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and Austria was only waiting to see if she could perchance make better terms. The defection of Prussia had produced one curious result. It forced that peace which Prussia had accepted on the smaller states of Western Germany. Those states hastened to make their peace, to save themselves from annexation: and among the rest, the King of England hastened to make peace as Elector of Hanover. Another ill-judged blow at the Republic had been fruitlessly attempted. The Quiberon expedition had failed, having served no other purpose than to deepen yet more French distrust of England. And a change had taken place which tended to discredit the argument that no peace could be made with the blood-stained Republic. The Convention, with all its follies, all its crimes, and all its glories, was gone. It had not passed away in the throes of revolution. It had quietly expired in a time of comparative domestic tranquillity, bequeathing its power and its prestige, purged of the horror which attached to its name, to a new constitution of its own devising. This new constitution was the Directory.
The new scheme of government differed essentially from the mass of those paper-constitutions which Burke described Sieyes as keeping assorted in the pigeon-holes of his desk. Ostensibly, it was a step in the direction of constitutional government on the English model : practically, it was the first stepping-stone to a military despotism. It was really an anarchy of the worst type. It was a despotism not strong enough to despise opposition, not bold enough to scorn vacillation, not quick and sagacious enough to efface the results of its inherent defects before they had wrought its destruction. It indulged freely in the safe and easy cant of republicanism. The republic was 'one and indivisible': the sovereignty resided in the universality of French citizens. There was universal suffrage, to be exercised in primary assemblies: these elected the secondary or elective assemblies; these elected the legislative body. This legislative body consisted of a Council of Ancients, and a Council of Five Hundred, one third of each going out every year.
So far all was in accordance with the first ideas of the Revolution. But added to, and overriding all this, was a power which discharged those functions which had been once discharged by the Committee of Public Safety, and which in a very short time were
concentrated in the person of a single man. France had need of a strong executive power.
Where was such a power to be found ? Where but in her own best-approved citizens? Of these France had many: and that struggle for power which had hitherto led to so much rancour and bloodshed could easily be avoided by the method of divided authority, based
a system of secret voting. The executive power was therefore vested in a council of Five Directors. They were chosen as follows. The Council of Five Hundred balloted for fifty candidates: and out of these, the Council of Ancients balloted the Directory. One Director was to retire every year, the retiring member during the first year being determined by lot. Each Director in his turn was to be President of the Republic for a term of three months. The Directors had official costumes, guards, military honours, messengers of state, a large annual salary, and a residence in the Palace of the Luxembourg. Given these preliminaries, it was easy to guess what would be the composition of the highest body in the State. If the chicaners and wire-pullers did their best, they could at least return a majority, let public worth and tried statesmanship, if such things existed, meet with what recognition they would. The ballot resulted in the election of five men not only unconnected with, but radically opposed to each other. The first lot for President fell upon Reubell, a country lawyer, or rather land-bailiff, of Alsace, who had been returned to the Convention by that peasantry of whom he had been the hired oppressor. He was a Convention politician of the most reckless and sanguinary type. The same may be said of another of the Directors: Lareveillère-Lepaux, an ugly and deformed creature, the malignity of whose face, according to his opponents, did but reflect the depravity of his soul, had been bred to the law, like Reubell. He and Reubell stood and fell together. The third Director was the famous soldier Carnot. In the Convention, Carnot had been a man of blood: in the Directory he proved himself a statesman and a man of peace. Letourneur, the fourth Director, a nonentity whose only known exploit was that of having made some bad verses, was the first to retire in twelve month's time. The lot was an unlucky one: for Letourneur, under the influence of Carnot, was in favour of peace on reasonable terms. Barras, the fifth Director, was a profligate and extravagant
nobleman, one of whose mistresses, Josephine Beauharnais, had. been married to an ambitious young officer of artillery, for whom he interested himself to procure promotion and active employment. This young man was Napoleon Bonaparte.
Those essential vices of the Directorial constitution, which so soon wrought its disruption, remained for the present unnoticed. Except Carnot, the men who were at its head were little known beyond the circle of Parisian politicians. For Burke, the Directory was a mere Committee of the Regicide Convention, inheriting in all fulness its reckless policy, and its infamous principles. One fact amply justified him in extending to the Directory that hateful epithet ‘Regicide,' which he had bestowed upon the Convention. The new law provided that no man should be a Director who had not given his vote in the Convention for the death of the King. All the Directors were thus in the strictest sense of the word Regicides. While Carnot was planning the restoration of peace, at the imminent risk of his own head, Burke was not altogether without justification when he described him as a sanguinary tyrant, sunk on the down of usurped pomp, not satiated with the blood of his own sovereign, but indulging his ravening maw in the expectation of more. Such a picture may indeed not misrepresent the party who had dominated in the Convention, and succeeded in dominating in the Directory. But it misrepresents Carnot, who resisted while resistance was possible, and at length fell from his elevation, and fled for his life.
