Imatges de pàgina

evil passions and contending interests of the governed.

sion in the measures of his government. "Send him back to us," said an Englishman, who had listened impatiently to a Parisian, as he lamented betwixt pity and scorn the king's incapacity to mount on horseback,— "send the excellent old man back to us, and you shall have a king will suit you better-we will send you young Astley the equestrian, the best horseman in Europe." But however just the reproof, it is no less certain that the bodily infirmities of Louis, and the want of personal activity which necessarily attended them, were of great prejudice to his affairs at this critical period. The gifted eye of Burke had foreseen, when few but himself anticipated the possibility of the restoration of the royal family, that personal activity would be a quality in the highest degree essential to the restored monarch. "A king of France," he said, "ought, speaking literally, to spend six hours in the day upon horseback." The necessity of this proved as true as most of his other prophecies; for the deficiency was most severely felt in the king's affairs.

The sort of enthusiasm with which the Bourbons had been at first wel comed, soon faded into indifference, and indifference was succeeded by doubt, and suspicion, and dislike. The fabulist, in the apologue of the frogs who demanded a king, has described the sensation produced by a tyrant succeeding to a mild and over-easy monarch. But it was reserved to France to exhibit the counterpart of the fable, and to show how the aquatic nation would have probably demeaned themselves had the indulgence of Jupiter again substituted a mere passive type of monarchy, and banished King Stork to some remote islet. In the person of Louis XVIII. himself, the French could indeed find nothing to censure, nor any thing to contemn, excepting those corporeal infirmities, which disease inflicts upon some, and age upon all. Even the revolutionists yielded their unwilling assent to his merits-An excellent temper,-a sound judgment, a cultivated understanding, a disposition to make every sacrifice for the welfare of the people, even honour and good faith in his engagements, his worst enemies were compelled to allow him. He possessed also a readiness of good-humoured repartee, which uses to weigh much with the French nation, and that overflowing and kindly quality of the heart, which they express by the word bonhommie. He had one quality, and only one of the original monarch of the frogs, but it was the very quality on which the veneration due to King Log suffered shipwreck, an inertness arising from the bodily infirmity at which we have hinted, which prevented his dazzling the eyes of his frivolous subjects, by assuming the dress and activity of his warlike predecessor, and something like a corresponding want of firmness and deci

The constitution which the king had solemnly sanctioned, although it could not be termed perfect, was in most respects adapted to France in its existing state, and contained not only the elements of a free and representative government, but the means of gradual improvement, as circumstances should require and experience should point out. The charter, as it was called, recognized, in the most formal manner, what Britons consider as their most sacred rights. 1. It established three branches of the legislature, by king, peers, and a house of repre sentatives, whose concurrence was required in framing laws. 2. It guaranteed personal liberty, and toleration concerning religious faith. 3. It recognized the liberty of the press. 4. The ministers were held respon

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sible and subject to be tried by the Chamber of Peers, on the indictment of the House of Representatives. 5. The representatives had the sole right of proposing taxes. 6. The judges were recognized as holding their offices permanent; new courts and commissions were declared illegal, and the institution of juries was sanctioned. Theoretically, therefore, the principles of the charter were admitted to be excellent. But a very ill-timed question was stirred concerning the mode in which the constitution had been established.

It will be remembered that the senate of Buonaparte, in calling the king to enjoy the crown under a constitution of their own framing, at tempted to burthen their invitation by a sordid and selfish arrangement, by which they were to secure the revenues of the senatorial order to them and theirs for ever; in consideration of which, and upon condition of his ac knowledging certain principles laid down in their plan, they agreed to call Louis XVIII. to the throne. The King refused to acknowledge the right of the senate, either to dictate the terms on which he should ascend a throne, his own by hereditary de scent, and to which he had never for feited his claim; or to engross the endowments provided to their order by Buonaparte, as their own exclusive property. He therefore assumed the crown as the lineal and true representative of him by whom it was last worn; and issued his own constitutional charter as a concession which the spirit of the times demanded, and which he had himself no desire to withhold. The objections to this mode of proceeding were, practically speaking, of no consequence. It signified nothing to the people of France, whether the constitution was proposed to the king by the national representatives, or by the king to them, so

