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State of parties.-Meeting of the Legislative Body.-M. Barthélemy's Reso
lution relative to the law of elections carried in the Chamber of Peers, but thrown out in the Chamber of Deputies.-Laws relative to the PressDebates thereon.-The Budget.-State of the French Finances.-Ways and Means-Discussions on the Budget.-State of parties at the close of the Session.-Position of the new Ministry.-Disturbances at Nismes.
Towards the close of the year 1818, Marne, was, in the course of six days the aspect of French affairs was by afterwards, returned by a great mano means such as circumstances jority for the department of the would have led us to anticipate. The Sarthe; Manuel, who had started as a convention of the 9th of October, candidate for Paris, was chosen dewhich finally decreed the evacuation puty for La Vendée without soliciof France by the Army of Observa- tation; and Benjamin Constant, tion, appears neither to have allayed though he had failed in carrying his the heats of faction, nor to have add- election for the capital, nevertheless ed to the popularity of the Ministry: proved, by the numbers he had pollThis was sufficiently demonstrated ed, that the influence of the Ministry by the result of the elections which was on the wane. Numerous other immediately followed, and which, the instances might, if necessary, be Ministry no doubt calculated, that brought forward in corroboration of that generous act on the part of a fact, which, all circumstances conthe Allied Sovereigns would power. sidered, seems not a little difficult fully influence in their favour. In to account for. defiance of all their exertions, how- By guaranteeing the substantial ever, many of the popular candidates advantages, or at least changes, were elected by immense majorities; which had been effected by the Reand even the more temperate of the volution, by confirming the sales of Liberals, to whom they looked for the national property, by establishsupport, openly withdrew and joined ing religious toleration, by declaring the popular party. La Fayette, whom, the equality of every French subject after a severe struggle, they had suc- in the eye of the law, and, above all, ceeded in defeating at the election by laying the basis of a representafor the department of the Seine and tive system, the Constitutional Char
ter appeared to have secured to the class, who regarded these laws, not nation all the blessings for which merely as incompatible with their they had suffered and struggled so principles, but as likely to prove severely; but it seems that in France, eventually fatal to the monarchy itwhere, for the last thirty years, con. self; and their declamations, and stitutions have sprung up and passed prognostications of the mischiefs they away with such unprecedented ra- would produce, were carried to a pidity, the rage for alteration, or pitch of vehemence and fury to improvement, as it is called, has be- which we in this country are happily come epidemical, and that no system, strangers. But while their enemies however large and comprehensive were united, the Ministers were wain its outline, can reconcile the dis. vering and divided. Too aristocracordant and jarring views of men tical, perhaps, in their composition, who have been alternately the vic- and too anxious to trim between the tims of anarchy and the slaves of contending factions, their want of despotism. This was strikingly ma- energy disgusted the Liberals, to nifested during the discussions of whom they chiefly looked for suplast session on the laws for regula- port, without conciliating the Ultras, ting elections and for recruiting the or even the Royalists, who would army; the former of which was cal- endure no compromise either with culated to extend the elective fran. the men or the principles of the chise, by giving to those concerned Revolution; and thus Europe bein commerce, as well as to the hol. held the singular spectacle of a Miders of real property, a more direct nistry, to whom France was indebted influence in the representation; while for two wise and popular laws, and the latter in some sort new-modelled for the liberation of her territory the organization of the army, and from foreign occupation, driven from provided suitable rewards for length the helm at the very time, and apof service, as well as distinguished parently in consequence of the very courage and merit: both laws were events, which ought to have increas. certainly conceived with a proper re-ed their popularity and consolidated gard to the rights recognised and their power. declared by the Charter, and intend. The fall of this Ministry was, on ed to confirm and assure that bare many accounts, unfortunate for mony so necessary to the best in. France, and for the great cause of terests both of the Government and constitutional liberty. It generatpeople. Unfortunately, however, ed distrust on the part of the King, the effect was in a great measure the and tended to perpetuate those vioreverse of what had been anticipated; lences of faction from which France for although these laws were decid. has yet, we fear, much to suffer : it edly popular with the majority of reflected on the national character in the nation, they seemed to be found the eyes of foreigners, and impaired on too direct a recognition of ed the zeal with which public men, the principles of the Revolution, however upright their intentions, not to be extremely obnoxious to might otherwise have been disposed those who, by interest, prejudice, to serve their country; and it cerand misfortune, were attached to tainly tended, in no small degree, to the ancient regime. The fiercest influence the elections, and to inspirit of opposition was according- fuse even into the Chamber of De. ly kindled up, chiefly among this puties much of that turbulent bitter
VOL, XII, PART I.
