WH 2 Napoleon 3: Metternich’s Congress of Vienna, Concert of Europe, and the fate of Bourbon Restorationism in France Excerpts from the French Constitutional Charter of June 4, 1814
Louis, by the grace of God, King of France and Navarre, to all those to whom these presents come, greeting.
Divine Providence, in recalling us to our estates after a long absence, has laid upon us great obligations. Peace was the first need of our subjects: we have employed ourselves thereto without relaxation; and that peace, so necessary for France, as well as for the remainder of Europe, is signed. A constitutional charter was called for by the actual condition of the kingdom; we promised it, and we now publish it. We have taken into consideration that, although all authority in France resides in the person of the king, our predecessors have not hesitated to alter the exercise thereof in accordance with the change of the times: that it was in this manner that the communes owed their emancipation to Louis, the Fat, the confirmation and extension of their rights to Saint Louis and Philip the Fair; that the judicial system was established and developed by the laws of Louis XI, Henry II and Charles IX; and finally, that Louis XIV regulated almost all parts of the public administration by various ordinances whose wisdom nothing has yet surpassed.
We are bound, by the example of the kings, our predecessors, to estimate the effects of the ever increasing progress of enlightenment, the new relations which these advances have introduced into society, the direction impressed upon opinions during the past half century, and the significant alterations which have resulted therefrom: we have recognized that the wish of our subjects for a constitutional charter was the expression of a real need; but, in yielding to this wish, we have taken every precaution that this charter should be worthy of us and of the people over whom we are proud to rule. Sagacious men taken from the highest body of the state met with commissioners of our council to labor upon this important work.
While we have recognized that a free and monarchical constitution was necessary to meet the expectation of enlightened Europe, We have also been constrained to remember that our first duty towards our subjects was to preserve, in their own interest, the rights and prerogatives of our crown. We have hoped that, taught by experience, they may be convinced that only the supreme authority can give to institutions which it establishes the strength, permanence, and majesty with which it is itself invested; that thus, when the wisdom of the king freely coincides with the wish of the people, a constitutional charter can be of long duration; but that, when violence wrests concessions from the feebleness of the government, public liberty is not less in danger than the throne itself. In a word, we have sought the principles of the constitutional charter in the French character and in the enduring examples of past ages. Thus, we have seen, in the renewal of the peerage, an institution truly national and one which must bind all the recollections with all the hopes, in bringing together former and present times.
We have replaced by the Chamber of Deputies those former assemblies of the fields of March and May, and those chambers of the Third Estate, which so often gave at the same time proof of zeal for the interests of the people and of fidelity and respect for the authority of the king. In thus attempting to renew the chain of the times, which disastrous errors have broken, we have banished from our recollection, as we could wish it were possible to blot out from history, all the evils which have afflicted the fatherland during our absence. Happy to find ourselves once more in the bosom of our great family, we have felt that we could respond to the love of which we have received so many testimonials, only by pronouncing words of peace and consolation. The dearest wish of our heart is that all Frenchmen should live as brothers, and that no bitter recollection should ever disturb the security that must follow the solemn act which we grant them to-day.
Assured of our intentions, and strengthened by our conscience, we pledge ourselves, in the presence of the assembly which hears us, to be faithful to this constitutional charter, reserving to ourselves to swear to maintain it with a new solemnity, before the altars of Him who weighs in the same balance kings and nations.
We have voluntarily, and by the free exercise of our royal authority, accorded and do accord, grant and concede to our subjects, as well for us as for our successors forever, the constitutional charter which follows:
Public Law of the French
Frenchmen are equal before the law, whatever may be their titles and ranks.
They contribute without distinction, in proportion to their fortunes, towards the expenses of the state.
They are all equally admissible to civil and military employments.
Their personal liberty is likewise guaranteed; no one can be prosecuted nor arrested save in the cases provided by law and in the form which it prescribes.
Every one may profess his religion with equal freedom, and shall obtain for his worship the same protection.
Nevertheless, the catholic, apostolic and Roman religion is the religion of the state.
The ministers of the catholic, apostolic and Roman religion and those of the other Christian sects alone receive stipends from the royal treasury.
