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because they came too late. It is difficult to poses without the necessity of blows being say what they call soon enough, when it is actually inflicted; but if mere threats are in. recollected that these concessions were made sufficient, they never fail to derive a secret before the deputies had even verified their powers; be- satisfaction from the recurrence of examples fore a single decree of the Assembly had passed, calculated to show what risks the enemy runs. at the very opening of their sittings; and when The burning of castles, the sacking of towns, all their proceedings up to that hour had been may indeed alienate the wise and the good; an illegal attempt to centre in themselves all but alas! the wise and the good form but a the powers of government. But, in truth, what small proportion of mankind; and for one rendered that solitary act of vigour so disas- whose eyes are opened by the commencement trous was, that it was totally unsupported; that of such deeds of horror, ten will be so much no measures were simultaneously taken to overawed, as to lose all power of actirg in make the royal authority respected; that the obedience to the newly awakened and better throne was worsted from its own want of fore- feelings of his mind. sight in the very first contest with the Com- “Intimidation," as Lord Brougham has well mons, and above all, that the army betrayed their observed, “is the never-failing resource of the sovereign and rendered resistance impossible, partisans of revolution in all ages. Mere popuby joining the rebels to his government. larity is at first the instrument by which this unsteady
The National Assembly, like every other legislature is governed ; but when it becomes apbody which commits itself to the gale of popu- parent that whoever can obtain the direction or lar applause, experienced the utmost disquie-command of it must possess the whole authortude at the thoughts of punishing any of the ity of the state, parties become less scrupulous excesses of their popular supporters. How about the means they employ for that purpose, and exactly is the following description applicable soon find out that violence and terror are infinitely to all times and nations !
more ef'ectual and expeditious than persuasion and “ The disorders which were prolonged in the eloquence
. Encouraged by this state of affairs, provinces, the massacres which stained the the most daring, unprincipled, and profligate, streets of Paris, induced many estimable per proceed to seize upon the defenceless legislasons to propose an address of the Assembly, ture, and, driving all their antagonists before condemnatory of such proceedings to the peo- them by violence or intimidation, enter without ple. The Assembly, however, was so appre- opposition upon the supreme functions of go hensive of offending the multitude, that they vernment. The arms, however, by which they regarded as a snare every motion tending to re- had been victorious, are speedily turned against press the disorders, or censure the popular excesses. themselves, and those who are envious of their Secret distrust and disquietude was at the success, or ambitious of their distinction, easily bottom of every heart. They had triumphed find means to excite discontents among the by means of the people, and they could not multitude, and to employ them in pulling down venture to show themselves severe towards the very individuals whom they had so recently them; on the contrary, though they frequently elevated. This disposal of the legislature then declared, in the preambles of their decrees, becomes a prize to be fought for in the clubs that they were profoundly afflicted at the burn- and societies of a corrupted metropolis, and the ing of the chateaux and the insults to the no- institution of a national representation has no bility, they rejoiced in heart at the propagation of other effect than that of laying the government a terror which they regarded as indispensable to their open to lawless force and flagitious audacity. designs. They had reduced themselves to the It was in this manner that, from the want of a necessity of fearing the noblesse, or being natural and efficient aristocracy to exercise the feared by them. They condemned publicly, functions of heredilary legislators
, the National they protected secretly; they conferred com- Assembly of France was betrayed into extrapliments on the constituted authorities, and vagance, and fell a prey to faction; that the zave encouragement to license. Respect for Institution itself became a source of public the executive power was nothing but words of misery and disorder, and converted a civilized style; and in truth, when the ministers of the monarchy first into a sanguinary democracy, crown revealed the secret of their weakness, and then into a military despotism."* How the Assembly, which remembered well its own exactly is the progress, here so well described, terrors, was not displeased that fear had applicable to these times! “Take this bill or changed sides. If you are sufficiently power- anarchy," says Mr. Macauley.--"Lord Grey,” ful to cause yourselves to be respected by the says the Times, "has brought the country into people, you will be sufficiently so to inspire us such a state, that he must either carry the with dread; that was the ruling feeling of the Reform Bill or incur the responsibility of a Cote Gauche."-P. 134.
