Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. XIX,

The Royalists attack the Ministry, and prevail.-The Chamber of Deputies is assembled Its Character-Talleyrand and Fouché resign-Their alleged Reasons. A new Minist y is appointe -Arrest of Ney.-The Court-Martial declares itself incompetent to try him. He is tried by the Chamber of Peers, and found Guilty of High Treason—Attempts to save him-His Exe cution-Severities inflicted on France by the Allied Armies.-Dispersion of the National Museum.-Treaty of Peace-Its Conditions.-Speech of the King on opening the Sittings of the Chamber of Deputies.

THE
parties of France, so far as they
were avowed and ostensible, were now
again merged into two. The first was
that of the royalists, to whom late
events had given considerable addi-
tions-the second that of the consti-
tutionalists, with whom must now be
numbered the late imperialists and re-
publicans, neither of which factions
were longer in condition to exist as a se-
parate party. The views and politics
of these parties were decidedly oppo-
sed to each other.

The royalists clamorously demanded the punishment of those who had been most guilty in the late rebellion. They insisted that the infliction of just and legal punishment upon a few leaders would at once intimidate the remains of the disaffected, now loudly insolent, and put a stop to the private and unauthorized acts of revenge which were practised in the south. They affirmed, that a real and effectual amnesty must be preceded by

SO

the punishment of the principal cul, prits, and that the doctrine of the oblivion of the past, which had been preached up for five and twenty years, had been for that long space of time the regular signal for fresh miseries; that, pronounced after the first disorders of the revolution, this forbearance had led to the murders at Avignon, from thence to the_massacres of September, and from thence to the death of the king." The revolution," they said, "would never have been so fruitful in crimes, had it not been also fruitful in pardon and amnesty." The proclamation of the 24th of July was, in the eyes of these zealous royalists, an incomplete list of a very few principal criminals, most of whom had been permitted to elude, by flight, the punishment due to their crimes, while it was proposed as the boundary of public vengeance, and thus formed a screen for others not less guilty than those whose names were

inserted in it. A complete purification of the bureaux, or public offices, was the next measure which they demanded. If the authority of prefects and sub-prefects were reposed in the hands of true loyalists, it was urged that early reports would be obtained of the manœuvres attempted by the discontented. Above all, they demanded a change of ministry in the higher departments, and a dismissal of these statesmen who had served Buonaparte until Fortune turned her back upon him. This class of versatile politicians, whom Cardinal du Retz termed the humble servants of events, might be, they said, the saviours of the country one day, and yet stand prepared to destroy it the very next.

These last observations were particularly urged against Fouché, and they were followed up by remarks more pointed and personal. The former character of this statesman was brought forward in all its atrocity. By selecting Fouché as his minister," said one of these politicians," the king has revealed one thing to us-which is, that he thinks the French people really guilty of the crimes committed in their name, and particularly of the greatest of all, since he does not think that we have a horror of those crimes and the authors of them." It was also strongly urged, that Fouche's past life was in opposition to his present situation; that his private friendship and affections were at war with his duty as a minister; that he could not with decency prosecute other criminals for an offence in which he had cordially joined them; that, upon comparing what he had been with what he now was, and his past relations with the present, it appeared that, if endowed with any feelings of decency, he could not in a moment abandon his former principles and party, his connections and his

habits; or, if he could do so, that his conduct ought to inspire suspicion and disgust, rather than confidence. His versatility was the worst possible pledge for his fidelity, and it was not probable that his duty would be well performed, when, in order to do so, he must renounce all obligations previously contracted; since it is difficult to be just, when justice must fall on our own friends and accomplices. Talleyrand (although he had not joined the usurper during the last invasion) had little more quarter. His reputation was said to consist in exaggeration and, quackery, "Under the directory and the emperor, it was the great victories of the French arms," said these reasoners, "and not the talents of the minister, that simplified the negociations, and laid Europe at the feet of France." Upon the whole, they urged it as a most distressing prospect for France, that the statesmen who had the greatest share in creating the public misery. should now pass for being the only ministers capable of repairing them.

