Influence of the late Revolution in France.—General Lafayette—Sketch of his Private Life.—My visits to him.—His opinion of Louis XVI.—Mr. Morris and Mr. Crawford.—Duplicity of Louis XVIII.—Charles X.—Marie Antoinette.—Legitimacy of the Duc de Bordeaux.—Discovery of the Plot of 1822.—Lafayette's conduct on that occasion.—A negro Spy.—General Knyphausen.—Louis-Philippe and Lafayette.—My visit to Court.—The King, the Queen, Madame Adelaide, and the Princesses.—Marshal Jourdan.—The Duke of Orleans.—Interview with the King.—"Adieu l'Amérique!"—Conversation with Lafayette.—The Juste Milieu.—Monarchy not inconsistent with Republican Institutions.—Party in favour of the Duc de Bordeaux.
Paris, February, 1832.
Your speculations concerning the influence of the late revolution, on the social habits of the French, are more ingenious than true. While the mass of this nation has obtained less than they had a right to expect by the severe political convulsions they have endured, during the last forty years, they have, notwithstanding, gained something in their rights; and, what is of far more importance, they have gained in a better appreciation of those rights, as well as in the knowledge of the means to turn them to a profitable and practical account. The end will show essential improvements in their condition, or rather the present time shows it already. The change in polite society has been less favourable, although even this is slowly gaining in morals, and in a healthier tone of thought. No error can be greater, than that of believing France has endured so much, without a beneficial return.
In making up my opinions of the old regime, I have had constant recourse to General Lafayette for information. The conversations and anecdotes already sent you, will have prepared you for the fine tone, and perfect candour, with which he speaks even of his bitterest enemies; nor can I remember, in the many confidential and frank communications with which I have been favoured, a single instance where, there has been the smallest reason to suspect he has viewed men through the medium of personal antipathies and prejudices. The candour and simplicity of his opinions form beautiful features in his character; and the bienséance of his mind (if one may use such an expression) throws a polish over his harshest strictures, that is singularly adapted to obtain credit for his judgment.
Your desire to know more of the private life of this extraordinary man, is quite natural; but he has been so long before the public, that it is not easy to say anything new. I may, however, give you a trait or two, to amuse you.
I have seen more of him this winter than the last, owing to the circumstance of a committee of Americans, that have been appointed to administer succour to the exiled Poles, meeting weekly at my house, and it is rare indeed that he is not present on these benevolent occasions. He has discontinued his own soirées, too; and, having fewer demands on his time, through official avocations, I gain admittance to him during his simple and quiet dinners, whenever it is asked.
These dinners, indeed, are our usual hours of meeting, for the occupations of the General, in the Chamber, usually keep him engaged in the morning; nor am I commonly at leisure, myself, until about this hour of the day. In Paris, every one dines, nominally, at six; but the deputies being often detained a little later, whenever I wish to see him, I hurry from my own table, and generally reach the Rue d'Anjou in sufficient season to find him still at his.
On quitting the Hôtel de l'Etat Major, after being dismissed so unceremoniously from the command of the National Guard, Lafayette returned to his own neat but simple lodgings in the Rue d'Anjou. The hotel, itself, is one of some pretensions, but his apartments, though quite sufficient for a single person, are not among the best it contains, lying on the street, which is rarely or never the case with the principal rooms. The passage to them communicates with the great staircase, and the door is one of those simple, retired entrances that, in Paris, so frequently open on the abodes of some of the most illustrious men of the age. Here have I seen princes, marshals, and dignitaries of all degrees, ringing for admission, no one appearing to think of aught but the great man within. These things are permitted here, where the mind gets accustomed to weigh in the balance all the different claims to distinction; but it would scarcely do in a country, in which the pursuit of money is the sole and engrossing concern of life; a show of expenditure becoming necessary to maintain it.
The apartments of Lafayette consist of a large ante-chamber, two salons, and an inner room, where he usually sits and writes, and in which, of late, he has had his bed. These rooms are en suite, and communicate, laterally, with one or two more, and the offices. His sole attendants in town, are the German valet, named Bastien, who accompanied him in his last visit to America, the footman who attends him with the carriage, and the coachman (there may be a cook, but I never saw a female in the apartments). Neither wears a livery, although all his appointments, carriages, horses, and furniture, are those of a gentleman. One thing has struck me as a little singular. Notwithstanding his strong attachment to America and to her usages, Lafayette, while the practice is getting to be common in Paris, has not adopted the use of carpets. I do not remember to have seen one, at La Grange, or in town.
