Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXII, 8

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XXXII, 7 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXXII, 9


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXII, chapter 8
The Chamber of Deputies – Monsieur de Mortemart.



The Municipal Commission, established at the Hôtel de Ville, named Baron Louis as provisional Commissioner for Finance, Monsieur Baude to the Interior, Monsieur Mérilhou to Justice, Monsieur Chardel to Postal Services, Monsieur Marchal to Telegraphic Services, Monsieur Bavoux to the Police, and Monsieur de Laborde to the Prefecture of the Seine. Thus the volunteer provisional government was in reality destroyed by Monsieur Baude’s promotion, which made him a member of the government. The shops re-opened; and public services renewed their course.

During the meeting at Monsieur Lafitte’s it had been agreed that the Deputies would assemble at noon, in the Palais de la Chambre: there they found themselves sixty or so strong, presided over by Monsieur Lafitte. Monsieur Bérard announced that he had met Messieurs d’Argout, de Forbin-Janson and de Mortemart, who had gone to Monsieur Lafitte’s, thinking to find the Deputies there; he had invited the gentlemen to follow him to the Chamber, but Monsieur le Duc de Mortemart, dropping with fatigue, had gone off to see Monsieur de Sémonville. Monsieur de Mortemart, according to Monsieur Bérard, had said that he had a free hand and that the King consented to everything.

In fact, Monsieur de Mortemart was carrying five decrees about with him: instead of communicating them to the Deputies immediately, his tiredness obliged him to return as far as the Luxembourg. At noon, he sent the decrees to Monsieur Sauvo; the latter replied that he could not publish them in the Moniteur without the authorisation of the Chamber of Deputies or the Municipal Commission.

Monsieur Bérard being in the process, as I have said, of providing an explanation to the Chamber, a discussion arose as to whether to admit Monsieur de Mortemart or no. General Sébastiani insisted on the affirmative; Monsieur Mauguin declared that if Monsieur de Mortemart were present, he would demand that he be heard, but that matters were pressing and they could not await Monsieur de Mortemart’s good pleasure.

They named five Commissioners charged with conferring with the Peers: these five Commissioners were Messieurs Augustin Périer, Sébastiani, Guizot, Benjamin Delessert and Hyde de Neuville.

But a little later the Comte de Sussy was introduced into the Elective Chamber. Monsieur de Mortemart had entrusted him with presenting the decrees to the Deputies. Addressing the Assembly he said: ‘In the absence of Monsieur the Chancellor, a small number of Peers met at my house; Monsieur le Duc de Mortemart handed us this letter, addressed to Monsieur le General Gérard or Monsieur Casimir Périer. I ask your permission to read it.’ This is the letter; ‘Monsieur, leaving Saint Cloud during the night, I have sought to meet with you in vain. Please tell me where I may find you. I beg you to give cognisance to the decrees of which I have been the bearer since yesterday.’

Monsieur le Duc de Mortemart had left Saint Cloud during the night; he had had the decrees in his pocket for twelve to fifteen hours, since yesterday, according to his statement; he had not found General Gérard or Monsieur Casimir Périer: Monsieur de Mortemart had been very unlucky! Monsieur Bérard made the following observation on the letter as communicated:

‘I cannot prevent myself,’ he said, ‘from noting here a lack of frankness: Monsieur de Mortemarte, who arrived at Monsieur Lafitte’s this morning while I was with him, told me formally that he was on his way here.’

The five decrees were read out, the first repealing the decrees of the 25th of July, the second summoning the Chambers for the 3rd of August, the third naming Monsieur de Mortemart Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the Council, the fourth granting General Gérard the War Ministry, the fifth granting Monsieur Casimir Périer the Finance Ministry. When I finally found Monsieur de Mortemart at the residence of the Grand Referendary, he assured me that he had been forced to halt at Monsieur de Sémonville’s, because while returning on foot from Saint Cloud, he had been forced to make a detour and enter the Bois de Boulogne through a gap: his boot or shoe had blistered his heel. It is to be regretted that before producing the royal ordinances, Monsieur de Mortemart did not try to see the influential men inclined to the royal cause. The decrees suddenly emerged in front of Deputies who had not been forewarned, no one daring to declare himself. They attracted this lethal response from Benjamin Constant: ‘We know in advance what the Chamber of Peers will say, that they accept the revocation of the previous decrees purely and simply. For my part, I can make no positive pronouncement on the question of the dynasty; I will only say that it would be all too convenient for a King to open fire on his subjects and then be quit of it by claiming: He did nothing.’

Would Benjamin Constant, who could make no positive pronouncement on the matter of the dynasty, have ended his sentence in this manner if one had spoken to him beforehand in terms tailored to his talents and his own ambition? I feel sincerely sorry for a man of courage and honour like Monsieur de Mortemart, when I reflect that the Legitimacy was overthrown perhaps because the Minister entrusted with the King’s powers failed to find two Deputies in Paris, and that, wearied with covering three leagues on foot, he had a blistered heel. The decree nominating him Ambassador to St Petersburg has replaced the decrees given to Monsieur de Mortemart by his old master. Ah! Why did I refuse to become Louis-Philippe’s Foreign Minister and pursue again my deeply-beloved Rome Embassy? But, alas! What would I have made of my deeply-beloved on the banks of the Tiber? I would always have thought her gazing at me in embarrassment.