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CONCLUSION. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 6 (Defence of the Constitutions Vol. III cont’d, Davila, Essays on the Constitution) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 6.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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It should have been before observed, that the Western Empire fell in the fifth century, and the Eastern in the fifteenth.
Augustulus was compelled by Odoacer, King of the Heruli, in 475, to abdicate the Western Empire, and was the last Roman who possessed the imperial dignity at Rome. The dominion of Italy fell, soon afterwards, into the hands of Theodoric the Goth. The Eastern Empire lasted many centuries afterwards, till it was annihilated by Mahomet the Great, and Constantinople was taken in the year 1453. The interval between the fall of these two empires, making a period of about a thousand years, is called The Middle Age.* During this term, republics without number arose in Italy; whirled upon their axles or single centres; foamed, raged, and burst, like so many waterspouts upon the ocean. They were all alike ill constituted; all alike miserable; and all ended in similar disgrace and despotism. It would be curious to pursue our subject through all of them whose records have survived the ravages of Goths, Saracens, and bigoted Christians; through those other republics of Castile, Arragon, Catalonia, Galicia, and all the others in Spain; through those in Portugal; through the several provinces that now compose the kingdom of France; through those in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, &c. But, if such a work should be sufficiently encouraged by the public, (which is not probable, for mankind, in general, dare not as yet read or think upon Constitutions,) it is too extensive for my forces, and ought not to be done in so much haste. The preceding has been produced upon the spur of a particular occasion, which made it necessary to write and publish with precipitation, or it might have been useless to have published at all. The whole has been done in the midst of other occupations, in so much hurry, that scarce a moment could be spared to correct the style, adjust the method, pare off excrescences, or even obliterate repetitions, in all which respects it stands in need of an apology. The investigation may be pursued to any length.
All nations, from the beginning, have been agitated by the same passions. The principles developed here will go a great way in explaining every phenomenon that occurs in the history of government. The vegetable and animal kingdoms, and those heavenly bodies whose existence and movements we are as yet only permitted faintly to perceive, do not appear to be governed by laws more uniform or certain than those which regulate the moral and political world. Nations move by unalterable rules; and education, discipline, and laws, make the greatest difference in their accomplishments, happiness, and perfection. It is the master artist alone who finishes his building, his picture, or his clock. The present actors on the stage have been too little prepared by their early views, and too much occupied with turbulent scenes, to do more than they have done. Impartial justice will confess that it is astonishing they have been able to do so much. It is for the young to make themselves masters of what their predecessors have been able to comprehend and accomplish but imperfectly.
A prospect into futurity in America, is like contemplating the heavens through the telescopes of Herschell. Objects stupendous in their magnitudes and motions strike us from all quarters, and fill us with amazement! When we recollect that the wisdom or the folly, the virtue or the vice, the liberty or servitude, of those millions now beheld by us, only as Columbus saw these times in vision,* are certainly to be influenced, perhaps decided, by the manners, examples, principles, and political institutions of the present generation, that mind must be hardened into stone that is not melted into reverence and awe. With such affecting scenes before his eyes, is there, can there be, a young American indolent and incurious; surrendered up to dissipation and frivolity; vain of imitating the loosest manners of countries, which can never be made much better or much worse? A profligate American youth must be profligate indeed, and richly merits the scorn of all mankind.
The world has been too long abused with notions, that climate and soil decide the characters and political institutions of nations. The laws of Solon and the despotism of Mahomet have, at different times, prevailed at Athens; consuls, emperors, and pontiffs have ruled at Rome. Can there be desired a stronger proof, that policy and education are able to triumph over every disadvantage of climate? Mankind have been still more injured by insinuations, that a certain celestial virtue, more than human, has been necessary to preserve liberty. Happiness, whether in despotism or democracy, whether in slavery or liberty, can never be found without virtue. The best republics will be virtuous, and have been so; but we may hazard a conjecture, that the virtues have been the effect of the well ordered constitution, rather than the cause. And, perhaps, it would be impossible to prove that a republic cannot exist even among highwaymen, by setting one rogue to watch another; and the knaves themselves may in time be made honest men by the struggle.
It is now in our power to bring this work to a conclusion with unexpected dignity. In the course of the last summer, two authorities have appeared, greater than any that have been before quoted, in which the principles we have attempted to defend have been acknowledged.
The first is, an Ordinance of Congress, of the thirteenth of July, 1787, for the Government of the Territory of the United States, Northwest of the River Ohio.
The second is, the Report of the Convention at Philadelphia, of the seventeenth of September, 1787.
The former confederation of the United States was formed upon the model and example of all the confederacies, ancient and modern, in which the federal council was only a diplomatic body. Even the Lycian, which is thought to have been the best, was no more. The magnitude of territory, the population, the wealth and commerce, and especially the rapid growth of the United States, have shown such a government to be inadequate to their wants; and the new system, which seems admirably calculated to unite their interests and affections, and bring them to an uniformity of principles and sentiments, is equally well combined to unite their wills and forces as a single nation. A result of accommodation cannot be supposed to reach the ideas of perfection of any one; but the conception of such an idea, and the deliberate union of so great and various a people in such a plan, is, without all partiality or prejudice, if not the greatest exertion of human understanding, the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen. That it may be improved is not to be doubted, and provision is made for that purpose in the report itself. A people who could conceive, and can adopt it, we need not fear will be able to amend it, when, by experience, its inconveniences and imperfections shall be seen and felt.1
DISCOURSES ON DAVILA.
SERIES OF PAPERS
BY AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.
non ponebat rumores ante salutem.
Mr. Adams returned to the United States in 1788, just as the organization of government under the new constitution of the United States was taking place. He became the first Vice-President, having received more votes than any one, excepting Washington, under the original provision of that instrument, which made no distinction in the votes given to the candidates for the two highest offices; and presided in the senate throughout the critical period of the adoption of all the organic laws necessary for the execution of the new system. It was during the first year of this service, that he undertook to write the following series of papers in the Gazette of the United States, at Philadelphia, as a sequel to his volumes of The Defence. They were stimulated mainly by the manifest tendencies of the revolution in France, but mediately by the publication of the Marquis Condorcet, entitled “Quatre Lettres d’un Bourgeois de New Haven, sur l’Unité de la Législation,” being a defence of the position formerly taken by M. Turgot. They furnished, however, to the partisans of the day so much material for immediate political use in the contest just then beginning, that the author deemed it best to desist, and they were left incomplete.
Fifteen years afterwards, when Mr. Adams was withdrawn from political life, the papers were collected in Boston, and published by Russell and Cutler, in one volume, with the following preface, not from his hand. The motto, however, was furnished by him.
A copy of this edition remains in the author’s library given by him to the town of Quincy, and in it are a considerable number of marginal notes, made as late as the year 1812-13, in his handwriting. Such of them as are in any way interesting are inserted in the present work.
Since the publication of these Discourses, in 1790, our observations abroad and experience at home, have sufficiently taught us the lessons they were intended to inculcate; and the evils they were designed to prevent, have borne testimony of their truth.
It is unnecessary to mention the rank or reputation of the supposed author, to give celebrity to the work. The Discourses are allowed, by the best judges, to form a complete essay on associated man, in which practical improvement is drawn from profound investigation; his principles of action, as an individual, traced to their effects in his relative capacity; and, from the light of history, and a thorough knowledge of his nature, his past disasters are made subservient to his present and future happiness.
The maxims inculcated in these Discourses are calculated to secure virtue, by laying a restraint upon vice; to give vigor and durability to the tree of liberty, by pruning its excrescences; and to guard it against the tempest of faction, by the protection of a firm and well-balanced government.
A work combining so much excellence, on a subject of such dignity and importance, cannot be too much appreciated. . . . . .
Conceiving it to be both useful and honorable to their country, the editors are desirous of preserving it from the inevitable wreck of a newspaper publication; and believing the work will not fail of being approved by their fellow-citizens, they now transmit it to the public in a more durable form, without the aid of subscription or private patronage.*
“Two factions, drunk with enthusiasm, and headed by men of the most desperate ambition, desolated France.” Remarks on the History of England.
Boston, March, 1805.
DISCOURSES ON DAVILA.1
This dull, heavy volume, still excites the wonder of its author,—first, that he could find, amidst the constant scenes of business and dissipation in which he was enveloped, time to write it; secondly, that he had the courage to oppose and publish his own opinions to the universal opinion of America, and, indeed, of all mankind. Not one man in America then believed him. He knew not one and has not heard of one since who then believed him. The work, however, powerfully operated to destroy his popularity. It was urged as full proof, that he was an advocate for monarchy, and laboring to introduce a hereditary president in America.
J. A. 1812.
Felix, quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum.
“The French nation, known in antiquity under the appellation of the Franks, were originally from the heart of Germany. In the declension of the Roman Empire, they inhabited a country in the north, along the river Rhine, situated between Bavaria and Saxony, which still preserves the name of Franconia. Having excessively multiplied, as it happens in cold climates, their country was found not sufficiently extensive to contain them, nor fertile enough to nourish them. Excited by the example of their neighbors, they resolved, by a common voice, to divide themselves into two nations; one of which should continue to inhabit their ancient country; and the other endeavor to procure elsewhere, by the force of arms, an establishment more vast, more commodious, and more fertile. This enterprise was resolved upon, and this division made by unanimous consent. Such as were destined by lot to essay their fortune, although trained to war, and incapable of terror at the apprehension of the dangers of such an enterprise, thought, however, that they ought not to abandon it to anarchy or hazard, but to conduct it with prudence and order. To concert the measures necessary for the execution of their project, they assembled in the plains, in the neighborhood of the river Sala. Accustomed for many ages to live in the obedience of a prince, and thinking the monarchical state the most convenient to a people who aspire to augment their power and extend their conquests, they resolved to choose a king who should unite in his single person all the authority of the nation.”*
Here, perhaps, Davila is incautious and incorrect; for the Franks, as well as Saxons and other German nations, though their governments were monarchical, had their grandees and people, who met and deliberated in national assemblies, whose results were often, to say the least, considered as laws. Their great misfortune was, that, while it never was sufficiently ascertained, whether the sovereignty resided in the king or in the national assembly, it was equally uncertain whether the king had a negative on the assembly; whether the grandees had a negative on the king or the people; and whether the people had a negative on both or either. This uncertainty will appear hereafter, in Davila himself, to mark its course in bloody characters; and the whole history of France will show, that from the first migration of the Franks from Germany to this hour, it has never been sufficiently explained and decided.
“To this supreme degree of power in the king” (as Davila proceeds) “they added, that the crown should be hereditary in the family elected; foreseeing that if it were elective it would be a source of civil wars, which would prove destructive to all their enterprises. Mankind, in new establishments, generally act with sincerity and with a single view to the public good.* They listen neither to the ambition nor the interest of private persons. Pharamond was elected king by unanimous consent. He was a son of Marcomir, issue of the blood which had governed the nation for many ages; and, to an experienced valor, united a profound wisdom in the art of government. It was agreed that the same title and equal power should descend to his legitimate posterity of the male line, in default of which, the nation should return to their right of electing a new sovereign. But as unlimited authority may easily degenerate into tyranny, the Franks, at the time of the election of their king, demanded the establishment of certain perpetual and irrevocable laws, which should regulate the order of succession to the throne, and prescribe in a few words the form of government. These laws, proposed by their priests, whom they named Saliens, and instituted in the fields, which take their name from the river Sala, were originally called Salique laws, and have been considered, from the establishment of the monarchy, as the primitive regulations and fundamental constitutions of the kingdom.†
“Leaving their country to the old Prince Marcomir, and passing the Rhine, under the command of Pharamond, the Franks marched to the conquest of the Gauls, about the four hundred and nineteenth year of the Christian era. The Roman legions, united with the Gaulish troops, resisted Pharamond till his death. The sceptre was left to his son Clodion, an intrepid prince, in the flower of his age, who in several battles defeated the nations of the country, dissipated the Roman armies, and established himself in Belgic Gaul. Meroveus, who succeeded him, made a rapid progress; penetrated into Celtic Gaul, and extended his empire to the gates of Paris. Judging that he had conquered country enough to contain his subjects and form a state of reasonable extent, he limited the course of his exploits, and turned all his cares to peace, after having united under the same laws and the same name, the conquerors and the vanquished, whom he governed peaceably. He died leaving the Franks solidly established in Gaul. Such is the origin of the French monarchy, and such are her fundamental laws.
“By the dispositions of the same laws, the work of the nation, are regulated the rights and prerogatives of the princes of the blood. As each of them, in default of direct heirs, may, according to his rank, be called to the crown, their interests are necessarily connected with those of the state. The people regard these privileges as inviolable. Neither length of time nor distance of degree has ever done them any injury. All these princes preserve the rank which nature has allotted them, to succeed to the throne. They have, indeed, in the course of time, taken different names, such as those of Valois, of Bourbon, of Orléans, of Angoulême, of Vendôme, of Alençon, of Montpensier; but they have not by these means lost the rights attached to the royal consanguinity, and that especially of succeeding to the crown. These different branches have from time to time asserted the pre-eminence due to their blood. To interest them the more forcibly in the preservation of a crown, to which, in succession, they may all be called, it has been commonly made a rule, in case of the minority or absence of the lawful king, to choose for the tutors or regents of the kingdom, the princes who were nearest related. It would not indeed be natural to intrust the administration to the hands of strangers, who might destroy, or at least dismember so beautiful a state; whereas princes born of the same blood, ought, for that reason, to watch over the conservation of an inheritance which belongs to them in some sort. This right is not simply founded upon usage. The states general of the kingdom, in whom resides the entire power of the whole nation whom they represent,* have frequently confirmed it.”
Here again we meet with another inaccuracy, if not a contradiction in Davila; or rather with another proof of that confusion of law, and that uncertainty of the sovereignty, which for fifteen hundred years has been to France the fatal source of so many calamities.† Here the sovereignty or whole power of the nation, is asserted to be in the states general; whereas only three pages before, he had asserted that the whole authority of the nation was united in the king.*
“These two prerogatives, of succeeding to the throne when a king dies without masculine posterity, and of governing the kingdom during the absence or minority of the legitimate sovereign, have at all times procured to the princes of the blood a great authority among the people and the best part in the government. They have applied themselves accordingly with remarkable vigilance to the administration of an empire which they regarded with justice as their patrimony. And the people, judging that they might have them one day for their first magistrates, have always shown them the more respect, as they have more than once known the younger branches to ascend the throne in default of the elder. Thus the crown has passed from the Merovingians to the Carlovingians, and finally to the Capetians; but always from male to male, in the princes of the blood of these three races. From the last of these descended the King Louis IX., whom the innocence of his life and the integrity of his manners have placed in the number of the saints. He left two sons, Philip III., surnamed the Hardy; and Robert, Earl of Clermont. Philip continued the elder branch, which reigned more than three hundred years, and took the surname of Valois. From Robert is descended the younger branch, or the House of Bourbon, so called from the province in which it possessed its settlement. This house, respectable not only by birth, which placed it near the throne, but also by the extent of its lands and riches, by the valor and number of its princes, almost all distinguished by their merit and a singular affability, arrived soon at a high degree of power. This elevation, joined to the favor of the people, excited against the Bourbons the jealousy and envy of the kings, whom this great credit and distinguished splendor displeased and alarmed. Every day brought fresh occasions of hatred, suspicion, and distrust, which several times broke out in arms. Thus in the war for the public good, John, Duke of Bourbon, declared himself against Louis XI.; and Louis XII., before his accession to the throne, was at war with Peter of Bourbon. The jealousies which these princes inspired into kings, exposed them sometimes to secret vexations, and sometimes to declared enmities.”
We may add to this reflection of Davila, that it is extremely probable that these princes, by frequently betraying symptoms of ambition, aspiring at the throne, might give to kings just grounds of jealousy and alarm.*
Before we proceed in our discourses on Davila, it will assist us, in comprehending his narration, as well as in making many useful reflections in morals and policy, to turn our thoughts for a few moments to the constitution of the human mind. This we shall endeavor to do in our next essay.
C’est là le propre de l’esprit humain, que les exemples ne corrigent personne; les sottises des pères sont perdues pour leurs enfans; il faut que chaque génération fasse les siennes.†
Men, in their primitive conditions, however savage, were undoubtedly gregarious; and they continue to be social, not only in every stage of civilization, but in every possible situation in which they can be placed. As nature intended them for society, she has furnished them with passions, appetites, and propensities, as well as a variety of faculties, calculated both for their individual enjoyment, and to render them useful to each other in their social connections. There is none among them more essential or remarkable, than the passion for distinction. A desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows, is one of the earliest, as well as keenest dispositions discovered in the heart of man. If any one should doubt the existence of this propensity, let him go and attentively observe the journeymen and apprentices in the first workshop, or the oarsmen in a cockboat, a family or a neighborhood, the inhabitants of a house or the crew of a ship, a school or a college, a city or a village, a savage or civilized people, a hospital or a church, the bar or the exchange, a camp or a court. Wherever men, women, or children, are to be found, whether they be old or young, rich or poor, high or low, wise or foolish, ignorant or learned, every individual is seen to be strongly actuated by a desire to be seen, heard, talked of, approved and respected, by the people about him, and within his knowledge.
Moral writers have, by immemorial usage, a right to make a free use of the poets.
A regard to the sentiments of mankind concerning him, and to their dispositions towards him, every man feels within himself; and if he has reflected, and tried experiments, he has found, that no exertion of his reason, no effort of his will, can wholly divest him of it. In proportion to our affection for the notice of others is our aversion to their neglect; the stronger the desire of the esteem of the public, the more powerful the aversion to their disapprobation; the more exalted the wish for admiration, the more invincible the abhorrence of contempt. Every man not only desires the consideration of others, but he frequently compares himself with others, his friends or his enemies; and in proportion as he exults when he perceives that he has more of it than they, he feels a keener affliction when he sees that one or more of them, are more respected than himself.
This passion, while it is simply a desire to excel another, by fair industry in the search of truth, and the practice of virtue, is properly called Emulation. When it aims at power, as a means of distinction, it is Ambition. When it is in a situation to suggest the sentiments of fear and apprehension, that another, who is now inferior, will become superior, it is denominated Jealousy. When it is in a state of mortification, at the superiority of another, and desires to bring him down to our level, or to depress him below us, it is properly called Envy. When it deceives a man into a belief of false professions of esteem or admiration, or into a false opinion of his importance in the judgment of the world, it is Vanity. These observations alone would be sufficient to show, that this propensity, in all its branches, is a principal source of the virtues and vices, the happiness and misery of human life; and that the history of mankind is little more than a simple narration of its operation and effects.
There is in human nature, it is true, simple Benevolence, or an affection for the good of others; but alone it is not a balance for the selfish affections. Nature then has kindly added to benevolence, the desire of reputation, in order to make us good members of society. Spectemur agendo expresses the great principle of activity for the good of others. Nature has sanctioned the law of self-preservation by rewards and punishments. The rewards of selfish activity are life and health; the punishments of negligence and indolence are want, disease, and death. Each individual, it is true, should consider, that nature has enjoined the same law on his neighbor, and therefore a respect for the authority of nature would oblige him to respect the rights of others as much as his own. But reasoning as abstruse, though as simple as this, would not occur to all men. The same nature therefore has imposed another law, that of promoting the good, as well as respecting the rights of mankind, and has sanctioned it by other rewards and punishments. The rewards in this case, in this life, are esteem and admiration of others; the punishments are neglect and contempt; nor may any one imagine that these are not as real as the others. The desire of the esteem of others is as real a want of nature as hunger; and the neglect and contempt of the world as severe a pain as the gout or stone. It sooner and oftener produces despair, and a detestation of existence; of equal importance to individuals, to families, and to nations. It is a principal end of government to regulate this passion, which in its turn becomes a principal means of government. It is the only adequate instrument of order and subordination in society, and alone commands effectual obedience to laws, since without it neither human reason, nor standing armies, would ever produce that great effect. Every personal quality, and every blessing of fortune, is cherished in proportion to its capacity of gratifying this universal affection for the esteem, the sympathy, admiration and congratulations of the public. Beauty in the face, elegance of figure, grace of attitude and motion, riches, honors, every thing is weighed in the scale, and desired, not so much for the pleasure they afford, as the attention they command. As this is a point of great importance, it may be pardonable to expatiate a little upon these particulars.
Why are the personal accomplishments of beauty, elegance, and grace, held in such high estimation by mankind? Is it merely for the pleasure which is received from the sight of these attributes? By no means. The taste for such delicacies is not universal; in those who feel the most lively sense of them, it is but a slight sensation, and of shortest continuance; but those attractions command the notice and attention of the public; they draw the eyes of spectators. This is the charm that makes them irresistible. Is it for such fading perfections that a husband or a wife is chosen? Alas, it is well known, that a very short familiarity totally destroys all sense and attention to such properties; and on the contrary, a very little time and habit destroy all the aversion to ugliness and deformity, when unattended with disease or ill temper. Yet beauty and address are courted and admired, very often, more than discretion, wit, sense, and many other accomplishments and virtues, of infinitely more importance to the happiness of private life, as well as to the utility and ornament of society. Is it for the momentous purpose of dancing and drawing, painting and music, riding or fencing, that men or women are destined in this life or any other? Yet those who have the best means of education, bestow more attention and expense on those, than on more solid acquisitions. Why? Because they attract more forcibly the attention of the world, and procure a better advancement in life. Notwithstanding all this, as soon as an establishment in life is made, they are found to have answered their end, are neglected and laid aside.
Is there any thing in birth, however illustrious or splendid, which should make a difference between one man and another? If, from a common ancestor, the whole human race is descended, they are all of the same family. How then can they distinguish families into the more or the less ancient? What advantage is there in an illustration of an hundred or a thousand years? Of what avail are all these histories, pedigrees, traditions? What foundation has the whole science of genealogy and heraldry? Are there differences in the breeds of men, as there are in those of horses? If there are not, these sciences have no foundation in reason; in prejudice they have a very solid one. All that philosophy can say is, that there is a general presumption, that a man has had some advantages of education, if he is of a family of note. But this advantage must be derived from his father and mother chiefly, if not wholly; of what importance is it then, in this view, whether the family is twenty generations upon record, or only two?
The mighty secret lies in this:—An illustrious descent attracts the notice of mankind. A single drop of royal blood, however illegitimately scattered, will make any man or woman proud or vain. Why? Because, although it excites the indignation of many, and the envy of more, it still attracts the attention of the world. Noble blood, whether the nobility be hereditary or elective, and, indeed, more in republican governments than in monarchies, least of all in despotisms, is held in estimation for the same reason. It is a name and a race that a nation has been interested in, and is in the habit of respecting. Benevolence, sympathy, congratulation, have been so long associated to those names in the minds of the people, that they are become national habits. National gratitude descends from the father to the son, and is often stronger to the latter than the former. It is often excited by remorse, upon reflection on the ingratitude and injustice with which the former has been treated. When the names of a certain family are read in all the gazettes, chronicles, records, and histories of a country for five hundred years, they become known, respected, and delighted in by every body. A youth, a child of this extraction, and bearing this name, attracts the eyes and ears of all companies long before it is known or inquired whether he be a wise man or a fool. His name is often a greater distinction than a title, a star, or a garter. This it is which makes so many men proud, and so many others envious of illustrious descent. The pride is as irrational and contemptible as the pride of riches, and no more. A wise man will lament that any other distinction than that of merit should be made. A good man will neither be proud nor vain of his birth, but will earnestly improve every advantage he has for the public good. A cunning man will carefully conceal his pride; but will indulge it in secret the more effectually, and improve his advantage to greater profit. But was any man ever known so wise, or so good, as really to despise birth or wealth? Did you ever read of a man rising to public notice, from obscure beginnings, who was not reflected on? Although, with every liberal mind, it is an honor and a proof of merit, yet it is a disgrace with mankind in general. What a load of sordid obloquy and envy has every such man to carry! The contempt that is thrown upon obscurity of ancestry, augments the eagerness for the stupid adoration that is paid to its illustration.
