Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX: Of the Obstacles Which Government Encountered During the First Year of the Restoration. - Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.)
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CHAPTER IX: Of the Obstacles Which Government Encountered During the First Year of the Restoration. - 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 Obstacles Which Government Encountered During the First Year of the Restoration.
We proceed to state the obstacles which the ministry of the Restoration had to surmount in 1814, and we shall have no fear in expressing our opinion on the system that ought to have been followed to triumph over them; the picture of this era is certainly not yet foreign to the present time.
All France had been cruelly disorganized by the reign of Bonaparte. What forms the strongest charge against that reign is the evident degradation of knowledge and virtue during the fifteen years that it lasted. After Jacobinism was past, there remained a nation that had not participated in its crimes, and the revolutionary tyranny might be considered a calamity of nature, under which the people had succumbed without being debased. The army could then boast of having fought only for the country, without aspiring to wealth, to titles, or to power. During the four years of the rule of the Directory, a trial had been made of a form of government which was connected with grand ideas; and if the extent of France and its habits rendered that form of government irreconcilable with general tranquillity, at least the public mind was electrified by the individual efforts which a republic always excites. But after military despotism and the civil tyranny founded on personal interest, of what virtues could we find any trace in the political parties with which the imperial government had surrounded itself? The masses in all orders of society, the military, peasants, nobles, men in trade, still possessed great and admirable qualities; but those who came forward on the scene of public business presented, with a few exceptions, the most miserable spectacle. The day after the fall of Bonaparte there was no activity in France but at Paris, and at Paris only among a few thousand persons running after the money and offices of government, whatever that government might be.
The military were and still are the most energetic body in a country where, for a long time, distinction has been awarded only to one kind of virtue—bravery. But ought those warriors who were indebted for their fame to liberty, to carry slavery among foreign nations? Ought those warriors who had so long supported the principles of equality on which the Revolution is founded, to exhibit themselves, if I may so speak, tattooed with orders, ribbons, and titles, which the Princes of Europe had given them that they might escape the tribute required from them? The majority of French generals, eager after distinctions of nobility, bartered their fame, like savages, for bits of glass.
It was in vain that, after the Restoration, government, while it was far too negligent of officers of the second rank, heaped favors on those of the higher class. From the time that Bonaparte’s warriors wished to become courtiers, it was impossible to satisfy their vanity in that respect; for nothing can make new men belong to an ancient family, whatever be the title that is given to them. A well-powdered general of the old government excites the ridicule of those veteran mustachios which have conquered the whole of Europe. But a chamberlain from the family of a farmer or tradesman is hardly less ridiculous in his way. It was therefore impossible, as we have just said, to form a sincere alliance between the old and the new court; the old court indeed necessarily bore an appearance of bad faith in endeavoring to remove, in this respect, the quick-sighted apprehensions of the great lords created by Bonaparte.
It was equally impossible to give Europe a second time to be parcelled out among the military, whom Europe had at last conquered; and yet they were persuaded that the restoration of the old dynasty was the only cause of the treaty of peace which made them lose the barrier of the Rhine and the ascendency in Italy.
The secondhand royalists, to borrow an English phrase, that is, those who, after having served Bonaparte, offered to be instrumental in introducing the same despotic principles under the Restoration; these men, calculated only to inspire contempt, were fit for nothing but intrigue. They were to be dreaded, it was said, if they were left unemployed; but nothing should be more guarded against in politics than to employ those whom we dread: for it is perfectly certain that they, discovering this feeling, will act as we act toward them merely by the tie of self-interest, which is broken, and rightly so, by adverse fortune.
The emigrants expected indemnities from the old dynasty for the property which they had lost by remaining faithful to it, and their complaints in this respect were certainly very natural. But they should have been helped without invalidating, in any manner, the sale of the national property, and made to comprehend what the Protestants had learned under Henri IV—that although they had been the friends and defenders of their King, they ought for the good of the state to consent that the King should attach himself to the interest that was predominant in the country over which he wished to reign. But the emigrants never conceive that there are Frenchmen in France, and that these Frenchmen are to be reckoned for something, nay for a great deal.
