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Chapter 6

LETTER VI.

Aspect of Paris.—Visit to Lafayette.—His demeanour.—His account of the commencement of the Revolt.—Machinations of the Police.—Character of Lafayette.—His remarkable expression to General—.—Conversation on the Revolution of July.—The Doctrinaires.—Popular Sympathy in England and on the Rhine.—Lafayette's dismissal from the command of the National Guards.—The Duke of Orleans and his Friends.—Military Tribunals in Paris.—The Citizen King in the Streets.—Obliteration of the Fleur-de-lis.—The Royal Equipage.—The Duke of Brunswick in Paris.—His forcible Removal from France.—His Reception in Switzerland.—A ludicrous Mistake.

Dear ——,

During the excitement of the last three days, I had not bethought me of paying a visit to the Rue d'Anjou: indeed I was under the impression that General Lafayette was at La Grange, for I had understood that he only remained at Paris to attend the funeral of Lamarque. There were rumours of his having been arrested, but these I set down to the marvel-mongers, who are always busy when extraordinary events occur. Just at dusk, I heard, by accident, there was still a chance of finding him in his apartment, and I walked across the river, in order to ascertain the fact for myself.

What a difference between the appearance of the streets this evening, and that which they had made on the night of the 5th! Now the bridges were deserted, the garden was empty, and the part of the population that was visible, seemed uneasy and suspicious. The rumour that the government intended to declare Paris in a state of siege, and to substitute military for the ordinary civil tribunals, was confirmed, though the measure was not yet officially announced. This act was in direct opposition to a clause in the charter, as I have told you, and the pretence, in a town in which fifty thousand troops had just quelled a rising of a few hundred men, was as frivolous as the measure itself is illegal. It has, however, the merit of throwing aside the mask, and of showing the world in what manner the present authorities understand a government of the people.

A dead calm reigned in the Rue d'Anjou. Apart from the line of cabriolets de place, of which there were but three, not a carriage nor a human being was visible in the street. Nothing stood before the porte-cochère of No. 6, a thing so unusual, more especially in critical moments, that I suspected I had been misled, and that I should have a bootless walk. The gate was open, and entering without knocking, I was just turning off the great staircase, to ascend the humbler flight that leads to the well-known door, that door through which I had so lately seen so many dignitaries pressing to enter, when the porter called to me to give an account of myself. He recognised me, however, by the light of the lamp, and nodded an assent.

I waited a minute or more, after ringing, before the door was opened by Bastien. The honest fellow let me in on the instant, and, without proceeding to announce me, led the way through the salons to the bed-room of his master. The General was alone with the husband of his grand-daughter, François de Corcelles. The former was seated with his back to the door as I entered; the latter was leaning against the mantel-piece. The "bonsoir, mon ami," of the first was frank and kind as usual, but I was immediately struck with a change in his manner. He was calm, and he held out his hand, as Bastien mentioned my name; but, although not seated at his table, he did not rise. Glancing my eyes at him, as I passed on to salute Monsieur de Corcelles, I thought I had never before seen Lafayette wearing so fine an air of majesty. His large, noble form was erect and swelling, and that eye, whose fire age had not quenched, was serenely proud. He seemed prepared to meet important events with the dignity and sternness that marked his principles.

A perfect knowledge of these principles, and the intimacy that he had so kindly encouraged, emboldened me to speak frankly. After a few minutes' conversation, I laughingly inquired what he had done with the bonnet rouge. The question was perfectly understood, and I was surprised to learn that, in the present instance, there was more foundation for the report than is usually the case with vulgar rumour. He gave the following account of what occurred at la Place de la Bastille.

When the procession halted, and the funeral discourses were being delivered, the tumult commenced; in what manner, he was unable to say. In the midst of the commotion, a man appeared on horseback wearing the dreaded bonnet rouge. Some one approached him, and invited him to repair to the Hôtel de Ville, in short, to put himself again at the head of the revolt, and offered him a bonnet rouge. He took the cap, and threw it into the mud. After this, he entered his carriage to return home, when a portion of the populace took out the horses and drew him to the Rue d'Anjou. On reaching the hotel, the people peaceably withdrew.

