THE IDYL IN THE RUE PLUMET AND THE EPIC IN THE RUE SAINT-DENIS
BOOK FIRST.--A FEW PAGES OF HISTORY
1831 and 1832, the two years which are immediately connected with
the Revolution of July, form one of the most peculiar and striking
moments of history. These two years rise like two mountains midway
between those which precede and those which follow them. They have
a revolutionary grandeur. Precipices are to be distinguished there.
The social masses, the very assizes of civilization, the solid group
of superposed and adhering interests, the century-old profiles of the
ancient French formation, appear and disappear in them every instant,
athwart the storm clouds of systems, of passions, and of theories.
These appearances and disappearances have been designated as movement
and resistance. At intervals, truth, that daylight of the human soul,
can be descried shining there.
This remarkable epoch is decidedly circumscribed and is beginning
to be sufficiently distant from us to allow of our grasping
the principal lines even at the present day.
We shall make the attempt.
The Restoration had been one of those intermediate phases, hard to define,
in which there is fatigue, buzzing, murmurs, sleep, tumult, and which
are nothing else than the arrival of a great nation at a halting-place.
These epochs are peculiar and mislead the politicians who desire
to convert them to profit. In the beginning, the nation asks nothing
but repose; it thirsts for but one thing, peace; it has but one ambition,
to be small. Which is the translation of remaining tranquil.
Of great events, great hazards, great adventures, great men, thank God,
we have seen enough, we have them heaped higher than our heads. We would
exchange Caesar for Prusias, and Napoleon for the King of Yvetot.
"What a good little king was he!" We have marched since daybreak,
we have reached the evening of a long and toilsome day; we have
made our first change with Mirabeau, the second with Robespierre,
the third with Bonaparte; we are worn out. Each one demands a bed.
Devotion which is weary, heroism which has grown old, ambitions which
are sated, fortunes which are made, seek, demand, implore, solicit,
what? A shelter. They have it. They take possession of peace,
of tranquillity, of leisure; behold, they are content. But, at the
same time certain facts arise, compel recognition, and knock at
the door in their turn. These facts are the products of revolutions
and wars, they are, they exist, they have the right to install
themselves in society, and they do install themselves therein;
and most of the time, facts are the stewards of the household
and fouriers who do nothing but prepare lodgings for principles.
 In olden times, fouriers were the officials who preceded
the Court and allotted the lodgings.
This, then, is what appears to philosophical politicians:--
At the same time that weary men demand repose, accomplished facts
demand guarantees. Guarantees are the same to facts that repose
is to men.
This is what England demanded of the Stuarts after the Protector;
this is what France demanded of the Bourbons after the Empire.
These guarantees are a necessity of the times. They must be accorded.
Princes "grant" them, but in reality, it is the force of things
which gives them. A profound truth, and one useful to know,
which the Stuarts did not suspect in 1662 and which the Bourbons
did not even obtain a glimpse of in 1814.
The predestined family, which returned to France when Napoleon fell,
had the fatal simplicity to believe that it was itself which bestowed,
and that what it had bestowed it could take back again; that the House
of Bourbon possessed the right divine, that France possessed nothing,
and that the political right conceded in the charter of Louis XVIII.
was merely a branch of the right divine, was detached by the House
of Bourbon and graciously given to the people until such day as it
should please the King to reassume it. Still, the House of Bourbon
should have felt, from the displeasure created by the gift, that it
did not come from it.
This house was churlish to the nineteenth century. It put on an
ill-tempered look at every development of the nation. To make use
of a trivial word, that is to say, of a popular and a true word,
it looked glum. The people saw this.
It thought it possessed strength because the Empire had been carried
away before it like a theatrical stage-setting. It did not perceive
that it had, itself, been brought in in the same fashion. It did
not perceive that it also lay in that hand which had removed Napoleon.
It thought that it had roots, because it was the past. It was mistaken;
it formed a part of the past, but the whole past was France.
The roots of French society were not fixed in the Bourbons,
but in the nations. These obscure and lively roots constituted,
not the right of a family, but the history of a people.
They were everywhere, except under the throne.
The House of Bourbon was to France the illustrious and bleeding knot
in her history, but was no longer the principal element of her destiny,
and the necessary base of her politics. She could get along without
the Bourbons; she had done without them for two and twenty years;
there had been a break of continuity; they did not suspect the fact.
And how should they have suspected it, they who fancied that Louis XVII.
reigned on the 9th of Thermidor, and that Louis XVIII. was reigning
at the battle of Marengo? Never, since the origin of history,
had princes been so blind in the presence of facts and the portion
of divine authority which facts contain and promulgate. Never had
that pretension here below which is called the right of kings denied
to such a point the right from on high.
A capital error which led this family to lay its hand once more
on the guarantees "granted" in 1814, on the concessions, as it
termed them. Sad. A sad thing! What it termed its concessions
were our conquests; what it termed our encroachments were our rights.
When the hour seemed to it to have come, the Restoration,
supposing itself victorious over Bonaparte and well-rooted in
the country, that is to say, believing itself to be strong and deep,
abruptly decided on its plan of action, and risked its stroke.