When I show myself at the door, Bastien, who usually acts as porter, and who has become quite a diplomatist in these matters, makes a sign of assent, and intimates that the General is at dinner. Of late, he commonly dispenses with the ceremony of letting it be known who has come, but I am at once ushered into the bed-room. Here I find Lafayette seated at a table, just large enough to contain one cover and a single dish; or a table, in other words, so small as to be covered with a napkin. His little white lap-dog is his only companion. As it is always understood that I have dined, no ceremony is used, but I take a seat at the chimney corner, while he goes on with his dinner. His meals are quite frugal, though good; a poulet rôti invariably making one dish. There are two or three removes, a dish at a time, and the dinner usually concludes with some preserves or dried fruits, especially dates, of which he is extremely fond. I generally come in for one or two of the latter.
All this time, the conversation is on what has transpired in the Chambers during the day, the politics of Europe, nullification in America, or the gossip of the chateau, of which he is singularly well informed, though he has ceased to go there.
The last of these informal interviews with General Lafayette, was one of peculiar interest. I generally sit but half an hour, leaving him to go to his evening engagements, which, by the way, are not frequent; but, on this occasion, he told me to remain, and I passed nearly two hours with him.
We chatted a good deal of the state of society under the old regime. Curious to know his opinions of their private characters, I asked a good many questions concerning the royal family. Louis XVI. he described as a-well-meaning man, addicted a little too much to the pleasures of the table, but who would have done well enough had he not been surrounded by bad advisers. I was greatly surprised by one of his remarks. "Louis XVI," observed Lafayette, "owed his death as much to the bad advice of Gouverneur Morris, as to any one other thing." You may be certain I did not let this opinion go unquestioned; for, on all other occasions, in speaking of Mr. Morris, his language had been kind and even grateful. He explained himself, by adding, that Mr. Morris, coming from a country like America, was listened to with great respect, and that on all occasions he gave his opinions against democracy, advising resistance, when resistance was not only too late but dangerous. He did not call in question the motives of Mr. Morris, to which he did full justice, but merely affirmed that he was a bad adviser. He gave me to understand that the representatives of America had not always been faithful to the popular principle, and even went into details that it would be improper for me to repeat. I have mentioned this opinion of Mr. Morris, because his aristocratical sentiments were no secret, because they were mingled with no expressions of personal severity, and because I have heard them from other quarters. He pronounced a strong eulogium on the conduct of Mr. Crawford, which he said was uniformly such as became an American minister.
There is nothing, however, novel in these instances, of our representatives proving untrue to the prominent feeling of the country, on the subject of popular rights. It is the subject of very frequent comment in Europe, and sometimes of complaint on the part of those who are struggling for what they conceive to be their just privileges; many of them having told me, personally, that our agents frequently stand materially in their way.
Louis XVIII, Lafayette pronounced to be the falsest man he had ever met with; to use his own expression, "l'homme le plus faux." He gave him credit for a great deal of talent, but added that his duplicity was innate, and not the result of his position, for it was known to his young associates, in early youth, and that they used to say among themselves, as young men, and in their ordinary gaieties, that it would be unsafe to confide in the Comte de Provence.
Of Charles X he spoke kindly, giving him exactly a different character. He thought him the most honest of the three brothers, though quite unequal to the crisis in which he had been called to reign. He believed him sincere in his religious professions, and thought the charge of his being a professed Jesuit by no means improbable.
Marie Antoinette he thought an injured woman. On the subject of her reputed gallantries he spoke cautiously, premising that, as an American, I ought to make many allowances for a state of society, that was altogether unknown in our country. Treating this matter with the discrimination of a man of the world, and the delicacy of a gentleman, he added that he entirely exonerated her from all of the coarse charges that had proceeded from vulgar clamour, while he admitted that she had betrayed a partiality for a young Swede  that was, at least, indiscreet for one in her situation, though he had no reason to believe her attachment had led her to the length of criminality.
I asked his opinion concerning the legitimacy of the Duc de Bordeaux, but he treated the rumour to the contrary, as one of those miserable devices to which men resort to effect the ends of party, and as altogether unworthy of serious attention.
