March 5, 1823. — I am busy about a very anxious work. Paris now presents a most peculiar spectacle. I know the ground in Paris very well, and my knowledge of the city in the time of strength enables me to judge of its position in its present time of weakness. In this country everything is unexpected ; even what seems reasonable is only so outwardly, not really: commotion is here the consequence of excited passions, and of all these not one springs from true feeling. Never since there was such a thing as business in the world was an affair handled as it is at this moment in France. It really looks as if people in this country were trying to refine upon suicide. They drive forward, but at the same time bring the car so close to the precipice that it must inevitably turn over.
February 11, 1828. — The crisis has arrived, and as I am an old practitioner in the maladies of the social body, I am not more alarmed than is necessary. What I cannot do is to know or predict how things will go: Certain it is that the crisis may turn against the folly of the age which has caused it; and the country that is most seriously ill is France, and France is also the country whose future is the least promising. A country where all the moral elements are extinct cannot help itself, and Providence alone knows what will become of this Babylon.
June 4, 1834. — Prince Esterhazy will doubtless have spoken to you of a most interesting conversation he has had with King Louis Philippe. What I beg you to insist upon is, that I do not dread the Republic more than it is to he dreaded; a fact contradicted by the King, who apparently does not fear it at all. In order to make myself clearly understood, I need only tell you that I mean by anarchy, the Republic. I know very well that the Republic — in other words a Republican Government affording the prospect of stability — is not what is in store for France, but anarchy under the colours of the Republic, for no one will ever proclaim anarchy.
Is it necessary to give a proof of this last fact ? We think we have furnished it in remarking that one of the sentiments most natural to man, that of nationality, is erased from the Liberal catechism, and that where the word is still employed, it is used by the heads of the party as a pretext to enchain Governments, or as a lever to bring about destruction. The real aim of the idealists of the party is religious and political fusion, and this being analysed is nothing else but creating in favour of each individual an existence entirely independent of all authority, or of any other will than his own, an idea absurd and contrary to the nature of man, and incompatible with the needs of human society.
April 23. — My proposals are confined to the discipline of the universities, and do not at all touch the studies themselves—two questions which are very closely related, but yet in the present discussion necessarily separated. If we meddle with the latter, nothing at all will be done, and a letter from Müller sufficiently points this out to me, in which in speaking of this affair he observes ‘ that the disorder in the universities proceeds from the Reformation and that it can only be really set right by the recall of the Reformation.’ I deny neither the assertion nor its justice. But here on the Quirinal I cannot meddle with Dr. Martin Luther, and I hope that nevertheless some good will come of it without even touching its source— Protestantism. The last very excellent letter of Müller’s reminded me involuntarily of Golowkin’s proposition for the investigation of ‘ Causes primitives de la révolution française.’
Napoleon was not irreligious in the ordinary sense of the word. He would not admit that there had ever existed a genuine atheist ; he condemned Deism as the result of rash speculation. A Christian and a Catholic, he recognized in religion alone the right to govern human societies. He looked on Christianity as the basis of all real civilization ; and considered Catholicism as the form of worship most favourable to the maintenance of order and the true tranquility of the moral world ; Protestantism as a source of trouble and disagreements. Personally indifferent to religious practices, he respected them too much to permit the slightest ridicule of those who followed them.
The relics of the old constitution were not so much boundaries to the omnipotent desolating power of the revolution, as landmarks, designating its victorious progress. The constitution, of 1791, was only a short and voluntary pause; a sort of resting point, at which nobody meant long to wait. The second national assembly did not make a pass, no, not one, which was not an attack upon some ruin or other of the monarchy. The establishment of the republic did not satisfy its authors. The execution of the king scarcely appeased the ravenousness of his butchers, for a single instant.
In the year 1793 the thirst for destruction had gone so far, that it was at a loss for an object. The well known saying, that Robespierre meant to reduce the population of France by one half, had its foundation in the lively sense of the impossibility of satisfying the hitherto insatiate revolution, with any thing less, than such a hecatomb.
When there was nothing more left in the country to attack, the offensive frenzy turned itself against the neighbouring states, and finally declared war in solemn decrees against all civil society. It was certainly not the want of will in those, who then conducted this war, if Europe preserved any thing, besides “bread and iron.” Fortunately, no strength was great enough long to support such a will. The unavoidable exhaustion of the assailants, and not the power or the merit of the resistance made, saved society; and, finally, brought the work shops themselves, where the weapons for its destruction were forged, within its beneficent bonds again.
In reviewing the disgusting spectacle of the French revolution, it is difficult to avert the eye entirely from those features of it which betray a plan to disorganize the human mind itself, as well as to undermine the venerable pillars that support the edifice of civilized society. The attempt by the rulers of a nation to destroy all religious opinion, and to pervert a whole people to Atheism, is a phenomenon of profligacy reserved to consummate the infamy of the unprincipled reformers of France. The proofs of this terrible design are numerous and convincing.