revolution.”+ How exactly is the career of This is precisely a picture of what always democratic insanity and revolutionary ambimust be the feeling in regard to tumult and tion the same in all ages and countries! disorders of all who have committed their Dumont, as already mentioned, was a leadpolitical existence to the waves of popular ing member of the committee which prepared support. However much, taken individually, the famous declaration on the Rights of Man. they may disapprove of acts of violence, yet He gives the following interesting account of when they feel that intimidation of their oppo- the revolt of a candid and sagacious mind at bents is their sheet-anchor, they cannot have the absurdities which a regard to the popular an insurmountable aversion to the deeds by opinion constrained them to adopt :which it is to be effected. They would prefer,
* Edinburgh Review, vi. 148. indeed, th it terror should answer their pur
+ Times, March 27, 1832.
Duroverai, Claviere, and myself, were ing up their perilous and highly inflammatory named by Mirabeau to draw up that celebrated declaration, they were aware of its absurdity, declaration. During the course of that mourn- and wished to suppress the work of their own ful compilation, reflections entered my mind hands. They could not do so, however, and which had never before found a place there. were constrained, by the dread of losing their I soon perceived the ridiculous nature of the popularity, to throw into the bosom of an ex, undertaking. A declaration of rights, I im- cited people a firebrand, which they themselves mediately saw, may be made after the procla-foresaw would speedily lead to a conflagration. mation of a constitution, but not before it; for Such is the desperate, the hopeless state of it is laws which give birth to rights—they do slavery, in which, during periods of excitenot follow them. Such general maxims are ment, the representatives of the mob are held highly dangerous; you should never bind a by their constituents.
The whole purposes legislature by general propositions, which it of a representative form of government are at afterwards becomes necessary to restrain or once destroyed; the wisdom, experience, study, modify. "Men,' says the declaration, are born and reflection of the superior class of statesfree and equal;' that is not true; they are so men are trodden under foot; and the enlight far from being born free, that they are born in ened have no chance of keeping possession of a state of unavoidable weakness and depend the reins of power, or even influencing the ence: Equal—where are they? where can they legislature, but by bending to the passions of be? It is in vain to talk of equality, when the ignorant. such extreme difference exists, and ever must This consideration affords a decisive arguexist, between the talents, fortune, virtues, in- ment in favour of the close, aye, the nomination dustry, and condition of men. In a word, I boroughs. Their existence, and their existwas so strongly impressed with the absurdity ence in considerable numbers, is indispensable of the declaration of the Rights of Man, that for towards the voice of truth being heard in the once I carried along with me the opinions of national councils in periods of excitement, and our little committee; and Mirabeau himself, the resistance to those measures of innovation, when presenting the report to the Assembly, which threaten to destroy the liberties, and ventured to suggest difficulties, and to propose terminate the prosperity, of the people. From that the declaration of rights should be delayed the popular representatives during such petill the constitution was completed. 'I tell riods it is in vain to expect the language of you,' said he, in his forcible style, “that any truth; for it would be as unpalatable to the declaration of rights you may make before the sovereign multitude as to a sovereign despot. constitution is framed, will never be but a one Members of the legislature, therefore, are inyear's almanac. Mirabeau, always satisfied dispensably necessary in considerable numwith a happy expression, never gave himself bers, who, by having no popular constituents, can the trouble to get to the bottom of any subject, venture to speak out the truth in periods of and never would go through the toil to put agitation, innovation, and alarm. The Rehimself in possession of facts sufficient to de- formers ask, what is the use of a representafend what he advanced. On this occasion he tive of a green mound, or a ruined tower, in a suffered under this: this sudden change be- popular parliament? We answer, that he is came the subject of bitter reproach. "Who is more indispensable in such a parliament than his,' said the Jacobins, “who seeks to employ in any other. Nay, that without such a class his ascendant over the Assembly, to make us the liberties of the nation cannot exist for any say yes and no alternately? Shall we be for long period. Representatives constantly actever the puppets of his contradictions ?' There ing under the influence or dread of popular was so much reason in what he had newly constituents, never will venture, either in their advanced, that he would have triumphed if he speeches to give vent to the language of truth, had been able to bring it out; but he aban- nor in their conduct to support the cause of doned the attempt at the very time when seve- real freedom, if it interferes with the real or ral deputies were beginning to unite themselves supposed interests of their constituents. They to him. The deplorable nonsense went tri- will always be as much under the influence of umphantly on, and generated that unhappy their tyrannical task-masters, as Mirabeau and declaration of the Rights of Man which subse Dumont were in drawing up, against their quently produced such incredible mischief. I better judgment, the Rights of Man. It is as am in possession at this moment of a complete absurd to expect rational or independent mearefutation of it, article by article, by the hand sures from such a class, in opposition to the of a great master, and it proves to demonstra- wishes or injunctions of those who returned tion the contradictions, the absurdities, the them to parliament, as it is to look for freedom dangers of that seditious composition, which of conduct from the senate of Tiberius or the of itself was sufficient to overturn the consti- council of Napoleon. We do not expect the tution of which it formed a part; like a pow- truth to be spoken by the representative of a der magazine placed below an edifice, which mound, in a question with its owner, or his the first spark will blow into the air.”—Pp. class in society, nor by the representatives of 141, 142.