This desire of the consideration of our fellow-men, and their congratulations in our joys, is not less invincible than the desire of their sympathy in our sorrows. It is a determination of our nature, that lies at the foundation of our whole moral system in this world, and may be connected essentially with our destination in a future state.
O fureur de se distinguer, que ne pouvez vous point!
Why do men pursue riches? What is the end of avarice?
The labor and anxiety, the enterprises and adventures, that are voluntarily undertaken in pursuit of gain, are out of all proportion to the utility, convenience, or pleasure of riches. A competence to satisfy the wants of nature, food and clothes, a shelter from the seasons, and the comforts of a family, may be had for very little. The daily toil of the million, and of millions of millions, is adequate to a complete supply of these necessities and conveniences. With such accommodations, thus obtained, the appetite is keener, the digestion more easy and perfect, and repose is more refreshing, than among the most abundant superfluities and the rarest luxuries. For what reason, then, are any mortals averse to the situation of the farmer, mechanic, or laborer? Why do we tempt the seas and encompass the globe? Why do any men affront heaven and earth to accumulate wealth, which will forever be useless to them? Why do we make an ostentatious display of riches? Why should any man be proud of his purse, houses, lands, or gardens? or, in better words, why should the rich man glory in his riches? What connection can there be between wealth and pride?
The answer to all these questions is, because riches attract the attention, consideration, and congratulations of mankind; it is not because the rich have really more of ease or pleasure than the poor. Riches force the opinion on a man that he is the object of the congratulations of others, and he feels that they attract the complaisance of the public. His senses all inform him, that his neighbors have a natural disposition to harmonize with all those pleasing emotions and agreeable sensations, which the elegant accommodations around him are supposed to excite.
His imagination expands, and his heart dilates at these charming illusions. His attachment to his possessions increases as fast as his desire to accumulate more; not for the purposes of beneficence or utility, but from the desire of illustration.
Why, on the other hand, should any man be ashamed to make known his poverty? Why should those who have been rich, or educated in the houses of the rich, entertain such an aversion, or be agitated with such terror, at the prospect of losing their property? or of being reduced to live at a humbler table? in a meaner house? to walk, instead of riding? or to ride without their accustomed equipage or retinue? Why do we hear of madness, melancholy, and suicides, upon bankruptcy, loss of ships, or any other sudden fall from opulence to indigence, or mediocrity? Ask your reason, what disgrace there can be in poverty? What moral sentiment of approbation, praise, or honor can there be in a palace? What dishonor in a cottage? What glory in a coach? What shame in a wagon? Is not the sense of propriety and sense of merit as much connected with an empty purse as a full one? May not a man be as estimable, amiable, and respectable, attended by his faithful dog, as if preceded and followed by a train of horses and servants? All these questions may be very wise, and the stoical philosophy has her answers ready. But if you ask the same questions of nature, experience, and mankind, the answers will be directly opposite to those of Epictetus, namely,—that there is more respectability, in the eyes of the greater part of mankind, in the gaudy trappings of wealth, than there is in genius or learning, wisdom or virtue.
The poor man’s conscience is clear; yet he is ashamed. His character is irreproachable; yet he is neglected and despised. He feels himself out of the sight of others, groping in the dark. Mankind take no notice of him. He rambles and wanders unheeded. In the midst of a crowd, at church, in the market, at a play, at an execution, or coronation, he is in as much obscurity as he would be in a garret or a cellar. He is not disapproved, censured, or reproached; he is only not seen. This total inattention is to him mortifying, painful, and cruel. He suffers a misery from this consideration, which is sharpened by the consciousness that others have no fellow-feeling with him in this distress. If you follow these persons, however, into their scenes of life, you will find that there is a kind of figure which the meanest of them all endeavors to make; a kind of little grandeur and respect, which the most insignificant study and labor to procure in the small circle of their acquaintances. Not only the poorest mechanic, but the man who lives upon common charity, nay, the common beggars in the streets; and not only those who may be all innocent, but even those who have abandoned themselves to common infamy, as pirates, highwaymen, and common thieves, court a set of admirers, and plume themselves upon that superiority which they have, or fancy they have, over some others. There must be one, indeed, who is the last and lowest of the human species. But there is no risk in asserting, that there is no one who believes and will acknowledge himself to be the man. To be wholly overlooked, and to know it, are intolerable. Instances of this are not uncommon. When a wretch could no longer attract the notice of a man, woman, or child, he must be respectable in the eyes of his dog. “Who will love me then?” was the pathetic reply of one, who starved himself to feed his mastiff, to a charitable passenger, who advised him to kill or sell the animal. In this “who will love me then?” there is a key to the human heart; to the history of human life and manners; and to the rise and fall of empires. To feel ourselves unheeded, chills the most pleasing hope, damps the most fond desire, checks the most agreeable wish, disappoints the most ardent expectations of human nature.
Is there in science and letters a reward for the labor they require? Scholars learn the dead languages of antiquity, as well as the living tongues of modern nations; those of the east, as well as the west. They puzzle themselves and others with metaphysics and mathematics. They renounce their pleasures, neglect their exercises, and destroy their health, for what? Is curiosity so strong? Is the pleasure that accompanies the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge so exquisite? If Crusoe, on his island, had the library of Alexandria, and a certainty that he should never again see the face of man, would he ever open a volume? Perhaps he might; but it is very probable he would read but little. A sense of duty; a love of truth; a desire to alleviate the anxieties of ignorance, may, no doubt, have an influence on some minds. But the universal object and idol of men of letters is reputation. It is the notoriety, the celebration, which constitutes the charm that is to compensate the loss of appetite and sleep, and sometimes of riches and honors.
The same ardent desire of the congratulations of others in our joys, is the great incentive to the pursuit of honors. This might be exemplified in the career of civil and political life. That we may not be too tedious, let us instance in military glory.
Is it to be supposed that the regular standing armies of Europe engage in the service from pure motives of patriotism? Are their officers men of contemplation and devotion, who expect their reward in a future life? Is it from a sense of moral or religious duty that they risk their lives and reconcile themselves to wounds? Instances of all these kinds may be found. But if any one supposes that all or the greater part of these heroes are actuated by such principles, he will only prove that he is unacquainted with them. Can their pay be considered as an adequate encouragement? This, which is no more than a very simple and moderate subsistence, would never be a temptation to renounce the chances of fortune in other pursuits, together with the pleasures of domestic life, and submit to this most difficult and dangerous employment. No, it is the consideration and the chances of laurels which they acquire by the service.
The soldier compares himself with his fellows, and contends for promotion to be a corporal. The corporals vie with each other to be sergeants. The sergeants will mount breaches to be ensigns. And thus every man in an army is constantly aspiring to be something higher, as every citizen in the commonwealth is constantly struggling for a better rank, that he may draw the observation of more eyes.
Such bribes the rapid Greek o’er Asia hurled;
For such, the steady Romans shook the world.
In a city or a village, little employments and trifling distinctions are contended for with equal eagerness, as honors and offices in commonwealths and kingdoms.
What is it that bewitches mankind to marks and signs? A ribbon? a garter? a star? a golden key? a marshal’s staff? or a white hickory stick? Though there is in such frivolities as these neither profit nor pleasure, nor any thing amiable, estimable, or respectable, yet experience teaches us, in every country of the world, they attract the attention of mankind more than parts or learning, virtue or religion. They are, therefore, sought with ardor, very often, by men possessed in the most eminent degree, of all the more solid advantages of birth and fortune, merit and services, with the best faculties of the head, and the most engaging recommendations of the heart.
Fame has been divided into three species. Glory, which attends the great actions of lawgivers and heroes, and the management of the great commands and first offices of state. Reputation, which is cherished by every gentleman. And Credit, which is supported by merchants and tradesmen. But even this division is incomplete, because the desire and the object of it, though it may be considered in various lights and under different modifications, is not confined to gentlemen nor merchants, but is common to every human being. There are no men who are not ambitious of distinguishing themselves and growing considerable among those with whom they converse. This ambition is natural to the human soul. And as, when it receives a happy turn, it is the source of private felicity and public prosperity, and when it errs, produces private uneasiness and public calamities; it is the business and duty of private prudence, of private and public education, and of national policy, to direct it to right objects. For this purpose it should be considered, that to every man who is capable of a worthy conduct, the pleasure from the approbation of worthy men is exquisite and inexpressible.
It is curious to consider the final causes of things, when the physical are wholly unknown. The intellectual and moral qualities are most within our power, and undoubtedly the most essential to our happiness. The personal qualities of health, strength, and agility, are next in importance. Yet the qualities of fortune, such as birth, riches, and honors, though a man has less reason to esteem himself for these than for those of his mind or body, are everywhere acknowledged to glitter with the brightest lustre in the eyes of the world.
As virtue is the only rational source and eternal foundation of honor, the wisdom of nations, in the titles they have established as the marks of order and subordination, has generally given an intimation, not of personal qualities, nor of the qualities of fortune; but of some particular virtues, more especially becoming men in the high stations they possess. Reverence is attributed to the clergy; veneration to magistrates; honor to senators; serenity, clemency, or mildness of disposition to princes. The sovereign authority and supreme executive have commonly titles that designate power as well as virtue,—as majesty to kings; magnificent, most honored, and sovereign lords to the government of Geneva; noble mightinesses to the States of Friesland; noble and mighty lords to the States of Guelderland; noble, great, and venerable lords to the regency of Leyden; noble and grand mightinesses to the States of Holland; noble, great, and venerable lords, the regency of Amsterdam; noble mightinesses, the States of Utrecht; and high mightinesses, the States General.
A death bed, it is said, shows the emptiness of titles. That may be. But does it not equally show the futility of riches, power, liberty, and all earthly things? “The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself,” appear “the baseless fabric of a vision,” and “life itself, a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Shall it be inferred from this, that fame, liberty, property, and life, shall be always despised and neglected? Shall laws and government, which regulate sublunary things, be neglected because they appear baubles at the hour of death?
The wisdom and virtue of all nations have endeavored to regulate the passion for respect and distinction, and to reduce it to some order in society, by titles marking the gradations of magistracy, to prevent, as far as human power and policy can prevent, collisions among the passions of many pursuing the same objects, and the rivalries, animosities, envy, jealousy, and vengeance which always result from them.
Has there ever been a nation who understood the human heart better than the Romans, or made a better use of the passion for consideration, congratulation, and distinction? They considered that, as reason is the guide of life, the senses, the imagination and the affections are the springs of activity. Reason holds the helm, but passions are the gales. And as the direct road to these is through the senses, the language of signs was employed by Roman wisdom to excite the emulation and active virtue of the citizens. Distinctions of conditions, as well as of ages, were made by difference of clothing. The laticlave or large flowing robe, studded with broad spots of purple, the ancient distinction of their kings, was, after the establishment of the consulate, worn by the senators through the whole period of the republic and the empire. The tribunes of the people were, after their institution, admitted to wear the same venerable signal of sanctity and authority. The angusticlave, or the smaller robe, with narrower studs of purple, was the distinguishing habit of Roman knights. The golden ring was also peculiar to senators and knights, and was not permitted to be worn by any other citizens. The prætext, or long white robe, reaching down to the ancles, bordered with purple, which was worn by the principal magistrates, such as consuls, prætors, censors, and sometimes on solemn festivals by senators. The chairs of ivory; the lictors; the rods; the axes; the crowns of gold; of ivory; of flowers; of herbs; of laurel branches; and of oak leaves; the civil and the mural crowns; their ovations; and their triumphs; every thing in religion, government, and common life, among the Romans, was parade, representation, and ceremony. Every thing was addressed to the emulation of the citizens, and every thing was calculated to attract the attention, to allure the consideration and excite the congratulations of the people; to attach their hearts to individual citizens according to their merit; and to their lawgivers, magistrates, and judges, according to their rank, station, and importance in the state. And this was in the true spirit of republics, in which form of government there is no other consistent method of preserving order, or procuring submission to the laws. To such means as these, or to force and a standing army, recourse must be had for the guardianship of laws and the protection of the people. It is universally true, that in all the republics now remaining in Europe, there is, as there ever has been, a more constant and anxious attention to such forms and marks of distinctions than there is in the monarchies.*
The policy of Rome was exhibited in its highest perfection, in the triumph of Paulus Æmilius over Perseus. It was a striking exemplification of congratulation and sympathy, contrasted with each other. Congratulation with the conqueror; sympathy with the captive; both suddenly changed into sympathy with the conqueror. The description of this triumph is written with a pomp of language correspondent to its dazzling magnificence. The representation of the king and his children must excite the pity of every reader who is not animated with the ferocious sentiments of Roman insolence and pride. Never was there a more moving lesson of the melancholy lot of humanity, than the contrasted fortunes of the Macedonian and the Roman. The one divested of his crown and throne, led in chains, with his children before his chariot; the other, blazing in gold and purple, to the capitol. This instructive lesson is given us by the victor himself, in a speech to the people. “My triumph, Romans, as if it had been in derision of all human felicity, has been interposed between the funerals of my children, and both have been exhibited as spectacles before you. Perseus, who himself a captive, saw his children led with him in captivity, now enjoys them in safety. I, who triumphed over him, having ascended the capitol, from the funeral chariot of one of my sons, descended from that capitol to see another expire. In the house of Paulus none remains but himself.† But your felicity, Romans, and the prosperous fortune of the public, is a consolation to me under this destruction of my family.”
It is easy to see how such a scene must operate on the hearts of a nation; how it must affect the passion for distinction; and how it must excite the ardor and virtuous emulation of the citizens.
The senate’s thanks, the Gazette’s pompous tale,
With force resistless o’er the brave prevail.
This power has praise, that virtue scarce can warm,
Till fame supplies the universal charm.
The result of the preceding discourses is, that avarice and ambition, vanity and pride, jealousy and envy, hatred and revenge, as well as the love of knowledge and desire of fame, are very often nothing more than various modifications of that desire of the attention, consideration, and congratulations of our fellow men, which is the great spring of social activity; that all men compare themselves with others, especially those with whom they most frequently converse, those who, by their employments or amusements, professions or offices, present themselves most frequently at the same time to the view and thoughts of that public, little or great, to which every man is known; that emulations and rivalries naturally and necessarily are excited by such comparisons; that the most heroic actions in war, the sublimest virtues in peace, and the most useful industry in agriculture, arts, manufactures, and commerce, proceed from such emulations on the one hand, and jealousies, envy, enmity, hatred, revenge, quarrels, factions, seditions, and wars on the other. The final cause of this constitution of things is easy to discover. Nature has ordained it, as a constant incentive to activity and industry, that, to acquire the attention and complacency, the approbation and admiration of their fellows, men might be urged to constant exertions of beneficence. By this destination of their natures, men of all sorts, even those who have the least of reason, virtue or benevolence, are chained down to an incessant servitude to their fellow creatures; laboring without intermission to produce something which shall contribute to the comfort, convenience, pleasure, profit, or utility of some or other of the species, they are really thus constituted by their own vanity, slaves to mankind. Slaves, I say again. For what a folly is it! On a selfish system, what are the thoughts, passions, and sentiments of mankind to us?
“What’s fame? A fancied life in others’ breath.”
What is it to us what shall be said of us after we are dead? Or in Asia, Africa, or Europe, while we live? There is no greater possible or imaginable delusion. Yet the impulse is irresistible. The language of nature to man in his constitution is this,—“I have given you reason, conscience, and benevolence; and thereby made you accountable for your actions, and capable of virtue, in which you will find your highest felicity. But I have not confided wholly in your laudable improvement of these divine gifts. To them I have superadded in your bosoms a passion for the notice and regard of your fellow mortals, which, if you perversely violate your duty, and wholly neglect the part assigned you in the system of the world and the society of mankind, shall torture you from the cradle to the grave.”
Nature has taken effectual care of her own work. She has wrought the passions into the texture and essence of the soul, and has not left it in the power of art to destroy them. To regulate and not to eradicate them is the province of policy. It is of the highest importance to education, to life, and to society, not only that they should not be destroyed, but that they should be gratified, encouraged, and arranged on the side of virtue. To confine our observations at present to that great leading passion of the soul, which has been so long under our consideration. What discouragement, distress, and despair, have not been occasioned by its disappointment? To consider one instance, among many, which happen continually in schools and colleges. Put a supposition of a pair of twin brothers who have been nourished by the same nurse, equally encouraged by their parents and preceptors, with equal genius, health, and strength, pursuing their studies with equal ardor and success. One is at length overtaken by some sickness, and in a few days the other, who escapes the influenza, is advanced some pages before him. This alone will make the studies of the unfortunate child, when he recovers his health, disgustful. As soon as he loses the animating hope of preëminence, and is constrained to acknowledge a few others of his form or class, his superiors, he becomes incapable of industrious application. Even the fear of the ferule or the rod, will after this be ineffectual. The terror of punishment, by forcing attention, may compel a child to perform a task, but can never infuse that ardor for study, which alone can arrive at great attainments. Emulation really seems to produce genius, and the desire of superiority to create talents. Either this, or the reverse of it, must be true; and genius produces emulation, and natural talents, the desire of superiority; for they are always found together, and what God and nature have united, let no audacious legislator presume to put asunder.
When the love of glory enkindles in the heart, and influences the whole soul, then, and only then, may we depend on a rapid progression of the intellectual faculties. The awful feeling of a mortified emulation, is not peculiar to children. In an army, or a navy, sometimes the interest of the service requires, and oftener perhaps private interest and partial favor prevail, to promote officers over their superiors or seniors. But the consequence is, that those officers can never serve again together. They must be distributed in different corps, or sent on different commands. Nor is this the worst effect. It almost universally happens, that the superseded officer feels his heart broken by his disgrace. His mind is enfeebled by grief, or disturbed by resentment; and the instances have been very rare, of any brilliant action performed by such an officer. What a monument to this character of human nature is the long list of yellow admirals in the British service! Consider the effects of similar disappointments in civil affairs. Ministers of state are frequently displaced in all countries; and what is the consequence? Are they seen happy in a calm resignation to their fate? Do they turn their thoughts from their former employments, to private studies or business? Are they men of pleasant humor, and engaging conversation? Are their hearts at ease? Or is their conversation a constant effusion of complaints and murmurs, and their breast the residence of resentment and indignation, of grief and sorrow, of malice and revenge? Is it common to see a man get the better of his ambition, and despise the honors he once possessed; or is he commonly employed in projects upon projects, intrigues after intrigues, and manœuvres on manœuvres, to recover them? So sweet and delightful to the human heart is that complacency and admiration, which attends public offices, whether they are conferred by the favor of a prince, derived from hereditary descent, or obtained by election of the people, that a mind must be sunk below the feelings of humanity, or exalted by religion or philosophy far above the common character of men, to be insensible, or to conquer its sensibility. Pretensions to such conquests are not uncommon; but the sincerity of such pretenders is often rendered suspicious, by their constant conversation and conduct, and even by their countenances. The people are so sensible of this, that a man in this predicament is always on the compassionate list, and, except in cases of great resentment against him for some very unpopular principles or behavior, they are found to be always studying some other office for a disappointed man, to console him in his affliction. In short, the theory of education, and the science of government, may be reduced to the same simple principle, and be all comprehended in the knowledge of the means of actively conducting, controlling, and regulating the emulation and ambition of the citizens.
“Haud facile emergunt, quorum virtutibus obstat Res angusta domi.”
“This mournful truth is everywhere confess’d, Slow rises Worth, by Poverty depressed.”
If we attempt to analyze our ideas still further upon this subject, we shall find, that the expressions we have hitherto used, attention, consideration, and congratulation, comprehend with sufficient accuracy the general object of the passion for distinction, in the greater part of mankind. There are not a few—from him who burned a temple, to the multitudes who plunge into low debauchery—who deliberately seek it by crimes and vices. The greater number, however, search for it, neither by vices nor virtues; but by the means which common sense and every day’s experience show, are most sure to obtain it; by riches, by family records, by play, and other frivolous personal accomplishments. But there are a few, and God knows, but a few, who aim at something more. They aim at approbation as well as attention; at esteem as well as consideration; and at admiration and gratitude, as well as congratulation. Admiration is, indeed, the complete idea of approbation, congratulation, and wonder, united. This last description of persons is the tribe out of which proceed your patriots and heroes, and most of the great benefactors to mankind. But for our humiliation, we must still remember, that even in these esteemed, beloved, and adored characters, the passion, although refined by the purest moral sentiments, and intended to be governed by the best principles, is a passion still; and therefore, like all other human desires, unlimited and insatiable. No man was ever contented with any given share of this human adoration. When Cæsar declared that he had lived enough to glory, Cæsar might deceive himself, but he did not deceive the world, who saw his declaration contradicted by every action of his subsequent life. Man constantly craves for more, even when he has no rival. But when he sees another possessed of more, or drawing away from himself a part of what he had, he feels a mortification, arising from the loss of a good he thought his own. His desire is disappointed; the pain of a want unsatisfied, is increased by a resentment of an injustice, as he thinks it. He accuses his rival of a theft or robbery, and the public of taking away what was his property, and giving it to another. These feelings and resentments are but other names for jealousy and envy; and altogether, they produce some of the keenest and most tormenting of all sentiments. These fermentations of the passions are so common and so well known, that the people generally presume, that a person in such circumstances, is deprived of his judgment, if not of his veracity and reason. It is too generally a sufficient answer to any complaint, to any fact alleged, or argument advanced, to say that it comes from a disappointed man.
There is a voice within us, which seems to intimate, that real merit should govern the world; and that men ought to be respected only in proportion to their talents, virtues, and services. But the question always has been, how can this arrangement be accomplished? How shall the men of merit be discovered? How shall the proportions of merit be ascertained and graduated? Who shall be the judge? When the government of a great nation is in question, shall the whole nation choose? Will such a choice be better than chance? Shall the whole nation vote for senators? Thirty millions of votes, for example, for each senator in France! It is obvious that this would be a lottery of millions of blanks to one prize, and that the chance of having wisdom and integrity in a senator by hereditary descent would be far better. There is no individual personally known to an hundredth part of the nation. The voters, then, must be exposed to deception, from intrigues and manœuvres without number, that is to say, from all the chicanery, impostures, and falsehoods imaginable, with scarce a possibility of preferring real merit. Will you divide the nation into districts, and let each district choose a senator? This is giving up the idea of national merit, and annexing the honor and the trust to an accident, that of living on a particular spot. A hundred or a thousand men of the first merit in a nation, may live in one city, and none at all of this description in several whole provinces. Real merit is so remote from the knowledge of whole nations, that were magistrates to be chosen by that criterion alone, and by a universal suffrage, dissensions and venality would be endless. The difficulties, arising from this source, are so obvious and universal, that nations have tried all sorts of experiments to avoid them.
As no appetite in human nature is more universal than that for honor, and real merit is confined to a very few, the numbers who thirst for respect, are out of all proportion to those who seek it only by merit. The great majority trouble themselves little about merit, but apply themselves to seek for honor, by means which they see will more easily and certainly obtain it, by displaying their taste and address, their wealth and magnificence, their ancient parchments, pictures, and statues, and the virtues of their ancestors; and if these fail, as they seldom have done, they have recourse to artifice, dissimulation, hypocrisy, flattery, imposture, empiricism, quackery, and bribery. What chance has humble, modest, obscure, and poor merit in such a scramble? Nations, perceiving that the still small voice of merit was drowned in the insolent roar of such dupes of impudence and knavery in national elections, without a possibility of a remedy, have sought for something more permanent than the popular voice to designate honor. Many nations have attempted to annex it to land, presuming that a good estate would at least furnish means of a good education; and have resolved that those who should possess certain territories, should have certain legislative, executive, and judicial powers over the people. Other nations have endeavored to connect honor with offices; and the names and ideas at least of certain moral virtues and intellectual qualities have been by law annexed to certain offices, as veneration, grace, excellence, honor, serenity, majesty. Other nations have attempted to annex honor to families, without regard to lands or offices. The Romans allowed none, but those who had possessed curule offices, to have statues or portraits. He who had images or pictures of his ancestors, was called noble. He who had no statue or pictures but his own, was called a new man. Those who had none at all, were ignoble. Other nations have united all those institutions; connected lands, offices, and families; made them all descend together, and honor, public attention, consideration, and congratulation, along with them.
