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in France, it was in the first place owing to the ultraRoyalist princes, but in the next to a partial and insufficient application of the constitutional principle itself. This system was allowed to work amongst the middle ranks of life. But it disgusted the higher, which it did not reach; and the lower, which remained insensible of its influence and ignorant of its very existence.
One of the most fatal characteristics of political society and parties at and during the Restoration was their extreme nervousness. The Royalists imagined that they walked upon a path undermined by conspiracy, their fears and precautions rendering these suspicions true. The liberals, on the other hand, saw in the conduct of their opponents much more astute and determined plans of counter-revolution than actually existed. The mutual dread of their enemies having or obtaining a parliamentary majority deprived both of all patience and all calm. And as soon as such a result became evident or menacing, the thought was not to combat such ascendency by parliamentary means, but reverse it by a change of the electoral law. The history of the Decazes and Richelieu iniddle party is, they began by changing or fixing the electoral law, so as to abate the ascendency of the ultra-Royalists; and then finding that the result of these measures was to favour the gradual increase and possible predominance of the liberals, they had to amend the law to provide for this and prevent it.
The first proposal brought by the Decazes and Richelieu ministry before the new Chamber was one to modify the elections. It had been drawn up by M. Lainé. The Chamber of 1815 had owed its royalist tinge in a great measure to each deputy being elected in a small locality, local influence and landed fortune of course predominating. The new law arranged that all elections should be direct, that of all the deputies of a department taking place in its chief town, where the bourgeois
influence would counterbalance its landed rival. All CHAP. who paid 300 francs direct taxes had a vote, all in fact who had sufficient property in land or houses. One fifth of the Chamber was to be re-elected each year to avoid the excitement of a general election. The law passed by 132 votes against 100. The King's personal influence and exertions were found requisite to engage the Chamber of Peers not to reject it. By.this law, passed in February 1817, the electoral franchise was given to 100,000 proprietors, out of nigh 30,000,000 of population.
The Royalists protested indignantly against so large an admission of what they called the middle classes. Yet never surely was term so misapplied. Large landed fortunes were especially rare in France, and the extensive emigration of the seigneurs, who arrogated to themselves the title of first class, left but country gentlemen of a few hundreds a-year, not superior either in fortune or enlightenment to the upper ranks of what they styled the bourgeoisie. The greatest absurdity and folly, one might almost say the crime, of the Restoration was to have divided the rich and easy classes, which had quite enough to do to hold their own against the multitude of humbler labourers and earners without quarrelling amongst themselves for idle differences of origin or birth.
The truth is, there is and was no such thing as an upper class in France. What we mean by the term is a body of men, who, as possessed of either land or capital, can feed and employ the multitude of labourers and earners beneath them, and who, being the best and richest customers of the trading class, have also a greater influence over it. There is no such state of things in France. The peasant farmer sows and reaps his own food. The few who labour for hire form the minority, and take their tone and their ideas from the small proprietors. An analogous feeling of independence pervades the farm and the workshop. There is no link,
no patronage, and no obligation between class and class. Other means of influence by the rich are likewise annulled. Authority is in the hands of the functionaries. Endow it as you will in a country revolutionized like France, you cannot make an aristocracy. To pretend that there was one, and to legislate for it, as was attempted by the ultra-Royalists, was at once insanity and anachronism.
There is this, however, to be observed, that the arrogance of the squires or gentry so disgusted and alienated the notabilities of money and commerce, that these made common cause with even the lower of the middle class in opposing the pretensions and aims of the ultraRoyalists. Their denouncing of these pretensions gained the great commercial notabilities the support everywhere of both imperialists and admirers of the revolution. The consequence was that in the re-election of the second fifth of the Chamber, in 1817, according to the new law of election, Casimir Périer was returned to sit by the side of Lafitte; Delessert, Roy, and Ternaux, afterwards joining them as representatives of the haut commerce. With these leaders of the commercial world came the eminent men of the bar. The legal profession had recovered its scope and power with the Restoration, the use of the jury rendering it popular, and the many trials of journalists and compositors enabling their legal defenders to acquire position and fame. Hence the reputation of Dupont de l'Eure, Dupin, Mauguin, Ravez and Barrot. Imperialist functionaries joined them, such as Bignon, Chauvelin and Caumartin. The press and letters furnished their peculiar talents; Camille Jourdan was the great liberal orator. Chateaubriand was confined to the peers; Constant and Lafayette did not take their seats till 1818.
Whilst the liberal party were thus augmenting in numbers and impatience, events occurred which demonstrate:l plainly the ineptness of their ultra antagonists.
Lyons was a town in which there could not but be CHAP much disaffection. To entice or provoke foolish people to rush into acts of sedition was an easy task to the police. And this they executed, to the great delight of the prefect and the general, both ultra-Royalists, who hoped to show their zeal and obtain honour by enacting at Lyons the tragedy of Grenoble. An officer, who ‘acted decoy and informer, was shot on leaving the general's quarters. This was enough for the latter to consider it conspiracy. In consequence, some 500 persons were arrested, and 28 were condemned and executed. The Commissary of Police, in the meantime, had communicated to M. Decazes that there had been no plot, save in the brains of the commander and the prefect. Marmont was sent down to see into the matter, and his report was to the same effect. His aide-de-camp, Fabvier, published the circumstances, and shed shame and disgrace upon the Royalist functionaries, as sanguinary as they were incapable.
It was then felt impossible to maintain the prevotal courts which had caused this innocent blood to be spilt, and it became necessary to have judges and commanders chosen in a more just and liberal spirit. M. d'Ambray was in consequence dismissed from the department of justice, and was succeeded by Pasquier. Molé became marine minister. The Duke of Feltre was superseded at the war office by Marshal Gouvion de St.-Cyr.
The latter instantly set about proposing a law for the reorganisation of the army, which was become necessary, as the allies had agreed to withdraw their forces of occupation. Moreover, it was also necessary to reverse the attempts of the Count d'Artois and Clark to form gradually an exclusively Royalist or Vendean army. Had this been accomplished, it would have been unpopular and odious to the country, and instead of providing the means to keep down discord and disorder, it would have
CHAP. produced the state of things most apt to provoke them.
Gouvion St.-Cyr, a more liberal war minister, replaced the army very much on its old footing, and re-established the conscription. The Royalists opposed it, and Villèle proposed in its place the recurrence to voluntary enlistment for the line, a militia being organised at the same time. Had this not meant the enrolment of ultra-Royalists alone, it might have been worthy of consideration for the small army which the Restoration proposed to keep up. Under Napoleon, the conscription, severe as it was, had its compensation; it rendered the army a kind of corporation endowed with large revenues and dotations from conquered lands. The prospect of sharing such emoluments reconciled the recruit to the ranks and to the privations of the lower grades. This, however, had vanished. And although one-third of the advancement was preserved to men from the ranks, yet these became officers so late in life, whilst the youths from the schools had the start of them, that the higher grades of the army were in reality only open to men of fortune and education.
The promotion of the common soldier being thus a delusion, the evil of taking so large a portion of the population from the pursuits of industry was but too evident. The conscription is the great check to population, prohibiting marriage before the age of 27, and generalising the habits of camps and barracks in lieu of those of domestic life. But if one nation is to enrol and equip its entire population, its neighbours in self-defence must do the same. Supported by the feeling of the nation in this respect, and impelled by the Liberal party, which wanted to obliterate the reactionary administration of the Duke de Feltre, Marshal St.-Cyr passed his law of recruitment and army organisation through the two chambers.
A certain liberty of the press was another concession, which M. Decazes deemed it necessary to make to the