Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI: Of the Aspect of France and of Paris During Its First Occupation by the Allies. - Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.)
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CHAPTER VI: Of the Aspect of France and of Paris During Its First Occupation by the Allies. - Germaine de Staël, Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.) 
Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution, newly revised translation of the 1818 English edition, edited, with an introduction and notes by Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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Of the Aspect of France and of Paris During Its First Occupation by the Allies.
It would be altogether wrong to feel surprise at the grief experienced by the French on seeing their celebrated capital occupied in 1814 by foreign armies. The sovereigns who became masters of it behaved at that time with the greatest equity; but it is a cruel misfortune for a nation to have to express even gratitude to foreigners, as it is a proof that its fate depends on them. French armies had, it is true, entered more than once almost all the capitals of Europe, but none of these cities were of so great importance relative to their respective countries as Paris relative to France. The monuments of the fine arts, the recollections of men of genius, the splendor of society, all contributed to render Paris the central point of Continental civilization. For the first time since Paris occupied such a rank in the world did the flag of foreigners wave on its ramparts. The dome of the Hotel of the Invalids had been lately decorated with standards, the trophies of forty battles, and now the banners of France could be displayed only under the orders of her conquerors. I have not, I believe, extenuated in this work the picture of the faults which reduced the French to this deplorable condition, but the more they suffered from them, the more they were entitled to esteem.
The best way of judging of the sentiments that actuate large masses is to consult one’s own impressions. We are sure of discovering the feelings of the multitude by a reference to our own; and it is thus that men of ardent imaginations are able to foresee the popular movements with which a nation is threatened.
After ten years of exile1 I landed at Calais, and I anticipated great pleasure on revisiting that beautiful France which I had so much regretted; my sensations were quite different from what I expected.2 The first men whom I perceived along the shore wore the Prussian uniform; they were the masters of the town and had acquired that right by conquest. But I felt as if I were witnessing the re-establishment of the feudal system, such as it is described by old historians, when the inhabitants of the country served only to cultivate the ground of which the warriors of Germany were about to reap the fruits. Oh France, France! None but a foreign tyrant would have reduced you to such a state; a French sovereign, be he who he might, would have loved you too much ever to expose you to it.
I continued my journey, my heart always afflicted by the same thoughts; on approaching Paris, Germans, Russians, Cossacks, and Baskirs presented themselves to my sight in every direction; they were encamped around the church of St. Denis, where repose the ashes of the kings of France. The discipline enjoined by their leaders prevented the soldiers from doing injury to anyone, at least any other injury than that oppression of soul which it was impossible to remove. At last, I entered that city in which had been spent the most happy and most brilliant days of my life; I entered it as if I were passing through a painful dream. Was I in Germany or in Russia? Had they imitated the streets and squares of the capital of France to revive the remembrance of them after it had ceased to exist? In short, all was trouble in my mind; for in spite of the bitterness of my pain, I esteemed the foreigners for having shaken off the yoke. I felt unqualified admiration for them at this time; but to see Paris occupied by them, the Tuileries, the Louvre guarded by troops who had come from the frontiers of Asia, to whom our language, our history, our great men were all less known than the meanest Khan of Tartary—this was insupportable grief. If such was the impression on me, who could not have returned to France under Bonaparte’s sway, what must have been the feelings of those warriors, covered with wounds and so much the prouder of their military fame, as it had for a long time constituted the only fame of France?
A few days after my arrival I wished to go to the opera; I had repeatedly in my exile figured to my recollection this daily amusement of Paris as far more graceful and brilliant than all the extraordinary entertainments of other countries. The performance was the ballet of Psyche, which for twenty years back had invariably been represented, but under very different circumstances. The staircase of the opera was lined with Russian sentinels; entering the house I looked around on all sides to discover a face which I might recognize, but I perceived only foreign uniforms; hardly did a few Parisians of the middling class show themselves in the pit, that they might not lose their ancient habits; in other respects the spectators were entirely changed; the performance alone remained the same. The decorations, the music, the dancing had lost none of their charms, and I felt myself humiliated by seeing French elegance so lavishly displayed before those sabers and mustachios, as if it had been the duty of the vanquished again to contribute to the amusement of the victors.
At the Theâtre François the tragedies of Racine and Voltaire were represented before foreigners more jealous of our literary fame than eager to confess it. The elevation of sentiment expressed in the tragedies of Corneille could no longer find a pedestal in France; it was no easy matter to avoid a blush on hearing them pronounced. Our comedies, in which the art of gaiety is carried so far, were amusing to our conquerors when it was no longer in our power to enjoy them, and we were almost ashamed even of the talents of our poets when they seemed chained like us to the chariot of the victors. No officer of the French army, to their honor be it said, appeared at the theater during the occupation of the capital by the Allies; they walked about sorrowfully and without uniforms, being unable to bear their military decorations since they had been unable to defend the sacred territory of which the charge had been entrusted to them. The irritation which they felt did not allow them to understand that it was their ambitious, selfish, and rash leader who had brought them to the state they were in: reflection could not accord with the passions by which they were agitated.
The situation of the King returning with foreigners amidst that army which necessarily hated them presented difficulties without number.3 Individually, he did all that intelligence and goodness can inspire to a sovereign who wanted to please, but he had to do with feelings of too strong a cast to be satisfied by the means employed under the old government. It was the support of the nation that was needed to regain the army; let us examine whether the system adopted by the ministers of Louis XVIII could accomplish that object.4
[1. ] In reality, Madame de Staël returned to France after twelve years of exile. She left London on May 8, 1814, and arrived in Paris on May 12.
[2. ] For more information, see Solovieff, Madame de Staël, ses amis, ses correspondants. Choix de lettres (1778–1817), 481–84. Staël’s letters to the Count of Harrowby (May 19, 1814) and Bernadotte (June 4, 1814) offer a good overview of the political context of that time. Also see Fairweather, Madame de Staël, 433–64.
[3. ] This general feeling of uncertainty and powerlessness was nicely conveyed by Charles de Rémusat, who recalled the following conversation of his parents: “Here we are, after eighteen years, still on the same point, neither able to see clearly into the future nor capable of entrusting ourselves entirely to the present. Everything is still less completed than on the day when our son was born.” (Rémusat, Mémoires de ma vie, vol. 1, 202–3) (trans. A. C.)
[4. ] For a general view on the First and Second Bourbon Restorations, see Vaulabelle, Histoire des deux Restaurations jusqu’à l’avénement de Louis-Philippe, vols. 4 and 5; Gorce, La Restauration: Louis XVIII; and Sauvigny, The Bourbon Restoration. For a detailed analysis of the Charter of 1814, see Rosanvallon, La monarchie impossible.