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Chapter XXXI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3


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The foreign relations of England at this period were, on the whole, satisfactory - as might be expected from the fact that our foreign policy was committed to the able management of lord Palmerston, who, while sympathising with oppressed nationalities, acted steadily upon the principle of non-intervention. Considering, however, the comparative smallness of our naval and military forces, the formidable military powers of Russia and France created a good deal of uneasiness. On the 19th of February there was a debate in the house of Commons on Eastern affairs, in which the vast resources and aggressive policy of Russia were placed in a strong light. On that occasion lord Dudley Stuart said, " Russia has 50,000,000 subjects in Europe alone, exclusive of Asia; an army of 700,000 men, and a navy of eighty line-of-battle ships and frigates, guided by the energy of a government of unmitigated despotism, at whose absolute and unlimited disposal stand persons and property of every description. These formidable means are constantly applied to purposes of territorial aggrandisement, and every new acquisition becomes the means of gaining others. Who can tell that the Hellespont may not be subject to Russia at any moment? She has a large fleet in the Black Sea, full command of the mouths of the Danube, and of the commercial marine cities of Odessa and Trebizond. In three days she may be at Constantinople from Sebastopol; and if once there, the Dardanelles will be so fortified by Russian engineers that she can never be expelled except by a general war. She could be in entire possession of these important straits before any expedition could be sent from this country, even if such a thing could be thought of against the enormous military force at the command of Russia. That Russia is determined to have the Dardanelles is evident from the treaty of Umkiar-Skelessi, by which she began by excluding the ships of all other nations. The effect of this treaty was to exclude any ship of war from these straits, except with the permission of Russia. Russia might at any moment insist on the exclusion of our ships of war from the Dardanelles - nay, she has already done so; for when lord Durham, going on his late embassy to the court of St. Petersburg, arrived at the Dardanelles in a frigate, he was obliged to go on board the Pluto, an armed vessel without her guns, before he could pass the straits; and when he arrived at Sebastopol, no salute was fired, and the excuse given was that they did not know the Pluto from a merchant vessel. But both before and since lord Durham went, Russian ships of war, with their guns out and their streamers flying, passed through the Black Sea to the Dardanelles, and again through the Dardanelles to the Black Sea. Russia has now fifteen ships of the line and seven frigates in the Black Sea. Sebastopol is only three days' sail from the Hellespont. Turkey has no force capable of resisting such an armament; the forts of the Hellespont are incapable of defence against a land force, for they are open in the rear. Russia might any day have 100,000 men in Constantinople before England or France could even fit out expeditions to defend it."

Lord Palmerston and Mr. Paulet Thompson treated the apprehensions of lord Dudley Stuart as visionary, and expressed their conviction that there was nothing in the conduct of the czar to excite either alarm or hostility in this country. A few days later, however, an event occurred which showed how little Russia was to be relied upon; and that it was impossible to restrain her aggressive propensities, even by the most solemn treaty obligations, undertaken in the face of Europe, and guaranteed by the great powers. Cracow, which comprised a small territory about 490 square miles in extent, with a population of about 123,000, including the city, was at the general settlement in 1815 formed into a free state, whose independence was guaranteed by the treaty of Vienna in the following terms: - " The town of Cracow, with its territory, is declared to be for ever a free, independent, and strictly neutral city, under the protection of Russia, Austria, and Prussia." During the insurrection of Poland in 1830, the little state of Cracow could not repress its sympathies, and the news of the outbreak was received there with the greatest enthusiasm. After the destruction of the Polish army, persons who were compromised by the revolt sought an asylum in Cracow; and in 1836 2,000 political refugees were found settled there. This served as a pretext for the military occupation of the city in February of that year, notwithstanding the joint guarantee that it should never be entered by a foreign army. This was only a prelude to the ultimate extinction of its independence, which occurred ten years later.

