CHAPTER I. CHARLES X. AND THE DAYS OF JULY.
Louis XVIII. in 1815 returned to his throne, borne on the shoulders of foreign soldiers, after the fight at Waterloo. The allied armies had a second time entered France to make her pass under the saws and harrows of humiliation. Paris was gay, for money was spent freely by the invading strangers. Sacrifices on the altar of the Emperor were over; enthusiasm for the extension of the great ideas of the Revolution had passed away; a new generation had been born which cared more for material prosperity than for such ideas; the foundation of many fortunes had been laid; mothers who dreaded the conscription, and men weary of war and politics, drew a long breath, and did not regret the loss of that which had animated a preceding generation, in a view of a peace which was to bring wealth, comfort, and tranquillity into their own homes.
The bourgeoisie of France trusted that it had seen the last of the Great Revolution. It stood between the working-classes, who had no voice in the politics of the Restoration, and the old nobility, - men who had returned to France full of exalted expectations. The king had to place himself on one side or the other. He might have been the true Bourbon and headed the party of the returned emigres, - in which case his crown would not have stayed long upon his head; or he might have made himself king of the bourgeoisie, opposed to revolution, Napoleonism, or disturbances of any kind, - the party, in short, of the Restoration of Peace: a peace that might outlast his time; et apres moi le deluge!
But animals which show neither teeth nor claws are seldom left in peace, and Louis XVIII.'s reign - from 1814 to 1824 - was full of conspiracies. The royalty of the Restoration was only an ornament tacked on to France. The Bourbon dynasty was a necessary evil, even in the eyes of its supporters. "The Bourbons," said Chateaubriand, "are the foam on the revolutionary wave that has brought them back to power;" whilst every one knows Talleyrand's famous saying "that after five and twenty years of exile they had nothing remembered and nothing forgot." Of course the old nobility, who flocked back to France in the train of the allied armies, expected the restoration of their estates. The king had got his own again, - why should not they get back theirs? And they imagined that France, which had been overswept by successive waves of revolution, could go back to what she had been under the old regime. This was impossible. The returned exiles had to submit to the confiscation of their estates, and receive in return all offices and employments in the gift of the Government. The army which had conquered in a hundred battles, with its marshals, generals, and vieux moustaches, was not pleased to have young officers, chosen from the nobility, receive commissions and be charged with important commands. On the other hand, the Holy Alliance expected that the king of France would join the despotic sovereigns of Russia, Austria, and Prussia in their crusade against liberal ideas in other countries. Against these difficulties, and many more, Louis XVIII. had to contend. He was an infirm man, physically incapable of exertion, - a man who only wanted to be let alone, and to avoid by every means in his power the calamity of being again sent into exile.
He placed himself on the side of the stronger party, - he took part with the bourgeoisie. His aim, as he himself said, was to menager his throne. He began his reign by having Fouche and Talleyrand, men of the Revolution and the Empire, deep in his councils, though he disliked both of them. Early in his reign occurred what was called the White Terror, in the southern provinces, where the adherents of the white flag repeated on a small scale the barbarities of the Revolution.
The king was forced to put himself in opposition to the old nobles who had adhered to him in his exile. They bitterly resented his defection. They used to toast him as le roi-quand-meme, "the king in spite of everything." His own family held all the Bourbon traditions, and were opposed to him. To them everything below the rank of a noble with sixteen quarterings was la canaille.
Louis XVIII.'s favorite minister was M. Decazes, a man who studied the interests of the bourgeoisie; and the royal family at last made the sovereign so uncomfortable by their disapproval of his policy that he sought repose in the society and intimacy (the connection is said to have been nothing more) of a Madame de Cayla, with whom he spent most of his leisure time.
Before the Revolution, Louis XVIII. had been known sometimes as the Comte de Provence, and sometimes as Monsieur. Though physically an inert man, he was by no means intellectually stupid, for he could say very brilliant things from time to time, and was very proud of them; but he was wholly unfit to be at the helm of the ship of state in an unquiet sea.