This has been the policy of Europe; and it is to this institution she owes her superiority in war and peace, in legislation and commerce, in agriculture, navigation, arts, sciences, and manufactures, to Asia and Africa.* These families, thus distinguished by property, honors, and privileges, by defending themselves, have been obliged to defend the people against the encroachments of despotism. They have been a civil and political militia, constantly watching the designs of the standing armies, and courts; and by defending their own rights, liberties, properties, and privileges, they have been obliged, in some degree, to defend those of the people, by making a common cause with them. But there were several essential defects in this policy; one was, that the people took no rational measures to defend themselves, either against these great families, or the courts. They had no adequate representation of themselves in the sovereignty. Another was, that it never was determined where the sovereignty resided. Generally it was claimed by kings; but not admitted by the nobles. Sometimes every baron pretended to be sovereign in his own territory; at other times, the sovereignty was claimed by an assembly of nobles, under the name of States or Cortes. Sometimes the united authority of the king and states was called the sovereignty. The common people had no adequate and independent share in the legislatures, and found themselves harassed to discover who was the sovereign, and whom they ought to obey, as much as they ever had been or could be to determine who had the most merit. A thousand years of barons’ wars, causing universal darkness, ignorance, and barbarity, ended at last in simple monarchy, not by express stipulation, but by tacit acquiescence, in almost all Europe; the people preferring a certain sovereignty in a single person, to endless disputes, about merit and sovereignty, which never did and never will produce any thing but aristocratical anarchy; and the nobles contenting themselves with a security of their property and privileges, by a government of fixed laws, registered and interpreted by a judicial power, which they called sovereign tribunals, though the legislation and execution were in a single person.
In this system to control the nobles, the church joined the kings and common people. The progress of reason, letters, and science, has weakened the church and strengthened the common people; who, if they are honestly and prudently conducted by those who have their confidence, will most infallibly obtain a share in every legislature. But if the common people are advised to aim at collecting the whole sovereignty in single national assemblies, as they are by the Duke de la Rochefoucauld and the Marquis of Condorcet; or at the abolition of the regal executive authority; or at a division of the executive power, as they are by a posthumous publication of the Abbé de Mably,* they will fail of their desired liberty, as certainly as emulation and rivalry are founded in human nature, and inseparable from civil affairs. It is not to flatter the passions of the people, to be sure, nor is it the way to obtain a present enthusiastic popularity, to tell them that in a single assembly they will act as arbitrarily and tyrannically as any despot, but it is a sacred truth, and as demonstrable as any proposition whatever, that a sovereignty in a single assembly must necessarily, and will certainly be exercised by a majority, as tyrannically as any sovereignty was ever exercised by kings or nobles. And if a balance of passions and interests is not scientifically concerted, the present struggle in Europe will be little beneficial to mankind,† and produce nothing but another thousand years of feudal fanaticism, under new and strange names.
’Tis from high life high characters are drawn,
A saint in crape is twice a saint in lawn.
Providence, which has placed one thing over against another, in the moral as well as physical world, has surprisingly accommodated the qualities of men to answer one another. There is a remarkable disposition in mankind to congratulate with others in their joys and prosperity, more than to sympathize with them in their sorrows and adversity. We may appeal to experience. There is less disposition to congratulation with genius, talents, or virtue, than there is with beauty, strength, and elegance of person; and less with these than with the gifts of fortune and birth, wealth and fame. The homage of the world is devoted to these last in a remarkable manner. Experience concurs with religion in pronouncing, most decisively, that this world is not the region of virtue or happiness; both are here at school, and their struggles with ambition, avarice, and the desire of fame, appear to be their discipline and exercise. The gifts of fortune are more level to the capacities, and more obvious to the notice of mankind in general; and congratulation with the happiness or fancied happiness of others is agreeable; sympathy with their misery is disagreeable. From the former sources we derive pleasure, from the latter pain. The sorrow of the company at a funeral may be more profitable to moral purposes, by suggesting useful reflections, than the mirth at a wedding; but it is not so vivid nor so sincere. The acclamations of the populace, at an ovation or triumph, at a coronation or installation, are from the heart, and their joy is unfeigned. Their grief at a public execution is less violent at least. If their feelings at such spectacles were very distressing they would be less eager to attend them. What is the motive of that ardent curiosity to see sights and shows of exultation; the processions of princes; the ostentation of wealth; the magnificence of equipage, retinue, furniture, buildings, and entertainment? There is no other answer to be given to these questions than the gayety of heart, the joyous feelings of congratulation with such appearances of felicity. And for the vindication of the ways of God to man, and the perpetual consolation of the many who are spectators, it is certainly true that their pleasure is always as great, and commonly much greater, than that of the few who are the actors.
National passions and habits are unwieldy, unmanageable, and formidable things. The number of persons in any country who are known even by name or reputation to all the inhabitants is, and ever must be, very small. Those whose characters have attracted the affections, as well as the attention of a whole people, acquire an influence and ascendency that it is difficult to resist. In proportion as men rise higher in the world, whether by election, descent, or appointment, and are exposed to the observation of greater numbers of people, the effects of their own passions and of the affections of others for them become more serious, interesting, and dangerous. In elective governments, where first magistrates and senators are at stated intervals to be chosen, these, if there are no parties, become at every fresh election more known, considered, and beloved by the whole nation. But if the nation is divided into two parties, those who vote for a man, become the more attached to him for the opposition that is made by his enemies. This national attachment to an elective first magistrate, where there is no competition, is very great. But where there is a competition, the passions of his party are inflamed by it into a more ardent enthusiasm. If there are two candidates, each at the head of a party, the nation becomes divided into two nations, each of which is, in fact, a moral person, as much as any community can be so, and are soon bitterly enraged against each other.
It has been already said, that in proportion as men rise higher in the world, and are exposed to the observation of greater numbers, the effects of these passions are more serious and alarming. Impressions on the feelings of the individual are deeper; and larger portions of mankind become interested in them. When you rise to the first ranks and consider the first men,—a nobility who are known and respected at least, perhaps habitually esteemed and beloved by a nation; princes and kings, on whom the eyes of all men are fixed, and whose every motion is regarded,—the consequences of wounding their feelings are dreadful, because the feelings of a whole nation, and sometimes of many nations, are wounded at the same time. If the smallest variation is made in their situation, relatively to each other; if one who was inferior is raised to be superior, unless it be by fixed laws, whose evident policy and necessity may take away disgrace, nothing but war, carnage, and vengeance has ever been the usual consequence of it. In the examples of the houses, Valois and Bourbon, Guise and Montmorenci, Guise and Bourbon, and Guise and Valois, we shall see very grave effects of these feelings; and the history of a hundred years, which followed, is nothing but a detail of other, and more tragical effects of similar causes.
To any one who has never considered the force of national attention, consideration, and congratulation, and the causes, natural and artificial, by which they have been excited, it will be curious to read, in Plato’s Alcibiades, the manner in which these national attachments to their kings were created by the ancient Persians. The policy of the modern monarchies of Europe seems to be an exact imitation of that of the Persian court, as it is explained by the Grecian philosopher. In France, for example, the pregnancy of the queen is announced with great solemnity to the whole nation. Her majesty is scarcely afflicted with a pain which is not formally communicated to the public. To this embryo the minds of the whole nation are turned; and they follow him, day by day, in their thoughts, till he is born. The whole people have a right to be present at his birth; and as many as the chamber will hold, crowd in, till the queen and prince are almost suffocated with the loyal curiosity and affectionate solicitude of their subjects. In the cradle, the principal personages of the kingdom, as well as all the ambassadors, are from time to time presented to the royal infant. To thousands who press to see him, he is daily shown from the nursery. Of every step in his education, and of every gradation of his youthful growth, in body and mind, the public is informed in the gazettes. Not a stroke of wit, not a sprightly sally, not a trait of generous affection, can escape him, but the world is told of it, and, very often, pretty fictions are contrived for the same purpose, where the truth will not furnish materials. Thus it becomes the national fashion, it is the tone of the city and the court, to think and converse daily about the dauphin. When he accedes to the throne, the same attention is continued till he dies.
In elective governments, something very like this always takes place towards the first character. His person, countenance, character, and actions, are made the daily contemplation and conversation of the whole people. Hence arises the danger of a division of this attention. Where there are rivals for the first place, the national attention and passions are divided, and thwart each other; the collision enkindles fires; the conflicting passions interest all ranks; they produce slanders and libels first, mobs and seditions next, and civil war, with all her hissing snakes, burning torches, and haggard horrors at last.
This is the true reason, why all civilized free nations have found, by experience, the necessity of separating from the body of the people, and even from the legislature, the distribution of honors, and conferring it on the executive authority of government. When the emulation of all the citizens looks up to one point, like the rays of a circle from all parts of the circumference, meeting and uniting in the centre, you may hope for uniformity, consistency, and subordination; but when they look up to different individuals, or assemblies, or councils, you may expect all the deformities, eccentricities, and confusion, of the Polemic system.
Wise, if a minister, but if a king,
More wise, more learn’d, more just, more every thing.
There is scarcely any truth more certain, or more evident, than that the noblesse of Europe are, in general, less happy than the common people. There is one irrefragable proof of it, which is, that they do not maintain their own population. Families, like stars or candles, which you will, are going out continually; and without fresh recruits from the plebeians, the nobility would in time be extinct. If you make allowances for the state, which they are condemned by themselves and the world to support, they are poorer than the poor; deeply in debt; and tributary to usurious capitalists, as greedy as the Jews. The kings of Europe, in the sight of a philosopher, are the greatest slaves on earth, how often soever we may call them despots, tyrants, and other rude names, in which our pride and vanity take a wonderful delight; they have the least exercise of their inclinations, the least personal liberty, and the least free indulgence of their passions, of any men alive. Yet how rare are the instances of resignations, and how universal is the ambition to be noble, and the wish to be royal.
Experience and philosophy are lost upon mankind. The attention of the world has a charm in it, which few minds can withstand. The people consider the condition of the great in all those delusive colors, in which imagination can paint and gild it, and reason can make little resistance to this impetuous propensity. To better their condition, to advance their fortunes, without limits, is the object of their constant desire, the employment of all their thoughts by day and by night. They feel a peculiar sympathy with that pleasure, which they presume those enjoy, who are already powerful, celebrated, and rich. “We favor,” says a great writer, “all their inclinations, and forward all their wishes. What pity, we think, that any thing should spoil and corrupt so agreeable a situation; we could even wish them immortal; and it seems hard to us, that death should at last put an end to such perfect enjoyment. It is cruel, we think, in nature to compel them from their exalted stations to that humble, but hospitable home, which she has provided for all her children. Great king, live forever! is the compliment, which, after the manner of eastern adulation, we should readily make them, if experience did not teach us its absurdity. Every calamity that befalls them, every injury that is done them, excites in the breast of the spectator ten times more compassion and resentment than he would have felt, had the same things happened to other men. It is the misfortunes of kings only, which afford the proper subjects for tragedy; they resemble, in this respect, the misfortunes of lovers. Those two situations are the chief which interest us upon the theatre; because, in spite of all that reason and experience can tell us to the contrary, the prejudices of the imagination attach to these two states a happiness superior to any other. To disturb or to put an end to such perfect enjoyment, seems to be the most atrocious of all injuries. The traitor who conspires against the life of his monarch, is thought a greater monster than any other murderer. All the innocent blood that was shed in the civil wars, provoked less indignation than the death of Charles I. A stranger to human nature, who saw the indifference of men about the misery of their inferiors, and the regret and indignation which they feel for the misfortunes and sufferings of those above them, would be apt to imagine, that pain must be more agonizing, and the convulsions of death more terrible, to persons of higher rank than to those of meaner stations.
“Upon this disposition of mankind, to go along with all the passions of the rich and the powerful, is founded the distinction of ranks, and the order of society. Our obsequiousness to our superiors more frequently arises from our admiration for the advantages of their situation, than from any private expectations of benefit from their good will. Their benefits can extend but to a few; but their fortunes interest almost everybody. We are eager to assist them in completing a system of happiness that approaches so near to perfection; and we desire to serve them for their own sake, without any other recompense but the vanity or the honor of obliging them. Neither is our deference to their inclinations founded chiefly, or altogether, upon a regard to the utility of such submission, and to the order of society, which is best supported by it. Even when the order of society seems to require that we should oppose them, we can hardly bring ourselves to do it. That kings are the servants of the people, to be obeyed, resisted, deposed, or punished, as the public conveniency may require, is the doctrine of reason and philosophy; but it is not the doctrine of nature. Nature would teach us to submit to them, for their own sake, to tremble and bow down before their exalted station, to regard their smile as a reward sufficient to compensate any services, and to dread their displeasure, though no other evil were to follow from it, as the severest of all mortifications. To treat them in any respect as men, to reason and dispute with them upon ordinary occasions, requires such resolution, that there are few men whose magnanimity can support them in it, unless they are likewise assisted by familiarity and acquaintance. The strongest motives, the most furious passions, fear, hatred, and resentment, are scarce sufficient to balance this natural disposition to respect them; and their conduct must, either justly or unjustly, have excited the highest degree of all those passions, before the bulk of the people can be brought to oppose them with violence, or to desire to see them either punished or deposed. Even when the people have been brought to this length, they are apt to relent every moment, and easily relapse into their habitual state of deference. They cannot stand the mortification of their monarch. Compassion soon takes the place of resentment, they forget all past provocations, their old principles of loyalty revive, and they run to reestablish the ruined authority of their old masters, with the same violence with which they had opposed it. The death of Charles I. brought about the restoration of the royal family. Compassion for James II., when he was seized by the populace in making his escape on shipboard, had almost prevented the revolution, and made it go on more heavily than before.
“Do the great seem insensible of the easy price at which they may acquire the public admiration; or do they seem to imagine that to them, as to other men, it must be the purchase either of sweat or of blood? By what important accomplishments is the young nobleman instructed to support the dignity of his rank, and to render himself worthy of that superiority over his fellow-citizens, to which the virtue of his ancestors had raised them? Is it by knowledge, by industry, by patience, by self-denial, or by virtue of any kind? As all his words, as all his motions are attended to, he learns an habitual regard to every circumstance of ordinary behavior, and studies to perform all those small duties, with the most exact propriety. As he is conscious how much he is observed, and how much mankind are disposed to favor all his inclinations, he acts, upon the most indifferent occasions, with that freedom and elegance which the thought of this naturally inspires. His air, his manner, his deportment, all mark that elegant and graceful sense of his own superiority, which those who are born to inferior stations can hardly ever arrive at. These are the arts, by which he proposes to make mankind more easily submit to his authority, and to govern their inclinations according to his own pleasure; and in this he is seldom disappointed. These arts, supported by rank and preëminence, are, upon ordinary occasions, sufficient to govern the world.
“But it is not by accomplishments of this kind, that the man of inferior rank must hope to distinguish himself. Politeness is so much the virtue of the great, that it will do little honor to any body but themselves. The coxcomb, who imitates their manner, and affects to be eminent by the superior propriety of his ordinary behavior, is rewarded with a double share of contempt for his folly and presumption. Why should the man whom nobody thinks it worth while to look at, be very anxious about the manner in which he holds up his head, or disposes of his arms, while he walks through a room? He is occupied surely with a very superfluous attention, and with an attention, too, that marks a sense of his own importance, which no other mortal can go along with. The most perfect modesty and plainness, joined to as much negligence as is consistent with the respect due to the company, ought to be the chief characteristics of the behavior of a private man. If ever he hopes to distinguish himself, it must be by more important virtues; he must acquire dependents to balance the dependents of the great; and he has no other fund to pay them from, but the labor of his body, and the activity of his mind. He must cultivate these, therefore; he must acquire superior knowledge in his profession, and superior industry in the exercise of it; he must be patient in labor, resolute in danger, and firm in distress. These talents he must bring into public view, by the difficulty, importance, and at the same time, good judgment, of his undertakings, and by the severe and unrelenting application with which he pursues them. Probity and prudence, generosity and frankness, must characterize his behavior upon all ordinary occasions; and he must at the same time, be forward to engage in all those situations, in which it requires the greatest talents and virtues to act with propriety; but in which the greatest applause is to be acquired by those who can acquit themselves with honor. With what impatience does the man of spirit and ambition, who is depressed by his situation, look round for some great opportunity to distinguish himself? No circumstances, which can afford this appear to him undesirable; he even looks forward with satisfaction to the prospect of foreign war, or civil dissension; and with secret transport and delight, sees, through all the confusion and bloodshed which attend them, the probability of those wished-for occasions presenting themselves, in which he may draw upon himself the attention and admiration of mankind. The man of rank and distinction, on the contrary, whose whole glory consists in the propriety of his ordinary behavior; who is contented with the humble renown which this can afford him, and has no talents to acquire any other; is unwilling to embarrass himself with what can be attended either with difficulty or distress. To figure at a ball is his great triumph; he has an aversion to all public confusions, not from want of courage, for in that he is seldom defective, but from a consciousness that he possesses none of the virtues which are required in such situations, and that the public attention will certainly be drawn away from him by others; he may be willing to expose himself to some little danger, and to make a campaign, when it happens to be the fashion; but he shudders with horror at the thought of any situation which demands the continual and long exertion of patience, industry, fortitude, and application of thought. These virtues are hardly ever to be met with in men who are born to those high stations. In all governments, accordingly, even in monarchies, the highest offices are generally possessed, and the whole detail of the administration conducted, by men who were educated in the middle and inferior ranks of life, who have been carried forward by their own industry and abilities, though loaded with the jealousy, and opposed by the resentment of all those who were born their superiors, and to whom the great, after having regarded them, first with contempt, and afterwards with envy, are at last contented to truckle with the same abject meanness, with which they desire that the rest of mankind should behave to themselves.
“It is the loss of this easy empire over the affections of mankind which renders the fall from greatness so insupportable. When the family of the King of Macedon was led in triumph by Paulus Æmilius, their misfortunes made them divide with their conqueror the attention of the Roman people. The sight of the royal children, whose tender age rendered them insensible of their situation, struck the spectators, amidst the public rejoicings and prosperity, with the tenderest sorrow and compassion. The King appeared next in the procession, and seemed like one confounded and astonished, and bereft of all sentiment, by the greatness of his calamities. His friends and ministers followed after him. As they moved along, they often cast their eyes upon their fallen sovereign, and always burst into ears at the sight; their whole behavior demonstrating that they thought not of their own misfortunes, but were occupied entirely by the superior greatness of his. The generous Romans, on the contrary, beheld him with disdain and indignation, and regarded as unworthy of all compassion the man who could be so mean-spirited as to bear to live under such calamities. Yet what did those calamities amount to? He was to spend the remainder of his days in a state which, in itself, should seem worthy of envy; a state of plenty, ease, leisure, and security, from which it was impossible for him, even by his own folly, to fall. But he was no longer to be surrounded by that admiring mob of fools, flatterers, and dependents, who had formerly been accustomed to attend upon all his motions; he was no longer to be gazed upon by multitudes, nor to have it in his power to render himself the object of their respect, their gratitude, their love, their admiration. The passions of nations were no longer to mould themselves upon his inclinations. This was that insupportable calamity which bereaved the King of all sentiment; which made his friends forget their own misfortunes; and which the Roman magnanimity could scarce conceive how any man could be so mean-spirited as to bear to survive.
“To those who have been accustomed to the possession, or even to the hope of public admiration, all other pleasures sicken and decay.
“Of such mighty importance does it appear to be, in the imaginations of men, to stand in that situation which sets them most in the view of general sympathy and attention; and thus, place, that great object which divides the wives of aldermen, is the end of half the labors of human life; and is the cause of all the tumult and bustle, all the rapine and injustice, which avarice and ambition have introduced into this world. People of sense, it is said, indeed, despise place; that is, they despise sitting at the head of the table, and are indifferent who it is that is pointed out to the company by that frivolous circumstance, which the smallest advantage is capable of overbalancing. But rank, distinction, preëminence, no man despises.”1
Heroes, proceed! What bounds your pride shall hold?
What check restrain your thirst of power and gold?
The answer to the question in the motto can be none other than this, that, as nature has established in the bosoms of heroes no limits to those passions; and as the world, instead of restraining, encourages them, the check must be in the form of government.
The world encourages ambition and avarice, by taking the most decided part in their favor. The Roman world approved of the ambition of Cæsar; and, notwithstanding all the pains that have been taken, with so much reason, by moral and political writers to disgrace it, the world has approved it these seventeen hundred years, and still esteems his name an honor to the first empire in Europe. Consider the story of the ambition and the fall of Cardinal Wolsey and Archbishop Laud; the indignation of the world against their tyranny has been very faint; the sympathy with their fall has been very strong. Consider all the examples in history of successful ambition, you will find none generally condemned by mankind; on the other hand, think of the instances of ambition unsuccessful and disappointed, or of falls from great heights; you find the sympathy of the world universally affected. Cruelty and tyranny of the blackest kind must accompany the story, to destroy or sensibly diminish this pity. That world, for the regulation of whose prejudices, passions, imaginations, and interests, governments are instituted, is so unjust, that neither religion, natural nor revealed, nor any thing, but a well-ordered and well-balanced government, has ever been able to correct it, and that but imperfectly. It is true, in modern London, as it was in ancient Rome, that the sympathy of the world is less excited by the destruction of the house of a man of merit in obscurity, or even in middle life, though it be by the unjust violence of men, than by the same calamity befalling a rich man, by the righteous indignation of Heaven.
Although the verse, both of the Roman and Briton, is satire, its keenest severity consists in its truth.
Order is Heaven’s first law; and, this confess’d,
Some are, and must be, greater than the rest;
More rich, more wise; but who infers from hence,
That such are happier, shocks all common sense.
The world is sensible of the necessity of supporting their favorites under the first onsets of misfortunes, lest the fall should be dreadful and irrecoverable; for, according to the great Master of Nature,
Mankind are so sensible of these things, that, by a kind of instinct or intuition, they generally follow the advice of the same author:—
The inference, from all the contemplations and experiments which have been made, by all nations, upon these dispositions to imitation, emulation, and rivalry, is expressed by the same great teacher of morality and politics:—
Think we, like some weak prince, th’ eternal cause
Prone, for his fav’rites, to reverse his laws?
Emulation, which is imitation and something more—a desire not only to equal or resemble, but to excel, is so natural a movement of the human heart, that, wherever men are to be found, and in whatever manner associated or connected, we see its effects. They are not more affected by it, as individuals, than they are in communities. There are rivalries between every little society in the same city; between families and all the connections by consanguinity and affinity; between trades, faculties, and professions; between congregations, parishes, and churches; between schools, colleges, and universities; between districts, villages, cities, provinces, and nations.
