« ZurückWeiter »
(h.policy. An absolute prince could not love liberty. “ But the people of France patronized our cause with, 6 zeal, from sympathy in its object. The people there
fore, not its monarch, are entitled to our sympathy."
This reasoning may be ingenious, but it is not founded in nature or fact.
Louis the XVI. though no more than the constitutional · agent of the nation, had at the time the sole power of managing its affairs, the legal right of directing its will and its force. It belonged to him to assist us, or not, without consulting the nation ; and he did assist without such consultation. His will alone was active; that of the nation passive. If there was kindness in the deci. sion, demanding a return of good will, it was the kind, ness of Louis XVI....bis heart was the depository of the sentiment. Let the genuine voice of nature then, un. perverted by political subtleties, pronounce whether the acknowledgment, wbich may be due for that kindness, can be equitably transferred from him to others, who had no share in the decision; whether the principle of gratitude ought to determine us to behold with indifference bis misfortunes, and with satisfaction the triumphs of his foes.
The doctrine, that the prince is the organ of his nation, is conclusive to enfore the obligations of good faith bea tween two states : in other words, the observance of duties stipulated in treaties for national purposes ; and it will even suffice to continue to a nation a claim to the friendship and good will of another, resulting from friendly offices done by its prince; but it would be to carry the principle much too far, and to render it infi. nitely too artificial to attribute to it the effect of transferring such a claim from the prince to the nation, by way of opposition and contrast. Friendship, good will, gratitude for favours received, have so inseparable a re. ference to the motives with which, and to the persons by whom they were rendered, as to be incapable of being transferred to another at his expense. · But Louis XVI. it is said, acted from reasons of state without regard to our cause ; while the people of Brance patronized it with zea) and attachment.
S of Fraras'a natiofi'bey canishes.
As far as the assertion with regard to the monarch may be well founded, and is an objection to our gratitude to him, it destroys the whole fabric of gratitude to France. For our gratitude is, and must be, relative to the services performed. The nation can only claim it on the score of their having been rendered by their agent with their means. If the views with which he performs them divested them of the merit which ought to inspire gratitude, pone is due. The nation, no more than their agent, can claim it.
With regard to the individual good wishes of the citizens of France, as they did not produce the services rendered to us as a nation, they can be no foundation for national gratitude. They can only call for a reciprocation of individual good wishes. They cannot form the basis of public obligation.
But the assertion takes more for granted than there. is reason to believe true.
Louis the XVI. no doubt took part in our contest from reasons of state; but Louis the XVI. was a man humane and kind hearted. The acts of bis early youth bad entitled him to this character. It is natural for a man of this disposition to become interested in the cause of those whom he protects or aids; and if the concurrent testimony of the period may be credited, there was no man in France more personally friendly to the cause of this country than Louis the XVI. I am much misinformed if repeated declarations of the venerable Franklin did not attest this fact.
It is a just tribute to the people of France to admit, that they manifested a lively interest in the cause of America ; but while motives are scanned, who can say how much of it is to be ascribed to the antipathy which they bore to their rival neighbour; how much to their sympathy in the object of our pursuit? It is certain that the love of liberty was not a national sentiment in France, when a zeal for our cause first appeared among that people.
.. .. There is reason to believe too, that the attachment to our cause, which ultimately became very extensive, if
hose dis country: nited Prov
not general, did not originate with the mass of the French people. It began with the circles more immedi. ately connected with the court, and was thence diffused through the nation.
This observation, besides its tendency to reclify ideas, which are calculated to give a false current to the public feeling, may serve to check the spirit of illiberal invective, which has been wantonly indulged against those distinguished friends of America, who, though the ag. thors of the French revolution, have fallen victims to it; because their principles would not permit them to go the whole length of an entire subversion of the monarchy.
