Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Unlike other polemical writings, which are usually altogether negative and dissolving, those of M. Guizot are eminently affirmative, governmental, and constituent. When the word right comes from his pen, you may be sure that the word duty is not far off; and never does he put his finger on an evil without indicating at once what seems to him a remedy.

At the height of strife with the ministry, M. Guizot was engaged in developing, from his professional chair, amid the applause of a youthful and numerous audience, the various phases of representative government in Europe, since the fall of the Roman empire, in the course of lectures given in the following pages. The minister revenged himself upon the professor for the assaults of the publicist: the lectures were interdicted in 1825. Retiring into private life, after having passed through high political functions, M. Guizot was still poor; but his pen remained to him. Renouncing the inflammatory questions of the moment, he undertook a series of great historical works, which the biographer may confidently praise; for his merits as an historian have never been denied. Then were successively published, the Collection des Memoires relatifs à la Revolution d'Angleterre; the Histoire de la Revolution d'Angleterre, en 1640; which forms one of the previous volumes of the European Library; a Collection des Memoires relatifs à l'Histoire de France; and, finally, Essais sur l'Histoire de France, a work by which he carried light into the dark recesses of the national origin. At the same time he presented the public with historical essays upon Shakespere and upon Calvin, a revised translation of the works of the great English dramatist, and a considerable number of political articles of a high order in the Revue Française.

In 1827, death deprived him of the companion of his labours-that beloved wife, whose lofty intelligence and moral strength had sustained him amid the agitations of his career. It was sad, though calm, philosophical, Christian, that parting scene between the husband and the dying wife, and their young son, soon about to follow his mother to the tomb. Though born and bred a catholic, Madame Guizot had just before this joined the faith of her husband; that husband now soothed the last moments of his beloved partner by

reading to her, in his grave, solemn, impressive tones, one of the finest productions of Bossuet, his funeral oration upon the Queen of England.'

Some time afterwards, M. Guizot became one of the most active members of the society Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera, the object of which was to defend, in all legal modes, the freedom of elections against the influence of power. The Villèle ministry fell, and that of Martignac restored M. Guizot to his professorial chair and to the circle of admiring students, whom he proceeded to delight with his lectures on the History of Civilization in France. A short time after the formation of the Polignac cabinet, he was elected deputy for Lisieux, and voted for the address of the 221, adding to his vote these words: "Truth has already trouble enough in penetrating to the council of kings; let us not send it there pale and feeble; let it be no more possible to mistake it than to doubt the loyalty of our sentiments." He wished to oblige power to live, but power was determined to die. On the 26th of July he returned from Nîmes to Paris; on the 27th he drew up the protest of the deputies against the ordinances a protest more respectful than hostile, manifesting a conservative spirit, dreading rather than desiring a revolution. Power deemed it seditious; the people pronounced it feeble and timid: events proved the people were right.

In the meeting at M. Lafitte's, on the 29th, when all minds were intoxicated with triumph, M. Guizot, ever exclusively occupied with the immediate necessity of regulating the revolution, rose and insisted upon the urgency of at once constituting a municipal commission whose especial duty should be the re-establishment and maintenance of order. On the 30th, this commission appointed him provisional minister of public instruction; on the 31st, he read in the chamber the proclamation conferring the lieutenant-generalship of the kingdom on the Duke of Orleans. During the period preceding the ceremony of the 9th of August, he was busied with the general recomposition of the administration of public affairs, and the revision of the charter, his organizing activity

1 M. Guizot, in 1828, married Mademoiselle Eliza Dillon, the niece of his first wife, according, it is said, to the earnest entreaties of the latter previous to her death.

having caused him to be transferred to the then most difficult post, the ministry of the interior. In a few days, seventy-six prefects, one hundred and seventy-six sub-prefects, thirtyeight secretaries-general, were removed and replaced. In the draft of the new charter, he endeavoured, but without success, to lower to twenty-five years the age required for eligibility as a representative.

The first ministry of July, formed in a moment of enthu siasm, was as ephemeral as the excitement of the three days. Personal differences, for a time effaced by great events and a common interest, re-appeared more marked than ever, when it became necessary to consolidate the work so rapidly effected The impulse was still too strong, too near its source, to be guided. The principle of order was compelled to yield to that of liberty; M. Guizot retired.

