Birthplace: Nîmes, France
Location of death: Val-Richer, France
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Head of State, Historian
Executive summary: Prime Minister of France, 1847-48
Historian, orator and statesman, born at Nîmes on the 4th of October 1787, of an honorable Protestant family belonging to the bourgeoisie of that city. It is characteristic of the cruel disabilities which still weighed upon the Protestants of France before the Revolution, that his parents, at the time of their union, could not be publicly or legally married by their own pastors, and that the ceremony was clandestine. The liberal opinions of his family did not, however, save it from the sanguinary intolerance of the Reign of Terror, and on the 8th April 1794 his father perished at Nîmes upon the scaffold. From this point the education of the future minister devolved entirely upon his mother, a woman of slight appearance and of homely manners, but endowed with great strength of character and clearness of judgment. Madame Guizot was a living type of the Huguenots of the 16th century, stern in her principles and her faith, immovable in her convictions and her sense of duty. She formed the character of her illustrious son and shared every vicissitude of his life. In the days of his power her simple figure, always clad in deep mourning for her martyred husband, was not absent from the splendid circle of his political friends. In the days of his exile in 1848 she followed him to London, and there at a very advanced age closed her life and was buried at Kensal Green. Driven from Nîmes by the Revolution, Madame Guizot and her son repaired to Geneva, where he received his education. In spite of her decided Calvinistic opinions, the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, then much in fashion, were not without their influence on Madame Guizot. She was a strong Liberal, and she even adopted the notion inculcated in the Émile that every man ought to learn a manual trade or craft. Young Guizot was taught to be a carpenter, and he so far succeeded in his work that he made a table with his own hands, which is still preserved. Of the progress of his graver studies little is known, for in the work which he entitled Memoirs of my own Times Guizot omitted all personal details of his earlier life. But his literary attainments must have been precocious and considerable, for when he arrived in Paris in 1805 to pursue his studies in the faculty of laws, he entered at eighteen as tutor into the family of M. Stapfer, formerly Swiss minister in France, and he soon began to write in a journal edited by M. Suard, the Publiciste. This connection introduced him to the literary society of Paris. In October 1809, being then twenty-two, he wrote a review of Chateaubriand's Martyrs, which procured for him the approbation and cordial thanks of that eminent person, and he continued to contribute largely to the periodical press. At Suard's he had made the acquaintance of Pauline Meulan, an accomplished lady of good family, some fourteen years older than himself, who had been forced by the hardships of the Revolution to earn her living by literature, and who also was engaged to contribute a series of articles to Suard's journal. These contributions were interrupted by her illness, but immediately resumed and continued by an unknown hand. It was discovered that François Guizot had quietly supplied the deficiency on her behalf. The acquaintance thus begun ripened into friendship and love, and in 1812 Mademoiselle de Meulan consented to marry her youthful ally. She died in 1827; she was the author of many esteemed works on female education. An only son, born in 1819, died in 1837 of consumption. In 1828 Guizot married Elisa Dillon, niece of his first wife, and also an author. She died in 1833, leaving a son, Maurice Guillaume, who attained some reputation as a scholar and writer.
