Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

which its success gave the government, or the disgust which the principles on which it was conducted inspired. From that time secret associations and treasonable plots ceased, and the discontented nation employed its energies in organizing that peaceful and legal resistance which speedily and completely triumphed.

Nevertheless the undertaking and success of the Spanish war gave a great appearance of glory and stability to the government, and at the time considerably strengthened the bands of the royalist party. The expulsion of Manuel on a frivolous pretext is a glaring instance of the audacious defiance of representative government, by which the conduct of the majority was characterized. The consequent secession of the left side, though the most excusable step of the kind ever taken by an outraged minority, seems, like all other secessions, to have injured the popularity of the opposition. The dissolution which took place in the end of 1823 completed the triumph of the ministry; the liberal party was thoroughly discouraged, and their defeat was insured by the gross partiality with which the agents of government conducted the elections. Only seventeen, or at the most twenty Liberals, entered the next Chamber: the strenuous exertions of that small but noble band acted powerfully on the public, but had no immediate effect in checking the organized encroachments of the majority. The power of Villèle and the Chamber was confirmed by the Septennial Law. On this occasion, as on some during the secession in the previous session, the ministers experienced a fierce opposition from M. de la Bourdonnaye and a body of the most furious ultra-royalists, whose passionate declamations in favour of freedom and economy the discernment of public contempt has universally attributed to their discontent at being left out of office. On the occasion of the proposition for the reduction of the rentes, a more steady and reasonable oppositon was experienced from the Chamber of Peers, which was destined afterwards to shield the nation from more formidable attempts to establish misgovernment. The policy of the ministers was, however, in the main triumphant. Bad as it was, it was not yet so daring as it appeared in the next reign. Their opposition to some of the insane projects of de la Bourdonnaye, and to a proposition made by the Archbishop of Paris for a Law of Sacrilege, showed a moderation and regard for public opinion, which were afterwards thrown off.

At the end of the reign of Louis XVIII., the system of royalist reaction and the influence of the Congregation were in full vigour. In August, 1824, a complete revision of all public offices was accomplished by the protegés of Montrouge; a new ministerial department, with a seat in the cabinet, was created by the ap

pointinent of a Minister of Religion; and Frayssinous, Bishop of Hermopolis, was invested with the important office. But the progress of the party to further power was reserved for the reign and paternal superintendance of another monarch. The health of Louis, which had been infirm since his restoration, had been for some years breaking. On the 18th of September, 1824, he died, after a short illness; and with his reign we must close this article, which bas already been extended to an excessive length. Indeed the guides which we had taken have long since deserted us, and we have continued a narrative from other sources, in order to give our readers an unbroken view of the entire reign of the first of the restored Bourbons. To complete the description of the character and fortunes of that dynasty, we trust in some future number to give a view of the equally interesting reign of Charles X.; of the subsequent career and downfal of the Villèle ministry, the interval of moderate and constitutional government, the appointment of Polignac and the consequent violent system of royalist reaction, and the final overthrow and expulsion of the dynasty of the Restoration.

The narrative which we have given above requires little additional comment to convey its import to our readers. The character of the restored dynasty, and the causes which decided its fate, lie ou the surface of the events which we have described. From the simplest observation of them we may see the exact position of the Bourbons, the conduct by which they might have secured the peaceable continuance of their power, and the faults by which they forfeited its possession. In this respect the reign which we have now examined is peculiarly instructive. The reign of Charles X. exhibits a long and progressive series of misrule, wound up by the striking catastrophe which was its natural result. That of Louis XVIII. exhibits a still more varied instruction. It had some bright and happy periods—some in which the wise conduct of the monarch gave a fair chance to the ment of constitutional monarchy-and showed how easily the rule of the ancient race of kings might have been reconciled with the feelings and institutions of modern France, and formed a durable basis for freedom and order.

The character of Louis XVIII. was, indeed, by no means incompatible with the position of a constitutional king. He possessed, it is true, none of the high moral or intellectual qualities which his flatterers attributed to him. Cold, indolent and selfish, he appears to have felt no generous sympathy with his people, nor ever to have warmly exerted himself to promote their good. His affections were confined to a few individuals to whom habit or necessity had attached him, and even in these cases his frievdship had little permanence.

experi

So far from possessing that “divine mercy,” which his courtiers attributed to him, he appears to have been unfeeling, harsh, and even somewhat cruel. Equally unmerited were the praises lavished on him as a great and wise king. He exhibited no proof of genius as a legislator, no capacity for organizing his country, or improving its administration. His information and reading appear to have been confined in a great measure to light literature, and a knowledge of the mere events of history; and his reputation as an author, which the admiring confidants of his literary labours had largely extolled, has been completely destroyed by the mediocrity of his published works. Nevertheless, though possessed of none of the great qualities which have fitted some great monarchs for the task of elevating a nation, he was endued with quite sufficient good sense to make a proper use of the power with which circumstances invested him. His distinguishing characteristic was prudence: he saw that popularity was the best guarantee for the security of his throne, and therefore tried to acquirc it, and as far as he found it consistent with his ease, took pains to obtain the good will of his subjects. He was attached to the ideas, feelings, habits and institutions of the ancient régime, more from early associations than any strong opinion of their fit

