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1723. LOUIS XV. 155
must be satisfied by experience or demonstration. The latter is not to be met with in political theory; and the former is most often to be purchased at no less a price than revolution, anarchy, and crime.
CHAP. VII. 1723–1748. FROM THE MAJORITY OF LOUIS XV. TO THE PEACE OF AIX-LACHAPELLE.
WHATEvKR were the faults or crimes of the regent, he had at least acted an honorable part by his royal ward. He intrusted young Louis to the care of Villeroy, the attached friend of Louis XIV., and consequently, the regent's personal opponent, if not enemy. For confessor and instructor, Fleury was chosen, “because he was neither Jansenist, nor Molinist, nor Jesuit.” Fleury was one of those mild personages to whom extremes are repugnant, and who prefer the middle course in all circumstances. A more fitting tutor could not have been selected to form a monarch's principles; but, unfortunately, he communicated to Louis much of the timidity and meekness of his own character. Diffidence is the great bane of the privately educated, especially when they are af. terwards to mingle with persons not on an equality with them. It matters not whether they descend or ascend. Louis XV. could no more set himself at his ease in the company of his courtiers, than an upstart could have done in the same society. Bashfulness becomes irresolution in one born to influence and to act: and this apparently venial quality was the chief cause of all the crimes and follies of his reign.
The young king became sincerely attached to his kind and indulgent tutor, who, on his side, was not blind to the advantages of such influence. He refused an archbishopric, that would have removed him from court. On the occasion of a quarrel between Villeroy and cardinal Dubois, the mareschal was arrested; Fleury took fright, and retired also. The young king no sooner missed his tutor, than he gave way to the most noisy grief; wept, lamented, and was not to be pacified. Fieury was sought out, brought back, and the joy of Louis was extreme. . The future influence of the instructor might be augured from this: but his meekness, and also his extreme age, disarmed all envy. When the death of the duke of Orleans was known, the duc de Bourbon, lineal heir of the house of Condé, and first prince of the blood, aspired to be minister. The name of the regent was extinct, Louis being now of age. The duke got the patent of prime minister drawn up, went with it to the king, and asked him boldly for the place. The young monarch looked at Fleury, who made a sign of assent, and the duc de Bourbon had the ap. pointment. Monsieur le duc, as the prime minister was universally called, had hitherto distinguished himself by meddling in the affair of Law, and by his inveteracy against the duc du Maine. He was thus a political Jansenist. In the conspiracy stirred up by Alberoni against the regent, the Huguenots had partially joined. The few that still remained in France had thought this an opportunity favorable for rebelling. On the failure of the conspiracy, they had remained quiet; and the regent would not break through his principles of toleration to punish them. One of the first acts of the duc de Bourbon was to display his zeal for orthodoxy; and, at the same time, be avenged on the partisans of the duc du Maine, by a fulminating edict against the Protestants, renewing all the barbarities of the year 1685. England and Holland interfered, however, in behalf of their persecuted brethren, and the edict was modified. . In abandoning the ministry to a competitor, whose rank as prince of the blood awed and dazzled him, Fleury had reserved himself two privileges: one was the management of ecclesiastical affairs; the other, the right of being present whenever the duke consulted the king. Bourbon was obliged to be contented with his share, which was indeed considerable. He himself was governed by a mistress, the marquise du Prie, daughter of a financier, and an adept in the mystery of jobbing in the public funds. She introduced to the duke four brothers of the name of Paris, who had been in favor with the regent, and afterwards exiled by him. These were his finance ministers and counsellors. The marriage of the king was the most important point to be considered. He was betrothed to the infanta then educating at the French court: but the duc de Bourbon had his old political dislike to Spain; and he also proposed, by forming a new marriage, and making a queen of his choice, to gain full ascendency over the mind of Louis. A menacing illness of the king hastened this resolution. The duke turned his views first towards his sister. Madame du Prie dispatched one of her confidants to make a trial of the sentiments and temper of the princess; but the latter, disgusted with the meanness and vulgarity of the messenger, showed all the pride of a Condé, and refused to enter
[726. DISSMISSA I, OF BOUR BON. 157
into either terms or promises. Madame du Prie would therefore no longer hear of this lady, mademoiselle de Vermandois. A daughter of Russia was proposed and rejected. At length it was recollected that Stanislaus, the exiled king of Poland, had a daughter, who now shared his wanderings and misfortunes. A creature, thus raised from distress to the throne of France, could not but be grateful to those who elewated her. Thus reasoned madame du Prie. Moreover, Maria Leczinski was lovely, mild, humble, pious. Fleury, when he heard the choice, could not disapprove of it. Stanislaus and his daughter could not credit their good fortune. It was confirmed, however; and the daughter of the fugitive king of Poland became queen of France. Relying on the attachment of the young queen, the duc de Bourbon became less scrupulous in his plans of administra-. tion. An edict was prepared for a new tax, called a fiftieth, but which, from its arbitrary valuation, was likely to prove a tenth. It was to last twelve years. The noblesse, who were not exempt from this tax, protested. The parliaments of the kingdom poured in remonstrances; and a scarcity of corn happening at the same time, raised the popular voice, in unison with that of the court and judicial body, against the minister. At such an unpropitious moment did the duc de Bourbon think proper to affront Fleury; wishing to bar him of his privilege of being present during the minister's conSultations with the king. The duke arranged with the queen to entice Louis to receive his minister, and consult about public affairs, in her apartment. The monarch, who did not suspect any affront to Fleury, consented; and