Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXVIII, 2

Free texts and images.
Jump to: navigation, search

XXVIII, 1 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXVIII, 3


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXVIII, chapter 2
The Opposition follows me



My downfall made a great noise: those who appeared most satisfied criticized the manner of it. I have since learnt that Monsieur de Villèle hesitated; Monsieur de Corbière decided the matter: ‘If he returns through one door of the Council chamber’, he is supposed to have said, ‘I leave through the other.’ They allowed me to depart: it was obvious that they would prefer Monsieur de Corbière to me. I did not like him: I troubled him, he drove me out: he did right.

The day after my dismissal and the following days, the Journal des Débats carried these words which do Monsieur Bertin so much honour:

‘For a second time Monsieur de Chateaubriand has undergone the ordeal of formal dismissal.
He was dismissed in 1816, as Minister of State, for attacking, in his immortal work Monarchy according to the Charter, the famous decree of the 5th of September, which proclaimed the dissolution of the ‘Unparalleled Chamber’ of 1815. Messieurs de Villèle and Corbière were simply Deputies then, leaders of the Royalist opposition, and it was for taking on the mantle of their defence that Monsieur de Chateaubriand became a victim of Ministerial wrath.
In 1824, Monsieur de Chateaubriand is again dismissed, and it is by Messieurs de Villèle and Corbière, now Ministers, that he is sacrificed. A remarkable thing! In 1816, he was punished for speaking out; in 1824, they punish him for saying nothing; his crime is to have kept silent during the debate regarding the interest rate on Government bonds. Disgrace is not always a disaster; public opinion, the ultimate judge, will tell us in which class Monsieur de Chateaubriand’s must be placed; it will also tell us to whom today’s order will be most fatal, the vanquisher or the vanquished.
Who said, at the start of the session, that in this manner we would spoil the whole outcome of the Spanish enterprise? What is needed this year is simply the law regarding the seven-year term (but the whole law), and the budget. The business of Spain, the Orient and the Americas, conducted as it was being, prudently and silently, would have been resolved; the brightest of futures would have been before us; they wanted to gather unripe fruit; it has not fallen, and they thought to remedy haste by violence.
Anger and envy are bad counsellors; States are not governed by passion, or in fits and starts.
P.S. The law regarding the seven-year term was passed, this evening, in the Chamber of Deputies. One might say that Monsieur de Chateaubriand’s doctrines have triumphed after that Minister’s departure. This law, which he conceived some time ago, as an addition to our institutions, will forever, along with the War in Spain, mark his term in office. It is wholly regrettable that Monsieur de Corbière, on Saturday, prevented one who was then still his illustrious colleague from speaking. The Chamber of Peers would at least have heard his swansong.
As for ourselves, it is with the greatest regret that we return to our path of struggle, from which we had hoped to be freed forever by the unification of the Royalists; but honour, political loyalty, the well-being of France, do not allow us to falter in the course which we must take.’

The signal for action was thus given. Monsieur de Villèle was not too alarmed at first; he failed to realise the weight of opinion. It took several years to defeat him, but he fell at last.