IS WATERLOO TO BE CONSIDERED GOOD?
There exists a very respectable liberal school which
does not hate Waterloo. We do not belong to it.
To us, Waterloo is but the stupefied date of liberty.
That such an eagle should emerge from such an egg is certainly unexpected.
If one places one's self at the culminating point of view of the question,
Waterloo is intentionally a counter-revolutionary victory. It is Europe
against France; it is Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna against Paris;
it is the statu quo against the initiative; it is the 14th of July,
1789, attacked through the 20th of March, 1815; it is the monarchies
clearing the decks in opposition to the indomitable French rioting.
The final extinction of that vast people which had been in eruption
for twenty-six years--such was the dream. The solidarity of
the Brunswicks, the Nassaus, the Romanoffs, the Hohenzollerns,
the Hapsburgs with the Bourbons. Waterloo bears divine right on
its crupper. It is true, that the Empire having been despotic,
the kingdom by the natural reaction of things, was forced to be liberal,
and that a constitutional order was the unwilling result of Waterloo,
to the great regret of the conquerors. It is because revolution cannot
be really conquered, and that being providential and absolutely fatal,
it is always cropping up afresh: before Waterloo, in Bonaparte
overthrowing the old thrones; after Waterloo, in Louis XVIII.
granting and conforming to the charter. Bonaparte places a postilion
on the throne of Naples, and a sergeant on the throne of Sweden,
employing inequality to demonstrate equality; Louis XVIII.
at Saint-Ouen countersigns the declaration of the rights of man.
If you wish to gain an idea of what revolution is, call it Progress;
and if you wish to acquire an idea of the nature of progress,
call it To-morrow. To-morrow fulfils its work irresistibly, and it is
already fulfilling it to-day. It always reaches its goal strangely.
It employs Wellington to make of Foy, who was only a soldier,
an orator. Foy falls at Hougomont and rises again in the tribune.
Thus does progress proceed. There is no such thing as a bad tool
for that workman. It does not become disconcerted, but adjusts
to its divine work the man who has bestridden the Alps, and the
good old tottering invalid of Father Elysee. It makes use of the
gouty man as well as of the conqueror; of the conqueror without,
of the gouty man within. Waterloo, by cutting short the demolition
of European thrones by the sword, had no other effect than to cause
the revolutionary work to be continued in another direction.
The slashers have finished; it was the turn of the thinkers.
The century that Waterloo was intended to arrest has pursued its march.
That sinister victory was vanquished by liberty.
In short, and incontestably, that which triumphed at Waterloo;
that which smiled in Wellington's rear; that which brought him all
the marshals' staffs of Europe, including, it is said, the staff
of a marshal of France; that which joyously trundled the barrows full
of bones to erect the knoll of the lion; that which triumphantly
inscribed on that pedestal the date "June 18, 1815"; that which
encouraged Blucher, as he put the flying army to the sword; that which,
from the heights of the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean, hovered over
France as over its prey, was the counter-revolution. It was the
counter-revolution which murmured that infamous word "dismemberment."
On arriving in Paris, it beheld the crater close at hand; it felt
those ashes which scorched its feet, and it changed its mind;
it returned to the stammer of a charter.
Let us behold in Waterloo only that which is in Waterloo.
Of intentional liberty there is none. The counter-revolution was
involuntarily liberal, in the same manner as, by a corresponding
phenomenon, Napoleon was involuntarily revolutionary. On the 18th
of June, 1815, the mounted Robespierre was hurled from his saddle.