Abbildungen der Seite

ginal nothingness, should the royal favor be withdrawn from them. Such are the men who take upon them to abuse irremoveable judges, whom they find acquitting themselves honorably in a career closed to ambition, and consecrated to the most painful labors !

You consider yourselves offended when the Chambers disapprove your laws ; you become irritated when the tribunals decide according to their knowlege. It appears then to be your wish that yourselves, your own will and persons, should be the sole objects of consideration in the state.

But if you were to succeed in shaking the confidence which the people ought to place in their judges, if you were to declare, as you are in reality doing, that the jurisprudence of the tribunals is dangerous on one point, does it not follow that it may be so in others? Tell us then, ye ministers clothed in all your power and authority, what would become of society, after you should have implanted in it such suspicions ? Every day these tribunals have to decide on the lives and fortunes of individuals : thus then do you lead me to suspect, that some possession has been unjustly seized, or that some innocent person has perished on the scaffold.

Imprudent that you are, not to perceive the disorder you create in the people's minds by such acts! And where is the moral cou. rage of condemning by a stroke of the pen the decisions of Courts, and substituting your own ministerial ignorance for the wisdom of Magistrates who hold from the Author of all justice the balance to weigh, and the sword to punish ?

And why do you betray so much ill-humor against the Aristarque? Is it because its proprietors are three members of the Opposition-MM. de la Bourdonnaye, Sanlot-Baguenault, and Lemoine-Desmares ? Still the ministry has the advantage, in having for its supporters all those journals purchased on the spot, more or less exorbitantly, according to the fluctuation in the price of consciences,

But are ministers to be allowed to be ignorant of the laws which it is their duty to put in force ? Had they bestowed a little more attention on those designed to restrain the offences of the press, they would have seen that the Censorship was never meant to be adopted but in cases of the most rare and serious ratureso far was it from the idea of the Legislature to make this Censorship a matter of course, or customary right!

' According to the terms of the 11th Article of the law of 25th March 1822, I possess the right of replying to whatever may be addressed to me in any journal. But if the censor, who has permitted the attack, should not permit the defence also; if he should discover in my answer a something deserving the mark of pro

scription, or red ink, behold an article of the law unexécuted. What am I to do? Shall I prosecute the responsible Editor ? The editor will refer me to the censor, and the censor to the government. I cannot put a minister on his trial without a decree of the Council of State. The result is, that I am calumniated, without having it in my power to refute the calumny; that the law is violated ; that I cannot have recourse to the tribunals, which become paralysed themselves by the exercise of a power beyond the law in a matter that is purely judicial.

The very existence of the Censorship is destructive of all constitutional government. But independent of the principle, there is such a thing as form ; and this, amongst well-bred people, is something, however little attention we pay to it.

As rapidity was the order of the day, time could not be found to appoint a commission ; and as the truth might get abroad in four-and-twenty hours, to the great peril of the monarchy, it was deemed necessary provisionally to send before the police the journals caught flagrante delicto, in the cause of liberty.

What a grievous misfortune, had they been left to write a single word against the system of Censorship! They were therefore mysteriously subjected to censure at the hotel of the Police Board : an invisible hand-possibly that of a valet-de-chambre, some unknown Cato-has mutilated at night the thought of the master whom he had served in the morning and this for the greater security of ministers. The manner of making up this holy office of spies, charged with deciding on the true nature (l'orthodoxie) of constitutional doctrines, will doubtless for ever remain a secret.

But here again may we not question the legality of proceeding?

The 1st article of the Civil Code says: “ The laws shall be executed in every part of the kingdom from the moment their promulgation can be known. The promulgation made by the king shall be considered as known in the Department of the royal residence, one day after that of the promulgation.”

However, the journals received their orders to submit to the censorship only 12 hours after the publication of the Ordonnance in the Moniteúr.

And this censor, who signed the first acts of censorship, was he legally known when he exercised his functions ? Or, had the Ora donnance which appointed him been communicated to the journalists ?

All this is fair ground of attack before the tribunals. And in fact it is insufferable that a minister, and more especially one who has belonged to judicial bodies, should show himself so despotic, and so ignorant.

To the honor of science and literature, a commission is now ap

pointed, under the presidency of the Director of the Police ! Some have even gone so far as to say, that the Council of Censors was to consist of persons selected from the two legislative chambers. We should indeed have deplored the weakness of these honorable men: the Peers and the Deputies were intended to be the guardians, not the gaolers of the public liberty.

The Censorship, from the time of the restoration, has saved no one : the former ministers, who evinced a desire to establish it, have fallen; yet they had some sort of excuse ; they touched more closely on the times of the hundred days; there were then troubles and conspiracies in the state : the Duke of Berry had fallen a sacriface.

Moreover, these ministers were possessed of a certain degree of power: they belonged to a party: they had not placed themselves in hostility with society, nor set themselves up against the authority of the tribunals. Representative government too was not so well understood, and therefore a departure from its principles was the more easy.

The present Ministry cannot defend itself either on the plea of some great catastrophe, or on that of ignorance of the principles of the Charter, since this has been placed within the reach of every

Yet are they powerless, for they have mought fit to insulate themselves from the opinions of all. They have apostatised from their own doctrines ;--and now that they have established the Censorship, would they be able to look back without blushing at the speeches they delivered from the tribune against that very censorship? Sprung from the ranks of the Royalists, they have ceased to show themselves Royalists. From them the ancient honor has not met with better treatment than the recent liberty : they have placed themselves, as it were, between two Frances, in a third France, composed of deserters from the other two, but which, like themselves, can have but a short duration.

