Louis Philippe - John S. C. Abbott

Louis Philippe's Throne


By the movement chronicled in the previous chapter, the Duke of Orleans became virtually dictator. Could his dictatorship be maintained, it was of course a death-blow to all other parties. The Republican party, weak as it was if we consider the whole of France, was strong in the streets of Paris. It was a matter of great moment to try to conciliate the leaders of that party. It was soon evident that this would be no easy matter. The proclamation of the duke was very angrily received in the streets. Loud mutterings were heard. Those who were distributing the proclamation were fiercely assailed, and one of the agents narrowly escaped with his life.

At length the bold resolve was adopted for the Duke of Orleans to go in person to the Hotel de Ville, accompanied by an escort of Deputies. A throng of Orleanists surrounded the Palais Royal and cheered the duke as he came out. As the procession advanced, insulting shouts began to assail their ears. The duke was on horseback. The Place de Greve was thronged with Republicans. Angry outcries greeted him. "He is a Bourbon," some shouted; "away with him! We will have nothing to do with him."

Benjamin Constant and Beranger mingled with the crowd, doing every thing in their power to appease and calm it. It was feared, every moment, that some pistol-shot would strike the duke from his horse. His countenance was pale and care-worn; but there was no visible perturbation. Having with difficulty forced his way through the angry crowd, Louis Philippe alighted from his horse and ascended the stairs. Lafayette, who was already in heart in sympathy with the Orleanist movement, came forth courteously to meet him, and conducted him to the great hall of the palace. There was here a very excited interview, the more passionate of the Orleanists and of the Republicans coming very near to blows. But Lafayette and the most illustrious men of the liberal party, seeing no other possible way of rescuing France from anarchy, now openly espoused the cause of Louis Philippe.

Lafayette took the Duke of Orleans by the hand, and led him out upon a balcony, where they were in view of the vast multitude swarming in the vacant space below. The devotion of the marquis to popular rights was universally known. He could not, in that tumultuous hour, make his voice heard. But in the use of action, more expressive than words, he threw his arms around the neck of the duke in an affectionate embrace. The best part of the multitude accepted this as the indorsement of his fitness for the trust, by one in whom they could confide. It was on this occasion that the following incident occurred:

"You know," said Lafayette to Louis Philippe, "that I am a Republican, and that I regard the Constitution of the United States as the most perfect that has ever existed."

"I think as you do," Louis Philippe replied. "It is impossible to have passed two years in the United States, as I have done, and not be of that opinion. But do you think that in the present state of France a republican government can be adopted?"

"No," said Lafayette; "that which is necessary for France now is a throne, surrounded by republican institutions. All must be republican."

"That is precisely my opinion," rejoined Louis Philippe.

After this scene, the duke, immensely strengthened in his position, returned to the Palais Royal, accompanied by a decided increase of acclamations. Still there were many murmurs. The people could not forget that he was by birth an aristocrat and a Bourbon; that he had taken no part, either by word or deed, in the conflict for the overthrow of the despotic throne; that, concealed in the recesses of his palace at Neuilly, he had not shown his face in Paris until the conflict in which they were shedding their blood was terminated, and that then he had come merely to assume a crown.

Immediately after the withdrawal of Louis Philippe from the Hotel de Ville, Lafayette and his friends drew up a programme, or social contract, in which they endeavored to reconcile republican institutions with the forms of a monarchy. Lafayette himself took this contract to the Palais Royal, and submitted it to the duke. He gave it apparently his candid consent. There were, however, Legitimists as well as Republicans who had no faith in this union. The Abbe Gregoire is reported to have exclaimed in disgust, "Good God, are we then to have both a republic and a king?"

There were yet many dangers to be encountered. The word king had not been distinctly spoken. And still the supreme power was placed in the hands of Louis Philippe, the Duke of Orleans. It was necessary to the more full organization of the government that he should be recognized as a sovereign. But it was no easy matter to reconcile the populace of Paris to the idea of placing a Bourbon at the head of the new government.

