ページの画像
PDF
ePub

ESSAY V.

PERSONAL POLITICS.*

Ay, every inch a king !"

Many persons are surprised at the conduct of Charles X. in pushing things to extremities: the wonder would have been, if he had not All the time of the Restoration under a charter, he was employed in thinking how to get rid of that charter, to throw off that incubus, to cancel that juggle, to breathe once more the air of divine right. Till this were done—no matter by what delays, after what length of time, by what jesuitical professions, by what false oaths, by what stratagems, by what unmasked insolence, by what loud menaces, by what violence, by what bloodthe French monarch (whether Charles or Louis) felt himself “cooped, confined, and cabined in, by saucy doubts and fears;” but this phantom of a constitution once out of the way he would be

* Written during my father's last illness, immediately after the French Revolution of 1830.

“ himself again.” He would then first cry Vive la Charte! without a pang-with his eyes running over, and his heart bursting with laughter: If he had a' right to be where he was, he had a right to be what he was, and what he was born to be. This was the first idea instilled into his mind, the last he would forget. All else was a compromise with circumstances, a base surrender of an inalienable claim, a concession extorted under durésse, so much the more eagerly to be retracted, as an appearance, of compliance had been the longer and more studiously kept up:

A throne not founded on inherent right was a mockery and insult. All power shared with the people, supposed to be derived from them, for which the possessor was accountable to them, held during pleasure or good behaviour, was pollution to his thoughts, : odious to him as the leprosy. Be sure of this, popular right coiled round the sceptre of hereditary kings is like the viper clinging to our hands, which we shake off with fear and loathing. There is in despots (born and bred) a natural and irreconcilable antipathy to the people, and to all obligations to them. The very name of freedom is a screechowl in their ears. They have been brought up with the idea that they were entitled to

absolute power, that there was something in their blood that gave them a right to it without condition or reserve, or being called to account for the use or abuse of it; and they reject with scorn and impatience anything short of this. They will either be absolute or they will be nothing

The Bourbons for centuries had been regarded as the gods of the earth, as a superior race of beings, who had a' sovereign right to trample on mankind, and crush them in their wrath or spare them in their mercy. Would Charles X. derogate from his ancestors, would he be the degenerate scion of that royal line, to wear a tarnished and dishonoured crown, to be raised by the shout of a mob, to wait the assent of a Chamber of Deputies, to owe every thing to the people, to be a king on liking and on sufferance, a sort of state prisoner in his own kingdom, shut up and spell-bound in the nick-name of a Constitution? He would as soon consent to go on all-fours. The latter would not shock his pride and prejudices more: would not be a greater degradation in his eyes, or a more total inversion of the order of nature. It is not that the successor to a despotic throne will not, but he cannot be the king of a free people: the very supposition is in his mind a contradiction in terms.

It is something base and mechanical, not amounting even to the rank of a private gentleman who does what he pleases with his estate ; and kings consider mankind as their estate.

If a herd of overloaded asses were to turn against their drivers and demand their liberty and better usage, these could not be more astonished than the Bourbons were when the French people turned against them and demanded their rights. Will these same Bourbons, who have been rocked and cradled in the notion of arbitrary power, and of their own exclusive privileges as a separate and sacred race, who have sucked it in with their mothers' milk, who inherit it in their blood, who have nursed it in exile and in solitude, and gloated over it once more, since their return, as within their reach, ever be brought to look Liberty in the face except as a mortal and implacable foe, or ever give up the hope of removing that obstacle to all that they have been or still have a fancied right to be? The last thing that they can be convinced of will be to make them comprehend that they are men. This is a discovery of the last forty years, that has been forced upon

them in no very agreeable manner; by the beheading of more than one of their race, the banishment of the rest, by their long

« 前へ次へ »