« AnteriorContinuar »
misrepresented but by the cold, the calmly, she never for a moment swerv. heartless, or the hypocritical. In the ed from the conviction, that no revoDe l'Allemagne, but above all in the lution could be conducted well, or be Corinne, (perhaps the most original expected to end well, in the hands of work, either of poetry or of prose, a set of men devoid of firmness of which has appeared in our time) a principle and depth of knowledge, like depth of feeling and reflection, and a the demagogues of France-babblers, strength of glowing and tender elo- who talked of virtue, while they hated quence, such as have scarcely ever been it, conjoined in the person of any writer “ And honour, which they did not underbesides herself, are poured out to ex
stand.' press the sorrow with which she had She was of the same opinion which witnessed, in her own country, the Burke expressed concerning not the deadening influence of the philosophy first speculative, but the first acof persiflage, and the ardent zeal with tive movers of the Revolution.* She which she contemplated the effects of
* “ The legislators who framed the antient the old and more generous habitudes republicks knew that their business was too of religious and poetical enthusiasm arduous to be accomplished with no better upon the souls and characters of men. apparatus than the metaphysicks of an unOther romances are read, because they der graduate, and the mathematicks and please the comparatively trivial facul- arithmetick of an exciseman. They had to ties by portraitures of comparatively do with men, and
they were obliged to study trivial feelings; but, with the excep
human nature. They had to do with citi. tion of a few of the fine solemn pass- effects of those habits which are communi
zens, and they were obliged to study the ages in Don Quixote, and some things cated by the circumstances of civil life. in the works of the author of the They were sensible that the operation of Tales of my Landlord, we recollect of this second nature on the first produced a nothing in that department of litera- new combination ; and thence arose many ture which touches the nobler and diversities amongst men, according to their more mysterious parts of the spirit birth, their education, their professions, the 80 powerfully as the representation of periods of their lives, their residence in filial piety, and of the sentiments of of acquiring and of fixing property, and ac
towns or in the country, their several ways Christianity in Corinne. In each and all of these works, there all which rendered them as it were so many
cording to the quality of the property itself, prevails a tone of thought and passion different species of animals. From hence which cannot be supposed to have ex- they thought themselves obliged to dispose isted at any period other than a revo- their citizens into such classes, and to place lutionary one. It is evident from them in such situations in the state as their every page, that the author lived a- peculiar habits might qualify them to fill, mong men whose intellects had been and to allot to them such appropriated priall unhinged by some extraordinary vileges
, as might secure to them what their
specifick occasions required, and which concussion, whose feelings, opinions, might furnish to each description such force principles, had all been taken out of
as might protect it in the conflict caused by their order, and jumbled together, to the diversity of interests, that must exist, use a vulgar simile, like the stones and must contend, in all complex society: upon a necklace, by the cutting of the for the legislator would have been ashamed, string. From the earlier of her writings, that the coarse husbandman should weli it must be admitted, there appears rea
know how to assort and to use his sheep, son to conclude, that she herself had horses, and oxen, and should have enough been drawn, for a season, within the lize
them all into animals, without provide
of common sense not to abstract and equacircle of the mental anarchy around ing for each kind an appropriate food, care, her. She soon escaped from the evil, and employment ; whilst he, the economist, and in so doing, she parted not with disposer, and shepherd of his own kindred, the good which was to be learned from subliming himself into an airy metaphysithe doctrines of the times. The origi- cian, was resolved to know nothing of his nal principle of the French Revolution flocks but as men in general. It is for this she always continued to defend, and
reason that Montesquieu observed very justwho, excepting perhaps a Spanish ly, that in their classification of the citizens, monk, or an old French emigrant, will greatest display of their powers, and even