In fact he was perfectly aware of their incompatibility with the state of things which he found established in France on his return, and very strongly impressed with a sense of the course of policy which it was expedient for him to pursue. In his conduct, therefore, we perceive none of the daring and reckless fanaticism which impelled his brother to hazard his crown for the re-establishment of priestcraft and absolute power. The violence of his own partisans filled him with alarm and disgust; it shocked his notions of good taste; and interfered with the crafty and cautious policy by which he hoped to secure the predominance of the system which he preferred. Nor does he seem to have been wanting in patriotic inclinations. His sympathies, though not strong, were good: he felt for the honour of France; and seems to have been led by his judgment, if not by strong sensibility, to interest himself in the welfare of his people, and study, by his policy, to secure their well being. His great fault--the fault which neutralized his good sense-was the weakness and pliancy of disposition which prevented his putting his own prudent views into practice, and rendered him the mere instrument of the more energetic bigots who surrounded him. It is the fate of those weak men who submit to the guidance of others, ultimately to fall under the dominion of those who are the least scrupulous as to the means of acquiring or maintaining their ascendancy. Thus Louis sometimes asserted his own policy,

ness.

3

adopted the advice of enlightened counsellors, and experienced the benefit resulting to himself and the nation from a prudent system of government. But in general, he submitted, though unwillingly, to the influence of his family; and conceded his own better inclinations to the extravagant demands of his fanatical brother or imperious niece.

All would have gone well for the royal family and France, had Louis, on his first restoration, been under better guidance. It is true that from the commencement to the end of the period preceding the Hundred Days, the Comte d'Artois had no influence over his brother, was almost in open disgrace, and indeed in avowed opposition. But the authority which he had acquired by the organization of the Royalists in the departments was great, and had a most pernicious effect. Nor indeed was the ascendancy of the Comte de Blacas much less pernicious than that of the Comte d'Artois. It was sufficient to neutralize the sagacity and moderation of Talleyrand, to encourage the pretensions and excesses of the royalists and the priests, to alarm the country, and to keep the king in perfect ignorance of the fatal effects of the system which he was pursuing.

The opportunity lost during the first restoration was never recovered. The second restoration, palpably effected by foreign force, placed the king in a far more difficult position than that which he had previously occupied. The humiliation and suffering which accompanied it imprinted on its origin an unpopularity which was never effaced; the alarm and indignation excited in the mind of the king forced him to throw himself into the arms of the ultra-royalists, and thus to countenance for a while those violent measures of re-action, which aggravated the calamities of France, and the animosity of parties. There can be little doubt that had Charles been then on the throne, the system of the Chambre Introuvable would have been continued for some time longer: that the indignation of the people would have been roused by further aggression; and that a popular insurrection, countenanced even by the allies, would have repeated the catastrophe of the hundred days, or rather anticipated that of 1830. The ordonnance of September, 1819, which arrested the royalist reaction, does honour to the prudence of Louis. The period which followed rewarded that prudence; and proved the fallacy of the coercive system that had been adopted as the best means of upholding the throne. A constitutional system of government was honoured, by the obedience, the affection, and the prosperity of the nation. During the ascendancy of the principles of M. Decazes, the confidence of the people in the good intentions of the government gave to that government a stability which it had

never before possessed. Opposition displayed itself only in the discussions of the tribune and the press : plots and revolts entirely ceased. The certain marks of good and popular government were seen in the industry as well as the tranquillity of the people: and the prosperity of France was the consequence of the cessation of political discord and alarm.

The second period of ultra-royalist domination commenced with the murder of the Duc de Berry, but for which the rupture between Decazes and the liberal party would probably soon have been healed. It is difficult to blame the old and infirm monarch for the change of policy into which he was driven by the alarm naturally excited by that horrible eveut. Terrified, and unwilling to oppose any resistance to the precautions suggested by the grief or terror of his family, he resigned himself to their guidance. The policy of his reign after this period, which he used to call that of his abdication, was no longer bis; from 1820 to 1824, he reigned in name, but the measures adopted, and the responsibility incurred, were those of his successor. A system of continued aggression on the charter, a renewed, though milder, reaction commenced from the second return of the ultra-royalist party to power, and had its greatest developement and final overthrow in the reign of Charles X. In the last period of the reign of Louis XVIII. the discontent and suspicion of the people exhibited a partial renewal of the plots, mutinies, and sanguinary executions of the first period of re-action. The ultra-royalist ascendancy was established by successive triumphs over the charter. The Law of Elections gave that party a decided majority in the Chamber of Deputies: the Septennial Law secured it a lengthened enjoyment of that advantage: the Spanish war gave it the controal of the army, and the possession of a physical force sufficient to repress insurrection. Thus was organized that power with which, in the eusuing reign, Villèle ventured on attacking the popular institutions of the nation, and on forcing on it the yoke of the clergy. And at the same time was organized the resistance of the people to his system ; that national discontent, which soon Alung off the dangerous secrecy of cabals and conspiracies, elevated its bold but peaceable opposition in the Chamber, in the journals, and in the courts of justice; and with the mutilated guarantees, which the aggressive faction had left the liberties of France, finally overthrew the power which had been constructed by a long series of audacious, crafty, and unwise schemes.

« ZurückWeiter »