During the empire, Guizot, entirely devoted to literary pursuits, published a collection of French synonyms (1809), an essay on the fine arts (1811), and a translation of Edward Gibbon with additional notes in 1812. These works recommended him to the notice of M. de Fontanes, then grand-master of the university of France, who selected Guizot for the chair of modern history at the Sorbonne in 1812. His first lecture (which is reprinted in his Memoirs) was delivered on the 11th of December of that year. The customary compliment to the all-powerful emperor he declined to insert in it, in spite of the hints given him by his patron, but the course which followed marks the beginning of the great revival of historical research in France in the 19th century. He had now acquired a considerable position in the society of Paris, and the friendship of Royer-Collard and the leading members of the liberal party, including the young duc de Broglie. Absent from Paris at the moment of the fall of Napoleon in 1814, he was at once selected, on the recommendation of Royer-Collard, to serve the government of Louis XVIII in the capacity of secretary-general of the ministry of the interior, under the abbé de Montesquiou. Upon the return of Napoleon from Elba he immediately resigned, on the 25th of March 1815 (the statement that he retained office under General Carnot is incorrect), and returned to his literary pursuits. After the Hundred Days, he repaired to Ghent, where he saw Louis XVIII, and in the name of the liberal party pointed out to his majesty that a frank adoption of a liberal policy could alone secure the duration of the restored monarchy -- advice which was ill-received by M. de Blacas and the king's confidential advisers. This visit to Ghent, at the time when France was a prey to a second invasion, was made a subject of bitter reproach to Guizot in after life by his political opponents, as an unpatriotic action. "The Man of Ghent" was one of the terms of insult frequently hurled against him in the days of his power. But the reproach appears to be wholly unfounded. The true interests of France were not in the defense of the falling empire, but in establishing a liberal policy on a monarchical basis and in combating the reactionary tendencies of the ultra-royalists. It is at any rate a remarkable circumstance that a young professor of twenty-seven, with none of the advantages of birth or political experience, should have been selected to convey so important a message to the ears of the king of France, and a proof, if any were wanting, that the Revolution had, as Guizot said, "done its work."
On the second restoration, Guizot was appointed secretary-general of the ministry of justice under M. de Barbé-Marbois, but resigned with his chief in 1816. Again in 1819 he was appointed general director of communes and departments in the ministry of the interior, but lost his office with the fall of Decazes in February 1820. During these years Guizot was one of the leaders of the Doctrinaires, a small party strongly attached to the charter and the crown, and advocating a policy which has become associated (especially by Faguet) with the name of Guizot, that of the juste milieu, a middle ground between absolutism and popular government. Their opinions had more of the rigor of a sect than the elasticity of a political party. Adhering to the great principles of liberty and toleration, they were sternly opposed to the anarchical traditions of the Revolution. They knew that the elements of anarchy were still fermenting in the country; these they hoped to subdue, not by reactionary measures, but by the firm application of the power of a limited constitution, based on the suffrages of the middle class and defended by the highest literary talent of the times. Their motives were honorable. Their views were philosophical. But they were opposed alike to the democratic spirit of the age, to the military traditions of the empire, and to the bigotry and absolutism of the court. The fate of such a party might be foreseen. They lived by a policy of resistance; they perished by another revolution (1830). They are remembered more for their constant opposition to popular demands than by the services they undoubtedly rendered to the cause of temperate freedom.
In 1820, when the reaction was at its height after the murder of the duc de Berri, and the fall of the ministry of the duc Decazes, Guizot was deprived of his offices, and in 1822 even his course of lectures were interdicted. During the succeeding years he played an important part among the leaders of the liberal opposition to the government of Charles X, although he had not yet entered parliament, and this was also the time of his greatest literary activity. In 1822 he had published his lectures on representative government (Histoire des origines du gouvernement représentatif, 1821-22, 2 vols.; English translation in 1852); also a work on capital punishment for political offenses and several important political pamphlets. From 1822 to 1830 he published two important collections of historical sources, the memoirs of the history of England in 26 volumes, and the memoirs of the history of France in 31 volumes, and a revised translation of William Shakespeare, and a volume of essays on the history of France. The most remarkable work from his own pen was the first part of his Histoire de la révolution d'Angleterre depuis Charles I à Charles II (2 vols., 1826-27; English translation, 2 vols., Oxford, 1838), a book of great merit and impartiality, which he resumed and completed during his exile in England after 1848. The Martignac administration restored Guizot in 1828 to his professor's chair and to the council of state. Then it was that he delivered the celebrated courses of lectures which raised his reputation as a historian to the highest point of fame, and placed him among the best writers of France and of Europe. These lectures formed the basis of his general Histoire de la civilisation en Europe (1828; English translation by W. Hazlitt, 3 vols., 1846), and of his Histoire de la civilisation en France (4 vols., 1830), works which must ever be regarded as classics of modern historical research.
