith in their assertions, at one time they tell us that it was imposed on France by foreign bayonets; at another, that in 1814, no one, either in France or Europe, bestowed a thought upon the subject; and again, that a few old adherences, a few sudden defections, and a few egotistical intrigues alone enabled it to prevail. Puerile blindness of party spirit! The more it is attempted to prove that no general desire, no prevailing force, from within or without, either suggested or produced the Restoration, the more its inherent strength will be brought to light, and the controlling necessity which determined the event. I have ever been surprised that free and superior minds should thus fetter themselves within the subtleties and credulities of prejudice, and not feel the necessity of looking facts in the face, and of viewing them as they really exist. In the formidable crisis of 1814, the restoration of the House of Bourbon was the only natural and solid solution that presented itself; the only measure that could be reconciled to principles not dependent on the influence of force and the caprices of human will. Some alarm might thence be excited for the new interests of French society; but with the aid of institutions mutually accepted, the two benefits of which France stood most in need, and of which for twenty-five years she had been utterly deprived, peace and liberty, might also be confidently looked for. Under the influence of this double hope, the Restoration was accomplished, not only without effort, but in despite of revolutionary remembrances, and was received throughout France with alacrity and cheerfulness. And France did wisely in this adoption, for the Restoration, in fact, came accompanied by peace and liberty.
Peace had never been more talked of in France than during the last quarter of a century. The Constituent Assembly had proclaimed, "No more conquests;" the National Convention had celebrated the union of nations; the Emperor Napoleon had concluded, in fifteen years, more pacific negotiations than any preceding monarch. Never had war so frequently ended and recommenced; never had peace proved such a transient illusion; a treaty was nothing but a truce, during which preparations were making for fresh combats.
It was the same with liberty as with peace. Celebrated and promised, at first, with enthusiasm, it had quickly disappeared under civil discord, even before the celebration and the promise had ceased; thus, to extinguish discord, liberty had also been abolished. At one moment people became maddened with the word, without caring for the reality of the fact; at another, to escape a fatal intoxication, the fact and the word were equally proscribed and forgotten.
True peace and liberty returned with the Restoration. War was not with the Bourbons a necessity or a passion; they could reign without having recourse every day to some new development of force, some fresh shock to the fixed principles of nations. Treating with them, foreign Governments could and did believe in a sincere and lasting peace. Neither was the liberty which France recovered in 1814, the triumph of any particular school in philosophy or party in politics. Turbulent propensities, obstinate theories and imaginations, at the same time ardent and idle, were unable to find in it the gratification of their irregular and unbounded appetites. It was, in truth, social liberty, the practical and legalized enjoyment of rights, equally essential to the active life of the citizens and to the moral dignity of the nation.
What were to be the guarantees of liberty, and consequently of all the interests which liberty itself was intended to guarantee? By what institutions could the control and influence of the nation in its government be exercised? In these questions lay the great problem which the Imperial Senate attempted to solve by its project of a Constitution in April, 1814, and which, on the 4th of June following, the King, Louis XVIII., effectually decided by the Charter.
The Senators of 1814 have been much and justly reproached for the selfishness with which, on overthrowing the Empire, they preserved for themselves, not only the integrity, but the perpetuity of the material advantages with which the Empire had endowed them;—a cynical error, and one of those which most depreciate existing authorities in the estimation of the people, for they are offensive, at the same time, to honest feelings and envious passions. The Senate committed another mistake less palpable, and more consistent with the prejudices of the country, but in my judgment more weighty, both as a political blunder, and as to the consequences involved. At the same moment when it proclaimed the return of the ancient Royal House, it blazoned forth the pretension of electing the King, disavowing the monarchical right, the supremacy of which it accepted, and thus exercising the privilege of republicanism in re-establishing the monarchy:—a glaring contradiction between principles and acts, a childish bravado against the great fact to which it was rendering homage, and a lamentable confounding of rights and ideas. It was from necessity, and not by choice, on account of his hereditary title, and not as the chosen candidate of the day, that Louis XVIII. was called to the throne of France. There was neither truth, dignity, nor prudence, but in one line of conduct,—to recognize openly the royal claim in the House of Bourbon, and to demand as openly in return the national privileges which the state of the country and the spirit of the time required. Such a candid avowal and mutual respect for mutual rights, form the very essence of free government. It is by this steady union that elsewhere monarchy and liberty have developed and strengthened themselves together; and by frank co-operation, kings and nations have extinguished those internal wars which are denominated revolutions. Instead of adopting this course, the Senate, at once obstinate and timid, while wishing to place the restored monarchy under the standard of republican election, succeeded only in evoking the despotic in face of the revolutionary principle, and in raising up as a rival to the absolute right of the people, the uncontrolled authority of the King.
