Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

in every shade of party, and even in every minor shade, which the peculiar character of the writer sheas on the objects of his contemplation. Every kind of intellect seems to have had its representative at this saturnalia of philosophy, from the poetic eloquence of De Stael to the dull and impious theism of Robespierre—orators and philosophers even in crowds; respectable poets, suitable to the period, were not wanting, and Louvet was a novelist worthy of the times. With Carnot and Talleyrand for its statesmen, and Napoleon for its hero, what could the age have wanted in a literary point of view ?—a Joe Miller, a collector of jeste, a gleaner of bon mots, uttered in prisons, on scaffolds, and under the axe of the guillotine. Such a personage has it found in the author of these Memaires, Mons. Lombard de Langres, ancien Ambasiadeur en Hollande.

Mr Lombard, the son of somebody or nobody at Langres, and hence impudently self-styled De Langres, after having received his early education in the College of Cbaumont, found himself, in the year 1798, a student in Paris, and an inhabitant of that learned quarter of it, called the Pays Latin. He narrowly escaped being included in the massacre of the Cannes and the Abbaye, and to avoid a similar danger, he closely adhered to the revolutionary council of his section. This worthy collection of legislators was led by a furious demagogue of an ironmonger, who, with an eye to business, as well as to the republic, proposed one evening, in full section, that the whole body should proceed to demolish the iron grill and railing of the Val de Grace, and therewith to arm the faithful populace. An itch to distinguish himself urged Lombard to unmask the popular ironmonger, in which he succeeded; for which success he was obliged to decamp, and beat a speedy and secret retreat from the metropolis to the little town of Villeneuvc, on the great south-east road from Paris. Here the Memoirs become interesting, depicting in lively colours, but with very ill-placed waggery, the state of a little town during the reign of terror. The leading characters of the village are all sketched (somewhat better than Irving's illshaven radical,) ending with " Mr

Vautrin, cuisinier retire': il savait lire, et la politique etait son fort."

On the insurrection of the Lyonnese, the good people of Villeneuve wished wellto their cause,andsenttheir congratulations, at the same time that they dispatched an epistle to the jacobins at Paris, disowning any fraternity with them. But Lyons succumbed, and Villeneuve, at the instigatien of Lombard, who had become the politician of the village, sought to retrace its steps. The club was re-opened, the streets fenced, and the red nightcap in all its glory. Mr Truchot was the first commissioner of blood that came among them, and they escaped him. Mr Truchot has since returned to his old profession, a leader of dancing dogs on the boulevard. But what was the peril of the whole town, when a column of republican troops, in passing Villeneuve one summer noon, discovered that the cross still existed on the spire of the church! Lombard, the then president of their club, was near paying the omission with his head. In the midst of all this, Mr Lombard ahinsed himself with writing tragedies i la mode—Hear him!

"In the flourishing times of the terror, I shone forth in all the splendour, with which Melpomene con surround a favourite* At this time they represented at Paris, in short, in all theatres of the republic, a tragedy of my build, in three acts, and blank verse, entitled, Le Fraitfau dans flnde. It consisted of the grand inquisitor of Goa violating a woman, roasting a man, and himself getting roasted in his turn. Since the invention of theatrical rhapsodies, never were there better conditioned ones."

Strange historic pets some people take a fancy to. Warton says of Henry the Eighth, " That had he never murthered his wives, his politeness to the fair sex would remain unimpeached." Dr Clarke takes the part of Richard the Third. Napoleon, in his Memoirs, thinks Robespierre a man of humanity, and no shedder of human blood. Danton is the favourite of Lombard, as he is indeed of Lacretelle. He was the fine, black, boldfaced villain of Venice Preserved, who, though inconceivably blind, and incapable of exerting himself to avoid his impending fate, still never lost his gaiety and presence of mind, even on the scaffold: "As they struck a great number of victims at once, the leather sack which was to contain the heads was ample. While the axe was descending upon some, the others awaited their turn at the foot of the scaffold. Herault de Schelles and Danton were of these last; they were conversing together when the executioner told 1 It-Vault to mount. Herault and Danton approaching each other to embrace, the executioner prevented them. Ya, cruel, said Danton, nos Met te recherckerant dans le sac."

There is a meeting and scene of some interest related in the Memoirs, •which took place between Robespierre and Danton a little before the fall of the latter. At length Thermidor brought the turn of Robespierre himself, and his fall put an end to the reign of terror. What were the sentiments and conduct of French society, emerging from those times of blood and crime P—Hear again Lombard.