National rivalries are more frequently the cause of wars than the ambition of ministers, or the pride of kings. As long as there is patriotism, there will be national emulation, vanity, and pride. It is national pride which commonly stimulates kings and ministers. National fear, apprehension of danger, and the necessity of self-defence, is added to such rivalries for wealth, consideration, and power. The safety, independence, and existence of a nation, depend upon keeping up a high sense of its own honor, dignity, and power, in the hearts of its individuals, and a lively jealousy of the growing power and aspiring ambition of a neighboring state. This is well illustrated in the Political Geography, published in our newspapers from London, within a few weeks. “The jealousies and enmities, the alliances and friendships, or rather the combinations of different states and princes, might almost be learned from a map, without attention to what has passed, or is now passing in the world. Next neighbors are political enemies. States between which a common neighbor, and, therefore, a common enemy intervenes, are good friends. In this respect, Europe may be compared to a chess-board marked with the black and with the white spots of political discord and concord. Before the union between England and Scotland, a friendship and alliance subsisted for centuries between the latter of these kingdoms and France, because they were both inimical to England. For a like reason, before a Prince of Bourbon, in the beginning of the present century, was raised to the Spanish throne, a good understanding subsisted for the most part between England and Spain; and before the late alliance, there was peace and kindness, with little interruption, for the space of centuries, between England and the Emperor. An alliance has long subsisted between the French and the Turks, on account of the intervening dominion of the Austrians. The Swedes were long the friends of France, on account of the intervention of Holland and Denmark; and because Sweden, the friend of France, was situated in the neighborhood of the Russian territories, a friendship and commercial intercourse were established, from the very first time that Muscovy appears on the political theatre of Europe, between England and Russia. It is superfluous to multiply instances of this kind. All past history and present observation will confirm the truth of our position,—which, though very simple, is like all other simple truths, of very great importance; for, however the accidental caprices and passions of individual princes, or their ministers, may alter the relative dispositions and interests of nations for a time, there is a natural tendency to revert to the alteration already described. We have been led into these reflections by the treaty offensive and defensive, that has been formed between Sweden, Prussia, and the Sublime Porte; between Prussia and Holland; and the report, which is very probable, that a treaty offensive and defensive is on the point of being concluded between Turkey and Poland. In this chain of alliances we find the order of the chess-board adhered to, in some instances, but passed over in others. It is observed that there should be an alliance between Turkey and Sweden, and also that there should be an alliance between Poland and Turkey, because Russia intervenes between Turkey and Sweden, and Hungary between Turkey and Poland; but that there should be an alliance between Poland and Prussia is owing to particular and accidental circumstances. The two former alliances may, therefore, be expected to be lasting; the latter to be only temporary and precarious. In general, the chain of alliance, that is formed or forming among the Swedes, Prussians, Poles, Dutch, Turks, and we may say the English, is a most striking proof of the real or supposed strength and influence of the two imperial courts of Russia and Germany.”
The writer of this paragraph might have added the alliance between England and Portugal, and that between the United States of America and France. The principle of all these examples is as natural as emulation, and as infallible as the sincerity of interest. On it turns the whole system of human affairs. The Congress of 1776 were fully aware of it. With no small degree of vehemence was it urged as an argument for the declaration of independence.* With confidence and firmness was it foretold that France could not avoid accepting the propositions that should be made to her; that the Court of Versailles could not answer it to her own subjects, and that all Europe would pronounce her blind, lost, and undone, if she rejected so fair an opportunity of disembarrassing herself from the danger of so powerful and hostile a rival, whose naval superiority held all her foreign dominions, her maritime power, and commercial interest at mercy.†
But why all this of emulation and rivalry? Because, as the whole history of the civil wars of France, given us by Davila, is no more than a relation of rivalries succeeding each other in a rapid series, the reflections we have made will assist us, both to understand that noble historian, and to form a right judgment of the state of affairs in France at the present moment. They will suggest also to Americans, especially to those who have been unfriendly, and may be now lukewarm to their national constitution,‡ some useful inquiries, such as these, for example: Whether there are not emulations of a serious complexion among ourselves? between cities and universities? between north and south? the middle and the north? the middle and the south? between one state and another? between the governments of states and the national government? and between individual patriots and heroes in all these? What is the natural remedy against the inconveniences and dangers of these rivalries? Whether a well-balanced constitution, such as that of our Union purports to be, ought not to be cordially supported by every good citizen, as our only hope of peace and our ark of safety, till its defects, if it has any, can be corrected? But it must be left to the contemplations of our state physicians to discover the causes and the remedy of that “fever, whereof our power is sick.” The question only shall be respectfully insinuated: Whether equal laws, the result only of a balanced government, can ever be obtained and preserved without some signs or other of distinction and degree?
We are told that our friends, the National Assembly of France, have abolished all distinctions. But be not deceived, my dear countrymen. Impossibilities cannot be performed. Have they levelled all fortunes and equally divided all property? Have they made all men and women equally wise, elegant, and beautiful? Have they annihilated the names of Bourbon and Montmorenci, Rochefoucauld and Noailles, Lafayette and La Moignon, Necker and De Calonne, Mirabeau and Bailly? Have they committed to the flames all the records, annals, and histories of the nation? All the copies of Mezerai, Daniel, De Thou, Velly, and a thousand others? Have they burned all their pictures, and broken all their statues? Have they blotted out of all memories, the names, places of abode, and illustrious actions of all their ancestors? Have they not still princes of the first and second order, nobles and knights? Have they no record nor memory who are the men who compose the present national assembly? Do they wish to have that distinction forgotten? Have the French officers who served in America melted their eagles and torn their ribbons?*
’Tis with our judgments as our watches—none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
All the miracles enumerated in our last number, must be performed in France, before all distinctions can be annihilated, and distinctions in abundance would be found, after all, for French gentlemen, in the history of England, Holland, Spain, Germany, Italy, America, and all other countries on the globe.
The wisdom of nations has remarked the universal consideration paid to wealth; and that the passion of avarice excited by it, produced treachery, cowardice, and a selfish, unsocial meanness, but had no tendency to produce those virtues of patience, courage, fortitude, honor, or patriotism, which the service of the public required in their citizens in peace and war.
The wisdom of nations has observed that the general attention paid to birth produced a different kind of sentiments,—those of pride in the maxims and principles of religion, morals, and government, as well as in the talents and virtues, which first produced illustration to ancestors.
As the pride of wealth produced nothing but meanness of sentiment and a sordid scramble for money; and the pride of birth produced some degree of emulation in knowledge and virtue; the wisdom of nations has endeavored to employ one prejudice to counteract another; the prejudice in favor of birth, to moderate, correct, and restrain the prejudice in favor of wealth.
The national assembly of France is too enlightened a body to overlook the inquiry: What effect on the moral character of the nation would be produced, by destroying, if that were possible, all attention to families, and setting all the passions on the pursuit of gain? Whether universal venality and an incorrigible corruption in elections would not be the necessary consequence? It may be relied on, however, that the intentions of that august and magnanimous assembly are misunderstood and misrepresented. Time will develop their designs, will show them to be more judicious than to attempt impossibilities so obvious as that of the abolition of all distinctions.
Alphonsus X., the astronomical king of Castile, has been accused of impiety, for saying that “if, at the time of the creation, he had been called to the councils of the Divinity, he could have given some useful advice concerning the motions of the stars.” It is not probable, that any thing was intended by him, more than a humorous sarcasm or a sneer of contempt at the Ptolemaic system, a projection of which he had before him. But if the national assembly should have seriously in contemplation, and should resolve in earnest the total abolition of all distinctions and orders, it would be much more difficult to vindicate them from an accusation of impiety. God, in the constitution of nature, has ordained that every man shall have a disposition to emulation, as well as imitation, and consequently a passion for distinction; and that all men shall not have equal means and opportunities of gratifying it. Shall we believe the national assembly capable of resolving that no man shall have any desire of distinction; or that all men shall have equal means of gratifying it? Or that no man shall have any means of gratifying it? What would this be better than saying, “if we had been called to the councils of the celestials, we could have given better advice in the constitution of human nature?” If nature and that assembly could be thus at variance, which however is not credible, the world would soon see which is the most powerful.
That there is already a scission in the national assembly, like all others, past, present, and to come, is most certain. There is an aristocratical party, an armed neutrality, and most probably a monarchical party; besides another division, who must finally prevail, or liberty will be lost; I mean a set of members, who are equal friends to monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, and wish for an equal, independent mixture of all three in their constitution. Each of these parties has its chief, and these chiefs are, or will be, rivals. Religion will be both the object and the pretext of some; liberty, of others; submission and obedience of others; and levelling, downright levelling, of not a few. But the attention, consideration, and congratulations of the public will be the object of all. Situation and office will be aimed at by some of all parties. Contests and dissensions will arise between these runners in the same race. The natural and usual progress is, from debate in the assembly to discussions in print; from the search of truth and public utility in both, to sophistry and the spirit of party; evils so greatly dreaded by the ingenuous “Citizen of New Haven,” to whom we have now the honor of paying our first respects, hoping that, hereafter, we may find an opportunity to make him our more particular compliments.* From sophistry and party spirit, the transition is quick and easy to falsehood, imposture, and every species of artificial evolution and criminal intrigue. As unbalanced parties of every description can never tolerate a free inquiry of any kind, when employed against themselves, the license, and even the most temperate freedom of the press, soon excite resentment and revenge. A writer, unpopular with an opposite party, because he is too formidable in wit or argument, may first be burnt in effigy; or a printer may have his office assaulted. Cuffs and kicks, boxes and cudgels, are heard of among plebeian statesmen; challenges and single combats among the aristocratic legislators. Riots and seditions at length break men’s bones, or flay off their skins. Lives are lost; and, when blood is once drawn, men, like other animals, become outrageous. If one party has not a superiority over the other, clear enough to decide every thing at its pleasure, a civil war ensues. When the nation arrives at this period of the progression, every leader, at the head of his votaries, even if you admit him to have the best intentions in the world, will find himself compelled to form them into some military arrangement, both for offence and defence; to build castles and fortify eminences, like the feudal barons. For aristocratical rivalries, and democratical rivalries too, when unbalanced against each other by some third mediating power, naturally and unfailingly produce a feudal system. If this should be the course in France, the poor, deluded, and devoted partisans would soon be fond enough of decorating their leaders with the old titles of dukes, marquises and counts, or doing any thing else to increase the power of their commander over themselves, to unite their wills and forces for their own safety and defence, or to give him weight with their enemies.*
The men of letters in France are wisely reforming one feudal system; but may they not, unwisely, lay the foundation of another? A legislature, in one assembly, can have no other termination than in civil dissension, feudal anarchy, or simple monarchy. The best apology which can be made for their fresh attempt of a sovereignty in one assembly, an idea at least as ancient in France as Stephen Boethius, is, that it is only intended to be momentary. If a senate had been proposed, it must have been formed, most probably, of princes of the blood, cardinals, archbishops, dukes, and marquises; and all these together would have obstructed the progress of the reformation in religion and government, and procured an abortion to the regeneration of France. Pennsylvania established her single assembly, in 1776, upon the same principle. An apprehension, that the Proprietary and Quaker interests would prevail, to the election of characters disaffected to the American cause, finally preponderated against two legislative councils. Pennsylvania, and Georgia, who followed her example, have found by experience the necessity of a change; and France, by the same infallible progress of reasoning, will discover the same necessity; happy, indeed, if the experiment shall not cost her more dear. That the subject is considered in this light by the best friends of liberty in Europe, appears by the words of Dr. Price, lately published in this paper:—“Had not the aristocratical and clerical orders,” says that sage and amiable writer, “been obliged to throw themselves into one chamber with the commons, no reformation could have taken place, and the regeneration of the kingdom would have been impossible. And in future legislatures, were these two orders to make distinct and independent states, all that has been done would probably be soon undone. Hereafter, perhaps, when the new constitution, as now formed, has acquired strength by time, the national assembly may find it practicable, as well as expedient, to establish, by means of a third estate, such a check as now takes place in the American government, and is indispensable in the British government.”*
First follow nature; and your judgment frame
By her just standard, which is still the same.
The world grows more enlightened. Knowledge is more equally diffused. Newspapers, magazines, and circulating libraries have made mankind wiser. Titles and distinctions, ranks and orders, parade and ceremony, are all going out of fashion. This is roundly and frequently asserted in the streets, and sometimes on theatres of higher rank.* Some truth there is in it; and if the opportunity were temperately improved, to the reformation of abuses, the rectification of errors, and the dissipation of pernicious prejudices, a great advantage it might be. But, on the other hand, false inferences may be drawn from it, which may make mankind wish for the age of dragons, giants, and fairies. If all decorum, discipline, and subordination are to be destroyed, and universal Pyrrhonism, anarchy, and insecurity of property are to be introduced, nations will soon wish their books in ashes, seek for darkness and ignorance, superstition and fanaticism, as blessings, and follow the standard of the first mad despot, who, with the enthusiasm of another Mahomet,† will endeavor to obtain them.
Are riches, honors, and beauty going out of fashion? Is not the rage for them, on the contrary, increased faster than improvement in knowledge? As long as either of these are in vogue, will there not be emulations and rivalries? Does not the increase of knowledge in any man increase his emulation; and the diffusion of knowledge among men multiply rivalries? Has the progress of science, arts, and letters yet discovered that there are no passions in human nature? no ambition, avarice, or desire of fame? Are these passions cooled, diminished, or extinguished? Is the rage for admiration less ardent in men or women? Have these propensities less a tendency to divisions, controversies, seditions, mutinies, and civil wars than formerly? On the contrary, the more knowledge is diffused, the more the passions are extended, and the more furious they grow. Had Cicero less vanity, or Cæsar less ambition, for their vast erudition? Had the King of Prussia less of one than the other? There is no connection in the mind between science and passion, by which the former can extinguish or diminish the latter. It, on the contrary, sometimes increases them, by giving them exercise. Were the passions of the Romans less vivid in the age of Pompey than in the time of Mummius. Are those of the Britons more moderate at this hour than in the reigns of the Tudors? Are the passions of monks the weaker for all their learning? Are not jealousy, envy, hatred, malice, and revenge, as well as emulation and ambition, as rancorous in the cells of Carmelites as in the courts of princes? Go to the Royal Society of London. Is there less emulation for the chair of Sir Isaac Newton than there was, and commonly will be, for all elective presidencies? Is there less animosity and rancor, arising from mutual emulations in that region of science, than there is among the most ignorant of mankind? Go to Paris. How do you find the men of letters? united, friendly, harmonious, meek, humble, modest, charitable? prompt to mutual forbearance? unassuming? ready to acknowledge superior merit? zealous to encourage the first symptoms of genius? Ask Voltaire and Rousseau, Marmontel and De Mably.
The increase and dissemination of knowledge, instead of rendering unnecessary the checks of emulation and the balances of rivalry in the orders of society and constitution of government, augment the necessity of both. It becomes the more indispensable that every man should know his place, and be made to keep it. Bad men increase in knowledge as fast as good men; and science, arts, taste, sense, and letters, are employed for the purposes of injustice and tyranny, as well as those of law and liberty; for corruption, as well as for virtue.
Frenchmen! Act and think like yourselves! confessing human nature, be magnanimous and wise. Acknowledging and boasting yourselves to be men, avow the feelings of men. The affectation of being exempted from passions is inhuman. The grave pretension to such singularity is solemn hypocrisy. Both are unworthy of your frank and generous natures. Consider that government is intended to set bounds to passions which nature has not limited; and to assist reason, conscience, justice, and truth, in controlling interests, which, without it, would be as unjust as uncontrollable.*
Americans! Rejoice, that from experience you have learned wisdom; and instead of whimsical and fantastical projects, you have adopted a promising essay towards a well-ordered government. Instead of following any foreign example, to return to the legislation of confusion, contemplate the means of restoring decency, honesty, and order in society, by preserving and completing, if any thing should be found necessary to complete the balance of your government. In a well-balanced government, reason, conscience, truth, and virtue, must be respected by all parties, and exerted for the public good.* Advert to the principles on which you commenced that glorious self-defence, which, if you behave with steadiness and consistency, may ultimately loosen the chains of all mankind. If you will take the trouble to read over the memorable proceedings of the town of Boston, on the twenty-eighth day of October, 1772, when the Committee of Correspondence of twenty-one persons was appointed to state the rights of the colonists as men, as Christians, and as subjects, and to publish them to the world, with the infringements and violations of them,† you will find the great principles of civil and religious liberty for which you have contended so successfully, and which the world is contending for after your example. I could transcribe with pleasure the whole of this immortal pamphlet, which is a real picture of the sun of liberty rising on the human race; but shall select only a few words more directly to the present purpose.
“The first fundamental, positive law of all commonwealths or states is the establishment of the legislative power.” Page 9.
“It is absolutely necessary in a mixed government like that of this province, that a due proportion or balance of power should be established among the several branches of the legislative. Our ancestors received from King William and Queen Mary a charter, by which it was understood by both parties in the contract, that such a proportion or balance was fixed; and, therefore, every thing which renders any one branch of the legislative more independent of the other two than it was originally designed, is an alteration of the constitution.”
Americans! in your Congress at Philadelphia, on Friday, the fourteenth day of October, 1774, you laid down the fundamental principles for which you were about to contend, and from which it is to be hoped you will never depart. For asserting and vindicating your rights and liberties, you declared, “That, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution and your several charters or compacts, you were entitled to life, liberty, and property; that your ancestors were entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural born subjects in England; that you, their descendants, were entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them as your local and other circumstances enabled you to exercise and enjoy. That the foundation of English liberty and of all free governments, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council. That you were entitled to the common law of England, and more especially to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by your peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law. That it is indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other.”* These among others you then claimed, demanded, and insisted on, as your indubitable rights and liberties. These are the principles on which you first united and associated, and if you steadily and consistently maintain them, they will not only secure freedom and happiness to yourselves and your posterity, but your example will be imitated by all Europe, and in time, perhaps, by all mankind. The nations are in travail, and great events must have birth.
“The minds of men are in movement from the Boristhenes to the Atlantic. Agitated with new and strong emotions, they swell and heave beneath oppression, as the seas within the polar circle, at the approach of spring. The genius of philosophy, with the touch of Ithuriel’s spear, is trying the establishments of the earth. The various forms of prejudice, superstition, and servility, start up in their true shapes, which had long imposed upon the world, under the revered semblances of honor, faith, and loyalty. Whatever is loose must be shaken; whatever is corrupted must be lopped away; whatever is not built on the broad basis of public utility must be thrown to the ground. Obscure murmurs gather and swell into a tempest; the spirit of inquiry, like a severe and searching wind, penetrates every part of the great body politic; and whatever is unsound, whatever is infirm, shrinks at the visitation. Liberty, led by philosophy, diffuses her blessings to every class of men; and even extends a smile of hope and promise to the poor African, the victim of hard, impenetrable avarice. Man, as man, becomes an object of respect. Tenets are transferred from theory to practice. The glowing sentiment, the lofty speculation, no longer serve ‘but to adorn the pages of a book.’ They are brought home to men’s business and bosoms; and what, some centuries ago, it was daring but to think, and dangerous to express, is now realized and carried into effect. Systems are analyzed into their first principles, and principles are fairly pursued to their legitimate consequences.”*
This is all enchanting. But amidst our enthusiasm, there is great reason to pause and preserve our sobriety. It is true that the first empire of the world is breaking the fetters of human reason and exerting the energies of redeemed liberty. In the glowing ardor of her zeal, she condescends, Americans, to pay the most scrupulous attention to your maxims, principles, and example. There is reason to fear she has copied from you errors which have cost you very dear. Assist her, by your example, to rectify them before they involve her in calamities as much greater than yours, as her population is more unwieldy, and her situation more exposed to the baleful influence of rival neighbors. Amidst all their exultations, Americans and Frenchmen should remember that the perfectibility of man is only human and terrestrial perfectibility. Cold will still freeze, and fire will never cease to burn; disease and vice will continue to disorder, and death to terrify mankind. Emulation next to self-preservation will forever be the great spring of human actions, and the balance of a well-ordered government will alone be able to prevent that emulation from degenerating into dangerous ambition, irregular rivalries, destructive factions, wasting seditions, and bloody, civil wars.†
The great question will forever remain, who shall work? Our species cannot all be idle. Leisure for study must ever be the portion of a few. The number employed in government must forever be very small. Food, raiment, and habitations, the indispensable wants of all, are not to be obtained without the continual toil of ninety-nine in a hundred of mankind. As rest is rapture to the weary man, those who labor little will always be envied by those who labor much, though the latter in reality be probably the most enviable. With all the encouragements, public and private, which can ever be given to general education, and it is scarcely possible they should be too many or too great, the laboring part of the people can never be learned. The controversy between the rich and the poor, the laborious and the idle, the learned and the ignorant, distinctions as old as the creation, and as extensive as the globe, distinctions which no art or policy, no degree of virtue or philosophy can ever wholly destroy, will continue, and rivalries will spring out of them. These parties will be represented in the legislature, and must be balanced, or one will oppress the other. There will never probably be found any other mode of establishing such an equilibrium, than by constituting the representation of each an independent branch of the legislature, and an independent executive authority, such as that in our government, to be a third branch and a mediator or an arbitrator between them. Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist. But if unlimited or unbalanced power of disposing property, be put into the hands of those who have no property, France will find, as we have found, the lamb committed to the custody of the wolf. In such a case, all the pathetic exhortations and addresses of the national assembly to the people, to respect property, will be regarded no more than the warbles of the songsters of the forest. The great art of lawgiving consists in balancing the poor against the rich in the legislature, and in constituting the legislative a perfect balance against the executive power, at the same time that no individual or party can become its rival. The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries. The executive and the legislative powers are natural rivals; and if each has not an effectual control over the other, the weaker will ever be the lamb in the paws of the wolf. The nation which will not adopt an equilibrium of power must adopt a despotism. There is no other alternative. Rivalries must be controlled, or they will throw all things into confusion; and there is nothing but despotism or a balance of power which can control them. Even in the simple monarchies, the nobility and the judicatures constitute a balance, though a very imperfect one, against the royalties.
Let us conclude with one reflection more which shall barely be hinted at, as delicacy, if not prudence, may require, in this place, some degree of reserve. Is there a possibility that the government of nations may fall into the hands of men who teach the most disconsolate of all creeds, that men are but fireflies, and that this all is without a father? Is this the way to make man, as man, an object of respect? Or is it to make murder itself as indifferent as shooting a plover, and the extermination of the Rohilla nation as innocent as the swallowing of mites on a morsel of cheese? If such a case should happen, would not one of these, the most credulous of all believers, have reason to pray to his eternal nature or his almighty chance (the more absurdity there is in this address the more in character) give us again the gods of the Greeks; give us again the more intelligible as well as more comfortable systems of Athanasius and Calvin; nay, give us again our popes and hierarchies, Benedictines and Jesuits, with all their superstition and fanaticism, impostures and tyranny. A certain duchess of venerable years and masculine understanding,* said of some of the philosophers of the eighteenth century, admirably well,—“On ne croit pas dans le Christianisme, mais on croit toutes les sottises possibles.”
La nature parle aux cœurs des Rois, tout comme à ceux des particuliers.
Nature speaks the same language to the hearts of princes as to those of other men. Kings compare themselves with kings, or with such of their own subjects as are nearest to them; and have the same sentiments as private persons, of pride, vanity, jealousy, resentment, and hatred arising from such comparisons.
“Francis I.,1 after his ascension to the throne, whether he was misled by an imprudence of youth, or whether he consulted only his own beneficent disposition, proposed to himself, from the first day of his reign, to aggrandize the princes of the blood, and load them with favors. To elevate in dignity those who belonged to the royal family by proximity of blood, he believed to be for his own glory. Having discerned in Charles, the head of the branch of Bourbon, all the talents which form the great captain and the able statesman, he gave him the office of constable; and by conferring on him and the princes of that house the most distinguished employments, he placed them at the head of the most important affairs of his kingdom.”*
This, it must be confessed, was impolitic; since it is always dangerous for the first in office or command to be over fond or familiar with the second; to confer too many opportunities of eclipsing his own glory or of drawing away the attention of the public; or to offer too many temptations to ambition, rivalry, or envy. Accordingly
“The first fire of this zeal abated; and experience having excited his jealousy, or policy revealed to him the reasons of the conduct which his predecessors had holden, he manifested in the sequel as much eagerness to lower the Bourbons, as he had at first discovered of affection to exalt them. Fortune soon presented an opportunity favorable to his design. Louisa of Savoy, his mother, had commenced a lawsuit against Charles for the Duchy of Bourbon, in his possession.”
Judges in those days were not independent.