that it contained, in an irrevocable form, a full ratification of the national liberties. But for the king to have acknowledged himself the creature of the senate's election would have been at once to recognize every ephemeral tyranny which had started up and fretted its part on the revolutionary stage; and to have sanctioned all subsequent attempts at innovation, since they who make kings and authorities must have the inherent right to dethrone them. It should not be forgotten how the British nation acted on the great occasions of the Restoration and Revolution; recognising, at either crisis, the right of blood to succeed to the crown, whether vacant by the murder of Charles I., or the abdication of James II. In principle, too, it may be observed, that in all modern European nations, the King is nominally the source both of law and justice, and that statutes are promulgated, and sentences executed in his name, without inferring that he has the despotic right either to make the one, or to alter the other. Although, therefore, the constitution of France emanated in the usual form of a royal charter, the king was no more empowered to recal or innovate its provisions, than King John to abrogate those of the English Magna Charta. Monsieur, the king's brother, had promised in his name, upon his solemn entrance to Paris, that Louis would recognise the basis of the constitution prepared by the senate. This pledge was fully redeemed by the charter, and wise men would have been more anxious to secure the benefits which it promised, than scrupulously to cavil on the mode in which they had been conferred. In fact, Louis had adopted not only the form most consonant to ancient usage, but that which he thought most likely to satisfy both the royalists and the revolutionary party. He ascended the

throne as his natural right, and having done so, he willingly granted to the people, in an irrevocable form, the substantial principles of a free constitution. But both parties were rather displeased at what they considered as lost, than gratified at what they gained by this arrangement. The royalists considered the constitution with its concessions, as a voluntary abandonment of the royal prerogative, while the revolutionary party exclaimed, that the receiving the charter from the king as an act of his will, was in itself a badge of servitude; and that the same authority which had granted these privileges, might, if recognised, be supposed to reserve the privilege of diminishing or resuming them at pleasure. And thus it is, that folly, party-spirit, pride, and passion, can misrepresent the best measures, and so far poison the public mind, that the very granting the ob, ject of their desires shall be made the subject of new complaints.

The formation of the ministry gave rise to more serious grounds of apprehension and censure. The various offices of administration were, upon the restoration, left in possession of persons selected from those who had been named by the provisional government. All the members of the provisional state council were called to be royal ministers of the state. Many of these, though possessed of reputed talents, were men hackneyed in the changes of the revolution; and were not, and could not, be entrusted with the king's confidence beyond the bounds of the province which each administered. Talleyrand, minister for foreign affairs, whose talents and experience might have given him claim to the situation of prime minister, was unpopular, from his political versatility; and it was judged, after a time, most expedient to send him to

the congress at Vienna, that his diplomatic skill might be employed in arranging the exterior relations of France with the other powers of Europe. Dupont was promoted to the situation of minister at war, owing, perhaps, to the persecution he had undergone from Buonaparte, in consequence of his surrender at Baylen to the Spaniards. Soult was afterwards called to this important office, how recommended, it would be vain to enquire; certainly not by his having, in the preceding year, fought the bat. tle of Thoulouse, after he was in possession of the fact of Buonaparte's abdication. This appointment was the more remarkable, as Soult, like Davoust, had not, like the other marshals, been promoted to the House of peers. The charge of the finances was entrusted to Abbé Louis, named to that office by the provisional government, and who had held several situations of trust under Buonaparte. D'Ambray, a royalist, was made chancellor of France. Ferrand and Count Blacas d'Aulps, also royalists, were nominated to the confidential situations of director of the posts, and minister of the household. Berenger, director of the Caisse d'amortissement under Buonaparte, was now constituted director-general of the indirect taxes. But the chief trust of the affairs of finance was believed to rest upon the Ex-Abbé Montesquieu, formerly a member of the constituent assembly, now named minister for the interior. Beugnot, by the experience which he had acquired as minister of finance in the Grand Duchy of Berg, became director of police. The other ministerial posts were filled with persons of a similar description; nor had the king, in his ostensible council, any friend of his exile, excepting Messieurs D'Ambray, Ferrand, and Blacas d'Aulps. The consequence of this arrangement was,

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that each minister's acts and responsibility were strictly bounded within the limits of his own department. The wheels of the state, if the expression may be used, moved each independent of the others, and there was no appearance of any presiding or governing principle, by which the whole should be directed and influenced. Each

minister, feeling himself independent of the others, entrenched himself with in his own department, and within its precincts made such regulations as suited his temper or his interest, independent and often contradictory of the measures which might be adopted by his brethren of the cabinet. As the king himself, from whom their ministerial authority emanated, was declared by the charter incapable of doing wrong, the public looked in vain either for an individual first minister, or an united and combined body of ministers, to whom should attach the legal responsibility of the general acts of administration. And thus, in every sense, the political body wanted a head, though it had the full proportion of members.