the people, in a question which interests or These are the words of sober and expe- excites the public ambition. But we expect rienced wisdom; and coming, as they do, from that truth will be spoken by the representaone of the authors of this celebrated declara- tives of the people, as against the interests of tion, are of the very highest importance. They the owner of the mound; and by the repreprove, that at the very time when Mirabeau and sentatives of the mound, as against the pas. he popular party in the Assembly were draw. I sions of the people; and that thus, between the two, the language of reason will be raised on rights of its own anterior to their being blended every subject, and that fatal bias the public together. mind prevented, which arises from one set of “On the following day, every one began to doctrines and principles being alone presented reflect on what had been done, and sinister to their consideration. In the superior fear- presentiments arose on all sides. Mirabeau lessness and vigour of the language of the and Sieyes, in particular, who had not been Conservative party in the House of Lords, to present at that famous sitting, condemned in what is exhibited in the House of Commons, loud terms its enthusiastic follies. This is a on the Reform question, is to be found decisive true picture of France, said they; we spend a evidence of the truth of these principles, and month in disputing about words, and we make their application to this country and this age. sacrifices in a night which overturn every
or the fatal 4th August, “ the St. Barthelemy thing that is venerable in the monarchy. In of properties," as it was well styled by Rivarol, the subsequent meetings, they tried to retract and its ruinous consequences upon the public or modify some of these enormous conceswelfare, we have the following striking and sions, but it was too late; it was impossible to graphic account:
withdraw what the people already looked upon “Never was such an undertaking accom- as their rights. The Abbé Sieyes, in particuplished in so short a time. That which would lar, made a discourse full of reason and justice have required a year of care, meditation, and against the extinction of tithes, which he looked debate, was proposed, deliberated on, and voted upon with the utmost aversion. He demonby acclamation. I know not how many laws strated, that to extinguish the tithes, was to were decreed in that one sitting; the abolition spoliate the clergy of its property, solely to of feudal rights, of the tithes, of provincial pri- enrich the proprietors of the lands; for every vileges; three articles, which of themselves one having bought or inherited his estate embraced a complete system of jurisprudence minus the value of the tithe, found himself and politics, with ten or twelve others, were suddenly enriched by a tenth, which was given decided in less time than would be required in to him as a pure and uncalled for gratuity. It England for the first reading of a bill of ordi- was this speech, which never can be refuted, which nary importance. They began with a report terminated with the well-known expression on the disorders of the provinces, chateaux They would be free, and they know not how burnt, troops of banditti who attacked the to be just.' The prejudice was so strong, nobles and ravaged the fields. The Duke that Sieyes himself was not listened to; he d’Aguillon, the Duke de Noailles, and several was regarded merely as an ecclesiastic, who others of the democratic part of the nobility, could not get the better of his personal interest, after the most disastrous pictures of these and paid that tribute of error to his robe. A calamities, exclaimed that nothing but a great little more would have made him be hooted and act of generosity could calm the people, and hissed. I saw him the next day, full of bitter that it was high time to abandon their odious indignation against the injustice and brutality privileges, and let the people taste the full of the Assembly, which in truth he never afterbenefits of the Revolution. An indescribable wards forgave. He gave vent to his indignaeffervescence seized upon the Assembly. tion, in a conversation with Mirabeau, who Every one proposed sacrifice: every one laid replied, “ My dear Abbé, you have unchained the some offering on the altar of their country, bull; do you expect he is not to gore with his horns ?' proposing either to denude themselves or de- “ These decrees of Aug. 4 were so far from nude others; no time was allowed for reflec- putting a period to the robbery and violence tion, objection, or argument; a sentimental which desolated the country, that they only contagion seized every heart. That renuncia- tended to make the people acquainted with tion of privileges, that abandonment of so their own strength, and impress them with the many rights burdensome to the people, these conviction that all their outrages against the multiplied sacrifices, had an air of magnanim- nobility would not only not be punished, but ity which withdrew the attention from the fatal actually rewarded. Again I say, every thing precipitance with which they were made. I which is done from fear fails in accomplishsaw on that night many good and worthy ing its object; those whom you expect to disarm by deputies who literally wept for joy at seeing concessions, only redouble in confidence and audathe work of regeneration advance so rapidly, city.”