I was amused with the simplicity with which he spoke of his own efforts to produce a change of government, during the last reign. On this subject he had been equally frank even before the recent revolution, though there would have been a manifest impropriety in my repeating what had then passed between us. This objection is now removed in part, and I may recount one of his anecdotes, though I can never impart to it the cool and quiet humour with which it was related. We were speaking of the attempt of 1822, or the plot which existed in the army. In reply to a question of mine, he said—"Well, I was to have commanded in that revolution, and when the time came, I got into my carriage, without a passport, and drove across the country to ——, where I obtained post-horses, and proceeded as fast as possible towards ——. At ——, a courier met me, with the unhappy intelligence that our plot was discovered, and that several of our principal agents were arrested. I was advised to push for the frontier, as fast as I could. But we turned round in the road, and I went to Paris, and took my seat in the Chamber of Deputies. They looked very queer, and a good deal surprised when they saw me, and I believe they were in great hopes that I had run away. The party of the ministers were loud in their accusations against the opposition for encouraging treason, and Perier and Constant, and the rest of them, made indignant appeals against such unjust accusations. I took a different course. I went into the tribune, and invited the ministers to come and give a history of my political life; of my changes and treasons, as they called them; and said that when they had got through, I would give the character and history of theirs. This settled the matter, for I heard no more from them." I inquired if he had not felt afraid of being arrested and tried. "Not much," was his answer. "They knew I denied the right of foreigners to impose a government on France, and they also knew they had not kept faith with France under the charter. I made no secret of my principles, and frequently put letters unsealed into the post office, in which I had used the plainest language about the government. On the whole, I believe they were more afraid of me than I was of them."
It is impossible to give an idea, in writing, of the pleasant manner he has of relating these things—a manner that receives additional piquancy from his English, which, though good, is necessarily broken. He usually prefers the English in such conversations.
"By the way," he suddenly asked me, "where was the idea of Harvey Birch, in the Spy, found?" I told him that the thought had been obtained from an anecdote of the revolution, related to me by Governor Jay, some years before the book was written. He laughingly remarked that he could have supplied the hero of a romance, in the person of a negro named Harry (I believe, though the name has escaped me), who acted as a spy, both for him and Lord Cornwallis, during the time he commanded against that officer in Virginia. This negro he represented as being true to the American cause, and as properly belonging to his service, though permitted occasionally to act for Lord Cornwallis, for the sake of gaining intelligence. After the surrender of the latter, he called on General Lafayette, to return a visit. Harry was in an anteroom cleaning his master's boots, as Lord Cornwallis entered. "Ha! Master Harry," exclaimed the latter, "you are here, are you?" "Oh, yes, masser Cornwallis—muss try to do little for de country," was the answer. This negro, he said, was singularly clever and bold, and of sterling patriotism!
He made me laugh with a story, that he said the English officers had told him of General Knyphausen, who commanded the Hessian mercenaries, in 1776. This officer, a rigid martinet, knew nothing of the sea, and not much more of geography. On the voyage between England and America, he was in the ship of Lord Howe, where he passed several uncomfortable weeks, the fleet having an unusually long passage, on account of the bad sailing of some of the transports. At length Knyphausen could contain himself no longer, but marching stiffly up to the admiral one day, he commenced with—"My lord, I know it is the duty of a soldier to be submissive at sea, but, being entrusted with the care of the troops of His Serene Highness, my master, I feel it my duty just to inquire, if it be not possible, that during some of the dark nights, we have lately had, we may have sailed past America?"
I asked him if he had been at the chateau lately. His reply was very brief and expressive. "The king denies my account of the programme of the Hôtel de Ville, and we stand in the position of two gentlemen, who, in substance, have given each other the lie. Circumstances prevent our going to the Bois de Boulogne to exchange shots," he added, smiling, "but they also prevent our exchanging visits." I then ventured to say that I had long foreseen what would be the result of the friendship of Louis-Philippe, and, for the first time, in the course of our conversations, I adverted to my own visit to the palace in his company, an account of which I will extract, for your benefit, from my note-book.
In the morning I received a note from General Lafayette, in which he informed me that Mr. M'Lane, who is here on a visit from London, was desirous of being presented; that there was a reception in the evening, at which he intended to introduce the minister to England, Mr. Rives not having yet received his new credentials, and, of course, not appearing in matters of ceremony. General Lafayette pressed me so strongly to be of the party, in compliment to Mr. M'Lane, that, though but an indifferent courtier, and though such a visit was contrary to my quiet habits, I could do nothing but comply.
At the proper hour, General Lafayette had the good nature to call and take me up, and we proceeded, at once, for Mr. M'Lane. With this gentleman we drove to the Palais Royal, my old brother officer, Mr. T——, who was included in the arrangement, following in his own carriage.
