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FrRevol_551-600.indd 25 3/16/12 1:14 PM CHAPTER VIII Ofthe Conduct ofthe Ministry During the First Year ofthe Restoration. Several English writers on politics advance that history shows the impossibility ofgetting a constitutional monarchy adopted with sincerity by a race of princes who have enjoyed unlimited authority during several centuries. The French ministry in 1814 had only one method of refuting this opinion: this was by manifesting in everything the superior mind of the King, to a degree that might convince the public that he yielded voluntarily to the improved knowledge of his age; because, if he lost as a sovereign, he gained as an enlightened man. The King on his return personally produced this salutary impression on those who had contact with him; but several ofhis ministers seemed to make a point ofdestroying this great advantage produced by the wisdom of the monarch. A man since raised to an eminent station said, in an address to the King in the name of the department of the Lower Seine, that the Revolution had been nothing else than a twenty-five-year rebellion. By pronouncing these words, he disqualified himself from being useful in public affairs; for if this revolution be nothing else than a revolt, why consent to its operating a change in all our political institutions, a change consecrated by the constitutional charter? Consistency required that this objection should be answered by saying that the charter was a necessary evil to which people ought to submit so long as the misfortunes of the times required. How could such a mode of thinking be calculated to inspire confidence? How could it confer any stability or any strength on an order of things nominally established? A certain party considered the constitution as a wooden dwelling, the inconveniences ofwhich were tobe borne FrRevol_551-600.indd 26 3/16/12 1:14 PM PART V with during the interval necessary to reconstruct the true mansion, the old government.' In public the ministers spoke of the charter with the greatest respect, particularly when they proposed measures which were destroying it piece by piece; but, in private, they smiled at the name of this charter, as if the rights of a nation were an admirable topic for pleasantry. What frivolity, good heavens! and this on the brink ofan abyss! Is there, then, in the habits of courts something which perpetuates levity of mind even to advanced age? Gracefulness is often the result of this levity, but it costs dearly in the serious periods of history. The first proposition submitted to the legislative body was the suspension of the liberty of the press. The ministry cavilled about the words of the charter, which were as clear as possible; and the newspapers were subjected to censorship.2 If it was thought that the newspapers could not yet be left to themselves, it was at least incumbent on the ministry, after becoming responsible for their contents, to commit the direction of these papers (now official by the mere circumstance of the censorship) to wise men who would in no case permit the least insult to the French nation. How strange that a party evidently the weaker, weak to a high degree, as 1. On the one hand, the ultras accused the authors of the Charter of trying to import and artificially copy the English (unwritten) constitution without paying due attention to the old traditions and mores of France. Their motto was "Restons Fran,cais et ne sayanspas Anglais!" ("Let us remain French and not be English!") On the other hand, the ultras sought to downplay the novelty ofthe Charter by arguing that the latter was grounded on the same principles that had previously underpinned the institutions of the Old Regime. This thesis appears, for example, in Vitrolles' writings (as well as in Montlosier's De Ia monarchiefran- ,caise, r8q). 2. The Law of October 21, r8q, seemed to contradict Article 8 of the Charter of r814 recognizing freedom of the press as a fundamental principle of the new political order: "Frenchmen have the right to publish and to have printed their opinions, while conforming to the laws which are necessary to restrain abuses of that liberty." Nonetheless, the Charter left open the possibility of temporary (preventive) forms of censorship in order to prevent and/or punish certain abuses of freedom of the press committed by those who sought to use the press to subvert the foundations of the new political order. This was the motivation...

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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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