Freedom of the Press and L'Association Mensuelle: Philipon Versus Louis-Philippe

By Edwin De T. Bechtel | Go to book overview

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND L'ASSOCIATION MENSUELLE PHILIPON VERSUS LOUIS-PHILIPPE

I
L'ASSOCIATION MENSUELLE LITHOGRAPHIQUE

(1) ITS BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

THE TWENTY-FOUR CARICATURES or charges of L'Association Mensuelle Lithographique which are illustrated in this book were published from August, 1832 to August, 1834, during the culmination of a long and hard-fought struggle for the freedom of the press in France. The contest began at the time of the first abdication of Napoleon and ended with the temporary victory of Louis-Philippe in the enactment of his tyrannical press laws of September, 1835. Then intervened what Lamartine called "the reign of terror of ideas," the prohibition of free political criticism and of political caricature and the maintenance of a pattern of repression which shackled the French press from Louis-Philippe to the last years of the Second Empire, with only the short intermission of the Revolution of 1848 and the Second Republic.

During the fifteen years of the Bourbon Restoration, brief intervals of freedom and of partial freedom alternated with long periods of interference and control. Although the attempt of Charles X to suspend the liberty of the press in 1830 caused the July Revolution and his downfall, government interference with the press and conflicts with the publishers began again within a few months after Louis-Philippe's accession to the throne. Republican opposition to the July Monarchy and political criticism by the liberal newspapers were countered by legislation to control the new freedom of the press. But a powerful and novel weapon was now perfected and at hand for the use of the press: the political caricature, the creation of forceful and inspired artists in a new medium, lithography.

In an early number of La Caricature, Charles Philipon, its founder and publisher, commented on the fact that regulation was suspended from time to time during the Restoration for the benefit of the typographical press, but that political caricature remained fettered until the July Revolution. By that time, the lithographers had also improved the technical methods of the medium, so that it became readily available for the multiplication of critical and satirical drawings in this new interval of freedom. Philipon quickly comprehended the possibilities of lithography and was the first publisher to combine the art of caricature with that of journalism. Although the Craftsman and Anti-Jacobin of eighteenth-century England and such journals of the French Revolution as Les Actes des Apôtres and Les Révolutions de France et de Brabant had, from time to time, added a few engraved caricatures to their pages, their experiments were ineffective and temporary. On the other hand, Philipon's merger of the

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