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THE CENSORSHIP, &c.
In the Chamber of Peers, on the 13th March 1823, in replying to a previous speaker, I said : “A noble Baron has anticipated as the result of the Expedition to Spain, that France will be invaded, and all our liberties, destroyed. As to the invasion of France, and the loss of our liberties, one thing at least will console me-that these events will never take place whilst I and my colleagues are ministers. The noble Baron, who possesses both distinguished talent, and generous sentiments, will pardon this assertion, proceeding from the conscientious conviction of a true Frenchman."
These words, and the establishment of the Censorship, sufficiently explain why I am no longer a minister, and the cause of the treatment I have experienced from my colleagues. I had brought them to my sentiments, but these they have now abandoned. It was therefore high time they separated themselves from me, when they meditated the suspension of the most important of our liberties.
But let us leave the consideration of persons, and speak only of France.
I need not repeat what I have said a hundred times in the tribune, and what I have printed a hundred times in my works ; that there can be no such thing as a representative government without the liberty of the press.
Under the Censorship of the Journals, the Constitutional Monarchy will become either more weak or more violent than absolute monarchy: it is either a powerless, or an unruly machine, which is subject to interruption from the complexity of its wheels, or breaks by the force of its motion. I shall say nothing of that trading in falsehood under a press that is shackled, however profitable to certain individuals, nor of the various species of turpitude which are the inevitable consequence of the Censorship.
Why should I dilate on these things? We have to do with principles. Then away with these fooleries. It is sufficiently known that large sums have been expended to secure the opinion of the Journals
: violence then, it should seem, must complete what corruption had begun. Thus obstinacy is mistaken for firmness of character, the irritation of self-love for greatness of mind, without considering that the weakest man may, in a frenzy fit, set fire to his house. But is this state of madness a proof of strength ?
The 4th article in the law of the 17th March 1822 runs thus : « If in the interval of the sessions of the Chambers serious circumstances (des circonstances graves) should render ineffectual for the moment the measures of guarantee and repression established, the laws of the 13th March 1820, and 26th July 1821, may be again immediately put in force, by virtue of an Ordonnance of the King debated in Council, and countersigned by three Ministers.”
I ask, if the case provided for by the law has actually occurred ? Are foreign armies at our gates? Is there any conspiracy in the interior? Is the public treasure in jeopardy? Has Heaven let loose on France any of its scourges ? Is the throne menaced ? Has one of our beloved Princes fallen under the dagger of another Louvel ? No, happily not.
What, then, has happened? Why, that the Ministry have committed some faults; that they have lost their majority in the Chamber of Peers; that they have been brought before the tribunals for compromising themselves in shameful negociations with the view of purchasing opinions; that they have destroyed for the most part the advantageous results of the expedition to Spain; that they have separated themselves from the Royalists ; in short, that they are incapable, and are plainly told so. These are the serious circumstances that compel them to violate institutions which we owe to the wisdom of the King! If the circumstances are serious, they have made them so ; and it is against themselves they have established the Censorship.
The expedition to Spain has been commenced, carried on, and completed under the existence of a free press : although a piece of false intelligence might have put to hazard the existence of the Duke of Angouleme and the safety of his army-might have occasioned a fall in the public funds-might have excited disturbances in some of the Departments, or incurred the displeasure of the Powers of Europe. These circumstances were not sufficiently serious to induce the suppression of the liberty of the periodical press. But the truth has been told to Ministers, and Frenchmen, naturally disposed to ridicule, sometimes permit themselves to laugh at these Ministers. Instantly the Censorship, or France, is ruined !-How truly contemptible !