the latter, finding himself excluded, took the resolution of leaving Paris, and retiring to Issy: he, at the same time, wrote a pathetic and meek letter of resignation and farewell. Louis, on reading it, burst into tears, as of old. He dared not at first demand the recall of his preceptor; but the courtiers insinuating that he was now the master, he at length spoke the word, and Fleury was recalled. The old ecclesiastic was as timid as the monarch; and neither at first dared to break with the duc de Bourbon. An opportunity was, however, sought. The court, upon inquiry, found the duke extremely unpopular; and hence took courage to get rid of him. As Louis was departing on a journey to Rambouillet, he begged the duke to follow, and to “be sure not to keep sapper waiting.” The royal carriage drove off; the duke was preparing to follow, when an order, written by the monarch, was put into his hand, commanding him to retire to Chantilly. Madame du Prio, who was with the queen whén she heard of the duke's arrest, exhorted that princess to interfere. But it was too late: a letter from Louis desired even her to obey Fleury, who assumed the functions of prime minister, although, with characteristic humility, he declined the honors and the name. Never was statesman apparently more unfit, from character, to rule over a quick and high-spfited nation than Fleury. He was timidity—benignity's self. His policy towards foreign nations was peace; at home, economy and quiet. Fortunately for his success, he reached power at a time of domestic calm, when every flame of dissension had burned out. The government he continued in the same despotic path in which he found it; but this without violence or effort. There was no resistance. Fleury did not allow a pretext. His rigid economy made him independent of parliament and people. Then, .it was an age of utter mediocrity. There was not a personage amongst the princes of the blood, or the noblesse, who could head a party, were there pretexts of discontent to form one. The duke of Bourbon, it has been seen, was without capacity; the duke of Orleans, son of the regent, was a monk in habits and in mind. The long cessation from war, and consequently from all counsels and negotiations, had left the nobles no avenue to lead to eminence. Singularity and expenditure were their only means of shining. The French aristocracy declined, in fact, from the day in which it ceased to struggle with absolute power. With that motive it lost all principle of life. When the noble sunk into the mere courtier, he forfeited not only his independence, but the continuange of his caste.* Thus the administration of Fleury presents, in the interior of the kingdom, an almost unbroken calm. The minister recalled to court those who were in disgrace during the regency, the duc du Maine, mareschal Tallard, Villeroy. Yet these spirits, once so turbulent, were now known but as the bearers of titles, or as the owners of saloons in which good society was received. The first years of Fleury's administration present, in short, a perfect blank in history. Let us fill it up by a glance at European politics. Philip V., who gained the crown of Spain as much by con.
* There is no more important political truth than that the continuance of an aristocracy is incompatible with despotism. Physical existence or prosperity is not sufficient to uphold a privileged caste. It must have, moreover, a spring of intellectual activity, that is, interests to defend, and the means of defending them. When those, or when the latter fail, then commences their decline; such was the case of the Roman nobles after Augustus, of the French after the Fronde. An elective, or constitutional, or a feudal monarchy, are the only forms compatible with an aristocracy. Hence, the absurdity of the French noblesse, in seeking to restore the ancien régime; they but struggled to die over again.
1727. ALLIANCE OF SP.AIN AND AUSTRIA. 1.59
quest and good fortune as by right, becoming, in his declining days, scrupulously devout, proposed to resign in favor of his son. His confessor had reasons to strengthen this resolve; and Philip abdicated. He had scarcely done so, when he perceived the selfish reasons of those who promoted his resignation. His successor, Louis, was completely in the hands of a junta of nobles, who wielded, for their own purposes, the sovereign power. This successor, however, died. Philip, anxious to resume the crown, was prevented by scruples respecting his oath of abdication. The papal nuncio removed this objection; the monarch's nurse, by her reproaches, roused once more his spirit and ambition, and Philip remounted the throne. It was immediately subsequent to this that the duc de Bourbon sent back to Spain the infanta, who had been betrothed to Louis XV., and to whom Maria Leczinski had been preferred. Philip V. was mortally offended at this insult offered to his daughter. It precipitated him into a measure that had been for some time meditated by the court of Spain. This was not only a reconciliation but a treaty of alliance with Austria, the ancient rival and enemy of Philip. The latter was, above all things, anxious for the succession of his son Don Carlos to the duchies of Tuscany and Parma, after the death of the last of the Medicis. This, to be sure, was stipulated in the last negotiations; but might easily be eluded, especially at a moment when France and England seemed so little inclined to respect Spain. An alliance with the emperor would at once secure this; whilst it alarmed and retaliated upon France. Ripperda, a native of Holland, Philip's envoy, made advances accordingly to the imperial court. No offer could have come more opportune to Austria. In order to rival the maritime powers, and thence their influence and wealth, she had established an East India company at Ostend, that had excited lively jealousies on the part of both English and Dutch. They menaced the emperor; and he, to strengthen himself, concluded the treaty with Spain. The articles of it are not of so much importance as the fact of the union. France and England naturally took alarm at a reconciliation so little to be expected. The monarch of the latter country, tremblingly alive to the safety of his German dominions, called on his ally to prevent or counteract the effects of the treaty. The duke of Bourbon, then minister, continued in the same amicable sentiments towards England that had actuated the policy of the regent. The pension said to have been paid by that country to cardinal Dubois was continued to the marchioness du Prie. Horace Walpole, ambassador at