Imatges de pÓgina
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vices, created him a Duke, bestowed on him other marks of favour, and, a few days after, appointed him ambassador to the British court. On the 21st, the Duke de Richelieu was appointed his successor as President of the Council, and Count Simeon as Minister of the Interior.

The conflict of parties in the Chambers was now to open. On the 15th February, M. Pasquier proposed in the Chamber of Peers the law upon individual liberty, a measure nearly similar to that in England suspending the Habeas Corpus Act. Ministers were to have the power of arresting, without bringing to trial, all persons reported as guilty of plotting against the government. These orders were to be delivered only in council, and signed by three of the ministers. In supporting his project, the minister asked, was not this the crime of a fanatic, blinded and led astray by the perverse opinions which were published every day with impunity? could they be so happy as to think that there was only one fanatic? were they not duly warned, by this unforeseen blow, to watch over the preservation of this ancient and sacred throne, the youngest branch of which had been cut down by a sacrilegious hand?

The law was referred to a committee; and, notwithstanding its urgent nature, eighteen days were spent in preparing the report upon it; a delay which indicated a considerable difference of opinion among the members. On the 5th March, the report was presented by M. Riviere, but with a statement that it was not unanimous. It recommended the law as a measure of precaution, though there appeared no reason to think that the crime in question had been the result of any plot. It proposed, however, to limit the period of detention for each individual to three months, and the duration of the law itself to the end of next session.

M. De Cardonnel argued, that this measure could not admit of a moment's hesitation. "What!" said he, "when the purest blood which has flowed under the parricide knife, warns us in a terrible manner of the fatal designs of the wicked; when the views of the fac tious are no longer concealed; when doctrines subversive of legitimate monarchy and social order are publicly preached and placarded; when guilt raises an impious and insulting head, and points out, as it were, with the finger its victims; is it possible that we can refuse to government a measure of prudence and precaution, a hundred times less severe than those by which our neighbours have judged it necessary to secure their establishments in circumstances less critical."

General Foy, on the other hand, considered the proposed measure as an open violation of the charter. Ample security was afforded by a penal and criminal code, given by a mastergloomily suspicious, and who, in his active life, had more than once passed close to the poniard. It was in vain to say, that by intrusting the power to ministers in person, they would be preserved from the intrigues of inferior agents. Government must know upon what head to direct its blows. "See in an instant arrive from all quarters the band of informers; see official denunciations, and officious reports, showered down in torrents. Are you then ignorant, gentlemen, that the recollections of 1815 live still in every heart, and that enmities are a thousand times more active now than then? Vainly would you seek in the departments a leading man, a municipal functionary, a judge, who has not his decided profession of political faith. Every town, every village, has its right side and its left side. That middle party, on the amplitude of which so many hopes were founded, becomes every day weaker; and these laws will infallibly com

pel all that remains of it to seek in party coalitions that security which the torn charter can no longer offer." The orator then represented the illegal influence which might thus be exercised over all acting in public capacities, political writers, electors, judges, jurors, even the deputies themselves. What would have been felt by the generous Prince, who, in dying, forgave his assassin, if he had known the miseries which his fate would bring upon the whole nation? How would posterity reproach them, if, at the funeral of a Bourbon, the liberty of the nation was made to serve as a hecatomb?

Martin de Gray eagerly supported the same side, insisting that the present was an insulated crime, committed by an uncultivated being from among the lowest classes of society, leading a gloomy and solitary life, and who had meditated the crime for four years; that is, before the nation had obtained those liberties to which this atrocity was imputed. The whole nation was seen in grief and tears; and was it to be considered guilty of the crime which it deplored? Were we a nation of assassins? A mad fanatic, possessed by the delirium of religious frenzy, slew the great and good Henry IV. Were we then to tear the gospel, to break the altars, to deny the ineffable name of the divinity? Another madman, impelled by a frenzy of a different species, strikes one of his descendants; must we then tear the charter in pieces, trample the rights of the nation under foot, and blaspheme liberty, the first of blessings?

Count Simeon, in defending the law, could not but remark the exaggerated statements made as to the effects of a temporary measure, which had been provided by the charter, which had something similar to it both in the Roman and English governments, which was guarded by every precau

tion, and from which the innocent had nothing to fear. There had been but too evident symptoms that the sentiments of Louvel were shared by many, both in Paris and in the provinces. The most criminal imprecations, the most atrocious wishes, had been expressed against persons the most august. These imprecations, these execrable wishes, had been everywhere presented under the same form, as if they came from a common centre. The same identity had been found in the alarming reports spread at the same moment over every part of France, and which announced, sometimes insurrection in this or that department, sometimes the landing of Napoleon in Spain or America. Mysterious prophecies, calculated to make a powerful impression on the vulgar, had announced the extinction of the royal family at the end of 1820. To all this was added the exhibition of the signs and emblems of the last government, the repetition of the songs which recalled the memory of it. These songs, half veiled, derived a new attraction from their mystery, and had become a real mode of action against the government.

