Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

not merely to watch the course of events in France with respect to which he took care to be well advised—but also to profit by any revulsion of the national feeling. The noblest minds in France saw their hopes and expectations not only disappointed, but warred against. The suffrage was a mockery, the number of electors throughout the entire kingdom being only about a quarter of a million. By the creation of petty offices beyond all number, and by a profligate waste of money, the court might be said to have carried these votes in its pocket, and the national will' was a nullity, for there was no means of testing it or ascertaining it. The prince knew all this, and was resolved to turn his knowledge to account; although it is generally admitted that his proceedings were rash and inconsiderate-perilous they certainly were. On the 30th of October 1836, after a day or two spent in concerting measures with a few friends, the prince, accompanied by about a dozen officers, appeared at Strasbourg, presented himself at the quarters of the roth Regiment of artillery, the same in which the great Napoleon had served as captain some fifty years before. He displayed before the soldiers the imperial eagle, the

symbol of military glory,' and in a few brief words called them to follow his standard. They accepted the omen, and obeyed his call; and if it had not been for an untoward accident, the arrival of a certain general officer, who called out to them that they were being deceived, and that he who called on them in the name of the great Napoleon was not that Napoleon's nephew, nor a Bonaparte, but an impostor, there is little doubt that in a few hours he would have had possession of the town, and that the example of the ioth Regiment would have been widely followed throughout France. As it turned out, the effort of the prince was paralysed : a struggle ensued between the prince's friends and the soldiers under command of General Voirol, and in a few minutes the eagle' was captured and the prince made a prisoner.

Taken to Paris, he was accused of treason, and, in spite of his mother's earnest entreaties, was denied the privilege of a trial, and pronounced guilty. His life was spared, but he was ordered to be

deported to America, as, in the opinion of Louis Philippe, his presence in Europe was a constant source of alarm to the court of the Tuileries. In vain did he protest against the sentence. He entreated, he demanded to remain in France, to be allowed to stand his trial, and to take his chance of life and death, side by side with those friends who had taken part in the affair.'* But all in vain. Terms indeed were offered him; but the conditions were such that he could not and would not accept them. He was seized, therefore, and forcibly 'deported' to America, where he remained for some months, spending his time in rendering himself acquainted with the practical working of the republican system of the United States. It has been said indeed that he gave to the government of Louis Philippe a promise that, if his life were spared, he would remain in perpetual exile on the other side of the Atlantic, and that when he returned, as he did return, to Europe in the following year, it was in violation of his word of honour. Such was not the case; he returned to Europe in the hope of seeing Hortense once more, and (as he says himself) of being allowed to close his mother's dying eyes. Happily he came back in time to perform this last office of filial duty. "Queen Hortense died in October 1837, amid the regrets of all who had known her when, in the flower of her life, she graced the courts of the Hague and the Tuileries, and of her friends and neighbours in the land of her adoption.

After paying the last honours to his mother, the prince continued to reside in Switzerland till the following year (1838), when he found himself compromised in the eyes of the French king and his ministry by an indiscreet publication by one of his adherents,* relating to the ‘Affair at Strasbourg,' which was pronounced seditious, and brought upon its author a sentence of fine and imprisonment. The French government, not content with punishing the writer, followed up their triumph by a pressing demand to the Helvetic Confederation for the expulsion of the illustrious exile who had made Switzerland his home. The Confederation refused to comply with a demand so harsh and unreasonable, and were even ready to support their refusal by taking up arms in his defence; but the prince was unwilling that he should be made a party to any step which should entail war, especially against a far stronger power, on a people who had given him a hospitable asylum for so many years. He therefore resolved on exchanging Arenenberg for England, feeling sure that Louis Philippe would never dare to demand from the strong nation of England what he had not scrupled to demand from the weaker hands of Switzerland. Accordingly, he landed in England, and took up his abode in London, residing for more than a year in a house on the north side of King Street, St James's Square.

In London, Louis Napoleon mixed much in society, though he did not appear at court or attract the attention of royalty. He made, however, many firm and fast friends, who became so impressed with the energy of his character, and that inflexible and indomitable belief in his own high destiny, which has ever attended him throughout all his trials and troubles, that they have always since remained his faithful adherents, and no doubt would not shrink from that position even if his sun should again become overclouded by adversity. The English people at large, as represented by the public press, came now to regard the illustrious stranger in his

* Lieutenant Laity. The book was published with the concurrence' of the prince.

exile with an amount of respect which they rarely shew except to qualities of the highest order; and this too not merely on account of the name which he bore and the cause with which that name was identified-for as yet his prospects were but far off and indistinct, and his chance of sitting on the throne of France was most problematical-but mainly because they admired his unconquerable spirit and devotion and self-denial, and saw in him the promise of future greatness. How, indeed, could they fail to admire and respect the man who, for the love which even in exile he bore towards his ungrateful country, had refused to share one of the thrones of Europe, and had refused to purchase immunity from punishment for the 'Affair of Strasbourg' by a pledge and a promise to withdraw from Europe, and so betray the cause which he embodied in his person? Indeed, there were few sights that would touch the hearts of Englishmen more deeply than that of a man, the nephew and heir of the great man whom England had humbled, living in retirement, occupying a few humble rooms in an ordinary London street, carefully noting and studying the history and politics of that kingdom against which his uncle had lived in constant war, and learning how in time to come, when, as he firmly believed, his turn would arrive to sit upon the throne of France, he might best treat with those haughty islanders, whose greatness and strength had worked his uncle's downfall.

