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to the necessity of a law to check the abuses of the press? Shall we waste your time and our own in showing that all supposed improvement in the state of the press must be delusive, as long as an arbitrary discretion will be allowed to control the periodical journals? That these journals, from the immense number of readers which they get, throw light or darkness altogether upon the press; that no work, whatever may be its merit, can obtain notoriety without their assistance; and that their restraint will insure the complete servitude of the press. All these truths have been a hundred times repeated: to what purpose should we again bring them forward? He may be in the wrong, who is ever so right, if he tires out his audience. I will not run such a risk; but I will dare to rise to considerations of a superior order, and leaving the beaten paths of argument, I will bring to a special point a question which, in my opinion, is completely of a specific nature. I will bring it to its true bearing; and, addressing the agents of power, I will ask of them by what right do you call upon us for a new concession of our liberties? How have you made use of the power with which you have been hitherto entrusted?
It was so well understood that this was our vantage ground, that unfair prejudices have been started against us to weaken our attack. A charge so often repeated, has again been brought against us, that we argue against our own conviction, and that we censure measures out of dislike to the men who bring them forward. You have no right, says a minister, to reproach me with not having done justice to your confidence, for you have always refused to grant it to me. (Sans acception des choses, et des actes de l'autorité.)
Here indeed I must wonder at the want of memory of his excellency. It is not so long since he has been raised to the height of power, that his elevation should already make him lose sight of his introduction to the ministry. Unknown to most of us when the king honored him with his confidence, what prejudices could we entertain against him? This royal confidence made it our duty to grant him our own: he had it completely, as we proved it, by supporting him with all our interest in the first acts of his administration. Has he already forgotten that we never hesitated to entrust him with that power of which he now wishes to extend the continuation? This is, they say, what proves your înjustice: you granted us then, what you refuse us now, what you would solicit for yourselves, were you in our place: this shows that you are only political apostates.
Such are the compliments which were addressed to us a month ago in the Journal of Paris, and yet the minister presumes to say that he has never thrown out any abuse against the minority of the chambers!
By the unwearied use of such weapons for these fifteen months past, we have been exposed to an incessant fire of invectives and calumnies, without ever having experienced the generosity of being allowed to defend ourselves. We must therefore make our defence in this place, (cette tribune).'
This place must be our Paris journal, and our general journal, and we must answer, not in the same language, for it is unworthy of us, but by arguments and facts'; we must answer this torrent of daily absurdities, by which it is intended we should be overwhelmed.
No-We neither make war upon you nor upon your places, but upon the fatal system which you have adopted, and which will drag us all into the same gulf with the king, France, and the monarchy. If, on this occasion, we direct our observations against individuals, it is because we know not how it is possible to speak against a law of exceptions, always called for by circumstances, without considering who are the men who direct these circumstances, and how they influence them. Every thing has been said upon general principles: ought we, or can we not allow you our confidence? I say it again. There lies the whole question.
No-We are not political apostates: we still think, that the suspension even of a fundamental law, may be advantageous and even necessary, in some great crisis threatening the existence of the kingdom or of civil society. And to be sure if any period bore that character, it was that which immediately followed the hundred days. Authority then required a power almost unbounded. You requested it in the name of our country, for the salvation of our country-we should have been guilty ourselves, if we had not complied.
We withdraw it now: we are not changed: but you have not redeemed your pledge. You ought to have ensured the safety of the kingdom: you had the means. But hitherto you have only secured the safety of the ministry.
And after all, What is this system so much vaunted of by you and by your journals? This system, which you describe as the work
"An objection will be made to me (and M. le Rapporteur has begun it) from the state of the journals for the last week: to be sure at the moment when the general attention is so forcibly drawn to the question before us, an attempt might be made to secure the approbation of the public, by granting for a moment a shadow of liberty to a certain journal. Two members of the chamber of deputies insulted on account of the opinions they had given on this question, were allowed the liberty of being defended. But let us look to the end-Nobody can be deceived by so clumsy a contrivance. I appeal from what the journals are just at this moment, to what they have been for the last fifteen months, to what they were even a week ago, to what they may probably be in another day.
of wisdom, asserting in a more imperious tone than any minister ever dared to assume before the chambers, that it ought never to be altered. We have seen empires and dynasties fall around us; but the Count de Decases announces to the universe, that his plans ought for ever to govern us and our posterity. Here, then, is this system, such as the minister himself has taken the pains of unfolding it.
It is to royalise the nation, to nationalise the monarchy. Royalise the nation! This is as much as to tell us that the nation is not royalist. This assertion is not new. It is to be met with in some reports published in 1815. In these reports the king was told, that there were not in France above ten departments attached to the royal cause.
Then the object proposed was to royalise the nation, to consolidate the alliance between the revolution and the monarchy; and the means offered to obtain that end, were much the same as have been used for the last fifteen months. The re-union of the chamber (introuvable?) gave a direct lie to such assertions. It proved that France was royalist: it showed that the business of the minister should have been, not to royalise the nation, but to keep up the spirit of royalty that it possessed. Is this end attained? Are there hopes that it may? It would be too painful to contrast what we were then, with regard to public spirit, with what we are now, and what we might have been. Let us go on.