The Charter bore the impress of this impolitic conduct; timid and obstinate in its turn, and seeking to cover the retreat of royalty, as the Revolution had sought to protect its own, it replied to the pretensions of the revolutionary system by the pretensions of the ancient form, and presented itself as purely a royal concession, instead of proclaiming its true character, such as it really was, a treaty of peace after a protracted war, a series of new articles added by common accord to the old compact of union between the nation and the King.
In this point lay the complaint of the Liberals of the Revolution against the Charter, as soon as it appeared. Their adversaries, the supporters of the old rule, assailed it with other reproaches. The most fiery, such as the disciples of M. de Maistre, could scarcely tolerate its existence. According to them, absolute power, legitimate in itself alone, was the only form of government that suited France. The moderates, amongst whom were M. de Villele in the reply he published at Toulouse to the declaration of Saint-Ouen, accused this plan for a constitution, which became the Charter, of being an importation from England, foreign to the history, the ideas, and the manners of France; and which, they said, "would cost more to establish than the ancient organization would require for repairs."
I do not here propose to enter upon any discussion of principles, with the apostles of absolute power; as applied to France and our own time, experience, and a very overwhelming experience, has supplied an answer. Absolute power, amongst us, can only belong to the Revolution and its representatives, for they alone can (I do not say for how long) retain the masses in their interest, by withholding from them the securities of liberty.
For the House of Bourbon and its supporters, absolute power is impossible; under them France must be free; it only accepts their government by supplying it with the eye and the hand.
The objections of the moderate party were more specious. It must be admitted that the government established by the Charter had, in its forms at least, something of a foreign aspect. Perhaps too there was reason for saying that it assumed the existence of a stronger aristocratic element in France, and of a more trained and disciplined spirit of policy, than could, in reality, be found there. Another difficulty, less palpable but substantial, awaited it; the Charter was not alone the triumph of 1789 over the old institutions, but it was the victory of one of the Liberal sections of 1789 over its rivals as well as its enemies, a victory of the partisans of the English Constitution over the framers of the Constitution of 1791, and over the republicans as well as the supporters of the ancient monarchy,—a source teeming with offences to the self-love of many, and a somewhat narrow basis for the re-settlement of an old and extensive country.
But these objections had little weight in 1814. The position of affairs was urgent and imperative; it was necessary that the old monarchy should be reformed when restored. Of all the measures of improvement proposed or attempted since 1789, the Charter comprised that which was the most generally recognized and admitted by the public at large, as well as by professed politicians. At such moments controversy subsides; the resolutions adopted by men of action, present an epitome of the ideas common to men of thought. A republic would be to revive the Revolution; the Constitution of 1791 would be government without power; the old French Constitution, if the name were applicable, had been found ineffective in 1789, equally incapable of self-maintenance or amelioration. All that it had once possessed of greatness or utility, the Parliaments, the different Orders, the various local institutions, were so evidently beyond the possibility of re-establishment, that no one thought seriously of such a proposition. The Charter was already written in the experience and reflection of the country. It emanated as naturally from the mind of Louis XVIII., returning from England, as from the deliberations of the Senate, intent on renouncing the yoke of the Empire. It was the produce of the necessities and convictions of the hour. Judged by itself, notwithstanding its inherent defects and the objections of opponents, the Charter was a very practicable political implement. Power and liberty found ample scope there for exercise and defence; the workmen were much less adapted to the machine than the machine to the work.
