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evidently to make the ground tremble under our feet. Let us not fear to disclose here the whole extent of our evils, in order the better to appreciate the whole extent of our resources.
A system of defamation, organised on a great scale, and directed with unequalled perseverance, reaches, either near at hand or at a distance, the most humble of the agents of the Government. None of your subjects, Sire, is secure from an insult, if he receives from his Sovereign the least mark of confidence or satisfaction. A vast net thrown over France envelopes all the public functionaries. Placed in a constant state of accusation, they seem to be in a manner cut from civil society ; only those are spared whose fidelity wavers, — only those are praised whose fidelity gives way; the others are marked by the faction, to be in the sequel, without doubt, sacrificed to popular vengeance.
No strength, it must be confessed, is able to resist a dissolving power so active. The press at all times, when it has been freed from its fetters, has made an irruption and invasion in the state. One cannot but be singularly struck with the similitude of its effects during these last fifteen years, notwithstanding circumstances, and notwithstanding the changes of the men who have figured on the political stage. Its destiny, in a word, is to recommence the revolution, the principles of which it loudly proclaims. Placed and replaced at various intervals under the yoke of the censorship, it has always resumed its liberty only to recommence its interrupted work. In order to continue it with the more success, it has found an active auxiliary in the departmental press, which, engaging in combat local jealousies and hatreds, striking terror into the minds of timid men, harassing authority by endless intrigues, has exercised a decisive influence on the elections.
The periodical press has not displayed less ardour in pursuing, with its poisoned darts, religion and its priests. Its object is, and always will be, to root out of the heart of the people even the last germ of religious sentiments. Sire, do not doubt that it will succeed in this, by attacking the foundations of faith, by poisoning the sources of public morals, and by covering the ministers of the altars with derision and contempt.
These last effects, Sire, are transitory; but effects more durable are observed in the manners and in the character of the nation. An ardent, lying, and passionate spirit of contention, the schools of scandal and licentiousness, has produced in it important changes, and profound alterations: it gives a false direction to people's minds, it fills them with prejudices - diverts them from serious studies — retards them in the progress of the sciences and the arts — excites among us a fermentation, which is constantly increasing - maintains, even in the bosom of our families, fatal dissensions - and might, by degrees, throw us back into barbarism.
Against so many evils, engendered by the periodical press, the law and justice are equally obliged to confess their want of power.
It would be superfluous to enquire into the causes which have weakened the power of repression, and have insensibly made it an ineffectual weapon in the hands of the authorities. It is sufficient to appeal to experience, and to show the present state of things.
Judicial forms do not easily lend themselves to an effectual repression. This truth has long since struck reflecting minds ; it has lately become still more evident. To satisfy the wants which caused its institution, the repression ought to be prompt and strong; it has been slow, weak, and almost null. When it interferes, the mischief is already done, and the punishment, far from repairing it, only adds the scandal of the discussion.
The judicial prosecution is wearied out, but the seditious
press is never weary. The one stops because there is too much to prosecute: the other multiplies its strength by multiplying its transgressions. At different times prosecutions have had their different appearances of activity or of relaxation. But what does the press care for zeal or lukewarmness in the public prosecutor ? It seeks in the multiplication of its excesses the certainty of their impunity,
The insufficiency, or rather the inutility, of the precautions established in the laws now in force, is demonstrated by facts. It is equally proved by facts that the public safety is endangered by the licentiousness of the press. It is time, it is more than time, to arrest its ravages.
Give ear, Sire, to the prolonged cry of indignation and of terror which rises from all points of your kingdom. All peaceable men, the upright, the friends of order, stretch to your Majesty their suppliant hands. All implore you to preserve them from the return of the calamities by which their fathers or themselves have been so severely afflicted. These alarms are too real not to be listened to these wishes are too legitimate not to be regarded.
There is but one means to satisfy them: it is to return to the Charter (rentrer dans la Charte).
If the terms of the eighth article are ambiguous, its spirit is manifest. It is certain that the Charter has not given liberty to the journals and to periodical writings. The right of publishing one's personal opinions, certainly does not imply the right of publishing the opinions of others. The one is the use of a faculty which the law might leave free or subject to restrictions; the other is a commercial speculation, which, like others, and more than others, supposes the superintendence of the public authority.
The intentions of the Charter on this subject are accurately explained in the law of the 21st of October, 1814, which is in some measure the appendix to it: this is the less doubtful, as this law was presented to the Chambers on the 5th of July; that is to say, one month after the promulgation of the Charter. In 1819, at the time when a contrary system prevailed in the Chambers, it was openly proclaimed there that the periodical press was not governed by the enactments of the eighth article. This truth is, besides, attested by the very laws which have imposed upon the journals the condition of giving securities.
Now, Sire, nothing remains but to enquire how this return to the Charter and to the law of the 21st of October, 1814, is to be effected. The gravity of the present juncture has solved this question.
We must not deceive ourselves, — we are no longer in the ordinary condition of a representative Government. The principles on which it has been established could not remain entire amidst political vicissitudes. A turbulent democracy, which has penetrated
even into our laws, tends to put itself in the place of legitimate power. It disposes of the majority of the elections by means of the journals, and the assistance of numerous affiliations. It has paralysed, as far as has depended on it, the regular exercise of the most essential prerogative of the Crown -- that of dissolving the elective chamber. By this very thing the constitution of the state is shaken. Your Majesty alone retains the power to replace and consolidate it upon its foundations.
The right, as well as the duty of assuring its maintenance, is the inseparable attribute of the sovereignty. No Government on earth would remain standing, if it had not the right to provide for its own security. This power exists before the laws, because it is in the nature of things. These, Sire, are maxims which have in their favour the sanction of time, and the assent of all the publicists of Europe.
But these maxims have another sanction still more positive, that of the Charter itself. The fourteenth article has invested your Majesty with a sufficient power, not undoubtedly to change our institutions, but to consolidate them, and render them more stable.
Circumstances of imperious necessity do not permit the exercise of this supreme power to be any longer deferred. The moment is come to have recourse to measures which are in the spirit of the Charter, but which are beyond the limits of legal order, the resources of which have been exhausted in vain.
These measures, Sire, your Ministers, who are to secure the success of them, do not hesitate to propose to you, convinced as they are that justice will remain the strongest.