CHAPTER VII. LAMARTINE AND THE SECOND REPUBLIC.
[Footnote 1: For the subject-matter of this chapter I am largely indebted to Mrs. Oliphant's article on Lamartine in "Blackwood's Magazine."]
The Provisional Government hastily set up in France on Feb. 24, 1848, consisted at first of five members; but that number was afterwards enlarged. M. Dupin, who had been President of the Chamber of Deputies, was made President of the Council (or prime minister); but the real head of the Government and Minister for Foreign Affairs was Alphonse de Lamartine. He was a Christian believer, a high-minded man, by birth an aristocrat, yet by sympathy a man of the masses. "He was full of sentimentalities of vainglory and of personal vanity; but no pilot ever guided a ship of state so skilfully and with such absolute self-devotion through an angry sea. For a brief while, just long enough to effect this purpose, he was the idol of the populace." With him were associated Cremieux, a Jew; Ledru-Rollin, the historian, a Red Republican; Arago, the astronomer; Hypolite Carnot, son of Lazare Carnot, Member of the Directory, father of the future president; General Casaignac, who was made governor of Algeria; Garnier-Pages, who a second time became, in 1870, member of a Provisional Government for the defence of Paris; and several others.
The downfall of Louis Philippe startled and astonished even those who had brought it about. They had intended reform, and they drew down revolution. They hoped to effect a change of ministry: they were disconcerted when they had dethroned a king. There were about thirty thousand regular troops in Paris, besides the National Guard and the mounted police, or Garde Municipale. No one had imagined that the Throne of the Barricades would fall at the first assault. There were no leaders anywhere in this revolution. The king's party had no leaders; the young princes seemed paralyzed. The army had no leader; the commander-in-chief had been changed three times in twenty-four hours. The insurgents had no leaders. On February 22 Odillon Barrot was their hero, and on February 23 they hooted him.
The republicans, to their own amazement, were left masters of the field of battle, and Lamartine was pushed to the front as their chief man.
I may here pause in the historical narrative to say a few words about the personal history of Lamartine, which, indeed, will include all that history has to say concerning the Second Republic.
The love stories of the uncle and father of Alphonse de Lamartine are so pathetic, and give us so vivid a picture of family life before the First Revolution, that I will go back a generation, and tell them as much as possible in Lamartine's own words.
His grandfather had had six children, - three daughters and three sons. According to French custom, under the old regime, the eldest son only was to marry, and the other members of the Lamartine family proceeded as they grew up to fulfil their appointed destinies. The second son went into the Church, and rose to be a bishop. The third son, M. le Chevalier, went into the army. The sisters adopted the religious life, and thus all were provided for. But strange to say, the eldest son, to whose happiness and prosperity the rest were to be sacrificed, was the first rebel in the family. He fell in love with a Mademoiselle de Saint-Huruge; but her dot was not considered by the elder members of the family sufficient to justify the alliance. The young man gave up his bride, and to the consternation of his relatives announced that he would marry no other woman. M. le Chevalier must marry and perpetuate the ancestral line.
Lamartine says, -
"M. le Chevalier was the youngest in that generation of our family. At sixteen he had entered the regiment in which his father had served before him. His career was to grow old in the modest position of a captain in the army (which position he attained at an early age), to pass his few months of leave, from time to time, in his father's house, to gain the Cross of St. Louis (which was the end of all ambitions to provincial gentlemen), and then, when he grew old, being endowed with a small provision from the State, or a still smaller revenue of his own, he expected to vegetate in one of his brothers' old chateaux, having his rooms in the upper story, to superintend the garden, to shoot with the cure, to look after the horses, to play with the children, to make up a game of whist or tric-trac, - the born servant of everyone, a domestic slave, happy in his lot, beloved, and yet neglected by all. But in the end his fate was very different. His elder brother, having refused to marry, said to his father: 'You must marry the Chevalier.' All the feelings of the family and the prejudices of habit rose up in the heart of the old nobleman against this suggestion. Chevaliers, according to his notions, were not intended to marry. My father was sent back to his regiment, and his marrying was put off from year to year."
Meantime, the idea of marriage having been put into the Chevalier's head, he chose for himself, and happily his choice fell on a lady acceptable to his family. His sister was canoness in an aristocratic order, whose members were permitted to receive visits from their brothers. It was there that he wooed and won the lovely, saint-like mother of Alphonse de Lamartine.
The elder brother, as he advanced in life, kept up a truly affecting intercourse with Mademoiselle de Saint-Huruge. She was beautiful even in old age, though her beauty was dimmed by an expression of sadness. They met every evening in Macon, at the house of a member of the family, and each entertained till death a pure and constant friendship for the other.