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قراءة كتاب Memoirs of the Private Life, Return, and Reign of Napoleon in 1815, Vol. I

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Memoirs of the Private Life, Return, and Reign of Napoleon in 1815, Vol. I

Memoirs of the Private Life, Return, and Reign of Napoleon in 1815, Vol. I

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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Emperor himself. For when Napoleon bade farewell to his trusty soldiers, it was in these words: "Be faithful to the new sovereign of France; do not rend asunder our beloved and long-suffering land."

These circumstances (nor must the charm of novelty be excluded) united in favour of the king, and won every head and every heart. He appeared—he was received with acclamations of love and gladness, which resounded until he entered the palace of his forefathers.

No counter revolution ever effected the change of a royal dynasty, under such favourable auspices.

The French nation felt jaded by civil dissensions, by misfortune—even their victories had weaned them. They longed for the happiness of repose. Memorable were the words of the king's brother; "let us forget the past, let us look only towards the future, let us all unite in the good work of labouring to heal the wounds of our common country;" and these honoured precepts had become implanted in every mind. They formed the canon of all our feelings and all our duties.

As long as the machinery of the new government did not begin to work, this loyal harmony subsisted, and no longer. For when it became necessary to settle the organization of the army, the ministry, and the magistracy, then self-love gained an easy victory over patriotism, and the bad passions, pride, ambition, and party-hatred, roused themselves from their slumber.

During a quarter of a century, our emigrants had sojourned in a strange country. Useless and troublesome guests to the strangers by whom they were fed, their lives had been droned away in shameless and cowardly idleness. They could not cheat themselves into a belief that they possessed the talents and experience of the sons of the revolution. But they imagined that nobility, as in the old time, might pass for worth; and that their patents and pedigrees still gave them a right to monopolize all power and all honour.

The citizens, the soldiers, the nation, relied on the lawfulness of their rights no less than on the promises of the king. The members of the old privileged caste, instead of exciting suspicion, were only the objects of harmless mirth. The people laughed at the grotesque appearance of some, and at the decrepit sottishness of others. They never dreamed that these pretended warriors, whose bloodless swords had rusted in their scabbards, would attempt to snatch the staff of command from the veteran generals of France; and that nobles who had grown old in sloth and ignorance would aspire to the direction of public affairs.

But though merit and valour were denied to them, they stood upon a vantage ground, which gave them a direful and incalculable preponderance in the state. They surrounded the throne. Soon did their insolence announce that they had craftily availed themselves of the advantages which they possessed; and we foresaw with affliction that inveterate prejudice, malignant prepossessions, and old habits of familiarity, would, sooner or later, crush the principles of justice and equity, however solemnly proclaimed.

The emigrants, rendered arrogant by the prospects which opened upon them, now treated their rivals with contemptuous disdain. They dared not insult the defenders of our country face to face, because the scars of the warriors scared them. But they were spitefully active in disparaging their birth, their services, and their glory, and these noble retainers of royalty took care to impress the soldiers of Napoleon with a due sense of the width of the gulf which was henceforth to separate a gentleman of good family, from an upstart soldier of the revolution.

The women of the ancien régime did not share in the timidity which, to a certain degree, still restrained their husbands. They threw off all decency and all reserve, and indulged in all the fury of their spite and pride. Without attempting to disguise their sentiments, they openly insulted the titled dames belonging to the new nobility, and such of the latter as were compelled to go to court on account of the situations held by their husbands, never entered the saloon without dread, and never quitted it without being bathed in tears.

Uneasy, harassed, and discontented, the people implored the fulfilment of the king's promises: they prayed with confidence; but the government heard them not, and repulsed them harshly. The Doge of Genoa, speaking of Louis XIV, said, "his majesty steals our hearts by his amiability, but his ministers give them back again to us." The apophthegm of the Doge might have been pertinently applied to Louis XVIII. by the people.

Hitherto the government appeared to adhere to the resolution of dealing out impartial justice to both parties, and of performing the covenant which the new monarch had entered into with the nation. But now he was bound by an influence which he could not withstand. Ensnared by the machinations, the threats, and the fears of his emigrant court, and perhaps believing that the new order of things was incompatible with the stability of the Bourbon dynasty, the maxims of his government underwent a total change. He was taught to consider the equality of civil rights as a revolutionary conquest, the liberties of the nation as an usurpation of the authority of the throne, the new constitution as insulting the independence of the sovereign. It was therefore determined that all "dangerous characters[5]" should be led quietly out of all civil and military offices. The old trustworthy nobility of the old kingdom were again to become the sole depositaries of the power of the state: and by slow but sure degrees it was resolved to cancel the royal charter, and either by fair means or by foul, to place the nation again beneath the yoke of absolute power.

The government often appealed to the authority of the King's predecessor on the throne—of Bonaparte. Bonaparte, it was said, had acknowledged that it was dangerous to concede a representative government to the people, and that it was fit and proper to rule them despotically. But Napoleon, he who re-established the authority of royalty, morality, and religion—who had re-organized society—who had given tranquillity to France, at the same time that he rendered her formidable to the world—he had earned his authority by his services and his victories, and, if I may venture to use the expression, he had acquired a legitimate right of despotism, which neither belonged, nor could belong, to a Bourbon. Besides which, in spite of the real or pretended despotism of the imperial government, it was still a national government; a character wholly foreign to the Bourbon government, and which it had no tendency to acquire.

The prognostics of the re-action which the ministers intended to bring about were disclosed in all parts of the body politic. Alarm seized even the Chamber of Deputies: it hastened to become the organ of the uneasiness of the people, and to remind the King of the warranty which he had given to the nation.

In the address, or rather in the protest presented by the chamber on the 15th of June, the national representatives say, "The charter secures to the voice of truth every channel which leads to the throne, since it consecrates the liberty of the press, and the right of petition.

"Amongst the guarantees which it contains, the nation will attend to that which insures the

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