Thoroughly distinguished from each other in ideas and character, and extremely unequal in mind and merit, the three leading Ministers of Louis XVIII. at that epoch, M. de Talleyrand, the Abbe de Montesquiou, and M. de Blacas, were all specially unsuited to the government they were called on to found.
I say only what I truly think; yet I do not feel myself compelled, in speaking of those with whom I have come in contact, to say all that I think. I owe nothing to M. de Talleyrand; in my public career he thwarted rather than assisted me; but when we have been much associated with an eminent man, and have long reciprocated amicable intercourse, self-respect renders it imperative to speak of him with a certain degree of reserve. At the crisis of the Restoration, M. de Talleyrand displayed, in a very superior manner, the qualities of sagacity, cool determination, and preponderating influence. Not long after, at Vienna, he manifested the same endowments, and others even more rare and apposite, when representing the House of Bourbon and the European interests of France. But except in a crisis or a congress, he was neither able nor powerful. A courtier and a politician, no advocate upon conviction, for any particular form of government, and less for representative government than for any other, he excelled in negotiating with insulated individuals, by the power of conversation, by the charm and skilful employment of social relations; but in authority of character, in fertility of mental resources, in promptitude of resolution, in command of language, in the sympathetic association of general ideas with public passions,—in all these great sources of influence upon collected assemblies, he was absolutely deficient. Besides which, he had neither the inclination nor habit of sustained, systematic labour, another important condition of internal government. He was at once ambitious and indolent, a flatterer and a scoffer, a consummate courtier in the art of pleasing and of serving without the appearance of servility; ready for everything, and capable of any pliability that might assist his fortune, preserving always the mien, and recurring at need to the attractions of independence; a diplomatist without scruples, indifferent as to means, and almost equally careless as to the end, provided only that the end advanced his personal interest. More bold than profound in his views, calmly courageous in danger, well suited to the great enterprises of absolute government, but insensible to the true atmosphere and light of liberty, in which he felt himself lost and incapable of action. He was too glad to escape from the Chambers and from France, to find once more at Vienna a congenial sphere and associations.
As completely a courtier as M. de Talleyrand, and more thoroughly belonging to the old system, the Abbe de Montesquiou was better suited to hold his ground under a constitutional government, and occupied a more favourable position for such a purpose, at this period of uncertainty. He stood high in the estimation of the King and the Royalists, having ever remained immovably faithful to his cause, his order, his friends, and his sovereign. He was in no danger of being taxed as a revolutionist, or of having his name associated with unpleasant reminiscences. Through a rare disinterestedness, and the consistent simplicity of his life, he had won the confidence of all honest men. His character was open, his disposition frank, his mind richly cultivated, and his conversation unreserved, without being exceptious as to those with whom he might be conversing. He could render himself acceptable to the middle classes, although indications of pride and aristocratic haughtiness might be occasionally detected in his words and manner. These symptoms were only perceptible to delicate investigators; by the great majority he was considered affable and unassuming. In the Chambers he spoke with ease and animation, if not with eloquence, and often indulged in an attractive play of fancy. He could have rendered good service to the constitutional government, had he either loved or trusted it; but he joined it without faith or preference, as a measure of necessity, to be evaded or restrained even during the term of endurance. Through habit, and deference for his party, or rather for his immediate coterie, he was perpetually recurring to the traditions and tendencies of the old system, and endeavouring to carry his listeners with him by shallow subtleties and weak arguments, which were sometimes retorted upon himself. One day, partly in jest, and partly in earnest, he proposed to M. Royer-Collard to obtain for him from the King the title of Count. "Count?" replied M. Royer-Collard, in the same tone, "make yourself a Count?" The Abbe de Montesquieu smiled, with a slight expression of disappointment, at this freak of citizen pride. He believed the old aristocracy to be beaten down, but he wished to revive and strengthen it by an infusion with the new orders. He miscalculated in supposing that none amongst the latter class would, from certain instinctive tendencies, think lightly of a title which flattered their interests, or that they could be won over by conciliation without sympathy. He was a thoroughly honourable man, with a heart more liberal than his ideas, of an enlightened and accomplished mind, naturally elegant, but volatile, inconsiderate, and absent; little suited for long and bitter contentions, formed to please rather than to control, and incapable of leading his party or himself in the course in which reason suggested that they should follow.
