Page images

were not citizens, and cannot so be considered now. The clause does not say any description of persons whom any state may hereafter make citizens. Massachusetts, for the mere indulgence of a turbulent disposition, has repeatedly quarrelled with South Carolina for laws similar in effect to those required by the Constitutions of the Western states, and yet she has never complained of Illinois or Ohio.

Maryland, we believe, was the last state in which imprisonment for debt was retained, and that has now been swept away by the admirable constitution just ratified by its people. Constitutional reform was much needed in Maryland on many accounts, more particularly in relation to the unequal representation which existed there. So great was the injustice felt to be by many, that serious thoughts of physical resistance were entertained by some parties, unless the privileged majority should consent to a convention. Happily, however, agitation produced its legitimate influence, and the now admirable Constitution has been the result of an able convention.

After the lapse of nearly half a century, the necessity of constitutional reform has generally manifested itself, and some few steps in advance have been made. We trust now that the matter will not sleep, but that, at periods within 20 years, some further well-digested reforms will be introduced into the organic laws of all the states.

Notwithstanding the repeated efforts of France, and the example of the states of America, no state constitution has, as yet, taken permanent ground in Europe. The reason seems to be, that the fundamental idea on which a constitution must alone rest, viz., the sovereignty of the people, has in no degree, as yet, been fully appreciated. Thus the fresh Constitution of 1838, defective as it was, solemnly guaranteed the right of universal suffrage; and, although it was the work of a half-dozen corrupt, conceited, and superficial men, was adopted by the country. A President was elected, and a legislative body assembled under it. Those were elected by the universal suffrage of the whole French people; yet so little respect was entertained for the instrument, that this Assembly enacted a law in the first term of its existence, depriving one-third of their constituents of a voice in the government. Such restrictions upon the right of suffrage were imposed by a mere law, that nearly three millions of souls were disfranchised. The minister of justice reported:

Electors inscribed under the Constitution
Electors inscribed under the law of March, 1850.

9,618,057 6,809,281

Frenchmen disfranchised by the servants they had elected......... 2,808,776

It is now probable that the French President will procure a restoration of the right of universal suffrage to serve his personal interest. This disregard of written instruments arises from the fact, that in a monarchical country, where the uneducated people have always looked up for power, the habit is stronger than the right to exercise the power themselves. It is true that in New-York the Seward party have passed a law to borrow money for purposes of party corruption; but they have preserved a show of respect to the Constitution, by attempting, however sophistically, to show that the debt is not forbidden. The success of such a measure, violating the spirit of the Constitution, may soon embolden them to violate its letter, by a simple law passed by participants in the plunder.


[ocr errors]


WHATEVER relates to the career of Napoleon Bonaparte possesses an interest that belongs to no other portion of the world's history. His sudden rise from obscurity, being flung, as it were, from the vortex of the French Revolution upon the stage of action; his brilliant course and his downfall, come to us so full of romance, that we hardly know whether to credit them as realities. With no other friend than his sword, he entered the lists with the titled nobility of Europe, and soon outstripped them all in the race; and without the influence of birth or fortune, he seated himself upon the throne of Saint Louis, and swayed the sceptre of France. For almost a quarter of a century, he was, by turns, the benefactor and the scourge of France and the rest of Europe. He obtained a mastery' over the minds of men, which no other one in modern times has ever possessed, and he swayed nations almost with the same ease that the winds control the sea. His downfall and retirement into almost the same obscurity from whence he came, furnishes us with one of the most truthful lessons ever written in history, and wisdom, which speaks alike to the hearts and minds of men, may be gleaned from every page. It teaches us how frail is all human greatness-that the honor and power of kings, as well as the hopes of humble men, can pass away in a single day. It shows us how uncertain is worldly glory, and that we should fix our hopes of happiness upon something more stable than that which ceases to exist with the downfall of dynasties. How sudden and terrible was his reverse of fortune! One day he was the emperor of millions, who feared and obeyed him; the next, he was shorn of his power, and his name the jest of the lowest rabble of the Faubourgs. These changes are the vicissitudes of life, and they never occur, either to men or nations, without leaving to the world a useful lesson for coming generations.

The "Hundred Days of Napoleon" embraces that period extending from his return from Elba, where he was banished, in 1814, to his final abdication in 1815, and is the most interesting portion of the history of Europe, either ancient or modern. The history of this period is so called, because the time between the happening of these two events was just one hundred days. Probably no portion of history for the same length of time presents to the reader a train of events which have caused more wonder and admiration, or had a greater influence upon the European world.