These arguments were urged on all hands by those most attached to the king's person, and by the members of his own family. They received weight from the continued disturbances of the country and increased audacity of the agitators, which seemed to imply that the lenient measures hitherto employed by the recommendation of Fouché and Talleyrand had been far from attaining the end which the king had proposed to himself. The proclamation of the 24th of July had, excepting in the solitary case of Labedoyere, passed for a dead letter. Most of the persons named in it were already out of reach; and as to the decree of banishment, many of those to whom it related were seen openly in Paris long after its appearance. This was so far from obtaining the king any credit for lenity, that it exposed him to the

odious suspicion of desiring a revenge, which was frustrated by the inactivity of his minister, and of being supposed at once weak, timid, and implacable. The change of ministry, which the king was thus induced to meditate, was hastened by the complexion of the Chamber of Deputies, which were now soon to commence their sitting.

The king had assembled this body by a summons as early as the 13th July, in which, referring to the Chamber, when it should be assembled, the permanent laws of elections, his majesty made some provisional regulations, extending the national representation to 396 in number, and the qualification was fixed at the payment of 1000 francs of contribution. The highness of this qualification was favourable to the court candidates; for both the persons of the law, the higher orders of commerce, and what remained of the old landed proprietors, were favourable to the king, while the majority of inferior citizens, retail-dealers, and smaller land-holders, were chiefly attached to the revolution, through which these ranks had been the chief gainers. But above all, the presidents of the various electoral colleges had been chosen by the king, with a cautious eye to the loyalty of their principles. Much, necessarily, depended upon their influence as returning officers, and as it was warmly exerted in favour of the royal party, the Chamber of Deputies was soon understood to be of that complexion. A number of new peers also, chosen from the royalist party, had been introduced to fill up the higher Chamber, diminished by such as were deprived of their honours by accepting of the same dignity under Buonaparte. The king had declared the peerage hereditary, which at once gave it a dignity and consistence, and rendered it more devoted for the time to his family. The ministers, therefore, had

little support to expect from that as sembly, any more than from the Representatives, if deserted by the king.

Talleyrand and Fouché did not think it prudent, and perhaps the lat ter did not consider it as altogether safe, to retain their character of ministers till the Chamber commenced its sessions. It was already understood that there would be some proposal to include Fouché among the persons whom it was intended to subject to punishment; and that neither his ha ving served the king in the capacity of minister of police, nor the royal declaration, that no more names should be added to the list of 24th July, would be admitted to screen him. He resign. ed to the king his ministerial office, as signing areason which formed a strange contrast with the earlier part of his political life. "It was proposed," he said, "to support the throne by terror; he could not, and would not, be the agent of such a system." To break his fall, Fouché was nominated the French envoy to the court of Dresden.

Talleyrand, and others of the ministry, also gave in their resignation; and a letter, containing their reasons for this step, was soon afterwards made public. It called to the king's remembrance the desperate state of the kingdom when they had undertaken the charge of public affairs, and the zealous efforts they had made in the king's service. They charged the royalists with fanatical violence, and alleged that the party terming themselves such would prefer the sacrifice of the peace, the glory, the strength, and political existence of France, to seeing her free and happy under a liberal constitution. "It had been their wish," they said, "to have given such a direction to the king's government as would have uni ted all Frenchmen in love, honour, and obedience to the king. But they were impeded by the ignorance, pas.

sions, and prejudices of those who surrounded the monarch. They found their plans thwarted by the adoption of measures in which they did not participate, and by the excitation of the royalists in the southern provinces, whom they were not permitted to suppress. The Duke of Otranto (a circumstance strangely quoted as an act of service to Louis,) had disarmed la Vendee while Napoleon still reigned, and now it was again in arms. The minister of war refused to send troops to suppress the insurrection, and it was intimated to them as the intention of the court that it should not be opposed. We cannot," they proceeded," conceal from you, sire, that these attacks are levelled at your throne; you suffer legitimate authority to be despised, and the authority of faction supplies its place. Factions produce revolutions, and those who triumph to-day may be overthrown to-morrow; your throne will no longer have even the support of their illegitimate authority. Your ministers, always devoted to your person, still endeavoured to oppose this re-action; the princes of your house, the nobles of your court, designated as crimes, and as attacks upon your crown, their efforts to restore order and submission to the laws; we lost all influence with your majesty; we became guilty in the eyes of the nation.

"The elections were made; a factious minority directed them; that minority alone is represented. The choice which they recommended to your majesty for the Chamber of Peers indicates the same spirit.

"Ministers without authority, a prey to the persecutions of the court, without support in the public opinion, exposed to the opposition of the Cham. bers, what should we be able to reply to the clamours of the people, when at length they shall demand the reason for so many calamities ?”