"To tlic rage for carnage succeeded, in Paris, the rage for pleasure. The pavement was still red with blood, when games, feasts, spectacles, and balls, became a frenzy. Balls !—you would not believe it, if an hundred thousand individuals were not there to vouch the fact: —There were balls, to which one could not be admitted, unless he had lost some one of his family upon the scaffold, and where one could not dance without having the hair cut like those going to be decapitated ; if one had not, in short, according to the expression of the day, fes cheveux a la viclimeS1'

An anecdote of a very different kind is the next we meet with in the collection; it is of the late Pope, Pius the Seventh. "He was traversing the great gallery of the Louvre. The crowd fell prostrate as he passed, to receive hit benediction. Two puppies, thinking to do something admirable, affected to hold themselves upright and unmoved, and began to smile and titter as the Pontiff approached them.— 'Messieurs/ said Pius to them, ' the benediction of an old man is not to be despised.'" The answer of Pius to the threatening emissary of Buonaparte, who found him at his frugal dinner, is equally dignified. "Monsieur," said he," a sovereign that needs

but a crown a-day to live upon, is not a man to be easily intimidated."

Under the Directory, Lombard found himself judge in the Court of Cassation, from whence he was taken by Talleyrand (for want of a better) to act ambassador, or, in other words, pro-consul, in Holland. The old memoirist dwells with great self-complacency on those times of his grandeur, and remarks, how easy it would have been for him to have covered himself with orders and decorations. "Ajoutez a cela la decoration du lis, qu'on donnait pour rien; celle de 1'e'peron d'or, qu'on a pour trois sous; et du lion d'Holstein, qu'on rend six blancs: voila le HI1, d'un directeur de la poste aux lettres change en constellation." Among the acquaintances of Lombard at this time was Kosciusko, who had come to Paris with a proposal of raising Polish regiments for the Directory. His proposal was accepted, and the regiments were raised. But in the meantime arrived the 18th Brumaire, and the fall of the Directory; the leading power was Napoleon, and the Polish hero waited on him. "Buonaparte was yet lodged at the Luxembourg, when Kosciusko, still in pursuit of his project, waited on him, accompanied by his two aids-de-camp, Kidnadvitz and Dombrouski. Jealous of everything great, the first Consul affected to address the two aids-decamp, and turned his back on Kosciusko,"

The only historical points on which any light is thrown by these volumes, are the death of Pichegru, who, they assert, was strangled, by Buonaparte's order, in prison ;—the assassination was put oft' for a day, and the appointed criers, uninformed of the change, began to proclaim a whole, full, and particular account of Pichegru's suicide, till they were set right by some agents of the police, that Pichegru's suicide was put off till the morrow. The other, one discussed is the IStli Brumaire, accompanied with remarks on Las Cases, which, however, we shall not trespass on—We have been inundated with reviews and articles on the subject.

THE WEST INDIAN CONTROVEKbY.

No. III.

Though Honesty be no Puritan, it will do no hurt.

Shakespeare.

Theri has just appeared in the 58th Number of the Quarterly Review, a paper of very high merit, "On the condition of the negroes in our colonies." This essay is evidently the work of an able hand, the result of laborious, and, above all, dispassionate investigation. It is composed in a style of calmness and clearness which undoubtedly presents a very remarkable contrast to that in which the authors of the African Institution pamphlets have (with scarcely an exception) indulged themselves. The writer gives a distinct view of the questions at issue, and also of the main facts hitherto adduced on both sides concerning them: he points out the spirit of tumultuous exaggeration that has uniformlybeen exhibited on the one hand;—and commends, almost while he laments, the feelings that have, comparatively speaking, left those who act, and luu all along acted, under the influence of this unsuitable temper» in the full and entire command of the arena of popular discussion— the prr.-•••. The philosophical principles on which these questions must eventually be decided, are laid down and illustrated with much logical precision, and a liberality of feeling worthy of the age; and altogether, the impression which this paper leaves, is perhaps as nearly as may be, that under which the Members of the British Senate ought to come to such specific discussions, as the Buxtonian agitators are most likely to force upon their notice at the commencement of the ensuing session.