M. Simeon was answered by Benjamin Constant, in an elaborate speech. A year ago, he said, a calm and progressive amelioration was every where observed. Every heart was filled with hope, and penetrated with attachment to the national institutions. On a sudden ministers had declared war against all the guarantees of our liberty. Then, indeed, France was alarmed, and a grievous fermentation was remarked from one extremity of the kingdom to the other. But this fermentation had manifested itself only by legitimate expressions, and had nothing in common with the execrable assassination of an amiable prince, which could be of no benefit to any of the criminal systems to which it was sought to im

pute it. The law now presented formed part of a system meditated, organized, announced, tending to nothing less than to overturn the whole exist ing government, and to establish an absolute monarchy. Thus the precious blood, the blood for ever to be regretted, which had now been shed, would serve only as a pretext to impose chains on an innocent irreproachable nation, which shrunk with horror from this crime. The projected law would be the ruin, not only of the liberty, but of the justice, the morality, the liberty, and the prosperity of France. The abyss of counter-revolution was about to be opened, the barriers raised against it by the present ministry were shaking, were giving way, and would quickly fall. The Convention, the Directory, Buonaparte, had governed by laws of restraint; where was the Convention? where was the Directory? where was Buonaparte?

M. Pasquier undertook to reply to the different orators who had spoken against the law. He justified, by repeated examples, the occasional exertion of an arbitrary power in a free government. This arbitrary power, which could only be justified by necessity, was much less injurious when it was clearly expressed and sanctioned, than when it was disguised under the appearance of liberty. The idea of a counter-revolution, or of the return of the ancient regime, he treated as utter ly ridiculous. The stream of time does not reascend to its source; history affords no example of such a counter-revolution. Revolutions, indeed, succeed to revolutions; but the following one is always obliged to accept the inheritance of destruction which the preceding has left. Ruins upon ruins, this is the only produce of revolutions. France had been so happy as to terminate hers in an unhoped-for manner; and it would not be the government of her Kings which would

throw her back into her former career of miseries and endless disasters. The 1 persons who circulated such absurd calumnies, were those who wished for revolution.

After four days debate, the law in general was carried by a great majority; but the same period was afterwards consumed in warm debates on the par. ticular clauses. One of the most contested was that proposed by Lacroix Framville, that the benefit of counsel should be allowed to the person apprehended on suspicion. This was ob jected to, as affording to the prisoner a mode of communicating with his associates. It was rejected by a majority only of nineteen. The clause was carried against ministers, by which the period of detention for any individual was limited to three months; a salutary regulation, which seems wanting in the English Habeas Corpus Suspension. Another clause, proposed by M. Guittard, was, after a discussion of unexampled obstinacy, carried by a majority of nineteen. It bore, that no arrest could take place during the night. The law was to expire of itself, if not renewed, in the following session.

In the Chamber of Peers, a debate of three days took place, in which all the reasonings employed in the Chamber of Deputies were urged afresh. The law was opposed by Marshal Jourdan, and, what excited greater surprise, by M. Chateaubriand, who espoused on this occasion the cause of liberty. The most remarkable speech on the other side was that of the Duke de Fitz-James, which drew great attention from his situation under the Duke de Berri, and from his details relative to the state of the capital. He painted these ferocious songs, repeated with such constant perseverance, these songs which began the very night of the assassination, and which they had the heroism to go and repeat

under the very windows of the Du chess of Berri. These placards, these anonymous letters, these threats, not only to us, who have been so long ac customed, that we no longer pay attention to them, but against him for whom they know that we are ready to sacrifice our life a thousand times. What execrable invectives, addressed to a father, whose august grief would have softened real tigers, but has apparently only irritated the thirst of blood which devours our revolutionary tigers. What shall we say to the existence of these clubs, gloomy caves, in which we are counted on our benches, and every poniard has the place assign. ed in which it is to strike. See also the coincidence of all that passes around us with what passes within; the Sands and the Thistlewoods repeating in their respective countries the lessons which they have learned in our school; see homicide and regicide converted into precepts, and recommended as a work of glory and immortality; see Spain become the prey of a military faction, and of vile traitors, dishonouring the name of soldiers, kissing the hand of the prince whom they are preparing to betray ;-are all these accumulated proofs not sufficient to reveal the existence of a plot, which advances rapidly towards its catastrophe ?