"To obviate the unfavorable impression thus produced," writes Alison, "the Orleans committee prepared and placarded all over Paris a proclamation not a little surprising, considering that M. Mignet and M. Thiers were members of it—'The Duke of Orleans is not a Bourbon; he is a Valois.' A remarkable assertion to be made, by historians, of a lineal descendant of Henry IV., and of the brother of Louis XIV."

The leading journals had all been won over to the side of the Orleans party. We would not intimate that any unworthy means had been employed to secure their support. Such men as Thiers, Guizot, Mignet, are above suspicion. They doubtless felt, as did Lafayette, that the attempt to establish a Republic would result only in anarchy; that it would be impossible to maintain a Republic in a realm where the large majority of the people were monarchists. Still, it is obvious that the wealth of a party composed of nearly all the moneyed men in the kingdom, and whose leader was the richest noble in France, if not in Europe, was amply sufficient to present very persuasive influences to secure the support of any journalist who might be wavering. The result was, that nearly all the periodicals of the kingdom opened their broadsides against a Republic. They denounced that form of government as the sure precursor of anarchy, pillage, and a reign of terror, and as certain to embroil France in another war with combined Europe.

It was, indeed, greatly to be feared that the foreign dynasties, who would not allow France to lay aside the Bourbons and place Napoleon upon the throne, would resist, through the same devotion to the principles of legitimacy, the "usurpation" of Louis Philippe. To conciliate them it was necessary for the Duke of Orleans to represent that he was in sympathy with the hereditary thrones, co-operating with them in their advocacy of exclusive privilege, and that he was, providentially, a barrier to whom they owed a debt of gratitude, arresting France from rushing over to democracy. But the open avowal of these opinions would rouse the liberal party to desperation against him.

Notwithstanding all these efforts of the journalists to discredit republicanism in every possible way, there still remained a democratic party in Paris among the populace, led by very bold, impetuous, and determined men. These leaders had great influence with a portion of the people who could be easily roused to insurrection, which, however impotent, might still cause the streets of Paris to run red with blood. It was deemed a matter of much importance to win over these men. A meeting was arranged between them and the Duke of Orleans. M. Boinvilliers, a man who understood himself, and who was entirely unawed in the presence of dignitaries, was the spokesman of the delegation. His scrutinizing interrogatories embarrassed the duke exceedingly.

"To-morrow," said M. Boinvilliers, "you are to be king. What are your ideas upon the treaties of 1815?"

By the treaties which in that year the conquerors of Waterloo formed at Vienna, Europe was partitioned out among the dynasties, so as to bind the people hand and foot, and render any future uprising in behalf of liberty almost impossible. The River Rhine, since the days of Caesar, had been regarded as the natural boundary between France and Germany. Large provinces on the French banks of the Rhine were wrested from France and placed in the hands of Prussia, that, in case the French people should again endeavor to overthrow the aristocratic institutions of feudal despotism, the allied dynasties might have an unobstructed march open before them into the heart of France.

Though the Bourbons, replaced by foreign bayonets, had entered into this arrangement for their own protection against democracy, still, the discontent of the French people, in view of the degradation, was so great that even Charles X. was conspiring to regain the lost boundary. According to the testimony of his minister, Viscount Chateaubriand, he was entering into a secret treaty with Russia to aid the czar in his designs upon Turkey, and, in return, Russia was to aid France in regaining her lost Rhenish provinces. In reference to these treaties of 1815 even one of the British quarterlies has said:

"Though the most desperate efforts have been made by the English diplomatists to embalm them as monuments of political wisdom, they should be got under ground with all possible dispatch, for no compacts so worthless, so wicked, so utterly subversive of the rights of humanity, are to be found in the annals of nations."

When the question was asked of Louis Philippe, "What are your ideas upon the treaties of 1815?" his embarrassment was great. Should he say he approved of those treaties, all France would raise a cry of indignation. Should he say that he was prepared to assail them, all the surrounding dynasties would combine in hostility to his reign.

