Page images

journalism but all liberty of publication in France. His opposition brought about the fall of M. de Villèle, and in the new Chamber of 1827 he was elected to the Presidential chair, a fitting end to a distinguished career. Between 1829 and 1832 the Deputies had to be accommodated in a temporary erection within the Palace courtyard whilst their old home was being practically rebuilt. It was in this hastily improvised assembly-room that Louis Philippe took the oath and was proclaimed “King of the French,” a title that definitely and finally settled the point that in future the king in France was the selection of the people, the first functionary of the State, and not the proprietor of the nation by divine right. On November 4, 1829, le Comte de la Bourdonnay, Minister of the Interior, laid the first stone of the new “Salle des Séances” and the other buildings destined to provide for the service of the Chamber, such as record offices, library, reading- and writing-rooms, and so forth. This reconstruction cost the sum of 2,7 oo, ooo francs, and was inaugurated November 19, 1832, under Louis Philippe. During the session that followed, the platform was occupied in turn by such eminent men as Thiers, Guizot, Broglie, Molé, Odilon Barrot, the leader of the Left ; Berryer, the great Legitimist orator, and lastly Lamartine, the grande voir lyrique of the epoch. The eminent poet was elected deputy while absent on a journey in the East, a journey described in his first prose work published 1835. On receiving the news of his election from the French Consul in Syria he embarked for Constantinople, crossed Bulgaria, Servia, Hungary, and finally regained France and Paris. One of his friends asked him where he was going to sit in the House. “Up in the ceiling,” replied Lamartine, meaning above all parties and factions. “Indeed,” he said of this early period of his parliamentary career, “I was relegated by unanimous consent to the land of chimeras.” It was not long, however, before he revealed unexpected powers of oratory, and even astonished the assembly by the efficiency he showed in certain technical discussions such as that on sugar. He gradually associated himself with the radical socialistic party, and gained immense popularity by his adhesion to the campaign in favour of electoral reform. Louis Philippe tried to win him over by offering him through M. Guizot the Embassy at Vienna, but Lamartine declined the “golden chain,” “preferring to remain “poor and unfettered for the work of the future.” “I fought M. Guizot first of all,” he says, “with moderation, then with energy, as the gulf between us grew wider and wider. The

* Preface to Lamartine's Speeches,

Government tended always more towards the past, whilst my ideas and those of the century stretched out ever towards the future.” So entirely was he in touch with public feeling, that on the outbreak of the social democratic revolution of 1848 it was Lamartine who held the people in control and in the moment of crisis decided the destinies of France. The great scene was enacted at the Hôtel de Ville. The personal courage of one man turned aside the torrent of popular excitement when it would have submerged everything, and diverted it into a peaceful channel. This was on February 24. In the meantime, King Louis Philippe had fled, leaving the fortunes of the Orléans family in the hands of a woman, the Duchesse d'Orléans and a child, her son, as eighteen years before the Bourbons' hopes had been upheld by the Duchesse de Berry and her boy. The Princess Hélène of Mecklenburg had married the Duc d'Orléans (eldest son of Louis Philippe) May 1837, and had lost him on July 31, 1842, the day when, on the road to Neuilly, his horses having taken fright, he jumped from the carriage and broke his neck. The duke had been liberal in his principles and was popular in consequence. This popularity was extended to his widow, a woman of unusual merit, possessing much good sense, which made her appreciated by the king, her father-inlaw. Madame d'Agoult” speaks thus of the princess : Intelligent, reserved, refined in ideas and in appearance, worthy to sustain her elevated rank, she had nevertheless none of that energy or audacity which seizes the opportunity of governing. Habitually delicate and long-suffering, she could conceive nothing but vague hopes, was utterly lacking in those ardent qualities which make a Marie Thérèse or a Catherine the Great. Her melancholy expression and gentle speech, which won for her the sympathies of the well-disposed, were never exchanged for the enthusiastic eloquence which conquers an adversary. In a word, she was a noble princess, but neither a

heroine nor a genius. One or the other was required on this momentous occasion to arrest the revolutionary current.

