Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

Madame de Staël, Montalembert, Berryer.

153

[ocr errors]

on his way to visit his mother at Nismes, the youthful author also addressed a letter to Madame de Stael, requesting the honour of calling upon her-a permission which was granted. The lady invited him to dinner, and gave him the place of honour. After dinner he recited a particular passage of Chateaubriand's which appeared in the Mercury. Moved by the words, his tone became excited and startling. His hostess, seizing him by the arm, exclaimed, 'I am sure you would make an excellent tragedian; remain with us and take a part in the Andromache.' Madame de Stael judged rightly. M. Guizot would have made an excellent actor. His declamatory powers are of a high order. They fully equal those of M. de Montalembert, and are only inferior to those of Berryer, who is gifted with a more marvellous and musical voice and a finer person. Efforts were at this period made by friends to obtain for young Guizot the place of Auditor in the Conseil d'Etat. Maret, Duke of Bassano, sent for him and required him to write a State paper on the exchange of prisoners with England. The paper was written, but it did not produce any effect, as Bonaparte was, as was often the case, insincere in the matter, and had no thoughts of effecting any exchange whatever. Through Chateaubriand M. Guizot made the acquaintance of Fontanes who, having for a short while been President of the Corps Législatif, was now Grand Master of the University. By this elegant and tasteful scholar the young man was appointed to the Chair of History, an appointment which he held by dispensation, as he had not yet completed his twenty

When the juvenile professor was about to commence his course, in 1812, the Grand Master suggested that he should say a word in praise of the Emperor, which the neophyte, to his credit, refused. Fontanes only rejoined, “Si on se plaint de vous on s'en prendra à moi ; je nous defendrai vous et moi comme je pourrai. It was as a junior professor that Guizot

' became acquainted with Royer Collard, Dean of the Faculty of Letters. He describes him as highly cultivated, more original than inventive, as more given to sift one idea than to combine many.

Collard and all his friends were subjects of suspicion and disquietude to Bonaparte. The six or seven able men who acted with him, though most of them had been schooled in the Constituent and Legislative Assemblies, had made no very public demonstration of their hostile opinions, when Bonaparte himself, though intending otherwise, greatly advanced their views. In December 1813, he convened the Senate of which Biran, Gallois, Raynouard, Lainé, Flaugerques, and Collard were members. These eminent personages desired a pacific policy abroad, and at home a respect for individual rights and

fifth year.

6

public liberty. It was an easy matter to deal with men of such moderate views and temperate character. But Napoleon, in his abrupt, ill-bred, camp-like fashion, would not listen to them. He suppressed the report, adjourned the legislative body, exclaiming, with underbred brutality, “Who are you who address me thus ?' 'I am the sole representative of the nation. “I have a title, you have none.' 'Your mouthpiece, Lainé, is a dishonest man, who corresponds with England through Advocate Deseze'— Raynouard, another of your body, is a liar.' Yet the men thus addressed by a personage who, but nineteen years before, was a lieutenant of artillery, owing his education to the bounty of Louis XVI., were men of principle, character, family, talent, and undoubted patriotism. Lainé was a member of the Academy, a barrister, and subsequently a Minister, Peer, and President of the Chamber during the Restoration. Raynouard was a distinguished barrister and man of letters-Collard was a man of European reputation, and Deseze a gentleman of an ancient family, who, having first entered the royal army before the Revolution, became subsequently an advocate, and distinguished himself with Malherbes and Tronchet as one of the counsel of Louis XVI. Under the Restoration he was Chancellor of France, and subsequently French Ambassador at Naples. Such were the persons addressed in language unfit for gentlemen to hear, and which none could have uttered under such circumstances but a man vitiated and corrupted by the exercise of arbitrary power and an unchecked will. A system such as this, lording and dominating over all ranks and classes, invading society with a network of spies, enchaining thought, fettering opinion, and wasting the wealth and blood of France, could not last long. "Glory,' to use the strong language of M. Guizot, 'could no longer repair the faults which it covered, and *God vindicated reason and justice by condemning the genius which so recklessly braved both, to sink in hesitation and uncertainty under the weight of his own incompatible objects ' and impracticable desires. With the affluent and educated there was, in 1812 and 1813, a desire for peace, a dislike of the espionage, the tyranny, and the hazards of the Imperial despotism. Everywhere a bleeding, a mutilated, and an exhausted nation, from lassitude, if not from a love of liberty, called for peace and a change of Government.

