ePub 版

do." These resolutions declared the chamber to be in permanent session, and all attempts to dissolve it high treason; and they also called for the four principal ministers to come to the chamber, and explain the state of affairs. Bonaparte is said to have been much agitated, when word was brought him simply that Lafayette was in the tribune; and his fears were certainly not ill-founded, for these resolutions, which were at once adopted both by the representatives and the peers, substantially divested him of his power, and left him merely a factious and dangerous individual in the midst of a distracted state.

He hesitated during the whole day, as to the course he should pursue; but, at last, hoping that the eloquence of Lucien, which had saved him on the 18th Brumaire, might be found no less effectual now, he sent him with the three other ministers to the chamber, just at the beginning of the evening; having first obtained a vote, that all should pass in secret session. It was certainly a most perilous crisis. Reports were abroad that the populace of the Fauxbourgs had been excited, and were arming themselves. It was believed, too, with no little probability, that Bonaparte would march against the chamber, as he had formerly marched against the council of Five Hundred, and disperse them at the point of the bayonet. At all events, it was a contest for existence, and no man could feel his life safe. At this moment, Lucien rose, and in the doubtful and gloomy light, which two vast torches shed through the hall and over the pale and anxious features of the members, made a partial exposition of the state of affairs, and the projects and hopes he still entertained. A deep and painful silence followed. At length Mr. Jay, well known above twenty years ago in Boston, under the assumed name of Renaud, as a teacher of the French language, and an able writer in one of the public newspapers of that city, ascended the tribune, and, in a long and vehement speech of great eloquence, exposed the dangers of the country, and ended by proposing to send a deputation to the Emperor, demanding his abdication. Lucien immediately followed. He never showed more power, or a more impassioned eloquence. His purpose was to prove that France was still devoted to the Emperor, and that its resources were still equal to a contest with the allies. "It is not Napoleon," he cried, "that is attacked, it is the French people. And a proposition is now made to this people to abandon their Emperor; to expose the French nation, before the tribunal of the world, to a severe judgment on its levity and inconstancy. No, sir, the honor of this nation shall never be so compromised [" On hearing these words, Lafayette rose. He did not go to the tribune; but spoke, contrary to rule and custom, from his place. His manner was perfectly calm, but marked with the very spirit of rebuke; and he addressed himself, not to the President, but directly

to Lucien. "The assertion, which has just been uttered, is a calumny. Who shall dare to accuse the French nation of inconstancy to the Emperor Napoleon? That nation has followed his bloody footsteps through the sands of Egypt and through the wastes of Russia; over fifty fields of battle; in disaster as faithfully as in victory; and it is for having thus devotedly followed him, that we now mourn the blood of three millions of Frenchmen." These few words made an impression on the Assembly, which could not be mistaken or resisted; and, as Lafayette ended, Lucien himself bowed respectfully to him, and, without resuming his speech, sat down.

It was determined to appoint a deputation of five members from each chamber to meet the grand council of the ministers, and deliberate in committee on the measures to be taken This body sat during the night, under the presidency of Cambaceres, ArchChancellor of the empire. The first thing that was done in this committee was to devise and arrange every possible means of resisting the invasion of the allies and the Bourbons; and Lafayette was foremost in giving the Government, for this purpose, every thing that could be asked. But it was apparent, from the representations of the ministers themselves, that they could carry on the war no longer. Lafayette then moved that a deputation should be sent to Napoleon, demanding his abdication. The Arch-Chancellor refused to put the motion; but it was as much decided, as if it had been formally carried. The next morning, June 22d, the Emperor sent in his abdication, and Lafayette was on the committee that went to the Thuilleries to thank him for it, on behalf of the nation.

It had been the intention of a majority of both chambers, from the moment of their convocation, to form a free constitution for the country, and to call the whole people to arms to resist the invasion. In both of these great purposes they had been constantly opposed by Bonaparte, and in the few hurried and anxious days that preceded the battle of Waterloo, there had been time to do very little. There was now nothing but confusion. A project was arranged to place Lafayette at the head of affairs; because it was known that he could carry with him the confidence of the nation, and especially that of the National Guards, whom he would immediately have called out en masse. But a scene of most unworthy intrigues was immediately begun. A crude, provisional government was established, with the infamous Fouché as its President, which lasted only a few days, and whose principal measure was the sending of a deputation to the allied powers, of which Lafayette was the head, to endeavor to stop the invasion of France. This of course failed, as had been foreseen; Paris surrendered on the 3d of July, and what remained of the representative government, which Bonaparte had created for his own

purposes, but which Lafayette had turned against him, was soon afterwards dissolved. Its doors were found guarded on the morning of the 8th, but by what authority has never been known; and the members met at Lafayette's house, entered their formal protest, and went quietly to their own homes.