After a good deal of further discus. sion on particular articles, the law pass ed finally in the Upper House, by a majority of 121 to 86.

The next law proposed by ministers was one equally critical and important; the re-establishment of the censorship on the journals. It was introduced first by M. Decazes into the Upper Chamber. According to the project submitted by this member, no journals, no periodical, or semi-periodical writings, could appear without the authority of the King, and they were to be subjected to a previous censorship, carried on by a commission of three peers, three deputies, and three

irremovable magistrates. This was stated by the minister as a measure which necessity commanded, and which was called for alike by the safety of the throne, and the maintenance of our most sacred institutions. If the crime itself, and the blood of the illustrious victim, did not speak so loud, the confessions, or rather the apologies of its infamous author, would teach us what are the detestable fruits of the fatal maxims, the doctrines subversive of social order, the regicide principles, which are preached with such audacity since the journals have been freed from every restraint.

Notwithstanding the aristocratical character of the assembly to whom this project was addressed, it did not meet with a very favourable reception. Independent of the general unpopularity of the measure, even the high royalists were afraid of its being executed with equal rigour against them as their antagonists. The resignation of Decazes deprived it of the support of its author. The consequence was, that the report of the committee presented on the 23d February was decidedly unfavourable to the measure. It observed, that the crime of Louvel, meditated during four years, could not be the result of the liberty of the journals granted only nine or ten months ago. It admitted, indeed, that the liberty of the journals had been abused, and that there was room for stricter and more precise laws against its offences; but with regard to the censorship, a measure destructive of the liberty of the press, the precautions taken to ameliorate it appeared null or insufficient. The censorial commission including three magistrates chosen by the government, the gaining over of one member from each Chamber, would be sufficient to give it a majority.

Notwithstanding this unfavourable judgment, ministers eagerly supported the project. M. Pasquier made a distinction between journals, pamphlets,

and books. It was by books, not pamphlets, that the world had been enlightened. "Let us view the state into which society has been thrown by the license of the journals; everywhere the passions have been worked up to the highest pitch, enmities have become fiercer, resentments have been embittered, and the horrible catastrophe, under which we are destined long to groan, is the direct consequence. Two hundred years ago, it was religious fanaticism by which the poniard was sharpened. Now, all minds are under the the dominion of another fanaticism that of political opinions. What are the organs of this fanaticism? By what is it cultivated, supported, exalted? Who can deny, that it is by journals and periodical writings? Whatever exception we may make of men honourable by their character, and remarkable by their talents, who have not disdained to descend into this arena, it is impossible not to stigmatize another race of writers, who, borrowing by turns every mask, employ the frightful art of courting and wielding to their benefit the most shameful, abject, and infamous sentiments which can enter the heart of man. Such is the government of the journals, which have no power to improve, and can only destroy; they overthrew the Constitution of 1791, which gave liberty; they made tremble that horrible Convention, which, however, made the world tremble." There was no government strong enough to withstand the license of the journals, such as it now existed in France. It was only by degrees that this liberty had been established in England, and it might be so one day in France; but at present it was impossible that the government, without the aid of the censorship, could apply an efficacious remedy to the abuses of the press.

The minister was supported by Doudeauville, Saint Roman, Clermont

Tonnerre, Lally Tollendal, Germain, and Deseze. Clermont Tonnerre hesitated not to assert that the principle of the liberty of the press was indissolubly connected with that of the sovereignty of the people; it had never produced any but fatal results to France. On the other hand, the Duke de Broglie, Count Lanjuinais, the Duke de Praslin, and Count Daru, opposed the measure. The first considered every restraint prior to publication as useless, and the evil as having arisen less from the inadequacy of the law, than the negligence of its execution; Praslin regarded it as unconstitutional in matter and form, contrary to the royal prerogative, and to the right of citizens; and finally such, that no modi. fication could justify its being adopted by the Chamber.

In the course of the discussion several amendments were made, according to which the journals and periodical writings actually existing were to continue to appear, so long as they conformed to the regulations of the law; the commission of censorship was rejected, and the power was simply vested in individuals named by the King; lastly, the insertion of the law was limited to the end of the session 1820. Under these modifications, it was carried on the 18th February, by the very slender majority of two, (106 to 104.)

In the Chamber of Deputies, the law was introduced by Count Simeon, with the strongest assurances of the moderation with which it would be ex ercised. The censors, whatever thei own opinion might be, were to allow every thing to be said which was use ful, according to the legitimate end o political writing; they were to tole rate all opinions, unless they were evi dently contrary to the principles o morality and religion, of the charter and of monarchy; they were to leav all the acts of administration and o public functionaries open to the mos

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