the great legislators of antiquity made the now have the boldness utterly to con- soared above themselves. It is here that demn it? But from the moment she your modern legislators have gone deep into began to consider things maturely and the negative series, and sunk even below expected not that the poverty of subjected the steps, as it were, by Plebeian heads and hearts could be which her first ebullient and gene covered long or effectually with the rous hatred of despotism came slowly “ all atoning name” of liberty. She and modestly to be subdued into a had some idea what virtue and vir- temperate and wise love of that authotuous liberty are, and could not en- rity which is according to the laws. dure to see these sacred names taken These things are still too near to us to into the polluting mouths of those be very dispassionately or very leisurewhose love of change sprung only from ly contemplated. But what a rich their meanness and their envy. present to posterity! with what gra
There may be some little danger of titude will the studious and reflective our speaking too much from our parti- of after times peruse these portraits of alities, but we imagine that the per- one of the greatest and most illustripetual admiration of England ex- ous spirits which ours has produced, pressed in this work, is not, after all, presenting her in every variety of better adapted for pleasing us, than colouring and attitude, and affording, for instructing our neighbours. The as it were, a perpetual index and comimpression which had been made upon mentary to the more formal chronicles her imagination by the character and which may come into their hands. effects of our public institutions, had Madame de Stael might, without arroalready, as we have hinted above, been gance, have concluded her work in the abundantly testified in her Corinne. language of the greatest genius that But in the Considerations, she has ever wrote history. " The strict fide. proved that her love was not blind; lity of my narrative may render it less that the most masculine part of her amusing than it might have been. nature had been consulted in its for- But they who read in order that they mation ; and that the zeal with which may know the past, and be wise as to she
every where preached up the imi- the future, when similar events, as is tation of England, was not that of a the nature of human affairs, may hapmere wild enthusiast, but of a con- pen to recur, will not on that account vinced and rational believer. In truth, despise it. I have been ambitious to the whole scope of the book is to shew, form a possession for eternity, rather in the course of an unaffected narra. than an amusing tale for the ears of tive, the progress of her own thoughts my contemporaries." the nature of the successive impres- We cannot find opportunity within sions to which, in the midst of con- the limits of such a work as this, tinual observation, her mind became either to give a complete analysis of
the book, or to supply that defect by their own nothing. As the first sort of legislators attended to the different kinds of its pages. We shall
, however, venture
means of very copious extracts from citizens, and combined them into one com. monwealth, the others, the metaphysical and upon transcribing a few of the most alchemistical legislators, have taken the di interesting and graphical passages, and rect contrary course. They have attempted shall begin with the description of the to confound all sorts of citizens, as well as Baroness's feelings on the first openthey could, into one homogeneous mass; ing of the States General, on the 5th and then they divided this their amalgama of May 1789. into a number of incoherent republicks. “ I shall never forget the hour that I saw They reduce men to loose counters, merely the twelve hundred deputies of France pass for the sake of simple telling, and not to in procession to church to hear mass, the figures whose power is to arise from their day before the opening of the assembly. It place in the table. The elements of their
was a very imposing sight, and very new to own metaphysicks might have taught them the French ; all the inhabitants of Versailles, better lessons. The troll of their categori- and many persons attracted by curiosity from cal table might have informed them that Paris, collected to see it. This new kind of there was something else in the intellectual authority in the state, of which neither the world besides substance and quantity. They might learn from the catechism of metaphysicks that there were eight heads more, * in Το μη μυθωδες αυτων ατερσεσερον φαινειται every complex deliberation, which they have Οσοι δε βελησονται των γενομενων το σαφες never thought of, though these, of all the
σκοπειν, και των μελλοντων ποτε αιθις, κατα ten, are the subject on which the skill of
το ανθρωπινον, τοιέτων και παραπλησιων εσεσ. man can operate any thing at all.”
θαι, ωφελιμα κρινειν αυτα αρκαντως εξει.
κτημα δε ες αει μαλλον η ες το παραχρημα * Qualitas, Relatio, Actio, Passio, Ubi, Quando, Situs, Habitus,
«ywYIFMA AKDEN OVYXEITÄ. Thucyd. lib. I.