That, even while resident in London, he never abandoned those aspirations which he had so fondly cherished amongst the mountains of Switzerland, may be gathered from the following extract from a letter which about this time he addressed to a friend in France. "You will be asked, as already some of the newspapers begin to ask, where is the Napoleonite party ? Reply to this : “The party is nowhere, but the cause everywhere.” The party is nowhere, because my friends have not mustered; but the cause has partisans everywhere, from the workshop of the artisan to the council-chamber of the king; from the barrack of the soldier to the palace of the marshal of France. Legitimists, republicans, disciples of the juste milieu, all who wish to see strong government and constitutional liberty, an imposing attitude on the part of authority-all these, I say, are Napoleonists, whether they avow it or not. .... Perhaps, even yet, if, accustomed as they have been to despise authority, my countrymen should undermine the foundations of the social system, the name of Napoleon may prove an anchor of safety for all that is noble and worthy and serviceable in France.

But not only while resident in London did the prince devote much time to a careful study of the English constitution, both in theory and in practice, but he took care to mix with men of thoughtful and philosophic minds, both English and foreign. From them he gleaned much valuable information, which a man seated high on an imperial or royal throne must of necessity be precluded

from obtaining; and it was in London that he fully formed those views of political philosophy which we find elaborated in his later published works, and especially in his Idées Napoléoniennes, which first saw the light in a collective form in 1839.

The object of this work, which occupied his leisure hours for considerably more than a year, was to correct the many misconceptions—as they appeared to him—which were abroad both in Eng. land and upon the continent as to the career of the great Napoleon ; to give a correct idea not only of all that he really accomplished in the midst of war, and in the face of enemies on every side, but also of that which he ever had at heart, and which no doubt he would have accomplished in fact, if he had not been prevented by the force of circumstances too powerful for mortal genius and energy to contend against. Identifying himself, as he ever has striven to identify himself, with the policy of the first Napoleon, in this important work we see the prince who was destined in due time to re-establish and to develop the imperial policy as a whole, labouring to impress the world at large with what he conceived to be its real tendencies, aims, and objects. The emperor is no more,' he remarks in his introduction to this book, but his spirit survives. Deprived of the power of defending his tutelary power with my sword, I can at least defend his memory with my pen. To enlighten public opinion by developing the thoughts which presided over his high conceptions, to recall the memory of his vast projects, this is a task which gladdens my heart and consoles me in my exile. After some preliminary remarks upon the forms and principles of government in general, he proceeds : ‘Advancing upon the stage of the world, Napoleon saw that it was his part to be the testamentary executor of the Revolution. The destructive fire of parties was not extinct ; and when the Revolution, dying but not vanquished, bequeathed to Napoleon the accomplishment of his last wishes, it might have been said to him : “ Concentrate upon solid foundations the principal results of my exertions ; reunite the divided people of France; repulse feudal Europe, leagued against me; heal my wounds; enlighten the nations; extend in breadth that which I have done in depth. Be for Europe what I have been to France; and even though you water with your blood the tree of civilisation, though you see your projects misrepresented, and your family wandering about the world without a native land to own them, never abandon the sacred cause of the French people, but lead it to triumph by all means which genius calls into being, and which humanity approves.And again he writes : 'The Emperor Napoleon contributed more than any other man to accelerate the reign of liberty, by preserving the moral influence of the Revolution, and by diminishing the fears which it inspired. But for the Consulate and the Empire, the Revolution would have been merely a great drama, leaving behind it grand memories, but few traces. The Revolution would have been drowned in the counter-revolution; whereas the precise contrary took place, because Napoleon planted in France and spread in Europe the principal advantages of the grand crisis of '89, and because-to employ one of his own expressions-he sobered the Revolution, consolidated the dynasties of kings, and elevated the people.' Declaring that the secret and source of all the imperial power lay in the deep convictions of the people of France, and in fact was but the expression of the popular will; then vindicating the memory of his uncle from the charge of having followed the dictates of mere personal vanity, he argues that 'to obviate that want of fixity and continuity, the absence of which is the great defect of republics, it had become necessary to create an hereditary family, to be the conservator of the interests of the people at large;' he dwells with affectionate reverence on the tolerant and comprehensive spirit in which the first Napoleon ever exercised his power, ruling, or aiming at ruling, for the benefit, not of a class, but of all his people, never exclusive, never intolerant, bent always rather on recalling exiles and enfranchising those who were deprived of their rights, than on punishing or excluding any from their homes or their rights as citizens ; he urges that under and by means of Napoleon the nation was 'gradually approaching, without shock or agitation, to a normal state, in which liberty would have been the support of power and the guarantee of the general well-being, instead of being a weapon of war and a torch of discord;' that it was he, and none but he, who 'closed the yawning gulf of revolution. Next, vindicating the general wisdom of his uncle's administration, he urges that the Empire of the first Napoleon was not really warlike but peaceful in its intention, that the emperor desired nothing so much as an honourable peace with the rest of Europe, and especially with England, and that his ultimate object was 'to substitute among the nations of Europe the social state for the state of nature, making the interests of the individual subordinate to his municipal and civil interests, these to national interests, and national to European interests, and all to the highest interests of humanity. In fine, according to the prince, the emperor, “if fortune had not abandoned him, would have reconstructed Europe. To cement the European association, he would have caused the adoption of a European code, correcting the judicial errors of European countries, much as the Court of Cassation corrects the errors of the tribunals of France. He would have founded a European institute, to animate, direct, and bring into harmonious co-operation all the learned institutions of Europe; and further, the uniformity of moneys, weights, and measures; and last of all, the uniformity of legislation would have been secured by his intervention. And then he draws out, in the following terse and pregnant phrases, the general tendency of those “ideas' which animated the emperor. “The Idées Napoleoniennes bear the character of ideas which regulate the movement of societies, since they

« ForrigeFortsæt »