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CHAPTER XI: Of the System Which Ought to Have Been Followed in 1814, to Maintain the House of Bourbon on the Throne of France. - 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 System Which Ought to Have Been Followed in 1814, to Maintain the House of Bourbon on the Throne of France.
Many people think that if Napoléon had not returned, the Bourbons had nothing to fear. I am not of this opinion; for such a man, it must at least be allowed, was an alarming pretender; and if the House of Hanover could fear Prince Edward,1 it was madness to leave Bonaparte in a position which invited him as it were to form audacious projects.
M. de Talleyrand, in re-assuming in the Congress of Vienna almost as much ascendancy in the affairs of Europe as French diplomacy had exercised under Bonaparte, certainly gave great proofs of his personal skill. But should the French government, after changing its nature, have interfered with the affairs of Germany? Were not all the just resentments of the German nation yet too recent to be effaced? It was then the first duty of the King’s ministers to have asked of the Congress of Vienna the removal of Bonaparte to a greater distance. Like Cato in the Roman senate when he repeated incessantly, “Carthage must be destroyed,” the ministers of France ought to have laid aside all other interests till Napoléon was no longer within view of France and Italy.
It was on the coast of Provence that men attached to the royal cause might have been useful to their country by preserving it from Bonaparte. The plain good sense of the Swiss peasants, I remember, induced them to foretell, in the first year of the Restoration, that Bonaparte would return. Every day attempts were made in society to convince of this the persons who could make themselves heard at court. But since the etiquette which prevails only in France did not allow the monarch to be approached, and because ministerial gravity, another inconsistency in the present times, removed to a distance from the first servants of the state those who could have told them what was going on, an unprecedented lack of foresight proved the ruin of the country. But even if Bonaparte had not landed at Cannes, the system followed by the ministers, as we have endeavored to prove, had already endangered the Restoration, and left the King without any real strength in the midst of France. Let us first examine the conduct which government ought to have adopted in respect to each party, and conclude by recalling those principles which ought to guide the direction of affairs and the choice of men.2
The army, it has been said, was difficult to bring round. No doubt, if the intention was to maintain an army in order to conquer Europe and establish despotism in the interior, that army must have preferred Bonaparte as a military chief to the princes of the Bourbon family; nothing could change such a disposition. But if, while paying regularly the appointments and pensions of the military who had shed so much glory on the French name, the court had convinced the army that it was neither feared nor wanted, since it had been determined to take a liberal and peaceful policy as a guide; if, far from insinuating, in a whisper, to the officers that they would gain favor by supporting the encroachments of authority they had been told that the constitutional government, having the people on its side, would tend to diminish the number of the troops of the line, transforming the military into citizens and converting a warlike spirit into civil emulation, the officers would perhaps have regretted for some time longer their former importance. But the nation, of whom they constitute a part more than in any other army, since they are taken from all its classes, this nation, satisfied with its constitution and relieved from the apprehension of what of all things it fears most, the return of the privileges of the nobles and the clergy, would have calmed the military instead of irritating them by its disquietudes. It was useless to try to imitate Bonaparte in order to please the army; so fruitless an attempt could bring only ridicule on those who made it; but, by adopting a system altogether different, even directly contrary, they could have obtained that respect which arises from justice and obedience to the law; that path at least had not been trodden by Bonaparte.
In regard to the emigrants whose property was confiscated, what had been already done in 1814 might have been repeated; an extraordinary supply might have been asked of the legislative body to acquit the personal debts of the King. And since there would have been no tribute to pay to foreigners had not Bonaparte returned, the deputies would have acceded to the wish of the monarch, and would have respected the manner in which he employed an occasional supplement to his civil list.* Let it be asked with sincerity if, when the royalist cause seemed desperate, the emigrants had been told in England, “Louis XVIII shall ascend the throne of France, but with the condition of being limited to the powers possessed by the King of England; and you, who will return with him, shall obtain all the indemnities and favors which a monarch, according to your own wishes, can grant; but if property be restored to you, it shall be by his gift, not by your own rights; if you acquire any power it shall be by your personal talents, not by the privileges of your class,” would not they all have consented to this treaty? Why then suffer themselves to be intoxicated by a moment of prosperity? And if, I take a pleasure in repeating it, Henri IV, who had been a Protestant, and Sully, who remained one, knew how to restrain the pretensions of their fellow soldiers, why did the ministers of Louis XVIII lack the art of governing the dangerous friends whom Louis XVI himself designated in his will as having greatly injured him by a mistaken zeal?