The reply of the duke was adroit. "I am no partisan to the treaties of 1815. But we must avoid irritating foreign powers."

The next question was still more embarrassing, for it was to be answered not only in the ears of this democratic delegation, but in the hearing of all aristocratic Europe eagerly listening. "What are your opinions upon the subject of an hereditary peerage?" Still the duke manifested no little skill in meeting it. He replied:

"In hereditary aristocracy is the best basis of society. But if the hereditary peerage can not maintain itself, I certainly shall not endow it. I was once a Republican; but I am convinced that a Republic is inapplicable to such a country as France."

The interview was unsatisfactory to the delegation, and the members retired in disgust.

Chateaubriand, with all the ardor of his poetic and religious instincts, was a Legitimist. As the representative of the old Bourbon regime, he sought an audience with the duke, hoping to induce him to decline the crown, and to act in the interests of the expelled dynasty. In his "Memoires d'Outre Tombe," this illustrious man has given a minute account of the conversation which took place. Chateaubriand was received by the Duchess of Orleans, who very cordially invited him to take a seat near her. Rather abruptly she commenced the conversation by saying,

"Ah, Monsieur de Chateaubriand, we are very unhappy. If all parties could unite, we might yet be saved. What do you think about it?"

"Madame," Chateaubriand replied, "nothing is so easy. Charles X. and Monsieur the Dauphin have abdicated. Henry, the Duke of Bordeaux, is now king. The Duke of Orleans is lieutenant-general of the realm. Let him be regent during the minority of Henry V., and all is right."

"But, Monsieur de Chateaubriand," said the duchess, "the people are very much agitated. We shall fall into anarchy."

"Madame," replied Chateaubriand, "may I venture to inquire of you what is the intention of the Duke of Orleans? Will he accept the crown, if it is offered to him?"

The duchess, after a moment's hesitation, added, without replying to the question, "Reflect, Monsieur de Chateaubriand, upon the evils to which we are exposed. It is necessary that all good men should unite in the endeavor to save us from a Republic. You could render great service as ambassador to Rome, or in the ministry here, should you not wish to leave Paris."

"Madame is not ignorant," Chateaubriand rejoined, "of my devotion to the young king and to his mother. Your royal highness could not wish that I should give the lie to my whole life"—que je dementisse toute ma vie.

"Monsieur de Chateaubriand," replied the duchess, "you do not know my niece. She is so frivolous. Poor Caroline! But I will send for the Duke of Orleans. He can persuade you better than I can."

The duke soon entered, in dishevelled dress and with a countenance expressive of great anxiety and fatigue. After a few words, which Chateaubriand rather contemptuously records as an "idyl upon the pleasures of country life," Chateaubriand repeated what he had said to the duchess.

The duke exclaimed, "That is just what I should like. Nothing would please me better than to be the tutor and guardian of that child. I think just as you do, M. Chateaubriand. To take the Duke of Bordeaux would certainly be the best thing that could be done. I fear only that events are stronger than we."

"Stronger than we, my lord!" rejoined M. Chateaubriand. "Are you not esteemed by all the powers? Let us go and join Henry V. Call around you, outside the walls of Paris, the Chambers and the army. At the first tidings of your departure all this effervescence will cease, and every one will seek shelter under your protection and enlightened power."

The duke was much embarrassed. He seemed to avoid looking Chateaubriand in the face. With averted eyes he said, "The thing is more difficult than you imagine. It can not be accomplished. You do not know what peril we are in. A furious band can launch against the Chambers with the most frightful excesses; and we have no means of defense. Be assured that it is I alone who now hold back this menacing crowd. If the Royalist party be not massacred, it will owe its life solely to my efforts."

M. de Chateaubriand responded in brave words, which perhaps the occasion warranted:

"My lord, I have seen some massacres. Those who have passed through the Revolution are inured to war. The gray mustaches are not terrified by objects which frighten the conscripts."