To crown the deed-nothing was wanting, but the reason that has been alleged for the establishment of the Censorship. Recourse might have been had to common-place remarks against the liberty of the press. They might have talked of its excesses, of its dangers, whilst they affected to confound it with licentiousness. It might have been said that the actually existing laws of restriction were inadequate-though we know them to be extremely harshthough they have in fact compelled all the Journals to confine themselves within moderate bounds. · No, the grievance does not lie here: it is not of the journals they complain, but the tribunals! The Censorship is deemed necessary, because upright and worthy magistrates have defended the liberty of the press, because they have decided conformably to the integrity of their conscience and the independence of their character, because they admitted the journals to an existence de jure, independently of their existence de facto. And the matter of right appears ill suited to the legitimate monarchy, since the late revolution, and the transactions of the hundred days! That a minister of justice should venture to blame by his signature the sentence of a tribunal; and thus indirectly impugn the decision of that tribunal ! What an example is here held forth to nations ! That these ministers should dare publicly to accuse the two first courts of the kingdom, (the Court of Cassation, and the Cour Royale,) as well as the tribunal de Première Instancel-for these three tribunals have all decided in the same cause. Thus is the whole judicial community attacked from its head to its base: even the public ministry belonging to the Court of Cassation has coincided in opinion with the judgment of that Court.
Were all the Ministers present at the Council, when this dangerous resolution was adopted ? If one of them was absent, as is reported, he must doubtless regret to have been deprived of the honor of withdrawing himself.
Perhaps you will say the Courts of Justice have been mistaken! But who has proved this ? Are you more wise, better informed, than they? But was there any thing like an equal division of voices among the magistrates in those Courts? I know not. Nevertheless, it is asserted that the Court of Cassation, whose abilities are so well known, came to an almost unanimous decision in the affair of the Aristarque.
But the re-appearance of this journal, it seems, was likely to lead to the revival of several others. And why not, if they really have the right of re-appearing? Why should not the law, and justice, be administered impartially to all ? Even the facts are not clear: for it is doubtful whether there are not other journals in exactly the same predicament as the Aristarque.
Besides, is there not a formidable law in existence, which has been found sufficient to restrain the excesses of the press ? Have not the very tribunals, whose jurisprudence is now blamed, often pronounced sentence of condemnation against journalists? Were we to reckon up all the sums exacted by way of fine, together with the days, the months, the years of imprisonment, we should find a total of penalties which might satisfy the severest dispositions. The rigor exercised by the Magistrates in their early judgments, proves that the lenity of their latter decisions flows from the most impartial justice,
For instance, was it possible for these Magistrates, without disgracing themselves, to determine otherwise than they did in the case of the Quotidienne ? Why did not the Ministry, which had an interest in this cause, oppose its being brought before the Courts of Justice? This was an unaccountable oversight; for we can hardly suppose there was any illusion as to the disgraceful nature of the transactions, or as to the uprightness of the Judges.
It is contended, that the practice of the Courts furnishes means of eluding the suspension or the suppression of the journals. Thus then it was not the restraint of crime that was aimed at; it was the suspension, the suppression of the liberty of the periodical press. You have suffered your secret to escape. We now perceive in what light you viewed the law, and what are your ideas of constitutional government. We are already acquainted with your thoughts; we had read your pamphlet.
Justice is the bread of the people : yet they are almost famished for want of it, especially in France. Bodies politic had long since disappeared in this country: these were replaced by judicial bodies, which were contemporary with, and almost preceded them. Our supreme Courts were connected, by the bonds of civilisation, by the wants of society, by the tradition of the wisdom of ages, by the study of the codes of antiquity,—with the infancy of mankind. The nation, deeply impressed with the virtues of our Magistrates, had been accustomed to love them as the source of order, to respect them as the living law. The Harlays, the Lamoignons, the Molés, the Séguiers, are still cherished in our memories. We always found them, like the throne, our protectors ; and considered them incorruptible as religion, stern as liberty, and pure as honor, of which they were the props, the defenders,
and the organs.
And yet it is the successors of these immortal Magistrates whom we find rashly assailed by men of yesterday !--by men subject to every chance of fortune--and who must instantly return to their oriVOL. XXIV.
NO. XLVII. E