The existing clergy, or rather that which it was wished to re-establish, was another difficulty which presented itself from the first year of the Restoration. The conduct of government toward the clergy ought to be the same as toward all other classes: toleration and liberty, taking things as they are. If the nation desires a rich and powerful clergy in France, it will know how to re-establish it; but if no one wishes for it, then it will only alienate more and more the French from piety to present religion to them as a tax and the priests as men who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. The persecutions which the priests suffered during the Revolution are continually cited: it was then a duty to serve them by every possible means; but the re-establishment of the political influence of the clergy has no connection with the just compassion which the sufferings of the priests inspired. It is the same with the nobility; their privileges ought not to be renewed as a compensation for the injustice they have suffered. Again it does not follow, because the remembrance of Louis XVI and his family awaken a deep and painful interest, that absolute power should be the necessary consolation to be offered to his descendants. This would be imitating Achilles when he caused the sacrifice of slaves on the tomb of Patroclus.
The nation always exists; it cannot die; and it must on no account be deprived of the institutions which belong to it. When the horrors which have been committed in France are described merely with the indignation which they naturally awaken, every mind is in sympathy; but when they are made the means of exciting hatred against liberty, the tears which spontaneous regret would have caused to flow are dried up.
The great problem which ministers had to solve in 1814 could have been studied in the history of England. They ought to have taken as a model the conduct of the House of Hanover, not that of the House of Stuart.
But it will be said, what marvellous effects would the English constitution have produced in France, since the Charter which resembles it so nearly has not saved us? First, greater confidence would have been placed in the duration of the Charter if it had been founded on a compact with the nation, and if the princes of the royal family had not been surrounded by persons professing, for the most part, unconstitutional principles. No one has dared to build on such unstable ground, and factions have remained on the alert, waiting for the fall of the edifice.
It was of importance to establish local authorities in the towns and villages, to create political interests in the provinces in order to diminish the ascendancy of Paris, where people aim at getting everything by favor.3 It would have been possible to revive a desire for public esteem in those individuals who had terribly dispensed with it by making the suffrages of their fellow-citizens necessary to their being chosen deputies. A numerous election for the Chamber of Representatives (six hundred deputies at least; the English House of Commons has more) would have given a greater respectability to the legislative body, and consequently many distinguished persons would have engaged in that career. It has been acknowledged that the qualification of age, fixed at forty years,4 was a damp to every kind of emulation. But the ministers dreaded deliberative assemblies above everything; and, influenced by their old experience of the early events of the Revolution, they directed all their efforts against the freedom of speech in the Assembly. They did not perceive that, in a country intoxicated with military ardor, the freedom of debate is a protection instead of a danger, since it adds to the strength of the civil power.
To increase as much as possible the influence of the Chamber of Peers, there should have been no obligation to preserve all the former senators, unless they had a right to that honor by their personal merit. The peerage ought to have been hereditary and composed wisely of the ancient families of France, which would have given it dignity; and of men who had acquired an honorable name in the civil and military career. In this manner the new nobility would have derived luster from the old, and the old from the new; they would thus have advanced toward that constitutional blending of classes without which there is nothing but arrogance on one side and servility on the other.
It would also have been well not to have condemned the Chamber of Peers to deliberate in secret. This was depriving it of the surest means of acquiring an ascendancy over the public mind. The Chamber of Deputies, although they had no real title to popularity, since they were not elected directly, exercised more power on public opinion than the Chamber of Peers solely because the speakers were known and heard.
Finally, the French desire the fame and the happiness attached to the English constitution, and the experiment is well worth a trial; but the system once adopted, it is essential that the language, the institutions, and the customs should be brought to conformity with it. For it is with liberty as with religion; hypocrisy in a noble cause is more revolting than its complete abjuration. No address ought to be received, no proclamation issued, that did not formally remind us of the respect due to the Constitution, as well as to the throne. The superstition of royalty, like all other superstitions, alienates those whom the simplicity of truth would have attracted.
A public education not under the management of religious orders, to which we cannot return, but a liberal education, the establishment of schools in all the departments for mutual instruction;5 the universities, the polytechnic school, everything which could restore the splendor of learning to France, ought to have been encouraged under the government of so enlightened a prince as Louis XVIII. In this manner it would have been practicable to divert the public mind from military enthusiasm and compensate to the nation for the absence of that fatal glory which produces so much evil, whether it is gained or lost.
