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FrRevol_601-650.indd 8 3/16/12 1:15 PM CHAPTER XII What Should Have Been the Conduct ofthe Friends ofLiberty in z8z4? The friends ofliberty, we have already said, could alone have contributed in an efficacious manner to the establishment ofconstitutional monarchy in 1814; but how ought they to have acted at that period? This question, no less important than the former, deserves also to be treated. We shall discuss it frankly, since we, for our own part, are persuaded that it was the duty of all good Frenchmen to defend the Restoration and the constitutional charter. Charles Fox, in his history of the two last kings ofthe House ofStuart, says that "a restoration is commonly the most dangerous, and the worst, ofall revolutions." He was right in applying this maxim to the two reigns of Charles II and James II, whose history he was writing; he saw, on the one side, a new dynasty which owed its crown to liberty, whilst the old dynasty thought itself despoiled of its natural right by the limitation of absolute power, and consequently avenged itself on all those who had entertained such intentions. The principle ofhereditary succession, so indispensable in general to the repose of nations, was necessarily averse to it on this occasion. The English then did very wisely in calling to the throne the Protestant branch, and without this change their constitution would never have been established. But when the chance of hereditary succession has given you for a monarch such a man as Louis XVIII, whose serious studies and quietude of mind are in harmony with constitutional liberty; and when, on the other hand, the chief of a new dynasty showed himself, during fifteen years, to be the most violent despot of modern times, how can such a combination in any way remind us of the wise William III and the sanguinary and superstitious James II? 6o8 FrRevol_601-650.indd 9 3/16/12 1:15 PM CHAPTER XII. ConductoJFriendsofLibertyin 1814 William III, although he owed his crown to election, often found that the manners of liberty were not very gracious and would, if he had been able, have made himself a despot like his father-in-law. Sovereigns ofancient date think themselves, it is true, independent of the choice of the people; the popes, in like manner, think themselves infallible; the nobles are proud of their genealogy; every man and every class have their disputed pretensions. But what was there to fear at this time from those pretensions in France? Liberty had nothing to dread at the time of the First Restoration but the very calamity which befell it: a military commotion bringing back a despotic chief, whose return and whose defeat served as a pretext and a motive for the establishment of foreign armies in France. Louis XVIII possessed the essence ofa magistrate in his mind and his disposition. In as much as it would be absurd to consider time past as the despot of the present, no less would it be desirable to add, when it can be done, the support of the one to the improvement of the other. The upper chamber had the advantage ofinspiring some great lords with a taste for new institutions. In England the most decided enemies ofarbitrary power are found among the patricians of the first rank; and it would be a great happiness for France if the nobility would at length acquire a knowledge of, and an attachment for, free institutions. There are qualities connected with illustrious birth of which it would be fortunate that the state could avail itself. A people made only of the bourgeois could with difficulty establish itself in the midst of Europe unless it had recourse to military aristocracy, the most fatal of all to liberty. Civil wars must end by mutual concessions, and already the great lords were observed yielding to liberty in order to please the King; the nation would have gained ground every day; the trackers of power, who scent where it lies and throw themselves on its path, did not then cling to the extreme royalists. The army began to assume a liberal tone; this was, in truth, because it regretted the loss of its former influence in the state; but at all events the cause of reason derived advantage from its ill-humor. We heard Bonaparte's generals endeavoring to speak of the liberty of the press, ofthe liberty ofthe person; to pronounce those phrases which they had received...

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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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