Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXII, 2

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


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXII, chapter 2
The July Revolution: the 27th of July



The 27th had begun badly. The King had invested the Duke of Ragusa with command of Paris: which was tempting misfortune. At one o’clock, the Marshal installed himself in the Guard Headquarters on the Place du Carrousel. Monsieur Mangin sent men to seize the National’s presses; Monsieur Carrel resisted; Messieurs Mignet and Thiers, thinking the game was up, disappeared for two days: Monsieur Thiers went into hiding in the Montmorency Valley, at the house of a certain Madame de Courchamp, a relative of the two Messieurs Béquet, of whom one worked for the National and the other for the Journal des Débats.

At Le Temps, the thing took a more serious turn: the true journalistic hero was incontestably Monsieur Coste.

In 1823, Monsieur Coste ran Les Tabelettes universelles: accused by his collaborators of having sold the paper, he fought a duel and received a sword-thrust. Monsieur Coste was presented to me at the Foreign Ministry; speaking to him of the freedom of the Press, I said: ‘Monsieur, you know how much I love and respect that freedom; but how do you expect me to defend it to Louis XVIII when every day you attack royalty and religion! I beg you, in your own interest and to preserve my forces intact, do not sap the ramparts which are three parts demolished, and which in truth a brave man would be ashamed to attack. Let us do a deal: no longer attack a few weak old men whom the throne and the sanctuary barely protect: I will hand myself over to you in exchange. Attack me day and night; say what you will of me, I will never complain; I will thank you for your legitimate and constitutional attack on a Minister, and for keeping the King out of it.’

Monsieur Coste retained from this interview a measure of esteem for me.

A confrontation regarding the constitution took place at the office of Le Temps between Monsieur Baude and a Police commissioner.

The Attorney-General issued forty-four warrants against the signatories to the journalists’ protest.

Around two o’clock, the Revolution’s monarchist party met at Monsieur Périer’s, as they had agreed to do the day before: nothing was concluded. The Deputies adjourned the meeting till the following day, the 28th, at Monsieur Audry de Puyraveau’s house. Monsieur Casimir Périer, a man of order and means, did not wish to fall into the hands of the people; he still cherished hopes of coming to terms with the Legitimacy; he said sharply to Monsieur de Schonen: ‘You are ruining us by flouting the law; you are losing us a superb position.’ This spirit of legality ruled everywhere; it appeared during two contrasting meetings, one at Monsieur Cadet-Gassicourt’s, the other at General Gourgaud’s. Monsieur Périer belonged to that middle class which appointed itself heir to the people and the army. He had courage, and fixity of purpose; he flung himself bravely athwart the revolutionary torrent to damn it; but he was over-pre-occupied with his health and too careful of his wealth. ‘What can you do with a man,’ said Monsieur Decazes to me, ‘who is always inspecting his tongue in the mirror?’

The crowd grew and began to arm, and the Commander of the Gendarmerie came to warn the Duke of Ragusa that he had insufficient men and was fearful of being overwhelmed. The Marshal then made his military dispositions.

It was already half past four on the afternoon of the 27th, before the barracks received orders to take up arms. The Paris Gendarmerie, supported by a few Guards detachments, tried to re-open the Rue Richelieu and the Rue Saint-Honoré. One of these detachments was assailed in the Rue du Duc-de-Bordeaux (Rue du Vingt-Neuf-Jeuillet) by a shower of stones. The leader of this detachment was holding fire, when a shot rang out from the Hôtel Royal on the Rue des Pyramides, and decided the matter: it seems that a certain Mr Folks, staying at this hotel, had armed himself with his shooting-piece, and fired at the Guards from his window. The soldiers replied with a volley towards the house, and Mr Folks and two servants were killed. This is the way that these English, who live a sheltered life in their island, transport revolution elsewhere; you find them mixed up in quarrels which are no concern of theirs, in the four corners of the world: if they can sell a piece of calico what matter if it plunges a nation into endless calamities. What right had this Mr Folks to shoot at French soldiers? Had Charles X violated the British Constitution? If anything could tarnish the struggles of July it would be for them to have been started by an English bullet.

The first battles, which did not begin until about five in the afternoon of the 27th ended at dusk. The gunsmiths handed their weapons to the crowd, the street-lamps were either broken or remained unlit; the tricolour flag was hoisted in the darkness on the towers of Notre Dame: the storming of the guard-houses, the taking of the Arsenal and the powder-magazines, and the disarming of the militiamen, was completed without opposition on the morning of the 28th, and by eight everything was over.

The Revolution’s democratic and proletarian party in smocks or half-naked was under arms; it did not spare its rags and poverty. The people, represented by electors chosen from various groupings, managed to call a meeting at Monsieur Cadet-Gassicourt’s.

The party of Usurpation had not yet shown itself: its leader, hiding outside Paris, was uncertain whether to go to Saint-Cloud or the Palais-Royal. The middle-class or monarchical party, the Deputies, deliberated and refused to be drawn into the movement.

Monsieur de Polignac took himself to Saint-Cloud and at five in the morning on the 28th persuaded the King to sign the decree placing Paris under martial law.