Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXV, 3

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXV, chapter 3
Monarchy according to the Charter



My labours were not limited to the rostrum, so new to me. Appalled by the arrangements that were being contemplated and by French ignorance regarding the principles of representative government, I wrote and published La Monarchie selon la Charte.

This publication marked one of the great epochs of my political life: it ranked me among the publicists; it served to form public opinion regarding the nature of our government. The English newspapers praised the piece to the skies; over here, even the Abbé Morellet could not get over my change of style and the dogmatic precision of its truths.

Monarchy according to the Charter is a constitutional catechism: from it are drawn the majority of propositions advanced as new these days. Thus the principle that the King reigns and does not govern, is found complete in chapters IV to VII on the royal prerogative.

These constitutional principles were set out in the first part of Monarchy according to the Charter, in the second part I examined the workings of the three governments which had followed in succession between 1814 and 1816; in this latter part are found various predictions since only too surely verified, and the exposition of doctrines then unrecognised. These words can be found in Chapter XXXVI, of the second part: ‘It is taken as read amongst a certain group of people that a revolution of the nature of ours can only end in a change of dynasty; others, more moderate, say in a change in the order of succession to the Crown.’

As I was completing my work, the decree of the 5th of September 1816 appeared; that measure scattered the few royalists who had gathered to reconstitute the legitimate monarchy. I hastened to write a postscript which produced an explosion of anger on the part of Monsieur the Duc de Richelieu, and Monsieur Decazes, Louis XVIII’s favourite.

The postscript having been added, I hastened to Monsieur Le Normant, my bookseller; on arrival, I found the gendarmes, with a police commissioner orchestrating things. They had seized various parcels and affixed their seal. I had not braved Bonaparte to be intimidated by Monsieur Decazes: I opposed the seizure; I declared that as a free Frenchman and a Peer of France I would only yield to force: the force arrived and I withdrew. I presented myself on the 18th of September to the Royal notaries, Messieurs Louis-Marthe Mesnier and his colleague; I registered my protest at their office and requested them to record my factual declaration of the seizure of my work, wishing to secure the rights of French citizens by that protest. Monsieur Baude imitated me in 1830.

I next found myself engaged in a long correspondence with Monsieur the Chancellor, Monsieur the Minister of Police, and Monsieur Bellart, the Public Prosecutor, until the 9th of November, the day on which the Chancellor announced a decree rendered in my favour by the tribunal of the first instance, which set me once more in possession of my impounded work. In one of his letters, Monsieur the Chancellor told me that he had been greatly distressed to witness the discontent with my work which the King had expressed publicly. That discontent arose from the chapters where I set myself against the establishment of a government of universal policing in a constitutional country.