We confess, then, that, so far as the senatorial intellect is concerned, enough seems already to have been done as to those parts of this great subject on which the Quarterly Review has thought fit to touch. In a few instances, indeed, we dissent from the writer; but, on the whole, we are disposed to say, that his Essay is a masterly and unanswerable one, and that it has exhausted the subject, in so far as it has gone, with a view to men in Parliament.

In two respects, however, we con

sider this Essay as altogether defective. In discussing the matters at issue, regarding the actual condition of the negroes, the author has written too exclusively for the highest and most intelligent class of readers; and, secondly, what is of yet higher importance, he has abstained entirely from the most difficult and perilous part of the whole subject before him. Far from us be the vanity of supposing that we are capable of supplying these deficiencies ; at present, indeed, it is from particular circumstances impossible for us even to make an attempt towards this: But without entertaining any views of this sort—with the most perfect feeling that at this moment any such views are altogether out of the question as to ourselves—we may nevertheless presume to say, that we have the materials in our possession, and to think, that by indicating the nature of these materials, something may be done, we shall not say by, but through our means.

We arc of opinion, then, that the Quarterly Review has written a paper which, from the manner in which . things are condensed, and from the total absence of quotation, will scarcely produce its right effect, unless among those who have the external as well as the internal requisitos,'afor filling up the blanks for their own use as they proceed in its perusal. He presupposes a measure of knowledge which the whole history of this controversy, up to this hour, shews not to exist at all; \ierefers to books which are in few hands; considers that debate as understood to the bottom, which was but cursorily read at the time, and has since been forgotten by many, and misrepresented by many; in a word, loses sight of this great fact—that the parliamentary proceedings in regard to these matters have uniformly been the result of ignorant noise and clamour out of doors —that the agitators, even when they are Members 'of Parliament, uniformly write and publish the pamphlets before they come into the House to make their speeches—and that, of

[ocr errors]

The West Indian Controversy. No. HI.

course, the businessof those who would reduce these agitators to their proper level, is not (generally speaking) to convince the Members of the British Parliament, who, with a few intelligible exceptions, are and have been tolerably well informed as to this subject in its most important bearings at least—but to shew the signers of petitions, the subscribers to associations, the mass of the public—that they really have been played upon by a set of uncandid agitators, who have uniformly entertained them with arguments and facts, bearing, or supposed to bear, in favour of one side only ;—that these men have dealt with them in a manner degrading to the British public, and implying the grossest insult to the general intellect of the nation. The two papers which have already appeared in this Journal, were designed chiefly for these—for the common citizen and the common reader—and we purpose to devote ourselves on this occasion also to their service, by collecting in our columns some statements and some arguments, too, which we apprehend are not, in their present shape, very likely to be extensively considered through the country at large. Our ambition is, in so far, therefore, a very humble one; on some future occasion we may perhaps do something in another way; at present we do what our time and means permit towards an object which we certainly consider as of the highest and most immediate importance.

The great artifice of the agitators, has been to say or insinuate, that the whole of this affair is quite easy and simple of comprehension—that it is a matter in which any man who possesses common sense and human feelings, is qualified to judge de piano—that minute details are of no importance in reality—that the great outlines are clear, and that they are sufficient to all intents and purposes.

This is always a cunning method of procedure, when the object is to work upon the multitude. Itflattersordinary people to be told that they know all that there is any need for knowing. Above all, such flattery is delightful, when it comes from men of acknowledged intellectual eminence. Mr Brougham is indeed the only man of those who have recently taken any lead in this scheme, that can be justly held entitled to such a character as this; but

somehow or other many ineffably inferior persons have acquired a temporary and factitious sort of credit that serves the turn of the moment; and the flattery even of a Buxton or a Macaulay, has not always been treated as it should have been.

Mr Brougham, then, adopts boldly, in the Edinburgh Review, the very simple and satisfactory argument on which Mr Clarkson rests the whole substance of his late pamphlet. It amounts to this:—Every man has an in-born indefeasible right to the free use of his own bodily strength and exertion: it follows that no man can bo kept for one moment in a state of bondage, without the guilt of Robbery: therefore, the West Indian negroes ought to be set free. This is an argument of very easy comprehension, and the Edinburgh Reviewer exclaims, with an air of very well enacted triumph, "Such plain ways of considering the question are, after all, the best!"

