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bridge; but what credit is due to a robber on the highway because he happens to be deterred or dissuaded by a superior accomplice ?
The treasures of the Louvre were obtained, it was said, by the right of conquest, and might be resumed by it. This is a fallacy in the envelope of a loose form of expression. They were obtained for the most part by express articles of convention or capitulation, dictated, it is true, to the weak by the strong, but still accepted whilst an alternative remained. To justify the stripping of the Louvre an express exception should have been made to the twelfth article of the capitulation of St. Cloud.
The duke of Wellington, indeed, states, in his letter to lord Castlereagh, that the provisional government demanded, and the allied generals refused, an express guarantee for the museum of the Louvre. But of what avail are a mere verbal demand and refusal, if the specific object comes fairly within the operation of a general article expressly agreed to ? The duke's letter is, in many parts, a bad pleading, extorted from him by his sense of the obloquy to which he had exposed himself. It is deficient in a quality which should be the last to fail him, - the frankness of a soldier. Justifying his particular interference on behalf of the king of the Netherlands, he says,
-“ Meanwhile the Prussians had obtained from his majesty (Louis XVIII.) not only all the pictures belonging to Prussia Proper, but also those which belonged to the Prussian territory on the left bank of the Rhine.” The real fact was, that Blucher, instead of having 66 obtained them from his majesty," sent a Prussian sergeant's guard
to the house of Denon, the keeper, for the key of the museum. That true lover of his country and the arts, refused, at the threatened peril of being sent a prisoner to a Prussian fortress ; upon which the Prussian general forced open the door, and took
away such pictures as he chose to claim for the galleries and churches of Berlin, Potsdam, and Cologne. The duke of Wellington, as if resolved not to be outdone by Blucher, and even to outdo him, subjected British officers and troops to the gratuitous odium of protecting the spoliations in favour of Holland and Belgium; and even of aiding the Austrians when they made their claim in the repartition of the spoil. The 95th British fusileers stood under arms along the gallery of the Louvre, and English officers of engineers were employed in taking down those bronze horses of Lysippus, which have followed in the train of so many conquerors, from Corinth to Rome, from Rome to Constantinople, from Constantinople to Venice, from Venice to Paris, and, in 1815, back from the
of the Carrousel to that of St. Mark. The French, during these operations, were excluded from the Louvre. In spite, however, of every effort of the foreign troops stationed under arms, and acting as a police, the Parisians assembled round the scene in groups and crowds, presenting a spectacle, beyond description and imagination, of the popular passions exasperated to fury, but controlled and caged under the mastery of a superior force. Manhood and beauty, youth and age, from the artist and amateur down to the very populace of this capital of European
civilisation, cried and cursed, gnashed their teeth and tore their hair, when they saw these treasures of art and trophies of victory torn from them. One redeeming circumstance might suggest itself, at least to an uninterested stranger, in the idea that the monuments of her departed greatness, and her sole remaining glory, were returning to Italy.
Louis XVIII. was thus treated as a mere animal being, whose desires went no further than the brute indulgences of a throne. It was part of the great “ moral lesson” to be given the French people. Upon the same principle, but much less justifiably, he was tolerated, if not encouraged, in the exercise of his plausible hypocrisy and heartless vengeance. Arrests, imprisonments, executions, and assassinations covered France with terror and mourning. Among the more conspicuous victims were Labedoyère, Brune, Ney, and Lavallette. Labedoyère was the first sacrificed. He had made his
arrangements to share the exile of Napoleon. The relatives of his wife, who were royalist courtiers, dissuaded him with the assurance that he should be forgiven by Louis XVIII.; and their motive was said to have been the base one of making the fallen emperor feel desolation and desertion. Labedoyère loved France, and especially Paris, with the passion of the younger Foscari for Venice. He joined the army of the Loire, left it to visit Paris under an assumed name, was arrested, put upon his trial, stopped by the judges in his defence, and condemned. The same persons who had fatally dissuaded him from leaving France, practised again upon the natural instinct of prolonging the sense of life, and his passionate ten
derness for a wife and only infant child, with a renewed assurance that his life should be spared. They thus wrung from his human weakness, in despite of truth and conscience, a sort of eulogy on the Bourbons and their government. His wife and mother, relying on the assurances given them, threw themselves on their knees before the carriage-wheels of Louis XVIII., and he drove on. They grasped the duchess of Angoulême by her garments, which were disengaged from the suppliants with loyal horror by her attendant ladies. Labedoyère, in the forenoon of the same day, was brought out and shot in the plain of Grenelle; in the evening, Louis XVIII. supped, the duchess of Angoulême prayed, and the frivolous Parisians amused themselves on the boulevards, in the coffee-houses, and in the theatres.
The tables of proscription, of which mention has already been made, were spurned as insufficient by the vindictive fury and fanaticism of the court, and of its partisans in the provinces. The French protestants of the south were persecuted with fire and sword. Marshal Brune was assassinated by a band of ruffians in open day at Avignon, and five years elapsed before his widow obtained the barren justice of proving the crime without punishing the criminal.
There appeared hesitation and delay in bringing Ney to trial ; but on the part of the ministers, not of the court. Fouché, who invented the designation “ultra-royalists," addressed reports to the king upon the dangers to which this party was exposing him. Talleyrand and Fouché both became afraid of being
themselves ultimately reached by the system of political epuration. Both were equally abhorred; Fouché as a jacobin regicide by the royalists ; Talleyrand as a renegade bishop by the clergy and devotees. They were especially odious to the duchess of Angoulême, and the ministry was broken up through her influence. Talleyrand, Fouché, and St. Cyr were respectively succeeded by the duc de Richelieu, are turned emigrant; Decazes, a minion of the imperial court, who had been chamberlain to the mother of Napoleon, and was now installed the favourite of Louis XVIII.; and Clarke, duc de Feltre, who had attended the Bourbons to Ghent. The new ministry, by way of checking the royalist assassins and incendiaries of the south, gently requested them “not to anticipate the action of justice and the law upon state criminals,” and published one of those tyrant amnesties in which the exceptions devour the rule, so as to constitute real proscriptions. The faculties of speech and writing were exercised under the most severe and arbitrary penalties; and the ordinary judicature gave way to monstrous tribunals called prevotal courts.
Such, very imperfectly sketched, was the duke of Wellington's “ moral lesson.” But a material portion of it still remained, - the execution of marshal Ney. The tergiversations of that unfortunate person were so outrageous as to subject him to imputations of the basest treachery. It appears, however, from his whole career, and from the testimony of those who knew him, that he was not treacherous, but rash, violent, and unenlightened.