That change at length came in 1814. M. Guizot was at Nismes at the period of the Restoration, but his friend Collard wrote to press his return to Paris, which took place without delay. On his arrival, he was appointed Secretary-General to the Minister of the Interior; and at this period commenced a Abbé Montesquiou.-Guizot labours under him.

155

public and official life, which, with few alternations, continued, whether as secretary, professor, lecturer, reviewer, journalist, minister, and ambassador, •over a period of four and thirty years.

The Abbé Montesquiou, under whom M. Guizot first served, was a gentleman of family and fortune, who claimed a collateral descent from Clovis, and who had not merely distinguished himself as the agent-general of the clergy, and deputy of his order to the States-General, but as a member of the Constituent and Legislative Assemblies. He emigrated after the 10th of August, and was condemned to death by the Revolutionary Tribunal. But he returned during the Directory and the Consulate, seeking by his efforts to revive the Royalist party. After presenting to Napoleon the celebrated letter, in which Louis XVIII. solicited the restoration of his crown, the Abbé disappeared from the political scene till the Restoration, when he was made a member of the Provisional Government. As complete a courtier as M. de Talleyrand, and more thoroughly belonging to the old system, M. Guizot speaks of him as better suited to hold his ground under a constitutional government than the ex-bishop. He had a rare disinterestedness, which was wanting in Talleyrand; and the simplicity of his life had won the confidence of honest men. Of an open disposition and a frank character, his mind was richly cultivated, and his conversation frank and unreserved. Though a Grand Seigneur, and not wholly devoid of haughtiness, he could render himself acceptable to the middle classes, to whom he was affable and unassuming. In the Chambers he spoke with ease and animation, if not with eloquence. But M. Guizot remarks that his heart was more liberal than his ideas ; that he was formed to please rather than control, and incapable of leading his party in the course in which they should follow. Although M. Guizot had no previous tie to connect him with the Restoration, springing as he did from

race of French Huguenots who were for progress and not for retrogradation, yet the Abbé Montesquiou reposed great confidence in him, replying to those bigots who objected to his Protestantism--Do you think I intend to make him Pope ?' While serving in the Home Office, the Secretary had a share in the preparation of all important official business.

He wrote a report on the internal condition of France, shared the labour of a report on French finance, and took an important and active part in preparing the bill relative to the press. In a spirit devoted to liberty of conscience, to a regulated liberty of speech and writing, having a regard to order and to freedom, restrained by law, he worked all the better in harness, because he utterly despaired of freedom

а

under the Empire. To him, and to most rational and thinking Frenchmen, the Restoration was the only solution not dependent on force and the caprice of a despot's will. As the Bourbons could reign under new developments, he felt that, under them, France with a charter must be free compared with her fettered position under a military despotism. The aim in view being to consecrate the liberty of the press with some temporary guards and restrictions, it will, we conceive, be generally admitted now that the object was sufficiently well attained by the measure of Royer Collard, and of his disciple, the writer of these memoirs. From the period of the first Restoration (excepting during the hundred days) down to the month of December, 1851, France certainly enjoyed as much liberty of the press, political and literary, as any European nation, and more, occasionally, than was either useful or beneficial to the common weal. In po country, not even in America, were there till 1850 or 1851, a greater number of newspapers for all classes, and adapted to all tastes and conditions. While in Paris down to 1851, there were fifteen or sixteen daily morning, and seven or eight evening papers, we in London, during the same period, only had six morning, and five or six evening papers. Even in 1814, in the earliest days of Louis XVIII., the leading articles in the Débats, the Constitutionnel, the Gazette de France, the Courrier Français, and the Drapeau Blanc and Conservateur were far more tastefully and spiritedly written than any appearing in the London papers. Unlike Bonaparte, with the Bourbons war was not a necessity of existence. They, at least, could reign without violating the independence of other countries, or without seeking to propagnte French principles, or to extend French dominion by the naked sword. Louis XVIII. was an acute and judicious sovereign, who comprehended the spirit, and was awake to the exigencies of the time in which he lived, and Constitutionals and Liberals alike felt that the charter he was prepared to grant possessed an expansibility capable of satisfying nearly all the requirements of civil and religious liberty and of equality before the law. Though M. Guizot had no previous political connexions or ties to connect him with the Restoration --though, in fact, his father had given in his adhesion to the earlier doctrines of the Revolution of 1789, and his own education was completed in the school of Geneva, he nevertheless had sufficient good sense to see that the best hope of constitutional government, and of rational improvement, was to be found in clinging to the successor of St. Louis and Henry IV. There can be no doubt that he exhibited prudence, foresight, and sound political wisdom in taking this course.

For more than thirty years, under Louis XVIII., Charles X., and Louis Literature, Oratory, and Science under the Restoration. 157

Philippe, France enjoyed an amount of civil, religious, political, and literary liberty, of which she might well be proud. There was neither tyranny nor espionage. The press, the pulpit, the senate, and the forum, were free-society was not infested by spies and delators-taxation was not insupportable, was not even heavy—and France enjoyed an immense amount of material prosperity. Intellect was heard, and was sure to make itself felt in literature and poetry, in the exact sciences, and in political life. Chateaubriand, Benjamin Constant, Lacretelle, de Barante, Villemain, Victor Cousin, Guizot, de Béranger, Lamartine, Lammenais, Victor Hugo, Thiers, Thierry, Mignet, Michelet and others, distinguished themselves in the domain of history, belles-lettres, and poetry; whilst Etienne Salyandy, Paul Louis Courrier, Cormenin Carrel, and others, achieved European repute as political pamphleteers and journalists. In philosophy and the exact sciences there were Royer Collard, De Maistre de Bonald, Cousin Tissot Gérusez, Prony, Poisson, Lacroix, Poinsot La Place, Arago, and Le Verrier. As orators, whether in the senate or at the bar, there were Deseze, Manuel, Foy, Peyrounet, Martignac, Royer Collard, Heunequin, Berville, Delamalle, Lainé, De Vatismenil, Chateaubriand, Barthe, Merilhon, Mauguin, Guizot, Cassimir Perrier, Berryer, Dupin, Berville, Odillon Barrot, Tripier, Passy, Dufaure, de Broglie, Thiers, Molé, de Remusat, Lamartine, and one, as a debater, equal to any one of them, and superior to all excepting Berryer and Guizot, M. de Montalembert. The second Empire has produced no kind of excellence in literature, oratory, or philosophy. Its literature is represented by that hackneyman of journalists, Cassagnac; its oratory, in a Senate and a Chamber without an initiative, by the stockjobbers de Morny and Walewski. A military government, reigning by the sword, it has not produced an able general; for Bedeau, Changarnier, Pelissier, Lamoriciere, and Le Flô, and the late Generals Cavaignac and St. Arnaud, none of them first or even second-rate officers, were produced under the Government of Louis Philippe.

M. Guizot does not believe that the genius or energy of Napoleon diminished during the Hundred Days. He attributes his failure not to any decline of his powers, but to his attempting a mischievous work rejected by the good sense as well as by the interests of his country.

The ex-minister of Louis Philippe does not appear to have had much intercourse with Louis XVIII.; and judging from what we have heard from three ministers, and several attached friends of that monarch, we should say he underrates the talents and perspicacity of a king who was not merely a personage of

« ÖncekiDevam »