—Pp. 146–149. and at feeling themselves every instant carried Such is the conclusion of this enlightened on the wings of enthusiasm so far beyond their French Reformer, as to the consequences of most ardent hopes. The renunciation of the the innovations and concessions, in promoting privileges of provinces was made by their re- which he took so large a share, and which spective representatives; those of Brittany had it was then confidently expected, would not engaged to defend them, and therefore they only pacify the people bút regenerate the monwere more embarrassed than the rest; but archy, and commence a new era in the history carried away by the general enthusiasm, they of the world. These opinions coming from advanced in a body, and declared in a body, the author of the Rights of Man, the preceptor that they would use their utmost efforts with of Mirabeau, the fellow-labourer of Bentham, their constituents to obtain the renunciation should, if any thing can, open the eyes of our of their privileges. That great and superb young enthusiasts, who are so vehement in operation was necessary to confer political urging the necessity of concession, avowedly unity upon a monarchy which had been suc- from the effects of intimidation, who expect to cessively formed by the union of many inde-“let loose the bull and escape his horns" pendent states, every one of which had certain It is on this question of the effects to be ex
pected from concession to public clamour, that gigantic; his taste was natural, and had been the whole question of Reform hinges. The cultivated by the study of the classical authors. supporters of the bill in both Houses have He knew little; but no one could make a betabandoned every other argument. “Pass this ter use of what he had acquired. During the bill, or anarchy will ensue,” is their sole princi- whirlwind of his stormy life he had little leiple of action. But what says Dumont, taught by sure for study; but in his prison of Vincennes the errors of the Constituent Assembly? “Pass he had read extensively, and improved his style this bill, and anarchy will ensue. “ Whatever by translations, as well as extensive collections is done,” says he, “from fear, fails in its object; from the writings of great orators. He had those whom you expect to disarm by conces- little confidence in the extent of his erudition; sion, redouble in confidence and audacity.” but his eloquent and impassioned soul animatThis is the true principle; the principle con- ed every feature of his countenance when he firmed by universal experience, and yet the was moved, and nothing was easier than to Reformers shut their eyes to its application. inflame his imagination. From his youth upThe events which have occurred in this age wards he had accustomed himself to the disare so decisive on this subject, that nothing cussion of the great questions of erudition and more convincing could be imagined, if a voice government, but he was not calculated to go to from the dead were to proclaim its truth. the bottom of them. The labour of investiga
Concession, as Dumont tells us, and as every tion was not adapted to his powers; he had too one acquainted with history knows, was tried much warmth and vehemence of disposition by the French government and Assembly, in for laborious application; his mind proceeded the hope of calming the people, and arresting by leaps and bounds, but sometimes they were the Revolution. The monarch, at the opening prodigious. His style abounded in vigorous of the States-General, made a greater conces- expressions, of which he had made a particusions than ever king made to his people;" the lar study. nobles abandoned, on their own motion, in one “ If we consider him as an author, we must night, all their rights; and what was the con- recollect that all his writings, without one sequence? The revolutionary feryour was single exception, were pieces of Mosaic, in urged into a fury; the torrent became a cata- which his fellow-labourers had at least as large ract, and horrors unparalleled in the history of a share as himself, but he had the faculty of the world ensued.