In the character of M. de Blacas there were no such apparent inconsistencies. Not that he was either an ardent, or a decided and stirring partisan of the contra-revolutionary reaction; he was moderate through coldness of temperament, and a fear of compromising the King, to whom he was sincerely devoted, rather than from clear penetration. But neither his moderation nor his loyalty gave him any insight into the true state of the country, or any desire to occupy himself with the subject. He remained at the Tuileries what he had been at Hartwell, a country gentleman, an emigrant, a courtier, and a steady and courageous favourite, not deficient in personal dignity or domestic tact, but with no political genius, no ambition, no statesmanlike activity, and almost as entirely a stranger to France as before his return. He impeded the Government more than he pretended to govern, taking a larger share in the quarrels and intrigues of the palace, than in the deliberations of the Council, and doing much more injury to public affairs by utter neglect, than by direct interference.
I do not think it would have been impossible for an active, determined monarch to employ these three ministers profitably, and at the same time, however much they differed from one another. Neither of them aspired to the helm, and each, in his proper sphere, could have rendered good service. M. de Talleyrand desired nothing better than to negotiate with Europe; the Abbe de Montesquiou had no desire to rule at court, and M. de Blacas, calm, prudent, and faithful, might have been found a valuable confidant in opposition to the pretensions and secret intrigues of courtiers and princes. But Louis XVIII. was not in the least capable of governing his ministers. As a King he possessed great negative or promissory qualities, but few that were active and immediate. Outwardly imposing, judicious, acute, and circumspect, he could reconcile, restrain, and defeat; but he could neither inspire, direct, nor give the impulse while he held the reins. He had few ideas, and no passion. Persevering application to business was as little suited to him, as active movement. He sufficiently maintained his rank, his rights, and his power, and seldom committed a glaring mistake; but when once his dignity and prudence were vindicated, he allowed things to take their own course; with too little energy of mind and body to control men, and force them to act in concert for the accomplishment of his wishes.
From my inexperience, and the nature of my secondary post in a special department, I was far from perceiving the full mischief of this absence of unity and supreme direction in the Government. The Abbe de Montesquiou sometimes mentioned it to me with impatience and regret. He was amongst the few who had sufficient sense and honesty not to deceive themselves as to their own defects. He reposed great confidence in me, although even within his most intimate circle of associates, efforts had been made to check this disposition. With generous irony, he replied to those who objected to me as a Protestant, "Do you think I intend to make him Pope?" With his habitual unrestraint, he communicated to me his vexations at the Court, his differences with M. de Blacas, his impotence to do what he thought good, or to prevent what he considered evil. He went far beyond this freedom of conversation, by consigning to me, in his department, many matters beyond the duties of my specific office, and would have allowed me to assume a considerable portion of his power. Thus I became associated, during his administration, with three important circumstances, the only ones I shall dwell on, for I am not writing the history of the time; I merely relate what I did, saw, and thought myself, in the general course of events.
