Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXII, 11

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XXXII, 10 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXXII, 12

Mémoires d'Outre-tombe

Book XXXII, chapter 11
The Republicans – The Orléanists – Monsieur Thiers is sent to Neuilly – Another gathering of Peers at the Grand Referendary’s: the note reaches me too late.

The three parties began to organise themselves and act against one another: the Deputies who supported a monarchy of the elder branch were the strongest legally; all who were for order rallied to their cause; but, morally, they were the weakest: they hesitated, they failed to take decisions: it became obvious, through the Court’s tergiversation, that they would accept a usurpation rather than see themselves swallowed up by the Republicans.

The latter had a placard designed which read; ‘France is free. She accords to the provisional government only the right to consult her, while waiting for her will to be expressed in fresh elections. No more royalty: Executive power entrusted to a temporary President: Direct or indirect involvement of all citizens in the election of Deputies: Freedom of religion.’

This placard summarised the only valid element of Republican opinion; a fresh assembly of Deputies would have decided whether it was good or bad to cede to that wish, no more royalty; everyone could have made their case, and the election of a new government by a National Congress would have possessed the character of legality.

On another Republican poster of that same day, the 30th of July, you could read in large letters: ‘No more Bourbons…That is the key to greatness, peace, public prosperity, liberty.’

At length an address appeared from the members of the Municipal Commission composing a provisional government; it demanded: ‘That no proclamation be issued naming a leader, while the very form of government was not yet determined; and that the provisional government would remain in operation until the wishes of the majority of the French people were known; all other measures being untimely and unacceptable.’

This address emanating from members of a commission nominated by a large number of citizens, from the various districts of Paris, was signed by Messieurs Chevalier, as President, Trélat, Teste, Lepelletier, Guinard, Hingray, Cauchois-Lemaire, etc.

In this popular meeting, it was proposed, by acclamation, to turn the presidency of the Republic over to Monsieur de Lafayette; they relied on the principles that the representative Chamber of 1815 had proclaimed on dissolution. Various printers refused to publish these proclamations, saying they had been forbidden to do so by Monsieur le Duc de Broglie. The Republic brought to earth Charles X’s throne; it feared the interdictions of Monsieur de Broglie, who was spineless.

I have told you that, on the night of the 29th, Monsieur Lafitte with Messieurs Thiers and Mignet, were all set to draw public attention to Monsieur le Duc d’Orléans. On the 30th appeared proclamations and addresses, the fruits of those discussions: ‘Let us avoid a Republic,’ they said. Then came references to the feats of arms at Jemmapes and Valmy, and they assured us that Monsieur le Duc d’Orléans was no Capet, but a Valois.

However when Monsieur Thiers, sent by Monsieur Lafitte, rode to Neuilly with Monsieur Scheffer, His Royal Highness was not there. There was a flurry of words between Mademoiselle d’Orléans and Monsieur Thiers: it was agreed that they should write to Monsieur le Duc d’Orleans to persuade him to rally to the Revolution. Monsieur Thiers wrote a note to the Prince himself, and Madame Adélaïde promised to pre-empt his family in Paris. Orléanism had made progress, and from the evening of that very day the question of conferring the powers of Lieutenant-General on Monsieur le Duc d’Orléans was discussed.

Monsieur de Sussy, with the decrees from Saint-Cloud, had been even less well-received at the Hôtel de Ville than in the Chamber of Deputies. Furnished with a receipt by Monsieur de Lafayette, he sought out Monsieur de Mortemart who cried: ‘You have done more than save my life; you have saved my honour.’

The Municipal Commission issued a proclamation in which it declared that the crimes of his reign (Charles X) were over, and that the people would have a government that owed its origin to itself (the people): an ambiguous phrase that one could interpret as one wished. Messieurs Lafitte and Périer did not sign this act. Monsieur de Lafayette, somewhat late in his alarm at the idea of an Orléanist monarchy, sent Monsieur Odilon Barrot to the Chamber of Deputies to announce that the people, the authors of the July revolution, would not agree to it ending in a simple change of leader, and that the blood spilt merited some display of liberty. There was a question of a proclamation by the Deputies inviting His Royal Highness the Duke of Orléans to return to the capital; after communicating with the Hôtel de Ville, this idea of a proclamation was abandoned. They drew lots nevertheless to select a deputation of twelve members to go and offer the Lord of Neuilly the Lieutenant-General-ship which had not found its way into a proclamation.

In the evening, the Grand Referendary gathered the Peers together at his residence; his letter through negligence or political expediency reached me too late. I hastened to make the rendezvous; they opened the gate in the Allée de l’Observatoire for me; I crossed the LuxembourgGardens; when I arrived at the Palace, I found no one there. I made my way back among the flowerbeds my eyes fixed on the moon. I thought with regret of the mountains and seas where she had appeared to me, the forests in whose summits she concealed herself in silence, with the aspect of one repeating to me Epicurus’ maxim: ‘Hide your life.’