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them, and Lombardy had been recovered chiefly by Russian aid; so that
Buonaparte, on the ground that a nation at war needed a less cumbrous
government than a Directory, contrived to get himself chosen First
Consul, with two inferiors, in 1799.


7. The Consulate. - A great course of victories followed in Italy,
where Buonaparte commanded in person, and in Germany under Moreau.
Austria and Russia were forced to make peace, and England was the only
country that still resisted him, till a general peace was made at Amiens
in 1803; but it only lasted for a year, for the French failed to
perform the conditions, and began the war afresh. In the mean time
Buonaparte had restored religion and order, and so entirely mastered
France that, in 1804, he was able to form the republic into an empire,
and affecting to be another Charles the Great, he caused the Pope to say
mass at his coronation, though he put the crown on his own head. A
concordat with the Pope reinstated the clergy, but altered the division
of the dioceses, and put the bishops and priests in the pay of the
State.


8. The Empire. - The union of Italy to this new French Empire caused a
fresh war with all Europe. The Austrian army, however, was defeated at
Ulm and Austerlitz, the Prussians were entirely crushed at Jena, and the
Russians fought two terrible but almost drawn battles at Eylau and
Friedland. Peace was then made with all three at Tilsit, in 1807, the
terms pressing exceedingly hard upon Prussia. Schemes of invading
England were entertained by the Emperor, but were disconcerted by the
destruction of the French and Spanish fleets by Nelson at Trafalgar.
Spain was then in alliance with France; but Napoleon, treacherously
getting the royal family into his hands, seized their kingdom, making
his brother Joseph its king. But the Spaniards would not submit, and
called in the English to their aid. The Peninsular War resulted in a
series of victories on the part of the English under Wellington, while
Austria, beginning another war, was again so crushed that the Emperor
durst not refuse to give his daughter in marriage to Napoleon. However,
in 1812, the conquest of Russia proved an exploit beyond Napoleon's
powers. He reached Moscow with his Grand Army, but the city was burnt
down immediately after his arrival, and he had no shelter or means of
support. He was forced to retreat, through a fearful winter, without
provisions and harassed by the Cossacks, who hung on the rear and cut
off the stragglers, so that his whole splendid army had become a mere
miserable, broken, straggling remnant by the time the survivors reached
the Prussian frontier. He himself had hurried back to Paris as soon as
he found their case hopeless, to arrange his resistance to all
Europe - for every country rose against him on his first disaster - and
the next year was spent in a series of desperate battles in Germany
between him and the Allied Powers. Lützen and Bautzen were doubtful, but
the two days' battle of Leipzic was a terrible defeat. In the year 1814,
four armies - those of Austria, Russia, England, and Prussia - entered
France at once; and though Napoleon resisted, stood bravely and
skilfully, and gained single battles against Austria and Prussia, he
could not stand against all Europe. In April the Allies entered Paris,
and he was forced to abdicate, being sent under a strong guard to the
little Mediterranean isle of Elba. He had drained France of men by his
constant call for soldiers, who were drawn by conscription from the
whole country, till there were not enough to do the work in the fields,
and foreign prisoners had to be employed; but he had conferred on her
one great benefit in the great code of laws called the "_Code
Napoléon_," which has ever since continued in force.


9. France under Napoleon. - The old laws and customs, varying in
different provinces, had been swept away, so that the field was clear;
and the system of government which Napoleon devised has remained
practically unchanged from that time to this. Everything was made to
depend upon the central government. The Ministers of Religion, of
Justice, of Police, of Education, etc., have the regulation of all
interior affairs, and appoint all who work under them, so that nobody
learns how to act alone; and as the Government has been in fact ever
since dependent on the will of the people of Paris, the whole country is
helplessly in their hands. The army, as in almost all foreign nations,
is raised by conscription - that is, by drawing lots among the young men
liable to serve, and who can only escape by paying a substitute to serve
in their stead; and this is generally the first object of the savings of
a family. All feudal claims had been done away with, and with them the
right of primogeniture; and, indeed, it is not possible for a testator
to avoid leaving his property to be shared among his family, though he
can make some small differences in the amount each receives, and thus
estates are continually freshly divided, and some portions become very
small indeed. French peasants are, however, most eager to own land, and
are usually very frugal, sober, and saving; and the country has gone on
increasing in prosperity and comfort. It is true that, probably from the
long habit of concealing any wealth they might possess, the French
farmers and peasantry care little for display, or what we should call
comfort, and live rough hard-working lives even while well off and with
large hoards of wealth; but their condition has been wonderfully changed
for the better ever since the Revolution. All this has continued under
the numerous changes that have taken place in the forms of government.