Ingenious Quaker, and most ingenuous Reviewer! If this be so, why write pamphlets and reviews full of arguments and details, or pretended details of fact V If every West Indian planter is a thief and a robber, why bother our heads about the propriety, the propriety forsooth, of compelling him to make restitution? If the British nation is guilty as an accessary both before the fact, and in the fact, of Theft and Bobbeky, why tell the British nation that they ore the most virtuous and religious nation in the world, and that they ought to restore what they have stolen and robbed, because they are so virtuous and so religious? The affair is so base, that it will scarcely bear looking at for one second. What! long prosing discussions about whether we ought to cease to be thieves and robbcars, now, or ten years, or a hundred years hence! Was ever such a monstrous perversion of human powers? Sir, that estate is not yours—it is your neighbour's estate, and you have no more right to cultivate it, or any part of it, for your own behoof, than the man in the moon. You must restore this estate to its rightful owner —Immediately? No, not immediately. Your neighbour ought to have the acres, and he knows that he ought to have them. They are his right, he has been long deprived of the estate —his father was deprived of it before him. The family have all been brought up in a way quite different from what would have been, had they been in possession of their rights. They have formed habits altogether unlike what those of the proprietors of such an estate ought to be. They have been accustomed to poverty, and they are an ignorant, uneducated family. You must not give up their land immediately. No—the poor people would certainly go and get drunk, if you gave them their land. They would play the devil in all the ale-houses. In short, they would be injured in their health and morals, by the immediate possession of their estate. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the present man ought ever to get his land^at all. His son is young; he may be sent to school, and taught reading, writing, arithmetic, &c.; and then, when he comes of age, you may give him the estate which you have robbed him of— you may then cut robbery, and give him his property; or, if he turns out a wild young man, perhaps it might be as well to let another generation still pass before you give up the estate. You, therefore, must, from a regard for the best interests of this family, continue, in the meantime, thief and robber of their goods. Let the young men be hedgers and ditchers on your estate, as they have been; let the young women continue at service. But you must improve the parish school; lower the schoolmaster's wages by degrees, so as to let all these young people have an opportunity of picking up some education. Be kind to them—promote the best hedgers and ditchers to be coachmen, and even bailiffs, if you find them trust-worthy: By all means, make the well-behaved girls of them lady's maids and house-keepers. By this means, the family will gradually get up their heads a little; and, at some future period, it may be found quite safe and proper to give them all their rights. The present people, to be sure, will be dead and rotten ere then—but how can you help that? You are not the original thief, you know,—you can't answer for all the consequences of a crime, into which you may be said to have been led by your own parents, and by the whole course of your own education. No, no—it would never do to give up the stolen goods at once. As I said be

fore, it would certainly turn the heads of all these poor people—the parish would be kept in a state of hot water by them. Perhaps they would take it into their heads to bother you, even you, with law-suits and prosecutions for damages and by-gone rents, &c. &c. Time must be allowed for taming them; they were always a hot-headed family. In Due Time You Ought To Desist From Your Present Crimes.

Such substantially is—such cannot be denied to be—the " plain and simple" argument of Mr Clarkson, and his disciple Mr Brougham; and so is it applied by themselves to the subject which, plain and simple as it is, they have taken such huge pains toelucidate. Of Mr Clarkson's heart we have the best opinion possible; and we have an excellent opinion of Mr Brougham's head; but really, looking at the matter as they have been pleased to set it forth, it appears, we must own, somewhat difficult to suppose, that either a sound head, or a feeling heart, could have been in any way consulted in the promulgation of this exquisite farrago. The absurdities in which these apostles have involved themselves are so glaring, that a child must smile at them; and yet it is upon such arguments that the public of 1823 are called to force the British Parliament into a measure, or rather into a series of measures, by far the most delicate, as regards principle, and by far the most perilous, as regards effect, of any that ever engaged the attention of an enlightened political assembly in any age of the world. It is upon such arguments that a complete revolution of the whole domestic, as well as political relations, in the whole of these great colonial establishments, is demanded; a revolution involving, if we are to listen for a moment to the proprietors of these islands, the absolute ruin of all their possessions; a revolution, the perilous nature of which is confessed by these men themselves in the language— the indescribable, ineffable language—which says to all the world, "This revolution must be: Justice demands it—Religion demands it: but we confess, that in spite of Justice and Religion, it must not be Now."

If such imbecilities had been introduced where none but Britons were to be entertained with them, it might have been of little consequence. The fallacy of the outset might have been

« ZurückWeiter »