Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Chap. unsuccessful prosecutions weaken it; verdicts of juries, so

. powerful on public opinion, might destroy it. In a word,

1820- it is necessary to supply the deficiency of repressive, by augmenting the strength of preventive checks; and this can only be done by the censorship. It is in vain to object to such a power, that it may be converted into the arm of a party. Doubtless it might be so; but that party is the party of France—of the Bourbons—of the charter of freedom. That party must be allowed to triumph, for it is that of regular government. The time has arrived when we must say to the people, 'The danger with which you are menaced does not come from your governors ; it comes from yourselves—from the factions, in whose eyes nothing is fixed, nothing sacred, and which, abandoned to their senseless furies, would not F^rifl"' scruplc to trample every law under their feet. It is from 1820; Ann. them that we must wrest their arms, under pain of perish65,66. mg in case of failure, for they aim at nothing short of universal ruin.'"1 6g The Doctrinaires, who felt that their influence was Resuit'of mainly dependent on strength of intellect, and dreaded March*).' any restriction upon its expression, almost all voted against the Government on this occasion in the Chamber of Deputies; and in the Peers, M. de Chateaubriand, whose ardent genius revolted at the idea of restraint, was also ranged against them. The Right Centre, however, with that exception, nearly unanimously adhered; and the result showed how nearly the parties were balanced, now that the Chamber was divided into two only. In the Peers the numbers were 106 to 104; in the lower house, 136 to 110. It is remarkable that, on so vital a point for public freedom, the majority was so much greater in the Commons than the Peers. On the day after the final division in the *Moniuur, Chamber of Deputies, a commission was appointed by the 1820; Ann. Minister of the Interior to examine all periodical journals 66,66) w. before their publication, and the censorship came into full operation.2

Experience has confirmed the assertion here made, that Chap.

no government has ever been established in France, since .—

the Revolution, -which has been able to stand for any length of time against the unrestricted assaults of the Reflections public press. Whether it is from the vehemence and J18 5U' pi-oneness to change in the French character, or from the absence of that steadying mass of fixed interests, which, like the fly-wheel in the machine, steadies its movements, and restrains the actions of the moving power, the fact is certain. No dynasty or administration has ever existed for any length of time, which had not contrived somehow or other to restrain the violence of the periodical press. There is more here than a peculiarity of national temperament, to which, on this side of the Channel, we are so apt to ascribe it. It points to a great truth, of general application and lasting importance to mankind—that is, that the public press is only to be relied on as the bulwark either of freedom or good government, where classes exist in society, and interests in the state, which render the support of truth a matter of immediate profit to those engaged in the great work of enlightening or directing the public mind. Individuals of a noble and lofty character will, indeed, often be found who will sacrifice interest to the assertion of truth, but they are few in number; and though they may direct the thinking few, they cannot be expected, in the first instance at least, to have much influence on the unthinking many. The ability of those engaged in the public press is in general very great; but it is like the ability of the bar—it is employed to support the views which suit the interests of its clients, and more occupied with objects of present interest than with those of ultimate importance. Those who live by the people must please the people. There is no security so complete alike for stable government and public freedom as a free press, when great interests on both sides exist in society, and the national talent is equally divided in pleading their cause respectively. But where, either from the violence of pre

Chap, vious convulsions, or any other cause, only one prevailing IX' interest is left in society, the greater part of the public

1820- press at once ranges itself"on its side: the other is never heard; or, if heard, never attended to. The chains are thrown over the minds of men, and a free press becomes, as in republican America, the organ of the mandates of a tyrant majority; or, as in imperial France, the instrument of a military despotism. go Government soon found that the decree directed against Alarming the periodical press had neither extinguished the freedom country, of thought nor taken away the arms of faction. The ^mS." journals, being fettered by the censorship, took refuge in Govern- pamphlets, which were not subjected to it, and Paris soon mont- was overrun with brochures which assailed Government with the utmost fury, and, on the plea that it had departed from the constitutional regime, indulged in the most uncontrolled violence of language. Not the Ministry merely, the dynasty was openly assailed; and then, for the first time, there appeared decisive evidence of the great conspiracy which had been organised in France against the Bourbons. As long as the electoral system was established on such a footing as gave them a near prospect of dispossessing the Crown by legislative means, this conspiracy was kept in abeyance; but now that a quasi-Royalist Ministry was in power, and there was a chance of a change in the Electoral Law which might defeat their projects, they became entirely undisguised in their measures, and openly menaced the throne. In these arduous circumstances the conduct of Government was firm, and yet temperate. Prosecutions were instituted against the press, which, in some instances, were successful, and in some degree tended to check its licentiousness. The army, moreover, was firm, and could be relied on for the discharge of its duty ;1 which was the more fortunate i,C7a,Pi'I'1 an(l meritorious on its part, that a great portion of its n'm' officers were veterans of Napoleon's army, and that the greatest efforts had been made by the Liberal party to seduce both them and those on half-pay into the treason- Chap. able designs ■which were in contemplation. Aware of the