Until now Guizot's fame rested on his merits as a writer on public affairs and as a lecturer on modern history. He had attained the age of forty-three before he entered upon the full display of his oratorical strength. In January 1830 he was elected for the first time by the town of Lisieux to the chamber of deputies, and he retained that seat during the whole of his political life. Guizot immediately assumed an important position in the representative assembly, and the first speech he delivered was in defense of the celebrated address of the 221, in answer to the menacing speech from the throne, which was followed by the dissolution of the chamber, and was the precursor of another revolution. On his returning to Paris from Nîmes on the 27th of July, the fall of Charles X was already imminent. Guizot was called upon by his friends Casimir-Périer, Laffitte, Villemain and Dupin to draw up the protest of the liberal deputies against the royal ordinances of July, while he applied himself with them to control the revolutionary character of the late contest. Personally, Guizot was always of opinion that it was a great misfortune for the cause of parliamentary government in France that the infatuation and ineptitude of Charles X and Prince Polignac rendered a change in the hereditary line of succession inevitable. But, though convinced that it was inevitable, he became one of the most ardent supporters of Louis-Philippe. In August 1830 Guizot was made minister of the interior, but resigned in November. He had now passed into the ranks of the conservatives, and for the next eighteen years was the most determined foe of democracy, the unyielding champion of a "monarchy limited by a limited number of bourgeois."
In 1831 Casimir-Périer formed a more vigorous and compact administration, which was terminated in May 1832 by his death; the summer of that year was marked by a formidable republican rising in Paris, and it was not until the 11th of October 1832 that a stable government was formed, in which Marshal Soult was first minister, the duc de Broglie took the foreign office, Adolphe Thiers the home department, and Guizot the department of public instruction. This ministry, which lasted for nearly four years, was by far the ablest that ever served Louis-Philippe. Guizot, however, was already marked with the stigma of unpopularity by the more advanced liberal party. He remained unpopular all his life, "not", said he, "that I court unpopularity, but that I think nothing about it." Yet never were his great abilities more useful to his country than while he filled this office of secondary rank but of primary importance in the department of public instruction. The duties it imposed on him were entirely congenial to his literary tastes, and he was master of the subjects they concerned. He applied himself in the first instance to carry the law of the 28th of June 1833, and then for the next three years to put it into execution. In establishing and organizing primary education in France, this law marked a distinct epoch in French history. In fifteen years, under its influence, the number of primary schools rose from ten to twenty-three thousand; normal schools for teachers, and a general system of inspection were introduced; and boards of education, under mixed lay and clerical authority, were created. The secondary class of schools and the university of France were equally the subject of his enlightened protection and care, and a prodigious impulse was given to philosophical study and historical research. The branch of the Institute of France known as the "Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques", which had been suppressed by Napoleon, was revived by Guizot. Some of the old members of this learned body -- Talleyrand, Siéyès, Roederer and Lakanal -- again took their seats there, and a host of more recent celebrities were added by election for the free discussion of the great problems of political and social science. The "Société de l'Histoire de France" was founded for the publication of historical works; and a vast publication of medieval chronicles and diplomatic papers was undertaken at the expense of the state.
The object of the cabinet of October 1832 was to organize a conservative party, and to carry on a policy of resistance to the republican faction which threatened the existence of the monarchy. It was their pride and their boast that their measures never exceeded the limits of the law, and by the exercise of legal power alone they put down an insurrection amounting to civil war in Lyons and a sanguinary revolt in Paris. The real strength of the ministry lay not in its nominal heads, but in the fact that in this government and this alone Guizot and Thiers acted in cordial cooperation. The two great rivals in French parliamentary eloquence followed for a time the same path; but neither of them could submit to the supremacy of the other, and circumstances threw Thiers almost continuously on a course of opposition, while Guizot bore the graver responsibilities of power.