You will readily suppose I was curious to learn the opinion of General Lafayette concerning the events of the week. The journals of the opposition had not hesitated to ascribe the affair to the machinations of the police, which, justly or not, is openly accused of having recourse to expedients of this nature, with a view to alarm the timid, and to drive them to depend for the security of their persons, and the maintenance of order, on the arm of a strong government. In the recent case it had also been said, that aware of the existence of plots, the ministry had thought it a favourable occasion to precipitate their explosion, taking the precaution to be in readiness with a force sufficient to secure the victory.

I have often alluded to that beautiful and gentleman-like feature in the character of Lafayette, which appears to render him incapable of entertaining a low prejudice against those to whom he is opposed in politics. This is a trait that I conceive to be inseparable from the lofty feelings which are the attendant of high moral qualities, and it is one that I have, a hundred times, had occasion to admire in Lafayette. I do not, now, allude to that perfect bon ton, which so admirably regulates all his words and deportment, but to a discriminating judgment that does not allow interest or passion to disarm his sense of right. It certainly is a weakness in him not to distinguish sufficiently between the virtuous and the vicious,—those who are actuated like himself by philanthropy and a desire to do good, and those who seek their own personal ends; but this is a sacrifice, perhaps, that all must make who aim at influencing men by the weight of personal popularity. Jefferson has accused Lafayette of a too great desire to live in the esteem of others,[11] and perhaps the accusation is not altogether false; but the peculiar situation in which this extraordinary man has been placed, must be kept in view, while we decide on the merits of his system. His principles forbid his having recourse to the agencies usually employed by those who loose sight of the means in the object, and his opponents are the great of the earth. A man who is merely sustained by truth and the purity of his motives, whatever visionaries may say, would be certain to fail. Popularity is indispensable to the success of Lafayette, for thousands now support him, who, in despite of his principles, would become his enemies, were he to fall back sternly on the truth, and turn his back on all whose acts and motives would not, perhaps, stand the test of investigation. The very beings he wished to serve would desert him, were he to let them see he drew a stern but just distinction between the meritorious and the unworthy. Then the power of his adversaries must be remembered. There is nothing generous or noble in the hostility of modern aristocrats, who are mere graspers after gain, the most debasing of all worldly objects, and he who would resist them successfully must win golden opinions of his fellows, or they will prove too much for him.

But I am speculating on principles, when you most probably wish for facts, or, if you must have opinions, for those of Lafayette in preference to my own. When I ventured to ask him if he thought the government had had any agency in producing the late struggle, his answer was given with the integrity and fearlessness that so eminently characterize the man.

He was of opinion that there was a plot, but he also thought it probable that the agents of the government were, more or less, mixed up with it. He suspected at the moment, that the man who offered him the bonnet rouge was one of these agents, though he freely admitted that the suspicion was founded more on past experience than on any knowledge of present facts. The individual himself was an utter stranger to him. It had been his intention to quit town immediately after the funeral obsequies were completed, but, added the old man, proudly, "they had spread a rumour of an intention to cause me to be arrested, and I wish to save them the trouble of going to La Grange to seek me."

He then went on to tell me what he and his political friends had expected from the demonstration of public opinion, that they had prepared for this important occasion. "Things were approaching a crisis, and we wished to show the government that it must change its system, and that France had not made a revolution to continue the principles of the Holy Alliance. The attempt to obtain signs of popular support at the funeral of Casimir Perier was a failure, while, so great was our success at this procession in honour of Lamarque, that there must have been a new ministry and new measures, had not this unfortunate event occurred. As it is, the government will profit by events. I do not wish to wake any unjust accusations, but, with my knowledge of men and things, it is impossible not to feel distrust."[12]