They next adverted to the severe terms upon which the allies insisted, in virtue of private treaties between them and Louis, of which the ministers had been suffered to remain ignorant. "The articles demanded," they said, "would consummate the ruin of the nation; it became them not to give an assent which would have rendered them culpable to France. Since your majesty," they concluded, "has confided authority to our hands, we have constantly been without the power of doing good,-without the power of preventing evil. Our opinions have no influence; the cabals of your court have prevailed. We have to obey, through respect to your majesty, and to sanction by our signature, acts which we disapprove. We would have sacrificed our lives to save your majesty and the country, but those who are near your majesty know that the revolution which they would excite would surround the vessel of the state with new perils; that they would give to factions to whom you are opposed the means of seeking a resting place beyond the legitimate authority of your majesty; that they would raise pretenders to the throne where you are seated. It is not by means of a faction that your majesty ought to reign, but by a constitution,-by a royal prerogative, recognized and established. Let that faction tremble and suspend their efforts to substitute passion in their place. Their agents would be the first victims, and they would cause the greatest misfortunes to your majesty."

In this manifesto of the displaced ministers of France there was some undeniable truth, but there was also much of the usual cant of statesmen, who wish to represent the safety of the country as essentially connected with their remaining in power. Although Louis was deprived of the services of Talleyrand and Fouché, it did not fol low as a necessary consequence that he

While these changes were medita ted, other circumstances announced that the time of indulgence towards state prisoners was passed, and that of vigour and severity had taken place. Marshal Ney, who was on all hands regarded as one of the most guilty of those who had figured in the revolu tion of 20th March, had been arrested at the chateau of Bessonis, near Aurillac, which belonged to some relations of hs wife. A singular circumstance led to his apprehension: Buonaparte, whose favours were destined to be dangerous to him, had, on his return from Egypt, presented Ney with a sabre of exquisite beauty and workmanship. Murat alone possessed a weapon of the same form and elegance of mounting. This remarkable sword being left upon a sopha in one of the public rooms, was remarked by a chance visitor at the chateau. He described it on his return to some persons of his acquaintance, who, knowing the weapon from his discourse, immediately affirmed either Murat or Ney must be concealed at Bessonis The local authorities learned the rumour, and caused Ney to be arrested, whom otherwise Fouché's police would probably never have disturbed.

August 5.

An order of the minister of war appointed him to be tried by a military tribunal, consisting of marshals and lieutenant-generals Amongst these, Moncey, Duke (as he was called) of Cornegliano, refused the emba rassing duty of acting upon the court martial. An ordinance of the king deprived the recusant of his dignities, and condemned him to three months imprisonment. A court was appointed, of which Jour. dan was president; Massena, Mortier, and Augereau, with Generals Gazan, Claperede, and Villate, the members. The public already anticipated the favourable issue of a trial, where most

should throw himself headlong into the passionate councils of the princes of his family. It seems, on the contrary, as if he had wisely sought counsellors, who, if inferior in experience to those who had just resigned, might have been more deserving of confidence; and who might enforce severity where it was necessary, without being charged with inconsistence, or indulge in lenity, without the possibility of its being im puted to selfish or to partial motives. The choice of the new ministers was a pledge of the royal intentions.

The Duke of Richelieu was placed at the head of the administration, who, noble by birth and connections, and possessing, therefore, an interest with the pure royalists, was a man of sound sense, knowledge of the world, and liberal principles, unlikely to sacrifice to ancient prejudice or supersti. tion the peace and happiness of the country. He became minister for foreign affairs; Des Cazes, minister of police; Barbé Marbois, minister of justice; and Corvetto, minister of fi nance; all belonging to the moderate or constitutional party. All three had been employed under Buonaparte, and could not be supposed favourable to a system of re-action. The political character of Clarke, (Duke of Feltre) promoted to the situation of minister at war, was different. He was believed to incline to the royalist party. Dubouchage, minister of the marine, and Vaublanc, minister of the interior department were both decided royalists. The ministry thus composed, under a premier of sense and moderation, was supposed to have a character sufficient ly royalist to make it acceptable to the Chamber of Deputies, with as many checks, at the same time, as might enable them to avoid the opposite extreme of a re-actionary spirit, directed against all the consequences, good and bad, that have arisen from the revolution.

« PreviousContinue »