Once again indeed, in 1839, they were united, but it was in opposition to Molé, who had formed an intermediate government, and this coalition between Guizot and the leaders of the left center and the left, Thiers and Odilon Barrot, due to his ambition and jealousy of Molé, is justly regarded as one of the chief inconsistencies of his life. Victory was secured at the expense of principle, and Guizot's attack upon the government gave rise to a crisis and a republican insurrection. None of the three chiefs of that alliance took ministerial office, however, and Guizot was not sorry to accept the post of ambassador in London, which withdrew him for a time from parliamentary contests. This was in the spring of 1840, and Thiers succeeded shortly afterwards to the ministry of foreign affairs.
Guizot was received with marked distinction by the queen and by the society of London. His literary works were highly esteemed, his character was respected, and France was never more worthily represented abroad than by one of her greatest orators. He was known to be well versed in the history and the literature of England, and sincerely attached to the alliance of the two nations and the cause of peace. But, as he himself remarked, he was a stranger to England and a novice in diplomacy; and unhappily the embroiled state of the Syrian question, on which the French government had separated itself from the joint policy of Europe, and possibly the absence of entire confidence between the ambassador and the minister of foreign affairs, placed him in an embarrassing and even false position. The warnings he transmitted to Thiers were not believed. The warlike policy of Thiers was opposed to his own convictions. The treaty of the 15th of July was signed without his knowledge and executed in the teeth of his remonstrances. For some weeks Europe seemed to be on the brink of war, until the king put an end to the crisis by refusing his assent to the military preparations of Thiers, and by summoning Guizot from London to form a ministry and to aid his Majesty in what he termed "ma lutte tenace contre l'anarchie." Thus began, under dark and adverse circumstances, on the 29th of October 1840, the important administration in which Guizot remained the master-spirit for nearly eight years. He himself took the office of minister for foreign affairs, to which he added some years later, on the retirement of Marshal Soult, the ostensible rank of prime minister. His first care was the maintenance of peace and the restoration of amicable relations with the other powers of Europe. If he succeeded, as he did succeed, in calming the troubled elements and healing the wounded pride of France, the result was due mainly to the indomitable courage and splendid eloquence with which he faced a raging opposition, gave unity and strength to the conservative party, who now felt that they had a great leader at their head, and appealed to the thrift and prudence of the nation rather than to their vanity and their ambition. In his pacific task he was fortunately seconded by the formation of Robert Peel's administration in England, in the autumn of 1841. Between Lord Palmerston and Guizot there existed an incompatibility of character exceedingly dangerous in the foreign ministers of two great and in some respects rival countries. With Lord Palmerston in office, Guizot felt that he had a bitter and active antagonist in every British agent throughout the world; the combative element was strong in his own disposition; and the result was a system of perpetual conflict and counter-intrigues. Lord Palmerston held (as it appears from his own letters) that war between England and France was, sooner or later, inevitable. Guizot held that such a war would be the greatest of all calamities, and certainly never contemplated it. In Lord Aberdeen, the foreign secretary of Robert Peel, Guizot found a friend and an ally perfectly congenial to himself. Their acquaintance in London had been slight, but it soon ripened into mutual regard and confidence. They were both men of high principles and honor; the Scotch Presbyterianism which had moulded the faith of Lord Aberdeen was reflected in the Huguenot minister of France; both were men of extreme simplicity of taste, joined to the refinement of scholarship and culture; both had an intense aversion to war and felt themselves ill-qualified to carry on those adventurous operations which inflamed the imagination of their respective opponents. In the eyes of Lord Palmerston and Thiers their policy was mean and pitiful; but it was a policy which secured peace to the world, and united the two great and free nations of the West in what was termed the entente cordiale. Neither of them would have stooped to snatch an advantage at the expense of the other; they held the common interest of peace and friendship to be paramount; and when differences arose, as they did arise, in remote parts of the world -- in Tahiti, in Morocco, on the Gold Coast -- they were reduced by this principle to their proper insignificance. The opposition in France denounced Guizot's foreign policy as basely subservient to England. He replied in terms of unmeasured contempt: "You may raise the pile of calumny as high as you will; vous n'arriverez jamais à la hauteur de mon dédain!" The opposition in England attacked Lord Aberdeen with the same reproaches, but in vain. King Louis-Philippe visited Windsor. The queen of England (in 1843) stayed at the Château d'Eu. In 1845 British and French troops fought side by side for the first time in an expedition to the River Plate.