While we were conversing, General ——, whom I had not seen since the dinner of the previous day, was announced and admitted. He stayed but a few minutes, for, though his reception was kind, the events of the last week had evidently cast a restraint about the manners of both parties. The visit appeared to me, to be one of respect and delicacy on the part of the guest, but recent occurrences, and his close connexion with the King, rendered it constrained; and, though there appeared no evident want of good feeling on either side, little was said, during this visit, touching the "two days," as the 5th and 6th of June are now termed, but that little served to draw from Lafayette a stronger expression of political hostility, than I had ever yet heard from his lips. In allusion to the possibility of the liberal party connecting itself with the government of Louis-Philippe, he said—"à présent, un ruisseau de sang nous sépare."[13] I thought General—considered this speech as a strong and a decisive one, for he soon after rose and took his leave.

Lafayette spoke favourably of the personal qualities and probity of his visitor, when he had withdrawn, but said that he was too closely incorporated with the juste milieu to be any longer classed among his political friends. I asked him if he had ever known a true liberal in politics, who had been educated in the school of Napoleon? The General laughingly admitted that he was certainly a bad master to study under, and then added it had been intended to offer General —— a portfolio, that of the public works I understood him to say, had they succeeded in overturning the ministry.

This conversation insensibly led to one on the subject of the revolution of July, and on his own connexion with the events of that important moment. I despair of doing justice to the language of General Lafayette on this occasion, and still less so to his manner, which, though cool and dignified, had a Roman sternness about it that commanded the deepest respect. Indeed, I do not remember ever to have seen him with so much of the externals of a great man as on this evening, for no one, in common, is less an actor with his friends, or of simpler demeanour. But he now felt strongly, and his expressions were forcible, while his countenance indicated a portion of that which was evidently working within. You must be satisfied, however, with receiving a mere outline of what fell from his lips in an uninterrupted explanation that lasted fully half an hour.

He accused his opponents, in general terms, of distorting his words, and of misrepresenting his acts. The celebrated saying of "voici la meilleure des républiques" in particular, had been falsely rendered, while the circumstances under which he spoke and acted at all, had been studiously kept out of view. It was apropos of this saying, that he entered into the explanations of the causes of the change of dynasty.

The crisis which drove the cabinet of Charles X. to the extreme measures that overturned the throne, had been produced by a legislative combination. To effect their end, nearly every opinion, and all the shades of opposition, had united; many, even of those who were personally attached to the Bourbons, resisting their project of re-establishing the ancien régime. Most of the capitalists, in particular, and more especially those who were engaged in pursuits that were likely to be deranged by political convulsions, were secretly disposed to support the dynasty, while they were the most zealously endeavouring to reduce its power. The object of these men was to maintain peace, to protect commerce and industry, more especially their own, and, at the same time, to secure to property the control, of affairs. In short, England and her liberty were their models, though some among them had too much good sense to wish to retrograde, as is the case with a party in America, in order to make the imitation more perfect. Those who were for swallowing the English system whole, were called the doctrinaires, from their faith in a theory, while the different shades of dissenting opinions were distributed among all those who looked more to facts, and less to reasoning, than their credulous coadjutors. But all were zealous in opposing government under its present system, and with its palpable views.

You know that the result was the celebrated ordinances, and a rising of the people. So little was either of these events foreseen, that the first probably astonished and alarmed the friends of the Bourbons, quite as much as it did their enemies. The second was owing chiefly to the courage and zeal of the young men connected with the press, sustained by the pride and daring of the working classes of Paris. The emergency was exactly suited to the élan of the French character, which produced the sympathy necessary to the occasion among the different degrees of actors. With the movements that followed, those who had brought about the state of things which existed, by their parliamentary opposition, had little or nothing to do. Lafayette, himself, was at La Grange, nor did he reach Paris until the morning of the second day. So far from participating in the course of events, most of the deputies were seriously alarmed, and their first efforts were directed to an accommodation. But events were stronger than calculations, and the Bourbons were virtually dethroned, before any event or plan could be brought to bear upon the issue, in either the offensive or defensive.