The clergy reclaimed their former possessions, as if it were possible to dispossess five million proprietors in a country, even if their titles were not by this time consecrated by all laws ecclesiastical and civil. Certainly France under Bonaparte has lost almost as much in point of religion as in point of information. But is it necessary that the clergy should form a political body in the state and possess territorial wealth in order that the French people may be brought back to more religious sentiments? Moreover, when the Catholic clergy exercised great power in France, it procured in the seventeenth century the repeal of the Edict of Nantes; and this same clergy in the eighteenth century opposed, down to the time of the Revolution, the proposition of M. de Malesherbes to restore the Protestants to the rights of citizens.1 How, then, could the Catholic priesthood, if re-constituted as an order of the state, admit the article of the charter which proclaims religious toleration? In short, the general disposition of the nation is such that a foreign force alone could make it endure the re-establishment of the church in its previous form. Such an object would require the bayonets of Europe to remain permanently on the soil of France, and a measure of this nature would certainly not reanimate the attachment of the French to the clergy.
Under the reign of Bonaparte nothing was properly carried on but war; everything else was willfully and voluntarily abandoned. People seldom read anymore in the provinces, and at Paris the public hardly know books but through the newspapers; which, such as they are, exercise a control over thought, since it is by them only that opinions are formed. We should blush to compare England and Germany with France in regard to general instruction. Some distinguished men still conceal our poverty from the eyes of Europe; but the instruction of the people is neglected to a degree that threatens every sort of government. Does it follow that public education ought to be exclusively entrusted to the clergy? England, the most religious country in Europe, has never admitted such an idea. Nor is it thought of either in the Catholic or Protestant part of Germany. Public education is a duty of government to the people, on which the former cannot levy the tax of this or that religious opinion.
That which the clergy of France wishes, that which it has always wished, is power; in general, the demands which we hear urged in the name of the public interest may be resolved into the ambition of groups or of individuals. If a book is published on politics, if you have difficulty in understanding it, if it appears ambiguous, contradictory, confused, translate it by these words, “I wish to become a minister,” and all its obscurity will be explained to you. In fact, the predominant party in France is that which calls for places; the others are but accidental shades at the side of this uniform color; the nation, however, neither is nor can be of any account in this party.
In England when a ministry is changed, all who occupy places given by ministers do not imagine that they can receive places from their successors; and yet there exists but a very slight difference between the different parties in England. Tories and Whigs both desire monarchy and liberty, although they differ in the degree of their attachment to each. But in France, people thought themselves entitled to receive appointments from Louis XVIII because they had held places under Bonaparte; and a number of persons who call themselves patriots thought it strange that the King should not compose his counsel of those who had sentenced his brother to death. Incredible madness of the love of power! The first article of the rights of man in France is that it is necessary that every Frenchman should hold a public employment.
The caste of place-hunters have no idea of living but at the public expense; neither industry nor commerce, nor anything which proceeds from ourselves, appears to them a suitable source of income. Bonaparte had accustomed certain men who called themselves the nation to be pensioned by government; and the disorder which he had introduced into the affairs of everyone, as much by his gifts as by his acts of injustice, was such that at his abdication an incalculable number of persons, without any independent resource, offered themselves for places of any kind, no matter whether in the navy, the magistracy, the civil or military departments. Dignity of character, consistency of opinion, inflexibility of principle, all the qualities of a citizen, of a man of high spirit, of a friend of liberty, no longer exist in the active candidates formed by Bonaparte. They are intelligent, bold, decisive, dextrous dogs in the chase, ardent birds in the pursuit of prey; but that inward conscience which renders one incapable of deceiving, of being ungrateful, of showing servility toward power or harshness toward misfortune; all these virtues which exist in our nature as well as in reflection were treated as chimerical or as romantic exaggeration, even by the young men of that school. Alas! the misfortunes of France will give her back enthusiasm; but at the time of the Restoration there was scarcely any such thing as a decided wish on any point; and the nation was with difficulty awakened from the despotism which had given to men a movement so mechanical that even the vivacity of their action was no exercise of the will.
This, then, the royalists will still repeat, was an admirable opportunity for reigning by force. But, we say it once more, the nation consented to be subservient to Bonaparte only to obtain through him the splendor of victory; the dynasty of the Bourbons could not and ought not to make war on those who had re-established them. Were there any means of introducing slavish obedience at home when the army was by no means attached to the throne and when the population, being almost wholly renewed since the princes of the house of Bourbon had quitted France, princes who were known only to persons of the age of forty and upward?
Such were the principal elements of the Restoration. We shall examine particularly the spirit of society at this date, and we shall finish by a sketch of the methods which, in our opinion, could alone triumph over these various obstacles.
[1. ] In 1787–88.