COUNT DE MONTALEMBERT.
(obituary Notice, Mondat, March 14, 1870.)
The generation of men -who illustrated the" literary and political history of France for no inconsiderable portion of the present century is fast disappearing, îlot long since Berryer, full of years, but •with mental powers hardly impaired, was taken away ; soon after Lamartine, who had, however, long survived himself, was laid in his grave ; and now we have to record the loss of another gifted person, younger than either, but who for nearly 30 years filled a high place in the public eye as a writer and an orator.
Charles, Count de Montalembert,whose long sufferings have just terminated in death, sprang from an ancient family of provincial nobility for centuries settled in Poitou. One of his ancestors, André de Montalembert, Sire d'£sse, the companion in arms of Francis I., fought at Landrecy. on the Sambre, against Charles V., and fell before Therouanne. His great uncle, Marc Kent', Marquis de Montalembert, had served with much distinction in the Seven Years' War, and, in spite of the opposition of the military engineers of the periodj'succeeded in introducing important improvements in the art of fortification. Ho died in 1800, senior General in the French Army.
Count Reno de Montalembert quitted France, with so many others of his order, in 1792, and joined the corps of emigrants commanded by his father. "When the army of Conde was broken up, after Haguenau and Bratheim. he entered the English service, and took part in the campaigns of Egypt, India, and Spain, where he obtained the rank of Colonel. He returned to France on the second Restoration ; was raised to the peerage in 1819 ; and was sent in 1826 as Ambassador to Sweden, where ho remained till the overthrow of Charles X. He survived the July Revolution but one year. His son Charles was born in England in 1810, his mother being a Scotchlady, named Forbes. When quite a young man he formed an intimate acquaintance with the Abbé Lamennais, then the ardent advocate of an alliance between Catholicism and Democracy, and started a journal, the Avenir, as their organ. They entered npon a fierce content with the University of Paris.
denounced its monopoly of education, and, to prove the superiority of their system, Montalembert, in conjunction-' with Lacordaire, opened a " free school " without the licence of the authorities.' Lacordaire, who had given up the Bar and taken orders four years previously—the Council of Advocates not having acceded to his request to be allowed to act at once as a priest and a barrister—was then! chaplain to the College of Henri IV. The' Avenir, which the three friends conducted, had for its device " God and Liberty, the Pope and Liberty," and defended not only religious, but civil and political freedom, as perfectly compatible with Catholicism. The paper was not destined to a long existence. The vehemence of its animadversions brought it into trouble. It was prosecuted, and the principal editor, Lamennais, then Ultramontane, had to appear before the Assize' Court of Paris, where he defended him-| self. On the other hand, Montalembert had to answer in the Correctional Police' Court for the heinous offence of setting up a school without the Minister's per-' mission. Before the proceedings com-; menced his father died, and Montalembert succeeded to the peerage. He claimed his right to be tried by the Chamber of, which he was a member, and pleaded his' own causo in a speech giving promise of future excellence. The law, however,! was precise ; he was guilty of having' taught children their letters without official permission, and was condemned to' pay theminimum fine of lOOf. On attaining the legal age he took his seat as a' Peer of France (1835),and the first speech' he made in the Chamber brought him' into collision with the Ministry ; it was1 against the laws restricting the liberty of the Press, known as the Laws of SepJ tember, introduced by the Cabinet oc which M. Thiors was a member iiurao-j diately after the Fieschi attempt, as that " exceptional laws "were by the Imperial Government after the crime of Orsini. i The doctrines which Lamennais/ Lacordaire, and Montalembert defended! •with so much energy and eloquence in ther Avenir—the union of Catholicism andi Demoo.ranv—found hiit little favour at_Borne in those times of revolution, and the friends resolved to proceed thither and plead their cause in pei'son. After some delay the doctrines which Lamennais exaggerated were reprobated by Gregory XVI. in the Encyclical' of Juno, 1835, as they had been three years before. Lacordaire and Montalembert submitted to the judgment of the Pope ; but Lamennais revolted, and from that day all intercourse ceased between him and his two friends. Montalembert—the first-of his race, as ho has more than once said,whose weapon was the pen—betook himself