We found the inner court crowded, and a throng about the entrance to the great staircase; but the appearance of Lafayette cleared the way, and there was a movement in the crowd which denoted his great personal popularity. I heard the words "des Américains" passing from one to another, showing how completely he was identified with us and our principles, in the public mind. One or two of the younger officers of the court were at the foot of the stairs to receive him, though whether their presence was accidental or designed, I cannot say; but I suspect the latter. At all events the General was received with the profoundest respect, and the most smiling assiduity.
The ante-chamber was already crowded, but following our leader, his presence cleared the way for us, until he got up quite near to the doors, where some of the most distinguished men of France were collected. I saw many in the throng whom I knew, and the first minute or two were passed in nods of recognition. My attention was, however, soon attracted to a dialogue between Marshal Soult and Lafayette, that was carried on with the most perfect bonhomie and simplicity. I did not hear the commencement, but found they were speaking of their legs, which both seemed to think the worse for wear. "But you have been wounded in the leg, monsieur?" observed Lafayette. "This limb was a little mal traité at Genoa," returned the marshal, looking down at a leg that had a very game look: "but you, General, you too, were hurt in America?" "Oh! that was nothing; it happened more than fifty years ago, and then it was in a good cause—it was the fall and the fracture that made me limp." Just at this moment, the great doors flew open, and this quasi republican court standing arrayed before us, the two old soldiers limped forward.
The King stood near the door, dressed as a General of the National Guards, entirely without decorations, and pretty well tricoloured. The Queen, Madame Adelaide, the Princesses, and several of the children, were a little farther removed, the two former standing in front, and the latter being grouped behind them. But one or two ladies were present, nor did I see anything at the commencement of the evening of the Ducs d'Orléans and de Nemours.
Lafayette was one of the first that entered, and of course we kept near him. The King advanced to meet him with an expression of pleasure—I thought it studied—but they shook hands quite cordially. We were then presented by name, and each of us had the honour of shaking hands, if that can be considered an honour, which fell to the share of quite half of those who entered. The press was so great that there was no opportunity to say anything. I believe we all met with the usual expressions of welcome, and there the matter ended.
Soon after we approached the Queen, with whom our reception had a more measured manner. Most of those who entered did little more than make a distant bow to this group, but the Queen manifesting a desire to say something to our party, Mr. M'Lane and myself approached them. She first addressed my companion in French, a language he did not speak, and I was obliged to act as interpreter. But the Queen instantly said she understood English, though she spoke it badly, and begged he would address her in his own tongue. Madame Adelaide seemed more familiar with our language. But the conversation was necessarily short, and not worth repeating.
Queen Amélie is a woman of a kind, and, I think, intelligent countenance. She has the Bourbon rather than the Austrian outline of face. She seemed anxious to please, and in her general air and carriage has some resemblance to the Duchess of St. Leu. She has the reputation of being an excellent wife and mother, and, really, not to fall too precipitately into the vice of a courtier, she appears as if she may well deserve it. She is thin, but graceful, and I can well imagine that she has been more than pretty in her youth.
I do not remember a more frank, intelligent, and winning countenance than that of Madame Adelaide, who is the King's sister. She has little beauty left, except that of expression; but this must have made her handsome once, as it renders her singularly attractive now. Her manner was less nervous than that of the Queen, and I should think her mind had more influence over her exterior.
The Princess Louise (the Queen of Belgium) and the Princess Marie are pretty, with the quiet subdued manner of well-bred young persons. The first is pale, has a strikingly Bourbon face, resembling the profiles on the French coins; while the latter has an Italian and classical outline of features, with a fine colour.
They were all dressed with great simplicity; scarcely in high dinner dress; the Queen and Madame Adelaide wearing evening hats. The Princesses, as is uniformly the case with unmarried French girls of rank, were without any ornaments, wearing their hair in the usual manner.
After the ceremonies of being presented were gone through, I amused myself with examining the company. This was a levee, not a drawing-room, and there were no women among the visitors. The men, who did not appear in uniform, were in common evening dress, which has degenerated of late into black stocks and trousers.
Accident brought me next to an old man, who had exactly that revolutionary air which has become so familiar to us by the engravings of Bonaparte and his generals that were made shortly after the Italian campaign. The face was nearly buried in neckcloth, the hair was long and wild, and the coat was glittering, but ill-fitting and stiff. It was, however, the coat of a maréchal; and, what rendered it still more singular, it was entirely without orders. I was curious to know who this relic of 1797 might be; for, apart from his rank, which was betrayed by his coat, he was so singularly ugly as scarcely to appear human. On inquiry it proved to be Marshal Jourdan.