ness, of which in the course of the to cause it to be faithfully and litepresent session we have so many ex- rally executed; and, doubtless, noe amples.
thing more was promised on the ocMatters were in this state when casion alluded to. Ministers have the session of the Legislative Body been invited to justify the confidence was opened in the usual manner, on they have already inspired; but I am the 10th of December; this event convinced that ihat confidence canhaving, it is said, been delayed be- not be better justified than by resistyond the regular period, by the un- ing, both as a Peer and as a Minister, expected prolongation of the confe.
a proposition which I cannot but rerences at Aix-la-Chapelle, although gard as likely to be attended with the more probable cause was, the un- the most fatal consequences.” Asettled state of the interior, occa- mong those who defended the prosioned by the exertions and practi. position, it was alleged that the law ces of the party in hostility to the of elections had only been brought Court. The first question which gave forward as an experiment, the advanrise to discussion was a proposition tages or disadvantages of which were made in the Chamber of Peers, on to be determined by subsequent exthe 20th of February, by the Mar- perience; that though a measure of quis de Barthélemy, for presenting vital importance, the errors or peran address to the King, humbly sup- fections of which were to exert a plicating him to present the project powerful influence on the destinies of of a law for altering and modifying France, it had, after a long and anithe constitution of the electoral col. mated discussion, been carried by a leges; in other words, for virtually a- very trifling majority; and that the
; brogating the law of elections, which, entertaining this proposition would be it was alleged, had been attended the means of leading to a discussion, with effects not foreseen or provided which would throw fresh light on a for by those with whom it had origi- subject which, by reason of its impornated. The first to oppose this pro- tance, could not be too minutely position, was M. Lally-Tollendal, who, sifted and examined. To these ar. without denying that some special, guments it was answered, that the precise, and definite modifications proposition in question was calcuwere necessary, resisted the proposi. lated to disturb the public tranquillition, on the ground of its vagueness, ty, and to create alarms and agitaobscurity, and the dangers of more tions, always dangerous and somethan one kind with which it would times fatal. Such were the views be attended. The Minister of the urged by the respective friends and Interior, Count Decazes, remarked, opponents of the measure with great that the very entertaining of such heat and mutual exasperation; the a proposition for a moment indica- latter having in vain attempted to ted that the Chamber viewed it with get rid of it by moving the order of some degree of favour, and he in- the day. vited them to dismiss it at once, with- At the sitting of the 26th, this proout allowing any farther discussion. position gave rise to a still longer “ There has been much talk, said though calmer discussion. On this he, of the promises made by Minis- occasion M. de Barthélemy dwelt at ters when they presented the law of great length on the inconveniences elections. A Minister, when he pre- and evils of the existing law. He sents a law, can promise nothing but maintained, that no less than onethird of the great body of electors present saw no reason for the alarm had taken no part in tħe late elec. which some persons had expressed tions, and that there must be some- on account of the particular choice thing vicious in the manner of taking which several of the colleges had the votes, when such an anomaly made. Many of the abuses which could occur; as it was impossible to had been complained of, he treated conceive that men vested with such as in a great degree imaginary; and an important trust, would, unless dwelt on the absurdity of opposing obstructed by the law, neglect to a law, because in its operation it exercise it. The principal evil, how. had fallen short of absolute or imaever, arose from the interpretation ginary perfection. He maintained, which had been put upon an article that the law had been too short in the Charter, which conferred the time in operation to enable any one rights of an elector on every citizen to form a sound and enlightened paying 300 francs (L. 12, 10 s.) of opinion as to its results, whether bedirect taxes. With the intention of neficial or otherwise ; and that, as it encouraging commerce and indus. was confessedly popular with a great try, the taxes paid on manufactured majority of the nation, it could not commodities had been assimilated to fail to endanger the public tranquilthe land-tax; but the manner in lity to bring its provisions into queswhich the former of these taxes is col. tion. He particularly dwelt on the lected, namely, in twelfths, had be- time which had been chosen to bring come a source of the grossest abuse; forward this obnoxious proposition, so that an individual having once and asked, “ Is it wise, is it prudent, paid 25 francs might legally vote in a when the nation has but just esca. French electoral assembly. This he ped from the agitations which had held to be a manifest violation, not been excited with a malignant actimerely of the spirit, but of the very vity during the total change lately efletter of the Charter; while by the faci- fected in the law of election, to come lity which it afforded to men without forward, at such a moment as this, fortune, and exposed to the artifices with a vague and indefinite proposiof intrigue and corruption, of find- tion, merely to modify it? Can there ing their
way into the electoral body, be any doubt that the fatal latitude it inflicted an act of real injustice of such a proposal is naturally calon those whose rigbts were thus in- culated to excite distrust and irrita. vaded, and who, as the proprietors tion, only the more dangerous that, of houses and lands, constituted the without proposing to alter or abrogreat strength of the nation, and gate the whole law, it leaves the were the natural guardians of its elective franchise in the hands of manners and institutions.