Frenchmen have the right to publish and to have printed their opinions, while conforming with the laws, which are necessary to restrain abuses of that liberty.
All property is inviolable, without any exception for that which is called national, the law making no distinction between them.
The state can require the sacrifice of a property on account of a legally established public interest, but with a previous indemnity.
All investigations of opinions and votes given prior to the restoration are forbidden. The same oblivion is required from the tribunals and from citizens.
The conscription is abolished. The method of recruiting for the army and navy is determined by a law.
The king is the supreme head of the state, commands the land and sea forces, declares war, makes treaties of peace, alliance and commerce, appoints to all places of public administration, and makes the necessary regulations and ordinances for the execution of the laws and the security of the state.
The legislative power is exercised collectively by the king, the Chamber of Peers, and the Chamber of the Deputies of the departments.
The king proposes the laws.
The proposition for a law is sent, at the pleasure of the king, to the Chamber of Peers or to that of the Deputies, except a law for the imposition of taxes, which must be sent first to the Chamber of Deputies.
Every law shall be freely discussed and voted by the majority of each of the two chambers.
The chambers have the power to petition the king to propose a law upon any subject whatsoever and to indicate what seems suitable for the law to contain.
This request can be made by either of the two chambers, but only after having been discussed in secret committee; it shall be sent to the other chamber by that which shall have proposed it, only after an interval of ten days.
If the proposal is adopted by the other chamber, it shall be laid before the king; if it is rejected, it cannot be presented again in the same session.
The king alone sanctions and promulgates the laws.
The civil list is fixed, for the entire duration of the reign, by the first legislature assembled after the accession of the king.
The old nobility resume their titles. The new retain theirs. The king makes nobles at will, but he grants to them only ranks and honors, without any exemption from the burdens and duties of society.
All justice emanates from the king. It is administered in his name by judges whom he appoints and whom he invests.
The judges appointed by the king are irremovable.
The penalty of confiscation of property is abolished and cannot be re-established.
Napoleon had been DEFEATED and permanently REMOVED as a threat to Europe by his exile to the island of St. Helena. There is no question that, not only had the geopolitical map of Europe been reshaped, but also, since 1789, the principle of DIVINE RIGHT MONARCHY whereby especially the BOURBONS had ruled France had received a DEVASTATING blow. The question now was whether it was possible to turn back the clock and RESTORE divine right rule as though neither the FRENCH REVOLUTION nor the NAPOLEONIC RULE had ever occurred. Further, would it be possible to RESHAPE the boundaries of the countries within Europe to GUARD against the further spread of revolutionary ideas (e.g., sovereignty resides with the people) and the possibility of the resurgence of French military power.
These issues would be resolved at the 1815 CONGRESS OF VIENNA, hosted by Klemens von Metternich (1773-1859), Austria’s FOREIGN MINISTER, who set the agenda as the RESTORATION of the OLD ORDER (i.e., legitimate divine-right monarchy supported by the aristocracy with the mandate of the Catholic Church). Also present were the powerful Czar ALEXANDER I of Russia whose troops had pursued Napoleon back into FRANCE and was looking to expand Russian territory into CENTRAL EUROPE, particularly POLAND—he was LESS concerned about the issue of IMPERIAL legitimacy than Metternich; The Prussian ruler FREDERICK WILHELM II who wanted the wealthy province of SAXONY (Napoleon’s field headquarters during the Wars of Liberation) annexed to Prussia and had gained support in his campaign against Napoleon by FALSELY representing himself as desiring to head a UNIFIED GERMAN STATE; Britain’s LORD CASTLEREAGH, who was less concerned with the issue of DIVINE RIGHT LEGITIMACY than the BALANCE OF POWER within Europe to control subsequent French aggression and prevent further attempts to establish French HEGEMONY on the continent, and the chameleon TALLEYRAND from France, sent by the new Bourbon King LOUIS XVIII with instructions to maneuver for LENIENT terms for France to give the restored Bourbons a chance to succeed.
