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Louis Philippe


The French Revolution - Louis Philippe - Guizot - Resistance to Reform- Corruption of the Government - Criminals in High Places - M. Teste - Duke de Praslin - Unpopularity of the Government - The Prince de Joinville on his Father's Policy - The Spanish Marriages - Solemn Warnings - Flattering Assurances - The Reform Banquet prohibited - The King's Obstinacy - Impeachment of the Ministers - Excitement of the People - Resignation of Guizot - A Reform Administration announced - Public Rejoicings - The Troops fire on the People - Funeral Procession of the Victims - Insurrection in Paris - Abdication of the King - Proposal of a Regency - "Too late " - The Duchess of Orleans in the Chamber of Deputies - A Republic proclaimed - Sacking of the Tuileries and the Palais Royal, - Respect of the Rioters for the Duchess of Orleans - Flight of the King and Queen to England - Character and Death of Louis Philippe - Proclamation of a Provisional Government - All Vestiges of Royalty destroyed - The Red Republic - De Lamartine - The Constituent Assembly - The French Republic solemnly pro claimed - " Organisation of Labour" - Insurgent Movement of the Red Republicans - Movement in favour of Louis Napoleon - The National Workshops, and their ruinous Effects - Distress of the Working Classes - Insurrection and Street Fighting in Paris - General Cavaignac Dictator - Death of the Archbishop of Paris on a Barricade - The Insurrection suppressed - Louis Napoleon a Member of the National Assembly - His Election as President of the Republic.
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Loins Philippe, " the Napoleon of Peace," had been the subject of constant eulogy, for the consummate ability and exquisite tact with which he had governed France for seventeen years. It was supposed that the "Citizen King" had at length taught his restless and impulsive subjects the blessings of constitutional government, and that they were perfectly contented with the free institutions under which it was now their happiness to live. Guizot, regarded as one of the greatest statesmen on the Continent, was at the head of affairs in 1847, and it was hoped that his profound wisdom and keen sagacity would enable him to guard the state against any dangers with which it might be threatened by the Legitimists, on one side, or the Democrats, on the other. But the whole aspect of public affairs in France was deceptive, and the unconscious monarch occupied a throne which rested on a volcano. The representative government of which he boasted, was nothing but a sham - a gross fraud upon the nation. The basis of the electoral constituency was extremely narrow, and majorities were secured in the Chambers by the gross abuse of enormous government patronage. The people, however, saw through the delusion, and were indignant at the artifices by which they were deceived. The King, who interfered with his ministers in everything, and really directed the government, was proud of his skill in "managing" his ministry, his parliament, and the nation. But the conviction gained ground everywhere, and with it arose a feeling of deep resentment, that he had broken faith with the nation, that he had utterly failed to fulfil his pledges to the people, who had erected the barricades, and placed him upon the throne, in 1830. His temper was utterly unsuited to the spirit of the French nation. Mean, calculating, and selfish, he devoted himself to the hoarding of money, the acquisition of personal property, and the aggrandisement of his family. To those who could discern the signs of the times, there were various premonitory symptoms of the coming revolution. The people, not only in Paris, but throughout the provinces, had been suffering from the dearness of provisions, and they began to apprehend the approach of a famine. Various depots and warehouses containing corn were sacked, and boats laden with corn were pillaged. In some places the populace rose, and insisted upon a fixed price for corn, but which the vendors were obliged to sell, failing the protection of the authorities. Bands of men went through the country, demanding bread and labour. Outrages and assassinations occurred in some places. The rioters were tried; three were condemned to death, four to perpetual hard labour, and eighteen to various terms of imprisonment, by the Assize Court of l'Indrè. The multitude sympathised with the victims, and execrated the authorities as well as the landed proprietors. The Guizot Ministry became intensely unpopular. He had set his face against reform; and even to Conservative demands for moderate concession, his answer was, "Nothing, nothing, nothing!" In 1847, a proposition was brought forward in the Chambers in favour of electoral reform, which was supported by M. Odilon Barrot, who placed in a strong light the alarming progress of political corruption. But the stern minister could see no necessity for the motion, and denied that any reform was needed. He felt strong in a chamber chiefly composed of state functionaries, who sustained him by a majority of forty-nine. In the meantime, the most astounding system of robbery in the dockyards, arsenals, and other public stores, was brought to light at Toulon, Rochefort, Brest, and other places. Even officials, with small salaries, were discovered to have amassed large fortunes. The contractors supplied worthless articles, and heads of departments were found to be defaulters to an enormous extent. The Government, instead of punishing such delinquents, endeavoured to screen them. Its own members were publicly charged in the journals with shameful acts of corruption. Among these was Teste, a peer of France, and President of the Court of Cassation. A commission of inquiry was appointed, and while the investigation was proceeding he shot himself, but, not being mortally wounded, he wrote to the President of the Chamber of Peers that he would allow judgment to go by default. He was condemned to the penalty of civil degradation, to 94,000 francs' pecuniary fine, and to three years' imprisonment. Another peculator, General Cabières, was condemned to degradation, and a fine of 10,000 francs. The Chamber of Peers was prorogued on the 23rd of July, but within a month it was convoked again to try one of its members, accused of the crime of murdering his wife.

The Duke de Praslin did not live happily with his wife, with whom he frequently quarrelled about the management of their children, eight in number. They had been recently confided to the care of a Madame Deluzy, a governess, who acquired a complete ascendancy over them and their father, which naturally excited the intense jealousy of their mother, who lived in a state of isolation and misery in her hotel. The Duke's temper, at the same time, became daily more violent, and whenever the husband and wife met it was only for the purpose of tormenting one another. About half-past four o'clock, on the morning of the 18th of August, a great noise was heard in the Hôtel Praslin. The bells in the bedroom of the Duchess, communicating with the apartments of several servants, were rung with violence; the servants rushed up instantly, but found the doors which opened upon the bedchamber of the Duchess all securely fastened. They heard the noise of falling furniture, of piercing cries and groans, convincing them that a terrible murder was being perpetrated, yet all their efforts failed to break open the doors. At length they succeeded in reaching the chamber, through the garden. On entering the room, they found the lifeless body of Madame de Praslin, extended on the floor, with no covering but her blood-stained chemise - her forehead, face, neck, arms, and hands, pierced with more than thirty deep wounds. Hearing the cries of the servants, the Duke appeared at the door of the great salon, demanding the cause of the noise and tumult. When the corpse of his wife was pointed out to him, he exclaimed, " Ah, poor woman, who has assassinated her? " The police were quickly on the premises, with three doctors. The apartment was minutely examined, and a trail of blood was discovered, leading from it, along the passage, to the chamber of the Duke. He accounted for this by saying that when he was awakened by the cries of his dying wife, he ran towards her, assisted her as well as he could, and returned to his own room, covered with blood. His answer left little doubt that he was himself the assassin. His room was at once searched, and there was discovered linen stained and saturated with blood; also, various sharp instruments red with human gore. His person was then examined, and it was found that the skin was abraded in eight places, proving that he had been engaged in a desperate struggle. Yielding to these overwhelming proofs of guilt, the Duke feigned sudden indisposition, and asked leave to retire for a few minutes to his room. There he swallowed slow poison, of which he died on the 24th of August.

This atrocious crime, perpetrated by a member of the Chamber of Peers, belonging to the highest order of nobility, and moving in the most select circle about the throne, following, as it did, so closely after the revelation of the gigantic frauds of Teste and his accomplices, gave an immense shock to the moral sense of the nation, and convinced even the middle classes, on which the government of Louis Philippe chiefly rested, that their rulers were wicked and depraved, beyond the hope of redemption. The friends of the monarchy were convinced that it could only be saved by speedy and effectual reform. But the very name of reform was hateful to the King, and his aide-de-camp took care to make known to the members of the Chamber his opinions and feelings upon the subject. M. Odillon Barrot, however, originated a series of reform banquets, which commenced in Paris, and were held in the principal provincial cities, at which the most eminent men in the country delivered strong speeches against political corruption and corrupters, and especially against the minister who was regarded as their chief defender - Guizot. The Prince de Joinville, writing to the Duke de Nemours on the 7th November, 1847, shows that he was aware of the situation of the country. "The fact is," he said, "the King is inflexible; he listens to no counsel; his will must have its way over all obstacles. There are, in fact, no ministers; their responsibility is as nothing; everything proceeds from the King. He is now of an age when he will listen to no observations whatever. We come before the Chamber detestably as to home affairs, and as to foreign, our position is not better. All this is the work of the King alone - the results of the old age of a King who wishes to govern, but who wants the energy to take a manly resolution. I had looked for compensation in Italy, but there we shall be forced to make common cause with the retrograde party, which, in France, will produce a disastrous effect. Alas! These unhappy Spanish marriages we have not yet exhausted the fount of bitterness they contain - placed between the alternative of making the amende honorable to Palmerston, on the subject of Spain, or of making common cause with Austria, to play the gendarme in Switzerland, and struggle in Italy against our principles and natural allies. Ours is a hard fate. All this is traceable to the King alone, who has tampered with our constitutional institutions. I look upon all this as very serious."

