Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XXXIII

HEATED debates in the Chambers, violent Party spirit, a widespread distrust of the Court, regiments infested with émigres, privileged bodies, in which the best places were prostituted to boys who had scarcely left school, while mature and excellent officers, bending under the weight of years, and scarred by honourable wounds, were vegetating on half-pay, ignored and almost despised by the new-corners —such was the general condition of affairs. The State could no longer profit by the revolutionary confiscations, for a simple ordinance had replaced the members of the royal family in possession of the lands not already sold.

Although the principle of the measure was just, the form in which it was introduced was wrong. An entire repeal of all the laws of the Revolution respecting national property should have been proposed. The ordinance of restitution, therefore, excited great discontent and much alarm. The former possessors worried and threatened the purchasers, amongst whom the most timid consented to friendly arrangements, transactions and indemnities, but they were not even then quite reassured. The majority kept possession, and threatened in return. The clergy, who since the Consulate had only been salaried, now wished to recover their property but there was a great difference they only had the usufruct of it, and so they were allowed to complain notwithstanding the insults and attacks that were uttered from every pulpit, the threats of eternal perdition made in every confessional to the weak or the dying, if they did not restore their lands and bequeath them to the Church.

On the other hand, the soldiers murmured at having lost their extra pay for service abroad, and saw with jealousy their more favoured comrades who retained theirs on the canals Of course, those in the highest places made the loudest outcry. All positions are relative; like them, I had lost the endowments that had been given me in Naples and Poland, but I had had the good sense to treat this increase of my means as merely temporary, and I regretted it the less therefore.

The Government seemed utterly indifferent to this state of things, and did nothing to remedy-it. It only appeared to be carrying on constant petty underhand intrigues on behalf of its supporters, and more avowed ones on behalf of its members. One of the boldest among them insulted France and the national army with its 'right line,' in the Chamber; another, weak, wily, and ambitious, issued a police order which covered him with ridicule; an ex-minister of the Empire, so servilely, so abjectly devoted to his master, but not less ambitious than the other, ventured, in the Chamber of Peers, to pronounce these words, so agreeable to absolute ears

'What the King wills, the Law wills.' ('Si vezit le Roi.' si veut la Loi )

Amid these various conflicts and discontents, and this feeling of discomfort, moderate men of sensible and conciliatory dispositions united, and sought means to calm the effervescence. The best plan, it was thought, to restore confidence and tranquillity, to revive security, and provide a guarantee for purchasers, and to improve the positions of donces, would consist in an equitable indemnity for all goods sold, the restitution of unalienated goods, and the division of the indemnities among the donees, beginning with the most needy. The State had profited by the confiscations, therefore the State owed the indemnities; nothing could be more rigorously just.

I felt this, and perhaps expressed it more strongly than others, and was consequently requested to make a proposal to the Chamber of Peers, where it was thought that my voice would be better heard, that, my words being listened to more favourably, would produce more effect, rally more supporters round the proposal, and do much to ensure its success. I fought against the proposal for a long time, but yielded at last to the consideration that I might he able to render a real service to the public and to the unfortunate soldiers.

A Director of Customs had the kindness to furnish me with an important memorandum, showing how the lands had been valued to the prejudice of the emigre's, those condemned to death or transported. Several of the people— M. Ouvrard among the number—gave me excellent suggestions, which were of value to me for the development of the proposal. Everyone contributed his utmost. Sémonyule and Monsieur de Castellane gave me the benefit of their experience and opinions, as did also the Due de Levis, who was my colleague in the Chamber. He and I had several interviews upon the subject; the Duke, being hard pressed by his creditors, was personally interested in the success of the proposal.

It has been since said that Sémonville took the principal part in this matter, and there is some truth in the statement, as it was he who first mentioned the idea of indemnities to me. But other persons were interested in it, and it was in consequence of their union and their common support that I undertook to introduce the subject, as reporter of the commission which commanded the opinion of the majority.

After hearing the proposal, hope rose in many breasts, but several people were much disappointed. People who hid cherished the idea that the Restoration would mean absolute restitution with interest came to me, the Duke of Fitz-James among others. He said

'All or nothing!'

'Very good, Duke,' I replied 'then it will be nothing.'

Then the soldiers, especially Marshal Ney, complained that I had restricted the indemnities to the humblest classes, whereas, they said, the rich had equal rights.

'I have thrown down a plank,' I answered; 'everyone will get across in turn. Had I done otherwise people would have been afraid. Besides, observe the difference: they who have been dispossessed by confiscation demand justice, while they who have been endowed have lost through the fortune of war, which also brought them their wealth. Their fortune was simply an act of favour, whereas the others had everything torn from them by the Revolution, with its blood, its horrors, its persecutions, its injustice, and its iniquities. It rests with you to bring up amendments and support them I shall make no opposition.'

My proposition was afterwards referred to a committee, of which I was naturally one of the members; but after a few meetings it was found impossible to come to any con- elusion, for the torrent of claims for indemnification opened such a chasm that Europe itself would have been inadequate to fill it. The final result was the law of December 5, 1814, allowing restitution for unsold property; the rest was adjourned.
During the session I had taken more or less part in political discussions. The following one was no less fertile in important debates, into which I was naturally drawn by my position.

Secret discontent was increasing, especially in the army. The Congress of Vienna 'dansaif et n'avançaztpas,' as the Prince de Ligne wittily remarked. Austria showed herself haughty, vain, ambitious, and pfetentious. Monsieur de 'I'alleyrand, the French plenipotentiary, recommended his Government quietly to make some military dispositions, to send some troops to the frontiers under pretext of change of garrisons.

The Princes of the Royal Family made various journeys through the departments, the object of which was to attract supporters to the royal cause. But wherever they went they failed by their own fault, in spite of the prodigality of their promises and the prostitution of decorations, especially of the Legion of Honour, which grievously hurt old soldiers who received none. They were all given to intriguers, and to partisans of the moment. To such an extent was the abuse carried, as well as the indifference to every good feeling, that they were distributed by dozens to prefects and sub-prefects, who decorated their friends, their flatterers, and their creditors with them The Princes were only surrounded by men of their own party, saw none but men of the old regime, and displayed the barest politeness to those authorities who had not been removed merely for want of men to replace them. 'Thus their Highnesses learned nothing, saw nothing, since they viewed everything only through the eyes of people who were passionately attached to the old order of things; hence arose violent murmurs and discontent.

The Duke and Duchess of Angouléme were sent to Bordeaux, and had to pass through the departments belonging to my government. I went to the chief town in order to do the honours to them, on their journey. I received their Royal Highnesses at the frontier of the department of Cher on February 28, 1815, and accompanied them to the boundaries of that of Dordogne. I was very kindly received by them, especially by the Duchess. The recollection of her misfortunes bound me strongly to this Princess, and I vowed to her a devotion which has never faltered for an instant; until now I have always had cause to be gratified by her constant marks of kindness. There were perhaps rather fewer decorations than usual during this journey, and some of them, owing to my intervention, were well placed.


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus