Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

of submission, to gain his favour, and profit by his influence, may fairly be cited as reasons for their showing him personally all the forbearance which their duty to their own subjects and the peace of Europe allows.

We pass over the sketch which the author next gives of the important campaigns that led to his hero's downfal, and of the different attempts at an accommodation before the first march to Paris. The failure of these is ascribed to his determination not to suffer the dismemberment of France; and the Allies are said never to have thought of the Bourbons down to the latest stage of their progress—not even in the negotiations of February 1814. The restoration is then charged with being merely an act of military power, performed by foreign armies, without the intervention of the nation. We are told that 'kings are made for the people, not the people for them;' that Lewis XVIII. is an illegitimate prince, or usurper, because he did not appeal to the country, but only to a small minority of the senate, deliberating in a place occupied by foreign troops; and that the only way in which he could have confirmed his title, and made the Fourth Dynasty be forgotten, was by adopting all the changes of the Republic and the institutions of the Empire—cordially promoting to his favour those who had the confidence of the nation—following the example of Henry IV., who, to conciliate the people, turned his back on his own companions in arms—and recollecting always, that a King of France is nothing, who does not reign in the hearts of the French. Some of these principles are sound enough, no doubt; but we marvel that they should find a place in a dissertation pretending to proceed from Buonaparte, and, at any rate, written in his defence. We are then told, that Lewis XVIII. having ascended the throne by his older title, as representative of the third race, all the clergy, proprietors, and nobles who suffered by the Revolution, have the same rights to be restored; and are discontented accordingly; while the nation is alarmed at their claims, and the Court endeavours to keep them quiet by promising them that in time they will be satisfied. The concluding chapters of the tract thus sum up the charges against the King on the one hand, and the grounds of discontent among the people on the other. We only extract a small part of two passages, which are vehemently and not unsuccessfully composed.

'Le trone de la troisième dynastie a ete reduit en cendres; il n'existe plus: la prétention de s'y asseoir estinsensee; e'est s'enfoncer au milieu d'un epais brouillard, pour tomber dans un precipice.—Le systeme actuel qui regit la France, est tout orgueil, arbitraire, contradiction, et Jaussete; ce qui a eleve une nouvelle barriere entre les Bourbons et le peuple. Orgueil et arbitraire—Louis regne par la grace de Dieu: il ne reconnaît ni contrats anciens, ni contrats modernes: il ne reconnaît ni les privilèges du royaume, ni ceux des provinces: tout a peri; il ne reste que lui. Il donne, pour remplacer des corps nationaux, une charte qui émane de lui seul. Contradiction et fausseté— il supprime la féodalité, et se déclare régner en vertu du droit féodal. Il proclame l'égalité des citoyens, l'irrevocabilité des ventes des domaines nationaux, le libre exercice de tous les cultes, et il n'appele autour de lui, dans le palais comme dans l'administration, que des hommes dont les intérêts et l'existence sont liés au rétablissement des privilèges, à la résiliation des ventes des domaines, et à l'intolérance religieuse. Il promit à l'armée la conservation de ses droits, et il arbore le pavillon blanc; et il ne s'entoure, n'accorde de confiance, n'ouvre son cœur qu'aux officiers chouans, émigrés, ou vendéens. Il se dit être fier de la gloire nationale, et il reconnaît ne devoir son trône qu'au Prince Régent d'Angleterre; et il signe les plus honteuses et déshonorantes transactions Il est gardé, il est au pouvoir d'une armée qui est toute entière l'armée de la nation. Les armées étrangères quittent la France, et Louis n'est encore d'accord sur rien avec ses peuples; pas même sur la nature du serment qu'il doit en exiger !!—La momie d'un descendant de Sesostris était placée depuis plusieurs siècles dans la salle intérieure de la grande pyramide; elle était revêtue de tous les attribus de la souveraineté, et posée sur le trône où s'étaient assis ses ancêtres. Lorsque les prêtres de Memphis voulurent la présenter aux hommages des Egyptiens, elle tomba en poussière; elle n'était plus en rapport avec l'atmosphère et la chaleur du soleil.' p. 71-76.