The "Spanish marriages" here referred to, made great noise at the time, and contributed largely to the ruin of the Orleans dynasty. Louis Philippe insisted that the young Queen of Spain should marry her cousin, Don Francisco d'Assisi, an imbecile prince, to whom she had an aversion. He also arranged, that her sister should marry his youngest son, the Duke de Montpensier. Both marriages were celebrated on the Queen's birthday, the 10th of October, 1846. The Queen and her husband were completely estranged from one another, from the day of their legal union; neither appearing together in public, nor meeting in private.

The French Chambers were summoned for the 28th December, and the King opened them in person, reading a speech, which was vague, vapid, and disappointing. It contained one passage, however, which was sufficiently intelligible. It was a denunciation and a defiance of reform. He said: - "In the midst of the agitation fomented by hostile and blind passions, one conviction sustains and animates me - it is that in the Constitutional monarchy, in the union of the great powers of the State, we possess the most assured means of surmounting all obstacles, and of satisfying the moral and material interests of our dear country." In the discussion on the address, solemn warnings were uttered, by great statesmen, on the situation of the country. M. Barrot accused the Ministers of sordid and shameless negotiations, and traffickings for place. M. Thiers showed, that the floating debt amounted to 750,000,000 francs, and declared that all kinds of property were depreciated - railway shares to nearly one-half. M. de Tocque- ville declared that public morals were depraved, and that private morals were deteriorating to the low level of the public. The sense of morality was daily becoming feebler. " It is true," he said, " the working classes are not troubled by political passions, as they were formerly, but their politics have become social. They no longer seek to upset such a minister, to overthrow such and such a government; but they wish to uproot and overturn society itself. When such opinions become prevalent, and sink into the minds of the people, they produce, sooner or later - one knows not the moment - one knows not how - the most formidable revolutions." M. de Lamartine undertook to demonstrate, that in all the affairs conducted by M. Guizot's government at Rome, Florence, Turin, and Naples, from the accession of Pius IX. to the rising in Sicily, the Cabinet of the Tuileries had served the interests of Austria and betrayed those of Italy and France. The Spanish marriages he considered to be the cause of those errors, omissions, and crimes. The debates on the state of the country continued for a month. Day by day, the most vehement denunciations against the Government were read with intense excitement in the cafés throughout France. Two amendments were moved to the address, both of which were lost. M. Barrot said that it amazed him to find ministers putting into the mouth of the Sovereign outrages and insults, addressed to a great number of deputies, behind whom were 60,000 citizens. This was a crime against the Constitution, and must lead to a coup d'état, and to resistance. He threw on the Ministry the fearful responsibility of events.

In the address, Guizot and his colleagues prophesied smooth things to their self-willed and infatuated Sovereign. They declared that France, by his courage, deserved the blessing of Heaven; that never under similar circumstances was public order so generally maintained; that the relations of the Government with all foreign powers gave him confidence that the peace of the world was secured; that agitations excited by hostile passions or blind delusions, would vanish before public reason, enlightened by free discussion, and the manifestation of all legitimate opinions; that they would guarantee the public liberties, and all their development; and that the Charter of 1830 would be transmitted by them to future generations, as an inviolable deposit, and would secure to them the most valuable inheritance which nations could receive - the alliance of order and liberty.

On the following day a meeting of the Opposition deputies was held at the Café Durand, in the Place de la Madeleine, when it was proposed that they should all send in their resignations. This would cause 102 elections, at which the conduct of the Government would be fully discussed at the hustings in different parts of the country. This was objected to by the majority, who were for holding a great banquet in defiance of the Government. A committee was appointed to make the arrangements, and the announcement caused the greatest excitement. Commercial affairs were in a great measure suspended, and the whole community seemed waiting in anxious suspense for the issue of the contest. On the 14th of February the Journal des Débats stated that the Government would pursue a conciliatory course, and that there would be reforms granted before the end of the session; but the article excited the anger of the King in the highest degree. "All the world is for reform," he said, "but I will never yield to this weakness; reform is the coming in of the Opposition, and the entry into power of the Opposition is war, and the beginning of the end. As soon as the Opposition assumes the reins of Government, I will retire!" On the 21st of February the Government issued a proclamation forbidding the banquet, which was to take place on the following day, and at which the National Guards were invited to attend in uniform, "for the purpose of defending liberty by joining in the demonstration, protecting order, and preventing all collision by their presence." The Ministry denounced this convoking of the National Guards as the raising of a Government in opposition to the real Government, usurping the public power, and openly violating the Charter, and concluded thus: - "These are acts which the Government cannot tolerate. In consequence, the banquet of the 12th arrondissement will not take place. Parisians, remain deaf to every excitement to disorder. Do not, by tumultuous assemblages, afford grounds for a repression which the Government would deplore."

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