The fall of Sir Robert Peel's government in 1846 changed these intimate relations; and the return of Lord Palmerston to the foreign office led Guizot to believe that he was again exposed to the passionate rivalry of the British cabinet. A friendly understanding had been established at Eu between the two courts with reference to the future marriage of the young queen of Spain. The language of Lord Palmerston and the conduct of Sir Henry Bulwer (afterwards Lord Dalling) at Madrid led Guizot to believe that this understanding was broken, and that it was intended to place a Coburg on the throne of Spain. Determined to resist any such intrigue, Guizot and the king plunged headlong into a counter-intrigue, wholly inconsistent with their previous engagements to England, and fatal to the happiness of the queen of Spain. By their influence she was urged into a marriage with a despicable offset of the house of Bourbon, and her sister was at the same time married to the youngest son of the French king, in direct violation of Louis-Philippe's promises. This transaction, although it was hailed at the time as a triumph of the policy of France, was in truth as fatal to the monarch as it was discreditable to the minister. It was accomplished by a mixture of secrecy and violence. It was defended by subterfuges. By the dispassionate judgment of history it has been universally condemned. Its immediate effect was to destroy the Anglo-French alliance, and to throw Guizot into closer relations with the reactionary policy of Metternich and the Northern courts.
The history of Guizot's administration, the longest and the last which existed under the constitutional monarchy of France, bears the stamp of the great qualities and the great defects of his political character, for he was throughout the master-spirit of that government. his first object was to unite and discipline the conservative party, which had been broken up by previous dissensions and ministerial changes. In this he entirely succeeded by his courage and eloquence as a parliamentary leader, and by the use of all those means of influence which France too liberally supplies to a dominant minister. No one ever doubted the purity and disinterestedness of Guizot's own conduct. He despised money; he lived and died poor; and though he encouraged the fever of money-getting in the French nation, his own habits retained their primitive simplicity. But he did not disdain to use in others the baser passions from which he was himself free. Some of his instruments were mean; he employed them to deal with meanness after its kind. Gross abuses and breaches of trust came to light even in the ranks of the government, and under an incorruptible minister the administration was denounced as corrupt. Licet uti alieno vitio is a proposition as false in politics as it is in divinity.
Of his parliamentary eloquence it is impossible to speak too highly. It was terse, austere, demonstrative and commanding -- not persuasive, not humorous, seldom adorned, but condensed with the force of a supreme authority in the fewest words. He was essentially a ministerial speaker, far more powerful in defense than in opposition. Like Pitt he was the type of authority and resistance, unmoved by the brilliant charges, the wit, the gaiety, the irony and the discursive power of his great rival. Nor was he less a master of parliamentary tactics and of those sudden changes and movements in debate which, as in a battle, sometimes change the fortune of the day. His confidence in himself, and in the majority of the chamber which he had moulded to his will, was unbounded; and long success and the habit of authority led him to forget that in a country like France there was a people outside the chamber elected by a small constituency, to which the minister and the king himself were held responsible.