Such was the lady that Dupin conducted from the Tuileries to the Palais Bourbon on February 24, 1848, the hope of the Royalist party being that the Chamber might be induced to name her Regent for her son, the Comte de Paris, then a child of nine. It was about 1.30 when she made her appearance on the scene, leading the Comte de Paris by the hand, and preceded by her second son, the Duc de Chartres, and escorted by numerous officers of the Garde Nationale. On all sides cries of “Vive la Duchesse d'Orléans,” “Vive la Régente,” and “Vive le Roi" were heard. The day seemed won, when Lamartine, whose mind was made up and who determined to oppose the Regency, suddenly intervening, proposed the suspension of the sitting. The duchess realised to at if she withdrew the cause was lost. She quitted the chair which she occupied at the foot of the platform and took a place higher up. A friend urged her to address the deputies from the tribune. Her brother-in-law, the Duc de Nemours, held her back. Hesitating and frightened, she nevertheless summoned all her courage and attempted a few words. But the noise was such that hardly did the persons immediately round her catch what she said. Odilon Barrot then rose and supported the cause of the Regency, but without much enthusiasm. In the midst of his speech the hall was suddenly invaded by a crowd of people—students, workmen, gardes nationaux, and loafers from the street. In the tumult that ensued Ledru Rollin and Lamartine only were listened to, and when the former proposed a provisional government, the suggestion was immediately acted on, and in accordance with the shouts of “Yes” or “No” the following eight deputies were successively elected: Lamartine, Dupont de l'Eure, Arago, Ledru Rollin, Crémieux, Garnier Pagès and Marie. The new Government adjourned to the Hôtel de Ville, where, for the second time in the history of France, a Republic was proclaimed. As for the poor Duchesse d'Orléans, she sought refuge momentarily in the Hôtel des Invalides, leaving it in the evening for the Château de Bligny in Seine-et-Oise, and arrived in Belgium on the following day. On crossing the frontier she could not restrain her emotion, “remembering, no doubt, the acclamations, the fêtes, the enthusiasm which had greeted her arrival on French soil, where a throne had awaited her and she left but a tomb.” (Madame d'Agoult.)

* Histoire de la Révolution de 1843.

The Palais Bourbon remained untenanted until after May 4, when 9oo members, elected by universal suffrage, assembled within its walls. Neither the Republican character of the new House, nor the weight and influence of Lamartine, Ledru Rollin and Arago were sufficient to hold in check the easily excited crowds of boulevard-politicians. On May 15 the Chamber was again invaded by thousands of insurrectionists, demanding war with Russia and Germany on behalf of oppressed Poland. Blanqui was at their head.

The invasion of May 15 [says Victor Hugo in Choses Vues] was a strange sight. Imagine the markets and the Senate mixed together, streams of men in rags flowing all over the tribunes and the benches, thousands of flags waving everywhere, women terrified and hysterical, rioters scrambling over the journalists' desks, the passages blocked, masses of heads, shoulders, yelling faces, arms uplifted, fists clenched, nobody speaking, every one shouting, the deputies silenced. One of the leaders of the mob, of a better class, but with an evil expression, his eyes bloodshot and a nose like a bird of prey, shrieked out : “To-morrow we will plant in Paris as many guillotines as we did trees of Liberty 1"

