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On French Oaths. By MARIA EDGEWORTH.

[Written in the year 1815.] [From "The Amulet, or Christian and Literary Remembrancer,"

for 1827; a beautiful little volume, designed for a New Year's Gift. See Mon. Repos. for October, pp. 616-620.]

AMONG the many baneful effects of the French Revolution, the disregard of oaths which it has produced in France, is the most deplorable. On every new revolution there was a new oath. This seems to have been the grand resource of their politicians, the favourite amusement of their populace, till at last the words " I swear-We swear !" repeated so frequently by the French on every change of government, or caprice of political fashion, have lost all power, all use, all meaning. In the Champ de Mars, at the commencement of the Revolution, at what they called the Grand Federation, they took an oath to be faithful to their constitution and their King. How this oath was kept we too well remember! Then a new oath was taken to the Directory, another to the Consulate, another to the Emperorto the great Emperor of the French, and to the little King of Rome ! When Bonaparte was defeated and dethroned, and Louis the Eighteenth-Louis le desiré, returned, fresh oaths were eagerly sworn to their legitimate sofereign, and he was bailed as the best of kings; and to all the Bourbons fidelity was vowed voluntarily and vehemently. But no sooner did Bonaparte return from Elba, than all their oaths, though made with the most theatric enthusiasm, the most tremendous adjurations, were all violated and forgotten.

Those very persons who had sworn to devote themselves to die in defence of their lawful sovereign-to stand to him to the last-to spill the last drop of their blood in proof of their loyalty-deserted him at his utmost need. Princes, dukes, marshals, senators, soldiers, all hurried to give a new oath of fidelity to Napoleon ; and now the emperor himself has been called upon to take an oath of adherence to the constitution, and Bonaparte swears to Carnot, and Carnot to Bonaparte, and the whole nation resolve to act


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the old disgusting farce over again. "Because of swearing, the land mourneth," said the prophet; but the Parisians find, that because of swearing, the land rejoiceth. Formerly they all swore on the Champ de Mars, and now they have all sworn on the Champ de Mai; and according to their own fulsome phraseology, “they that day presented a scene truly touching--they formed a grand and imposing spectacle for the stranger and for all Europe." Yes, on the Champs de Mai, at a fête at the Champs Elysées, in the midst of princes and monarchs, and belles, and beaux, and eagles, and flowers, and amphitheatres, and booths, and fountains flowing with wine, and orchestras for music, and stages for singers, and stages for dancers, and stages for amusing philosophy, and feats of horsemanship, and rockets, and balloons, and combustibles, and confectionary, and pâtés, and pullets, and sausages, and geese, and turkeys, and soaped ropes, and merry andrews—the united people interrupted their emperor's speech with cries of_"We swear!" Cries of “ We swear!" a thousand times repeated,-cries universally prolonged of “We swear!" resounded throughout the assembly; and the great nation have sworn by all that is absurd-by all that is sacred-by that honour which is dearer to Frenchmen than their lives—by that liberty which they never knew how to use—by that English constitution which none of them ever understood-by that God in whom few of them believe. All this would we ridiculous, if it were not abominable. It is truly abominable to see a nation, even of our enemies, so degraded. There is no word but a word of their own invention, that can describe their condi. tion : demoralized, thank Heaven ! is a word scarcely on. derstood in England. It describes a situation hardly to be comprehended by Englishmen. To the people of France, an oath has lost its sanctity, and with its sanctity its power and its utility. It is no longer awful as an appeal to Heaven ; it is no longer binding as a contract between men; it is no longer useful as the bond of society; that great bond is broken and gone.

The good and the wise in France-(that there are both we believe: we do not, with vulgar prejudice, involve the whole in the folly and guilt of a part of a nation)-the good and wise in France feel, as strongly as we can do, the disgrace and peril of the situation to which their country is reduced : peril greater than the perils of war-disgrace to which no foreign enemy, no defeat in arts or arms could have reduced any country-from which no victory, no triumph, can in our days redeem their people as to the past, or secure them as to the future. The want of national morality and national religion--the want of the grand social security of an oath-cannot be repaired by armies, por by battles, nor by edicts, nor by constitutions, nor by the wish or will of any man or set of men upon earth. The belief of the truth of asseveration no human power can impose on the mind. The violation of the sanctity of oaths cannot be forgotten at pleasure : nor can the last solemnity of an oath be suddenly restored by any ceremonies or by any form of words.


When once the people have been taught, as the French people have been taught, by notorious precedents and frequent example, to think lightly of perjury, what can afterwards touch their conscience-what shall restrain their conduct ?-what can ensure respect to any laws, or fidelity to any government? This generation must pass away, a new generation, better educated, with principles of virtue and religion, must be formed-before there can be hope or security for public faith or social order and happiness in France. And years must pass away, and examples of stability of principles-of regard to their political engagements-must be given to the neighbouring nations before France can with them re-establish her national character.

At this moment we ask-and we ask the question not in the spirit of reproach or reviling--Is there any country in the civilized world, who wonld willingly exchange national character with France ? Would England? Would Ireland ? Would any Englishman-would any Irishman, accept for his country all the treasures which France bas been permitted to accumulate in her days of conquest ?-the far-famed Venetian Horses, the Apollo, the Venus, or all the statues and all the pictures which her rapine could wrest from all the despoiled countries of Europe-would he accept of them all, upon condition that England should take with them the disgrace which France has brought upon her national character, or stand the hazard of that peril, political and social, moral and religious, which she has incurred ? Erery Briton would, we believe, scorn the offer, and ask or feel, “ What are all these? Baubles, compared with our reputation for good faith, our integrity, our moral and religious character, the real strength and security of a nation.” Long may such be the warm feeling, and, better far, the


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