To add still farther to the inconveniences of this state of administration, Louis XVIII. had a favourite, although he had no prime minister. Count Blacas D'Aulps, minister of the household, an ancient and confidential attendant on the king's person during his exile, was understood to be the channel through which the king's wishes were communicated to the other ministers; and his protec. tion was supposed to afford the surest access to the favours of the crown. According to the vindication which Count Blacas thought it necessary to publish, these ideas of his influence and ministerial primacy arose chiefly from the casual circumstance of the ministers holding their cabinet-councils in the apartment which belonged to his office of Grand Master of the


Wardrobe, the choice of a room being thus mistaken for a measure of state. But there was more reason than could flow from a cause so trivial, for concluding that he enjoyed, in a peculiar manner, the ear and confidence of his sovereign; and he paid the usual penalties of censure and calumny for such an honourable but invidious advantage. Without doing his master the service of a premier, or holding either the power or the responsibility of that high situation, De Blacas had the full share of odium usually attached to it. The royalists, who pressed on him for grants which were in the departments of other ministers, resented his declining to interfere in their favour, as if, having satisfied his own ambition, he had become indifferent to the interest of those with whom he had been a joint sufferer during the emigration. The opposite party, on the other hand, represented Count Blacas as an absolute minister, an emigrant himself, and the patron of emigrants; a royalist of the highest class, and an enemy of course to all the constitutional stipulations in favour of liberty. Count Biacas has complained, that while his unpopularity was universal with all classes, and while the public voice heaped upon him all the blame arising from the various errors and miscarriages in every department of the state, the accusations of his enemies never assumed so distinct and determined a shape as to admit of decided refutation. There was, how. ever, one charge of a grievous nature, unnoticed in his published exculpation, perhaps, because it had néver reached his ears. It was generally said that the Count de Blacas did not hesitate to convert the king's favour to his own personal advantage; and that by such indirect modes he acquired a considerable fortune during the few months that he held his official situation, and enjoyed the royal con

fidence. Thus far it is certain, that the unpopularity of Monsieur de Blacas, with all ranks and parties in the state, had the worst possible influence on the King's affairs; and as his credit was ascribed to a blind as well as an obstinate attachment on the part of Louis, the monarch was of course involved in the unpopularity of the minister of the household.

Thus France was governed rather by a set of independent ministers than by a combined administration, and the only channel through which something like a general impulse was given by the crown, was considered as partial, suspicious, and corrupt.

What rendered this disconnected, wavering, and weak administration yet more prejudicial, was the conflicting state of parties, which demanded a government, watchful, firm, mild, united in itself, decisive in its views, cautious, secret, and prudent in re solving; but firm and prompt in execution. To understand the dissentions by which the country was divided, it is necessary to consider the parties as drawn up under the political standards to which they respectively adhered. The French of this period might be divided into four parties, Royalists, Republicans, Buona tists, and constitutionalists.

The ROYALISTS, while they added little real strength to the king by their numbers, attracted much jealous observation from their high birth and equally high pretensions; embroiled his affairs by their imprudent zeal; embittered his peace by their just and natural complaints; and drew suspicion on his government at every effort which he made to serve and relieve them. They consisted chiefly of the emigrant nobles and clergy. The former class were greatly reduced in number by war and exile; in so much, that of the House of Peers, consisting of one hundred and seventy and up

wards, the ancient nobles of France supplied only thirty. The rest were the fortunate marshals and generals whom the wars of the revolution had raised to rank and wealth; and the statesmen, many of whom had risen to the same station, by less honourable means of elevation. The old noblesse, after their youth had been exhausted, their fortunes destroyed, and their spirits broken, while following through foreign countries the adverse fortunes of the exiled Bourbons, beheld the restoration, indeed, of the monarchy, but were themselves recalled to France only to see their estates occupied, and their hereditary offices around the person of the monarch filled, by the fortunate children of the revolution. Like the disappointed English cavalier, they might well complain that though none had wished more earnestly for the return of the legitimate prince, yet none had shared so little in the benefits attending it. By a natural, and yet a perverse mode of reasoning, the very injuries which the nobility had sustained rendered them the objects of suspicion to the other ranks and parties of the state. They had been the companions of the king's exile, were connected with him by the ties of friendship, and had near access to his person by the right of blood. Could it be in nature, it was asked, that Louis could see their sufferings without attempting to relieve them; and how could he do so in the present state of France, unless at the expense of those who occupied or aspired to civil and military preferment, or of those who had acquired during the revolution the national domains which those nobles once possessed? Yet the alarm was founded rather on suspicion than in fact. Of the preferments of emigrants in the army we will speak hereafter; but in the civil departments of the state few obtained office. To take a

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