Chap. as her published letters demonstrate, at once pious and lx' tender, and endowed with a reach of thought equal to 1820- either Madame de Se"vigne" or the Princess des Ursins, readily embraced the duty thus assigned to her by the political party to which she was attached. "It was necessary," said she afterwards, playfully, "to have an Esther for that Ahasuerus." The next point was to throw her in the king's way, and this was easily brought about by the unfortunate circumstances in which she was placed. Her husband, with whom she had come to open rupture, at once claimed her fortune, and insisted upon obtaining delivery of her children; and the disconsolate mother solicited an interview with Louis, to throw herself at his feet, and solicit his interest and support in the difficult circumstances in which she was placed. The king granted it, and the result was entirely successful. Dazzled by her beauty, captivated by her grace, impressed by her talents, melted by her tears, the king promised to aid her to the utmost of his power, and invited her to a second interview. So great was the ascendancy which her genius and charms of manner soon gave her, that she became necessary to the monarch, who spent several hours every day in her society, without any of the scandal arising which in ordi, Lettres, narv cases follows such interviews. Great was the effect

de Madamo *

39 94*ft of secre^ iufluence on the future destinies of France, vi.28i,296! especially after the removal of M. Decazes to London had removed the chief counterpoise on the other side.1

Demandez au roi une audience sous prétexte d'implorer Rb protection dont vous avez besoin pour vous et pour vos enfants. Hontrez-lui comme par bosard ces tresors de grace, de bon sens, ot d'esprit que la nature vous a prodigués, non pour l'oiubro et la retraite, maia pour l'entretien d'un roi apprcciateur passionné des dons de l'ame; chaimez-le par une première conversation; retournez quand il vous rappellera; et quand votre empire inapercu sera fondfs dans un attachement par lea habitudes, employez pcu a peu cct empire 4 déracincr do son conseil le favori dont il est fasciné, et à reconcilier le roi avec son frèro, avec les princes, et a lui faire adopter de concert, dans la personne de M. de Villale, et de ses amis, un ministere a la fois royaliste et constitutionnol qui remettele trdnea plomb sur la basemonarchique, et qui préviennelos proebnincs catastrophes dont la train est znenaoee."—Paroles de M. de la Rochefoucauld a Madame la ComtetK Du Cayla. Laiurtine, IJitt. dc la Rettauration, vi. 290, 292.

Thus fell, never again to rise, M. Decazes; for though c^p.

1820. 47.

he was appointed ambassador to Loudon, and retained the confidence of the king, yet he never again formed part of the Ministry, and his career as a public man character of

It, M Decazes

was at an end. It is impossible to deny that he was possessed of considerable abilities. No man raises himself from a humble station to the rule of empire, without being possessed of some talents, which, if they are not of the first order, are at least of the most marketable description. It is generally characters of that description which are most successful in maintaining themselves long at the head of affairs. Genius anticipates the march of events, and is often shipwrecked because the world is behind its views; heroism recoils from the concessions requisite for success, and fails to conquer, because it disdains to stoop. It is pliant ability which discerns the precise mode of elevation, and adopts the principles requisite for immediate success. M. Decazes had this pliant ability in the very highest degree. Discerning in character, he at once scanned the king's disposition, and perceived the foibles which required to be attended to in order to gain his confidence. Able in the conduct of affairs, he made himself serviceable in his employment, and attracted his notice by the valuable information which he communicated, both in his own department and that of others. Energetic and ready in the tribune, he defeuded the ministerial measures with vigour and success against the numerous attacks with which they were assailed.

He acquired the surprising ascendancy which he gained over the mind of the king mainly by studying his dispo- Merits'of sition, and proposing measures in the Cabinet which were i".' in a manner the reflection of those which he perceived' were already contemplated in the royal breast; but the temporary success which they met with proved that both had correctly discerned, if not the ultimate consequences of their measures, at least the immediate signs of the

VOL. II. u

Chap. times. The Royalists justly reproach him with having IX' established, by the royal authority, an electoral system of 1820, the most democratic character, and thrown himself into the arms of the Liberals, who made use of the advantage thus gained to undermine the monarchy. But, in justice to him, it must be recollected that the working of representative governments was then very little understood, and the practical results of changes, now obvious to all, were then only discerned by a few; that his situation was one surrounded with difficulties, and in which any false step might lead to perdition; and that if the course he pursued was one which entailed ultimate dangers of the most serious kind on the monarchy, it was, perhaps, the only one which enabled it to shun the immediate perils with which it was threatened. In common with the king, his leading idea was reconciliation; his principle, concession; his policy, to disarm opposition by anticipating its demands. This view was a benevolent and amiable one, but unfortunately more suited to the Utopia of Sir Thomas More than the storm-beaten monarchy of the Bourbons; and experience has proved that such a policy, in presence of an ambitious and unscrupulous enemy, only postpones the danger to aggravate it. 4g The Assembly, by the fall of M. Decazes, and the Division of infusion of Royalist members into the Cabinet, was dithe Assem- vided differently from what it had hitherto been. The M^oecaMs' intermediate third party was extinguished by the fall of M. Decazes. The Royalists and Liberals now formed two great parties which divided the whole Assembly between them—the centre all adhered to the right or left. This circumstance rendered the situation of the Ministry more perilous in the outset, but more secure in the end; it was more difficult for them to gain a majority in the first instance, but, once gained, it was more likely to adhere permanently to them. It is a great evil, both for Government and Opposition, to have a third party between them, the votes of which may cast the balance either way; for it imposed upon both the necessity of often departing Chap,

[ocr errors]


from their principles, and avoiding immediate defeat by permanently degrading themselves in the eyes of the country. The Doctrinaires all retired with their chief, M. Decazes, but they voted on important questions with the new Ministry; and the abilities of M. Guizot, M. de Stael, M. de Barante, and M. de Saint-Aulaire, who i - vi formed the strength of that party, were too well known not to make their adhesion a matter of eager solicita- 312,314'; tion, and no slight manoeuvring, on both sides of the 394.*"*' Assembly.1

Two painful scenes took place before the measures of s0 the new Ministers were brought forward in the Chamber Punenii of of Deputies—the funeral of the Duke de Berri, and de Bcm, the trial and execution of his assassin. The body of the ?ionofecu prince was laid in state for several days in the Louvre, {ffjlSV and afterwards carried with every possible magnificence to the ancestral but now untenanted vaults of Saiut-Denis. The king, accompanied by the Duke and Duchess of Angouleme, attended the mournful ceremony, which was celebrated with every circumstance of external splendour which could impress the imagination, and every reality of woe wbich could melt the heart:—

"When a prince to the fate of a peasant has yielded,

The tapestry waves dark in the dim-lighted hall;
With scutcheons of silver the coffin is shielded.

And pages stand mute by the canopied pall;
Through the courts at deep midnight the torches are gleaming,
In the proudly-arched chapel the banners are beaming,
Far adown the long aisles sacred music is streaming,

Lamenting a chief of the people should fall."

Such was the emotion of the Duchess d'Angouleme at witnessing such a scene in such a place, that she sunk senseless on the pavement. One only ray of hope remained to the royal family, arising from the situation of the Duchess de Berri, which gave hopes that an heir might yet be preserved for the monarchy, and the hopes of the assassin blasted. That fanatical wretch was brought to trial, and condemned on the clearest evidence, fortified by his own

Chap, confession. He admitted the enormity of Ins crime, but IX" still insisted that on public grounds it was justifiable.*

1820. jj}8 answer8; when interrogated, evinced the deplorable atheism in •which the dreams of the Revolution ended. "I was sometimes a Catholic," said he, "sometimes a theophilanthropist." "Do you not fear the Divine jusiMoniteur ^ce &s^ed. the Prevost de Montmorency. "God is a ltSo-'kiiB mere name>" replied the assassin. He was executed on Hist.'iii. the 7th June, and evinced on the scaffold the same strange a. 888,891. indifference which had characterised his demeanour ever since the murder.1

The first measures of the new Ministers were di


Ministerial rected to the prosecution of the measures prepared thelessTon! by the former ones, arming Government with extra^nrt'the ordinary powers of arrest, and restraining the licen6nt- tiousness of the press. Much difficulty was at first experienced in arranging terms of accommodation with the Royalists on the right, so as to secure a majority in the Chambers, but at length the terms were agreed on; and these were, that the powers of arrest were to be conferred on Government for a limited period, that the press was to be restrained, and that a new electoral law was to be introduced, restoring the double step in elections. Nothing could equal the vehemence with which these laws were assailed by the Opposition, when they were introduced. That on the law of arrest was the first that came under discussion. "It belongs to the wisdom of the Chambers," said General Foy and Benjamin Constant, "to defend a throne which misfortune has rendered more august and more dear to fidelity. Let us beware lest, in introducing a law more odious than useful, we substitute for the present public grief other grounds of discontent which may cause the first to be forgotten. The

* "C'ctait une action horrible, c'oBt vrai," disait Louvel, "quand on tue un autre hommo: cela no peut passer pour vertu, c'est un crime. Je n'y aurais jamais e'tfi entralnd sans l'intfiret que je prenais a la nation suivant moi: jo croyais bien faire suivant mon idee."—Moniteur, June 4, 1820; Prods de Lourtl, 37.

« ForrigeFortsett »