CHAPTER VIII.

FRANCE SINCE THE REVOLUTION.


1. The Restoration. - The Allies left the people of France free to
choose their Government, and they accepted the old royal family, who
were on their borders awaiting a recall. The son of Louis XVI. had
perished in the hands of his jailers, and thus the king's next brother,
_Louis XVIII._, succeeded to the throne, bringing back a large emigrant
following. Things were not settled down, when Napoleon, in the spring of
1815, escaped from Elba. The army welcomed him with delight, and Louis
was forced to flee to Ghent. However, the Allies immediately rose in
arms, and the troops of England and Prussia crushed Napoleon entirely at
Waterloo, on the 18th of June, 1815. He was sent to the lonely rock of
St. Helena, in the Atlantic, whence he could not again return to trouble
the peace of Europe. There he died in 1821. Louis XVIII. was restored,
and a charter was devised by which a limited monarchy was established, a
king at the head, and two chambers - one of peers, the other of
deputies, but with a very narrow franchise. It did not, however, work
amiss; till, after Louis's death in 1824, his brother, _Charles X._,
tried to fall back on the old system. He checked the freedom of the
press, and interfered with the freedom of elections. The consequence was
a fresh revolution in July, 1830, happily with little bloodshed, but
which forced Charles X. to go into exile with his grandchild Henry,
whose father, the Duke of Berry, had been assassinated in 1820.


2. Reign of Louis Philippe. - The chambers of deputies offered the
crown to _Louis Philippe_, Duke of Orleans. He was descended from the
regent; his father had been one of the democratic party in the
Revolution, and, when titles were abolished, had called himself Philip
_Egalité_ (Equality). This had not saved his head under the Reign of
Terror, and his son had been obliged to flee and lead a wandering life,
at one time gaining his livelihood by teaching mathematics at a school
in Switzerland. He had recovered his family estates at the Restoration,
and, as the head of the Liberal party, was very popular. He was elected
King of the French, not of France, with a chamber of peers nominated for
life only, and another of deputies elected by voters, whose
qualification was two hundred francs, or eight pounds a year. He did his
utmost to gain the good will of the people, living a simple, friendly
family life, and trying to merit the term of the "citizen king," and in
the earlier years of his reign he was successful. The country was
prosperous, and a great colony was settled in Algiers, and endured a
long and desperate war with the wild Arab tribes. A colony was also
established in New Caledonia, in the Pacific, and attempts were carried
out to compensate thus for the losses of colonial possessions which
France had sustained in wars with England. Discontents, however, began
to arise, on the one hand from those who remembered only the successes
of Buonaparte, and not the miseries they had caused, and on the other
from the working-classes, who declared that the _bourgeois_, or
tradespeople, had gained everything by the revolution of July, but they
themselves nothing. Louis Philippe did his best to gratify and amuse the
people by sending for the remains of Napoleon, and giving him a
magnificent funeral and splendid monument among his old soldiers - the
Invalides; but his popularity was waning. In 1842 his eldest son, the
Duke of Orleans, a favourite with the people, was killed by a fall from
his carriage, and this was another shock to his throne. Two young
grandsons were left; and the king had also several sons, one of whom,
the Duke of Montpensier, he gave in marriage to Louise, the sister and
heiress presumptive to the Queen of Spain; though, by treaty with the
other European Powers, it had been agreed that she should not marry a
French prince unless the queen had children of her own. Ambition for
his family was a great offence to his subjects, and at the same time a
nobleman, the Duke de Praslin, who had murdered his wife, committed
suicide in prison to avoid public execution; and the republicans
declared, whether justly or unjustly, that this had been allowed rather
than let a noble die a felon's death.