The decline of Napoleon's power may be dated from his unsuccessful campaign in Russia in the year 1812; but it is useless now to stop to detail the causes which led to these reverses; they are known to every reader of history. The advantages which the Russians gained over him in this disastrous expedition gave new energy to the allies, and afterwards new foes presented themselves on every side. Instead of having a single power to combat, he found all Europe arrayed against him. The campaigns of 1813 and 1814 were replete with brilliant events, and they called into ac

tion all the talents and energy of Napoleon. By his untiring activity, he raised new armies as fast as old ones had disappeared before the murderous fire of the allies, and always presented a formidable front to the enemy. His genius never shone with more brilliancy, and he performed feats of valor, and gained victories, which appear to have been the result of efforts almost superhuman. Always combating with superior numbers, he had to rely solely upon his own skill for success. These two campaigns are marked by some of his finest strokes of generalship, and alone would be sufficient to give him rank among the first commanders of ancient or modern times. But overwhelming numbers finally triumphed, and he was driven back upon the frontiers of France, and at last to Paris.

The allies, flushed with victory, entered the territory of France in the winter of 1814, and marched direct upon the capital, which they entered the last day of March. The battle of Paris, the closing act in the bloody drama, was fought on the 30th day of March, and Napoleon was compelled to surrender his crown and throne to the victorious enemy.

The entry of the allied armies into Paris was a splendid sight to gaze upon, but deeply humiliating to the French soldiers, many of whom were obliged to witness the pageantry. All was activity in the allied camps, after the victory under the walls of the capital, and the whole army was placed in the most perfect order, that the display in marching into the city might be as brilliant as possible. At noon-day, on the last day of March, 1814, a hundred thousand men, the most splendid troops in Europe, defiled through the streets of Paris, and took possession of the city. Napoleon, with the small force under his command, retired to Fontainebleau, from which place he opened negotiations with the allied powers, through the agency of Caulincourt. At first, the allied emperors wished him to abdicate in favor of his son, which he refused to do; but afterwards, consulting with Ney, Berthier, Lefebvre and others, he had drawn up and signed such an abdication, with the empress as regent. These terms he sent to Paris, but were rejected by the allied sovereigns, who obliged him to sign an unconditional surrender of his throne. A scene of baseness now commenced at Fontainebleau, which was disgraceful in the extreme, and everlastingly sullied those who were guilty of it. As soon as Napoleon's abdication was known, and the power which he had so long pos sessed was about to pass into other hands, almost every person of any note around him, deserted to the allies. What baseness! what perfidy! So great was their anxiety to hear of his abdication, in order that they might hasten to Paris, and make favor with the new dynasty-every time the door of the emperor's room was opened, it was filled with heads to learn if the important event had happened. Maret, Caulincourt, and a few others of the host whom he had raised from obscurity, with a nobleness of soul which rose far above any selfish desires, remained firm to the fortune of their fallen chieftain to the very last.

A formal treaty was concluded, and signed by Napoleon and the allied sovereigns, on the 11th day of April. By this treaty Napoleon renounced, for himself and his descendants, the crowns of France and Italy, but he was allowed to retain the name of Emperor, and his brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, were also allowed to retain their respective titles. The island of Elba was selected as his future residence, which was recognized as an independent principality-a sort of miniature kingdom. They

decreed him, as a yearly revenue, two millions five hundred thousand francs from the treasury of France, and a separate allowance to Josephine of one million francs yearly. He was allowed to take with him all his personal effects, and four hundred of his old guards. He set out for Elba on the 20th of March. His parting from his faithful troops and the few personal friends who yet remained loyal to him, was affecting in the extreme, and drew tears from all who witnessed it. The old guard, who, as it were, had borne his imperial diadem on their bayonet points, and carried his victorious banners into every capital in Europe, were drawn up on the plains of Fontainebleau to receive his farewell. Napoleon, surrounded by a few faithful generals, went among the soldiers, and amid a breathless silence and tearful eyes, addressed them a few parting words. So strong had the attachment become between the great leader and these trusty followers, that his emotions in saying farewell almost overpowered him. With a great effort he tore himself from the embrace of those who surrounded him, sprang into his carriage, and rode off. He was escorted by a large body of troops to the port of Fejus, where he embarked on board an English frigate for his place of destination.

