Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Achille Léonce Victor Charles, Duc de Broglie

Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition, Volume IV
Achille Léonce Victor Charles, Duc de Broglie

BROGLIE, Achille Léonce Victor Charles, Duc de, peer of France, was born in Paris 28th November 1785, and died 25th January 1870. The family from which this eminent statesman descended was of Piedmontese origin, but it won its honour in the service of France. The_ first Marshal de Broglie (1639-1727) served with distinction under Louis XIV.; his son, known as the Chevalier de Broglie (1671-1745), was raised to the highest grade in the French peerage for his gallant military service at Guastalla and at Prague in 1742, but he refused the rank of marshal of France, which was offered to him by the regent, on the ground that his father, who was still alive, deserved it more than he did. The next in descent was the second marshal (1718-1804), who commanded the French armies in the Seven Years War, for which he was created a prince of the empire, and though subsequently disgraced and exiled by the intrigues of the Conde"s, he was recalled in 1789 by Louis XVI. to the office of com- mander-in-chief. To stem the tide of the Revolution was impossible. The marshal speedily fell from power, emi grated to Germany, refused the solicitation of Napoleon to return to France, and died at Miinster in 1804.

The son of this veteran followed an opposite course and met with a more untimely end. He adopted the liberal opinions of the time. He followed Lafayette and Rocham- beau to America. He sat in the Constituent Assembly, constantly voting on the Liberal side. He served as chief of the staff to the Republican army on the Rhine ; but, like many other champions of the Revolution, he was denounced, arrested, dragged to Paris, and executed on the 27th June 1794. The parting injunction he left to his son, Victor de Broglie, the subject of this notice, then a boy nine years old, was ever to remain faithful to the cause of liberty, even though it were ungrateful and unjust. His father murdered, his mother imprisoned, his property confiscated and plundered, the young de Broglie first appears in life in wooden shoes and a red cap of liberty, begging an assignat from the younger Robespierre. Yet he adhered to the cause for which his father had died ; he maintained through life the principles of 1789. He seemed to have forgotten his own rank, until he was reminded of it at the Restoration by a writ of summons to the Chamber of Peers, and in early life he served, not unwillingly, as one of the officers of the council of state of the emperor Napoleon I.

In 1815, before he had completed his 30th year, the

Due de Broglie was summoned by Louis XVIII. to the Chamber of Peers. He combined, in a manner rare in France, the qualities we are wont to respect in the most eminent members of the British aristocracy, high rank, independent fortune, unblemished integrity, unflinching patriotism, and a sincere and consistent attachment to liberal opinions. The first incident in his parliamentary life was the trial of Marshal Ney, and on this occasion he had the courage to speak and vote alone for the acquittal of the prisoner, on the ground that he was not guilty of deliberate treason ; no other peer of France supported his protest on that occasion. During the Restoration he continued to take an active part in the defence of liberal opinions and measures. He refused to take office in the cabinet of M. de Serre. He opposed the reactionary policy of the court. He supported the short-lived administration of M. de. Martignac, and he acted with the party known as the doctrinaires, of which M. Royer-Collard was the founder, and M. Guizot the ablest representative. Mean while, in 1816, he had married the daughter of Madame de Stael, a union of unbroken domestic happiness ; andhe had pledged himself to that sacred cause of Negro emancipa tion, in which he was the worthy rival and ally of Clark- son, Buxton, Wilberforce, and Brougham. The revolution of July 1830 imposed fresh duties on the Due de Broglie. Though reluctant to take office from his cold, retiring, and unambitious temperament, he consented to hold the ministry of public worship in the first cabinet of Louis Philippe s reign, and in 1832, after the death of Casimir Pdrier, he was prevailed upon to take the more impor tant department of foreign affairs. In this function he strengthened the alliance of France with England ; he negotiated the Quadruple alliance ; he contributed to the settlement of the Belgian and Greek questions ; and he laboured with success to preserve the peace of Europe. He was out of office from March 1834 to March 1835, but he returned to power at the latter date, and this time as the head of the cabinet. He was riding by the side of the king when Fieschi s " infernal machine " was fired on the royal cortege, and a bullet passed through the collar of his coat. In 1836 the Government was beaten on the question of the reduction of the five per cents., and M. de Broglie retired permanently from official life. The king, it must be said, had never found in him a congenial minister. His manner was dry and somewhat harsh, his character unbending, and for the remainder of the reign of Louis Philippe, M. de Broglie, though not in opposition, was the censor rather than the servant of the crown. With M. Guizot, though not in office, he preserved through life the relations of the closest personal friendship and political union. The overthrow of the constitutional monarchy in 1848 was a heavy blow to this parliamentary veteran, for he felt that the form and system of govern ment to which he was most attached were at an end for ever. He consented, however, from patriotic motives to sit in the republican assemblies of 1848, and as a member of the section known as the " Burgraves " he laboured to counteract some of the evils of universal suffrage, and to avert the catastrophe which he saw to be impending over France. He shared with his colleagues the indignity of the coup d etat of December 2, 1851, and remained for the remainder of his life one of the bitterest enemies of the imperial regime, although he has been heard to remark with that caustic wit for which he was famous, that the empire was " the government which the poorer classes in France desired and the rich deserved." The last twenty years of his life were devoted chiefly to philosophical and literary pursuits. Having been brought up by his step father, M. d Argenson, in the sceptical opinions of the time, he gradually arrived, by study and reflection, at a full and sincere belief in the truth of the Christian religion. " I shall die," said he, a "penitent Christian and an im penitent Liberal." His literary works, though few of them have been published, were rewarded by a seat in the French Academy, and he was also a member of another branch of the French Institute, the Academy of Moral and Political Science. In the labours of those learned bodies he took an active and assiduous part ; and on his death, which took place at the advanced age of 85, just before the lamentable events of 1870, he was followed to the grave by repre sentatives of all that is most illustrious in the political and literary society of France, revered as one of the wisest and most upright men of his age. He was succeeded in the honours of his house by Albert de Broglie, his eldest son, also distinguished by his literary works, and who has since 1871 played no inconsiderable part in the political affairs of his country as a leading member of the National Assembly, and for sometime head of the cabinet of

Marshal Macmahon.

(h. r.)