3. The Revolution of 1848. - In spite of the increased prosperity of
the country, there was general disaffection. There were four
parties - the Orleanists, who held by Louis Philippe and his minister
Guizot, and whose badge was the tricolour; the Legitimists, who retained
their loyalty to the exiled Henry, and whose symbol was the white
Bourbon flag; the Buonapartists; and the Republicans, whose badge was
the red cap and flag. A demand for a franchise that should include the
mass of the people was rejected, and the general displeasure poured
itself out in speeches at political banquets. An attempt to stop one of
these led to an uproar. The National Guard refused to fire on the
people, and their fury rose unchecked; so that the king, thinking
resistance vain, signed an abdication, and fled to England in February,
1848. A provisional Government was formed, and a new constitution was to
be arranged; but the Paris mob, who found their condition unchanged, and
really wanted equality of wealth, not of rights, made disturbances again
and again, and barricaded the streets, till they were finally put down
by General Cavaignac, while the rest of France was entirely dependent on
the will of the capital. After some months, a republic was determined
on, which was to have a president at its head, chosen every five years
by universal suffrage. Louis Napoleon Buonaparte, nephew to the great
Napoleon, was the first president thus chosen; and, after some
struggles, he not only mastered Paris, but, by the help of the army,
which was mostly Buonapartist, he dismissed the chamber of deputies, and
imprisoned or exiled all the opponents whom the troops had not put to
death, on the plea of an expected rising of the mob. This was called a
_coup d'état_, and Louis Napoleon was then declared president for ten
years.


4. The Second Empire. - In December, 1852, the president took the title
of Emperor, calling himself Napoleon III., as successor to the young son
of the great Napoleon. He kept up a splendid and expensive court, made
Paris more than ever the toy-shop of the world, and did much to improve
it by the widening of streets and removal of old buildings. Treaties
were made which much improved trade, and the country advanced in
prosperity. The reins of government were, however, tightly held, and
nothing was so much avoided as the letting men think or act for
themselves, while their eyes were to be dazzled with splendour and
victory. In 1853, when Russia was attacking Turkey, the Emperor united
with England in opposition, and the two armies together besieged
Sebastopol, and fought the battles of Alma and Inkermann, taking the
city after nearly a year's siege; and then making what is known as the
Treaty of Paris, which guaranteed the safety of Turkey so long as the
subject Christian nations were not misused. In 1859 Napoleon III. joined
in an attack on the Austrian power in Italy, and together with Victor
Emanuel, King of Sardinia, and the Italians, gained two great victories
at Magenta and Solferino; but made peace as soon as it was convenient to
him, without regard to his promises to the King of Sardinia, who was
obliged to purchase his consent to becoming King of United Italy by
yielding up to France his old inheritance of Savoy and Nice. Meantime
discontent began to spring up at home, and the Red Republican spirit was
working on. The huge fortunes made by the successful only added to the
sense of contrast; secret societies were at work, and the Emperor, after
twenty years of success, felt his popularity waning.


5. The Franco-German War. - In 1870 the Spaniards, who had deposed
their queen, Isabel II., made choice of a relation of the King of
Prussia as their king. There had long been bitter jealousy between
France and Prussia, and, though the prince refused the offer of Spain,
the French showed such an overbearing spirit that a war broke out. The
real desire of France was to obtain the much-coveted frontier of the
Rhine, and the Emperor heated their armies with boastful proclamations
which were but the prelude to direful defeats, at Weissenburg, Wörth,
and Forbach. At Sedan, the Emperor was forced to surrender himself as a
prisoner, and the tidings no sooner arrived at Paris than the whole of
the people turned their wrath on him and his family. His wife, the
Empress Eugènie, had to flee, a republic was declared, and the city
prepared to stand a siege. The Germans advanced, and put down all
resistance in other parts of France. Great part of the army had been
made prisoners, and, though there was much bravado, there was little
steadiness or courage left among those who now took up arms. Paris,
which was blockaded, after suffering much from famine, surrendered in
February, 1871; and peace was purchased in a treaty by which great part
of Elsass and Lorraine, and the city of Metz, were given back to
Germany.


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeHistory of France → online text (page 7 of 8)