Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXII, 10

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXII, chapter 10
The Meeting of Peers.



The noise I left behind me contrasted with the silence which reigned in the vestibule of the Luxembourg Palace. That silence increased in the dark gallery which led to Monsieur de Sémonville’s rooms. My presence disturbed the twenty five to thirty Peers who were gathered there: I stifled the mild effusions of fear, the tender consternation which they evinced. There I finally met with Monsieur de Mortemart. I told him that, in agreement with the King’s wishes, I was ready to work with him. He replied, as I have already mentioned, that while returning he had blistered his heel: he went back to join the main assembly. He made known to us the decrees he had communicated to the Deputies via Monsieur de Sussy. Monsieur de Broglie declared he had just crossed Paris; that we were sitting on a volcano; that the employers could not restrain their workers; that if Charles X’s name was even pronounced, they would cut all our throats, and would demolish the Luxembourg as they had the Bastille: ‘It’s true! It’s true!’ the prudent ones murmured in a low voice nodding their heads. Monsieur de Caraman, who had been made a Duke, apparently because he had been Prince von Metternich’s lackey, maintained heatedly that the decrees could not be acknowledged: ‘Why not, Monsieur?’ I asked him. That calm question froze his eloquence.

The five Deputy Commissioners arrived. General Sébastiani began with his usual phrase: ‘Gentlemen, it’s a serious matter.’ Then he eulogised Monsieur le Duc de Mortemart’s noble moderation; he spoke of the danger to Paris, pronounced a few words in praise of His Royal Highness Monseigneur le Duc d’Orléans, and concluded with the impossibility of considering the decrees. I and Monsieur Hyde de Neuville were the only Peers of a contrary opinion. I was allowed to speak: ‘Gentlemen, Monsieur le Duc de Broglie, has told us, that he has walked through the streets, and that he has seen hostile demonstrations everywhere: I also have traversed Paris, three thousand young people escorted me to the courtyard of this palace: you may have heard their shouts: are they, who thus saluted one of your colleagues, thirsting for your blood? They were shouting: ‘Long live, the Charter!’ I replied: ‘Long live, the King!’ They showed no anger and have deposited me amongst you safe and sound. Is this evidence of public opinion so threatening? I maintain, myself, that nothing is lost, that we can accept the decrees. The question is not one of considering whether there is any danger or no, but of keeping the oaths we have taken to that King from whom we derive our dignity and some among us their fortunes. His Majesty, in withdrawing his decrees and replacing his government, has done everything that he should: let us in turn do as we should. What? In the course of our whole lives a single day presents itself on which we are obliged to enter the field of battle, and shall we refuse to fight? Let us show France an example of loyalty and honour; let us prevent her falling into a state of anarchy, in which peace, her true interests and her liberty would be lost: danger vanishes when one dares to look it in the face.’

No one replied; they hastened to close the session. There was an impatience, amongst that gathering, to perjure themselves which made fear intrepid; all wished to preserve their scrap of life, as if time was not about to tear off our old skins, tomorrow, for which a sensible broker would not give a brass farthing.