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

By Edwin De T. Bechtel | Go to book overview

IV
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND THE JULY MONARCHY

(1) THE CITIZEN-KING AND THE MINISTRY OF LAFFITTE: 1830-1831

LOUIS-PHILIPPE became King of the French at the age of fifty- seven, with abundant experience of the ways of men and governments. He was well educated and well disciplined, for he had lived through the Revolution, the Empire and the Restoration. Like his father, he was a Revolutionist. Joining the Jacobin Club in 1790, he served in the Revolutionary army, was appointed a general at nineteen, but, in 1793, he became so entangled in the plot of Dumouriez to overthrow the Republic that he deserted and fled to the Austrian army. He then remained out of France until the abdication of Napoleon. After teaching school in Switzerland, he was urged to be a candidate for the throne by the Orleanists after the Terror; but he refused to conspire and, instead, he went into voluntary exile in the United States with his two brothers. They made their headquarters in Philadelphia between 1797 and 1800 and explored the wilderness of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. Louis-Philippe took notes of his travels, sketched Niagara and visited General Washington at Mt. Vernon. Talleyrand, who was also an exile at Philadelphia, became his friend. During his visit, the Sedition Laws were passed by the American Congress, making criminal the publication of false, scandalous or malicious writings directed against the President, Congress or the Government of the United States and intended to bring them into disrepute or to excite popular hostility against them. Apparently the Duc d'Oréans carried away from his American visit no impression of the risks of such legislation or of the damaging effect on its sponsors of the prosecution of newspaper editors for alleged acts of sedition.

The Duc d'Orléans sailed for England in 1800, lived there until 1807, and later visited Sicily where he married the Princess Marie-Amélie. After the Restoration, he returned to France; Louis XVIII, a remote cousin, then restored to him the remaining Orleans properties of his family which had not been distributed during the Revolution. He was a careful businessman and his own best steward of his vast possessions, which were valued at over $40,000,000. As a member of the French House of Peers in 1815, he offended the King by his liberalism and was exiled for two years. On his return, he lived quietly at his Palais-Royal residence, a good bourgeois citizen and paterfamilias with orderly and parsimonious habits. His geniality, as he walked about Paris, wearing a worn greatcoat and an old tile hat and carrying a recent invention, a large green umbrella, made him popular. At his apartments at the Palais-Royal, he welcomed his bourgeois friends and shook everyone's hand. Until 1830, he appeared to be without political ambition.

An intelligent oligarchy chose the Duc d'Orléans, Louis- Philippe, as King of the French to establish an emergency government, justified by necessity. The Citizen-King, it was hoped, would reconcile the opposing parties and clashing groups within France and might assure the members of the Congress of Vienna that the days of the Revolution and Convention would not be

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