The chambers and the Provisional Government debated whether to fight the oncoming Allies or negotiate for the best obtainable terms. Davout offered to lead his city militia against Wellington and Blücher if these insisted on restoring Louis XVIII. The representatives feared that resistance and defeat would lead to the dismemberment of France, and something short of that for themselves. The remnants of Napoleon’s “Army of the North” were in no mood for another Waterloo; they were inadequately supplied, and the enemy were united between Laon and Paris.
Louis XVIII, learning that one faction among the Allies was working for his replacement by Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orléans, moved down anxiously from Ghent to Cateau-Cambrésis, and there issued (June 25) a declaration promising conciliation and a liberal regime. The chambers were pleased, and on June 30 the Provisional Government and the Allies signed preliminary terms for the capitulation of the capital. All French troops were to retire beyond the Loire, but the security and property of the citizens were guaranteed. On July 7 the Allies entered Paris. On July 8 Louis XVIII rode down the Champs-Élysées in state, and resumed the throne of France. The prefect of the Seine department, in welcoming him, used—apparently for the first time—the term “Cent Jours,” or Hundred Days, to describe the period between Napoleon’s second usurpation (March 20) and the restoration of the King.
Most of the country accepted this da capo al fine as the only practical solution of the problems raised by the sudden collapse of Napoleon’s regime. Blücher, however, raised an outcry by announcing that he would ask his engineers to blow up the Pont d’Iéna—the bridge commemorating the French victory over the Prussians in 1806; moreover, he proposed to destroy all monuments to Napoleon. Wellington united with Louis XVIII in urging Blücher to desist; he persisted; but Czar Alexander I, King Frederick William III, and Emperor Francis II, arriving with the Russian, Austrian, and Piedmontese armies, commanded the old patriot to calm his fury.12
The foreign troops in France now totaled some 800,000, all requiring to be fed by the people, and policing them in return. Castlereagh calculated that it cost France 1,750,000 francs per day to feed its occupiers. In addition each district had to pay a heavy indemnity. Louis XVIII told the Allied leaders that if, contrary to their proclamation of March 25, they continued to treat his subjects as enemies, he would leave France and seek asylum in Spain. The Allies agreed to limit the indemnities to 50 million francs, and argued that they were fully justified by the laws of war and the precedents established by Napoleon in Prussia and Austria.
Likewise the royalists in some French cities indulged themselves in a “White Terror” to avenge the Red Terror that had killed so many royalists in 1793–94. They were not always without immediate excuse. When the royalist faction in Marseilles made a demonstration demanding the restoration of Louis XVIII, some soldiers of the local garrison, still pledged to Napoleon, fired on them. The commander soon stopped this, and tried to lead his troops out of the hostile city; but on their way some hundred of them were shot from windows or roofs (June 25). On that day and the next armed royalists ran about the city, shooting Bonapartists and Jacobins; two hundred victims died, many of them still crying “Vive l’Empereur!” Royalist women danced with joy around the corpses.13At Avignon the royalists imprisoned and killed all captured Bonapartists. One man they sought especially—Guillaume Bruné, who was accused of having carried the head of the Princesse de Lamballe on his pike in 1792. He hid in an Avignon hotel; the crowd found him, shot him, and dragged his corpse through the streets, beating it ecstatically; then, having thrown it into the Rhone, the men and women danced with joy (August 2, 1815). There were similar scenes at Nîmes, Montpellier, and Toulouse.
These barbarities could hardly be attributed to Louis XVIII, who was basically a forgiving man. But he could never forgive Ney, who had promised to bring to him Napoleon alive or dead, had gone over to Napoleon, and had dealt out so many deaths at Waterloo. Ney fled from Paris on July 6, and wandered from town to town in disguise; he was recognized and arrested; was tried by a court of 161 peers, and was found guilty of treason. He refused all priestly services, and was executed by a firing squad on December 7, 1815.
Fouché and Talleyrand, now in Louis XVIII’s ministry, were triumphant but unhappy. The royalists in the Cabinet shunned Fouché as a regicide, and advised the King to dismiss him. Louis compromised by appointing him minister to Saxony (September 15); but three months later he recalled him and banished him from France. Fouché wandered unwanted from Prague to Linz to Trieste, and died there in 1820, having crowded an incredible amount of deviltry into sixty-one years.
Talleyrand rivaled him in wiles, and surpassed him in durability. Louis XVIII judged him with lines from Corneille: “He has done me too much good that I should speak ill of him, and too much harm that I should speak well of him.”14 It was apparently Talleyrand who said of the Bourbons (in 1796), “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing”;15 but this could hardly have been said of Louis XVIII, who learned to deal with elected chambers, welcomed Napoleon’s generals, and preserved much of Napoleon’s legislation. The royalist ministers hated Talleyrand as not only a regicide and an apostate but a traitor to his class. Yielding to them, Louis dismissed him (September 24, 1815). Talleyrand recovered, outlived Louis XVIII, survived the abdication of Charles X (1830), and was appointed ambassador to Great Britain (1830–34) at the age of seventy-six. When the Marquess of Londonderry, in the House of Lords, criticized Talleyrand, Wellington defended him; he had dealt with M. de Talleyrand in many situations (said the Duke), and never had he found a man more vigorous and skillful in protecting the interests of his country, and more upright and honorable in dealing with other countries. When Talleyrand read this he came close to tears, than which nothing could have been more unbecoming in him. “I am all the more grateful to the Duke, since he is the one statesman in the world who has ever spoken well of me.”16 Having helped to organize the Quadruple Alliance in 1834, he died in 1838, aged eighty-four, having outwitted everybody, almost the Reaper himself.
On November 20, 1815, Louis XVIII signed with the Allies the Second Treaty of Paris, which formulated the penalties France was to suffer for allowing Napoleon to resume his rule. She was compelled to cede the Saar and Savoy, and four frontier towns, including Philippeville and Marienburg; to restore the art her conquering generals had taken; to pay an indemnity of 700 million francs, plus 240 million on private claims; to be occupied by the commissioners and troops of the Allies for from three to five years, and to pay for their maintenance.17 Talleyrand refused to sign this document; his successor as foreign minister, Armand-Emmanuel du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu, signed it under protest, and then cried out, “I am dishonored.”18