Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXI, 7

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXI, chapter 7
The opening of the Session of 1830 – The speech – The Chamber is dissolved



The Session of 1830 opened on the 2nd of March. The Royal speech had the King say: ‘If reprehensible manoeuvres create obstacles for my government which I could not and chose not to foresee, I will find the means of overcoming them.’ Charles X pronounced these words in the tones of a man who, by habit gentle and timid, happens to find himself angered, stirred by the sound of his own voice; the stronger the words, the weaker the resolutions that followed them.

The address in reply was written by Messieurs Étienne and Guizot. It read: ‘Sire, the Charter consecrates as a right the nation’s intervention in deliberations regarding the public interest. That intervention makes a permanent reconciliation of the views of your government with the desires of the people the indispensable condition for the harmonious progress of public affairs. Sire, our loyalty, our devotion forces us to tell you that this RECONCILIATION DOES NOT EXIST.’

The address was endorsed by a majority of two hundred and twenty-one to one hundred and eighty-one. An amendment by Monsieur de Lorgeril tried to remove the phrase regarding the denial of reconciliation. This amendment only obtained twenty-eight votes. If the two hundred and twenty-one had been able to foresee the result of their vote, the address would have been rejected by an immense majority. Why does Providence not sometimes raise a corner of the veil which hides the future? It gives certain people, it is true, a presentiment of things to come; but they see nothing clearly enough to be quite certain of the route; they fear to overstep the mark, or if they do adventure on predictions which are later fulfilled they are not believed. God never parts the clouds before the deeps in which he works; when he allows great evils, it is because he has great designs; designs which are part of a vast plan, extending to a far horizon beyond the range of our sight and the reach of our passing generations.

The King, replying to the address, declared that his resolution was immutable, that is to say that he would not dismiss Monsieur de Polignac. The dissolution of the Chamber was determined: Messieurs de Peyronnet and de Chantelauze replaced Messieurs de Chabrol and Courvoisier who retired; Monsieur Capelle was named as Minister for Commerce. There were twenty men in the offing capable of being Ministers; they could have recalled Monsieur de Villèle; they could have taken Monsieur Casimir Périer and General Sébastiani. I had already proposed the latter to the King, when after the fall of Monsieur Villèle, the Abbé Frayssinous was charged with offering me the Ministry of Education. But no; they had a horror of able men. In the ardour they felt for nobodies, they found, as if to humiliate France, whoever was most insignificant in order to place them at her head. They dug up Monsieur Guernon de Ranville, who was perhaps the bravest of the band of unknowns, and the Dauphin implored Monsieur de Chantelauze to save the monarchy.

The decree of dissolution summoned the district colleges for the 23rd of June 1830 and the departmental colleges for the 3rd July, only twenty-seven days before the end of the eldest branch of the monarchy.

The parties went to extremes, in their excitement: the Ultra-Royalists spoke of making the Crown a dictatorship; the Republicans dreamed of a Republic with a Directory or under a Convention. The Tribune, a paper affiliated to that party, appeared, and outshone the National. The great majority of the country still desired the Legitimacy, but with concessions and freedom from Court influence; ambition was rife, and everyone hoped to become a Minister; storms hatch out insects.

Those who wished to force Charles X to become a constitutional monarch thought they were in the right. They believed the Legitimacy was deep-rooted; they had forgotten the weakness of the man; Royalty could be pressurised, the King could not: the individual failed us, not the institution.