In France Louis Philippe had, since 1830, been working out the experiment of a constitutional government with a fair measure of success; not, however, without danger from the red republicans. On the 28th of July, 1835, during the festivities of the annual commemoration of the revolution of 1830, he narrowly escaped assassination. He was riding along the line of the national guard on the Boulevard du Temple, accompanied by his three sons and a splendid suite, when an explosion, like a discharge of musketry, took place from the window of a house. Marshal Mortier, general de Virigny, and twelve others, including a child, were killed on the spot, and about thirty were wounded; but the king, whose death was the object of the assassin, escaped unhurt. The police, guided by the smoke, rushed into the house, and seized the assassin in the act of letting himself down by a rope from the back window of the apartment. The "infernal machine" which he employed consisted of twenty-five barrels, arranged horizontally upon a frame, which could be raised or lowered at pleasure. The touch-holes communicated by means of a train of gunpowder, and the lighting of one simultaneously discharged them all. The machine was placed at an open window, screened by a blind, the removing of which caused unexpected delay, which was the means of saving the king's life. Had he passed an instant later, he must have been killed, as one of the bullets struck his horse behind. The assassin proved to be a Corsican, named Fieschi, formerly a soldier and a police spy, who had pursued criminal courses, and had suffered for his offences in prison and in the pillory. Four persons, equally disreputable and still more obscure, were joined with him in the conspiracy; but, so far as appeared on the trial, their objects were simply personal, and they were not proved to be connected with any political party. The terrific explosion caused the greatest possible consternation for a few minutes; but as soon as it was known that the king and the royal family were safe, there were tumultuous expressions of joy. The forms of the review having been gone through by the king, the anniversary festivities were suspended, the tricolour flag was veiled in crape, the victims of the assassin received the honours of a public funeral, attended by the king and his family, and pensions were voted by the chambers to the poor persons who had been wounded, or who had been rendered destitute by the catastrophe.

The French government very unwisely availed themselves of this incident to strengthen the executive power; for, although the conspirators were not found to have any connection with political movements, the duke of Broglie, president of the council, endeavoured to give the affair a political colouring. "Factions," he said, "though subdued, still exist in secret; each day discloses the evil worked by them, and the disastrous traces of their passage. An inveterate hatred of the existing order, a determination to overthrow it at any sacrifice, were still to be found in the ranks of a minority which though vanquished, was not submissive. Respect for the laws was undermined, the character of the sovereign of their choice was unceasingly assailed, his fife was hourly threatened, and society since 1830, in the entire absence of all foreign danger and menace, had exhibited nothing more than a protracted revolutionary crisis."

In consequence of this state of things, three bills were introduced for the purpose of extending the arbitrary power of the government, and extinguishing the liberty of the press. Any person found guilty of an offence against the person of the king by any mode of publication whatever, was to be imprisoned and subjected to an enormous fine, ranging from £400 to £2,000. For ridiculing the person or authority of the king, the imprisonment might extend to five years, and the fine to £400, with the deprivation of civil rights. A fine of £200 might be inflicted for even alluding to the name of the king in any disquisition upon the acts of government. To reflect in writing upon the form or principle of the government was high treason, to be punished with unlimited incarceration, and a fine of from £400 to £2,000. Imprisonment for five years, with a heavy fine, was denounced against all persons avowing themselves republicans or Carlists; the fine being doubled for the second offence, and multiplied four times for every succeeding offence. No editor could open a subscription for the payment of a fine, or publish the names of jurors, or withhold the names of the authors of inculpated articles, or publish any engraving, drawing, lithographic print, or emblem of any kind, without licence from the minister of the interior. A second bill was designed to nullify trial by jury, by allowing the jurors to vote by ballot, and taking the verdict of a simple majority. A Paris editor might be imprisoned in the West Indies, or in Africa. Notwithstanding determined opposition, these three bills passed into law, and the constitutional charter, for the violation of which Charles X. fled to make way for the citizen king, was virtually abolished by him without exciting the least popular movement either in Paris or the provinces. The citizens merely shrugged their shoulders, and avenged themselves by calling the new enactments the Fieschi laws. That person, with his accomplices, Morey, Peppin, Boireau, and Bescher, were tried in the month of January following. The trial lasted a fortnight, and on the 15th of February the court sentenced Fieschi to be conducted to the scaffold barefooted, and covered with a shroud. Peppin and Morey were guillotined in the usual way; Boireau was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment, and Bescher was acquitted. The three executions took place on the 19th of February, in the presence of an immense multitude, who did not manifest their sympathy with the sufferers by any lawless demonstrations.

