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acquainted with the weight and complication of the fetters imposed upon the French press-who know that hand-bills, or even cards of address, cannot be delivered in the streets, or in the shops, without the stamp and sanction of the employés of the police, it was enough to be informed, that a work contained enlightened and liberal principles of policy, adverse to the party at present in power, to be convinced that it would meet with every possible obstruction from the practised ingenuity of ministerial spies and of spy-like ministers.
It so happened, that at the time this work of M. de Chateaubriand was put forth, (we cannot say published,) we were in the French capital: we had heard from private sources, some time before, that it was in the press; and when we inquired for it at different booksellers, few admite ted that they hạd any knowledge of it, and not one of them had a copy for sale : we were informed that it was exhibited at a single window in the Rue Mazarene, but that it was quickly removed in a way neither very profitable, nor very agreeable, to the bookseller. It would seem extraordinary to those who are not aware of the perfect system of subordination established among the Parisian newspapers, that only one solitary announcement of it was contained in them, and for that offence the editor, as we learn, was obliged to undergo a severe penance. The contrast appears the more striking, when we recollect that the slavish production of M. Theremin, “ On the Accordance between Legitimacy and Representation,” reviewed in our Number for August, and the scandalous fabrication of Carnot; sa Vie Politique et Privée, noticed in our last Review, were so repeatedly advertised and so zealously applauded. A short time ago (before the interregnum of 100 days, as it is termed) enlightened Frenchmen, whose sentiments savoured too much of liberty and truth for the atmosphere of the Thuilleries, addressed their countrymen, or the court, through the medium of the English press, but now even that channel has been closed, and it is known that all the London journals that speak with any degree of freedom upon French affairs, are prohibited with the utmost severity.
What good can be augured from such a state of things ? has been asked a thousand times. Is France, in the nineteenth century, to be treated as if the natives were wrapped in the ignorance of the ninth? Are her inhabitants to ,be considered merely as the vassals of the crown? Are they to be told at one moment, that they have become too
enlightened to endure longer the yoke of a demoralizing tyranny, and in the next, that they are so incapable of judging, that they must submit without murmur or inquiry to whatever government the scanty relic of the despotic Bourbons may think fit to impose. On the contrary, are not the minds of the natives of France now so cultivated, that truth will spring up in spite of all efforts to cut it down or stifle it; and in reference to the production before us and others, may it not, and will it not, be said, in the words of one of our wisest statesmen, that “it is a spark of truth which flies up in the faces of those who strive to tread it out.” Upon this subject M. de Chateaubriand has the following note.
« The work I now publish will, no doubt, afford fresh instances of these kinds of abuse. The journals will be commanded either to abuse or to refuse to advertise it. If any of them should venture to mention it independently, it will be stopped at the post-office, according to custom. I shall, I dare say, see, aye, and feel too, the good old times of Fouché and Savary. Nay, libels against me have been published under the royal police, which Savary himself had suppressed as too atrocious. I never complained, because I am sincerely the friend of the freedom of the press, and that according to my principles, I could only complain to the laws--and there are none. Besides, I am accustomed to insults of this nature, and in truth am grown somewhat callous. I individually am but one of little importance, but the principles of my book may be of some; and for this reason, I would entreat the public not to judge of it from the reports of the journals. It attacks a powerful party —that party has the exclusive dominion of these journals; literature and politics continue to be made at the old shop in the police-office: I may then expect every kind of attack ; but I may also venture to beg not to be condemned till I shall have been read.”
But surely the work before us cannot be offensive to the royal family of France, though it may well be so to the present ministers of that family: an Englishman, on reading it, is rather struck at the high tone with which its author speaks of the irresponsibility of the King. ,“ Sovereign Lord and Master, (he observes in one part,) he owes to no one an account of his reasons; when be speaks alone, every one ought to obey cheerfully, but in profound and respectful silence. We go to a new election because he commands it: and when he says to his subjects, I will, the law itself has spoken.” It is true, that M. de Chateaubriand is here speaking of the exercise of a prerogative, which he contends Crit. Rev. Vol. IV. Oct. 1816.
ought to be greater in France than in England; but his whole work is most decidedly ultra-royalist, and the true objection to it in France is, that it is anti-ministerial, and therefore strenuously opposed to the growing revolutionary interests, which have for their object, as he contends, the de. struction of legitimate monarchy.
This, indeed, is bis great offence: for this he has been degraded; for this he has lost his pension of 26,000 franks; for this he has been struck off the list of ministers of state; and for this, as is asserted, two editions of his work hare been seized and destroyed. “As good almost kill a man as kill a good book, (says our mighty master of politics and poetry:) who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, the image of God, as it were, in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is the precious lifeblood of a master-spirit, imbalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. 'Tis true, no age can restore a life, whereof perhaps there is no great loss, and revolu. tions of ages do not often recover the loss of rejected Truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse. We should be wary, therefore, what persecutions we raise against the living labours of public men; how we spill that seasoned life of man preserved and stored up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyrdom, and, if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at that etherial and fifth essence, the breath of reason itself-slays an immortality rather than a life.”
