Richelieu found his situation so painful, with a decided Chap.

majority hostile to him in the Chamber, that, after some IX*

conference with the Count d'Artois, in which it was found 1821, impossible to come to an understanding, he resolved on resigning with all his colleagues, which was accordingly done on the 13th December.

According to established usage, the Duke de Richelieu


advised the king whom to send for, to form the new Minis- The new try, and he of course recommended M. de Villele. There MimstI7, was no difficulty in forming a Government; the near approach of the crisis had been so long foreseen, that the Royalists had their arrangements all complete. M. de Villele was President of the Council and Minister of Finance; M. de Peyronnet, Secretary of State and Minister of Justice; Viscount Montmorency, Minister for Foreign Affairs; M. Corbiere, Minister of the Interior; Marshal Victor, of War; the Marquis ClermontTonnerre, of the Marine. In addition to this, the ex-ministers, M. de Serres, General Latour-Maubourg, Count Simeon, Baron Portal, and M. Roy, were appointed members, as usual on such occasions, of the Privy Council; and, in addition, Latour-Maubourg was appointed Governor of the Invalides. The Ministerial revolution was complete; the Royalists were in entire possession of the government, and the change in all subordi- . nate, as well as the principal offices, was thorough and universal. The king would probably never have consented to so entire a revolution, had he possessed the bodily or mental vigour which he did in the earlier parts of his reign. But this was very far from being the case. His health, which had been long declining, had now become so feeble that his life was almost despaired of; and he had fallen into that state of dependence on those around him, which such a state of debility generally produces. To a monarch who was not able to rise from his chair, who was wheeled about the room, and required to be tended almost with the care of an infant, the

Chap, influence of Monsieur, the Duchess d'Angouleme, and Ix* the Countess Du Cayla, was irresistible. Louis, in fact, 1821- had almost resigned the reigns of government to his brother. He regarded his reign as having terminated with the retirement of the Duke de Richelieu. "At last," said he, "M. de Villele triumphs: I know little of the men who are entering my Council along with him: I believe, however, that they have good sense • Moniurar enough n°t *° follow blindly all the follies of the Right. Dm. is, For the rest I consider myself annihilated from this

1821; Ann. '...

Hist. iv. moment: I undergo the usual fate of constitutional


vii.247.' monarchs: hitherto, at least, I have defended my crown; if my brother casts it to the winds, it is his affair."1 The fall of M. de Richelieu's administration, and the


Reflections accession of a purely Royalist Government, was so great event'.* a change in France, that it was equivalent to a revolution. Nothing appears so extraordinary as that such an event should have taken place, iu consequence of a parliamentary majority, so soon after the period when the tide of Liberal opinions set in so strongly in the nation that two successive coups d'6tat had been deemed necessary by the Government, in September 1816 and March 1819, to mould the two branches of the legislature in conformity with it. But many similar examples of rapid change of opinion, and the setting in of entirely opposite flood-tides of opinion, are to be found both in the previous and subsequent annals of that country; and they are not without a parallel both in the ancient and recent history of this. Whoever studies the changes of public opinion in the reign of Charles II., which within a few years led to the frightful judicial massacres of the Papists, and the inhuman severities of the RyeHouse Plot—or recollects that the same nation which brought in Sir Robert Peel by a majority of 91 in 1841, in the House of Commons, to support Protection, ten years afterwards obliged Lord Derby to abandon it— will see, that, though the variations of opinion in Great Britain arc not quite so rapid as in France, they are Chap. not less remarkable, nor less decisive in their results. IX"

