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The Story of France by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

THE REVOLUTION OF JULY

[444] ONE of the first acts of the new king, charles X.,was to disregard the charter of French Liberties, which his brother had begged him to respect.

The people of France were proud of their free press, that is, of their right to publish what any one had written without the interference of the Government.

But the ministers of Charles X. thought this a dangerous liberty, and persuaded the king to make a new law, by which all pamphlets and books had to be seen and approved by Government before they were printed.

This new law, which touched one of the liberties which their Charter had won for them, made the people very angry. They showed their indignation by wandering about the streets of Paris shouting, "Long live the Charter! Down with the Ministers!"

Charles, finding that the National Guards were on the side of the people, dismissed them, and also forbade the Chambers of Deputies to assemble.

In 1829 Charles, whom his subjects nicknamed "the Simple," chose for his chief ministers three men who were bitterly disliked by the Parisians.

One of these had been a friend of Marie Antoinette, and had been known as an aristocrat at the time of the great Revolution.

Not only in Paris but throughout France there was much discontent at the king's choice. Charles, however, [445] having chosen his ministers, was determined to keep them.

Lest the mob should dare to rise and show their displeasure, the king sent troops under General Marmont into the city to keep order.

But the mob paid no heed to the troops. It hastened to the cathedral and rang the bells with all its strength to call the citizens to arms.

Then, as was its wont, it pulled up pavements, cut down trees that grew along the sides of the streets, and put up great barricades.

As the troops marched along the streets, stones were hurled at them from the windows, boiling water too was poured over them, and this strange kind of warfare disturbed the soldiers more than a fierce fire of shot and shell would have done.

In spite of Marmont's efforts to keep his men loyal to the king, many of them deserted and joined the mob.

Thus encouraged by the soldiers, the people hastened to the Louvre and the Tuileries, and rushing into these beautiful palaces they broke the furniture and statues to pieces and flung them recklessly into the river Seine.

This revolution, for such it really was, lasted for three days, and was called "The three glorious days of July 1880."

The king had gone off hunting before the outbreak of the mob.

When he heard how they had behaved, he thought it was time to pacify them, and he determined to dismiss the ministers whom they so disliked.

But, as many a Bourbon king before him had done, Charles had delayed until it was too late. The citizens of Paris—and Paris meant France—had made up their minds that they would no longer allow Charles X. to be their king. So he was deposed, and the crown was offered to his cousin, the Duke of Orleans.

Louis Philippe, son of that disloyal Duke of Orleans [446] who had voted for the death of Louis XVI., now became king.

He was not like his father, being a good man and a brave soldier.

At the time of the Revolution Louis Philippe had fled from France. Being well educated, he had earned his living by teaching in a school in Switzerland, and had even wandered so far as North America.

The new sovereign wished to rule as a "citizen king," chosen by the voice of the people. He promised faithfully to guard the Charter of French Liberties.

But Louis Philippe had little chance to rule his kingdom well. For already, when he came to the throne, his people were split up into at least three parties, each of which bitterly disliked the other.

There were the king's own friends, there were those who thought the grandson of Charles X. should be on the throne, and worst of all, there were Democrats or Red Republicans who could not bear to think that a Bourbon was again upon the throne of France.

The Democrats belonged to a secret society which employed much of its time in plotting against the king's life.

Once, as Louis Philippe drove up to review his troops, one of the members of the secret society fired at the royal carriage.

The king escaped, but some of his officers were killed, as well as a few of the people who had gathered round the king's coach.

After Louis Philippe had reigned for six years the plots of Louis Napoleon, a nephew of the great Napoleon, began to attract as much attention as the schemes of the Democrats. More than once he was discovered trying to make the soldiers of the French army rebel against their king. At length he was arrested and put in prison, but he managed to escape. Disguised as a workman, he fled to London.

Meanwhile the ministers chosen by the king were almost as much disliked as had been those of Charles X.

[447] Guizot and Thiers, both of them great historians, were the names of the ministers Louis Philippe had chosen to help him govern France.

In one of the histories written by Guizot, you will like to know that I have found many of the stories which I have told you in this book.

But though both Guizot and Thiers were wise and learned, the mob hated them. Again they began to wander along the streets of Paris crying, "Down with the Ministers! Long live Reform!"

The troops were ordered to scatter the mob. By some accident a gun was fired from a window and wounded a soldier, whereupon the troops poured a volley into the crowd and injured about fifty people.

As you may imagine, this roused the fury of the mob It hurriedly ran up barricades all over the city, and vowed to take vengeance on the ministers.

Guizot then resigned, thinking thus to appease the anger of the people. Thiers, left alone, attempted to carry out reforms that would satisfy them, but in vain. Nothing would satisfy the country save that Louis Philippe should cease to be king.

So in February 1848 Louis Philippe quietly gave up his crown and went to live in England, where a year later he died.

France had grown weary of kings. She now determined that the country should again become a republic.


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