giving additional eclat to their labours, by Resistance to popular ambition, a firm op- throwing in here and there original expresposition to the cry for reform, was at the same sions, or apostrophes, full of fire and eloperiod, under a lion-hearted king and an in- quence. It is a peculiar talent, to be able in trepid minister, adopted in the midst of the this manner to disinter obscure ability, intrust greatest dangers by the British government. to each the department for which he is fitted, What was the consequence? Universal tran- and induce them all to labour at the work of quillity-forty years of unexampled prosperity which he alone is to reap the glory. the triumph of Trafalgar--the conquest of “As a political orator, he was in some reWaterloo.
spects gifted with the very highest talents a Conciliation and concession, in obedience, quick eye, a sure tact, the art of discovering at and with the professed design of healing the once the true disposition of the assembly he disturbances of that unhappy land, were next was addressing, and applying all the force of tried in Ireland. Universal tranquillity, con- his mind to overcome the point of resistance, tentment, and happiness, were promised from without weakening it by the discussion of the great healing measure of emancipation. minor topics. No one knew better how to What has been the consequence? Disturb- strike with a single word, or hit his mark with ances, massacres, discord, practised sedition, perfect precision; and frequently he thus threatened rebellion, which have made the old carried with him the general opinion, either times of Protestant rule be regretted.
by a happy insinuation, or a stroke which inConciliation and concession were again puttimidated his adversaries. In the tribune he in practice by the Whig Administration of was immovable. The waves of faction rolled England. What was the result? Perils great around without shaking him, and he was er than assailed the monarchy from all the master of his passions in the midst of the utmight of Napoleon; dissension, conflagration, most vehemence of opposition. But what he and popular violence, unexampled since the wanted as a political orator, was the art of disgreat rebellion; a falling income and an in- cussion on the topics on which he enlarged. creasing expenditure; the flames of a servile He could not embrace a long series of proofs war in Jamaica; and general distress unequal- and reasonings, and was unable to refute in a led since the accession of the House of Bruns- logical or convincing manner. He was, in wick.
consequence, often obliged to abandon the The character of Mirabeau, both as a writer most important motions, when hard pressed and orator, and an individual, is sketched with by his adversaries, from pure inability to reno ordinary power by this author, probably fute their arguments. He embraced too much, better qualified than any man in existence to and reflected too little. He plunged into a disportray it with accuracy :
course made for him on a subject on which he “Mirabeau had within his breast a sense of had never reflected, and on which he had been the force of his mind, which sustained his at no pains to master the facts; and he was, courage in situations which would have crush- in consequence, greatly inferior in that particued a person of ordinary character: his imagi- lar to the athleta who exhibit their powers in Datia loved the vast; his mind seized the the British parliament.”—P. 277.
What led to the French Revolution? This revolution. All the miseries of that country question will be asked and discussed, with all sprung from the very principle which is in the anxiety it deserves, to the end of the world. cessantly urged as the ruling consideration in Let us hear Dumont on the subject.
favour of the Reform Bill. “No event ever interested Europe so much No body of men eyer inflicted such disasters as the meeting of the States-General. There on France, as the Constituent Assembiy, by was no enlightened man who did not found the their headlong innovations and sweeping de greatest hopes upon that public struggle of molitions. Not the sword of Marlborough nor prejudices with the lights of the age, and who the victories of Wellington-not the rout of did not believe that a new moral and political Agincourt nor the carnage of Waterloo-not world was about to issue from the chaos. The the arms of Alexander nor the ambition of Nabesoin of hope was so strong, that all faults poleon, have proved so fatal to its prosperity. were pardoned, all misfortunes were represent. From the wounds they inflicted, the social sysed only as accident; in spite of all the calami- tem may revive-from those of their own inties which it induced, the balance leaned always novators, recovery is impossible. They not towards the Constituent Assembly. It was the only destroyed freedom in its cradle--they not struggle of humanity with despotism.