nature nor the strength was as yet known, come but by wisdom or power. If, thereAstonished the greater part of those who had fore, public opinion had by this time under. not reflected on the rights of nations. mined power, what was to be accomplished
“ The higher clergy had lost a portion of without wisdom ? its influence with the public, because a num- “ I was placed at a window near Madame ber of prelates had been irregular in their de Montmorin, the wife of the Minister of moral conduct, and a still greater number Foreign Affairs, and I confess I gave myemployed themselves only in political affairs. self up to the liveliest hope on seeing nation. The people are strict in regard to the clergy, al representatives for the first time in France. as in regard to women; they require from Madame de Montmorin, a woman nowise both a close observance of their duties. Mi. distinguished for capacity, said to me, in a litary fame, which is the foundation of re- decided tone, and in a way which made putation to the noblesse, as piety is to the an impression upon me, • You do wrong clergy, could now only appear in the past. to rejoice ; this will be the source of A long peace had deprived those noblemen great misfortunes to France and to us.' who would have most desired it of the op. This unfortunate woman perished on the portunity of rivalling their ancestors; and scaffold along with one of her sons; an. the men of the first rank in France were other son drowned himself; her husband nothing more than illustres obscurs. The was massacred on the 2d of September ; noblesse of the second rank had been equally her eldest daughter died in the hospital of deprived of opportunities of distinction, as a prison ; and her youngest daughter, Mathe nature of the government left no open- dame de Beaumont, an intelligent and gening to men of family but the military pro- erous creature, sunk under the pressure of fession. The noblesse of recent origin were grief before the age of thirty. The family seen in great numbers in the ranks of the of Niobe was not doomed to a more cruel aristocracy; but the plume and sword did fate than of this unhappy mother ; one not become them; and people asked why would have said that she had a presenti, they took their station with the first class in ment of it. the country, merely because they had ob- “ The opening of the States General took tained an exemption from their share of the place the next day; a large hall had been taxes ; for in fact their political rights were hastily erected in the avenue of Versailles, confined to this unjust privilege.
to receive deputies. A number of specta. “ The nobility having fallen from its tors were admitted to witness the ceremony. splendour by its courtier habits, by its inter- A platform floor was raised to receive the mixture with those of recent creation, and King's throne, the Queen's chair of state, by a long peace ; the clergy possessing no and seats for the rest of the royal family. longer that superiority of information which “ The Chancellor, M. de Barentin, took had marked it in days of barbarism, the
im- his seat on the stage of this species of theatre; portance of the deputies the Tiers Etat the three orders were, if I may so express had augmented from all these considerations. myself, in the pit, the clergy and noblesse Their imposing numbers, their confident to the right and left, the deputies of the looks, their black cloaks and dresses, fixed Tiers Etat in front. They had previously the attention of the spectators. Literary declared that they would not kneel on the men, merchants, and a great number of entrance of the King, according to an anlawyers, formed the chief part of this order. cient usage still practised on the last meetSome of the nobles had got themselves e. ing of the States General. Had the de lected deputies of the Tiers Etat, and of puties of the Tiers Etat put themselves on these the most conspicuous was the Comte their knees in 1789, the public at large, de Mirabeau. The opinion entertained of not excepting the proudest aristocrats, would his talents was remarkably increased by the have termed the action ridiculous, that is, dread excited by his immorality; yet it was wholly inconsistent with the opinions of the that very immorality that lessened the influ- age. once which his surprising abilities ought to “ When Mirabeau appeared, a low mur. have obtained for him. The eye that was mur was heard throughout the assembly. once fixed on his countenance was not like. He understood its meaning ; but stepping ly to be soon withdrawn: his immense head along the hall to his seat with a lofty air, of hair distinguished him from amongst the he seemed as if he were preparing to prorest, and suggested the idea that, like Sam- duce sufficient trouble in the country to son, his strength depended on it: his coun- confound the distinctions of esteem as well tenance derived expression even from its all others. M. Necker was received with ugliness ; and his whole person conveyed bursts of applause the moment he entered ; the idea of irregular power, but still such his popularity was then at its height ; and power as we should expect to find in a tri. the King might have derived the greatest bune of the people.
advantage from it, by remaining stedfast in “ His name was as yet the only celebrated the system of which he had adopted the one among the six hundred deputies of the fundamental principles. Tiers Etat; but there were a number of “ When the King came to seat himself honourable men, and not a few that were to on his throne in the midst of this assembly, be dreaded. The spirit of faction began to I felt for the first time, a sensation of fear. hover over France, and was not to be over. I observed that the Queen was much agi
tated ; she came after the appointed time, the very commencement of its power; and and her colour was visibly altered. The had it not soon fallen into the hands of King delivered his discourse in his usual factious men, who, having nothing more unaffected manner; but the looks of the to reap in the field of beneficence, endeadeputies were expressive of more energy voured to excite mischief, that they might than that of the Monarch, and this con- enter on a new career.” trast was disquieting at a time, when, no- The whole history of the Assemthing being as yet settled, strength was re- blies, down to the death of Mirabeau, quisite to both sides.