These not very courteous remarks, which implied that, though the duke might be a coward, the viscount was not, terminated the interview.

Chateaubriand, then the most distinguished writer and illustrious orator in France, had prepared an "accusing and terrible speech," to be addressed to the Chamber of Peers, pleading the cause of the vanquished dynasty, and protesting against the Orleans usurpation.

"This news," writes Louis Blanc, "had reached the Palais Royal, which it threw into the utmost uneasiness. Such a danger was to be averted at any cost. Madame Adelaide saw M. Arago, and told him that he would entitle himself to unbounded gratitude if he would see M. de Chateaubriand and entreat him to forego his intended speech; upon which condition he should be assured of having his place in the administration.

"M. Arago called upon the illustrious poet and submitted to him that France had just been shaken to its inmost centre; that it was important to avoid exposing it to the risk of too sudden reactions; that the Duke of Orleans would have it in his power, on becoming king, to do much for public liberty; and that it became a man like Viscount de Chateaubriand to abstain from making himself the mouth-piece of the agitators at the commencement of a reign.

"He ended by telling him that a better means remained to him to serve his country with advantage, and that there would be no hesitation to bestow a portefeuille upon him—that of public instruction, for example. Chateaubriand shook his head suddenly, and replied that, of all he had just heard, that which most touched his heart was the consideration of what was due to the interests of France in its deeply disturbed condition; that he expected nothing, and would accept nothing upon the ruin of his hopes; but, since his speech might sow the seeds of rancor in his native land, he would soften down its tenor. This singular negotiation took place on the eve of the 7th of August."

The next evening, the 8th of August, there was a meeting of the Chamber of Peers. In the eloquent speech which M. Chateaubriand made in advocacy of the old regime, he said;

"A king named by the Chambers, or elected by the people, will ever be a novelty in France. I suppose they wish liberty—above all, the liberty of the press, by which and for which they have obtained so astonishing a victory. Well, every new monarchy, sooner or later, will be obliged to restrain that liberty. Was Napoleon himself able to admit it? The liberty of the press can not live in safety but under a government which has struck its roots deep into the hearts of men.

"A Republic is still more impracticable. In the existing state of our morals, and in our relations with the adjoining states, such a government is out of the question. The first difficulty would be to bring the French to any unanimous opinion upon the subject. What right have the people of Paris to impose a government, by their vote, on the people of Marseilles? What right have they to constrain any other town to receive the rulers which they have chosen, or the form of government which they have adopted? Shall we have one Republic, or twenty Republics? a federal union, or a commonwealth one and indivisible?

"Charles X. and his son are dethroned, or have abdicated, as you have heard. But the throne is not thereby vacant. After them a child is called to the succession; and who will venture to condemn his innocence? I know that in removing that child it is said you establish the sovereignty of the people. Vain illusion! which proves that in the march of intellect our old democrats have not made greater advances than the partisans of royalty. It were easy to show that men may be as free and freer under a Monarchy than a Republic. After all I have said, done, and written for the Bourbons, I should be the basest of the human race if I denied them when, for the third and last time, they are directing their steps towards exile."

On the morning of the next day, the 9th, the Chamber of Deputies met at the Palais Bourbon. It was a very exciting scene, and strong opposition was manifested against proclaiming the Duke of Orleans king. After an angry debate the motion was carried, that,

"Considering that the king, Charles X., his royal highness Louis Antoine, dauphin, and all the members of the elder branch of the royal family, are at this moment quitting French territory, the throne is declared to be vacant, de facto and de jure, and that it is indispensably needful to provide for the same."