There was some amusement in watching the different individuals who came to pay their court to the new dynasty. Many were personally and familiarly known to me as very loyal subjects of the last reign; soldiers who would not have hesitated to put Louis-Philippe au fil de l'épée, three months before, at the command of Charles X. But times were changed. They now came to show themselves to the new sovereign; most of them to manifest their disposition to be put in the way of preferment, some to reconnoitre, others to conceal their disaffection, and all to subserve their own interests. It was laughably easy to discern who were confident of their reception by being of the ruling party, who distrusted, and who were indifferent. The last class was small. A general officer, whom I personally knew, looked like one who had found his way into a wrong house by mistake. He was a Bonapartist by his antecedents, and in his true way of thinking; but accident had thrown him into the hands of the Bourbons, and he had now come to see what might be gleaned from the House of Orleans. His reception was not flattering, and I could only compare the indecision and wavering of his manner to that of a regiment that falters before an unexpected volley.
After amusing ourselves some time in the great throng, which was densest near the King, we went towards a secondary circle that had formed in another part of the room, where the Duke of Orleans had appeared. He was conversing with Lafayette, who immediately presented us all in succession. The Prince is a genteel, handsome young man, with a face much more Austrian than that of any of his family, so far as one can judge of what his younger brothers are likely to be hereafter. In form, stature, and movements, he singularly resembles W——, and there is also a good deal of likeness in the face, though in this particular the latter has the advantage. He was often taken for the Duc de Chartres during our former residence at Paris. Our reception was gracious, the heir to the throne appearing anxious to please every one.
The amusing part of the scene is to follow. Fatigued with standing, we had got chairs in a corner of the room, behind the throng, where the discourtesy of being seated might escape notice. The King soon after withdrew, and the company immediately began to go away. Three-fourths, perhaps, were gone, when an aide-de-camp came up to us and inquired if we were not the three Americans who had been presented by General Lafayette? Being answered in the affirmative, he begged us to accompany him. He led us near a door at the other end of the salle, a room of great dimensions, where we found General Lafayette in waiting. The aide, or officer of the court, whichever might be his station, passed through the door, out of which the King immediately came. It appeared to me as if the General was not satisfied with our first reception, and wished to have it done over again. The King looked grave, not to say discontented, and I saw, at a glance, that he could have dispensed with this extra attention. Mr. M'Lane standing next the door, he addressed a few words to him in English, which he speaks quite readily, and without much accent: indeed he said little to any one else, and the few words that he did utter were exceedingly general and unmeaning. Once he got as far as T——, whom he asked if he came from New York, and he looked hard at me, who stood farther from the door, mumbled something, bowed to us all, and withdrew. I was struck with his manner, which seemed vexed and unwilling, and the whole thing appeared to me to be awkward and uncomfortable. I thought it a bad omen for the influence of the General.
By this time the great salle was nearly empty, and we moved off together to find our carriages. General Lafayette preceded us, of course, and as he walked slowly, and occasionally stopped to converse, we were among the last in the ante-chamber. In passing into the last or outer ante-chamber, the General stopped nearly in the door to speak to some one. Mr. M'Lane and Mr. T—— being at his side, they so nearly stopped the way that I remained some distance in the rear, in order not to close it entirely. My position would give an ordinary observer reason to suppose that I did not belong to the party. A young officer of the court (I call them aides, though, I believe, they were merely substitutes for chamberlains, dignitaries to which this republican reign has not yet given birth), was waiting in the outer room to pass, but appeared unwilling to press too closely on a group of which General Lafayette formed the principal person. He fidgeted and chafed evidently, but still kept politely at a distance. After two or three minutes the party moved on, but I remained stationary, watching the result. Room was no sooner made than the officer brushed past, and gave vent to his feelings by saying, quite loudly and distinctly, "Adieu, l'Amérique!"
It is a pretty safe rule to believe that in the tone of courtiers is reflected the feeling of the monarch. The attention to General Lafayette had appeared to me as singularly affected and forced, and the manner of the King anything but natural; and several little occurrences during the evening had tended to produce the impression that the real influence of the former, at the palace, might be set down as next to nothing. I never had any faith in a republican king from the commencement, but this near view of the personal intercourse between the parties served to persuade me that General Lafayette had been the dupe of his own good faith and kind feelings.
In descending the great stairs I mentioned the occurrence just related to Mr. M'Lane, adding, that I thought the days of our friend were numbered, and that a few months would produce a schism between him and Louis-Philippe. Everything, at the moment, however, looked so smiling, and so much outward respect was lavished on General Lafayette, that this opinion did not find favour with my listener, though, I believe, he saw reason to think differently, after another visit to court. We all got invitations to dine at the palace in a day or two.
