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cords of this "new pretender," as he styles him, attest that the spirit of the Bourbons was not extinct. The noble answers of the present King of France, to the ingrate Venetians, and to the messenger of Bonaparte who came to bargain with him for a resignation of his rights, are still recorded with national pride by the historian.
The next undertaking of Lacretelle was the History of France during the Eighteenth Century-a work every way preferable to his former one, but the merits of which we have not leisure to enter into. Suffice it to say, that those who seek either a literary or a political acquaintance with that period, cannot consult a more satisfactory, or indeed a more impartial work. Having completed this to the commencement of the Revolution, he turned his attention to the wars of religion, and published a History of France during that period; but his purpose of uniting it with his history of the eighteenth century was interrupted, as he informs us, by the assassination of the Duke of Berry, and the other revolutionary movements throughout Europe. These events recalled afresh to his mind the late miseries of his country, to which he had been a witness, and he conceived that it might be of advantage to retrace the commencement of those domestic troubles, which, under the name of liberty, had spilt the blood of two millions of citizens, and delivered the nation to the tyranny of a stranger. Hence we derive the work under review,―it includes that portion before treated by Rabaut, so that, for the present, the historian has united his work on the eighteenth century with his Précis of the Revolution. With the latter he is, like ourselves, dissatisfied, and declares his intention to develope, that is, write it over again, now that he is unrestrained by the iron censorship of Napoleon, and has acquired materials more ample, and views more matured.
It is of little moment to fix the retrospective period, during which the seeds of the Revolution began to
be sown. There have been many circumstances and events assigned; without which, 'tis affirmed, there would have no such thing happened. It was, doubtless, necessary that fathers should have begotten sons-that king should have followed king, in order to the dreadful completion we have witnessed; but if we dignify by the name of causes all the circumstances without which an event could not have taken place, history indeed would be an interminable affair. The disorder of the finances, brought about by an unexampled degree of ignorance, unsteadiness, and prodigality in successive administrations, was the cause, owing to which the representatives of the nation found themselves collected under the countenance of the royal authority.
This event having once taken place, the dominant principles and sentiments of the body are answerable for all the political consequences of its meeting. There may have been intrigues on both sides-individual ambition-weakness as well as provocation, on the part of the sovereign; but the source of all is to be sought in the spirit that actuated the Members of the Constituent Assembly. We may narrow the circle, for the aristocrats contributed to the Revolution but by their blunders; and the Constitutionalists, deprived of the confidence of either party, were able to bring into effect none of their plans, except those in which they agreed with the Republicans. It was the latter body which directed every decree in the Assembly, as well as every commotion among the populace; and although they marched covertly to their end, they held it not the less in view during the whole of their progress.
Having referred those events to the republican spirit of the Constituent Assembly, we may refer this to the philosophical writings of the eighteenth century; for under this designation the French writers are in general cited, from Montesquieu to Voltaire. There was certainly no need of philosophy to create a strong feeling of discontent.
Soon after Sartines was appointed Minister of Marine, M: Necker called on him, and found his room newly furnished with maps and charts of all descriptions: sec," said Sartines, "what progress I make in my new calling-I can shut my eyes, and put my hand on any quarter of the globe you mention, in yonder map."
misery, though it might lead them to
Those who had spent the greater part
It has lately been asserted by Lord Byron, that acts, not writings, produced the revolution. To argue with such a random reasoner as his Lordship would be ridiculous; but can any one say, that the acts of Louis XVI. would have produced upon the French people of a century anterior to his reign, any feelings but those of love and gratitude towards their sovereign? It was the spirit, the opinions lately arisen among the people then, that created the change that made concessions on the part of the government to be construed into treachery, and firmness to be construed into tyranny. And how did the people arrive at this perfection of reasoning? Where did they learn that kings were to be considered as malefactors, be they ever so virtuousthat nobility was a usurpation, and the priesthood an imposture? Their
But let us consider these portentous acts that produced the revolution, The prominent cause of the calling together the States General, was, strangely but allowedly, a pun. There had been no hint, no mention of such a thing either in the parliament or the
nation, till the Abbé Sabatier, more in search of a joke than of his country's ruin, cried out, "Vous demandez, Messieurs, les états de recette et de depense, et ce sont les états-generaux qu'il vous faut." It was a clap of thunder to the parliament, and they sent the punster to prison; but from that day the people never ceased to cry for the Etats-generaux. The king was obliged to promise them, and having promised, he certainly could not avoid the calling of them, whatever the Aristocrats may say to the contrary in reprobation of Necker. The fault was not in permitting them to meet, but in permitting them, when met, to assume the menacing attitude they did.