No doubt, the great change in the Electoral Law of mim France, carried through with so much difficulty by the Great efDuke de Richelieu's administration, contributed largely change in" to this result. The new principle introduced by that ^raM!aw. law, of giving the departmental electors representatives of their own in the Chamber, and of having them chosen, not by the electors generally, but by a fourth of their number who paid the highest amount of taxes, was a great change, not merely in its numerical results, upon the composition of the Chamber, but in the principle of representation itself. It was a return from the principle of the Revolution, which was that of a mere representation of numbers, to the general ancient representative system of Europe, which was that of classes. It was an abandonment of the principle of uniform representation, the most pernicious which can possibly be engrafted on the constitutional system, because it tends at once to introduce class government, and that of the very worst, because the most irresponsible kind. Some one class inevitably, under such a system, acquires the majority in the elections and in the legislature; and the moment it does so, and feels its strength, it commences and carries through a series of measures calculated for its own benefit, without the slightest regard to the effect they may have upon the interest of other classes, or the general prosperity of the state. The only way to check this is to introduce into the legislature the representatives of other classes, elected under a different suffrage, and thus prevent the selfishness of one class from becoming paramount, by permitting the selfishness of another class to combat it.

But although the introduction of the hundred and sixty departmental members, elected by "les plus imposes," was a most important step, and one in the right direction, yet another step was wanting to give the French nation Chap, a proper representation. This was a representation of IX' numbers. To base the whole legislature upon theui is 18aL doubtless to introduce class government of the worst Defects of kind; but it is also a great mistake, which in the end senuuTM may be attended with fatal consequences, to exclude SS^.1" them from the representation altogether. The interests of labour are not only not identical with those of monied wealth, but they are often adverse to it: the sequel of this history will place this beyond a doubt, with respect to the British islands. The condition of the great body of the working classes may not only be noways benefited, but essentially injured, by a representation resting entirely on property, especially of a commercial kind; because measures injurious to their welfare may be passed into law by the class which alone is represented. As the representative system of the Restoration in France, even when amended by the act of 1820, contained no provision whatever for the representation of the working classes, by allowing no vote except to those paying at least 300 francs yearly of direct taxes, it was wanting in a most important element both of utility and general confidence. It will appear in the sequel how large a share this defect had in inducing the great catastrophe which, ten years afterwards, proved fatal to the dynasty of the Restoration.

Connected with this great defect in the French repreUndue as- sentatire system was another circumstance, attended in the Parti- the end with consequences not less disastrous. This was, FretTM. fjfog^ while labour was unrepresented, religion was too much represented. This was the natural, and, in truth, uuavoidable result of the irreligious spirit of the Revolution: the reaction was as violent as the action; its opponents conceived, with reason, that it could be combated only with the weapons and with the fervour of the ancient faith. The class of considerable proprietors, in whom a decided majority of the Chamber of Deputies was now vested, was attached to this party from principle, tradition, and interest. But although it is impossible to over- Chap.


estimate the salutary influence of religion on human'

society, it unhappily does not equally follow that the imascendancy of its professors in the legislature is equally beneficial. Experience has too often proved that the Parti-PrUre is perhaps the most dangerous that can be intrusted with the administration of affairs. The reason is, that those who direct are not brought into contact with men in the actual business of life, and they deem it their duty to be regulated, not by expedience, or even practicability, but solely by conscience. This disposition may make courageous martyrs, but it produces very bad legislators; it is often noble in adversity, but always perilous in prosperity. Power is the touchstone which the Romish Church has never been able to withstand, as suffering is the ordeal from which it has never failed to emerge, surrounded by a halo of glory. The danger of this party holding, as they now did, the reins of power, supported by a large majority in both Chambers, was much increased by the circumstance, that, though the peasants in the country were, for the most part, under the influence of the ancient faith, it was held in abhorrence by the majority of the working classes in the great towns, who were, at the same time, without any legal channel whereby to make their feelings influential in the legislature, but in possession of ample resources to disturb the established government.

Although the change in the Electoral Law was the immediate cause of the majority which the Royalists now cause of got in the Chamber, yet the real and ultimate cause is to tion against be looked for in circumstances of wider extension and stStutiou»?" more lasting effects. It was the violence and crimes of the Liberal party over Europe which produced the general reaction against them. It was the overthrow of government in Spain, Portugal, Naples, and Piedmont, and the absurd and ruinous institutions established in their stead, which alarmed every thinking man in France: the

« ForrigeFortsett »