“The King thought that by influencing the decision in favor of his mother, and by thus despoiling the House of Bourbon of the richest portion of their patrimony, he might accelerate the declension of a credit founded in part on their immense riches. Charles, in the course of the proceedings, discovered the manœuvres which were practised to his prejudice by the Chancellor Duprat, by order of the King. The indignation which he conceived at this injury, and the apprehension of the reverse of fortune which threatened him, struck him so forcibly, that having negotiated secretly with the Emperor, Charles V., and Henry VIII., King of England, he conspired against the state, and even against the person of the King. His designs were discovered; and, necessitated to fly the kingdom with precipitation, he afterwards bore arms against his sovereign. He commanded the imperial army at the battle of Pavia, in which, after the bloody defeat of the French army, the King, surrounded on all sides by the infantry of the enemy, remained a prisoner. The Constable, as a punishment of all these crimes, was declared a rebel. All his estates were confiscated and united to the dominions of the crown. He was killed soon after, at the taking of Rome; and there remained to the Bourbons nothing of that grandeur which had inspired so much umbrage to kings.
“Their misfortunes did not cease here. Although Charles was deceased without issue, and the other princes of his house had not favored his revolt, resentment in the breast of the king overcame his reason, and the Bourbons were deprived of the favors of the court, and banished from the government. Their personal merit could not soften the hatred attached to their name. This rigor, it is true, diminished with time, and in proportion as the memory of the past, and the disadvantageous ideas which the King had conceived of them, were effaced from his mind. Nevertheless, he cautiously applied himself to obstruct all the passages, by which they might have returned to the possession of those dignities and that power to which royal favor had formerly raised them. These secret dispositions of the King were perfectly known to Charles of Vendôme, now at the head of that house, who, by his moderation, studied to dissipate the suspicions which were entertained against his family. In this view, he refused during the imprisonment of the King to pretend to the regency, which belonged to him of right. After the King was set at liberty, Charles shut himself up with his domestics, leading a private life, without meddling in the government of a state in which he saw he was suspected. All the other Bourbons, after his example, retired, as much to prove that they were innocent of the revolt of the Constable, as to mark their submission to the will of the King, even when it was most disadvantageous to them. They avoided every thing which could revive the distrust against them; and, too openly in disgrace to think of elevating themselves to those dignities which they thought alone suitable to their birth, and too haughty to descend to the smaller places, they renounced all the honors and offices of the court.”
The same causes produce the same effects. The late revolution in France opened a prospect to the royal family, not very different from that in 1515. Though the merits and injuries of Orleans may not be compared to those of a Constable de Bourbon, yet the passions of a prince of the blood of the second order may hereafter be painted by another Davila. Opportunity will generally excite ambition to aspire; and if even an improbable case should happen of an exception to this rule, danger will always be suspected and apprehended, in such circumstances, from such causes. We may soon see, that a form of government in which every passion has an adequate counterpoise, can alone secure the public from the dangers and mischiefs of such rivalries, jealousies, envies, and hatreds.
C’est à toi de montrer aux yeux des nations
Les coupables effets de leurs divisions.
When one family is depressed, either in a monarchy or in any species of republic, another must arise.
“While in the reign of Francis I. they thus humbled the branch of the Bourbons, there arose two other powerful families, who soon obtained the administration of affairs,—the house of Montmorenci, and that of Guise; both, indeed, inferior to the blood royal, but both illustrious by the splendor of the most ancient nobility. That of Montmorenci produces titles which prove its descent, by an uninterrupted succession, from one of the principal grandees who accompanied Pharamond in his first expedition. It has the glory of having been the first French house which received baptism and the Christian faith. The memory of this distinction is preserved in the motto of their arms,—God help the first Christian Baron; a splendid testimony both of the antiquity and religion of their ancestors. Anne of Montmorenci, who united a vast genius, directed by prudence, to a grave and imposing deportment; who combined a singular address to a patience never to be exhausted in the intrigues and affairs of the court, which change so often their aspect, sprung from this stock. His high qualities merited the confidence of Francis I. After having passed through all the military gradations of the state, he was at first elevated to the dignity of Grand Master of the King’s Household, and, after the death of the Duke of Bourbon, to that of Constable; in one word, he concentred in his person the command of armies, and the principal administration of all the affairs, civil and political, of the kingdom.
“The House of Lorraine, of which that of Guise is a branch, derives its original from the highest antiquity. It reckons among its paternal ancestors Godfrey of Bouillon, the famous leader of the Crusades, who by his valor and piety conquered the kingdom of Jerusalem; and, by the female line, it traces its descent from a daughter of Charlemagne. Anthony of Lorraine, chief of this rich and powerful family, reigned over his people with an absolute authority. Claude, his younger brother, went into France, to take possession of the duchy of Guise, and there recommended himself by his valor. After the battle of Marignano, where he commanded the German troops, he was taken out from a heap of dead bodies, covered over with blood and wounds; his cure was thought to be a miracle, and he held afterwards the first rank among the greatest captains of France. The Houses of Guise and Montmorenci had rendered services of such importance to the state, that it was difficult to determine which of the two merited the preëminence. In the splendor of their birth and the extent of their domains, the Guises had the advantage. In the favor of the King, the family of the Constable was most advanced, and saw itself at the head of affairs.”
Nature, which has established in the universe a chain of being and universal order, descending from archangels to microscopic animalcules,* has ordained that no two objects shall be perfectly alike, and no two creatures perfectly equal. Although, among men, all are subject by nature to equal laws of morality, and in society have a right to equal laws for their government, yet no two men are perfectly equal in person, property, understanding, activity, and virtue, or ever can be made so by any power less than that which created them; and whenever it becomes disputable, between two individuals or families, which is the superior, a fermentation commences, which disturbs the order of all things until it is settled, and each one knows his place in the opinion of the public. The question of superiority between the Guises and Montmorencis had the usual effects of such doubts.
“But as nothing is less stable than the fortune of courtiers, in ill-ordered governments, they both experienced reverses towards the end of the reign of Francis I.”
That jealousy which never has an end, because it is always well founded, which reigns in every government, where every passion and every interest has not its correspondent counterpoise, actuated the King. The two ministers, not being subject to any regular plan of responsibility, were become dangerous rivals of their master. Their enemies knew how to insinuate suspicions.
“The Constable fell into disgrace, for having persuaded the King to trust the promises of Charles V., and to grant him a free passage through France, as he went to chastise the rebellion of Ghent. The Emperor not keeping his engagements, the King and the court accused the Constable of having failed either in prudence or fidelity. He was obliged to leave the court, and return to private life, to conceal himself from the pursuits of his enemies. The Duke of Guise was also constrained to quit the court, and give way to the storm, for having incurred the displeasure of the King, by causing to be raised upon the frontiers, without his consent, certain troops, which he sent to the Duke of Lorraine, his brother, at that time at war with the Anabaptists.
“The Constable and the Duke of Guise, thus disgraced, were replaced by two ministers of consummate experience, indefatigable industry, and acknowledged abilities,—the Admiral d’Annebaut and the Cardinal de Tournon. The mediocrity of their fortune and extraction excited little apprehension that they would ever arrive at that high power, of which the King had reason to be jealous, and which he dreaded in the hands of his subjects. This Prince, who understood mankind, and was become unquiet and suspicious since his disgraces, had long resolved to dismiss from his person the Constable and the Duke, notwithstanding the long confidence with which he had honored them; believing that he should not be able to govern according to his own mind, while he should have about him two persons whose credit and reputation were capable of balancing his will. He dreaded in the Constable that profound experience and that lively penetration, from which he could not conceal his most hidden secrets. Every thing was to him suspicious in the Guises. Their illustrious birth, their restless humor, their active genius, that ardent character to embrace every occasion to aggrandize themselves, and that ambition capable of forming projects the most vast and daring.”
As the judicial courts had no independence, and there was no regular judicature for impeachments, there could be no rational responsibility. The King could inflict none but arbitrary punishments; there was no tribunal but the States-General and their committees, and among these the ministers had as many friends as the King. The ministers, therefore, thought themselves, and, as the constitution then stood, they really were, so nearly equal to the King in power, that they might do as they pleased with impunity. They presumed too far, and the King was justly offended; but had no remedy except in the assassination or dismission of his ministers; he chose the latter; though, in the sequel we shall see many instances, in similar cases, of the former.
“In the last years of his life, this monarch, if we may call by that name a prince who was, in effect, nothing more than the first individual in a miserable oligarchy, secretly recommended to Prince Henry, his son, to distrust the excessive power of his subjects, and especially of the House of Guise, whose elevation would infallibly disturb the repose of the kingdom.”
Francis now saw and felt that the House of Guise was become, as the House of Bourbon had been before, a dangerous rival of the House of Valois. Ambition, disappointed and disgraced by a king, commonly becomes obsequious to the heir apparent, or ostensible successor.
“In 1547, Henry II., the successor of Francis I., disregarding the advice and example of his father, dismissed from his court and service the Admiral and the Cardinal, though possessed of his secrets of the state, and placed again at the head of affairs the Constable Anne of Montmorenci, and Francis of Lorraine, son of Claude, Duke of Guise, who soon engaged the confidence of the young King, and regulated every thing at his court. Their authority was equal.”
But, as has been once observed, nature has decreed that a perfect equality shall never long exist between any two mortals.
“The views, the conduct, and the characters of the two ministers were unlike in all things. The Constable, advanced in years, was naturally fond of peace. Formed by a long experience in the art of government, he enjoyed a high reputation for wisdom, and held the first place in the conduct of affairs of state. The Duke, in the flower of his age, captivated, by an elevated genius and sprightly wit united with a robust constitution and a noble figure, the affections of the King. Henry treated him almost as his equal; admitted him to his conversations, his pleasures, and those exercises of the body which were suitable to his age and inclination. His affection for the Constable was rather veneration. His attachment to the Duke was familiarity. The conduct of the two favorites was very different; the one, an enemy of all show, urged, with a certain severity, from which age is seldom exempted, the necessity of economy. He even opposed the profusion of the Prince. His austere virtue inspired a contempt for foreigners, and rendered him little solicitous for the affection of the French. The Duke of Guise, affable and popular, gained by his liberalities and politeness the hearts of the people and the soldiers. With a generous warmth he protected the unfortunate, and conciliated the esteem of strangers.
“Inclinations and conduct so opposite soon produced jealousies between the two ministers, equally beloved of the King. To insinuate themselves further into the royal graces, and make themselves masters of his favors, they exerted all their skill, address, and efforts. Their emulation and ambition were stimulated by their nearest relations and private friends. The Constable was irritated by his nephew, Gaspard de Coligni, Lord of Châtillon, who had succeeded to the Admiral d’Annebaut, and who was not less distinguished for his policy, than eminent for valor. The Duke of Guise was animated by the Cardinal Charles of Lorraine, his brother, who united the splendor of the Roman purple to a noble figure, profound erudition, and uncommon eloquence.
Henceforward, the demon of rivalry haunted the two Houses of Guise and Montmorenci; and fortune did not fail to open a vast career to the animated emulation of the two competitors.
Opposant sans relâche avec trop de prudence,
Les Guises aux Condés, et la France à la France.
Toujours prête à s’unir avec ses ennemis
Et changeant d’intérêt, de rivaux, et d’amis.*
The rivalry between the Houses of Guise and Montmorenci, or in other words, the ambition of the Cardinal de Lorraine and the Duke of Guise, to outstrip the Montmorenci, produced a war.
“Charles V. was preparing with a numerous army to lay siege to Metz. It was not doubted that the conduct of so important a war would be committed to one of the two favorites. But the Constable Montmorenci, more than sixty years of age, preferred a residence near the person of the king to a risk of his reputation in new dangers. The Duke of Guise, on the contrary, full of courage, and burning with ardor to distinguish himself, solicited the command with the more vivacity, as he saw no other resource than in military successes to efface the credit and eclipse the glory of the Constable.† He was therefore charged with the defence of Metz, with the consent, or at least without the opposition of the Constable, who internally was not displeased to see his competitor expose his life or his reputation to danger. The Duke fulfilled perfectly the idea which had been conceived of his valor and prudence. Uncertain as the success of the enterprise had been, he came out of it victorious and covered with glory. This great action did him so much honor with the king and the whole nation, that they committed to him, in preference of all others, the command of the army, which they sent afterwards to Italy to reconquer the kingdom of Naples. Either by the fault of the French, or the inconstancy of their allies, this expedition failed, or at least produced little advantage. Yet the ill success was not imputed to the Duke, who drew from it more glory than he could have done from a victory, for this reason,—Philip II., King of Spain, upon the abdication of his father, Charles V., turned his arms against the frontiers of France, and entered through Flanders into Picardie, to make a diversion from the war in Italy. The Constable, as governor of that province, was then obliged to take leave of the king, and, against his inclination, run the hazards of war. The loss of the battle of Saint-Quintin, where the Spaniards took him prisoner, spread a consternation through all the neighboring provinces. The friends of the Guises in council could discover no surer means of repelling this invasion of the enemy, of repairing the losses and preventing the consequences of this defeat, than by recalling from Italy the Duke of Guise. The celerity of his return, added to the memorable conquests of Calais, Guisne, and Thionville, fully justified these hopes, and gave him that superiority over the Constable that a conqueror must ever have over one who is conquered.
“The Constable, however, obtained his liberty and returned to court. The king’s affection for him was not abated. Henry, attributing his late misfortunes to the lot of arms and the fortune of war, conversed familiarly with him; and, still convinced of his capacity, confided to him the weight of public affairs. In the critical circumstances of the state, the Duke and the Cardinal, who had acquired a great reputation, the one by his exploits, and the other by his abilities, apprehended that if they could not throw some powerful obstacle in the way of the Constable, he would rise higher in favor than ever. They resolved, therefore, to gain to their party Diana, Duchess of Valentinois, to connect their interests with hers, and to make her protection and favor serve as a foundation of their elevation.”
And who was Diana?
Of illustrious birth, descended from the ancient House of the Counts of Poitiers, in the flower of her age, she united with uncommon beauty a sprightly wit, an acute and subtle understanding, the most insinuating graces of behavior, and all the other qualities which, in a young woman, enchant the eyes and captivate the heart. She had married the Sénéchal of Normandy, who soon left her a widow, with two daughters. She took advantage of her single state to deliver herself up to the pleasures and amusements of the court. Her charms gained the heart of the King, whom she governed with an absolute empire. But1 she behaved with so much arrogance, and appropriated to herself the riches of the crown with so much avidity, that she made herself odious and insupportable to the whole kingdom. The Queen, full of indignation to have a rival so powerful, behaved towards her with an exterior decency, but in her heart bore her an implacable hatred. The nobility, whom she had ill treated in the persons of several gentlemen, could not with patience see themselves trampled under foot by the pride of a woman; and the people detested her avarice, to which they imputed the rigorous imposts with which they were loaded.
“The Guises, without regard to the general discontent, sensible only to the fear of losing their power, sought the friendship of the Duchess, who soon declared herself openly in their favor; and, by marrying one of her daughters to the Duke of Aumale, their brother, supported them with all her credit. The Constable easily unravelled the intrigues of the Guises, and, not depending on the marks of confidence which he received from the King, thought to fortify himself equally with the protection of Diana. If the Guises had flattered her by the splendor of their birth, he did not despair to gain her to his interest by satisfying her avarice, a passion as ungovernable in her heart as ambition. He began to make his court to her, and endeavored to gain her by considerable presents. He had so much at heart the success of his measures that, in spite of his natural pride, he did not hesitate to seek also her alliance, by espousing to Henry, Lord of Damville, his second son, Antoinette de la Marck, granddaughter, by the mother, of the Duchess of Valentinois; a resolution so much the more imprudent, as Diana was already strictly united with the party of the Guises, and labored sincerely with all her power for their aggrandizement; whereas, she favored but coldly the designs of the Constable.* All the means which had been employed in opposition to the elevation of the Guises became useless. To the merit of their services, to the intrigues by which they had continually advanced themselves, at the time when they disputed with so much vivacity with their rivals for the first rank at the court, was added the marriage of Francis, the Dauphin of France and the eldest son of the King, with the Princess Mary, sole heiress of the kingdom of Scotland, daughter of James Stuart, lately deceased, by Mary of Lorraine, sister of the Duke and Cardinal. An alliance of so much magnificence drew them near to the throne. There remained now to the Constable and his family only the friendly sentiments which the King preserved for them by habit; and to the other courtiers, only the offices of smaller importance. The principal dignities, the fairest governments, and the general superintendence of affairs, civil and military, all were placed in the hands of the Guises and their creatures.
“While all minds were held in agitation at court by these events, the Bourbons saw themselves, notwithstanding their proximity of blood, and pretensions to the crown, contrary to the usage of the nation, excluded from employments and honors. Except when the necessity of a war, or the exercise of some office of little consequence which remained to them, required their presence, they appeared not at court. It is true, that the Count d’Anguien, one of the princes of this house, had advanced himself by his merit and valor. The King had given him the command of his army in Piedmont. The battle of Cérizolles, which he gained against the Spaniards, had raised his reputation. But this advantage was too transitory to raise the House of Bourbon. This Prince died by accident, in the flower of his age, and his brother, the Duke d’Anguien, was killed at the battle of St. Quintin. There remained, therefore, none of the children of Charles of Bourbon, but Anthony, Duke of Vendôme, and King of Navarre, by his marriage with Jane of Albret; Louis, Prince of Condé, the stock of the branches of Condé and Conti, killed afterwards at Jarnac; and Charles, Cardinal of Bourbon, proclaimed king afterward by the Leaguers, under the name of Charles X.
“The chiefs of the house were now, Anthony, Duke of Vendôme, and Louis, Prince of Condé, his brother, both sons of Charles of Vendôme, who, after the revolt of the Constable de Bourbon, and the captivity of Francis I., by his moderation and disinterestedness had somewhat calmed the hatred which had been violently enkindled against those of his blood. These princes, depressed by the Guises, whom they called strangers and new-comers from Lorraine, complained bitterly, that, except the right of succession to the crown, which no man could take from them, they were deprived of all their privileges, and especially of the honor of residing near the person of the King; that they scarcely held any rank in a court, where their birth called them to the first places after his majesty; and that such conduct was equally inconsistent with reason and equity. The King, however, maintained with inflexibility the power of the Guises against all remonstances and complaints. The Bourbons endured with less impatience the elevation of the Constable Montmorenci; on the contrary, they were severely mortified to see his credit diminish. United with him by an alliance, by views and by interests, they flattered themselves they might obtain by his means a decent rank, if they could not reascend to that which their ancestors had possessed. But now, deprived of that hope which supports the unfortunate by softening the sentiment of their ills, they bore with still greater impatience their disgraces.
“Anthony of Vendôme, a prince of a mild and moderate character, appeared to support them with more tranquillity than the others, because he meditated great designs. He had married Jane of Albret, only daughter of Henry, King of Navarre, and, after the death of his father in law, he had taken the crown and title of king. His project was to recover his kingdom of Navarre, of which the Spaniards had made themselves masters for several years, during the war between Louis XII., and Ferdinand the Catholic. The kings of France, to whose interest this state had been sacrificed, had attempted several times to reconquer it. The Spaniards, who could easily march troops to its relief, had hitherto defended it. But the two crowns, being then upon the point of concluding a solid peace, the King of Navarre hoped to comprehend in the treaty, and to obtain a restitution of his hereditary states, or at least, an equivalent. He was confirmed in this thought by the birth of a son, to whom he gave the name of Henry, in memory of his maternal grandfather. This is the prince, whom the splendor of his victories raised, after long and bloody wars, to the throne of France, under the name of Henry IV., and whose exploits and virtues have merited the name of Great. He was born the thirteenth of December, 1554, at Pau, the capital of Béarn. This birth, which filled with joy the King and Queen of Navarre, inspired them with more ardor to recover their dominion. Anthony chose rather to interest the King of France to demand this restitution in the treaty of peace, than to solicit, in quality of first prince of the blood, governments and dignities in the kingdom. It was this, which engaged him to dissemble with more patience and moderation than the rest, the injustice done to his house. The King, persisting in the design of lowering continually the princes of the blood, or perhaps irritated at the refusal of Anthony to exchange Béarn and his other states, for cities and territories situated in the interior of the kingdom, had dismembered from Guienne, of which the King of Navarre was governor, as first prince of the blood, Languedoc and the city of Toulouse, to give the government of them to the Constable. But the King of Navarre, showing little resentment of this injustice, pursued constantly his first views.
“Louis, Prince of Condé, brother to the King of Navarre, full of ambition and inquietude, and not restrained by similar interests, saw with grief the mediocrity of his fortune answer so ill to the splendor of his birth. Without offices, governments, or employments to support him, he could not bear, but with a discontent which he took no pains to conceal, the excessive grandeur of the Guises, who monopolized for themselves the first dignities and fairest employments of the kingdom. To his personal mortification he joined the disgrace of the Constable, whose niece he had espoused. He was so strictly connected with him, and the Maréchal of Montmorenci, his son, that he saw in the humiliation of their house, the completion of his own misfortunes. The Admiral of Châtillon, and D’Andelot, his brother, irritated him still more by their advice. The first was an ambitious, but an able politician, who took a secret advantage of all occasions to profit of troubles, to raise himself to high power. The other, fiery, passionate, continually occupied in intrigues and plots, ceased not, by his discourse and example, to nourish in the heart of Louis the hatred already too deeply enkindled. This prince, transported with rage, and almost reduced to despair, saw no resource for himself, but by causing a revolution in the State.
“Such was the situation of affairs; such the jealousies and animosities of the grandees, ready, on the slightest occasion, to break out in an open rupture, when, in the month of July, 1559, happened the unexpected death of Henry II., killed by accident in a tournament, by Gabriel, Count of Montgommeri, one of the captains of his guards.
“Francis II., his eldest son, with a weak understanding, and a delicate constitution, succeeded him. Those evils, which even under his father, had been expected, hastened to make themselves felt under his feeble reign. Secret enmities were easily changed into declared hatreds; and recourse was soon had to arms. The youth and imbecility of the King rendered him incapable of governing. It was necessary that he should have, not a guardian, because he had passed the age of fourteen years, the term fixed for the majority of the kings of France; but ministers, prudent and laborious, who should govern under his authority, until time should have fortified his understanding, and invigorated his constitution. The ancient usage of the kingdom called the princes of the blood to this place, and indicated the King of Navarre, and the Prince de Condé, who united to the proximity of blood an established reputation. The Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine, uncles of the King by his marriage with the Queen of Scots, pretended that this honor belonged to them, in consideration of their long labors and services to the crown, but especially, because they had in fact enjoyed it, during the life of the late King. Catherine of Medici, mother of the King, expected to govern alone. She depended on the filial tenderness of her son; several examples authorized her pretensions; but she founded her strongest hopes on the divisions of the grandees; and the terror of each faction, lest the other should carry the point, facilitated her design.
“The Guises were sensible that they wanted the advantage of being of the blood, to which the laws and customs of the nation had usually confided the government of the kingdom. They foresaw, moreover, the empire which the counsels of a mother would have over the mind of her son, still young and without experience. They resolved, therefore, by joining and acting in concert with her, to divide a power which they despaired of obtaining entire. The Queen, a princess of refined genius and masculine courage, knew that the princes of the blood suffered with impatience the authority and grandeur of queens. She thought also, that as a stranger and an Italian, she had occasion to fortify herself with the support of some faction. She consented, therefore, cheerfully to combine with the Guises, whom she saw disposed to accept of part of that authority, which the Bourbons would have pretended to appropriate to themselves without partition. There was but one obstacle to the intimacy of this union, and that was the unlucky connection of the Guises with the Duchess of Valentinois, who had possessed the heart of the late King, to the time of his death. The occasion was pressing, and the importance of the business would not admit of delay. On one hand, the Queen, to whom dissimulation was not difficult, agreed to appear to forget the past, with the same moderation which she had shown in bearing with her rival during the life of her husband. On the other, the Guises, occupied wholly with their present interest, easily betrayed their friend, by consenting that the Duchess should be disgraced and dismissed from the court. They only required that she should not be totally stripped of those immense riches, which must one day revert to the Duke of Aumale, their brother.