You are now to imagine the throne vacant, the actors in the late events passive spectators of what was to follow, and opportunity for a recurrence to parliamentary tactics. Men had leisure to weigh consequences. Another political crusade menaced France, and it is probable that nothing prevented its taking place, but the manifestations of popular sympathy in England, and on the Rhine. Then there was danger, too, that the bankers and manufacturers, and great landed proprietors, would lose the stake for which they had been playing, by permitting a real ascendancy of the majority. Up to that moment, the mass had looked to the opposition in the deputies as to their friends. In order to entice all parties, or, at least, as many as possible, the cry had been "la charte;" and the opposition had become identified with its preservation. The new Chambers had been convened, and, after the struggle was over, the population naturally turned to those who had hitherto appeared in their ranks as leaders. This fragment of the representation became of necessity the repository of all power.

Lafayette had, thus far, been supported by the different sections of the opposition; for his influence with the mass to suppress violence, was looked to as of the last importance, by even his enemies. The very men who accused him of Jacobinical principles, and a desire to unsettle society, felt a security under his protection, that they would not have felt without him. Louis-Philippe, you will remember, made use of him, until the trial of the ministers was ended, when he was unceremoniously dismissed from the command of the National Guards, by the suppression of the office.[14] "It would have been in my power to declare a republic," he continued, in the course of his explanations, "and sustained by the populace of Paris, backed by the National Guards, I might have placed myself at its head. But six weeks would have closed my career, and that of the republic. The governments of Europe would have united to put us down, and the Bourbons had, to a great degree, disarmed France. We were not in a state to resist. The two successful invasions had diminished the confidence of the nation, which, moreover, would have been nearly equally divided in itself. But, allowing that we might have overcome our foreign enemies, a result I admit to have been possible, by the aid of the propaganda and the general disaffection, there would have been a foe at home, that certainly would have prevailed against us. Those gentlemen of the Chambers to whom a large portion of the people looked up with confidence, would have thwarted every important measure I attempted, and were there no other means to prevent a republic, they would have thrown me into the river."

This last expression is literal, and was twice uttered in the course of the evening. He then went on to add, that seeing the impossibility of doing as he could wish, he had been compelled to acquiesce in the proposal that came nearest to his own views. The friends of the Duke of Orleans were active, particularly M. Lafitte, who enjoyed a great deal of his own confidence, and the Duke himself was free in the expression of the most liberal sentiments. Under these circumstances, he thought it possible to establish a government that should be monarchical in form, and republican in fact. Such, or nearly such, is the case in England, and he did not see why such might not be the case in France. It is true the English republic is aristocratical, but this is a feature that depends entirely on the breadth and independence of the constituency. There was no sufficient reason why France should imitate England in that essential point, and by erecting a different constituency, she would virtually create another polity in fact, adhering always to the same general form.

As respects the expression so often cited, he said his words were "voici la meilleure des républics pour nous;" distinctly alluding to the difficulties and embarrassments under which he acted. All this time he made no pretension to not having been deceived in the King, who had led him to think he entertained very different principles from those which events have shown to be his real sentiments.

Something was then said of the état de siége, and of the intentions of the government. "I shall go to La Grange in a few days," observed the General, smiling, "unless they arrest me; there to remain until the 4th of July, when we shall have our usual dinner, I hope." I told him that the long fever under which A—— had suffered rendered a change of air necessary, and that I was making my preparations to quit France temporarily, on another tour. He pressed me to remain until the 4th, and when I told him that we might all be shot for sedition under the present state of things, if we drunk liberal toasts, he laughed and answered, that "their bark was worse than their bite."

It was near tea when I took my leave, and returned to the Rue St. Dominique. The streets were gloomy and deserted, and I scarcely met a single individual, in walking the mile between the two hotels.

There was a wild pleasure in viewing a town in such an extraordinary state, and I could not help comparing its present moody silence, to the scenes we had witnessed when the government was still so young and dependent as to feel the necessity of courting the people. I have already mentioned to you many of the events of that period, but some of them have been omitted, and some, too, which quite naturally suggest themselves, at this moment, when the King has established military tribunals in his very capital.