No arbitrary act, and we are happy in insisting on that fact, no arbitrary act was committed during the first year of the Restoration. But the existence of the police,6 forming a ministry as under Bonaparte, was discordant with the justice and mildness of the royal government. The principal employment of the police was, as we have already stated, the inspection of the newspapers, and the spirit of the latter was detestable. Even admitting that this inspection was necessary, the censor should at least have been chosen among the deputies and peers; but it was violating all the principles of representative government to put into the hands of ministers themselves the direction of that opinion by which they are to be tried and enlightened. If the liberty of the press had existed in France,7 I will venture to affirm that Bonaparte would never have returned; the danger of his return would have been pointed out in such a manner as would have dispelled the illusions of obstinacy; and truth would have served as a guide instead of producing a fatal explosion.
Finally, the choice of ministers, that is, of the party from which they should have been chosen, was the most important condition for the safety of the Restoration. In times when men are occupied with political debates, as they were formerly with religious quarrels, free nations can be governed only by the aid of those whose opinions are in correspondence with the opinions of the majority. I shall begin, then, by describing those who ought to have been excluded before pointing out the men who ought to have been chosen.
None of the men who committed any crime in the Revolution, that is, who shed innocent blood, can be in any way useful to France. They are reprobated by the public and their own disquietude leads them into deviations of every kind. Give them repose and security; for who can say what he would have done amidst such great agitations? He who has not been able to keep his conscience and his honor clear in any struggle whatever may still be dextrous enough to serve himself, but can never serve his country.
Among those who took an active part in the government of Napoléon, a great number of military men have virtues which do honor to France, and some administrators possess rare abilities from which advantages may be derived; but the principal chiefs, the favorites of power, those who enriched themselves by servile acquiescence, those who delivered up France to that man who perhaps would have respected the nation if he had met with any obstacle to his ambition, any greatness of soul in those by whom he was surrounded—there could be no choice more contrary than that of such men to the dignity as well as safety of the Crown. If it is the system of the Bonapartists to be always the slaves of power, if they bring their science of despotism to the foot of every throne, ought ancient virtues to be brought in alliance with their corruption? If it were intended to reject all liberty, better in that case would it have been to have gone over to the ultra-royalists, who were at least sincere in their opinion and considered absolute power as an article of faith. But is it possible to rely on the promises of men who have set aside all political scruples? They have abilities, it is said; ah! accursed be those abilities which can dispense with even one true feeling, with one just and firm act of morality! And of what utility can be the talents of those who overwhelm you when you are sinking? Let a dark speck appear on the horizon, their features lose by degrees their gracious look; they begin to reason on the faults that have been committed; they bitterly accuse their colleagues and make gentle lamentations for their master; until, by a gradual metamorphosis, they are transformed into enemies; they who had so lately misled princes by their Oriental adulation!
After having pronounced these exclusions, there remains, and a great blessing it is, there remains, I say, no choice but that of the friends of liberty; either they who have preserved that opinion unsullied since 1789 or they who, less advanced in years, follow it now and adopt those principles in the midst of the efforts made to stifle them; a new generation, which has arisen in these later times and on whom our future hopes depend.
Such men are called upon to terminate the Revolution by liberty,8 and it is the only possible close to that sanguinary tragedy. Every effort to sail against the torrent will but overset the boat; but let this torrent enter into channels, and all the country which it laid waste will be fertilized.9
A friend of liberty in the situation of minister to the king would respect the supreme chief of the nation and be faithful to the constitutional monarch, in life and death; but he would renounce those officious flatteries which weaken belief in what is true instead of increasing attachment. Many sovereigns in Europe are very well obeyed without requiring to be deified. Why, then, in France are writers on every occasion so prodigal of this incense? A friend of liberty would never suffer France to be insulted by any man who depended, in any degree, on government. Do we not hear some emigrants saying that the king alone is the country, that no confidence can be placed in Frenchmen, &c.? What is the consequence of this insensate language? What is it? That France must be governed by foreign armies. What an outrage! What blasphemy! Undoubtedly those armies are now stronger than we are; but they would never have the voluntary assent of a French heart; and to whatever state Bonaparte may have reduced France, there is in a minister who is a friend of liberty such a dignity of character, such a love for his country, such a noble respect for the monarch and the laws, as would check all the arrogance of a military force, whoever might be its leaders. Such ministers, never committing an arbitrary act themselves, would not be in the dependence of the military; for it was much more to establish despotism than to defend the country that the different parties courted the troops of the line. Bonaparte pretended, as in the times of barbarism, that the whole secret of social order consisted in bayonets. How, without them, will it be said, could the Protestants and Catholics, Republicans and Vendeans, be made to go on together? All these elements of discord existed in England in 1688 under different names; but the invincible ascendancy of a constitution set afloat by skillful and upright pilots brought everything under submission to the law.
