CHAPTER IV. TEN YEARS OF THE REIGN OF THE CITIZEN KING.
Besides the affairs of the Duchesse de Berri, of Louis Napoleon, of Fieschi and his infernal machine, and difficulties attending on the marriage of the Duke of Orleans, the first ten years of Louis Philippe's reign were full of vicissitudes. France after a revolution is always an "unquiet sea that cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." Frenchmen do not accept the inevitable as Americans have learned to do, through the working of their institutions.
One of the early troubles of Louis Philippe was the peremptory demand of President Jackson for five million dollars, - a claim for French spoliations in 1797. This amount had been acknowledged by the Government of Louis Philippe to be due, but the Chambers were not willing to ratify the agreement. In the course of the negotiations the secretary of General Jackson, having occasion to translate to him a French despatch, read, "The French Government demands - " "Demands!" cried the general, with a volley of rough language; "if the French Government dares to demand anything of the United States, it will not get it."
It was long before he could be made to understand the true meaning of the French word demande, and his own demands were backed with threats and couched in terms more forcible than diplomatic. The money was paid after the draft of the United States for the first instalment had been protested, and France has not yet forgotten that when she was still in the troubled waters of a recent revolution, she was roughly treated by the nation which she had befriended at its birth.
The greatest military success in Louis Philippe's reign was the capture of Constantine in Algeria. So late as 1810 Algerine corsairs were a terror in the Mediterranean, and captured M. Arago, who was employed on a scientific expedition. In 1835, France resolved to undertake a crusade against these pirates, which might free the commerce of the Mediterranean. The enterprise was not popular in France. It would cost money, and it seemed to present no material advantages. It was argued that its benefits would accrue only to the dynasty of Louis Philippe, that Algeria would be a good training-school for the army, and that the main duty of the army in future might be to repress republicanism.
[Footnote 1: About the same time they took prisoner a cousin of my father, John Warner Wormeley, of Virginia. He was sold into slavery; but when tidings of his condition reached his friends, he was ransomed by my grandfather.]
In 1834, a young Arab chief called Abdul Kader, the son of a Marabout of great sanctity, had risen into notice. Abdul Kader was a man who realized the picture of Saladin drawn by Sir Walter Scott in the "Talisman." Brave, honorable, chivalrous, and patriotic, his enemies admired him, his followers adored him. When he made his first treaty with the French, he answered some doubts that were expressed concerning his sincerity by saying gravely: "My word is sacred; I have visited the tomb of the Prophet."
Constantine, the mountain fortress of Oran, was held, not by Abdul Kader, but by Ahmed Bey, the representative of the sultan's suzerainty in the Barbary States. The first attack upon it failed. The weather and the elements fought against the French in this expedition. General Changarnier distinguished himself in their retreat, and the Duc de Nemours showed endurance and bravery.
From the moment of that repulse, popular enthusiasm was aroused. A cry rang through France that Constantine must be taken. It was captured two years later, after a siege in which two French commanders-in-chief and many generals were killed. Walls fell, and mines exploded; the place at last was carried by assault. At one moment, when even French soldiers wavered, a legion of foreign dare-devils (chiefly Irishmen and Englishmen) were roused by an English hurrah from the man who became afterwards Marshal Saint-Arnaud. With echoing cheers they followed him up the breach, the army followed after them, and the city was won.
Louis Philippe had been raised to power by four great men, - Lafayette, Laffitte, Talleyrand, and Thiers. Of these, Laffitte and Lafayette retained little influence in his councils, and both died early in his reign. In 1838 died Talleyrand, - the prince of the old diplomatists. The king and his sister, Madame Adelaide, visited him upon his death-bed. Talleyrand, supported by his secretary, sat up to receive the king. He was wrapped in a warm dressing-gown, with the white curls he had always cherished, flowing over his shoulders, while the king sat near him, dressed in his claret-colored coat, brown wig, and varnished boots. Some one who was present whispered that it was an interview between the last of the ancienne noblesse and the first citizen bourgeois. Rut the old courtier was touched by the intended kindness, and when the king was about to go away, he said, half rising: "Sire, this honor to my house will be gratefully remembered in the annals of my family."
Deep and true was the grief felt for the loss of Talleyrand in his own household; many and bitter have been the things said of his character and his career. He himself summed up his life in some words written shortly before his death, which read like another verse in the Book of Ecclesiastes: -