and those other remarkable occurences “ The speeches of the King, the Chan
which characterised the close of the cellor, and M. Necker, all pointed to the re-instatement of the finances. That of M. year 1791 ; the emigration of the noNecker contained a view of all the improve. blesse; the opening of the revolutionments of which the administration was capa. ary war, and overthrow of the monable ; but he hardly touched on constitu- archy; all that series of events which tional questions ; and contiņing himself to terminated in the trial and death of cautioning the assembly against the preci- the King, are depicted in a manner pitation of which it was too susceptible, he equally abounding in liveliness and in ed into a proverb, • Ne soyez pas envieur feeling. For the details we refer to du temps,'— do not expect to do at once
the work itself, but we must extract that which can be accomplished only by
the very original chapter on the comparative characters of Charles I. and
Louis XVI., with which she pauses Madame de Stael dwells, with not a little of the partiality of a first love,
over the catastrophe to which she has
conducted us. on the beneficial effects produced by the labours of the meeting thus as
“ Many persons have attributed the dis
asters of France to the weakness of the charsembled. Had they been a little more acter of Louis XVI. ; and it has been contemperate in their measures ; above
tinually repeated, that his stooping to recog. all, had they avoided the fatal sin of nise the principles of liberty was one of the taking away the church lands in the essential causes of the Revolution. It seems spirit not of equity but of cruelty, to me then a matter of curiosity, to show to there can be no doubt that the sera
those, who believe that in France, at this vices rendered to the main body of crisis, such or such a man would have sufthe people, by the decrees of the Con- ficed to have prevented every thing ; -or
that the adoption of such or such a resolustitutional Assembly, the only one of tion would have arrested the progress of all the revolutionary meetings where events ;-it seems, I say, a matter of curiothe nation could be said to be repre- sity to show them, that the conduct of sented, were great and admirable. The Charles I. was, in all respects, the converse introduction of a free press, and of a of that of Louis XVI., and that, neverthecriminal jurisprudence, more nearly less, two opposite systems brought about the resembling the model of England;
same catastrophe ; so irresistible is the prothe abolition of many odious and un
gress of revolutions caused by the opinion of
the majority equal taxes; and of the absurd privi
“ James I., the father of Charles, said leges which were claimed, not only by
• that men might form an opinion on the the old legitimate noblesse of France, conduct of kings, since they freely allowed but by a swarm of novi homines, who themselves to scrutinize the decrees of Proowed their envious elevation to all the vidence; but that their power could no more arts of money-making, court intrigue, be called in question than that of God.' and civil profligacy,-these alone, had Charles I. had been educated in these maxthey done nothing more, might have ims; and he regarded as a measure equally been services sufficient to entitle the
inconsistent with duty, and with policy, members of that memorable senate to
every concession made by the royal authori.
ty. Louis XVI., a hundred and fifty years the everlasting gratitude of their coun
later, was modified by the age in which he trymen.