Metternich had been Austria’s FOREIGN MINISTER since 1809 and had been it principle CONTACT with the Napoleonic regime. His principle agenda was the restoration of the OLD ORDER LEGITIMATE Diviner Right MONARCHY in place of the ILLIGITIMATE 1789-1799 revolutionary regime and the 1799-1815 rule of Napoleon along with the influence of Europe’s aristocracy, the army, and the church. It would be among Europe’s last attempts to halt the progress into what we now know as the MODERN WORLD. Thus was born the idea of the CONCERT OF EUROPE: the vigilant alliance of the conservative restored Old Guard Divine Right Monarchies who would work together to halt the spread of Revolutionary ideas (e.g., sovereignty lies with the people) wherever they might rear their ugly head on the European continent.
Talleyrand’s view carried the day: France was treated LEINENTLY for, he convinced the Congress, to do otherwise would SABATOGE Metternich’s goal by failing to give the newly restored BOURBON monarchy a chance. Prussia did NOT get Saxony since Metternich was NOT going to allow this incredibly rich territory to fall under the domain of his rival Hohenzollern GERMAN state: instead it received generous territories along the RHINE RIVER which bordered France.
Thus, unlike the Napoleonic Wars which originally didn’t threaten Prussia’s borders subsequently leading to Prussia’s LATE entry into these conflicts, now Prussia’s immediate involvement should French aggression once again threaten Europe was assured. Prussia also got the RUHR valley but yet came away from the Congress of Vienna disappointed; this despite unknowingly having acquired what would soon become the industrial heartland of Europe!
The HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE, dismantled by Napoleon in 1806, likewise forever vanished from the map of Europe: the HOHENZOLLERNS would be emperors no more. Its replacement was a loose CONFEDERATION of GERMAN states. At the Congress of Vienna, the move towards a unified Germany was still SUBORDINATE to ancient DYNASTIC rivalries, goals and politics; NATIONALISM was still too closely associated with Napoleon and the concept of FRENCH MILITARISM to become a guiding paradigm for nation building in the rest of Europe. The HABSBURGS were given the permanent PRESIDENCY of this confederation. A UNIFIED Germany would have to wait!
The central issue for Metternich’s Congress was insuring the success of RESTORATIONISM in France. The younger BROTHER of Louis XVI had in fact come to power in France in 1814 when Napoleon abdicated to ELBA; he had spent the years of the Revolution, Napoleonic wars, and subsequent European wars of LIBERATION in England. In deference to the son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI who had died in PRISON in 1795, he called himself LOUIS XVIII. His Charter of 1814 would serve as the basis for a French CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY, thus signifying Louis XVIII’s realization that a full return to monarchy by Divine Right would be IMPOSSIBLE and that some COMPROMISE with the ideals established by the revolution would be absolutely necessary if the BOURBON RESTORATION hoped for any sort of success.
The Charter itself is a fascinating document (see handout caption!). Note first and foremost that it isn’t even called a CONSTITUTION and no where states that sovereignty resides with the PEOPLE. Instead, note the opening line, which states that Louis is king by the grace of God—again, his MANDATE to rule is NOT determined by POPULAR CONSENT but rather by God, and thus the principle of divine right monarchy is subtly INVOKED. The King is also viewed to be INVIOLABLE and SACRED, raising once again the specter of having been specially chosen by God to rule France as opposed to having royal authority arise, as it should, from popular consent in a CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY with, in the case of this charter, the Chamber of PEERS and the Chamber of DEPUTIES being those legislative bodies whose authority COUNTERBALANCED that of the King. The specific language of the Charter likewise implies that it is essentially a GIFT from the KING to his SUJECTS (e.g.,We have voluntarily, and by the free exercise of our royal authority, accorded and do accord, grant and concede to our subjects, as well for us as for our successors forever, the constitutional charter) thus negating the Enlightenment notion that such an arrangement was a natural right of the people with the Charter reflecting their sovereignty.
A careful reading of the Charter shows that it guaranteed CIVIL LIBERTIES, freedom of RELIGION and the PRESS, it did not resurrect the old GUILD system with its familial limitations but instead guaranteed careers open to TALENT, and it recognized the property settlements of the Revolution, thus guaranteeing that land acquired as a consequence of the Revolution by the PEASANTS would not be returned either to the ARISTOCRACY or the CHURCH. It also extended AMNESTY to all those who in one way or another had served the Napoleonic REGIME.