approach of danger, the Minister of War drew the Royal 1820Guard nearer to Paris, and arranged its station so that in six hours two-thirds of its force might be concentrated at any point in the capital which might be menaced.

An untoward circumstance occurred at this juncture, which, although trivial in ordinary times, now considerably nenun'ciaaugmented the difficulties of Government. A magistrate tm*go? at Mmes, M. Madier, a respectable but injudicious andvernmentcredulous man, presented a petition to the Chamber of Deputies, in which he stated that, some days after the death of the Duke de Berri, two circulars had been sent to Nimes, not from the Minister of the Interior, but from the Royalist committee, denouncing M. Decazes, and directing the Royalists to organise themselves as for ulterior events.* It was evident from the tenor of these circulars, which without doubt had emanated from the Royalist committee at Paris, that they related only to electioneering preparations, in the event of a dissolution of the Chambers taking place in consequence of the change of Ministry; and that when the retreat of M. Decazes was secured, nothing more was intended to be done. But this petition and the revelation of the Royalist circulars served as an admirable handle to the Liberal party, who pointed to it as a proof of a secret government, which counteracted all the measures of the responsible one, and was preparing the entire ruin of the public liberties. Vehement debates followed on the subject in the Chamber of Deputies, in the course of which the "factious person

* "Ne Boyez ni surpria ni effragds quoique l'attentat du 13 Fevrier n'ait pas amend sur-le-champ la chuto du Favori; agissez comme s'il (Udt deja renvoye'. Nous l'arracherons do cc posto si on ne consent pas a Ton bannir: en attendant, organisez-vous; les avis, les ordres, l'argent no vous raanqueront pas." Another—" Nous vous demandions il y a peu de jours une attitude imposante, nous vous recommandons aujourd'hui le calme, nous veuons de remporter un avantage decisif en foisant chasser Decazes: de grands services peuvent vous etre rendus par le nouveau ministiro: il faut bien vous garder de lui montrer des sentiments hoatilos."—Capbfiqub, v. 11.

Chap. age" near the throne, from whom they all emanated, was IX' openly denounced, and a motion was even brought forward 1820. for an address to the Crown to dismiss the new Ministers. The proposal was negatived, but the object was gained; iii*2i7^i9- public mind was agitated, and the people were prccaP. vil is, pared to embrace the idea that the continuance of the

21; Lac. u. \ . . . - ,

403,407. Ministry was inconsistent with the preservation ot the public liberties.1 g2 It was in this agitated state of the public mind that Material Ministers were charged with the arduous duty of bringing neweiec- forward their new law of election—the most dangerous and exciting topic which it was possible for them to broach, but which was made an indispensable condition of the Royalist alliance with the Centre in support of the Government. No small difficulty was experienced, however, in effecting a compromise on the subject, and adjusting a project in which the coalescing parties might agree; but at length, by the indefatigable efforts of M. Simeon, M. Pasquier, and M. Mounicr, the terms were agreed to on both sides, and were as follows: Two classes of colleges of electors—one of the departments, the other of the arrondissements. The electoral college of each department was to consist of a fifth part of the whole electors paying the highest taxes; the electoral colleges of the arrondissements were to consist of the whole remainder of the electors having their domicile within their limits. The electoral colleges of the arrondissements named bya simple majorityas many candidates as the department was entitled to elect; and the college of the department chose from among them the deputies to send to the Chamber. This project was imperfect in its details, and drawn up in haste; but it tended to remove the grand evil of the existing system—the election ..of the whole Chamber by one uniform class of electors:

"Cap. vil. 7

26,27. and as such it was promised the support of the Doctrinaires and a large part of the centre of the Assembly.2 The discussion was brilliant and animated in both

« ForrigeFortsett »