One morning it drew itself up before the face of France, and, elevating
its voice, it contested the collective title and the individual
right of the nation to sovereignty, of the citizen to liberty.
In other words, it denied to the nation that which made it a nation,
and to the citizen that which made him a citizen.
This is the foundation of those famous acts which are called
the ordinances of July. The Restoration fell.
It fell justly. But, we admit, it had not been absolutely hostile
to all forms of progress. Great things had been accomplished,
with it alongside.
Under the Restoration, the nation had grown accustomed to calm discussion,
which had been lacking under the Republic, and to grandeur in peace,
which had been wanting under the Empire. France free and strong
had offered an encouraging spectacle to the other peoples of Europe.
The Revolution had had the word under Robespierre; the cannon
had had the word under Bonaparte; it was under Louis XVIII.
and Charles X. that it was the turn of intelligence to have
the word. The wind ceased, the torch was lighted once more.
On the lofty heights, the pure light of mind could be seen flickering.
A magnificent, useful, and charming spectacle. For a space of
fifteen years, those great principles which are so old for the thinker,
so new for the statesman, could be seen at work in perfect peace,
on the public square; equality before the law, liberty of conscience,
liberty of speech, liberty of the press, the accessibility of
all aptitudes to all functions. Thus it proceeded until 1830.
The Bourbons were an instrument of civilization which broke in the
hands of Providence.
The fall of the Bourbons was full of grandeur, not on their side,
but on the side of the nation. They quitted the throne with gravity,
but without authority; their descent into the night was not one of
those solemn disappearances which leave a sombre emotion in history;
it was neither the spectral calm of Charles I., nor the eagle scream
of Napoleon. They departed, that is all. They laid down the crown,
and retained no aureole. They were worthy, but they were not august.
They lacked, in a certain measure, the majesty of their misfortune.
Charles X. during the voyage from Cherbourg, causing a round table
to be cut over into a square table, appeared to be more anxious
about imperilled etiquette than about the crumbling monarchy.
This diminution saddened devoted men who loved their persons, and serious
men who honored their race. The populace was admirable. The nation,
attacked one morning with weapons, by a sort of royal insurrection,
felt itself in the possession of so much force that it did not go
into a rage. It defended itself, restrained itself, restored things
to their places, the government to law, the Bourbons to exile, alas! and
then halted! It took the old king Charles X. from beneath that dais
which had sheltered Louis XIV. and set him gently on the ground.
It touched the royal personages only with sadness and precaution.
It was not one man, it was not a few men, it was France,
France entire, France victorious and intoxicated with her victory,
who seemed to be coming to herself, and who put into practice,
before the eyes of the whole world, these grave words of Guillaume
du Vair after the day of the Barricades:--
"It is easy for those who are accustomed to skim the favors
of the great, and to spring, like a bird from bough to bough,
from an afflicted fortune to a flourishing one, to show themselves
harsh towards their Prince in his adversity; but as for me,
the fortune of my Kings and especially of my afflicted Kings,
will always be venerable to me."
The Bourbons carried away with them respect, but not regret.
As we have just stated, their misfortune was greater than they were.
They faded out in the horizon.
The Revolution of July instantly had friends and enemies throughout
the entire world. The first rushed toward her with joy and enthusiasm,
the others turned away, each according to his nature. At the first blush,
the princes of Europe, the owls of this dawn, shut their eyes,
wounded and stupefied, and only opened them to threaten.
A fright which can be comprehended, a wrath which can be pardoned.
This strange revolution had hardly produced a shock; it had not even
paid to vanquished royalty the honor of treating it as an enemy,
and of shedding its blood. In the eyes of despotic governments,
who are always interested in having liberty calumniate itself,
the Revolution of July committed the fault of being formidable
and of remaining gentle. Nothing, however, was attempted or
plotted against it. The most discontented, the most irritated,
the most trembling, saluted it; whatever our egotism and our rancor
may be, a mysterious respect springs from events in which we are
sensible of the collaboration of some one who is working above man.
The Revolution of July is the triumph of right overthrowing the fact.
A thing which is full of splendor.
Right overthrowing the fact. Hence the brilliancy of the Revolution
of 1830, hence, also, its mildness. Right triumphant has no need
of being violent.
Right is the just and the true.
The property of right is to remain eternally beautiful and pure.
The fact, even when most necessary to all appearances, even when most
thoroughly accepted by contemporaries, if it exist only as a fact,
and if it contain only too little of right, or none at all,
is infallibly destined to become, in the course of time, deformed,
impure, perhaps, even monstrous. If one desires to learn at one blow,
to what degree of hideousness the fact can attain, viewed at the
distance of centuries, let him look at Machiavelli. Machiavelli is
not an evil genius, nor a demon, nor a miserable and cowardly writer;
he is nothing but the fact. And he is not only the Italian fact;
he is the European fact, the fact of the sixteenth century.
He seems hideous, and so he is, in the presence of the moral idea
of the nineteenth.
This conflict of right and fact has been going on ever since the origin
of society. To terminate this duel, to amalgamate the pure idea
with the humane reality, to cause right to penetrate pacifically
into the fact and the fact into right, that is the task of sages.