“The King of Navarre was then absent, and very discontented with the King and the court, who, in the treaty concluded with Spain, had given no attention to his interests, nor to the restitution of his states. The new coalition at court, had, with great address, disembarrassed themselves of the Constable, by deputing him to do the honors of the obsequies of Henry II. The personage who has that commission, must not absent himself from the place where the body is deposited, during the three-and-thirty days that the funeral pomp continues. Artifice and accident having thus removed the two great obstacles, it was not difficult to obtain of Francis II., seduced by the caresses and the charms of his Scottish Queen, an arrangement by which he placed the reins of government in the hands of his nearest relations. Every thing which concerned the war was committed to the Duke of Guise. The Cardinal had the departments of justice and finance; and the Queen mother, the superintendence of all parts of the government. To establish their measures, which had so well succeeded, and that the complaints and intrigues of the disaffected might not shake the resolution of the King, and disarrange their plan, there was no doubt but the first stroke of their policy would fall upon the Constable, whose prudence and credit were dreaded by the Guises, and against whom the Queen had for some time entertained a secret aversion. The Guises feared him on account of the jealousy, which for a long time had openly divided their houses; because, notwithstanding the fall of his favor at court, the reputation of his wisdom preserved him a great influence throughout the whole kingdom. In their secret interviews with the King they artfully drew the conversation to this subject, and exaggerated to him the reputation which the Constable enjoyed.”
Ses mains, autour du trône, avec confusion,
Semaient la jalousie, et la division.*
† “The Guises insinuated, that if the Constable resided at the court, he would be assuming; would think to govern his majesty like an infant, and even to hold him under the ferule and the rod. They represented his intimate connections with the Bourbons, the eternal enemies of a crown, to which they had for so long aspired. Finally, they suggested, that he could not confide in the Constable, without exposing his life, and the lives of his brothers, to the discretion of people, whose ambition the kings, his predecessors, had always dreaded; and whom they had ever held in a state of humiliation, and at a distance from court. Penetrating genius easily inspires suspicions into contracted minds. Nothing more was wanting to persuade a weak king to seek a pretext honorably to dismiss the Constable. As soon as the ceremony of the obsequies of Henry II. was completed, the King, overwhelming him with caresses, signified to him, that not being able with sufficient dignity to acknowledge his merit, nor the value of the services which he had rendered the kings, his ancestors, he had resolved to discharge him from the cares and burthens of government, too disproportionate to his great age; that he would no longer require of him any excessive application to business, but would reserve him for some occasions of éclat; that he should always consider him, not as a servant and a subject, but as a venerable father; and that he would give him leave to retire, wherever he saw fit. The Constable easily comprehended that this lesson had been taught the King by the Guises, through the Queen mother, and the Queen of Scots; that it would be useless to remonstrate; and that it was better to receive as a recompense, orders, which his resistance might convert into disgrace. He thanked the king; recommended to him his sons and nephews, and retired to his castle at Chantilly, ten leagues from Paris, where he had, more than once before, supported vicissitudes of fortune.
“As soon as the Queen mother and the Guises had banished the Constable, they studied to disembarrass themselves of the Prince de Condé. It was easy to foresee, that his fiery temper, and his animosity against the Guises, would transport him to attempt all the means imaginable, to change the established form of government.”
It may be remarked, in this place, that these expressions intimate an idea of reformation of government, and regeneration of nations, like those which prevail at this time in France, and in many other countries, after the example of America. One would conjecture that the Prince of Condé had it in contemplation to establish committees of correspondence, to call a convention or national assembly, to deliberate on a rational plan of government to be adopted by the nation at large. There are, indeed, in history, some traces of a party, who wished for a republican government about this time. But, unfortunately, their ideas of a republic appear to have been the same with those which prevail too much at present in France. Two hundred and fifty years of experience have not yet brought the nation to advert to the true principles in nature, upon which government is founded. The Marquis of Condorcet, the friend of Turgot and Rochefoucauld, so great in geometry, is not more accurate in the science of government than Etienne de la Boetie, the friend of De Thou and Montaigne. The same reformation is wanting now that was so necessary in 1550. Whether a sovereignty in one single assembly, constituted by a double representation,* as the present assembly is, would have answered then, or will succeed now, are questions that hereafter may deserve consideration. It ended formerly, after a hundred years of civil wars, in the simple, absolute monarchy of Louis XIV. Time must determine whether the continued deliberations and exertions of the national assembly will finally obtain a balance in their government.† This is the point on which their success will turn; if they fail in this, simple monarchy, or what is more to be dreaded, simple despotism,‡ after long struggles, will infallibly return. If the wild idea of annihilating the nobility should spread far and be long persisted in, the men of letters§ and the national assembly, as democratical as they may think themselves, will find no barrier against despotism. The French, as well as the Creek Indians, at this time our respectable guests,∥ and all other nations, civilized and uncivilized, have their beloved families, and nothing but despotism ever did or ever can prevent them from being distinguished by the people. These beloved families in France are the nobility. Five eighths of the present national assembly are noble. The first fresh election will show the world the attachment of the people to those families. In short, the whole power of the nation will fall into their hands, and a commoner will stand no chance for an election after a little time, unless he enlist himself under the banner and into the regiment of some nobleman. For the commoners, this project of one assembly is the most impolitic imaginable. It is the highest flight of aristocracy. To the royal authority it is equally fatal as to the commons. In what manner the nobility ought to be reformed, modified, methodized, and wrought by representation or otherwise, into an independent branch of the legislature, what form of government would have been best for France, under Francis II., and whether the same is not now necessary, under Louis XVI., are questions too deep and extensive perhaps for us to determine. But we are very competent to demonstrate two propositions,—first, that a sovereignty in a single assembly cannot secure the peace, liberty, or safety of the people; secondly, that a federative republic, or, in other words, a confederation of the republic of Paris with the republics of the provinces, will not be sufficient to secure the tranquillity, liberty, property, or lives of the nation. In some future time, if neither business of more importance, nor amusements more agreeable should engage us, we may throw together a few thoughts upon these questions. This may be done without the smallest apprehension of ever being confuted. For, although we should fail to produce arguments to convince our readers, we know with infallible certainty that time will supply all our defects and demonstrate for us the truth of both the propositions.* At present we return to the narration of Davila.
“The Prince de Condé’s quality of prince of the blood and the want of plausible pretexts did not permit the Guises so easily to dismiss him from court. They found, however, a favorable occasion to send him off for a time, till the new ministry should be well established, by nominating him plenipotentiary to the King of Spain, to ratify the peace and alliance contracted a little before the death of Henry II. He quitted the court upon this embassy, and left the field open for the perfection of projects which were as yet only in outline. The Queen mother and the Guises proceeded in the same manner with all whom they feared. Strongly determined to consummate their designs, they judged that they could succeed only by arranging all the strong places, as well as the troops, the finances, and all the resources of the state under their own disposition; so that the most important affairs should pass through no hands but their own or those of their creatures. Nevertheless, to show that they consulted their interest less than the public good and their own glory, they did not elevate to dignities people without merit and drawn from the dust, for fear they should be thought to make creatures for themselves at any rate. But they conferred favors only on persons who added acknowledged merit to conspicuous birth, and, above all, estimable in the eyes of the people for integrity. This conduct had a double advantage; the first, that the people commonly applauded their choice, and their opponents had no pretence to condemn it; the second, that confiding in persons of honor and fidelity, they were not exposed to be deceived, nor to suspect their attachment, as it often happens to those who commit the execution of their designs to people of base extraction or dishonored by their manners. In this view, they restored to office Francis Olivier, formerly Chancellor of the kingdom, a personage of known integrity and inflexible firmness in the exercise of his employment. The vigor with which he avowed and supported his sentiments had caused his dismission from court from the beginning of the reign of Henry II., and the instigations of the Constable had not a little contributed to his disgrace. They recalled also to council, and near the person of the King, the Cardinal de Tournon, who, in the time of Francis I., grandfather of the reigning prince, had the principal conduct of affairs. By these measures they flattered the multitude, and fulfilled the expectations of the public, without neglecting their own interests.
“The probity of the Cardinal and the Chancellor had rendered them dear to the people, who knew how often they had declared themselves against the multiplication of imposts with which they were oppressed. Moreover, disgraced by the intrigues of the Constable, and recalled with honor by the Guises, they must, both from resentment and gratitude, support with their counsels and all their influence the projects of aggrandizement formed by the latter. Many others had been gained by similar artifices; but the same management was not used with the House of Bourbon, nor with the family of the Constable. On the contrary, the Princes of Lorraine, drawn away by the desire of annihilating the credit of their ancient rival, and of abasing the royal family, seized with ardor every occasion of diminishing the authority and increasing the losses of their enemies.
“The Admiral Gaspard de Coligni had two different governments,—that of the Isle of France, and that of Picardie; but as the laws of the kingdom permitted not the possession of more than one dignity or one government at the same time, the late king had destined that of Picardie to the Prince de Condé, to appease his resentment and soften his complaints. The Prince earnestly desired this favor, to which, indeed, he had just pretensions. His father and the King of Navarre had successively held it; and the Admiral had resigned it in consideration of the Prince. But the death of Henry II., happening near the same time, had hindered the effect of this arrangement, which had already been made public. Francis II. had no regard to it. At the solicitation of the Guises, and by a manifest injustice to the Prince, he granted this place to Charles de Cossé, Maréchal de Brissac, a captain of high reputation and great valor; but who, having been promoted by the favor of the Princes of Lorraine, was closely attached to them, and served them with zeal. Nor was there more attention paid to Francis of Montmorenci, the eldest son of the Constable. He had married Diana, natural daughter of Henry II. In consideration of this marriage, he had been promised the office of grand master of the King’s household, a place which had been long held by his father. From the first days of the reign of Francis II. the Duke of Guise took it for himself, that he might add this new éclat to his other dignities, as well as deprive of it a house which he wished to depress. Thus the Duke and the Cardinal embraced with ardor every occasion of mortifying their rivals and aggrandizing themselves. The Queen mother, who foresaw that this unlimited ambition and this violent hatred must have fatal effects, desired that they should act with more moderation, management, and dexterity; but she dared not, in the beginning, oppose herself to the wills, nor traverse the designs of those whose influence was the principal support of her authority.
“At this time, the Bourbons, excluded from all parts of the government, banished from court, and without hopes of carrying their complaints to the foot of the throne, beginning to reflect upon the situation of their affairs and the conduct of their enemies, who, not content with their present grandeur, labored by all sorts of means to perpetuate it, resolved to remain no longer inactive spectators of their own misfortunes, but to prevent the ruin that threatened them.”
To this purpose a convention was called, and we shall soon see what kind of convention it was.
“Anthony, King of Navarre, after having left in Béarn his son, yet an infant, under the conduct of the Queen his wife, as in an asylum, at a distance from that conflagration which they saw ready to be lighted up in France, repaired to Vendôme with the Prince of Condé, already returned from his embassy. The Admiral, d’Andelot and the Cardinal of Châtillon, his brothers; Charles, Comte de la Rochefoucauld, Francis, Vidâme de Chartres, Anthony, Prince of Porcien, all relations or common friends, assembled also, with several other noblemen attached for many years to the Houses of Montmorenci and Bourbon. The Constable, who, although to all appearance wholly engaged in the delights of private life, secretly set in motion all the springs of this enterprise, had sent to this assembly at Ardres his ancient and confidential secretary, with instructions concerning the affairs to be there agitated. They took into consideration the part which it was necessary to act in the present conjuncture of affairs. All agreed in the same end; but opinions, as usual, were divided concerning the means. All equally felt the atrocious affronts committed against the princes of the blood; for the Guises had not only taken from them the first places in the government, but the small number of dignities which had remained to them. They saw, evidently, that the design was nothing less than to oppress these princes and their partisans. All perceived the necessity of preventing so pressing a danger, without waiting for the last extremity. But they were not equally agreed concerning the measures proper to ward it off.”
L’un et l’autre parti cruel également,
Ainsi que dans le crime, est dans l’aveuglement.
In the assembly, convention, caucus, or conspiracy at Ardres, call it by which name you will, “the Prince de Condé, the Vidâme de Chartres, d’Andelot, and others of a character more irritable and violent, were of opinion that, without leaving to the Guises the time to augment their credit and their forces, they should fly to arms, as the remedy the most expeditious and the most efficacious.
“ ‘In vain,’ said they, ‘shall we wait for the king, of his own motion, to determine to restore us the rank which is our right. This prince, incapable of deciding for himself, will never come out of that lethargy, in which he has been stupefied from his infancy. Governed by his mother and the Guises, he will never dare to redemand the power which he has so blindly abandoned to them. How can the just complaints of the princes of the blood, and the nobles, the best affectioned to the welfare of the state, ever reach the ear of a monarch, who, even in the service of his person, is constantly surrounded with spies, stationed by his ministers, and sold to their tyranny? What dependence can we have on the resolutions of a prince, to whom they will represent our requisitions under the blackest colors, and the odious appellations of revolts, conspiracies, and plots? Can we hope that the Queen mother and the Guises will dismiss themselves, in favor of their enemies and rivals, from a part of that power which has cost them so much labor and so many artifices? This expectation would be more chimerical than the former. Men do not weakly abandon an authority, which they have once usurped with so much boldness. Whoever arrives, by slow and secret intrigues, to unlawful power, enjoys it haughtily, and preserves it at all hazards.* The power and authority of the laws may impose on private persons; but they give way to force, which alone decides the rights and interests of princes. So much reserve and timidity on our part, will only serve to augment the confidence and temerity of our enemies. To begin by complaining, would be to sound an alarm before an attack, and to advertise our competitors to put themselves on their guard. The promptitude of execution alone decides the success of great enterprises. Sloth and irresolution debase the courage, enervate the forces, and lose the opportunity which flies so rapidly away. Let us hasten, then, to take arms, and overwhelm our enemies before they have time to collect themselves; and let us not ruin our own hopes and projects, by cowardly precautions and unseasonable delays.”
“The King of Navarre, the Admiral, the Prince of Porcien, and the Secretary of the Constable, in the name of his master, rejected, with horror, counsels so extreme, and proposed remedies less violent. ‘Whatever protestations we may make,’ they replied, ‘that we take arms only to deliver the King from the tyranny of strangers, and that we aspire not to his authority, our conduct will be ill interpreted. All good Frenchmen, religiously attached to the person of the King, will see our enterprise with indignation. Is it permitted to subjects to lay violence or constraint on their sovereign, under any pretext or for any reason whatever? Do the laws of the kingdom authorize us to force our master to confide to us any portion of his authority? He has passed his fourteenth year, and ought no longer to be in tutelage. Thus our pretensions, formed only on decency, propriety, and simple equity, had better be urged with delicacy and moderation, than by ways so violent as those of arms. By employing the means which prudence and address may suggest to us, let us not despair of gaining on the inclinations of the Queen mother. As soon as she can see her safety in our party, we shall see the power of the Guises dissolve, and we shall open to ourselves a way equally honorable and easy to the execution of our designs. The Princes of Lorraine have had hitherto no obstacle in their way; perhaps when they see a formidable opposition arising, they will determine to cede to us a part in the government. We will then avail ourselves of opportunities to secure us against the dangers which threaten us, and the outrages with which they overwhelm us. Is it not better to be satisfied with reasonable conditions, than to expose all to the inconstancy of fortune and the hazardous decision of arms? Have we in France forces to oppose to our lawful sovereign? What succor can we expect from foreign powers, who have lately renewed their alliances with the King? To take arms, at present, would be to precipitate the House of Bourbon into the deepest misfortunes, rather than to open to us an honorable reception into the government.’ This last sentiment prevailed; and it was resolved that the King of Navarre, as the chief of the house and the first prince of the blood, should repair to court and negotiate with the Queen mother, and endeavor to obtain some part in the administration of government for himself, and, for his brothers and partisans, the governments and dignities of which they had been deprived, or others equivalent.
“It was foreseen, however, that the success would not be happy. The King of Navarre, intimidated by the difficulty of the enterprise, acted with a delicacy, irresolution, and complaisance, dictated by that softness and moderation which formed the essence of his character. The Guises, on the contrary, full of that confidence which prosperity inspires, prepared to repel with vigor the attempt that was made against them. In concert with the Queen, they repeated incessantly to the young monarch, that his predecessors had always mortified the princes of the blood, as enemies to the reigning branch, against which they never ceased to operate, sometimes by secret cabals, and sometimes by open force. That, in the present circumstances, the King of Navarre and the Prince de Condé, seeing themselves so near the throne, under a king of a tender complexion, who had no children, and whose brothers were under age, sought only to deprive him of the support of his mother, and his nearest relations, that they might govern him at pleasure, and hold him in dependence, as the maires of the palace had formerly held the Clovises, the Chilperics, and other princes incapable of reigning. That, perhaps, there was no crime at which they would hesitate, even to employing poison or the sword, to open a passage for themselves to the throne. The King, naturally timid and suspicious, preoccupied by these artificial accusations, which were colored with some appearance of probability, saw with an evil eye the King of Navarre, and received him coldly. In the audiences which he granted him, always in the presence of the Duke and the Cardinal, who never quitted him a moment, he gave him none but dry answers; alleging that he was of age; that he was not responsible to any man for his actions; that he was satisfied with the good services of those who governed under him; and rejected constantly all the requests and demands of the princes of the blood, as irregular, unreasonable, and made with ill designs.
“The efforts of the King of Navarre had no better success with the Queen mother. She knew that she could not depend upon the attachment which the princes of the blood professed to her; that as soon as they should obtain what they solicited, they would exclude her from the government, and force her, perhaps, to quit the court. She judged, moreover, that it would be imprudent to abandon the most powerful and the best established party, to attach herself to the princes of the blood, who had no certain support. She determined, therefore, to pursue her first plan; but, as she wished to prevent the horrors of a civil war, she proposed to herself not entirely to take away all hopes from the princes, but to make use of artifice and dissimulation to divert the King of Navarre, whose docility she knew, from the designs which he had formed, and to wait, from time and conjunctures, some expedient advantageous to the welfare of the state. In consequence, she received him with great demonstrations of friendship, and amused him with the fairest hopes. In the course of conversations which they had together, she insinuated that the passions of the King were easily irritated; that he must not be vexed with demands and complaints out of season; that it was necessary to wait for opportunities more favorable; that the King, having passed his fourteenth year, might govern by himself, and without taking counsel of any one; that when he should find an opportunity to manifest his benevolence for the Princes of Bourbon, he would fulfil all that was required of him by the relations of blood, and would prove to all the world the esteem and consideration which he entertained of their merit and fidelity; that to change, all at once, in the beginning of a reign, the order established in the government, would be to give the King, among his own subjects, the reputation of an inconstant prince, without prudence and without firmness; that if any employment worthy of them should be vacant, he would have a regard to the justice of their pretensions; that in her own particular, she offered herself voluntarily to manage their interests with her son, to engage him to grant them, as soon as should be possible, the satisfaction they desired; that it was not decent that the King of Navarre, who had always evinced his wisdom and moderation, should now suffer himself to be guided by counsels and drawn into rash measures, which were neither consistent with his age nor character; but, by waiting with patience for what depended wholly on the benevolence and affection of the King, he ought to teach others how to merit, in their season, the favor and beneficence of his majesty. The Queen, having sounded him at several times by such general discourses, and perceiving that he began to waver, completely gained him, at length, by saying, that they must immediately send into Spain, Elizabeth, the sister of the King, who must be attended by some prince distinguished by his reputation and by his rank; that she had cast her eyes on him, as the personage the most proper to support the honor of the nation, by the splendor of his virtues and of the majesty royal with which he was adorned; that, besides the satisfaction which the King her son would have in it, he would find a great advantage for his private pretensions, by the facility which he would have of conciliating the affections of the Catholic King, and, at the same time, of treating in person of the restitution or of the change of Navarre. Finally, she promised him to employ all her credit, and all the power of the King her son, to insure the success of this negotiation.
“The King of Navarre, in analyzing the dispositions of the court, had observed that all those who were employed by the government, satisfied with the present situation of affairs, troubled themselves very little about the pretensions of the princes of the blood; and that those who had an interest to desire his grandeur and that of his brother, either intimidated by the power of their enemies, or disconcerted by his extreme delays, despaired equally of the success of his enterprise. He returned, therefore, easily to his first design of recovering his states, and judged that he ought not to let slip an opportunity so favorable for renewing the negotiations of accommodation with the crown of Spain, and of quitting decently a court where he could no longer remain with honor. He accepted cheerfully the commission of conducting the young Queen into Spain. The Queen mother continued to delude him with magnificent hopes, and in spite of the discontent of the other princes of his party, he pressed his departure with as much ardor as even his enemies could have desired. He suffered himself to be duped in Spain with the same facility. The Queen mother had already informed Philip II. of all this manœuvre. This monarch, who desired equally with her to see humiliated and excluded from the government the King of Navarre, so ardent to make good his pretensions to some part of his dominions, instructed the Duke of Alva and the other grandees who were to receive the Queen, his consort, not to reject the propositions of this prince, but to lead him on and amuse him, by receiving them seriously, and offering to make report of them to his catholic majesty and the council of Spain, without whose advice they could not determine any affair of state. As soon as the King of Navarre was arrived on the frontiers, and had presented the Queen Elizabeth to the Spanish lords, he began to speak to them of his interests, and thought himself sure at first of success. The Spaniards conducted the negotiation with an address which served to nourish his hopes, at the same time that they let him know that the effect could not be immediate. They engaged him even to send ambassadors to Madrid, so that, solely occupied with his first designs, he retired to Béarn, fully resolved not to meddle in the affairs of France, where negotiation appeared ineffectual, and the project of arms as dangerous as it was dishonorable.*
“The Prince of Condé, his brother, had opposite views, and took very different resolutions. His fortune was not commensurate with his courage nor with the extent of his designs. Excited by the mediocrity of his circumstances, by the hatred which he bore to the Guises, and incessantly stimulated by his mother-in-law and his wife, one the sister, and the other the niece of the Constable, both devoured by ambition, he openly detested the government of the Queen mother and the Guises. All his thoughts and actions tended to a revolution. He figured to himself that if the war should be enkindled by his intrigues and for his interests, not only he would become the chief of a numerous party, but moreover he would procure to himself riches, advantages, and perhaps the sovereignty of several cities and provinces of the kingdom. Full of these high ideas, he assembled again at La Ferté, an estate of his inheritance, situated on the frontiers of Champagne, the princes of his blood, and the principal lords of his party, and harangued them in this manner. ‘In vain have we hitherto employed the means of delicacy and moderation. It is only hereafter by the most vigorous efforts that we can prevent the ruin of the royal family, and of all those who have not been able to resolve to cringe servilely under the tyranny of the Queen mother and the Guises. It is no longer seasonable to dissemble outrages of which no man can be ignorant, and which we have suffered with too much patience. We are banished from court, and the government of Picardie and the office of Grand-Master is taken from us. Finances, offices, dignities, are the prey of foreigners and persons unknown, who hold the King in captivity. The truth never reaches the throne. The best part of the nation is oppressed to elevate traitors, who fatten on the blood of the people and the treasures of the state. It is on violence that the tyranny of these strangers is founded, who persecute with so much ferocity the royal blood. Let us employ violence also to destroy this tyranny. It will not be the first time that the princes of the blood have taken arms to maintain their rights. Peter, Duke of Brittany, Robert, Earl of Dreux, and several other lords, opposed, during the minority of St. Louis, the Queen Blanche, his mother, who had seized on the government. Philip, Earl of Valois, employed all his forces to exclude from the regency those who pretended to usurp it. Under Charles VIII., Louis, Duke of Orleans, took arms to cause himself to be elected regent, instead of Ann, Duchess of Bourbon, who, in quality of eldest sister of the young King, had taken into her hands the reins of the state. Let us imitate our wise ancestors, let us follow such striking examples. We find ourselves in the same case. It is therefore our duty to employ the same means to save the nation. Let not the apparent pleasure of the King restrain us. This prince, buried in a lethargic dream, and in his own imbecility, perceives not the deplorable slavery to which they have reduced him. He waits, from the princes of the blood, the assistance which is expected from an enlightened and skilful physician, by patients who feel not their distempers and know not their danger. The duties of our birth and the unanimous wishes of the nation authorize us to break the fetters with which this prince is loaded, and to redress the evil before it arrives at its last extremity. A vigorous resolution must be taken without delay. Let us hasten to be beforehand with our enemies, if we wish to surmount a thousand obstacles, which will arrest us if we waste the time in deliberation, and which a sudden execution alone can overcome. Sloth and timidity will only aggravate upon our necks the weight of a yoke equally shameful and fatal. Can we hesitate, when our tranquillity, our honor, and our lives have no other resource than in the valor of our arms?’