A government based on the principle of resistance and repression and marked by dread and distrust of popular power, a system of diplomacy which sought to revive the traditions of the old French monarchy, a sovereign who largely exceeded the bounds of constitutional power and whose obstinacy augmented with years, a minister who, though far removed from the servility of the courtier, was too obsequious to the personal influence of the king, were all singularly at variance with the promises of the Revolution of July, and they narrowed the policy of the administration. Guizot's view of politics was essentially historical and philosophical. His tastes and his acquirements gave him little insight into the practical business of administrative government. Of finance he knew nothing; trade and commerce were strange to him; military and naval affairs were unfamiliar to him; all these subjects he dealt with by second hand through his friends, P. S. Dumon (1797-1870), Charles Marie Tanneguy, Comte Duchâtel (1803-1867), or Marshal Bugeaud. The consequence was that few measures of practical improvement were carried by his administration. Still less did the government lend an ear to the cry for parliamentary reform. On this subject the king's prejudices were insurmountable, and his ministers had the weakness to give way to them. It was impossible to defend a system which confined the suffrage to 200,000 citizens, and returned a chamber of whom half were placemen. Nothing would have been easier than to strengthen the conservative party by attaching the suffrage to the possession of land in France, but blank resistance was the sole answer of the government to the just and moderate demands of the opposition. Warning after warning was addressed to them in vain by friends and by foes alike; and they remained profoundly unconscious of their danger until the moment when it overwhelmed them. Strange to say, Guizot never acknowledged either at the time or to his dying day the nature of this error; and he speaks of himself in his memoirs as the much-enduring champion of liberal government and constitutional law. He utterly fails to perceive that a more enlarged view of the liberal destinies of France and a less intense confidence in his own specific theory might have preserved the constitutional monarchy and averted a vast series of calamities, which were in the end fatal to every principle he most cherished. But with the stubborn conviction of absolute truth he dauntlessly adhered to his own doctrines to the end.
The last scene of his political life was singularly characteristic of his inflexible adherence to a lost cause. In the afternoon of the 23rd of February 1848 the king summoned his minister from the chamber, which was then sitting, and informed him that the aspect of Paris and the country during the banquet agitation for reform, and the alarm and division of opinion in the royal family, led him to doubt whether he could retain his ministry. That doubt, replied Guizot, is decisive of the question, and instantly resigned, returning to the chamber only to announce that the administration was at an end and that Molé had been sent for by the king. Molé failed in the attempt to form a government, and between midnight and one in the morning Guizot, who had according to his custom retired early to rest, was again sent for to the Tuileries. The king asked his advice. "We are no longer the ministers of your Majesty", replied Guizot; "it rests with others to decide on the course to be pursued. But one thing appears to be evident: this street riot must be put down; these barricades must be taken; and for this purpose my opinion is that Marshal Bugeaud should be invested with full power, and ordered to take the necessary military measures, and as your Majesty has at this moment no minister, I am ready to draw up and countersign such an order." The marshal, who was present, undertook the task, saying, "I have never been beaten yet, and I shall not begin tomorrow. The barricades shall be carried before dawn." After this display of energy the king hesitated, and soon added: "I ought to tell you that Thiers and his friends are in the next room forming a government!" Upon this Guizot rejoined, "Then it rests with them to do what they think fit", and left the palace. Thiers and Barrot decided to withdraw the troops. The king and Guizot next met at Claremont. This was the most perilous conjuncture of Guizot's life, but fortunately he found a safe refuge in Paris for some days in the lodging of a humble miniature painter whom he had befriended, and shortly afterwards effected his escape across the Belgian frontier and then to London, where he arrived on the 3rd of March. His mother and daughters had preceded him, and he was speedily installed in a modest habitation in Pelham Crescent, Brompton.
The society of England, though many persons disapproved of much of his recent policy, received the fallen statesman with as much distinction and respect as they had shown eight years before to the king's ambassador. Sums of money were placed at his disposal, which he declined. A professorship at Oxford was spoken of, which he was unable to accept. He stayed in England about a year, devoting himself again to history. He published two more volumes on the English revolution, and in 1854 his Histoire de la république d'Angleterre et de Cromwell (2 vols., 1854), then his Histoire du protectorat de Cromwell et du rétablissement des Stuarts (2 vols., 1856). He also published an essay on Peel, and amid many essays on religion, during the ten years 1858-68, appeared the extensive Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire de mon temps, in nine volumes. His speeches were included in 1863 in his Histoire parlementaire de la France (5 vols. of parliamentary speeches, 1863).