On one occasion, in particular, I was walking in the Tuileries, when a noise attracted me towards a crowd. It was Louis-Philippe taking a walk! This you will understand was intended for effect—republican effect—and to show the lieges that he had the outward conformation of another man. He wore a white hat, carried an umbrella (I am not sure that it was red), and walked in as negligent a manner as a man could walk, who was working as hard as possible to get through with an unpleasant task. In short, he was condescending with all his might. A gentleman or two, in attendance, could barely keep up with him; and as for the rabble, it was fairly obliged to trot to gratify its curiosity. This was about the time the King of England electrified London, after a reign of exclusion, by suddenly appearing in its streets, walking about like another man. Whether there was any concert in this coincidence or not I do not know.

On another occasion, A—— and myself drove out at night to view a bivouac in the Carrousel. We got ourselves entangled in a dense crowd in the Rue St. Honoré, and were obliged to come to a stand. While stationary, the crowd set up a tremendous cry of Vive le roi! and a body of dismounted cavalry of the National Guard passed the carriage windows, flourishing their sabres, and yelling like madmen. Looking out, I saw the King in their midst, patrolling the streets of his good city of Paris, on foot! Now he has declared us all under martial law, and is about to shoot those he dislikes.

The fleur-de-lis, as you know, is the distinctive symbol of the family of France. So much stress is laid on trifles of this nature here, that Napoleon, with his grinding military despotism, never presumed to adopt one for himself. During the whole of his reign, the coins of the country were decorated on one side with no more than an inscription and a simple wreath, though the gradual progress of his power, and the slow degress by which he brought forward the public, on these points, may yet be traced on these very coins. The first that were struck bore his head, as First Consul, with "République Française" on the reverse. After a time it was "Empereur," with "République Française." At length he was emboldened to put "Empire Français" on the reverse, feeling a true royal antipathy to the word republic.

During the existing events that first succeeded the last revolution, no one thought of the fleur-de-lis with which the Bourbons had sprinkled everything in and about the capital, not to say France. This omission attracted the attention of some demagogue, and there was a little émeute, before the arch of the Carrousel, with threats of destroying these ornaments. Soon after, workmen were employed to deface everything like a fleur-de-lis in Paris. The hotel of the Treasury had many hundreds of them in large stone rosettes, every one of which disappeared before the chisel! The King actually laid down his family arms, causing the brush to be put to all his carriages. Speaking to Lafayette on this subject, he remarked, pithily—"Well, I told his Majesty I would have done this before there was a mob, and I would not have done it afterwards."

The Bourbons usually drove with eight horses, but this king rarely appears with even six; though that number is not offensive, the other being the regal style. Some time since, before the approach of the late crisis, I saw the coachman of the palace, quite early, or before the public was stirring, exercising with eight. It is to be presumed that the aspect of things, the pears, and the Duchess of Berri, compelled the leaders to be taken off.

A day or two after this event, I dined in company with a deputy, who is also a distinguished advocate, who made me laugh with an account of a recent freak of another sovereign, that has caused some mirth here. This advocate was employed in the affair, professionally, and his account may be depended on.

You know that shortly after the revolution of 1830, the people of Brunswick rose and deposed their Duke, bestowing the throne, or arm-chair, for I know not the official term, on his brother. This Duke of Brunswick is the grandson of him who figured in the wars of the old revolution, and the son of him who was killed at Quatre Bras. His grandmother was a sister of George III, and his aunt was the wife of George IV; the latter being his cousin, his uncle, and his guardian.

The deposed prince retired to Paris, if it can be called retirement to come from Brunswick here. After some time, the police was informed that he was busy in enrolling men to make a counter-revolution in his own states. He was warned of the consequences, and commanded to desist. The admonition was disregarded, and after exhausting its patience, the government proceeded so far as to order him to quit Paris. It was not obeyed.

