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Lafayette and Proponents of Liberty in the French Chamber of Deputies Call on Their Leader, Prime Minister Dessoles, Not to Give Up the Cause
Lafayette and Proponents of Liberty in the French Chamber of Deputies Call on Their Leader, Prime Minister Dessoles, Not to Give Up the Cause.& A document of importance in the post-Napoleonic period, signed by scores of members, including Lafayette, Constant, Manuel, Lafitte, Chauvelin& & After the fall of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbons, Louis XVIII became King of France. With him returned royals, prelates and conservatives who had been displaced by the French Revolution; many of them had lost great wealth and seen their relatives executed. A large group of them (called the "Ultras") supported policies designed to restore their hegemony if not the status quo as it was before 1789. The King himself, and many more moderate Royalists, saw that this was impossible and instead sought to work towards a constitutional monarchy on the British line. There were many others in France, considered Liberals, who had supported the Revolution (though not always Napoleon) and continued to sympathize with its goals.& & The Duc Decazes, Minister of Police and a strong supporter of the King, was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in August 1815 and led the moderate Royalists. Also, seeking to appease the Liberals who claimed that the people were under-represented, the Prime Minister, the Duc de Richelieu, implemented a new and liberalized election law. Operating under the new law, in the annual Chamber of Deputies election of 1818, the Royalists lost the support of the nation's voters, who turned sharply towards the Liberals. Noted supporters of the Revolution like Lafayette were elected, along with colleagues like Manuel and Constant. The results caused consternation in the Tuileries, where the Moderates were shocked at the results, while the Ultras (more conservative Royalists), who had opposed the law, said 'I told you so' and predicted a new reign of terror. Many called for a revision of the election law, and Richelieu concurred, but the King favored extending his hand to both sides without seeking a change in the law that would end in a confrontation. The King's refusal to act, going against their advice on an essential matter, caused Richelieu to resign in December 1818. This threw the King, rather unexpectedly and perhaps uncomfortably, into the arms of the Liberals. He appointed their leader General Jean-Joseph Dessoles, who had perfomed great services to the Bourbons at the Restoration, Prime Minister.& & Under the new regime, police files were purged of Liberals' names and Napoleon's supporters were allowed to return to France. The King hoped this would settle the monarchy on the foundation of popular authority. All of this outraged the Royalists, and the Ultras who controlled the House of Peers introduced a bill to neutralize the power of the Liberals by pressing a change in the election law. Prime Minister Dessoles took a very strong stand, contending that to change the law was to undermine the liberties of the people and to destroy their charter of rights, and accusing the Royalists of trying to bring down a government favored by the King and people and replace it with one devoted to aristocracy and special privilege. The Peers adopted the change, the Deputies tried to amend it, the Peers rejected the amendment, and the French government was in gridlock.The King, now siding with the Liberals, responded to Dessoles' suggestion and created enough new Peers to pack that body and kill the proposed change at that time.& & However, the powers of the Grand Alliance had been watching the growth of Liberalism in France with increasing anxiety. Metternich of Austria especially ascribed this mainly to the "weakness" of the French ministry, and when in 1819 the political elections still further illustrated this trend, notably by the election as a Deputy of the revolutionary and schismatic bishop Abbé Henri Grégoire, the powers began to debate whether to put into play the terms of the secret Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. At that convocation in October 1818, the evacuation of France was agreed to in principle, after which the Congress determined upon military measures against France to be adopted by the Allies as a precaution against a fresh French outburst. This threat of foreign intervention forced Louis XVIII's hand. He decided on a modification of the election law after all, and on November 29, 1819, the Dessoles ministry was ended and Dessoles had to resign; and the first act of Decazes, the new Prime Minister, was to annul the election of Grégoire. Thus the cause of Liberalism in France was dealt a grievous blow even as it was celebrating its victories.& & A few weeks later the Liberal members of the Chamber of Deputies wrote to Dessoles, urging him to remain true to the cause. Letter Signed, Paris, December 14, 1819, to Dessoles, who is addressed as "Monsieur le General." "A decision has taken you away from the Chamber of Deputies. Our feelings of loss can only be soothed by the hope of seeing you soon and to find in you a comrade whose character and talents we highly esteem. The country that you have honored in the field expects from you new proofs of this zeal. You have already shown that you know to serve her well with your pen, as well as your sword, and in times of need you bring together civil courage with military valor. Receive, General, the assurance of our consideration and attachment." Signing this document are over 40 Liberal Deputies, including Lafayette, Constant, Lafitte, Manuel, former Napoleon Council of State member the Marquis de Chauvelin, Napoleonic General Maximilien Sebastien Foy, and Casimir Perier.& & This is an important document in the struggle of France for liberty, and a key insight into the post-Napoleonic era.
      [Bookseller: The Raab Collection]
Last Found On: 2013-07-20           Check availability:      Biblio    

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