with characteristic ardour and perseverance to itudy the ideas and manners of the Middle Ages, which always had a great charm for him. In 1836 ho published his first important work, " The Life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary," and, with reference to the animated debate in the Chamber of Peers on the relation's between Church and State, produced an elaborate pamphlet, the " Manifesto Catholique." The following year he made his three famous speeches in the Chamber of Peers against a Bill introduced by M. Villemain, then a member of the Cabinet, on the liberty of the Church, the liberty of instruction, and the liberty of the monastic orders. It 'was on this occasion that he declared himeelf the defender of the Society of Jesus ; and in his last speech on that occasion he uttered the words which have been since ?? often quoted by adversaries as well as friends as indicative of his aristocratic and religious predilections,—"We are the eons of the Crusaders ; and the sons of the Crusaders will never, never give way before the sons of Voltaire. "
• In 1845 he founded the " Committee of Keligious Associates " with a view to the elections, and exerted himself to the utmost to procure the return of candidates of his own way of thinking. Long before the easy sxibversion of the Orleans Monarchy he predicted the triumph of Badicalisin as the result of the contest between the Government and the nation, and, as its inevifable consequence, the loss of French liberty. The catastrophe of February completely justified his warnings. Montalembert, who, with all his family traditions, was not, strictly speaking, a Legitimist any more than an Orleanist or a Republican, but a lover of liberty, had no alternative but to accept the new Government as the only one .which at that moment had a chance of re(storing order. In the General Elections 'of 1848 he presented himself as ^candidate in the department of the Doubs, where
his family possessed considerable property. He was returned the last on a list of eight, by 23,000 ; and, as every one expected, took his place with the Conservative majority. Generally supporting the majority, he yet voted against the decree banishing the Orleans family. On the other hand, he voted with the Left against there-establishment of the money guarantee exacted by the Republican Government from the journals ; against martial law while the Constitution was under discussion ; against the impeachment of Louis Blanc ; and, finally, he refused his approbation to the elaborate Constitution of 1848. Among his happiest efforts at that time was his speech on ihe despatch of the Duke d'Harcourt, then Envoy to Rome, giving an account of the murder of the Pope's Minister, Rossi, on the steps of the Roman Assembly \vhila that Assembly continued its deliberations and affected not to notice it in its Minutes, as if it were an unimportant and ordinary incident. It is hardly necessary to say that he gave his haarty approbation to French intervention in favour of the Pope, and to the military expedition to Rome. When the elections for the Legislature which succeeded the Constitutional Assembly came on, Montalembert was returned at once in two departments, the Doubs and the Côtes du Nord. In the Legislature he often came into collision with Victor Hugo, who had just been elected the tenth representative on a roll of 28, from the Seine, and who, after being made a Peer of France by Louis Philippe, had taken up Democratic and Socialistic doctrines. The contest was unequal ; Montalembert, who had his resources always at hand, was ever ready for either attack or defence, whereas his antagonist required a long time for preparation. One of the most brilliant speeches made by Montalembert in those days was on the moi« propriooî the Pope. It was while a member of the Commission charged with preparing the law of the 31st of May, which placed certain restrictions on the exercise of universal suffrage, that he used the words of which he was so often reminded afterwards, that " a Roman expedition " was indispensable to the interests of France. In- the beginning of 1851 the hostility which had long existed in a latent state against the President of the Republic became aggravated. Montalembert, whose nature revolted against what he thought injustice, from whatever quarter it came, voted frequently against his own party in defence of Louis Napoleon, disclaiming at the same time all ide is of being either his adviser or his confidant. He was simply, he said, an impartial witness in his behalf, and he strongly denounced the conduct of those who were undermining his legitimate authority as a " stupid and inexcusable ingratitude." He was one of the promoters of the plan for revising the Constitution, and was named on the Commission charged with preparing it. M. de Tocqueville was the reporter.