In order to exist, they will be obliged to push their systems to their utmost limits. It is a truth generally admitted, that one error leads to another. It is also a truth, though not so well known, that the Ministry deceives itself in regard to the opposite qualities of strength, in taking physical for moral strength : whereas, in society, the one destroys, the other preserves. Behold the concatenation of things :-A desire is entertained to

the journals: but the project is not attended with complete success. What is to be done ?-stop short ? which would be the best plan. No: it is determined to go before the tribunals, where condemnation is the result. Again, a law is brought forward relative to the public funds : it is rejected. Is it determined to stop short ? which would doubtless be the wisest way, since, with moderation,


buy up

[ocr errors]

all might yet have been set right. No: the irritation of vanity carries the day: victims are sought for, and blows are indiscriminately struck, without regard to consequences, or foreseeing the effect of this violence on public opinion.—The public opinion is expressed. Do they stop now ? No: a new violence is necessary, and the Censorship is resolved on!

Suppose then that the Ministry should meet with other acts of resistance, which cannot fail to happen : they must of necessity become persecutors. When they shall have disarmed their adversaries, and loaded their creatures with favors, still they will have, effected nothing ; it will then be necessary to find means of preventing the publication of non-periodical works, and modifying the jurisprudence of the tribunals, of which they complain, and which are at this time the more powerful from the injury they have received, and the more popular from having become the de.. fenders of our liberties.

What will the Ministry think of those Courts of justice, suppos. ing they should persist, as doubtless they will, in maintaining their independent doctrine ? Those courts are established by the laws : they will hardly think of violating these laws; and the time of passing sentence by commissions is gone by.

And as to the Chambers, what steps will they take? And how will the Ministers bring themselves to announce to them the esta«, blishment of the Censorship, without assigning any other reason than that which they had the unaccountable folly to address to us? Will they venture to say to them: “We have destroyed the liberty of the periodical press, because the magistrates have passed a decree which they had the right to pass !"

They will make Peers, be it so: but will these Peers submit themselves to the caprices of Ministers? Is not this first magistracy as independent as the other? Will these new Peers go and take their seats, for the mere purpose of approving the censorship, or passing the rejected law relative to the funds (rentes) ?

I do not say that these creations, multiplied for the sake of personal interests, would in the end destroy the institution of the Peerage: but it is worth your while to reflect how well calculated are such baneful measures to precipitate your fall.

Then, what is to become of the Chamber of Deputies? This excellent Chamber wants nothing but a little experience, 'and may become truly formidable to Ministers. Will its dissolution be demanded ? Mark well what this would lead to, and shudder! for I am willing to believe you have not foreseen these things, and that you still love your country.

The Censorship, considered in relation to our state of society and our institutions, cannot be approved by any. It may, indeed,

have charms for the Anti-Chamber, and those valets who will deign to insert in their journals the commands of their masters. They alone will enjoy liberty, since their servility may be relied on. There is an evening paper which enjoys some privileges : the favor has been granteď to it, which has been denied to others, of being sent off by post on the day of its appearance. Should any person be desirous of extracting any articles of news from this journal, he cannot do so till he has sent them to the Censors, although we must suppose that those articles have been already under the Censor's eye. But the thing permitted to one, is refused to another : what is perfectly lawful in the Etoile would become illegal in the Journal des Débats or the Quotidienne, in the Constitutionnel or the Courrier. The impudence of these petty tyrannies, however, admits of explanation : power has nothing offensive in it when directed by genius; it may rather be considered as one of its inherent qualities : but when mediocrity is promoted to the higher posts, the power that accompanies it displays all the insolence of an upstart.

Whatever attempts may be made to stifle liberty, it will assuredly slip from the weak hands that shall try to keep it in check ; it is in fact already escaping from their grasp. Behold the blanks' which are again to be found in the journals : you will see these blanks excite no small degree of wrath : yet the crime of blank pages would be a singular one to bring before the tribunals. The vexations exercised at the post-offices will have no better success. When the public opinion is made up, nothing can stop it. The capital and the provinces will now be inundated with pamphlets. Even silence will be looked upon as an attack, and the Ministry. will be accused by the very thing they are not told of. Alas! we had not arrived at such a pass at the opening of the session.

When Buonaparte could in 24 hours cause a public writer to be shot, it may be considered that there existed restraint (répression). Terror also operated as a restraint. But as to the Ministry, who fears them?

And why do those who so fiercely braved public opinion fly before it? Why this censorship, but from the fear of that opinion which they affect to despise ?

! I have made inquiry as to the articles cut out of the Journal des Débats of Tuesday, Aug; 17. They are as follows: 1st. A second article reviewing the session which terminated the labors of the Chamber of Deputies. (This article is about to appear, printed by Le Normant, together with the first, and those intended to follow it.)-20. The advertisement of this present Pamphlel.-30. Some lines on the Duke of Orleans, noticing the sensibility of this Prince on occasion of the distribution of the accessits obtained by the Duke de Chartres.-Such are the first exploits of the Censorship.

« ZurückWeiter »