lived ; the doctrine of passive obedience, “ On all sides,” says Madame de Stael, which was still received in England in the were diffused life, emulation, and intelli- time of Charles, was no longer maintained gence ; there was a France instead of a cap- even by the clergy of France in 1789. The ital, a capital instead of a court. The voice English parliament had existed from time of the people, so long called the voice of God, immemorial ; and although it was not irrewas at last consulted by government; and vocably decided that its consent was necesit would have supplied a wise rule of guid- sary for taxation, yet it was customary to ance, had not, as we are doomed to repeat, ask its sanction. But as it granted subsithe Constitutional Assembly proceeded with dies for several years in anticipation, the too much precipitation in its reform from King of England was not, as now, under the necessity of assembling it annually; and imprisonment; no one act of tyranny can very frequently taxes were continued with- be laid to his charge ; and, far from reout having been renewed by the votes of the straining the liberty of the press, it was the national representatives. The parliament, Archbishop of Sens, the King's prime minhowever, on all occasions, protested against ister, who, in the name of his Majesty, inthis abuse ; and upon this ground com- vited all writers to make known their opi. menced the quarrel between the Commons nions upon the form and the manner of asand Charles I. He was reproached with sembling the States General. two taxes which he levied without the as- “ The Protestant religion was established sent of the nation. Irritated by this re- in England ; but as the church of England proach, he ordered, in pursuance of the con- recognised the king as its head, Charles I. stitutional right vested in him, that the par. had certainly much more influence over his liament should be dissolved ; and twelve church than Louis had over that of France. years elapsed before he called another ; an The English clergy, under the guidance of interruption almost unparalleled in the his- Laud, although Protestant, was not only in tory of England. The quarrel of Louis all respects more independent, but more rigid XVI. began, like that of Charles I., by fin- than the French clergy ; for the philosophic ancial embarrassments; and it is always spirit had gained a footing among some of the these embarrassments that render kings de- leaders of the Gallican church; and Laud pendant upon their people ; but Louis XVI. was more decidedly orthodox than the Carassembled the States General, which, for dinal de Rohan, the principal bishop of nearly two centuries, had been almost for- France. The ecclesiastical authority and gotten in France.
the hierarchy were supported by Charles “ Louis XIV. had suppressed even the re- with extreme severity. The greater part of monstrances of the parliament of Paris, the the cruel sentences, which disgraced the only privilege left to that body, when he Star-Chamber, had for their object the enregistered the bursal edicts. Henry VIII. forcing of respect for the clergy. That of of England had caused his proclamations to France seldom defended itself, and never be received as laws. Thus then, both found defenders in others : both were eCharles and Louis might consider them- qually crushed by the Revolution. selves as inheriting unlimited power ; but “ The English nobility did not resort to with this difference, that the people of Eng. the pernicious measure of emigration, nor land always relied, and with reason, upon to the still more pernicious measure of callthe past to reclaim their rights, while the ing in foreigners : they encircled the throne French demanded something entirely new, with constancy, and combatted on the side since the convocation of the States General of the King during the civil war. The was not prescribed by any law. Louis principles of philosophy, which were in XVI., according to the constitution or the vogue in France at the commencement of non-constitution of France, was not under the Revolution, excited a great number of any obligation to assemble the States Gene. the nobles themselves to turn their own priral; Charles I., in omitting for twelve years vileges into ridicule. The spirit of the to convoke the English parliament, violated seventeenth century did not prompt the privileges which had been long recognized. English nobility to doubt the validity of
“ During the twelve years' suspension of their own rights. The Star-Chamber pun. the parliament under Charles, the Star- ished with extreme severity some persons Chamber, an irregular tribunal which exe- who had ventured to ridicule certain lords. cuted the will of the English Monarch, ex- Pleasantry is never interdicted to the French. ercised every imaginable species of rigour. The nobles of England were grave and sePrynne was sentenced to lose his ears for rious, while those of France were agreeable having written, according to the tenets of triflers ; and yet both the one and the other the puritans, against plays and against hier. were alike despoiled of their privileges ; archy. Allison and Robins endured the 'and, widely as they differed in all their measame punishment, because they expressed an sures of defence, they were strikingly assiopinion different from that of the Archbish- milated in their ruin. op of York; Lilburne was exposed on the “ It has often been said, that the great inpillory, inhumanly scourged, and gagged, fuence of Paris over the rest of France, was because his courageous complaints produced one of the causes of the Revolution. Lonan effect upon the people. Williams, a don never obtained the same ascendant over bishop, underwent a similar punishment. England, because the principal English noThe most cruel tortures were inflicted upon bility lived much more in the provinces than those who refused to pay the taxes imposed those of France. Lastly, it has been preby a mere proclamation of the King ; in a tended, that the prime minister of Louis multitudinous variety of cases ruinous fines XVI., M. Necker, was swayed by republic were levied on individuals by the same Star. can principles, and that such a man as CarChamber ; but, in general, it was against dinal Richelieu might have prevented the the liberty of the press that the utmost vio- Revolution. The Earl of Strafford, the falence was displayed. Louis XVI. made vourite minister of Charles I. was of a firm, scarcely any use of the arbitrary measure of and even despotic character ; he possessed uttres de cachet for the purpose of exile or one advantage over Cardinal Richelieu, that Vol. III.