There was at Aix an academy which awarded prizes to the best writers upon given subjects. Thiers wrote for the prize, but was foolish enough to reserve a copy of his treatise and read it to his companions, who loudly proclaimed that he must win. The persons who were to award the prizes were royalists, and hated Thiers for his liberalism, and when they heard the vauntings of Thiers’ friends, they were prepared to decide against him, which they did when the day of examination came. The prize was reserved, and another trial was instituted. Thiers put in his old treatise, and this time the judges awarded to it the second prize, and gave the first for a treatise which came to them from Paris. Judge of their chagrin when they found that this treatise was written by Thiers! The little student had fairly taken them in his net. Great were the rejoicings of the liberals in Aix.
Among the friends of Thiers was Mignet, since a historian, and the young men full of hope came together to Paris, where, poor as they were hopeful, they took lodgings in a miserable street. Mignet determined to follow literature and by it gain a living and fame, but Thiers resolved upon intrigue. He made himself known to the liberal leaders, and with great tact exhibited his abilities. He was instantly offered employment of various kinds, and chose that of editor. He took charge of the Constitutionel, and plunged into the heat and strife of party politics. His witty, hornet-like nature fitted him well for the position. He attained great influence and power, and the great men of the time, even Talleyrand, came to him, while he exclaimed bombastically and blasphemously, “Suffer little children to come unto me.”
He went into society, made the acquaintance of the old men of the revolution, and gathered the materials for the History of the Revolution, which afterward carried him to the height of his popularity. He fought two duels about this time—one with the father of a young lady whom he had seduced. He started a new journal called the National, which should be more fully under his control than the Constitutionel had been, and which should entirely meet his views of what a journal should be. But the new journal seriously offended the government, the officers of which attempted to put it down, for on the morning of the 26th of July, they nearly destroyed the presses of the establishment. The opposition journalists had a meeting to express their opinions upon this outrage upon the rights of the press. During the three troublous days of fighting, Thiers left Paris for the suburbs, and came back in time to make his fortune, for he was soon named secretary-general to the government. He had the principal management of the finances, which at that time were in a state of great disorder. Thiers delivered a public speech upon the law of mortgages, and Royer-Collard approached him with open arms, exclaiming, “Your fortune is made!”