The history of the Lafitte cabinet is well known. After its dissolution on the 13th of March, the conservative element, at first trampled under foot, raised itself erect, potent, imperious, in the person of Casimir Perier. For the first time since July, a compact, resolute and durable majority was formed in the Chambers. This governmental army, hitherto undisci plined and confused, was divided into three distinct corps manoeuvring with unanimity and harmony, under the orders of the fiery minister-the left wing, composed of a goodly fraction of the old liberal opposition of the Restoration, was commanded by M. Thiers, the brilliant deserter from the camp of M. Lafitte; the right wing, formed of the old constitutional monarchists, marched under the banner of M. Guizot, the man of inflexible and conservative will; as to the centre, an aggregation of the undecided and wavering of all sides, it was astonished to find for the first time in M. Dupin, the most eccen · tric and restive of men, a chief obedient to the word of com、 mand and eager for the fray.

Supported by this triple phalanx, the ministry of the 13th was able to make head against opposition in the Chambers, to overcome insurrection in the streets, force the gates of Ancona, and consolidate the system established in July by rescuing it from the exaggeration of its principle.

After the death of Casimir Périer, his captains for some time disputed among themselves the command; M. Thiers and M. Guizot shook hands, and the cabinet of the 11th of

[ocr errors]

October, 1832 was formed. Upon the proceedings of their administration, M. Guizot exercised a sustained and often preponderant influence.

Whatever may be thought of their acts, there was one exclusively appertaining to the department of M. Guizotthat of public instruction-so glorious, that all parties, the most hostile to the man, have emblazoned it with unqualified approbation. The great and noble law of the 28th of June, 1833, as to primary instruction, conceived, prepared, sustained and executed by M. Guizot, will ever remain one of the grandest creations of our time: the principle of popular education, adopted and proclaimed by the Revolution of '89, but arrested by the social tumults of the last fifty years, at last received its full development beneath the auspices of M. Guizot. Eleven thousand parishes, that is to say, onefourth of France, previously destitute of that primary instruction which makes the honest man and the good citizen, have seen erected by the side of the humble parish church, the modest school-house, where the children of the poor resort for knowledge, that other bread of the soul which is to support them through the rough trials of life. Volumes might be formed of the detailed instructions addressed by M. Guizot, in reference to this law, to prefects, rectors, mayors, and committees of examination; they are models of precision and clearness. The finest of these productions is undoubtedly the circular to the teachers of the parishes. In its few pages there is, perhaps, as much true eloquence, as much poetry of style and of thought, as in the most admirable works of the epoch. With what touching familiarity does the minister stretch forth his hand to the poor, obscure village preceptor! how he elevates him in the eyes of all, and especially in his own! how he fills him with the importance of his mission! He is almost his friend, his colleague, his equal! For both are striving, each in his sphere, to secure the repose and glory of the country. And then with what paternal solicitude does the statesman, from the recesses of his cabinet, enter into the most insignificant details of the relations of the teacher with children, parents, the mayor, and the curate! "No sectarian or party spirit," he exclaims, your school; the teacher must rise above the fleeting quarrels which agitate society! Faith in Providence, the sanctity of

66

duty, submission to parental authority, respect for the laws, the prince, the rights of all, such are the sentiments he must seek to develop." Can there be anything more affecting than the following simple picture of the painful duties of the teacher and the consolations he must find within himself: "There is no fortune to be made, there is little renown to be gained in the painful obligations which the teacher fulfils. Destined to see his life pass away in a monotonous occupation, sometimes even to experience the injustice or ingratitude of ignorance, he would often be saddened, and perhaps would succumb, if he derived courage and strength from no other sources then the prospect of immediate or merely personal reward. He must be sustained and animated by a profound sense of the moral importance of his labours; the grave happiness of having served his fellow-creatures, and obscurely contributed to the public welfare, must be his compensation, and this his conscience alone can give. It is his glory not to aspire to aught beyond his obscure and laborious condition, to exhaust himself in sacrifices scarcely noticed by those whom they benefit, to toil, in short, for man, and to expect his recompence only from God."

Couple these pages of patriarchal gentleness with the pitiless language of M. Guizot in presence of a revolt; hear lim thundering from the tribune against the wicked tail of the Revolution; behold him reading Bossuet to his dying wife, or throwing with stoic hand the first piece of earth on the coffin of his son; and say, if there be not something strange, grand, immense, in this individuality, in which we find at once the fiery zeal of Luther, the unctuous mildness of Melancthon, the impassibility of Epictetus, the simple kindliness of Fenelon, and the inflexible severity of Richelieu.

After an existence of four years, the cabinet of the 11th of October was dissolved by two causes, one external, the other internal. The public perils at an end, it was deemed too repressive by the Chambers; the majority which had supported it was enfeebled and dislocated, whilst dissensions broke out in its councils between M. Guizot and M. Thiers. The former retired, but did not enter into open hostilities until the formation of the Molé ministry, on the 15th of April, 1838, the policy of which he thus severely denounced: "It is a policy without principle and without banner, made up of expedients and pretexts, ever tottering, leaning on

« ForrigeFortsett »