'La charte, il est vrai, garantit l'égalité des citoyens, la liberté de la presse, l'irrévocabilité des ventes des biens nationaux, la suppression des droits feodaux, et la légion d'honneur: mais cette garantie n'est que nominale, puisque la chambre des pairs est en majorité composée d'individus ayant un intérêt contraire à ces principes; que presque tous ont fait la guerre à la nation, perdu leurs privilèges et leurs biens, et n'ont d'intérêts que ceux détruits par la Révolution: que la chambre des députés devant être élue suivant le mode qu'il plaira au Roi d'établir, ne donne aucune garantie à la nation pour la défense de ses droits. Cette considération est d'une telle importance, qu'elle annulle entièrement la charte, puisqu'elle ne se lie au peuple que par le mode d'élection.—L'armée voit tous les jours vanter avec enthousiasme les soldats de la Vendée et de l'émigration: elle ne lit dans les journaux, on n'imprime que les plus odieuses calomnies pour ternir sa gloire. Cela seul est suffisant pour la rendre irréconciliable avec les Bourbons, et accroître chaque jour la répugnance qu'elle ressent pour des princes revenus sur le trône par le secours de 500,000 bayonnettes ennemies. Comment l'armée pourrait-elle jamais s'attacher à des princes ennemis de sa gloire, étrangers à toutes ses grandes et mémorables journées? Le peuple tout entier se voit menacé du retour du régime féodal des privilèges: il ne sera plus appelé à partager les honneurs, mais seulement à supporter toutes les

Vol. xxx. foo. 60. G g

charges: il est rentre sous le joug de ses maitres: ses enfans seront soldats, jamais officiers: le chemin des honneurs civils de la magistrature, des armees, lui est ferme désormais sans retour—sentiment d'autant plus penible, qu'il n'est pas un village qui n'ait donne naissance a un general, ou a un colonel, ou a un capitaine, ou a un pr£fet, ou a un juge, ou a un administrateur, qui s'etait eleve par son propre merite, et illustre sa famille et son pays. C'est ce qui lui donnait pour la quatrième dynastie ce sincere attachement, qui lui fait dire que si Louis de Bourbon est le roi des nobles, Napoleon est le roi du peuple.' p. 66-69.

We have quoted these passages, not as containing any thing like an accurate statement of the facts, but because they unquestionably suggest some of the points which it is most material for the present government of France to keep constantly in view. We shall now offer a few observations upon the principal matters connected with the very interesting subject of this publication. These topics naturally arrange themselves under three heads; the Dethronement of Buonaparte, and the conduct of his successors; his Detention as a prisoner; and his Treatment in that custody. The remarks which we have to submit to the reader upon each of these points, are dictated by no factious feeling; for we believe that the parties which divide this country hinge upon any thing rather than the subject of Buonaparte: Neither do they proceed from any vehement feelings towards the individual, whom we are unable to admire with some persons, because we regard him as a conqueror and a tyrant; whom yet we cannot view as the only bad ruler and bad neighbour that ever existed, because we find other princes eager to follow his example. A regard for truth and justice—an anxious desire to promote the peace of the world—a jealous feeling for the honour of our country—alone influence us in the remarks which follow; and, satisfied that our motives are pure, and knowing that our opinion is impartial, we fearlessly give it to the publick, in the very confident expectation that the candid part of the community will receive it favourably.