Lafayette retired immediately to La Grange, from which, in fact, he had been only a month absent, and resumed at once his agricultural employments. There, in the midst of a family of twenty children and grand-children, who all look up to him as their patriarchal chief, he lives in a simple and sincere happiness, rarely granted to those who have borne such a leading part in the troubles and sufferings of a great period of political revolution. Since 1817 he has been twice elected to the Chamber of Deputies, and in all his votes has shown himself constant to his ancient principles. When the ministry proposed to establish a censorship of the press, he resisted them in an able speech; but Lafayette was never a factious man, and therefore he has never made any further opposition to the present order of things in France, than his conscience and his official place required. That he does not approve the present constitution of the monarchy, or the political principles and management of the existing government, his votes as a deputy, and his whole life, plainly show; and that his steady and temperate opposition is matter of serious anxiety to the family now on the throne is apparent, from their conduct towards him during the last nine years, and their management of the public press since he has been in this country. If he chose to make himself a Tribune of the people, he might at any moment become formidable; but he trusts rather to the progress of general intelligence and political wisdom throughout the nation, which he feels sure will, at last, bring his country to the practically free government he has always been ready to sacrifice his life to purchase for it. To this great result he looks forward, as Madame de Staël has well said of him, with the entire confidence a pious man enjoys in a future life; but, when he feels anxious and impatient to hasten onward to it, he finds a wisdom tempered by long experience stirring within him, which warns him, in the beautiful language of Milton, that "they also serve who only stand and wait."

This is the distinguished personage, who, after an absence of eight-and-thirty years, is now come to visit the nation, for whose independence and freedom he hazarded whatever is most valued in human estimation, almost half a century ago. He comes, too, at the express invitation of the entire people; he is literally the "Guest of the Nation; " but the guest, it should be remembered, of another generation, than the one he originally came to serve. We rejoice at it. We rejoice, in common with the thousands who

throng his steps wherever he passes, that we are permitted to offer this tribute of a gratitude and veneration, which cannot be misinterpreted, to one, who suffered with our fathers for our sake; but we rejoice yet more for the moral effect it cannot fail to produce on us, both as individuals and as a people. For it is no common spectacle, which is now placed before each of us for our instruction. We are permitted to see one, who, by the mere force of principle, by plain and resolved integrity, has passed with perfect consistency through more remarkable extremes of fortune, than any man now alive, or, perhaps, any man on record. We are permitted to see one who has borne a leading and controlling part in two hemispheres, and in the two most important revolutions the world has yet seen, and has come forth from both of them without the touch of dishonor. We are permitted to see that man, who first put in jeopardy his rank and fortune at home, in order to serve as a volunteer in the cause of Free Institutions in America, and afterwards hazarded his life at the bar of the National Assembly, arrest the same cause, when it was tending to excess and violence. We are permitted to see the man, who, after three years of unbroken political triumph, stood in the midst of half a million of his countrymen, comprehending whatever was great, wise, and powerful in the nation, with the oriflamme of the monarchy at his feet, and the confidence of all France following his words, as he swore on their behalf to a free constitution; and yet remained undazzled and unseduced by his vast, his irresistible popularity. We are permitted to see the man, who, for the sake of the same principles to which he had thus sworn, and in less than three years afterwards, was condemned to such obscure sufferings, that his very existence became doubtful to the world, and the place of his confinement was effectually hidden from the inquiries of his friends, who sent emissaries over half Europe to discover it; and yet remained unshaken and undismayed, constantly refusing all appearance of compromise with his persecutors and oppressors. We are, in short, permitted to see a man, who has professed, amidst glory and suffering, in triumph and in disgrace, the same principles of political freedom on both sides of the Atlantic; who has maintained the same tone, the same air, the same open confidence, amidst the ruins of the Bastille, in the Champ de Mars, under the despotism of Bonaparte, and in the dungeons of Olmütz.

We rejoice, too, no less in the effect which this visit of General Lafayette is producing on us as a nation. It is doing much to unite us. It has brought those together, who have been separated by long lives of political animosity. It helps to break down the great boundaries and landmarks of party. It makes a holiday of kind and generous feelings in the hearts of the multitudes that throng his way, as he moves in triumphal procession from city to

city. It turns this whole people from the bustle and divisions of our wearisome elections, the contests of the senate-house, and the troubles and bitterness of our manifold political dissensions; and instead of all this, carries us back to that great period in our history, about which opinions have long been tranquil and settled. It offers to us, as it were, with the very costume and air appropriate to the times, one of the great actors from this most solemn passage in our national destinies; and thus enables us to transmit yet one generation further onward, a sensible impression of the times of our fathers; since we are not only permitted to witness ourselves one of their foremost leaders and champions, but can show him to our children, and thus leave in their young hearts an impression which will grow old there with their deepest and purest feelings. It brings, in fact, our revolution nearer to us, with all the high-minded patriotism and self-denying virtues of our forefathers; and therefore naturally turns our thoughts more towards our posterity, and makes us more anxious to do for them what we are so sensibly reminded was done with such perilous sacrifices for us.

We may be allowed, too, to add, that we rejoice in General Lafayette's visit on his own account. He enjoys a singular distinction; for it is a strange thing in the providence of God, one that never happened before, and will, probably, never happen again, that an individual from a remote quarter of the world, having assisted to lay the foundation of a great nation, should be permitted thus to visit the posterity of those he served, and witness on a scale so vast, the work of his own sacrifices; the result of grand principles in government for which he contended before their practical effect had been tried; the growth and maturity of institutions, which he assisted to establish, when their operation could be calculated only by the widest and most clear-sighted circumspection. We rejoice in it, for it is, we doubt not, the most gratifying and appropriate reward that could be offered to a spirit like his. In the beautiful phrase which Tacitus has applied to Germanicus, fruitur famâ; for he must be aware, that the ocean which rolls between us and Europe, operates like the grave on all feelings of passion and party, and that the voice of gratitude and admiration which now rises to greet him, from every city, every village, and every heart of this wide land, is as pure and sincere as the voice of posterity.


« 上一頁繼續 »