The Charter being promulgated, and the Government settled, I suggested to the Abbe de Montesquiou that it would be well for the King to place before the Chambers a summary of the internal condition of France, as he had found it, showing the results of the preceding system, and explaining the spirit of that which he proposed to establish. The Minister was pleased with the idea, the King adopted it, and I immediately applied myself to the work. The Abbe de Montesquiou also assisted; for he wrote well, and took personal pleasure in the task. On the 12th of July, the statement was presented to the two Chambers, who thanked the King by separate addresses. It contained, without exaggeration or concealment, a true picture of the miseries which unlimited and incessant war had inflicted on France, and the moral and physical wounds which it had left to be healed,—a strange portrait, when considered with reference to those which Napoleon, under the Consulate and the dawning Empire, had also given to the world; and which eulogized, with good reason at the time, the restoration of order, the establishment of rule, the revival of prosperity, with all the excellent effects of strong, able, and rational power. The descriptions were equally true, although immeasurably different; and precisely in this contrast lay the startling moral with which the history of the Imperial despotism had just concluded. The Abbe de Montesquiou ought to have placed the glorious edifices of the Consulate side by side with the deserved ruins of the Empire. Instead of losing by this course, he would have added to the impression he intended to produce; but men are seldom disposed to praise their enemies, even though the effect should be to injure them. By alluding only to the disasters of Napoleon, and their fatal consequences, the exposition of the state of the kingdom in 1814 was undignified, and appeared to be unjust. The points in which it reflected honour on the authority from whence it emanated, were the moral tone, the liberal spirit, and the absence of all quackery, which were its leading features. These recommendations had their weight with right-minded, sensible people; but they passed for little with a public accustomed to the dazzling noise and bustle of the power which had recently been extinguished.
Another exposition, more special, but of greater urgency, was presented a few days after, by the Minister of Finance, to the Chamber of Deputies. This included the amount of debt bequeathed by the Empire to the Restoration, with the Ministerial plan for meeting the arrear, as well as providing for the exigencies of 1814 and 1815. Amongst all the Government officials of my time, I have never been acquainted with any one more completely a public servant, or more passionately devoted to the public interest, than the Baron Louis. Ever resolved to cast aside all other considerations, he cared neither for personal risk nor labour, in promoting the success of what that interest demanded. It was not only the carrying out of his financial measures that he so ardently desired; he made these subservient to the general policy of which they were a portion. In 1830, in the midst of the disturbances occasioned by the Revolution of July, I one day, as Minister of the Interior, demanded from the Council, in which the Baron Louis also had a seat as Minister of Finance, the allocation of a large sum. Objections were made by several of our colleagues, on account of the embarrassed state of the treasury. "Govern well," said the Baron Louis to me, "and you will never spend as much money as I shall be able to supply." A judicious speech, worthy of a frank, uncompromising disposition, controlled by a firm and consistent judgment. The Baron Louis's financial scheme was founded on a double basis,—constitutional order in the State, and probity in the Government. With these two conditions, he reckoned confidently on public prosperity and credit, without being dismayed by debts to be paid, or expenses incurred. His assertions as to the closing state of the finances under the Empire, drew from the Count Mollien, the last Minister of the Imperial treasury, a man as able as he was honest, some well-founded remonstrances, and his measures were in consequence severely opposed in the Chambers. He had to contend with dishonest traditions, the passions of the old system, and the narrow views of little minds. The Baron Louis maintained the struggle with equal enthusiasm and perseverance. It was fortunate for him that M. de Talleyrand and the Abbe de Montesquiou had been his associates in the Church in early youth, and had always maintained a close intimacy with him. Both having enlightened views on political economy, they supported him strongly in the Council and in the Chambers. The Prince de Talleyrand even undertook to present his bill to the Chamber of Peers, adopting boldly the responsibility and the principles. This sound policy was well carried through by the whole cabinet, and justly met with complete success, in spite of prejudiced or ignorant opposition.
It was not exactly the same with another measure in which I took a more active part,—the bill relating to the press, presented to the Chamber of Deputies on the 5th of July by the Abbe de Montesquiou, and which passed into law on the 21st of the following October, after having undergone, in both assemblies, animated debates and important amendments.
