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FrRevol_551-600.indd 19 3/16/12 1:14 PM CHAPTER VII Ofthe Constitutional Charter Granted hy the King in z8z4. I have a pride in here reminding the reader that the declaration signed by Louis XVIII at St. Ouen in 1814 contained almost all the articles in support of liberty proposed by M. Necker to Louis XVI in 1789, before the Revolution of the 14th of July burst forth. That declaration did not bear the date of a reign of nineteen years,1 in which lies the question of a divine right or a constitutional compact. The silence observed in that respect was extremely prudent, since it is clear that a representative government is irreconcilable with the doctrine ofdivine right. All the disputes between the English and their kings have arisen from that inconsistency. In fact, ifkings are absolute masters ofthe people, they ought to exact taxes instead ofasking for them; but if they have anything to ask from their subjects, it necessarily follows that they have also something to promise them. Moreover, the King ofFrance, having in r8r4 reascended the throne by the aid of a foreign force, his ministers ought to have suggested the idea of a contract with the nation, of the consent of its deputies; in short, the idea of anything that could convey a guarantee and bear evidence of the wish of Frenchmen, even if these principles had not been generally recognized in France. It was much to be apprehended that the army which had taken an oath to Bonaparte and had fought nearly twenty years under him should regard as null the oaths required by European powers. It was thus ofimportance to connect and blend the French 1. By using the phrase "De notre re'gne le dix-neuvieme" ("in the nineteenth year of our reign") to date the Charter on his return to France in r814, Louis XVIII implicitly claimed that his reign had started nineteen years earlier. This apparently minor detail implied that all previous regimes, including the empire, had been illegitimate. .56.9 FrRevol_551-600.indd 20 3/16/12 1:14 PM PART V military with the French people by all possible forms of voluntary acquiescence. What, it will be said, would you plunge us again in the anarchy of primary assemblies? By no means; that which public opinion called for was an abjuration of the system on which absolute power is founded, but the public would have aimed at no chicanery with the ministry of Louis XVIII in regard to the mode ofaccepting the constitutional charter. It would have been sufficient only to consider it as a contract, not as an edict of the King;2 for the Edict of Nantes of Henri IV was abolished by Louis XIV; and every act which does not rest on mutual engagements can be revoked by the authority from which it emanates. Instead of at least inviting the two chambers to choose the commissioners who were to examine the act ofconstitution, the ministers caused these commissioners to be named by the King. The chambers would very probably have elected the same men; but it is one of the errors of the ministers of the old government to want to introduce the royal authority everywhere, while one ought to make a sparing use ofthis authoritywherever it is not indispensably needed. All that we can allow a nation to do, without its leading to disorder, tends to extend information, to fortify public spirit, and increase the harmony between the government and the people. On the 4th ofJune, r8r4, the King came to the two chambers to make a declaration of the constitutional charter. His speech was full ofdignity, talent, and propriety; but his Chancellor3 began by calling the constitutional charter a decree of reform. What a fault! Did not this imply that what was granted by the King might be withdrawn by his successors? Nor was this all; in the preamble to the charter, it was said that power in all its plenitude was vested in the person of the King, but that its exercise had often been modified by the monarchs who preceded Louis XVIII, such as Louis VI, Philippe the Fair, Louis XI, Henri II, Charles IX, and 2. The use of the word "octroi" (concession) carried strong symbolic connotations that affirmed both the royal sovereignty and the continuity with the French monarchical tradition . As such, it eliminated any possibility ofconceiving ofthe Charter as a social contract (or social pact) between...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878636
Related ISBN
9780865977327
MARC Record
OCLC
836874520
Pages
834
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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