“This discourse, pronounced with a military tone, had already agitated minds before disposed to take arms, both from attachment to his house and their private interests. But the Admiral Coligni, who weighed more maturely all the consequences of such an enterprise, alone ventured to oppose the opinion of the Prince, by advising to employ, in the execution of his design, a mean more proper to ensure the success of it. ‘It would be,’ said Coligni, ‘too desperate a resolution to expose so openly to the hazards of war the fortunes of the House of Bourbon, and of so great a number of persons allied to their blood or attached to their interests. We are not supported by any forces at home or alliances abroad. We have no fortified places, and are without troops and without money. In the impossibility to act with open force, let us substitute policy in the stead of force. Let us endeavor, without discovering ourselves, to employ other arms to execute for us what we are not in a condition to undertake for ourselves. The kingdom is filled with a multitude of people who have embraced the doctrine lately introduced by Calvin. The severity of the researches made for them, and the rigor of their punishments, reduce them to despair, and to the desire, as well as necessity, of braving every danger to rescue themselves from a destiny so horrible. They all know that the Duke of Guise, and especially the Cardinal of Lorraine, are the principal authors of the persecution; that this last pursues ardently their destruction, in the parliaments and in the king’s councils, and never ceases to rail at their doctrines in his public harangues and private conversations. If the discontents of this multitude have not blazed out, it has been merely for want of a leader capable of guiding it and of animating it by his example.* If they should be stimulated ever so little, they will blindly confront the greatest dangers, in the hope of delivering themselves from the misfortunes which threaten them. Let us avail ourselves of this resource; let us encourage this multitude already disposed to commotions; let us give a form to their designs; let us arm their hatred against the Guises; let us put them in a condition to attack these strangers in good order and with advantage. Our designs in this way will execute themselves, without exposing or committing us, without our appearing to have any part in them. In augmenting our forces with all those of the Calvinists, we shall support ourselves by the protection of the Protestant princes of Germany, and of Elizabeth, Queen of England, who patronize openly the new religion. Our cause will become better, and our pretext more plausible. We will reject upon the Protestants the boldness of their enterprise, and we shall convince the whole world that it is neither interest nor ambition, but simply the difference in religion which has excited us to arms.’ ”
It should be remembered here that Davila was a Catholic and Coligni a Protestant. The latter one of the greatest, although the most unfortunate men of his age, was as sincere in religion, as pure in morals, and as honorable in the whole conduct of his life, as any one of his contemporaries. That he was desirous of engaging the Bourbons and Montmorencis to favor the Calvinists and liberty of conscience, is probable. But he is represented by the best French historians as so much attached to the King, as to have been even suspected by his party. The harangue which Davila puts into his mouth, is too much like a mere politician, and too little like a philosopher or a Christian, to be consistent with his character.*
Mais l’un et l’autre Guise ont eu moins de scrupule.
Ces chefs ambitieux d’un peuple trop crédule,
Couvrant leurs intérêts de l’interêt des cieux,
Ont conduit dans le piége un peuple furieux.
“The eloquence and authority of Coligni prevailed with the others to embrace the party of the Calvinists, to whose doctrines several of the noblemen then present in the assembly were secretly devoted. The common voice was in favor of this advice, which, affording hopes as near accomplishment and better founded, diverted them from taking arms of a sudden, and concealed for some time the view of dangers to which the most determined do not expose themselves but in the last extremity.
After Martin Luther had introduced into Germany the liberty of thinking in matters of religion, and erected the standard of reformation, John Calvin, a native of Noyon, in Picardie, of a vast genius, singular eloquence, various erudition, and polished taste, embraced the cause of reformation. In the books which he published, and in the discourses which he held in the several cities of France, he proposed one hundred and twenty-eight articles in opposition to the creed of the Roman Catholic church. These opinions were soon embraced with ardor, and maintained with obstinacy, by a great number of persons of all conditions. The asylum and the centre of this new sect was Geneva, a city situated on the lake anciently called Lemanus, on the frontiers of Savoy, which had shaken off the yoke of its bishop and the Duke of Savoy, and erected itself into a republic, under the title of a free city, for the sake of liberty of conscience.
From this city proceeded printed books and men distinguished for their wit and eloquence,* who, spreading themselves in the neighboring provinces, there sowed in secret the seeds of their doctrine. Almost all the cities and provinces of France began to be enlightened by it. It began to introduce itself into the kingdom under Francis I., in opposition to all the vigorous resolutions which he took to suppress it. Henry II. ordained, with inexorable severity, the punishment of death against all who should be convicted of Calvinism. The Cardinal of Lorraine was the high priest, and the proud tyrant, who counselled and stimulated the King to those cruelties and persecutions, which, by the shedding the blood of all the advocates of civil liberty, might have wholly suppressed it, if the unexpected death of Henry II., which the Calvinists regarded as a miracle wrought in their favor, had not occasioned some relaxation under Francis II. The Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine persisted in their bloody, persecuting resolutions. But they did not find in the parliament nor in the other magistrates the same promptitude to execute the orders which they gave in the name of the King.
Theodore Beza, a disciple of Calvin, celebrated for his eloquence and erudition, had already converted several persons of both sexes and of the first nobility of the kingdom. And it was no longer in the stables and cellars that the Calvinists held their assemblies and preached their sermons, but in the houses of gentlemen and in the palaces of the great. The people called them Huguenots or Aignossen,1 confederates. The Admiral Coligni, and several other noblemen, had indeed embraced the new doctrine as it was called. But the Calvinists, restrained by the fear of punishment, still held their assemblies in secret, and the great dared not declare openly for them.
“The Bourbons, finding France in a condition favorable to their present interests, embraced greedily the proposition of Coligni, and they deputed d’Andelot and the Vidâme de Chartres to negotiate this affair with the Calvinists. These able agents, who both had embraced Calvinism, easily found a multitude of persons disposed to communicate to others the project in contemplation, and to make the necessary preparations for its execution. The Calvinists, agitated without interruption by the terror of dangers and punishments, served them with so much promptitude and concert, that they placed things in a train in a short time to succeed.
“The first measure advised by d’Andelot and the Vidâme de Chartres was, that a large number of those who professed the Protestant religion should assemble and present themselves without arms at court, to petition the King for liberty of conscience, the public exercise of their religion, and permission to have temples for that purpose.”
Davila, the Catholic and Italian, has recorded in this place all the party exaggerations of his mistress and the Guises. He says that, “if the petition of the Protestants should be severely and haughtily rejected, as it indubitably would be, they were immediately to march troops assembled secretly from all the provinces; that these should suddenly appear under different leaders, who should be appointed for them; that finding the King unguarded and the court without defence, they were to massacre the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine, with all their creatures; and oblige the King to declare regent and lieutenant-general of the kingdom the Prince of Condé, who should grant them a cessation of punishment and liberty of conscience. It was believed at the time, and published, that the chiefs of the conspiracy had given secret orders, if every thing succeeded to their wishes, to put to the sword the Queen mother, the King himself, and his brothers, that the crown, in this way, might descend to the Princes of Bourbon.”
But Davila himself acquits them of this atrocious accusation, by adding that, “none of the accomplices having avowed this horrible design, neither when on the rack nor of their own accord, but all, on the contrary, having formally denied it, I cannot relate it as a fact. We know very well, that fame, aided by the vain terrors of the people and the malignity of the great, takes a pleasure in magnifying objects to infinity.
“The plan being thus concerted among the conspirators, they divided the provinces and employments among the principal Calvinists, that the execution might be attended with as much order and secrecy as possible. La Barre de la Renaudie assumed the principal part, and put himself at the head of the enterprise. This was a person celebrated for his travels and adventures. His wit and courage had acquired him credit among the Huguenots. He wanted neither spirit to undertake nor vivacity to execute. The derangement of his fortune had reduced him to the alternative of procuring himself a better condition by some daring attempt, or of terminating his misfortunes by a sudden death. Although issued from the first nobility of Périgord, he had wandered long in different countries, and had at length taken refuge in Geneva, where by his subtilty he had acquired some consideration. Such was the birth and character of the principal leader of the conspiracy, who was soon followed by a great number of associates, some excited by a zeal for religion, others by the attractions of novelty, and others simply by that natural inquietude, which never permits the French to languish in idleness.
“La Renaudie confided to the chiefs among them the care of assembling their partisans, and conducting them to the rendezvous. The intelligence with which he distributed provinces, introduced a kind of order into this confusion. Castelnau had the department of Gascony; Mazeres, that of Béarn; Dumesnil, that of Limousin; Mirebeau, that of Saintonge; Coqueville, Picardie; Mouvans, Provence; Maligni, Champagne; Sainte-Marie, Normandy; and Montejean, Brittany; all famous for courage, distinguished by their nobility, and considered in their cities and cantons as heads of the party. These factionaries, after having assembled at Nantes, a city of Brittany, some under the pretext of a lawsuit, and others under that of a marriage, repaired with great diligence to the posts which were assigned them. In a few days, and with admirable secrecy, they there gained an infinite number of persons of all conditions, ready to sacrifice their lives for an enterprise which their preachers assured them tended to the advantage and tranquillity of the state.
“The Prince of Condé, who secretly lighted up this conflagration, advanced by moderate days’ journeys to the court. He wished to be witness of the event, and to take suddenly, according to circumstances, the part which should appear to him the most advantageous. The Admiral, always circumspect, feigned to remain neuter. He retired to his estate at Châtillon, under the pretext of enjoying the sweets of private life, without meddling with affairs of the public or of government; but, in reality, it was as much to aid the conspiracy by his counsels and information, as to avoid the accidents which might defeat an enterprise which he judged rash and dangerous. The conspirators, who were not agitated with similar anxieties, but full of the most flattering hopes, had begun their march in secrecy, carrying their arms concealed under their clothes. They advanced separately by different roads, and in the order which had been marked out by their chiefs, towards Blois, where the court resided at that time. This city was open on all sides, and without fortifications, and the conspirators were to meet in its suburbs, on the fifteenth day of March, 1560.
“But, whatever might be the activity of their proceedings and the secrecy of their counsels, they could not escape the penetration of the Guises. The favors, pensions, and employments they conferred, and their great reputation, had attached to them so many creatures in the different provinces of the kingdom, that they were punctually informed of all the movements of the conspirators. It was, indeed, impossible that the march of so numerous a multitude could remain unknown, when conspiracies whose secrets are confined to a small number of persons of the most consummate discretion and fidelity, are almost always discovered before their execution. Whether the secret was disclosed by La Renaudie or Avenelles, or discovered by the spies employed by the ministry, even in the houses of the principal conspirators, or whether information of it came from Germany, as soon as the Guises had received it, they deliberated on the means of defeating it.
The Cardinal of Lorraine, who was no soldier, advised to assemble the nobility of the nearest provinces, to draw from the neighboring cities all the garrisons to form a body of troops, and to send orders to all the commanders and governors to take the field, and put to the sword all the men whom they should find in arms. He presumed that the conspirators, perceiving themselves to be discovered, and informed of the measures taken against them, and which fame would not fail to exaggerate, would disperse of themselves. The Duke of Guise, more familiar with danger, and despising the transports of a multitude without discipline or order, regarded the advice of the Cardinal as more proper to palliate the distemper than to cure it; adding that, since it was so pernicious, and had insinuated itself into the heart of the kingdom, it was useless to temporize, and give it opportunity to break out with more violence. He thought it, therefore, more prudent to dissemble, and affect ignorance of the enterprise, to draw in the conspirators, and give them time to discover themselves; that, in such a case, their defeat and punishment would deliver France from a fatal contagion, which, as it discovered itself by symptoms so terrible, demanded violent remedies, and not simple lenitives. He added that, in punishing separately only a part of the conspirators, they should furnish matter to the ill-intentioned to calumniate the authors of this severity; that the people, little accustomed to such insurrections, would regard this as a chimera, and as a fable, invented by the ministry to crush their enemies and establish their own power and authority; whereas, by overwhelming all the conspirators at once, when upon the point of execution, they should dissipate all false accusations, and justify in the sight of all the world, the rectitude and the sincerity of the intentions of those who were at the head of affairs.
“Catherine agreed with the Duke. No extraordinary preparation was made, which could excite a suspicion that the conspiracy was known. They only removed the King and the court to Amboise, ten leagues from Blois. This castle, situated on the Loire, and in the midst of forests which fortify it naturally, appeared to be a safer asylum; as it was easy to place in security the King and the two Queens in the castle, while a small number of troops should defend the entrance of the village, which was of difficult access.”
Eagle-eyed, high-souled ambition seldom misses its opportunity. “The Guises resolved to profit of a conjuncture so advantageous to cement and increase their power, by causing the fall of their rivals to promote their own elevation, as poisons are sometimes by uncommon skill converted into remedies. They entered the King’s apartments without the knowledge of the Queen, affecting with terror to exaggerate the danger; they described all that was reported to be plotted against the government, his most faithful subjects, and his royal person. They explained to him that the danger was imminent, that the conspirators were already at the gates of Amboise, with forces much more formidable and numerous than had been suspected. Finally, they demanded orders, the promptitude and energy of which should be proportioned to the grandeur and proximity of the danger. The King, naturally timid as well as weak, and at this moment forcibly stricken with the greatness of the danger which threatened him, ordered the Queen and all his ministers to be called, to consult on the means proper to repress the impetuosity of so violent a rebellion. Nothing was seen on all sides but subjects of terror. Every measure that was proposed appeared hazardous. The Cardinal of Lorraine exhausted all his artifices and all his eloquence to exaggerate the danger and increase the irresolution. The King, incapable of deciding, and of sustaining the weight of government in circumstances so critical, nominated, of his own mere motion, the Duke of Guise his lieutenant-general, with full and complete authority. He added that, not feeling himself adequate to act, he abandoned to the prudence and valor of the Duke the conduct of his kingdom, and the care of appeasing the troubles which agitated it.
“Catherine, although she felt an indignation at this bold attempt, could not oppose it without an open rupture with the Guises, in a moment when the safety of the state depended on their union. She perceived the occasion there was for a chief, whose experience and reputation might take the place of the imbecility and irresolution of the King, as likely to enervate the courage of his own troops, as to increase the insolence of his enemies. Monarchs the most absolute, and even republics the most jealous of their liberty, had often conferred the supreme authority on a single man, when the greatness of dangers had appeared to require a resource so extraordinary. Besides these views, which regarded the preservation of her son and his states, she foresaw the carnage which could not fail to be made, and that the hatred of the princes of the blood, and the enmity of the people, would fall necessarily on the Duke of Guise, commanding alone, and with an absolute authority.
“The integrity of the Chancellor Olivier was still an obstacle; little satisfied that an authority so unlimited should be granted to a subject, he appeared to suspend his judgment. His credit and firmness might have prolonged, if not defeated the measure. The Queen mother, however, determined him, by alleging that, as soon as the storm should be dissipated, they might restrain by new edicts and fresh declarations the excessive power to be given to the Duke, and confine him within the bounds of duty and reason; that it was the interest of all that the effusion of blood should be done by the sole orders of the Duke, and that neither the King, his relations, or ministers, should appear to dip their hands in it. The Chancellor, persuaded by these reflections, sealed the commission, giving to the Duke of Guise the title and authority of Lieutenant-General of the King, in all the provinces and territories of his obedience, with absolute power, as well in civil as military affairs.
“The Duke, as soon as he had obtained the dignity and authority which he had always desired, turned his attention to suppress the conspiracy. He made able and soldier-like arrangements for defending the castle and village of Amboise, and sent out parties of cavalry, as well as infantry, to attack the insurgents.”
A detail of their skirmishing would be as little interesting, as it would be to the purpose we have in view. La Renaudie fought with a bravery which well became the Protestant cause, and fell, with Pardaillan, his antagonist, in the combat; though his soldiers, collected in haste, could not stand against veteran troops. A Captain Lignieres, one of the conspirators, terrified at the greatness of the danger in the moment of execution, or stricken with remorse, or desirous of making his court, abandoned his accomplices, and galloped by another road to Amboise. He detailed to the King and Queen the quality and number of the conspirators, the names of their chiefs, and the roads by which they were approaching. The Prince de Condé was immediately put under guard, by order of the King, to hinder him in any manner from favoring the enterprise of the insurgents, as he promised them. The conspirators, in fine, were defeated and dispersed. Some perished in the flames of the houses to which they fled; others were hanged upon the trees in the neighborhood, or on the battlements of the castle. Multitudes were massacred in the neighborhood of Amboise; the Loire was covered with dead bodies; the blood ran in streams in the street; and the public places were filled with bodies hanging on gallowses. The punishment of these miserable men, tormented by the soldiers, and butchered by executioners, severities which the Guises thought necessary, became the source of carnage and of rivers of blood, which deluged France for many years in a most tragical and deplorable manner.
Faible enfant, qui de Guise adorait les caprices,
Et dont on ignorait les vertus et les vices.
“Although the insurgents were dispersed and their leaders executed, the Bourbons, and the other grandees of their party, the secret authors of the conspiracy, still lived. The council of the King, in examining into the motives of the late troubles, agreed without difficulty that they were the work of the princes of the blood;* and that to maintain the authority of the King and the ministry, the only sure means would be to rid themselves of the chiefs and authors of the conspiracy, as perturbators of the public repose, as favorers of heresy, and as rebels, who, attempting the person of their sovereign, had violated the fundamental laws of the monarchy.† But the princes of the blood were too nearly on a level with the King; they had too much influence with the people; they had too much power in the state. The King, indeed, was furious; the Queen mother was anxious; the Guises afraid of losing their power. But the Constable Montmorenci, the King of Navarre, and the Prince de Condé, all supposed to be at the bottom of the evil, had so much consequence in the world, that nothing but dissimulation and irresolution prevailed in the cabinet.
“The council, after disguising under a veil of deep dissimulation its real design, resolved, at length, to convoke the assembly of the States-General, in whom resides the whole authority of the kingdom.‡ Two reasons determined them,—first, that, to execute the important resolution of the King against the princes of his blood, it would be useful to have it confirmed by the unanimous, or, at least, the apparent consent of the nation. The second reason was that, by declaring that they meant to deliberate in this assembly on the measures necessary to compose the present troubles, to regulate the affairs of religion, and to adjust the administration of the state for the future, the King would have a plausible pretext to summon about his person all the princes of the blood, and all the officers of the crown, without giving them umbrage; and that they would be inexcusable not to come, since they were promised that the deliberations should be concerning a reformation of government, which they appeared so much to desire. Kings,” says Davila, “never see with pleasure, or indeed voluntarily, these assemblies of the States-General, where their authority seems to beeclipsed by the sovereign power of the nation, whose deputies represent the whole body.”*
Upon this passage the French writers cry out, “It is a stranger who speaks, ill-informed of the fundamental constitution of our monarchy. This Italian imagines that the royal authority was suspended during the session of the States-General. But it was the royal authority which called them together. Without it, they could not have assembled; and the same authority had a right to dismiss them at its pleasure. It is therefore evident that their power was always subordinate to that of the monarch.” But this consequence does not follow. The royal authority in England has the power of convoking, proroguing, and dissolving parliament. Yet parliament is not subordinate to the royal authority, but superior to it; as the whole is superior to a third part. The sovereignty is in parliament or the legislative power; not in the King or the executive. So the sovereignty might be in the States-General, comprehending the King. If there are “twenty examples of the States-General convening and separating, by the simple orders of the King;” if “the Dauphin, Charles V., during the detention of King John, his father, convoked several times the States-General, and dismissed them when he judged proper,” it will not follow from all this that the States were not a part of the sovereignty. Nor will it follow that they had no authority but to advise and remonstrate. “If the sentiments of the Italian author were true,” add these writers, “it would follow that the authority of parliaments and courts or companies, whose power is nothing but an emanation from the royal authority, would be suspended during the session of the States-General; a pretension absolutely contrary to the usages and maxims of the kingdom.” But how does it appear that the power of the parliaments and courts or companies were emanations of the royal authority? There is more probability that they were originally committees of the States-General, and in that case their power would not be suspended, unless it were expressly suspended by a resolution or order of the States. But if these tribunals were only a part of the executive power, and constituted by the King, it would not follow from this concession, that the States-General were no part of the sovereignty or legislative power. Is there one national act upon record which acknowledges the King of France to be an unlimited sovereign? If there is not, the opinion of Davila appears to be better founded than that of his critic.
There was always a rivalry between the royal authority and that of the States, as there is now between the power of the King and that of the National Assembly, and as there ever was and will be in every legislature or sovereignty which consists of two branches only.* The proper remedy then, would have been the same as it must be now, to new-model the legislature, make it consist of three equiponderant, independent branches, and make the executive power one of them; in this way, and in no other, can an equilibrium be formed, the only antidote against rivalries. The rivalry between the Kings and States-General in France proceeded in the struggle for superiority, till, the power of the former increasing, and that of the latter diminishing, the States-General were laid aside after 1614, and the crown on the head of Louis XIV., in fact, but not of right, became absolute. In the same manner the rivalry between the popes and general councils proceeded, till the latter were discontinued and his Holiness became infallible. In short, every man and every body of men is and has a rival. When the struggle is only between two, whether individuals or bodies, it continues till one is swallowed up or annihilated, and the other becomes absolute master. As all this is a necessary consequence and effect of the emulation which nature has implanted in our bosoms, it is wonderful that mankind have so long been ignorant of the remedy, when a third party for an umpire is one so easy and obvious.
“Francis II. in this year, 1560, issued a proclamation concerning the affairs of the nation, and declared that he had resolved to assemble at Fontainebleau all the princes and the notables of his kingdom, in order to take their advice concerning the urgent necessities of the state. He granted to all his subjects full liberty to come there in person or by deputies, or to send memorials to lay open their grievances, with promise to give them a favorable hearing and to grant all their requests so far as equity and reason would permit.”
The real intention of the Guises at this time was to take vengeance of their rivals; but to conceal this design under the most profound dissimulation, until a favorable moment should arrive to carry it into execution. A series of refinement in artifice was practised to put off their guard the Prince de Condé, the Constable de Montmorenci, the Admiral Coligni, and all the others of their party; at the same time that arrangements were made in all the provinces, and troops were assembled about the court, under commanders who were in its confidence.
“About this time died the Chancellor Olivier, destroyed, as was reported, by chagrin at the cruelties practised at Amboise. He was succeeded by Michel de l’Hôpital, who united to a profound erudition a consummate experience in business.”
To show the universal prevalence of emulation and rivalry, of jealousy and envy, not only between opposite parties, but among individuals of the same party, it is necessary to observe here that De l’Hôpital, notwithstanding his genius, so penetrating and so fruitful in resources, was elevated with great difficulty to this eminent dignity by the Queen mother, in opposition to the Guises, who insisted long for Louis de Morvilliers. Catherine began to dread the too great elevation of the Guises, and wished to confer this important office on a subject entirely devoted to her interests.
