A RECRUDESCENCE OF DIVINE RIGHT
End of the dictatorship. A whole European system crumbled away.
The Empire sank into a gloom which resembled that of the Roman
world as it expired. Again we behold the abyss, as in the days
of the barbarians; only the barbarism of 1815, which must be called
by its pet name of the counter-revolution, was not long breathed,
soon fell to panting, and halted short. The Empire was bewept,--
let us acknowledge the fact,--and bewept by heroic eyes.
If glory lies in the sword converted into a sceptre, the Empire
had been glory in person. It had diffused over the earth all the
light which tyranny can give a sombre light. We will say more;
an obscure light. Compared to the true daylight, it is night.
This disappearance of night produces the effect of an eclipse.
Louis XVIII. re-entered Paris. The circling dances of the 8th
of July effaced the enthusiasms of the 20th of March. The Corsican
became the antithesis of the Bearnese. The flag on the dome of the
Tuileries was white. The exile reigned. Hartwell's pine table took
its place in front of the fleur-de-lys-strewn throne of Louis XIV.
Bouvines and Fontenoy were mentioned as though they had taken
place on the preceding day, Austerlitz having become antiquated.
The altar and the throne fraternized majestically. One of the
most undisputed forms of the health of society in the nineteenth
century was established over France, and over the continent.
Europe adopted the white cockade. Trestaillon was celebrated.
The device non pluribus impar re-appeared on the stone rays
representing a sun upon the front of the barracks on the Quai d'Orsay.
Where there had been an Imperial Guard, there was now a red house.
The Arc du Carrousel, all laden with badly borne victories,
thrown out of its element among these novelties, a little ashamed,
it may be, of Marengo and Arcola, extricated itself from its
predicament with the statue of the Duc d'Angouleme. The cemetery
of the Madeleine, a terrible pauper's grave in 1793, was covered
with jasper and marble, since the bones of Louis XVI. and Marie
Antoinette lay in that dust.
In the moat of Vincennes a sepulchral shaft sprang from the earth,
recalling the fact that the Duc d'Enghien had perished in the
very month when Napoleon was crowned. Pope Pius VII., who had
performed the coronation very near this death, tranquilly bestowed
his blessing on the fall as he had bestowed it on the elevation.
At Schoenbrunn there was a little shadow, aged four, whom it was
seditious to call the King of Rome. And these things took place,
and the kings resumed their thrones, and the master of Europe
was put in a cage, and the old regime became the new regime,
and all the shadows and all the light of the earth changed place,
because, on the afternoon of a certain summer's day, a shepherd
said to a Prussian in the forest, "Go this way, and not that!"
This 1815 was a sort of lugubrious April. Ancient unhealthy
and poisonous realities were covered with new appearances.
A lie wedded 1789; the right divine was masked under a charter;
fictions became constitutional; prejudices, superstitions and
mental reservations, with Article 14 in the heart, were varnished
over with liberalism. It was the serpent's change of skin.
Man had been rendered both greater and smaller by Napoleon.
Under this reign of splendid matter, the ideal had received the
strange name of ideology! It is a grave imprudence in a great man
to turn the future into derision. The populace, however, that food
for cannon which is so fond of the cannoneer, sought him with
its glance. Where is he? What is he doing? "Napoleon is dead,"
said a passer-by to a veteran of Marengo and Waterloo. "He dead!"
cried the soldier; "you don't know him." Imagination distrusted
this man, even when overthrown. The depths of Europe were full
of darkness after Waterloo. Something enormous remained long empty
through Napoleon's disappearance.
The kings placed themselves in this void. Ancient Europe
profited by it to undertake reforms. There was a Holy Alliance;
Belle-Alliance, Beautiful Alliance, the fatal field of Waterloo
had said in advance.
In presence and in face of that antique Europe reconstructed,
the features of a new France were sketched out. The future,
which the Emperor had rallied, made its entry. On its brow it bore
the star, Liberty. The glowing eyes of all young generations were
turned on it. Singular fact! people were, at one and the same time,
in love with the future, Liberty, and the past, Napoleon. Defeat had
rendered the vanquished greater. Bonaparte fallen seemed more
lofty than Napoleon erect. Those who had triumphed were alarmed.
England had him guarded by Hudson Lowe, and France had him watched
by Montchenu. His folded arms became a source of uneasiness
to thrones. Alexander called him "my sleeplessness." This terror
was the result of the quantity of revolution which was contained
in him. That is what explains and excuses Bonapartist liberalism.
This phantom caused the old world to tremble. The kings reigned,
but ill at their ease, with the rock of Saint Helena on the horizon.
While Napoleon was passing through the death struggle at Longwood,
the sixty thousand men who had fallen on the field of Waterloo
were quietly rotting, and something of their peace was shed abroad
over the world. The Congress of Vienna made the treaties in 1815,
and Europe called this the Restoration.
This is what Waterloo was.
But what matters it to the Infinite? all that tempest, all that cloud,
that war, then that peace? All that darkness did not trouble
for a moment the light of that immense Eye before which a grub
skipping from one blade of grass to another equals the eagle
soaring from belfry to belfry on the towers of Notre Dame.