Nationalise royalism! If such is your intention, why do you allow it to be attacked every day by journals which cannot write a line without the permission of ministers, and who often write by their orders? If the press was free, I should not wonder at their using their ink and their paper in propagating the doctrines of a government de facto, of the sovereignty of the people, and of the law of nature. But then a severe law, clearly expressed, would be sufficient to bring them to account for their conduct; and more than that, the disgust of the public, wearied of these orators, is now convinced, that if the cause of these declaimers could again be triumphant, the result could only be what it was for merly, the most scandalous atheism, the most intolerable despotism, and more excessive misery. This is not then what I fear, but that such writings should be announced, and often praised, in journals that are under the direction of authority, when the same favor is refused to other works displaying the purest principles of monarchy, the respect due to the king, to his dynasty, to the charter, to all the foundations of social order. That attempts should be made to stifle such works in their birth, because they are not sheltered by the only passport now of any value, the praises of the minister, the praises of the order of the 5th of
This is arbi
Sept., and the praises of the law of elections. trary, this is scandalous. Have I not a right to draw as a conclusion, that the object in view is not so much to nationalise royalism in France, but rather ministerialism?
But the intended object is to bring forgetfulness of the past, and to quench all hatreds. Nothing can be more praiseworthy than such an intention: it was the king's first thought when he returned into his kingdom. But how came a plan so worthy of wise ministers, to bring such an opposite result? We wish to forget past times; and for the last fifteen months, the journals have not ceased talking about them! Let us understand ourselves. There is a past time which some persons would wish to make us forget; but there is another of which the remembrance must be kept up at any rate. We shall prove our assertion.
Not a month ago there appeared in a journal an article which spoke highly of the sublime exertions of the nation in 1792. Sublime exertions! which, as every body knows, produced the 10th of Aug., the 2d of Sept. and the trial of Louis XVI. This is the past time of which the memory is perpetuated. In the same week a journalist was punished for having dared to insert in his pamphlet, a fragment of the funeral oration of the Vendean General Bonchamp. The heroic examples of a martyr to fidelity are perhaps dangerous to record. This is the past event which we must be made to forget.
You wish to quench hatreds. But the journals never cease to blow up the ancient aversion of the people to the classes formerly privileged. All the declamations of 1789 against the priests, and against the nobles, make their appearance again every morning. These men, who have no remains of that former prosperity which had excited so much envy, and which they have expiated by a long series of misfortunes, who have nothing left but their remembrance and an honorable name, are every day represented as monsters, devoured by the thirst of revenge. A pamphlet announced in the journals, (if it had not been for that circumstance I should not have mentioned it,) because it exalts to the skies the ordonnance of the 5th of Sept., said some time ago, that the fury of these men (the nobles) tended to raise again the scaffolds of 1793.'
Every morning the tribute expected from the journalist, is an article against those who favor ancient errors, antiquated doctrines, and Gothic prejudices. I have preserved this nomenclature, for it never varies.
Is it by such a work as le Paysan et le Gentilhomme that you
The title of this pamphlet is De la France, ou 5 Sept. 1815. De la France ou, 5 Nov. 1817.
think to bring forgetfulness of the past, and to quench hatred? I quote this work, because the author is known. He is one of your agents; he has made a boast of it himself. I quote it, because none has been circulated with a more liberal profusion, announced or praised more by the journals: and it is publicly notorious, that a criticism upon that infamous libel, sent by a known writer, has been refused by all the journalists.
Writings of that stamp have not the full effect that was intended by their publication. The people are weary of hatreds: they have closely inspected the conduct of those men calumniated with so much perseverance. Their misfortunes have brought them nearer to the public eye : it is not among them that they are to look for their enemies.
But there is another class of men who read more than the people, upon whose minds the journals and writings could not fail to have a baneful influence.
This influence has shown itself in the very place where it was intended it should operate; in the electoral colleges,-(and we foretold it in our opinion upon the law of elections). In those elections, in which every thing went on so calmly, if we are to believe the ministers and their friends, you might see whether past times were forgotten, and hatreds extinguished. They were not however so in the hearts of those men who insulted me in the market place at Beauvais, as being one of that cast, cursed by the everlasting enemies of the people. Poor fellows, who during the twelve years which I spent near them, groaning under the same tyranny, treated me then as a friend, as a companion in misfortune! I cannot be angry with them; they were only repeating the lesson they were taught. It is a lesson they have learned in your journals.
As I have begun to speak of the elections of this year, how can I forget the spectacle they have displayed in this capital? It is in this field of action that ministers must have acquired a full conviction, that if there are men whom neither abuse nor slights can disgust, there are others, whom neither kindness nor flattery can gain over. There a power showed itself, which not having dared to appear during the session of 1815, raised at once its audacious front, at the period of the 5th of Sept.: it gained strength by the law of elections, a power which the ministers thought they had fully obtained by the protection which they gave it in the electoral colleges of 1816, but which spurned their favor, because they saw in it only a mark of their own strength, and of the fear which they created. A power which is dreadful indeed when feared, and vanishes when it is despised, and would have been altogether insignificant if it had not been thought of some importance.