I must now tell you, that a few years previously the Duke of Brunswick had visited Paris, and apprehending assassination, for some cause that was not explained, he had obtained from the police one of its agents to look out for the care of his person. The man had been several weeks in this employment, and knowing the person of the contumacious prince, when it was determined to resort to force, he was sent with the gendarmes, expressly that he might be identified.

A party, accordingly, presented themselves, one fine morning, at the hotel which had the honour to contain his Serene Highness, demanding access to his person, in the name of the police. No one was hardy enough to deny such an application, and the officers were introduced. They found the indomitable prince, in his morning gown and slippers, as composed as if he were still reigning in Brunswick, or even more so. He was made acquainted with their errand, which was, neither more nor less than to accompany him to the frontier.

The great-nephew of George III, the cousin and nephew of George IV, the cousin of William IV, and the Ex-duke of Brunswick, received this intelligence with a calm entirely worthy of his descent and his collaterals, treating the commissary of police, de haut en bas. In plain English, he gave them to understand he should not budge. Reverence for royal blood was at last overcome by discipline, and seeing no alternative, the gendarmes laid their sacrilegious hands on the person of the prince, and fairly carried him down stairs, and put him, dressing-gown, slippers, and all, into a fiacre.

It was a piteous sight to see a youth of such high expectations, of a lineage so ancient, of a duchy so remote, treated in this rude and inhospitable manner! Like Cæsar, who bore up against his enemies until he felt the dagger of Brutus, he veiled his face with his handkerchief, and submitted with dignity, when he ascertained how far it was the intention of the Minister of the Interior to push matters. M. —— did not tell us whether or not he exclaimed, "Et tu, Montalivet!" The people of the hotel manifested a proper sympathy at the cruel scene, the filles de chambre weeping in the corridors, as filles de chambre, who witnessed such an indecent outrage, naturally would do.

The Duke was no sooner in the fiacre than he was carried out of town, to a post-house on the road to Switzerland. Here he was put in a caleche, and transported forthwith to the nearest frontier.

On reaching the end of the journey, the Duke of Brunswick was abandoned to his fate, with the indifference that marked the whole outrage; or, as might have been expected from the servants of a prince, who had so lately shown his respect for rank by sending his own relatives out of his kingdom, very much in the same fashion. Happily, the unfortunate Duke fell into the hands of republicans, who, as a matter of course, hastened to pay their homage to him. The mayor of the commune appeared and offered his civilities; all the functionaries went forth with alacrity; and the better to show their sympathy, a young German traveller was produced, that he might console the injured prince by enabling him to pour out his griefs in the vernacular of his country. This bit of delicate attention, however, was defeated by an officious valet, who declared that ever since his dethronement, his master had taken such an aversion to the German language, that it threw him into fits even to hear it! Of course the traveller had the politeness to withdraw.

While these things were in progress, the Duke suddenly disappeared, no one knew whither. The public journals soon announced the fact, and the common conjecture was, that he had returned to Paris.

After several weeks, M. —— was employed to negotiate an amnesty, promising, on the part of his principal, that no further movements against the duchy should be attempted in France. The minister was so far prevailed on as to say, he could forgive all, had not the Duke re-entered the kingdom, after having been transported to Switzerland, by the order of the government, in the manner you have heard. M. —— assured the minister, parole d'honneur, that this was altogether a mistake. "Well, then, convince me of this, and his Serene Highness shall have permission to remain here as long as he pleases." "His Serene Highness, having never left France, cannot have re-entered it." "Not left France!—Was he not carried into Switzerland?" "Not at all: liking Paris better, he chose to remain here. The person you deported, was a young associate, of the same stature of the Duke, a Frenchman, who cannot speak a word of German!"

A compromise was made on the spot, for this was a matter to be hushed up, ridicule being far more potent, in Paris, than reason. This is what you may have heard alluded to, in some of the journals of the day, as the escapade of the Duke of Brunswick.




James Fenimore Cooper

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