An AMBIGUOUS point relates to the responsibility of the MINISTERS: The person of the king is inviolable and sacred. His ministers are responsible. The question is: TO WHOM? To the LEGISLATURE? To the KING? To the PEOPLE? This is not specified! Election to this BICAMERAL legislature (the House of PEERS and the House of DEPUTIES) was based on SUFFRAGE that was extremely RESTRICTED (around 90,000 of the total French population of about 25,000,000) and based not on WEALTH but rather the actual holding of PROPERTY. This basically placed voting power back into the hands of the LANDED ARISTOCRACY and turned back the clock on the notion of UNIVERSAL suffrage which remained far too closely associated with both REVOLUTIONARY and NAPOLEONIC ideals.
The GRADUAL return to pre-Revolutionary culture continued when, in 1822, CRITICISM of the concept of divine right monarchy and/or religion was made punishable by DEATH. This rankled feathers considerably, and things would WORSEN greatly when, in 1824, Louis XVII DIED and was replaced by his brother, the uncompromising, hard-core divine right RESTORATIONIST Charles X who thus viewed the Charter of 1814 with nothing but CONTEMPT. And so, in 1825 he began by introducing an INDEMNITY BILL that would financially compensate aristocrats for property that had been seized from them during the Revolution. This was, of course, very POPULAR with the aristocrats but not so popular with everyone else since it placed an enormous BURDEN on the French treasury (remember what happened the last time this took place!).
This move, which ultimately proved to be a MISTAKE by Charles. It was followed by an equally grievous error, which was the DISBANDING of the bourgeoisie NATIONAL GUARD. Besides being a career path for the French middle class, membership on the National Guard was a clear way to demonstrate one’s commitment to REPUBLICAN IDEALS, and so its destruction sent another clear signal that Charles’ favored class was the ARISTOCRACY, just as had been the case with French Kings prior to 1789; the strength of this signal to the French Middle Class increased also as a consequence of his REFUSAL to recognize the very CHARTER on which his government was based!
For Charles X and for FRANCE, the crisis would come to a head in 1830 as his party suffered a terrible defeat at the POLLS despite the highly selective ELECTORATE. His response was to issue a series of DECREES which (a) suspended the freedom of the PRESS; (b) dissolved the CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES; and (C) raising the property qualifications (i.e., LAND not WEALTH) required for voting in future elections. The PROTESTS that were aimed only at getting the MINISTER who had framed these decrees DISMISSED, began on July 28, 1830 in Paris, first among the printers and typesetters of the BANNED newspapers, but this strike generated much sympathy and quickly spread to other labor groups as well.
Reminiscent of the days of the 1789 Revolution, BARRICADES went up across the narrow streets of Paris, violence spread rapidly, and Charles X called upon his troops to quell the uprising but, despite KILLING several hundred of the protestors, were unable to do so, and so the King was forced to ABDICATE. And so, the revolt that had originally ESPOUSED only modest goals ended up toppling the REGIME of Charles X!
This entire saga—from the beginning of the rebellion to the abdication of the King--took a mere THREE DAYS, and so are known as The Three Glorious Days or The Revolution of 1830. However, REPUBLICANISM was still so FEARED that the “liberators” still preferred some form of CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY to lead France, and now that the BOURBON dynasty was permanently out of the picture the question was to whom shall France turn as its new King who will, as the fundamental condition of accepting the crown, acknowledge that his sovereignty derives from the people? This person ended up being LOUIS PHILIPPE, the Duke of Orleans, one of the cousins of Charles X. The Marquis de LAFAYETTE (the same Lafayette who had helped the Americans during the American Revolution and who became the head of the RESTORED French National Guard and the PROVISIONAL government) issued an invitation to the Duke to come to Paris and accept the crown. Louis entered Paris wearing the French TRICOLOR flag (during the Restoration the flag had REVERTED to the WHITE of the BOURBONS) and was offered the crown by the PEOPLE through the CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES as the people’s representatives. He ruled as LOUIS PHILIPPE (not as Louis XVIIII), the King of the French People, and preferred to be known as THE CITIZEN KING. Restoration had indeed succeeded, but rather as a moderate CONSTITUTIONAL, as opposed to a DIVINE RIGHT, monarchy.