The animosity to the Christian system is demonstrated by the single fact of the ridiculous and impolitic establishment of the decades, with the evident object of supplanting the Christian Sabbath. The inscription by public authority on the tombs of the deceased, affirming death to be an eternal sleep, witness the desire to discredit the belief of the immortality of the soul. The open profession of Atheism in the Convention, received with acclamations; the honorable mention on its journals of a book professing to prove the nothingness of all religion; the institution of a festival to offer public worship to a courtezan decorated with the pompous [title] of “Goddess of Reason;” the congratulatory reception of impious children appearing in the hall of the Convention to lisp blasphemy against the King of Kings; are among the dreadful proofs of a conspiracy to establish Atheism on the ruins of Christianity—to deprive mankind of its best consolations and most animating hopes—and to make a gloomy desert of the universe.
March 28. — In the descriptions it contains nothing is overdrawn. My feeling of the dreadful position of things is even stronger than I can express. I have known France under the Empire, and afterwards in the presence of the allied armies. After being ten years left to itself and the (development of its constitutional relations), I enter it again, and I find things in a much worse state. . . .
It is only now that the consequences of the revolution can be correctly traced. All that is sacred has been loosened, and the system inaugurated at the Restoration, which unhappily was not suited to France, cannot restore anything of what has been lost. Thus society here loses itself in a conflict of passions, and under the influence of these passions the Government lacks all power to act beneficially in other ways.
This is a true picture ; and when I admit it into a despatch to St. Petersburg, I do so with the intention that it should be a lesson for the Emperor. The will of the present ministers is good, but they have no resources at their command. They endeavour to procure them, but it will be a long time before they have any. It is difficult to form any idea of the demoralisation of the people. It will be sufficient to lay before your Majesty the following facts, which I got from the fountain head : —
The population of Paris may be roughly stated at 800,000. Of these 80,000 women and 10,000 men have no religion whatever.
More than a third of the population is unbaptised. The proper business for the religious at the present moment is to introduce religion. In the Quartier de St. Genevieve — where the lowest classes of the people live — it may be said that out of twenty households one consists of married people. At least half of them are not even to be found in any civil register. The only thing that can have any effect here is a religious mission like those sent among savages.
The system followed by the Government is decried and restrained by the Liberal faction.
In the course of the last ten years— consequently since the Restoration and since the freedom of the press, introduced at the same time — about 2,700,000 copies of atheistic, irreligious, immoral writings have been sold. That this trade is supported by the faction is shown by the fact that these works are sold at half price to young people of both sexes, and they are often freely given away. In the higher classes the immorality at least is lessened by better education. But among these the greed of money and titles prevails. From the present Chamber of Deputies the Government has 220 petitions for the dignity of peer.
August 29, 1823. — There was but one single man in France who understood how to master the Revolution, and that man was Bonaparte. The King’s Government inherited from him, not the Revolution, but the counter-Revolution, and they have not known how to make use of this inheritance.
September 23, 1824.— Louis XVIII. is dead, and there is nothing more to be said in the matter. What some years ago would have been a great event has now no significance. The world is nowadays so far better, that Kings can die undisturbed. The old King was a feeble ruler ; if he had been a private gentleman he would probably have shared many of the errors of the age. Charles X. is different. He has heart and feeling, and if he had more firmness of character he would be a more than ordinary monarch — for without being a regicide I may be permitted to assert that there are ordinary monarchs. At any rate it is a happiness tor Charles X. that he was not in the position of Louis XVIII. ; he would have been ruined by the reaction of his return to France.
August 27, 1830. — ‘ It appears to me,’ said I to the General, ‘ that you have not grasped the nature and real meaning of my words : I will proceed to make them more clear.
‘ I have known you as one of the most zealous adherents of the man who was, beyond all question, the prototype of power. Of two alternatives I can only admit one ; either the character of Mgr. le Duc d’ Orleans comes up to that of Napoleon in strength, or else falls below it, for to exceed it seems to me beyond the bounds of nature. Now, intimately acquainted as you were with Napoleon, do you believe that, placed in the position of the present Government, he would have considered himself in possession of the requisite means for governing, or, what comes to the same thing, would have considered himself in a condition to assure his throne and the maintenance of internal tranquillity in France? Can that which Napoleon would not have recognised as sufficient be justly looked upon by the new Government as capable of affording it secure pledges of existence?’
To this question General Belliard made the only reply open to him. He was silent, and after a moment’s reflection said to me : ‘ Things are changed, Prince ; France is no longer the France of the past, and she, must be governed by new methods.’
In order to judge of this extraordinary man, we must follow him upon the grand theatre for which he was born. Fortune had no doubt done much for Napoleon; but by the force of his character, the activity and lucidity of his mind, and by his genius for the great combinations of military science, he had risen to the level of the position which she had destined for him. Having but one passion, that of power, he never lost either his time or his means on those objects which might have diverted him from his aim. Master of himself, he soon became master of men and events. In whatever time he had appeared he would have played a prominent part. But the epoch when he first entered on his career was particularly fitted to facilitate his elevation. Surrounded by individuals who, in the midst of a world in ruins, walked at random without any fixed guidance, given up to all kinds of ambition and greed, he alone was able to form a plan, hold it fast, and conduct it to its conclusion. It was in the course of the second campaign in Italy that he conceived the one which was to carry him to the summit of power. ‘ When I was young,’ he said to me ; ‘ I was revolutionary from ignorance and ambition. At the age of reason, I have followed its counsels and my own instinct, and I crushed the Revolution.’