The maintenance of the unity of the Conservative party,” said Guizot, “the maintenance of conservative policy and power, will be the fixed idea and rule of conduct in the Cabinet.”
Continuing The February 1848 Revolution in France,
our selection fromPopular History of France From the Earliest Times by by François P.G. Guizot and by his daughter Mme. Guizot De Witt published in 1869. The selection is presented in six easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The February 1848 Revolution In France.
From the close of the session of 1847 to the opening of that of 1848 they kept France in a state of constant fever — an artificial and deceptive fever in this sense, that it was not the natural and spontaneous result of the actual wishes and wants of the country; but true and serious in this sense, that the political parties who took the initiative in it found among some of the middle classes and the lower orders a prompt and keen adhesion to their proposals. The first banquet took place in Paris at the Chateau-Rouge Ho´tel on July 9, 1847. Garnier-Pagas has himself told how the Royalist opposition and the Republican opposition concluded their alliance for that purpose. On leaving the house of Odilon Barrot, the Radical members of the meeting walked together for some time. On reaching that part of the Boulevard opposite the Foreign Office, at the moment they were about to separate, Pagnerre said: “Well, really, I did not expect for our proposals so speedy and complete success. Do those gentlemen see what that may lead to? For my part, I confess I do not see it clearly; but it is not for us Radicals to be alarmed about it.”
“You see that tree,” replied Garnier-Pagas; “engrave on its bark a mark in memory of this day, for what we have just decided upon is a revolution.” Garnier-Pagas did not foresee that the Republic of 1848, as well as the monarchy of 1830, should in its turn speedily perish in that revolution, so long big with so many storms.
For six months banquets were renewed in most of the departments — at Colmar, Strasburg, St. Quentin, Lille, Avesnes, Cosne, Chalons, Maccon, Lyons, Montpellier, Rouen, etc. In many parts there was a great display of feelings and intentions most hostile to royalty and the dynasty. On several occasions — at Lille, for example — the keenest members of the parliamentary opposition, Odilon Barrot and his friends, withdrew, soon after taking their places at table, because the others absolutely refused to dissemble their hostility to the Crown and the King. At other banquets, notably at Dijon, the ideas and passions of 1793 unblushingly reappeared. They defended Robespierre and the Reign of Terror. The “Red Republic” openly flaunted its colors and hopes. The attack upon monarchy and the dynasty ranged itself, it is true, behind the parliamentary opposition, but like Galatea running away:
“Et se cupit ante videri.” It had succeeded well enough in making itself seen. The Government could no longer shut their eyes. They had tolerated the banquets so long as they could believe, or seem to believe, that the parliamentary opposition directed, or at least ruled, the movement. When it became evident that the anarchical impulse was more and more gaining upon the parliamentary opposition, and that the latter was becoming the instrument instead of remaining the master, then only they forbade the banquets. It was their duty.
It was also their right, in the opinion of the most competent legal authorities, as well as according to the recent practice of other free governments, in presence of a situation full of certain danger. This right, however, was disputed by the opposition. The Government, pushing the principle of legality to its furthest limit, arranged with several leading men of the opposition for the purpose of enabling the question of right to be brought speedily and methodically before competent tribunals. Just before the opening of the new session, in order to close the campaign, a new and formal banquet was being prepared in Paris, to which all the Deputies and Peers who had taken part in any of the preceding banquets were to be invited. This manifestation was to take place in the Twelfth Arrondissement of Paris. It was therefore agreed between the opposition delegates and those of the ministerial majority that the Deputies invited should go to the place appointed for the meeting and take their places, so as to avoid any disturbance in the streets or the hall, and that on the police commissary declaring that there was an order against it the guests should protest and withdraw, to lay the question before the tribunals. The agreement thus concluded was communicated by Duchactel to the council, which approved of it.
Meanwhile the Chamber met, the session was opened, and from the very first the Government could perceive a wavering in the majority. Even among those who blamed and feared the agitation out-of-doors, several believed in the urgent necessity of a concession to remove all pretext for clamors and intrigues. On the ministers being informed of it Guizot said: “Withdraw the question from the hands of those who now hold it, and let it be brought back to the Chamber. Let the majority take a step in the direction of the concessions indicated; however small it be, I am certain it will be understood, and that you will have a new Cabinet, which will do what you think necessary.” It was in the same spirit that the Ministry, during the discussion on the address, rejected an amendment tending to impose upon them immediate engagements with reference to reform.
“The maintenance of the unity of the Conservative party,” said Guizot, “the maintenance of conservative policy and power, will be the fixed idea and rule of conduct in the Cabinet. They will make sincere efforts to maintain or restore the unity of the Conservative party upon that question, in order that it may be the Conservative party itself in its entirety that undertakes and gives to the country its solution. If such an operation in the midst of the Conservative party is possible, it will take place. If that is not possible — if by the question of reforms the Conservative party cannot succeed in making a common arrangement and maintaining the power of the Conservative policy, the Cabinet will leave to others the sad task of presiding over the disorganization of the Conservative party and the ruin of its policy.”
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