only induced the most cruel and revolting “ The States-General, six weeks after their tyranny; but they totally destroyed the mateconvocation, was no longer the States-General, rials from which it was to be reconstructed in but the National Assembly. Its first calamity future,--they bequeathed slavery to their chilwas to have owed its new title to a revolution; dren, and they prevented it from ever being that is to say, to a vital change in its power, shaken off by their descendants. It matters not its essence, its name, and its means of authority. under what name arbitrary power is adminis. According to the constitution, the commons tered: it can be dealt out as rudely by a reform should have acted in conjunction with the ing assembly, a dictatorial mob, a committee nobles, the clergy, and the king. But the com- of Public Safety, a tyrannical Directory, a milimons, in the very outset, subjugated the nobles, tary despot, or a citizen King, as by an absothe clergy, and the king. It was in that, that the lute monarch or a haughty nobility. By destroyRevolution consisted.
ing the whole ancient institutions of France Reasoning without end has taken place on by annihilating the nobles and middling ranks, the causes of the Revolution; there is but one, who stood between the people and the throne in my opinion, to which the whole is to be as- -by subverting all the laws and customs of cribed; and that is, the character of the king. antiquity-by extirpating religion, and inducPut a king of character and firmness in the place ing general profligacy, they have inflicted of Louis XVI., and no revolution would have en- wounds upon their country which can never sued. His whole reign was a preparation for be healed. Called upon to revive the social it. There was not a single epoch, during the system, they destroyed it: instead of pouring whole Constituent Assembly, in which the into the decayed limbs the warm blood of youth, king, if he could only have changed his cha- they severed the head from the body, and all racter, might not have re-established his au- subsequent efforts have been unavailing to rethority, and created a mixed constitution far store animation. It is now as impossible to more solid and stable than its ancient mon- give genuine freedom, that is complete protecarchy. His indecision, his weakness, his half tion to all classes, to France, as it is to restore counsels, his want of foresight, ruined every the vital spark to a lifeless body by the convulthing. The inferior causes which have con- sions of electricity. The balance of interests, curred were nothing but the necessary conse- the protecting classes, are destroyed: nothing quences of that one moving cause. When the remains but the populace and the government: king is known to be weak, the courtiers be- Asiatic has succeeded to European civilizacome intriguers, the factious insolent, the tion: and, instead of the long life of modern people audacious; good men are intimidated, freedom, the brief tempests of anarchy, and the the most faithful services go unrewarded, able long night of despotism, are its fate. men are disgusted, and ruinous councils adopt- The Constituent Assembly, however, had ed. A king possessed of dignity and firmness the excuse of general delusion: they were enwould have drawn to his side those who were tering on an untrodden field: the consequence against him; the Lafayettes, the Lameths, the of their actions were unknown: enthusiasm Mirabeaus, the Sieyes, would never have as irresistible as that of the theatre urged on dreamed of playing the part which they did ; their steps. Great reforms required to be made and, when directed to other objects, they would in the political system; they mistook the exno longer have appeared the same men. cesses of democratic ambition for the dictates Pp. 343, 344.
of ameliorating wisdom : the corruption of a These observations are of the very highest guilty court, and the vices of a degraded noimportance. The elements of discord, rebel- bility, called loudly for amendment. But what lion, and anarchy, rise into portentous energy shall we say to those who adventured on the when weakness is at the head of affairs. A same perilous course, with their fatal example reforming, in other words a democratic, ad- before their eyes, in a country requiring no ministration, raise them into a perfect tempest. accession to popular power, tyrannized over by The progress of time, and the immense defects no haughty nobility, consumed by no internal of the ancient monarchical system, rendered vices, weakened by no foreign disasters ? change necessary in France; but it was the What shall we say to those who voluntarily weakness of the king, the concessions of the shut their eyes to all the perils of the head. sobility and clergy, which converted it into a long reformers of the neighbouring kingdom