This lasted three hours, but in the end very few people were hurt and no one killed. Lord Normanby, the English Ambassador, who was present, and describes the scene in a volume of “Reminiscences,” expresses his astonishment at the courtesy of the insurrectionists. The deliberations of -the two Republican bodies, the Constituante and the Assemblée Législative, were uninterrupted by any popular disturbance, and were distinguished by the able discussions of such members as Montalembert, Falloux, Berryer, Thiers, Cavaignac, Lamartine, and Victor Hugo. An event of great importance, however, took place on December 20, 1848, when Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was proclaimed President of the Republic. He had been elected by an overwhelming majority of 5% million votes, Cavaignac being second with 1% million, and Lamartine, the hero of a few months before, last with but 17,ooo. The result of the balloting was read out by M. Waldeck Rousseau. When he came to Lamartine's total the Right burst out laughing. President Marrast then announced “le citoyen Louis Bonaparte” President of the Republic. There was a little applause from one corner where he had been seated ; the rest of the Assembly kept a rigid silence. Armand Marrast called upon the elected of the nation to take the oath. Louis Napoleon appeared, mounted the tribune, and pronounced the following oath : “In the presence of God and before the French people represented by the Assemblée Nationale, I swear to remain faithful to the Republic democratic, one and indivisible, and to fulfil all the duties imposed on me by the Constitution.” Hardly three years were to elapse before the oath was violated, and a new Constitution evolved by the Prince President. The coup a'état (December 1851), by which he who had sworn to uphold the Republic swept it away arbitrarily, imprisoned its representatives and put an armed force in possession of the Chamber, was approved by a plébiscite of seven million voices, and a further plébiscite the following year converted the President into Emperor ; the second Republic became the Second Empire, and the governing body resumed the title of “Corps Législatif.” Presided over in turn by the Duc de Morny (1854–65), Walewski (1865–68), Schneider, the great “industriel ” (1868 to September 4, 1870), the Assembly was not distinguished for anything but its courtierlike submission to the new head of the State, until about 1860, when the voices of Jules Favre and Emile Ollivier began to be heard in defence of Republican ideas. The Emperor was made to feel the necessity of reforms in a liberal direction. In 1863 Thiers entered the Assembly, and the elections of 1869 returned even stronger additions to the Republican party; its sentiments were ably represented by such men as Jules Favre, Jules Simon, Ferry, and Gambetta, the last of whom was destined to play such an important rôle in 1870, when popular despair invested him with a sort of dictature. His was the voice that reasoned with the people when, on September 4, they broke in upon the grave deliberations of the deputies trying to realise the disaster of Sedan. The crowd demanded the re-establishment of the Republic. Gambetta complied. When after the war a new Chamber was elected, it sat first of all at Bordeaux, then at Versailles. Only in 1879 did the national representatives return to their old home on the Quai d'Orsay. Since then the distinguished members of an august body have enjoyed peace from without, and no further invasions have come to interrupt the flow of their eloquence. Gambetta remained at the head of the Republican party till his death in 1882, when the field of his activity was fittingly the scene of his last earthly triumph. It was from the Palais Bourbon, all hung with black for the occasion, that the im– posing procession started, which was to follow to his grave the greatest Frenchman since Napoleon. The Government had decreed a State funeral to the man who had not despaired of France in 1870, who had organised the resistance of the provinces, and at any rate saved the honour of the country; to the man whom the Republican party justly considered the founder of the Republic. His funeral brought together every element in France, civil and military, whilst not a town was unrepresented—Strasbourg, Muhlhaus, and Metz marching at the head. This was in January 1883, and the dead statesman was succeeded in the leadership of his party by his old lieutenant, Jules Ferry, whose fall was brought about by Clémenceau after the disaster in Tonquin. The orators most listened to during the last quarter of the century just over have been M. Ribot, an ideal parliamentary debater; Clémenceau, brilliant and a hard hitter; M. de Mun, the representative of aristocratic and clerical views; and Jaurès, whose style is a mixture of the professor, the demagogue, and the poet. If any criticism can be made of an Assembly where so much oratorical ability is gathered together, it is that the listening capacity displayed is relatively small. The sittings are apt to be very noisy. Of the internal hubbub, the Palace, however, with its calm exterior, shows nothing. The well-balanced colonnade that looks across the Pont de la Concorde and faces the world at large, seems to embody a spirit of repose that may be emblematic of the future of France and the prospects of her people. VIOLET STUART WORTLEY.

« PreviousContinue »