Guizot survived the fall of the monarchy and the government he had served twenty-six years. He passed abruptly from the condition of one of the most powerful and active statesmen in Europe to the condition of a philosophical and patriotic spectator of human affairs. He was aware that the link between himself and public life was broken forever; and he never made the slightest attempt to renew it. He was of no party, a member of no political body; no murmur of disappointed ambition, no language of asperity, ever passed his lips; it seemed as if the fever of oratorical debate and ministerial power had passed from him and left him a greater man than he had been before, in the pursuit of letters, in the conversation of his friends, and as head of the patriarchal circle of those he loved. The greater part of the year he spent at his residence at Val Richer, an Augustine monastery near Lisieux in Normandy, which had been sold at the time of the first Revolution. His two daughters, who married two descendants of the illustrious Dutch family of De Witt, so congenial in faith and manners to the Huguenots of France, kept his house. One of his sons-in-law farmed the estate. And here Guizot devoted his later years with undiminished energy to literary labor, which was in fact his chief means of subsistence. Proud, independent, simple and contented he remained to the last; and these years of retirement were perhaps the happiest and most serene portion of his life.
Two institutions may be said even under the second empire to have retained their freedom -- the Institute of France and the Protestant Consistory. In both of these Guizot continued to the last to take an active part. He was a member of three of the five academies into which the Institute of France is divided. The Academy of Moral and Political Science owed its restoration to him, and he became in 1832 one of its first associates. The Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres elected him in 1833 as the successor to Dacier; and in 1836 he was chosen a member of the French Academy, the highest literary distinction of the country. In these learned bodies Guizot continued for nearly forty years to take a lively interest and to exercise a powerful influence. He was the jealous champion of their independence. His voice had the greatest weight in the choice of new candidates; the younger generation of French writers never looked in vain to him for encouragement; and his constant aim was to maintain the dignity and purity of the profession of letters.
In the consistory of the Protestant church in Paris Guizot exercised a similar influence. His early education and his experience of life conspired to strengthen the convictions of a religious temperament. He remained through life a firm believer in the truths of revelation, and a volume of Meditations on the Christian Religion was one of his latest works. But though he adhered inflexibly to the church of his fathers and combated the rationalist tendencies of the age, which seemed to threaten it with destruction, he retained not a tinge of the intolerance or asperity of the Calvinistic creed. He respected in the Church of Rome the faith of the majority of his countrymen; and the writings of the great Catholic prelates, Jacques Bossuet and Bourdaloue, were as familiar and as dear to him as those of his own persuasion, and were commonly used by him in the daily exercises of family worship.
In these literary pursuits and in the retirement of Val Richer years passed smoothly and rapidly away; and as his grandchildren grew up around him, he began to direct their attention to the history of their country. From these lessons sprang his last and not his least work, the Histoire de France racontée à mes petits enfants, for although this publication assumed a popular form, it is not less complete and profound than it is simple and attractive. The history came down to 1789, and was continued to 1870 by his daughter Madame Guizot de Witt from her father's notes.
Down to the summer of 1874 Guizot's mental vigor and activity were unimpaired. His frame, temperate in all things, was blessed with a singular immunity from infirmity and disease; but the vital power ebbed away, and he passed gently away on the 12th of September 1874, reciting now and then a verse of Pierre Corneille or a text of Scripture. For his writings, see his own Mémoires pour servir à lhistoire de mon temps (8 vols., 1858-61); Lettres de M. Guizot à sa famille et à ses amis (1884).
Father: (d. 1794 execution)
Mother: (d. in London)
Wife: Pauline Meulan (m. 1812, d. 1827, one son)
Son: (b. 1819, d. 1837 tuberculosis)
Wife: Elisa Dillon (m. 1828, d. 1833, one son)
Son: Maurice Guillaume (b. 1833, d. 1892)
Professor: Modern History, Sorbonne (1812-)
Prime Minister of France 19-Sep-1847 to 23-Feb-1848
French Academy 1836
Do you know something we don't?
Submit a correction or make a comment about this profile
Copyright ©2014 Soylent Communications