I did not, however, touch upon the "adieu l'Amérique," with General Lafayette, which I have always deemed a subject too delicate to be mentioned.
He startled me by suddenly putting the question, whether I thought an executive, in which there should be but one agent, as in the United States, or an executive, in which there should be three, or five, would best suit the condition of France? Though so well acquainted with the boldness and steadiness of his views, I was not prepared to find his mind dwelling on such a subject, at the present moment. The state of France, however, is certainly extremely critical, and we ought not to be surprised at the rising of the people at any moment.
I told General Lafayette, that, in my poor judgment, the question admitted of a good deal of controversy. Names did not signify much, but every administration should receive its main impulses, subject to the common wishes and interests, from a close conformity of views, whether there were one incumbent or a dozen. The English system certainly made a near approach to a divided executive, but the power was so distributed as to prevent much clashing; and when things went wrong, the ministers resigned; parliament, in effect, holding the control of the executive as well as of the legislative branches of the government. Now I did not think France was prepared for such a polity, the French being accustomed to see a real as well as a nominal monarch, and the disposition to intrigue would, for a long time to come, render their administrations fluctuating and insecure. A directory would either control the chambers, or be controlled by them. In the former case it would be apt to be divided in itself; in the latter, to agitate the chambers by factions that would not have the ordinary outlet of majorities to restore the equilibrium.
He was of opinion himself that the expedient of a directory had not suited the state of France. He asked me what I thought of universal suffrage for this country. I told him, I thought it altogether unsuited to the present condition of France. I did not attach much faith to the old theory of the necessary connexion between virtue and democracy, as a cause; though it might, with the necessary limitations, follow as an effect. A certain degree of knowledge of its uses, action, and objects, was indispensable to a due exercise of the suffrage; not that it was required every elector should be learned in the theory of governments, but that he should know enough to understand the general connexion between his vote and his interests, and especially his rights. This knowledge was not at all difficult of attainment, in ordinary cases, when one had the means of coming at facts. In cases that admit of argument, as in all the questions on political economy, I did not see that any reasonable degree of knowledge made the matter much better, the cleverest men usually ranging themselves on the two extremes of all mooted questions. Concerning the right of every man, who was qualified to use the power, to have his interests directly represented in a government, it was unnecessary to speak, the only question being who had and who had not the means to make a safe use of the right in practice. It followed from these views, that the great desiderata were to ascertain what these means were.
In the present state of the world, I thought it absolutely necessary that a man should be able to read, in order to exercise the right to vote with a prudent discretion. In countries where everybody reads, other qualifications might be trusted to, provided they were low and within reasonable reach of the mass; but, in a country like France, I would allow no man to vote until he knew how to read, if he were as rich as Croesus.
I felt convinced the present system could not continue long in France. It might do for a few years, as a reaction; but when things were restored to their natural course, it would be found that there is an unnatural union between facts that are peculiar to despotism, and facts that are peculiarly the adjuncts of liberty; as in the provisions of the Code Napoleon, and in the liberty of the press, without naming a multitude of other discrepancies. The juste milieu that he had so admirably described could not last long, but the government would soon find itself driven into strong measures, or into liberal measures, in order to sustain itself. Men could no more serve "God and Mammon" in politics than in religion. I then related to him an anecdote that had occurred to myself the evening of the first anniversary of the present reign.
On the night in question, I was in the Tuileries, with a view to see the fireworks. Taking a station a little apart from the crowd, I found myself under a tree alone with a Frenchman of some sixty years of age. After a short parley, my companion, as usual, mistook me for an Englishman. On being told his error, he immediately opened a conversation on the state of things in France. He asked me if I thought they would continue. I told him, no; that I thought two or three years would suffice to bring the present system to a close. "Monsieur," said my companion, "you are mistaken. It will require ten years to dispossess those who have seized upon the government, since the last revolution. All the young men are growing up with the new notions, and in ten years they will be strong enough to overturn the present order of things. Remember that I prophesy the year 1840 will see a change of government in France."
Lafayette laughed at this prediction, which, he said, did not quite equal his impatience. He then alluded to the ridicule which had been thrown upon his own idea of "A monarchy with republican institutions," and asked me what I thought of the system. As my answer to this, as well as to his other questions, will serve to lay before you my own opinions, which you have a right to expect from me, as a traveller rendering an account of what he has seen, I shall give you its substance, at length.