The preachers of gratitude are not ashamed to brand Louis the XVI. as a tyrant, La Fayette as a traitor. But how can we wonder at this, when they insinuate a distrust even of a !!! . In urging the friendly disposition to our cause, mani. fested by the people of France, as a motive to our gratitude towards that people, it ought not to be forgotten, that those dispositions were not confined to the inhabi. tants of that country. They were eminently shared by the people of the United Provinces, produced to us valuable pecuniary aids from their citizens, and eventually involved them in the war on the same side with us. It may be added too, that here the patronage of our cause emphatically began with the mass of the community, not originating as in France with the government, but finally implicating the government in the consequences.
Our cause had also numerous friends in other coun-tries ; even in that with which we were at war. Conducted with prudence, moderation, justice, and humanity, it may be said to bave been a popular cause among man- . kind, conciliating the countenance of princes, and the . affection of nations.
The dispositions of the individual citizens of France, can therefore in no sense be urged, as constituting a pecu. liar claim to our gratitude. As far as there is foundation for it, it must be referred to the services rendered to us ; and, in the first instance, to the unfortunate monarch that rendered them. This is the conclusion of nature and reason.
The not sh
le of th.Ty.
No. VI. .. THE very men who not long since, with a boly zeal, would have been glad to make an auto de fe of any one who should have presumed to assign bounds to our ob. ligations to Louis the XVI. are now ready to consigo to the flames, those who venture even to think that he died a proper object of our sympathy or regret. T'he greatest paios are taken to excite against him our detes. tation His supposed perjuries and crimes are sounded in the public ear, with all the exaggerations of intem. perate declaiming. All the unproved anıl contradicted allegations, which have been brought against him are taken for granted, as the oracles of truthi, on no better grounds than the mere general presumptions, that he could not have been a friend to a revolution which stripped big of so much power ; that it is not likely the con. vention would have pronunced him guilty, and consigned him to so ignominious a fate, if he bad been really innocent
It is possible that time may disclose facts and proofs, which will substantiate the guilt imputed to Louis : but these facts and proofs have not yet been authenticated to the world; and justice admonishes us to wait for their production and authentication.
Those who have most elosely attended to the course of the transaction, find least cause to be convinced of the criminality of the deceased monareh. While his counsel, whose characters give weight to their assertions, with an air of conscious truth, boldly appeal to facts and proofs, in the knowledge and possession of the convention, for the refutation of the charges brought against him, the members of that body, in all the debates upon the subject which have reached this country, either directly from France, or circuitously through England, appear te bave contented themselves with assuming the existence of the facts charged, and inferring from them a erimj. nality which after the abolition of the royalty, they were interested to establish. .
The presumption of guilt drawn from the suggestions which have been stated, are more than counterbalanced
tiency, rath was the at the melan
by an opposite one, which is too obvious not to have occurred to mauy, though I do not recollect yet to have met with it in print. It is this : • If the convention had possessed clear evidence of the guilt of Louis, they would have promulgated it to the world in an authentic and unquestionable shape. Respect for the opinion of mankind, regard for their own character, the interest of their cause, made this an indis. pensable duty; nor can the omission be satisfactorily ascribed to any other reason than the want of such evidence.
The inference is, that the melancholy catastrophe of Louis XVI. was the result of a supposed political expediency, rather than of real criminality.
In a case so circunstanced, does it, can it consist with burjastice or our humanity, to partake in the angry and vindictive passions which it is endeavoured to excite against the unfortunate monarch? Was it a crime in him to have been born a prince? Could this circumstance forfeit his title to the commisseration due to his misfortunes as a man?
Would gratitude dictate to a people, situated as are the people of this coitntry, to lend their aid to extend to tue son the misfortunes of the fatherî Should we not be more certain of violating no obligation of that kind, and of not implicating the delicacy of our national character, by taking no part in the contest, than by throwing our weight into either scale ? · Would not a just estimate of the origin and progress of our relations to France, viewed with reference to the mere question of gratitude, lead us to this result.... that we ought not to take part against the son and successor of a father, on whose sole will depended the assistance which we received; that we ought not to take part with bim against the nation, whose blood and whose treasure had been in the hands of the father, the means of that assistance ?
But we are sometimes told, by way of answer, that the cause of France is the cause of liberty; and that we are bound to assist the nation on the score of their being