The great mistake of Necker was, that he thought the government and the public-purse synonymous terms. Fully versed in the theory of the pocket, he looked on the world as on a large counting-house: he had no ideas beyond honesty, credit, regularity,-individual ambition, party-spirit, popular commotion, never once entered among his conceptions. He was honest, but unfortunately thought that honesty was all-sufficient, and he flattered himself with being able to govern a mighty kingdom during the momentous crisis which was evidently approaching, by the pusillanimous principle of laissez faire. Doubts are entertained, whether Necker should have endeavoured to influence the elections or not; if he had understood the English constitution as much as he admired it, he certainly would have done all in his power to have secured a majority in favour of moderate and constitutional measures. But not only did he keep aloof from meddling with the elections, but even afterwards, when the royal prerogative was mena ced with absolute destruction, he refused to save the monarch and the state by bribing Mirabeau-which was then considered and afterwards proved to be feasible. Whether honesty is a match for dishonesty, is a problem in some affairs; but in what are called revolutionary tactics, the former has been proved beyond controversy to tally unable to support itself by the rigid principles of defence.
The great object of previous debate was, whether the tiers état should be represented by a deputation equal in number to that of the nobles and the
clergy? If this was decided in the affirmative, it of course followed, that all classes were to sit and vote togegether, for otherwise of what advantage was the increased number? The minister, Brienne, had allowed the free publication of all opinions on the subject; and Necker, whose god was popularity, and who saw not the conse quence of doubling the tiers, sought to gratify the people's wish, yet would he not take the responsibility on himself-he asked the opinion of the Parliament, they declined interfering; he appealed to the Assembly of Notables, they all, except the bureau, presided by the present King of France, expressed a contrary wish. But Necker, like the most arbítrary minister, did not seek to be advised, but to be seconded, and concluded, contrary to the opinion of the Notables, by advising the King to grant the double representation of the commons. Having yielded so much to the popular feeling, then was the time, when the public gratitude was yet warm, to have arranged the mode of voting, and to have established an Upper and a Lower Chamber. Necker was certainly attached to the English constitution; he wished for the two Chambers, but was afraid to ordain them; he knew that he would lose his popularity by the act, and for this cursed love of popu larity he sacrificed the nation's peace
laissez faire was still his rule for acting. And with the most criminal negligence, which in any other man we would be inclined to call connivance, the Assembly was permitted to meet, the respective rights of its component classes being yet unsettled. This was nothing more than to give to the majority the power of arrangement, which would of course make that majority invincible, nor could it have been at all doubtful which side would preponderate. The deputies of the tiers were equal in number, by royal permission, to the clergy and nobles, and from the latter class a large secession to the popular party might be considered inevitable; besides that the nobles of Bretagne had refused to send deputies to what they deemed too democratic an assembly, by which five-and-twenty votes were lost to the cause of the nobility.
The day of meeting at length arrived; the privileged orders assembled by themselves, and the tiers, for whom
a hall had been allotted, capable of containing the united bodies, affected to be surprised at the absence of the nobles. They voted themselves the National Assembly; and their hall having been closed for a few hours, that a platform might be erected for the royal sitting, they seized upon the pretext to assemble in an adjoining ballcourt, where the members took the famed oath to meet in any quarter of the kingdom, however distant, should they then be dissolved. This was at once annihilating the royal prerogative-and in a mode far more audacious than that of the Long Parliament who obtained the King's assent to their bill of indissolubility; yet Necker took no notice of this act, this serment du jeu de paume, as it is called, but proceeded to arrange the royal sitting, as if nothing had had happened. The States-general were opened the 5th of May, and it was not till the 23d of June that Mr Necker was prepared with his plan of arrangement for the sitting and voting of the respective orders. Madame de Staël states, that the declaration was to have been made immediately after the opening of the States, but her father himself, in his Memoirs, has left proofs, that the plan itself was not at that time digested. The proposition of Necker was, that the classes should vote in common on matters of finance, but separately on matters respecting the constitution and mutual privileges. But even this did not please the Queen and her party; of itself, at this late period, it would most likely have failed, but the meddling of the Queen and the aristocrats gave Necker an opportunity of withdrawing his responsibility, and saving his precious popularity for a few months longer. The 23d of June, the day on which the King made the declaration, founded on the proposition of Necker, but modified by the Queen and her friends, set at once the popular party in direct opposition to the court. The declaration was accompanied with threats-just threats, it is true, but impolitic, that "if they failed him, he would effect by himself the good of his people." The outcry was directed against the whole tenor of the declaration, but it was by no means so enraged, nor in common sense could it be so, against that part of the plan drawn up by Necker, as against the modifications and added threats.
In this Mr Lacretelle carries his hostility to the memory of Necker too far; with both eloquence and indignation misplaced, apostrophizes the minister, accuses him of selfishness and want of candour in this affair.
"Le peuple le reconduit jusqu'à son hôtel, et ces cris se prolongent sous ses fenêtres et jusques dans la nuit. Quoiqu'un tel bruit dût bercer agréablement un homme trop porté à croire le peuple infaillible, dès qu'il l'applaudissait, je crois pourtant qu'ami de la vertu, il dut se faire dans le nuit de sevères reproches. Ce prétendu code de tyrannie qui avait excité l'indignation de l'assembleé nationale et du peuple, n'était-il pas un propre ouvrage?" &c.