Two attempts were made to obtain the throne of France during the reign of Louis Philippe, by Louis Charles Napoleon, afterwards -emperor of the French. This prince was born at Paris, April 20th, 1808. He was the third son of Louis Napoleon - who had been made king of Holland by his brother, Napoleon I. - and of the beautiful and accomplished Hortense de Beauharnais. Having been brought up amid the splendours of imperial magnificence until he was about seven years of age, the downfall of the empire ruined his bright prospects, and drove him from France. After the "hundred days," his mother fled to Bavaria, where the education of her children formed the business of her life. When, in 1824, the name of Buonaparte had become less an object of terrors to Europe, she ventured to seek repose in Switzerland. There Louis Napoleon studied history and mathematics with ardour, and was particularly successful in the latter. He devoted himself also to manly sports and military exercises, and even joined the federal camp at Thun.

At the accession of Louis Philippe in 1830, he asked permission to return to France, and to serve as a common soldier in the army; but his requests were refused, and the decree of his banishment was renewed. Nevertheless, the prospect of a brilliant future presented "itself to his mind in glowing colours. He and his elder brother were at Rome when the revolution occurred in the Pontifical States! and they both joined the popular side with enthusiasm. But the Austrians having crushed the movement, they fled to Forli, where his brother died in a few days; and he was saved from falling into the hands of his pursuers only by the courage and devotion of his mother, who hastened to him under an assumed name, and proceeded with him first to France - though it was death by law for a Buonaparte to enter that kingdom - and then to London. Circumstances, however, obliging the exiles to leave that city, they took refuge in Switzerland; and soon after his arrival there, Louis Napoleon was invited by the chiefs of the Polish revolution to place himself at their head. He was prevented from complying by the death of the duke of Reichstadt, the only son of the emperor Napoleon - a circumstance which made him the heir of his uncle - as well as by the rapid succession of events which rendered the cause of Poland hopeless at that period. This important change in his position caused European diplomacy to keep from this time a watchful eye upon him.

He now devoted himself to the study of great political questions, and in 1833 published his " Considérations Politiques et Militaires," which made a great impression in Switzerland. Two years after appeared his " Manuel d'Artillerie," which has been pronounced by competent judges an excellent treatise. While occupied in these studies, he formed plans which, in 1836, resulted in an attack on the fortress of Strasburg. The people being disaffected to the present régime, and the garrison still proudly cherishing the memory of the late emperor, he hoped they would at once rally round his standard. From Strasburg he anticipated he could march on rapidly to Paris, bringing with him the garrisons of Alsace and Rothingen, and place himself at the head of the army before the government could take any measures to arrest his progress. He had paid a secret visit to Strasburg, and had won over the commander of artillery in the garrison and fifteen officers. But he sadly miscalculated: the attempt utterly failed; he was arrested and brought as a prisoner to Paris on the 9th of November, 1836. His life was spared, but he was banished to the United States, whence he soon returned to Switzerland. There he began fresh intrigues, which caused Louis Philippe to demand peremptorily that he should be expelled. The Swiss reluctantly complied with this demand, and the heir of Napoleon took refuge in London, where, in 1839, he published "Les Idées Napoléoniennes."

The following year he made another attempt on the French throne, which proved ridiculously abortive. Having hired an English steamer, the City of Edinburgh, he embarked with count Montholon, genera) Voisin, and fifty-three other persons, and having landed near Boulogne on the 6th of August, he summoned the garrison to acknowledge his authority. The summons was not obeyed, and the prince with his party went to a hill above the town, where he planted a flag with an eagle on the top of the staff. The national guard, however, beat to arms, he retreated to the beach, and was captured with his accomplices. On his landing, he had immediately scattered a printed proclamation, announcing the deposition of the king, and appointing a president of the council and a minister of war. He and his followers were tried by the peers of France for high treason, and found guilty. The latter were condemned to various terms of imprisonment, and the prince himself was sentenced to perpetual confinement in the fortress of Ham, where he remained for six years. He escaped in disguise in 1846, and arrived in London, where he remained till the revolution which led to his being elected president of the French republic.

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Pictures for Chapter XXXI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3

Louis Philippe
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Attempt to assassinate Louis Philippe
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