In its first conception, this bill was reasonable and sincere. The object was to consecrate by legislative enactment the liberty of the press, both as a public right and as a general and permanent institution of the country; and at the same time, on the morrow of a great revolution and a long despotism, and on the advent of a free government, to impose some temporary and limited restrictions. The two persons who had taken the most active part in framing this bill, M. Royer-Collard and myself, were actuated simply and solely by this double end. I may refer the reader to a short work which I published at the time, a little before the introduction of the bill, and in which its spirit and intention are stated without reserve.
It must be evident that the King and the two Chambers had the right of prescribing in concert, temporarily, and from the pressure of circumstances, certain limitations to one of the privileges recognized by the Charter. This cannot be denied without repudiating constitutional government itself, and its habitual practice in those countries in which it is developed with the greatest vigour. Provisional enactments have frequently modified or suspended, in England, the leading constitutional privileges; and with regard to the liberty of the press in particular, it was not until five years after the Revolution of 1688 that, under the reign of William III. in 1693, it was relieved from the censorship.
I recognize no greater danger to free institutions than that blind tyranny which the habitual fanaticism of partisanship, whether of a faction or a small segment, pretends to exercise in the name of liberal ideas. Are you a staunch advocate for constitutional government and political guarantees? Do you wish to live and act in co-operation with the party which hoists this standard? Renounce at once your judgment and your independence. In that party you will find upon all questions and under all circumstances, opinions ready formed, and resolutions settled beforehand, which assume the right of your entire control. Self-evident facts are in open contradiction to these opinions—you are forbidden to see them. Powerful obstacles oppose these resolutions—you are not allowed to think of them. Equity and prudence suggest circumspection—you must cast it aside. You are in presence of a superstitious Credo, and a popular passion. Do not argue—you would no longer be a Liberal. Do not oppose—you would be looked upon as a mutineer. Obey, advance—no matter at what pace you are urged, or on what road. If you cease to be a slave, you instantly become a deserter!
My clear judgment and a little natural pride revolted invincibly against this yoke. I never imagined that even the best system of institutions could be at once imposed on a country without some remembrance of recent events and actual facts, both as regarded the dispositions of a considerable portion of the country itself and of its necessary rulers. I saw not only the King, his family, and a great number of the old Royalists, but even in new France, a crowd of well-meaning citizens and enlightened minds—perhaps a majority of the middle and substantial classes—extremely uneasy at the idea of the unrestricted liberty of the press, and at the dangers to which it might expose public peace, as well as moral and political order. Without participating to the same extent in their apprehensions, I was myself struck by the excesses in which the press had already begun to indulge; by the deluge of recriminations, accusations, surmises, predictions, animated invectives, or frivolous sarcasms, which threatened to rouse into hostility all parties, with all their respective errors, falsehoods, fears, and antipathies. With these feelings and facts before me, I should have considered myself a madman to have treated them lightly, and therefore I decided at once that a temporary limitation of liberty, in respect to journals and pamphlets alone, was not too great a sacrifice for the removal of such perils and fears, or at least to give the country time to overcome by becoming accustomed to them.
But to ensure the success of a sound measure, open honesty is indispensable. Whether in the proposition or the debate, Government itself was called upon to proclaim the general right, as well as the limits and reasons for the partial restriction which it was about to introduce. It ought not to have evaded the principle of the liberty or the character of the restraining law. This course was not adopted. Neither the King nor his advisers had formed any fixed design against the freedom of the press; but they were more disposed to control it in fact than to acknowledge it in right, and wished rather that the new law, instead of giving additional sanction to the principle recorded in the Charter, should leave it in rather a vague state of doubt and hesitation. When the bill was introduced, its true intent and bearing were not clearly indicated. Weak himself, and yielding still more to the weaknesses of others, the Abbe de Montesquiou endeavoured to give the debate a moral and literary, rather than a political turn. According to his view, the question before them was the protection of literature and science, of good taste and manners, and not the exercise and guarantee of an acknowledged public right. An amendment in the Chamber of Peers was necessary to invest the measure with the political and temporary character which it ought to have borne from the beginning, and which alone confined it to its real objects and within its legitimate limits. The Government accepted the amendment without hesitation, but its position had become embarrassed. Mistrust, the most credulous of all passions, spread rapidly amongst the Liberals. Those who were not enemies to the Restoration had, like it, their foibles. The love of popularity had seized them, but they had not yet acquired foresight. They gladly embraced this opportunity of making themselves, with some display, the champions of a Constitutional principle which in fact was in no danger, but which power had assumed the air of eluding or disavowing. Three of the five honourable members who had been the first to restrain the Imperial despotism—Messrs. Raynouard, Gallois, and Flaugergues—were the declared adversaries of the bill; and in consequence of not having been boldly presented, from the opening, under its real and legitimate aspect, the measure entailed more discredit on the Government than it afforded them security.