those who already possess it, and The arguments of M. Barthélemy who therefore will watch every innowere answered by the Marquis Des. vation with the most suspicious jeasoles, President of the Council of Mi- lousy?" In fine, he declared it as nisters. He candidly admitted, that, the unanimous determination of the though he had voted for the passing Government, to oppose every change of this law, it had been with consi- in the existing law, the bare proposi. derable doubts as
to its results. tion of which had sufficiently demon. These doubts, however, experience strated the dangers with which suchan had completely removed; and he at attempt could not fail to be attended.
The Count de Castellane defend. ting the exercise of this right in the ed the proposition from the charge case of those in whom the law has of vagueness, on the ground that M. already invested it, and for preventBarthélemy had latterly defined, with ing those who have not the qualifi. sufficient precision, the object which cations required by that law from he had in view; and that it would be exercising the right of voting at time enough to enter into more mi. elections." This amendment, or nute details, when a distinct project rather redaction of the original profor the modification of the law had position, was, however, rejected by been submitted to the Chamber. M. a majority of 94 to 60; and on the Boissy d'Anglas opposed both the 20 of March the discussion was form and object of the proposition, resumed, and characterized by the and held, that the removing a few same heat and violence as heretopartial abuses was not of sufficient fore. importance to justify them in at- On this occasion, the oration of tempting to attain that object at the Count Lanjuinais was remarkable for expense of the public tranquillity. its vehemence, even amidst the furiIn the existing state of the public ous tirades pronounced from the trimind, this was certainly an irresisti- bune by the adherents of both par. ble argument; for the proposition of ties. The law of elections he deM. Barthélemy had excited the scribed as a second charter, and demost lively sensation both in Paris nounced the hostility which had been and the departments; and from the shown to it, as emanating from a violent opposition which it had almost powerful faction behind the throne, universally encountered, certainly the faction of privileges, abuses, threatened, if persevered in, to be sinecures, prodigality, and oligarproductive of the most unpleasant, chy,” which had incessantly attemptnot to say, dangerous, consequences. ed to undermine and destroy the
The discussion, however, being Charter, or at least to render it topursued with extraordinary vehe. tally illusory, and to reduce its opemence and
acharnement, the Marquis ration to a number of hypocritical de Lally-Tollendal, who had been ceremonies. “ In two words, said among the first to oppose the propo- he, this proposition is the first act sition as too vague, rose and stated, of a revolution against the Charthat holding the fundamental princi. ter." ples of the law to be inviolable, he saw The Count Decazes took a temno great difficulty in taking into con- perate review of the arguments which sideration the points indicated by had been advanced on both sides ; M. de Barthélemy, and therefore and while he endeavoured to show proposed an amendment or substitu- the absurdity of what he justiy detion to the following effect: “ That scribed as “monstrous and ridiculous his Majesty should be humbly re- presages” on the one hand, he quested to propose to the Chambers pointed out the dangers that might (the King has the initiative of all laws be legitimately expected to result in France,) a law for the more ef- from any alteration in a law so ex. fectually insuring the execution of tensively popular, and in the main the law of the 5th of February 1817, 80 salutary in its operation. At relative to the right of electing de- length, however, the original propoputies for departments; for facilita- sition was put to the vote, and, not