So far from finding anything as absurd as is commonly pretended in the plan of a "throne surrounded by republican institutions," it appears to me to be exactly the system best suited to the actual condition of France. By a monarchy, however, a real monarchical government, or one in which the power of the sovereign is to predominate, is not to be understood, in this instance, but such a semblance of a monarchy as exists to-day, in England, and formerly existed in Venice and Genoa under their Doges. la England the aristocracy notoriously rules, through the king, and I see no reason why in France, a constituency with a base sufficiently broad to entitle it to assume the name of a republic, might not rule, in its turn, in the same manner. In both cases the sovereign would merely represent an abstraction; the sovereign power would be wielded in his name, but at the will of the constituency; he would be a parliamentary echo, to pronounce the sentiment of the legislative bodies, whenever a change of men or a change of measures became necessary It is very true that, under such a system, there would be no real separation, in principle, between the legislative and the executive branches of government; but such is to-day, and such has long been the actual condition of England, and her statesmen are fond of saving, the plan "works well." Now, although the plan does not work half as well in England as is pretended, except for those who more especially reap its benefits, simply because the legislature is not established on a sufficiently popular basis, still it works better, on the whole, for the public, than if the system were reversed, as was formerly the case, and the king ruled through the parliament, instead of the parliament ruling through the king. In France the facts are ripe for an extension of this principle, in its safest and most salutary manner. The French of the present generation are prepared to dispense with a hereditary and political aristocracy, in the first place, nothing being more odious to them than privileged orders, and no nation, not even America, having more healthful practices or wiser notions on this point than themselves. The experience of the last fifteen years has shown the difficulty of creating an independent peerage in France, notwithstanding the efforts of the government, sustained by the example and wishes of England, have been steadily directed to that object. Still they have the traditions and prestige of a monarchy. Under such circumstances, I see no difficulty in carrying out the idea of Lafayette. Indeed some such polity is indispensable, unless liberty is to be wholly sacrificed. All experience has shown that a king, who is a king in fact as well as name, is too strong for law, and the idea of restraining such a power by principles, is purely chimerical. He may be curtailed in his authority, by the force of opinion, and by extreme constructions of these principles; but if this be desirable, it would be better to avoid the struggle, and begin, at once, by laying the foundation of the system in such a way as will prevent the necessity of any change.
As respects France, a peerage, in my opinion, is neither desirable nor practicable. It is certainly possible for the king to maintain a chosen political corps, as long as he can maintain himself, which shall act in his interests and do his bidding; but it is folly to ascribe the attributes that belong to a peerage to such a body of mercenaries. They resemble the famous mandamus counsellors, who had so great an agency in precipitating our own revolution, and are more likely to achieve a similar disservice to their master than any thing else. Could they become really independent, to a point to render them a masculine feature in the state, they would soon, by their combinations, become too strong for the other branches of the government, as has been the case in England, and France would have a "throne surrounded by aristocratic institutions." The popular notion that an aristocracy is necessary to a monarchy, I take it, is a gross error. A titular aristocracy, in some shape or other, is always the consequence of monarchy, merely because it is the reflection of the sovereign's favour, policy, or caprice; but political aristocracies like the peerage, have, nine times in ten, proved too strong for the monarch. France would form no exception to the rule; but, as men are apt to run into the delusion of believing it liberty to strip one of power, although his mantle is to fall on the few, I think it more than probable the popular error would be quite likely to aid the aristocrats in effecting their object, after habit had a little accustomed the nation to the presence of such a body. This is said, however, under the supposition that the elements of an independent peerage could be found in France, a fact that I doubt, as has just been mentioned..
If England can have a throne, then, surrounded by aristocratical institutions, what is there to prevent France from having a throne "surrounded by republican institutions?" The word "Republic," though it does not exclude, does not necessarily include the idea of a democracy. It merely means a polity, in which the predominant idea is the "public things," or common weal, instead of the hereditary and inalienable rights of one. It would be quite practicable, therefore, to establish in France such an efficient constituency as would meet the latter conditions, and yet to maintain the throne, as the machinery necessary, in certain cases, to promulgate the will of this very constituency. This is all that the throne does in England, and why need it do more in France? By substituting then a more enlarged constituency, for the borough system of England, the idea of Lafayette would be completely fulfilled. The reform in England, itself, is quite likely to demonstrate that his scheme was not as monstrous as has been affirmed. The throne of France should be occupied as Corsica is occupied, not for the affirmative good it does the nation, so much as to prevent harm from its being occasionally vacant.