This philippic borders indeed on the ridiculous; for allowing what M. Lacretelle asserts, that the nation and the Assembly were equally enraged with Necker's original proposition as with the modification of it—an assertion manifestly absurd-even allowing this, how could Necker serve the King by sacrificing his popularity at this moment? He did sacrifice his popularity subsequently, both in the cause of his sovereign and of humanity-he may have been weak, misled, arrogant, censurable in a thousand points, but a more disinterested minister, it must be allowed, never entered the councils of a monarch. Mr Lacretelle was a Bonapartist under Napoleon; he may have excuses for supporting such a party under a despotic government, but in the constitutional reign of Louis the XVIII. there is no accounting for his ultraism, but in the principle of reaction. "Live, and let live," is a worthy adage. Necker was a republican perhaps, at least a constitutionalist, but the blundering and ignorant aristocracy of France have more of the Revolution to answer for than he-they who refused to form an Upper Chamber through mere motives of negative spite-they who, in the Assembly, joined the bitterest republicans in preference to the constitutionalists-they who voted for every extravagant measure, and carried it in the pernicious hopes of bringing forth good by the excess of ill-they who pusillanimously emigrated, instead of rallying round the throne of their sovereign, and whom the unfortunate Louis in his testament upbraids as the chief, though blind promoters of his
downfall-these, as they were the more interested in the welfare of their country, are certainly the most culpable. Those who vacillate between our two great parties, may perhaps merit the appellation of trimmers, but in France, where the leading men are yet at is sue about the fundamental principles of society, it must be granted to the impartial to choose between, and, equally avoiding liberal and ultra, to enlist under the banners of Constitutional Royalism.
It is on these grounds that we have almost an equal dislike to the new as to the old principles of Mr Lacretelle. In this country we would unite at once with the highest upholders of government and religion, but we have no love for the dogmas of the ultra school, preached forth at the Societé des bonnes Lettres; nor can we keep in with Mr Lacretelle and his brother professors of that society, Mr Raoul-Rochette, &c., that the Reformation has been the cause of all the crimes of the Revolution; and that the only means of regenerating society are to be found in the convents, the Jesuits, and the sixty-six thousand priests, who at present inundate France.
To return from our digression: the effect of the King's declaration on the Assembly was such as might be supposed. They remained for some time in discontented silence, interrupted only by some epigrammatic ejaculations, till they were roused by the voice of Mirabeau. This orator had studied deeply the history of our first revolution; he entered the constituent assembly fully versed in the arcana of revolutionary tactics-no leader ever perceived more instantaneously the exact degree of boldness requisite ; and though ready to venture the farthest point if necessary, he still preserved the assembly in its early days (if we except the sermen du jeu de paume") from the open violence which would have furnished a pretext for destroying it. He had learned from the resolutions of the long parliament about suspicion and malignants, the strength of a vague and ambiguous vote, which roused the populace, while it exposed to the court no expression which could be construed into downright violence
or disrespect. Unfortunately, the least menace or murmur of opposition was sufficient to shake the feeble resolution of the king-he commanded the nobles and clergy to sit and vote with the tiers. One immediately asks, what bold vote of the Assembly produced this change of measures in the King? this-they simply declared at the suggestion of Mirabeau, that the persons of the deputies were inviolable. No one thought of violating them-the vote had nothing to do with the object of concern, but it hinted to the people that their persons were in danger.
"The majority of the noblesse," says Lacretelle, obeyed the orders of the king. A minority of the clergy followed their example. The national assembly received with increased pride their new conquests. The nobles and prelates maintained an irritated mien, and the mutual hatred became but the more bitter, when both parties saw each other face to face-the conquered no less proud than the conquerors. We may compare the nobility and clergy to those great rivers of the new world, which, after having traversed so immense a space, cast themselves murmuring into the ocean, where they are about to lose both name and existence, but where they yet preserve for a time the agitation and the colour of their waters."
One of the first and principal accusations of breach of faith made against the unfortunate Louis, is the secret order issued at this time for the approach of the troops to Paris. The measure was rendered manifestly necessary by the insurrectionary movements of the French guards quartered in Paris: breach of faith there was none-impolicy there was much. The monarch should have openly ordered the march of the troops, or have put himself at their head, instead of vacillating at Versailles between the aristocrats, the assembly, and the scrupulous Necker. This minister was, it seems, against the approach of the troops-he was for employing his fɛvourite maxim of laissez faire in the matter of insurrections even-notwithstanding our respect for him, it had been well for France, if this honest
Lacretelle calls this oath a jest. fit to be laughed at ;-a pretty jest for a body of representatives to vote themselves indissolvable by the monarch.