It is certain that a Cvwp d'Etat had been expected by Montalembert. When it did come, however, he protested against the arrest and imprisonment of the representatives. He was named by the President member of the Consulting Commission preliminary to the Council of State, and at once elected Deputy for the Doubs to the new Legislative Chamber. He was, however, grieved and indignant at the decree confiscating the property of the Orleans Princes ; and that act, and perhaps also the influence of his political friends, soon detached him from the Government and drove him into opposition. The same year he was elected to the French Academy in place of M. Droz. His address, which was replied to by M. Guizot, was an eloquent eulogy on his predecessor, and as eloquent an invective against the revolution. In 1854 a confidential letter which he wrote to M. Dnpin, commenting severely on tho subserviency of the Chamber, was by some strange indiscretion published in the Belgian papers. It gave great offence to the Chambers ; authority to prosecute him was demanded and granted, but it came to nothing. In the General Elections of 1857 Montalembert, who was now looked upon a« the declared adversary of the umpire, was defeated in his own department. This defeat closed his Parliamentary career. His exclusion from an arena for which he was so eminently fitted, and the tame submission of men who, not long before, were reckless agitators, aroused in him a bitterness of feeling which he rarely restrained. The laws of the Newspaper Press prevented him from openly criticizing the Government, but his feelings found vent in an article on the Indian debates in the English Parliament, published in the Correspondant, a monthly periodical, the organ of the Liberal Catholic party, and through the thin veil of insinuation the praises of English institutions were in reality a satire on thosa of France. He was prosecuted on the usual ground of having used language
tending to excite hatred against the Imperial institutions, bringing the laws into contempt, and attacking the rights which the Constitution had conferred upon the Sovereign. He was convicted, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment and a fine of 3,000f. An appeal was lodged in the Superior Court ; but tho judgment was confirmed as regarded the first two counts, the fine was maintained, and the term of imprisonment was reduced to three months. No one believed that either for six or for three months the Emperor would allow such a man to be sent to prison for such an offence. Immediately after tho first Court pronounced judgment, a few lines in the Moniteur announced that His Majesty had remitted all the penalties. Montalembert was jusl the man to be deeply mortified at what ha considered a design to "dishonour "him ; and it was not without difficulty that he was dissuaded from declaring publicly that he would accept no favour of the sort. Not long afterwards he was again prosecuted for an article in the same periodical on the Imperial policy towardi the Pope.
Montalembert's first work, " La Vie da Sainte Elisabeth de Hongrie," published in 1830, has gone through eight or tea editions, has been abridged, and illustrated several times. A work on Ar( (1829), a pamphleton the duties of Catholics and on the liberty <5f>Ëncydopédit Catholique and thé Correspondant, to which he was, when his health permitted, an assiduous contributor. But the work to which he devoted all his energy, for which he had laid up large stores of erudition, and which he hoped would 4ake a prominent place in the literature of his country, is his history, " Les Moines de l'Occident depuis Saint Benoit jusqu'il Saint Bernard," of which five volume« have alreadyappeared. The two countries for which he ever felt deep sympathy and affection were Poland and Ireland. The cause of Poland he had pleaded from the first moments of his appearance ?? ? public character. He visited Warsaw a short time before the last insurrection, and recorded his impressions of what he •witnessed in the Correspondant. Ireland he had visited many times. The first was when quite a young man, and a mind like his could not fail to be struck by the desperate fidelity of the Irish people to the faith of their fathers. He was touched, too, by the reception he met with during his lengthened tours, wherever he presented himself. «-* -«••
With some passing outbreaks of irritation at certain acts of her foreign policy, Montalembert felt the highest admiration for England and English institutions. Edmund Burke he looked upon as the greatest philosophical statesman of ancient or modern times, and as a giant in intellect. Indeed, the feeling he cherished towards the great Irishman was one of enthusiastic veneration. Those who visited him in the Rue de ??? may have remarked the engraving of Burke which hung in his study, and from which he
seemed to draw inspiration. In some parts of his own speeches one is occasionally reminded of the compass, copiousness, flexibility, and fire which he so admired in the author of " Reflections on the French Revolution."
The first symptoms of the malady which has ended fatally he attributed to the anxiety of mind and the worry and fatigue he was exposed to in his efforts to stem the revolutionary torrent of 1848. A fewyears ago he contemplated a visit to the United States, but he was compelled to forego that pleasure. For more than five years he was, with some intervals, a sufferer ; but during these intervals he received the visits of his friends, and conversed with his usual animation. He had lately lost all hcpe of a permanent cure, but he bore his long illness with fortitude, and he contemplated the result with quiet submission to the will of Providence. All the consolation that the tender affection of his family, the sympathy of numerous friends, and even of political adversaries, could give, he had.
Source: Eminet persons: Biographies, reprinted from the Times, 1880.
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