After this quotation, we dare add nothing of our own. We shall proceed to the work in hand. In the preface, the Viscount de Chateaubriand speaks of the motives which impelled him, at the risk of what he has experienced, to print his opinions. · “ If, when only a private citizen, I considered myself bound, on certain important occasions, to address my country, what ought I not now to do? As a Peer and Minister of France, bave I not higher duties to perform, and should not my efforts for my King be in proportion to the honours which he has bestowed on me?
“ As a Peer of France, it is my duty to declare the truth to France, and I will declare it.
“ As a Minister, it is my duty to declare the truth to the King, and I will declare it.
“ If the Council, of which I have the honour to be a member, was
ever assembled, I might be told - Give your advice in Council ;' but that Council does not meet. I am therefore obliged to resort to other ineans to make my humble remonstrances, and to fulfil the first duty of a Minister.
“Need I prove by examples, that men in place have the riglit of discussing in this form matters of state? Examples are abundant; I should find several in France, and England furnishes a long series. From Bolingbroke to Burke, I could cite a great number of lords, of members of the House of Commons, and members of the Privy Council, who have written on politics, and in direct opposition to the Minister of the day.
“ And shall it be said, that if France appear to me to be menaced with new misfortunes; if the legitimate monarchy is in danger, I must be silent because I am a Privy Counsellor and a Peer! On the contrary, it is my duty to point out the danger, to fire the signal of distress, and to call for help. For this reason I have for the first time in my life, affixed my titles to my name, in order to aunounce my duties, and to add, if I can, to this work, by the weight of my political rank.
“ These duties are the more imperious, since individual liberty and the liberty of the press are suspended. Who dares—who can speak? Since the title of Peer of France gives me, by virtue of the charter, a sort of inviolability, it is my duty to make use of it in order to restore to Public Opinion a portion of its power. The Public Opinion says: · You have made laws which shackle us; speak, then, for us, since you have deprived us of utterance.
“ Finally, the public has sometimes lent me a favourable ear: I have some chance of being beard. If, then, by writing I can hope to do good, be it ever so little, my conscience commands me to go on.” (p. V.—vii.)
In the introduction, the author observes, that three modes of government might exist in France under a Legitimate King: 1. The old regime; 2. A despotism ; 3. The cbarter. It would at first appear to some readers, that the old regime and a despotism were almost synonimous, but the author explains, that he means such a despotism as that endeavoured to be established by Buonaparte with an army of 600,000 men: of course, he concludes that neither of these forms can be admitted, and consequently that a legitimate monarch, governing according to the charter, is the only possible mode. Having stated the elements of a representative monarchy, he observes upon the necessity of an extended royal prerogative in France, maintaining strenuously the irresponsibility of the King, represented by his responsible ministers. He objects to the initiation of laws by the Crown on many grounds.
“ By giving exclusively to the King the initiation of laws, it was intended to strengthen the prerogative, and the effect has been to weaken it.
“ The form in which this power is exercised is as inconvenient as the principle is false: ministers come down to the houses with their proposed law in the shape of an ordonnance- Louis, by the grace of God,' &c. The ministers thus borrow the individual person and identity of bis Majesty; they make him propose this law as the result of his own wisdom and meditation; then the law is discussed; then come alterations, omissions, and amendments; and the wisdom of the King receives a legislative denial in the rejection of his first conceptions. Then must come a second ordonnance, to declare (still by the grace of God, and the wisdom of the King) that the wisdom of the King had been deceived, and that the grace of God had been invoked in vain.
“ All this is miserable, and injurious to the royal person and royal dignity. It must be changed: and this solemn form must be reserved for the final sauction of the law-the peculiar duty of the crown when the legislature shall have done theirs—and not for the sketch of a law proposed by ministers, and liable to alteration, and even rejection, by the legislature.
“ On all occasions these royal ordonnances should be used with moderation. The style and form they assume is that of absolute authority, because the King of France was formerly the supreme legislator; but now, that his legislative functions are divided with the two houses, it is more decent, it is more legal, it is more constitational, that the crown should speak with absolute authority, only when it ratifies and perfects the law, which the wisdom of the other branches of the legislature has previously framed,
“ Else, the peer and the deputy will be placed between two distinct legislative powers-between the old and the new constitution between the duty they owe to the ordonnance as subjects, and the duty they owe to their constituents as legislators. How can they freely and honestly debate such an ordonnance without disrespect to the royal prerogative? How can they refrain from debating it, without an abandonment of principle?
“ The present practice would at length lead to one or other of the following serious inconveniences: either the King's name would produce a degree of respect inconsistent with free discussion, or a free discussion would soon impair the respect due to the King's name, and tend to a degradation of the royal authority; in which, and in which alone, consist our hopes of tranquillity and happiness.
" Every one knows, that, in England, the wise rules of parliament and the constitution would be infringed by a member's using the name of the King, either in support of, or in opposition to, any proposition whatsoever.” (p. 10–12.)
The last sentence leads us to remark, that in many parte of this publication, more particularly where the author ad