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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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responsibility of any minister who may betray the confidence reposed in him by your Majesty, by trespassing on the public or private rights insured by the constitutional charter.

"By virtue of this charter, nobility in all future times will only command the respect of the people as surrounded by proofs of honour and glory, which the recollections of feudality will not have the power of tarnishing.

"The principles of civil liberty are founded upon the independence of judicial authority, and the retention of trial by jury, that invaluable guarantee of all our rights."

If the King had known the truth, this energetic address would have attained its end. But the truth could not reach him. At first he intended to bestow his personal confidence upon the greater part of the leading "notables" of the revolution; but by means of remonstrances and recriminations, another party contrived to place his good sense again under the yoke of prejudice, and he surrounded himself with old nobility alone, with men who had refused to obey the constitution sanctioned by Louis XVI., because it destroyed their privileges; and who, for the same reason, had refused to acknowledge the new constitution, against which they had even dared to protest. His companions were so blinded, so besotted by their presumption, that they imagined that decrees and ordinances gave them the faculty of overturning the edifice which the nation had erected during five and twenty years of revolution. His confidents were those alone who, instead of wishing to reveal to their sovereign the object of the projects of the ministry, and of the faction which had rendered the ministry their tools, had become the accomplices of ministerial guilt, joint conspirators in the plot which was to destroy the royal charter.

The cabinet contained, however, some able and experienced statesmen. They were convinced that instead of teasing the nation by holding out the probability of the restoration of ancient privileges, it was the duty of government to tranquillize the country by guaranteeing the stability of the new system of polity. These ministers were aware of the impolicy of attempting to re-establish the monarchy on its ancient principles; because by such an attempt it would be deprived of the only advantage which it possessed over the late government—that of being liberal. And, lastly, they felt that if despotism and violence had been the distinguishing characteristics of the government of Napoleon, it was necessary that moderation and justice should be the attributes of the government of a Bourbon.

But they had not sufficient authority or personal influence to enable them to struggle against the emigrants, and the protectors of the emigrant faction. In the council chamber their opinions, often well concerted, and always benevolent, were sanctioned and approved. Out of the council, each minister acted according to his own plans; and, unfortunately, those departments which ramify most deeply into the nation and its affairs were confided to men who seemed to think that they were bound to irritate and sour the public mind.

General Dupont obtained the important office of minister of the war department, as a reward due to his proscription. According to the government party, the general had been proscribed by the Emperor. An odious name was thus given to the lenient punishment which had been inflicted upon Dupont, he who had shuffled off the allegiance which he owed to his Emperor, and whose cowardice had surrendered into captivity the legions intrusted to his command[6]. Weak, indolent, irresolute, devoid of character and resources, he never had the wish or the ability of becoming any thing else than the pliant functionary of the court and the ruling courtiers.

Another, the Abbé de Montesquiou, received the "porte-feuille" of the home department. When a member of the Constituent Assembly he had been honourably distinguished by his soft and persuasive eloquence. The temperance of his public conduct seemed to be insured by his personal character; he was a servant of the altar, his health was delicate, he had lived long in quiet retirement. But Montesquiou, meek, mild, and timid as long as he was in the background, became scornful, angry, and overbearing the instant that he stepped into power. He detested and despised the revolution—I may almost say, he detested and despised the nation. This sentiment was the principle which guided him. Montesquiou never deigned to inquire whether any given portion of our polity was sound or useful, whether it had been formed with difficulty, whether it could be modified, or ameliorated, or fitted into existing circumstances. He only inquired into the date of its institution—and the date decided the question.

A third, Dambray, the chancellor, and the chief law officer of the nation, had distinguished himself in his youth as a Judge of Parliament. His credit arose from his prudence and his principles no less than from his talents. He had been long since recalled to his country. During the reign of Napoleon he fulfilled the duties of a citizen and a subject with zeal and fidelity. We never doubted but that he would protect those constitutional forms of government under which he had flourished in peace and honour. Scarcely, however, was the Chancellor clothed in his robe, when he became the oppressor of the magistracy, the antagonist of our new system of jurisprudence, and the dull partisan of those slavish forms and barbarous customs and oppressive edicts, which had been long since annihilated by reason, liberty, and knowledge.

The trust reposed in this portion of the cabinet was a source of unhappiness to the nation, but it was not the only one. Louis, according to the promises held out on his restoration, was to reign in person; and the more the French have ever been desirous to obey their sovereign with cheerful alacrity, the greater is the repugnance which they feel to submit to the orders of his minions. Dismay, therefore, prevailed throughout the kingdom when we learnt that Louis, weakened by an obstinate and painful disease, had entirely divested himself of his royal authority in favour of Monsieur de Blacas. And how much more painful did our consternation become, when we were able to understand the views and projects of this Mayor of the palace, and when we ascertained the baneful extent of his ascendancy.

It was impossible that the royal government, including such elements in its composition, could retain its hold on public opinion. It was seen too clearly that the effects of a despicable coterie would tend either to involve our country in a civil war, or overwhelm us again with the wretchedness and slavery from which we had been delivered by the revolution.

The absolute necessity of rising in opposition to these nefarious attempts was felt by the entire country. Not a man would remain neuter.

During the earliest period of the reign of Louis, the emigrant faction comprehended nothing but the party composed of the relics of the ancient privileged cast. The parvenus of the imperial government alone constituted the so called Bonapartists. Considering their private gratification and profit as of greater importance than the public cause, each party had hitherto only wrangled for place and power. Their

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