Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXII, 4

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXII, chapter 4
The July Revolution: civil action on the 28th of July



If you ignore the fighting, the civil and political revolution ran parallel to the military one. The soldiers detained at the Abbaye were set at liberty; the debtors imprisoned at Saint-Pélagie escaped, and those condemned for political errors were freed: a revolution is a jubilee; it absolves all crimes and permits greater ones.

The Ministers took council at headquarters: they decided to arrest, as the ring-leaders of the movement, Messieurs Lafitte, Lafayette, Gérard, Marchais, Salverte and Audry de Puyraveau; the Marshal gave the order; but when they were sent to him later as representatives, he thought it beneath his honour to execute his own order.

A meeting of the monarchist party composed of Peers and Deputies took place at Monsieur Guizot’s: the Duc de Broglie was there; Messieurs Thiers and Mignet, who had re-emerged, and Monsieur Carrel, though of a different opinion, arrived. It was there that the party of Usurpation pronounced the name of the Duc d’Orléans for the first time. Monsieur Theirs and Monsieur Mignet went to see General Sébastiani to talk to him about the Prince. The General replied in an evasive way; the Duc d’Orléans, he assured them, had never entertained any such ideas and had authorised nothing.

Around noon, still on the 28th, the general meeting of Deputies took place at Monsieur Audry de Puyraveau’s residence. Monsieur de Lafayette, leader of the Republican Party, had returned to Paris on the 27th; Monsieur Lafitte, leader of the Orléanist Party, did not arrive until the night of the 27th; he went to the Palais-Royal, where he found no one; he left for Neuilly: the King-in-waiting was not there.

At Monsieur de Puyraveau’s they discussed a planned protest against the decrees. This more than moderate protest evaded the main issues entirely.

Monsieur Casimir Périer advised that someone should hasten to see the Duke of Ragusa; while the five Deputies chosen to do so were getting ready to leave, Monsieur Arago was already at the Marshal’s: he had decided, following a message from Madame de Boigne, to anticipate the representatives. He suggested to the Marshal the need to put an end to the disturbances in the capital. The Duke of Ragusa went to discuss it at Monsieur de Polignac’s; the latter, informed of the troops’ reluctance, declared that if they went over to the people, they should be fired on as insurgents. General Tromelin, who was a witness to this conversation, lost his temper with General d’Ambrugeac. Then the deputation arrived. Monsieur Lafitte spoke for them: ‘We come,’ he said, ‘to ask you to stop the letting of blood. If the struggle continues, it will not only result in disastrous cruelty, but utter revolution.’ The Marshal confined himself to the question of military honour, maintaining that the people must be the first to cease fighting. He added however this postscript to a letter he wrote to the King: ‘I think it urgent that Your Majesty profit without delay from the overtures that have been made.’

The Duke of Ragusa’s aide de camp, Colonel Komierowski, escorted to the King’s office at Saint-Cloud, handed him the letter; the King said: ‘I will read the letter.’ The Colonel withdrew and awaited orders; finding that they did not arrive, he begged Monsieur le Duc de Duras to go and ask them of the King. The Duke replied that, according to etiquette, it was impossible to enter the office. At last, summoned by the King, Monsieur Komierowski was told to urge the Marshal to stand firm.

General Vincent, for his part, hastened to Saint-Cloud; having forced open the door which had been refused him, he told the King that all was lost: ‘My dear sir,’ Charles X replied, ‘you are a fine general, but you do not understand any of this.’