The friends of the duke felt that their only hope consisted in driving the question to an immediate decision. The Chamber of Deputies had no legal authority to elect a king. M. Fleury demanded that the electoral colleges should be invoked to elect a new assembly, with special powers delegated to the Deputies to elect a king. The demand was not listened to. M. de Corcelles urged that the question should be submitted to the people, that the voice of universal suffrage might decide what should be the form of government for France, and who should be the sovereign. This proposition was rejected. The venerable Labbey de Pompieres then demanded that the voters should inscribe their names and their votes in a register. This they had not courage to do; for, in case of the return of the Bourbons, they would lose their heads.

"Thus," writes Louis Blanc, "the crown of France was voted as a simple matter of by-law regulation."

After some amendments of the charter, the vote was taken. It was a tumultuous scene, and there is some little discrepancy in the number of votes given as the result of the ballot. Louis Blanc gives the result as follows:

Number of voters 252
White balls 229
Black balls 33

"Thus," he adds, "229 Deputies, who in ordinary times would have formed a majority of but two voices, had modified the constitution, pronounced the forfeiture of one dynasty, and erected a new one."

France contained between thirty and forty million inhabitants. Two hundred and twenty-nine Deputies, with no delegated authority to do so, decided upon the form of government for these millions, and chose their sovereign.

When, several years after, the throne of Louis Philippe was overthrown, an appeal to universal suffrage re-established the Empire, and placed the crown upon the brow of Napoleon III. In this act the voice of the nation was heard. The vote was taken throughout the eighty-six departments of France, in Algiers, in the army, and in the navy. The result was as follows:

Affirmative votes    7,844,180
Negative 253,145
Irregular 63,326
——— ———
Total 8,160,651

The action of the Deputies in choosing Louis Philippe king greatly exasperated the Democrats. They endeavored to stir up insurrection in the streets; but the journals were against them, and they had neither leaders of any repute, organization, or money. A procession, four abreast, marched through the streets to the Palais Royal, to inform Louis Philippe of his election by their body to the throne of France. The newly elected king feelingly replied:

"I receive with deep emotion the declaration you present to me. I regard it as the expression of the national will; and it appears to me conformable to the political principles I have all my life professed. Full of remembrances which have always made me wish that I might never be called to a throne, and habituated to the peaceful life I led in my family, I can not conceal from you all the feelings that agitate my heart in this great conjuncture. But there is one which overbears all the rest—that is, the love of my country. I feel what it prescribes to me, and I will do it."

According to Alison, in the Chamber of Peers eighty-nine voted "the address to the Duke of Orleans to accept the throne, while ten voted against it." But there was great informality in all these hurried proceedings. "We will not," writes Lamartine, "enter into the details of these gradual approaches to the throne during the five days which preceded the election of one who had no title, by a Parliament which had no mission, to a royalty which had no rights."

In the same spirit Sir Archibald Alison writes: "Thus did a small minority, not exceeding a third of either Chamber, at the dictation of a clique in the antechambers of the Duke of Orleans, dispose of the crown to a stranger to the legitimate line, without either consulting the nation or knowing what form of government it desired."[AB] The two Chambers hurriedly prepared a constitution, to which Louis Philippe gave his assent. The ceremony of inauguration—it could scarcely be called coronation—took place with much pomp, in the Chamber of Deputies, on the 9th of August, 1830.

"Gentlemen, peers, and deputies," said the Duke of Orleans, "I have read with great attention the declaration of the Chamber of Deputies and the adhesion of the peers, and I have weighed and meditated upon all its expressions. I accept, without restriction or reserve, the clauses and engagements which that declaration contains, and the title of King of the French, which it confers upon me." He then took the following oath:

"In the presence of God, I swear to observe faithfully the Constitutional Charter, with the modifications contained in the declaration; to govern only by the laws and according to the laws; to render fair and equal justice to every one according to his right, and to act in every thing in no other view but that of the interest, the happiness, and the glory of the French people."

The hall resounded with shouts of "Vive le Roi!" The new-made sovereign, with a splendid cortege, retired, to take up his residence in the Tuileries as King of the French. The Revolution was consummated. The throne of Louis Philippe was erected.