Louis XVIII. was called to the throne, and the order of succession established as it was before the revolution. He entered Paris on the 3d of May, from England, where he had passed an exile of twenty-five years, and immediately ascended the throne of his ancestors. The treaty of Paris was signed on the 30th of May, which provided that France should be reduced to its original limits as they were on the 1st of January, 1792. Holland was to be an independent state, governed by the house of Orange. Germany was to be independent, under the guarantee of a federal union. Switzerland was also to be independent, under a government of her own, and Italy divided into sovereign states. Provision was also made for the free navigation of the Rhine, and the restoration of the West India Islands to the powers from which they were captured. And in addition to these public provisions, there were some secret articles in the treaty, which related chiefly to the disposition of a large district of territory which Napoleon had taken from different states of Europe.

In the latter part of May, the allied sovereigns made a visit to England, and upon their return, withdrew their respective forces from France, and left Louis in quiet possession of his throne.

The events which now follow are considered as the principal causes which led to the return of Napoleon from his exile at Elba, and again involved Europe in a bloody war. Every reader knows the simple fact, that Napoleon returned to France from his place of banishment, and after being in power a short time, was overthrown at the battle of Waterloo ; but few, comparatively, are familiar with the train of events which led to his return.

Napoleon being in exile, and the allies having returned to their respective countries, it became the dutty of Louis to reorganize the governmen; and a task more difficult to perform, than that which now devolved upon the French monarch, never fell to the lot of a sovereign. During the dreadful struggle which had preceded the fall of the Empire, the lesser evils were forgotten in the great desire for a change. But now that Napoleon was stricken down, and the cause which firmly bound together all who opposed him had ceased to exist, and they came to remodel the government, difficulties, which were almost irreconcilable, appeared among

them. While they were arrayed against Napoleon, whom they deemed a common enemy, there was a unity of sentiment, and a concert of action; but he had no sooner surrendered his power, than jealousies, as rancorous as those which had severed the Empire, arose. In remodelling the government, so many different and conflicting interests had to be conciliated, and so many desires satisfied, that the king found it utterly impossible to establish it upon a stable foundation. The historian of those times says— "The seeds of the disunion which paralyzed the restoration, were beginning to spring up even before Louis XVIII. had ascended the throne, and his subsequent reign, till the hundred days, was but an amplification of the causes which produced the return of Napoleon."

The veterans of the revolution, and the republicans of the senate, had joined with Talleyrand and the royalists to overthrow Napoleon, with the express understanding that in the formation of the new government they were to be amply provided for.

A great difference of opinion prevailed as to the extent to which the popular power should be revived upon the restoration. This was the source of much angry feeling. Some mentioned openly, that the constitution of '91 was to form the basis of the new government, with strong guarantees against any encroachment by the monarch on the rights of the people. These divisions of opinion soon created parties, who took sides under leaders, and arrayed themselves against each other. Unmindful of advice from any quarter, the French king determined to have his own way, and to form the government upon such a plan as he deemed most conducive to the glory of his kingdom. He had made up his mind to take a middle course, and by conciliating both the royalists and the republicans, obtain their united support, and thus render his seat on the throne firm and easy. Blind and infatuated monarch! he should have already learned from history, that that ruler who endeavors to draw to himself the support of two rival parties by conciliating them, gains the ill will and opposition of both, and thus paves the way to his own overthrow.

In a few days after the king had ascended the throne, he called a convention for the purpose of forming a constitution, or rather a charter of government; and after a session of five days, they promulgated one, by which the French people were to be governed under the new order of things. It made the government a mona narchy, and in many instances gave the king almost absolute power. Under the Empire, suffrage was universal-this was now abridged, and a property qualification for electors was introduced, which deprived a majority of the people of the right of voting. It was a serious cause of alarm, and the people showed an unwillingness to be deprived of a single right they had enjoyed under the reign of Napoleon.

Without a doubt, the joy at the restoration was, at first, sincere; but after the excitement was over, and the allies had been withdrawn, the losses and reverses which had overtaken them, together with the sadness of the change, seemed to sink into the very soul of the nation. Whole classes were in a state of uneasiness, caused mainly by the uncertainty of the future. The holders of national domain, which had become private property under the laws of the Empire, considered the guarantee the government gave them, as insufficient to secure their possessions. The regi cides, whose hands had been stained in the blood of the revolution, considered the restoration as a judgment upon their former bad conduct, and

« PreviousContinue »