The liberty of the press, that stormy guarantee of modern civilization, has already been, is, and will continue to be the roughest trial of free governments, and consequently of free people, who are greatly compromised in the struggles of their rulers; for in the event of defeat, they have no alternative but anarchy or tyranny. Free nations and governments have but one honourable and effective method of dealing with the liberty of the press,—to adopt it frankly, without undue complaisance. Let them not make it a martyr or an idol, but leave it in its proper place, without elevating it beyond its natural rank. The liberty of the press is neither a power in the State, nor the representative of the public mind, nor the supreme judge of the executive authorities; it is simply the right of all citizens to give their opinions upon public affairs and the conduct of Government,—a powerful and respectable privilege, but one naturally overbearing, and which, to be made salutary, requires that the constituted authorities should never humiliate themselves before it, and that they should impose on it that serious and constant responsibility which ought to weigh upon all rights, to prevent them from becoming at first seditious, and afterwards tyrannical.
The third measure of importance in which I was concerned at this epoch, the reform of the general system of public instruction, by a Royal ordinance of the 17th of February, 1815, created much less sensation than the Law of the Press, and produced even less effect than noise; for its execution was entirely suspended by the catastrophe of the 20th of March, and not resumed after the Hundred Days. There were more important matters then under consideration. This measure was what is now called the de-centralization of the University. Seventeen separate Universities, established in the principal cities of the kingdom, were to be substituted for the one general University of the Empire. Each of these local colleges was to have a complete and separate organization, both as regarded the different degrees of instruction and the various scholastic establishments within its jurisdiction. Over the seventeen Universities a Royal Council and a great Normal School were appointed, one to superintend the general course of public teaching, and the other to train up for professors the chosen scholars who had prepared themselves for that career, and who were to be supplied from the local Universities. There were two motives for this reform. The first was a desire to establish, in the departments, and quite independent of Paris, leading centres of learning and intellectual activity; the second, a wish to abolish the absolute power which, in the Imperial University, held sole control over the establishments and the masters, and to bring the former under a closer and more immediate authority, by giving the latter more permanence, dignity, and independence in their respective positions. These were sound ideas, to carry out which the decree of the 17th of February, 1815, was but a timid rather than an extended and powerful application. The local Universities were too numerous. France does not supply seventeen natural centres of high learning. Four or five would have sufficed, and more could not have been rendered successful or productive. The forgotten reform which I am here recalling had yet another fault. It was introduced too soon, and was the result, at once systematic and incomplete, of the meditations of certain men long impressed with the deficiencies of the University system, and not really the fruit of public impulse and opinion. Another influence also appeared in it, that of the clergy, who silently commenced at that time their struggle with the University, and adroitly looked for the extension of their personal power in the progress of general liberty. The decree of the 17th of February, 1815, opened this arena, which has since been so fiercely agitated. The Abbe de Montesquiou hastened to bestow on the clergy an early gratification, that of seeing one of their most justly esteemed members, M. de Beausset, formerly Bishop of Alais, at the head of the Royal Council. The Liberals of the University gladly seized this occasion of increasing their action and independence; and the King, Louis XVIII., voluntarily charged his civil list with an additional million for the immediate abolition of the University tax, until a new law, contained in the preamble of the decree, should come into operation to complete the reform, and provide from the public funds for all the requirements of the new system.