The establishment of the Directory was an opportunity not likely to be lost by those in England who wished to put an end to the war. It coincided with the end of the Parliamentary vacation of 1795. We have seen how fast the necessity for peace had meanwhile grown upon the allies. The Ministry now boldly reversed their policy. Their attitude hitherto had drawn no signs of a peaceable disposition from the Convention. The Directory would probably be more reasonable. With the view of preparing the public mind for the change, a pamphlet was prepared by Lord Auckland, a noted and able adherent of the Ministry. Auckland had hitherto been one of the most strenuous supporters of the war. It was he who had penned the pregnant manifesto to the Dutch, dated from the Hague in January, 1793. In the early debates of this very year, he had opposed the weight of his authority to the arguments of Lansdowne and Stanhope in favour of peace. He now bent himself to the facts of the situation. The old dream of re-establishing the Monarchy, the Church, and the emigrant nobility, he pronounced to be at an end. France had undergone a radical and lasting change. Robespierre and the Convention had passed away: the politicians of France were mending their ways, and had formed at last a constitution based on the world-famed English principle of a separation of the legislative and the executive powers. France had sown her wild oats, and was seriously beginning a sober and progressive, national career. He had been of opinion, with Pitt, that peace could not be made with the Convention : with Pitt, he caught at every straw which pointed at the chance of a peace with the Directory. He quieted the alarms of those who dreaded the ambition of the French politicians, and the already portentous growth of France, by a venerable historical paradox. If the French were fools enough to build up too big an empire, it must before long fall to pieces by its own weight. France was fostering smaller republics on every frontier: she was very likely to crumble into separate republics herself. Auckland had an argument or two to soothe the Whig adherents of Burke and Portland. The continuance of the war could not but favour that coming despotism of which Pitt's Gagging Acts were a sign. The longer it went on, the more powerful must the Crown become, and the more unpopular the Whig anti-Jacobins with the people. So far, the Revolution had been a wholesome lesson to headstrong kings. But it had been a wholesome lesson also to the upper classes of all political societies. Let the English landed interest take warning by the example of the landed interest of France. Let England wisely make the best of the past, secure what compensation she could get, save what remained of the independence of Western Europe, and think herself well rid of her selfish and useless allies. - Such were the views set forth in Auckland's pamphlet of the last week of October, 1795.
The attitude of Burke in this changed situation could not be to the Ministry a matter of indifference. He had swayed public opinion towards the war: he had strenuously supported it: and though now broken by sorrow and disease, no longer in Parliament, and living in strict retirement at Beaconsfield, he had given striking proof that the power of his pen had not abated. The failure of the Hastings prosecution had bitterly disappointed him: and after the acquittal, hé ceased for a time to busy himself with public affairs, not even, as he declared to a correspondent, reading a newspaper for months together. A personal attack roused him: and his famous ‘Letter to a Noble Lord,' which had surprised the world by its fiery and bitter eloquence, indicated that he was still a prominent man in the country. Lord Auckland, though never an intimate friend, and never until lately even a political ally, addressed to him a respectful letter, accompanying it with a copy of the October pamphlet. He preserved Burke's reply: and on the publication of Burke's posthumous works many years afterwards he supplied a copy of it for insertion among them. Burke's letter breathed no gust of passion at finding that the Ministry had at length deliberately abandoned that policy which had tempted him from his life-long allegiance. He employed to express what he felt no stronger terms than grief, dismay, and dejection. But he declared that the policy of Fox and Lansdowne, now advisedly embraced by the Ministry, could lead to nothing but ruin, utter and irretrievable. He declared that in that ruin would be involved not only the Ministry, but the Crown, the succession, the importance, the independence, the very existence, of the country. These expressions, however, were private. Burke still hoped that the Ministry had not come to their final decision. He still hoped that the English people would hesitate before casting in their lot with Jacobinism, and thus taking the first step in that downward path which in his belief led to national ruin.
The King's Speech at the opening of Parliament contained a passage which more guardedly foreshadowed Auckland's conclusions. Should the crisis in France, it declared, terminate in any order of things compatible with the tranquillity of other countries, and affording a reasonable expectation of security and permanence in any treaty which might be concluded, the appearance of a disposition to negotiate for a general peace on just and suitable terms would not fail to be met, on the part of the Government, with an earnest desire to give it the fullest and speediest effect. Briefly, if the Directory stood its ground, and wished for peace, Mr. Pitt would make peace with the Directory. Mr. Pitt spoke to the same effect in the Debate on the Address. Five months before, Mr. Pitt had declared his resolution not to acknowledge the then Government. The