In the course of the conversation, I gave to General Lafayette the following outline of the form of government I could wish to give to France, were I a Frenchman, and had I a voice in the matter. I give it to you on the principle already avowed, or as a traveller furnishing his notions of the things he has seen, and because it may aid in giving you a better insight into my views of the state of this country.
I would establish a monarchy, and Henry V. should be the monarch. I would select him on account of his youth, which will admit of his being educated in the notions necessary to his duty; and on account of his birth, which would strengthen his nominal government, and, by necessary connexion, the actual government: for I believe, that, in their hearts, and notwithstanding the professions to the contrary, nearly half of France would greatly prefer the legitimate line of their ancient kings to the actual dynasty. This point settled, I would extend the suffrage as much as facts would justify; certainly so as to include a million or a million and a half of electors. All idea of the représentation of property should be relinquished, as the most corrupt, narrow, and vicious form of polity that has ever been devised, invariably tending to array one portion of the community against another, and endangering the very property it is supposed to protect. A moderate property qualification might be adopted, in connexion with that of intelligence. The present scheme in France unites, in my view of the case, precisely the two worst features of admission to the suffrage that could be devised. The qualification of an elector is a given amount of direct contribution. This qualification is so high as to amount to représentation, and France is already so taxed as to make a diminution of the burdens one of the first objects at which a good government would aim; it follows, that as the ends of liberty are attained, its foundations would be narrowed, and the représentation of property would be more and more assured. A simple property qualification would, therefore, I think, be a better scheme than the present.
Each department should send an allotted number of deputies, the polls being distributed on the American plan. Respecting the term of service, there might arise various considerations, but it should not exceed five years, and I would prefer three. The present house of peers should be converted into a senate, its members to sit as long as the deputies. I see no use in making the term of one body longer than the other, and I think it very easy to show that great injury has arisen from the practice among ourselves. Neither do I see the advantage of having a part go out periodically; but, on the contrary, a disadvantage, as it leaves a representation of old, and, perhaps, rejected opinions, to struggle with the opinions of the day. Such collisions have invariably impeded the action and disturbed the harmony of our own government. I would have every French elector vote for each senator; thus the local interests would be protected by the deputies, while the senate would strictly represent France. This united action would control all things, and the ministry would be an emanation of their will, of which the king should merely be the organ.
I have no doubt the action of our own system would be better, could we devise some plan by which a ministry should supersede the present executive. The project of Mr. Hillhouse, that of making the senators draw lots annually for the office of President, is, in my opinion, better than the elective system; but it would be, in a manner, liable to the old objection, of a want of harmony between the different branches of the government. France has all the machinery of royalty, in her palaces, her parks, and the other appliances of the condition; and she has, moreover, the necessary habits and opinions, while we have neither. There is, therefore, just as much reason why France should not reject this simple expedient for naming a ministry, as there is for our not adopting it. Here, then, would be, at once, a "throne surrounded by republican institutions," and, although it would not be a throne as powerful as that which France has at present, it would, I think, be more permanent than one surrounded by bayonets, and leave France, herself, more powerful, in the end.
The capital mistake made in 1830, was that of establishing the throne before establishing the republic; in trusting to men instead of trusting to institutions.
I do not tell you that Lafayette assented to all that I said. He had reason for the impracticability of getting aside the personal interests which would be active in defeating such a reform, that involved details and a knowledge of character to which I had nothing to say; and, as respects the Duc de Bordeaux, he affirmed that the reign of the Bourbons was over in France. The country was tired of them. It may appear presumptuous in a foreigner to give an opinion against such high authority; but, "what can we reason but from what we know?" and truth compels me to say, I cannot subscribe to this opinion. My own observation, imperfect though it be, has led to a different conclusion. I believe there are thousands, even among those who throng the Tuileries, who would hasten to throw off the mask at the first serious misfortune that should befall the present dynasty, and who would range themselves on the side of what is called legitimacy. In respect to parties, I think the republicans the boldest, in possession of the most talents compared to numbers, and the least numerous; the friends of the King (active and passive) the least decided, and the least connected by principle, though strongly connected by a desire to prosecute their temporal interests, and more numerous than the republicans; the Carlists or Henriquinquists the most numerous, and the most generally, but secretly, sustained by the rural population, particularly in the west and south.
Lafayette frankly admitted, what all now seem disposed to admit, that it was a fault not to have made sure of the institutions before the King was put upon the throne. He affirmed, however, it was much easier to assert the wisdom of taking this precaution, than to have adopted it in fact. The world, I believe, is in error about most of the political events that succeeded the three days.
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