I. The right to dethrone Buonaparte, we conceive to have been neither more nor less than the right of self-defence, exercised by all the neighbouring governments which he had in succession attacked, despoiling thereof their provinces, and endangering their existence. We need not here inquire minutely into the grounds of the various wars which he had waged against them; nor will it materially affect the argument, if it should be admitted that in one or two cases they were the aggressors, and he had just cause of quarrel. The broad fact is altogether undeniable, that he had devoted his life to conquest; that he enjoyed means of indulging this master-passion ample beyond all former measure; and that France, under his dominion, had become the very scourge of Europe. In some instances, her conquests may have benefited the people whose bad rulers she overthrew, and whose barbarous institutions she destroyed; but as conquest was her main object, and reform only incidental to the pursuit of it, and probably not at all desired for its own sake, no man can seriously pretend that the system was beneficial and safe, though it might be allowable in some cases to rejoice, that out of its general mischiefs partial good had arisen. Of this overgrown power, and purely military and conquering scheme, Buonaparte was the life and soul; there was every reason to expect that his removal would restore the French people to peaceful habits; and though no one can doubt, that had he continued in power, the effects of the late war would have been perceived in a considerable change of conduct, prescribed by circumstances rather than inclination, it seems clear that the safety of Europe required his being displaced. Nor is it any answer to say, that France remains a powerful and an ambitious country; and that at some future time she may be a dangerous neighbour under the Bourbons. Human policy is always occupied in deciding amidst a choice of difficulties; and in the practical management of affairs, it is wisdom to prefer the course which ensures safety for the longest period of time, though the danger, after all, may only be warded off, and the evil day at last may come.

The pretension set up by Buonaparte that his throne was legitimate, and that his dynasty stood precisely in the same predicament with those which preceded it, involves a palpable fallacy. We argue the question on its true grounds of general expediency and popular right, not of the exploded and unintelligible doctrines of hereditary claims; and, when we say that an hereditary is preferable to any other title, it is only because the transmission of supreme power from father to son has been found most beneficial, upon the whole, to the people, for whom, and for whose good, both the constitution of all power, and the laws of its devolution, are appointed. But, in whichever way we take the question, there is a sophism in Buonaparte's argument, which consists in applying to the beginning of his dynasty, and to himself, its founder, the principles which every one is disposed to admit respecting all dynasties, provided they have been long established. Thus, though we may admit that his title was as good as Hugh Capet's (the butcher's son *),

* Dante alludes to this in the Purgatorio, where, it must be con to apply this case to that of his dethronement, we must transport ourselves back to Hugh Capet's time, and ask who would Slave cried out very much at his being removed by some more fortunate adventurer? Buonaparte stood in this predicament; but he applies to his case, not the case of the founder of the third race, but that of the dynasty, after it had been consolidated by the succession of ages. That he should have been overthrown, not by the people, but by the force of foreign arms, is no doubt deeply to be lamented on every account—for the sake of the French people, as well as of good principle all over the world. His elevation to power was the work of the army unquestionably; but it had, in a great degree, the assent of the nation; and it was, at all events, performed by Frenchmen alone. The nation, we do not doubt, whatever may have been the wish of the soldiery, at last desired his downfal; but they unfortunately effected it through the intervention of strangers, after their own troops had been discomfited; and it is still more to be lamented, that those strangers were the founders of the fifth, or the restorers of the third dynasty, (whichever may be the most correct form of speech), without any consultation of the popular opinion. But it is, in our opinion, of little consequence now to inquire into the title of Lewis XVIII. He has, in many things, been ill advised; he ought to have thrown himself more on the country; he should have made his style more conformable to the fact that he became the king of revolutionized France; he should have spoken less of legitimacy in the midst of institutions which all rest upon the overthrow of the old government, and which he nevertheless must support. But it signifies comparatively little what family fills the throne, provided the peace of the country be preserved, the great improvements effected by the revolution perpetuated, and the structure of a free constitution completed, of which these changes have laid the foundation. It seems quite impossible that any king can long reign in France, who will not conform himself to the new order of things, and the universal opinion and feeling of the country. Lewis XVIII. has given ample proofs, particularly since the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies in 1816, that he is sensible of this truth. No serious attempts, we think, are to be apprehended, as long as he lives, to revive the wild project of the emigrants, and undo

fessed, he makes the founder of the Third Race speak in rather ua~lavourable terms of his descendants.

'J' fui radice delta mala pianta
Che la terra Cristiana tutta aduggia,
Si, che bunn Jrutto rado se ne schianta.
Figliuoljui d'un beccaio di Parigi.' &c. &c

« AnteriorContinuar »