An assembly of deputies really elected by the nation exercises a majestic power, and the ministers of the monarch, if their souls were filled with the love of country and of liberty, would find everywhere Frenchmen ready to aid them, even without their knowledge; because, in that case, opinion and not interest would form the tie between the governors and the governed. But if you employ, and this we shall not cease to repeat, if you employ individuals who hate free institutions to carry them on, however upright they may be, however well resolved to adhere to their promise, a discordance will always be felt between their natural inclinations and their imperious duty.
The artists of the seventeenth century painted Louis XIV as a Hercules with a large peruke on his head; very old doctrines, reproduced in a popular assembly, present an equally great disparity. All that edifice of old prejudices which some seek to re-establish in France is nothing but a castle of cards which the first breath of wind will overset. We can calculate only on two kinds of force in this country: public opinion, which calls for liberty, and the foreign troops who obey their sovereigns; all the rest is mere trifling.
Thus, whenever a minister pretends that his countrymen are not made for freedom, accept this act of humility in his quality of Frenchman as a resignation of his place; for that minister who can deny the almost universal desire of France knows his country too ill to be capable of directing its affairs.
[1. ] Charles Edward Stuart (1720–88), grandson of James II, who (unsuccessfully) attempted to return to Scotland in 1745.
[2. ] For more on the historical and political context of the first period of the Bourbon Restoration, see Alexander, Rewriting the French Revolutionary Tradition, 1–80.
[* ] In 1815 the King gave orders that out of this supplement the two million deposited by my father in the Royal Treasury should be restored to his family, and the order was about to be executed at the time of the landing of Bonaparte. The justice of our demand could not be contested; but I do not less admire the conduct of the King, who, though regulating with the utmost economy many of his personal expenses, would not retrench those which equity required. Since the return of His Majesty, the capital of two million has been paid to us by an inscription on the Great Book of 100,000 francs a year.
[3. ] In a letter to Louis de Kergolay of June 29, 1831, Tocqueville commented on the limitations of the Charter of 1814, which, in his view, was destined to be a short-lived constitution. The Bourbons, argued Tocqueville, should have paid more attention to channeling the emerging democratic elements and principles rather than attempting to preserve or reform old and inefficient institutions. Furthermore, they should have furthered administrative decentralization and promoted self-government that would have strengthened the communal and departmental system in France. For more information, see Tocqueville, Selected Letters on Politics and Society, 55–56.
[4. ] Cf. Article 38 of the Charter of 1814.
[5. ] The “mutual” form of education (in which the instructor was helped by the best students) developed in England and Germany; it was linked to Protestantism.
[6. ] The ministry of police was abolished in 1814 and reestablished a year later.
[7. ] For more on freedom of the press under the Bourbon Restoration, see Hatin, Histoire politique et littéraire de la presse en France, vol. 8.
[8. ] This was the main task of postrevolutionary French liberals: “closing” the Revolution by coming to terms with the legacy of the Terror of 1793–94. To this effect, they championed the main principles of 1789 and the civil liberties enshrined in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizen—the rights of man, political liberty, freedom of association, and the like—while also vigorously condemning the ideas that, in their view, had made the Terror possible. This attitude was nicely illustrated by Guizot: “As a destructive [phenomenon], the Revolution is done and there is no question of returning to it; as founding moment, it only commences now” (François Guizot, Review of Montlosier’s De la monarchie française. Archives,Philosophiques, Politiques et Littéraires, vol. III, 397). For more information, see Manent, An Intellectual History of Liberalism, 80–83.
[9. ] During the first years of the Restoration, reconciling democracy as a new type of society with representative government seemed a daunting task. By democracy as social condition, French liberals referred to the advent of a new type of society which brought forth a new configuration of mores, sentiments, laws, and institutions. The image of democracy as an irresistible torrent (“in full spate”) that needed strong dikes to contain and purify it appeared in the parlementary speeches during the first years of the Bourbon Restoration. For more information, see Craiutu, Liberalism Under Siege, 104–12.