At the assembly of the notables at Fontainebleau were found the chiefs of both parties, excepting the Princes of Bourbon, one of whom, however, the King of Navarre, sent his secretary, La Sague. After the customary speeches of the King, Queen, Chancellor, Duke of Guise, and Cardinal de Lorraine, “Coligni arose, approached the King, and presented him a paper, saying that it was a petition of those of the reformed religion, who had instructed him to present it to his Majesty, founded on the faith of edicts, by which he had permitted all his subjects to lay open their grievances. He added, that although it was not signed by any one, yet if his Majesty should order it, one hundred and fifty thousand men were ready to subscribe it. The petition demanded only liberty of conscience and to have churches for public worship in the cities. The Cardinal de Lorraine, with all that impetuosity which the natural vehemence of his temper, added to the ardor of his spiritual zeal and temporal ambition,* inspired, called it seditious, insolent, rash, and heretical; and added, that if, to intimidate the youth of the King, Coligni had advanced that it would be signed by one hundred and fifty thousand rebels, he would be responsible for a million of good citizens, ready to redress the impudence of the factions and compel respect to the royal authority.
“As to the differences of religion, those who inclined to Calvinism proposed to demand of the Pope a free, general council, where they might discuss and decide by common consent, the matters of controversy; that if the Sovereign Pontiff should refuse to grant one, the King ought, after the example of some of his wise predecessors, to assemble a national council. But the Cardinal of Lorraine answered that there was no occasion for any other council than that which the Pope had already called at Trent, which had already reprehended and condemned the doctrines of the innovators opposed to the Roman church.
“As to the constitution and government of the state, after an infinity of propositions and discussions, suggested by the variety of interests, Montluc or Marillac, by the secret order of the Queen, proposed an assembly of the States-General. And the two parties with one voice consented. The Constable, the Admiral, and their partisans, with the hope of obtaining a change in the ministry; the Queen mother and the Guises, because they hoped to destroy their rivals. An edict was accordingly passed at Fontainebleau, for holding the States-General, and the secretaries of state expedited letters-patents to all the provinces of the kingdom, with orders to send, in the month of October, their deputies to Orleans, there to hold the States-General.
“La Sague took the road to Béarn, charged with letters and commissions for the King of Navarre, from the Constable, the Admiral, and their adherents. At Etampes, he was arrested, and all his papers seized and brought to court, by order of the Queen and the Guises. La Sague, interrogated on the rack, confessed that the design of the Prince of Condé, to which the King of Navarre was privy and consenting, was, to march from Béarn, under pretext of repairing to court, and to make himself master in his course of the principal cities of the kingdom; to take possession of Paris by means of the Constable and Marshal Montmorenci, his son, who had the government of it; in the next place, to cause to revolt Picardie, by the intrigues of Senarpont and Bouchavannes; Brittany, by those of the Duke d’Estampes, who, as governor, had a powerful party there. He declared that the Prince was ready to come to court, at the head of all the forces of the Huguenots, to oblige the States-General to dismiss from the ministry the Queen mother and the Guises, to declare that the King cannot be of age till twenty-two years old, and finally to give him for tutors and regents of the kingdom, the Constable, the Prince de Condé, and the King of Navarre. La Sague added, that by moistening with water the covering of the letters of the Vidâme de Chartres, they would see in writing all that he had revealed. The plan of the enemies of the Princes of Lorraine was, indeed, found upon trial written upon the cover of the letters of the Vidâme de Chartres, in the proper hand of Fremin-d’Ardoy, Secretary of the Constable. This revelation of the secret by La Sague, put the court upon a thousand manœuvres to strengthen their party in the provinces; but still they continued to dissemble their designs of vengeance. The Protestants somewhat encouraged on one hand by hopes, and still tormented with persecutions on the other, broke out in arms in several places.”
But the Prince de Condé, whose anxiety must have been very great for his present safety, if his ambition was not as insatiable, and his natural inquietude as troublesome, as is represented, made an attempt to seize upon Lyons as a stronghold and an asylum for himself, and a place of arms for his party; but he miscarried, and many of his partisans, the poor Huguenots, were executed.
“As soon as the King was informed of this enterprise, he resolved not to give the discontented leisure to form new ones. He left Fontainebleau, accompanied with a thousand lances, and two regiments of old infantry lately returned from Piedmont and Scotland. He took the road to Orleans, pressing the deputies of the provinces to repair to that city.
“The French nation is divided into three orders or states,—the clergy, the nobility, and the people. These three orders are distributed into thirty districts or jurisdictions, called Bailliages or Sénéchalsies. When an assembly of the States-General is to be held, they resort to the capital of their respective provinces, where they elect, each one separately, a deputy, who assists, in the name of his order, at the general assembly, and who enters into all the deliberations relative to the particular interests of each one of the three orders, and to the general good of the state. Each bailliage furnishes three deputies,—the first for the clergy, the second for the nobility, and the third for the people, under the name, which, in France, was then considered as more honorable, of the third estate. All these deputies assembled in presence of the King, of the princes of the blood, and of the officers of the crown, form the body of the States-General, and act in the name of the nation, whose power and authority they represent.”
—My soul aches,
To know, when two authorities are up,
Neither supreme, how soon confusion
May enter ’twixt the gap of both, and take
The one by the other.
“When the King is of age, and assists at the States-General, the deputies have the power to consent to his demands; to propose what they judge necessary for the good of the different orders of the state; to make their submissions in the name of the people to new imposts; to establish and accept of new laws and new regulations; but when the minority of the Prince or some other incapacity hinders him to govern by himself, the states have a right, in case of contestation, to elect the regent of the kingdom, to nominate to the principal offices, to form a council, and, if the masculine posterity have failed in the royal family, they may elect a new monarch, following, however, the dispositions of the salique law. Excepting these cases of necessity, the kings were accustomed to assemble the States-General in urgent conjunctures, and to determine, according to their advice, in affairs of most importance. In effect,” says Davila, “what energy may not the resolutions of the prince derive from the concurrence of his subjects? What can be more conformable to the true spirit of monarchical government than this harmony between the sovereign and the people?”
In truth, Davila, though thou art a profound historian, thou art but a superficial legislator! History answers the question, that no energy at all, nor any thing but division, distraction, and extravagance, were derived to the resolutions of the Prince till the states were laid aside. In the language of my motto, two authorities were up, neither supreme, and confusion entered ’twixt the gap. Nothing can be more directly repugnant to monarchical government than such assemblies, because they set up rivals to the King, and excite doubts and questions, in whom the sovereignty resides.* If a negative is given by them to the will of the Prince, they become a part of the sovereignty, annihilate the monarchy, and convert it into a republic. If they are mere councils of advice, they become scenes of cabal for aspiring grandees to force themselves into the ministry. Never indeed was it more necessary to new-model the government and regenerate the nation than in the present conjuncture, when the rivalries of the grandees, employing as instruments the differences in religion, disturbed the whole kingdom, and demanded the promptest remedies.
“Upon the reiterated orders of the court, the deputies of the provinces had resorted to Orleans, from the beginning of October, 1560, and the King having arrived in person, accompanied by most of the lords and great officers of the crown, they waited only for the discontented lords and princes to open the assembly. The Constable and his sons were, as usual, at Chantilly. The King of Navarre and the Prince of Condé were still at Béarn. The King had written to them all to invite them to the states; and although they had not explicitly refused, they invented pretexts upon pretexts to excuse themselves and gain time. These affected delays distressed the King and the ministry. They apprehended with reason that the refusal of the princes of the blood, arising from their own suspicions or upon some certain information of what was intended against them, would defeat all the projects and preparations, founded only on the hope that they would assist at the States-General. The Prince of Condé could not be in doubt that they had drawn either from the prisoners of Amboise or from La Sague or from the conspirators arrested at Lyons, evidence sufficient to discover his designs. No motive, therefore, could determine him to place himself a second time at the discretion of a court where his enemies were all powerful. The King of Navarre thought differently. Less culpable, or more credulous than his brother, he believed, that by going to the states, they should obtain, without difficulty, that reform in the government which had already cost them so much labor; whereas, by refusing to be present, they would betray their own interests and leave the field open to the ambition and violence of the Princes of Lorraine. He could not believe, that under the eyes of the whole nation assembled, a king scarcely out of his infancy, an Italian princess, and two strangers, would dare to imbrue their hands in the blood of the princes of the royal house, which the monarchs the most absolute and the most vindictive had ever regarded as sacred. All these motives determined him to venture to the states with the Prince, to whom he represented that they would infallibly condemn him unheard, if he continued obstinately to absent himself from court; whereas, by appearing there, and gaining to his interests the deputies in the states, there was every reason to hope, that if, on judging him with rigor, they should blame his proceedings, the equity of his pretensions would afford him a favorable color, and in the last extremity his birth would obtain him a pardon. All the confidants and partisans of the Princes supported this advice, except the wife and mother-in-law of the Prince of Condé, who constantly rejected it, and judged that his life was aimed at, and that of all the courses he could take, that which was recommended to him was the most dangerous.
“In the midst of these irresolutions, the King sent them De Crussol and Saint André, to engage them to repair to Orleans. These lords remonstrated to them, that an assembly so respectable, and which occasioned so great an expense to the King and the nation, had not been called but on their account, and to satisfy their complaints and demands. That they were there to deliberate on the means of reforming the government, and appeasing the disputes of religion; matters of so high importance, that they could not be decided without the presence and concurrence of the princes of the blood. That if the Princes of Bourbon, after having so often demanded the reformation of the government, and an examination of the cause of the Huguenots, refused to assist at the states assembled for those purposes, it would seem that they meant to trifle with the King, and insult the majesty of an assembly which represented the body of the nation. That they ought hereafter to impute to themselves alone their exclusion from dignities and governments, since they had not deigned to come and receive the authority which the King appeared disposed to grant them, with the concurrence of the states. That, this conduct proving their little attachment to the service of the King and the good of the kingdom, they ought not to be surprised if the firmest resolutions should be taken to extirpate the seeds of discord and manifest designs to disturb the state. That if the King was disposed to reward such as gave him proofs of their obedience and fidelity, he was equally determined to reduce to a forced but necessary submission those who should attempt to resist his will, and excite revolts in the cities and provinces of his kingdom; a crime of which he would suspect the Princes of Bourbon, as long as they should neglect to justify themselves, and their absence and obstinacy should confirm the injurious reports which were spread concerning them. That, hitherto, neither the King nor his council had given credit to them; but that the King desired that, for the honor of the royal blood, the princes would give proofs of their fidelity, and of their zeal for the good of the state, and would justify the sincerity of their intentions in the eyes of France, whose attention was attracted and fixed by the assembly of the states. These representations made little impression on the Prince of Condé, who was resolved not to risk his person in a place where enemies could do all things. But his firmness was, in the end, constrained to bend under the necessity. Crussol returned to court, with an account of the aversion of the prince to come to the states. The Guises advised to employ force to determine him. The Queen did not oppose it; and the King took the resolution to constrain them by force of arms. To this end, they sent De Thermes into Gascony, and began to form, under his command, an army composed of gendarmerie and all the infantry distributed in the neighboring provinces.
“The Bourbons were without troops, destitute of every thing, shut up in Béarn, a little province at the foot of the Pyrenees, wedged in between France and Spain. They doubted not that if, on the one hand, the troops of the King assembled in Gascony, and on the other, those of the King of Spain, who ardently wished to invade the feeble remains of Navarre, should attack them, they should easily be subjugated and stripped of their dominions. The insurrections which the Prince of Condé had excited in France had been attended with no success. He was in Béarn, without troops and without money. The King of Navarre, who would not expose the rest of his states, nor his wife and children, whom he had about him, yielded to necessity, more powerful than any counsels, and finally determined his brother to make the journey to Orleans, in the general persuasion that, especially during the session of the states, the ministry would not take any violent resolution against them; whereas, by obstinately remaining at Béarn, they should expose themselves to the infamy which always accompanies the name of rebels, and ruin themselves without resource. The Cardinal of Bourbon, their brother, contributed not a little to hasten this resolution. The softness and ductility of his character, his aversion to troubles, his tenderness for his brothers, and the insinuations of the Queen, engaged him to ride post to Béarn, as soon as he learnt the intentions and preparations of the court, to force the King of Navarre and the Prince of Condé to appear at the states. He exaggerated, on one hand, the number of troops destined against them, and capable of crushing them; and, on the other, he assured them, that the King and the Queen had discovered none but favorable dispositions, and an earnest zeal to reëstablish concord and public tranquillity. They left, therefore, the Queen Jane and her children at Pau, and, with few attendants, all three together took the road to Orleans.
“The Constable, whom the court affected to urge less, because he was in a place where he might be more easily compelled, had commenced his journey with more confidence in appearance, but in reality with more precaution. He had not abetted the discontented but with his counsels, which only tended to demand justice of the states, without plotting conspiracies or exciting insurrections. A refusal to go to court might fortify the suspicions conceived against him. He therefore employed artifice and dissimulation to delay his arrival, and regulate his proceedings by the example of the princes. Arrived at Paris, he pretended to be attacked with the gout, and returned to Chantilly to reëstablish his health. He again attempted to proceed, but, under the pretext* that the change of air and the motion of the carriage incommoded him, which his advanced age rendered plausible enough, he travelled by little day’s journeys, frequently by cross ways, at a distance from the great road, where he made long delays to prolong the time till the arrival of the princes. His sons, in persuading him to hasten his march, represented to him, that neither the Queen mother nor the Guises would ever dare to attempt any thing against a man so respected as he was in the kingdom. The Constable, instructed by experience, answered them, that the ministry could govern the state at its pleasure, and without opposition, though they seemed to be preparing for themselves a formidable one, by calling the States-General. That this conduct enveloped some mysterious intrigue, which he should be able to unveil with a little patience. This judicious reflection abated the ardor of the young lords, and the Constable continued to temporize.
“Nevertheless, the King of Navarre and the Prince of Condé had been received on the frontiers by the Marshal de Thermes, who, under the pretext of paying them the honors due to their rank, followed them with a large body of cavalry, to make sure of the cities become suspected by the deposition of La Sague. At the same time, he ordered possession to be taken by other troops, both of cavalry and infantry, of all the roads which the princes left behind them, lest a change of their resolution should determine them to return. As soon as it was known at court that the princes had entered the kingdom, and were so well observed by De Thermes, they arrested, all on a sudden, Jerome Grollot, Bailiff of Orleans, accused of intelligence with the Huguenots, to cause a revolt of that city in favor of the discontented princes; and, by order of the King, they sent to prison the Vidâme of Chartres, who had been imprudent enough to remain in the capital. They had not the same success in attempting to seize d’Andelot. As prudent and subtle in providing against dangers, as ardent and daring in forming designs, he retired suddenly to the coasts of Brittany, resolved to embark for England in case of necessity. The Admiral Coligni, whose address and dissimulation,” according to Davila, “had hitherto conducted every thing, without discovering or exposing himself, was among the first in the States-General, with design there to labor in favor of his party. The King and the Queen had received him, as usual, with benevolence. He employed himself in following with his eye all the measures of the court, in order to give information of them, secretly and with extreme precautions, to the Constable and the King of Navarre.
“All these delays were exhausted, when the princes of the blood arrived at Orleans, the twenty-ninth of October, without any person’s going out to receive them, except a small number of their most intimate friends. They found not only the gates of the city guarded, but bodies of guards placed and batteries erected in the strongest posts, in the cross streets and public places; precautions which the court had not usually taken in times of war. They passed through the midst of this formidable apparatus, and came to the King’s lodge, where they kept a more exact guard than at the head-quarters of an army. Arrived at the gate, they would have entered on horseback, according to the right attached to their rank; but they found only a wicket gate open, and were obliged to alight in the open street, and few persons appeared to receive or salute them. They were conducted to the King, whom they found sitting between the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine, surrounded by the captains of his guards. He received the King of Navarre and the Prince of Condé with a coldness very different from that affability which the kings of France are accustomed to practise to all their subjects, but above all to the princes of their blood. He conducted them soon to the Queen mother, where the Guises did not follow them. Catherine of Medici, who wished always to appear neuter and disinterested, received them with ordinary demonstrations of friendship, but with an affected sorrow and artificial tears. The King continued to treat them with the same coldness; and, addressing himself to the Prince of Condé, he began to reproach him in that, without having received from his Majesty either displeasure or ill treatment, he had, in contempt of all laws, divine and human, excited several times his subjects, enkindled a war in different parts of his kingdom, attempted to seize on his principal cities, and conspired against his life and that of his brothers. The Prince, without emotion, answered with firmness, that these accusations were so many calumnies forged by his enemies. We must proceed, then, replied the King, by the ordinary ways of justice to discover the truth. He went out of the apartment of the Queen, and commanded the captains of his guards to arrest the Prince of Condé. The Queen mother, forced to consent to this measure, but who had not forgotten that things might change from one moment to another, exerted herself to console the King of Navarre. The Prince complained of none but the Cardinal of Bourbon, his brother, who had deceived him, and suffered himself to be conducted to a neighboring house, destined for his prison. They had walled up the windows, doubled the doors, and made it a kind of fortress, defended by several pieces of artillery and a strong guard. The King of Navarre, astonished at the detention of his brother, breathed out his grief in complaints and reproaches to the Queen, who, casting all the blame on the Duke of Guise, as Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, endeavored only to exculpate herself. To him they gave for a lodging a house at a little distance from that which the King occupied, and guards to observe his motions; so that, excepting the liberty of seeing whom he pleased, he was in all other respects treated and confined like a prisoner. At the same time, they arrested Bouchart, his secretary, with all his letters and papers; and Madeleine de Roye, mother-in-law of the Prince, with all her letters and papers, at her seat at Anisi. Although they held the gates of Orleans shut, and suffered no person to go out, the news of these transactions were announced to the Constable, who was still but a few leagues from Paris. He suspended his journey, resolved to pass no further, but to wait and observe the consequences of these events.”
Thus the mystery suspected by the Constable was unriddled. The States-General were summoned, only as a net is laid artfully to be sprung upon game. This game were the Constable and Princes, and their principal friends. They were a mere stalking-horse, behind which to shoot a woodcock; and that woodcock was the Prince of Condé. Although of the two authorities which were up, the court and the states, neither was supreme; yet the one, we see, might be taken by the other. We shall soon see that confusion entered by the gap.
Intervenit deinde his cogitationibus avitum malum, regni cupido, atque inde fœdum certamen coörtum.
“The Queen mother and the Guises delayed no longer the opening of the States. They began by the profession of faith, drawn up by the Sorbonne, conformably to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. The Cardinal de Tournon, President of the order of the Clergy, read it with a loud voice, and each of the deputies approved and adhered to it upon oath; a precaution which they judged necessary to assure themselves of the catholicity of those who were to have a deliberative voice in the general assembly. After this solemn act, the Chancellor proposed, in the presence of the King, the matters which were to be taken into consideration. At the instance of the provinces, the three orders separated, to examine the respective demands and make report of their resolutions.”
But all this was merely theatrical. It was nothing but farcical scenery. The Guises knew, as well as the Constable de Montmorenci, that the ministry could govern the kingdom and nation at its will, as a court or hereditary supreme executive always will, where it is checked only by a single representative assembly, especially if that assembly have no authority but to advise, unless it has recourse to violence. Nay, if it have legislative authority, the majority in that assembly can only govern by imposing its own men on the executive, in other words, by forcing the King to take their creatures into the ministry.* So that the ministry and the majority in the national assembly must always act in concert and be agreed; and they generally are so, to the intolerable oppression of the minority, as in this case, until the minority rise in arms. Reformation of government, and liberty of conscience, and redress of grievances in religion, were subjects which the court had too much cunning to bring before the assembly. That would have been, as the Constable expressed it, to have prepared a formidable opposition to themselves. Had the point been then settled, that the States were a legislative assembly, and had the question of religion been brought fairly into deliberation and discussion before them, it is very probable that liberty of conscience to the Huguenots might have been the result, even in that age.
“But these,” as Davila says, “were the smallest objects they had in view. All minds expected, with much more solicitude, the issue of the detention of the Prince of Condé. Their doubts were soon resolved by a declaration of council signed by the King, the Chancellor, and all the grandees, except the Guises, who, as suspected of partiality, affected not to appear in this affair. A commission was established for the trial of the Prince, with authority to render a definitive sentence. De Thou, President, and Faye and Viole, Counsellors of the Parliament of Paris, were the judges; Bourdin, Attorney-General, Tillet, Secretary. All the interrogations and acts were done in the presence of the Chancellor l’Hôpital. They heard the depositions of the prisoners of Amboise, Lyons, and others. They made preparations to interrogate the Prince. He refused to answer, alleging that in quality of prince of the blood, he acknowledged no other tribunal than the Parliament of Paris. He demanded an assembly of all the chambers of Parliament; that the King should be present in person, and that the twelve peers should have a voice as well as the great officers of the crown, according to the ancient usage; that he could not excuse himself for not remonstrating against a proceeding so unheard of and irregular, and from appealing to the King. This appeal was carried to council, and appeared authorized by reason, by the ordinary formalities, and by the customs of the kingdom. But the spirit of rivalry, which is the spirit of party, demanded a sudden vengeance. A party at present triumphant, but doubtful whether it were at bottom the most powerful, were impelled by fear, as well as hatred, to wish a prompt decision. The appeal was declared null. But the Prince, having renewed it, and persisted in his protestations, the Council, at the motion of the Attorney-General, pronounced that they ought to consider the Prince as convicted, since he refused to answer to commissioners named by the King. In this manner they obliged him to submit to interrogatories, and pursued the trial, without loss of time, to final judgment.”
The Princes of Bourbon, at the summit of misfortune, were very near expiating with their blood the heinous crime of daring to stand in competition with the Guises, to patronize liberty of conscience, and to shelter from persecution the distressed Huguenots; as Manlius was precipitated from the Tarpeian rock for being the friend of the oppressed debtors and the rival of Camillus and the Quinctian family. Both were accused, it is true, with crimes against the state. “The splendor of birth of the two Bourbons and their personal merit interested all France. Even their enemies pitied their destiny. The Guises alone, naturally enterprising, pursued constantly their designs, without regard to the merit or quality of those princes, whether they judged such an act of severity absolutely necessary to the safety and tranquillity of the kingdom, or whether, as their enemies supposed, they had nothing in view but the destruction of their rivals and the establishment of their own grandeur. They declared openly that it was necessary by two strokes at the same time to strike off the heads of Heresy and Rebellion.”
Such is the spirit of sophistry, and such is the spirit of party.
The Queen mother, although she consented secretly, and wished that the resolution taken at Amboise, of destroying the Princes, should be executed, desired nevertheless, that all the odium of it should fall upon the Guises, as she had always had the address to accomplish.* She proposed to manage the two parties, for fear of those unforeseen events which the inconstancy of fortune might produce; and affected much grief and melancholy in her behavior, and reserve in her discourse. She had even frequent conferences with the two Châtillons, the Admiral and Cardinal, in which she appeared disposed to seek some expedient to extricate from danger the princes of the blood. She amused in the same manner the Duchess of Montpensier, a princess full of the best intentions, an enemy of all dissimulation, and who judged of the characters of others by the rectitude of her own.* Her inclination to Calvinism, and her intimate connections with the King of Navarre, had enabled her to commence and continue between that Prince and the Queen a secret correspondence. These intrigues, although directly opposite to the conduct which the court held in public, were disguised with so much artifice, that the most clear-sighted could not unravel their genuine design, even when they reflected on the depths of the secrets of mankind, and the diversity of interests and passions which serve as motives to their actions.†
“Already the commissioners had rendered their judgment against the Prince of Condé. They had condemned him, as convicted of high treason and rebellion, to be beheaded before the palace of the King at the hour of the assembly of the States-General. They delayed the execution, only to draw into the same snare the Constable, who, in spite of the repeated instances of the court, still delayed his journey to the states. They wished to involve in the same proscription the King of Navarre, but they had not proofs against him, sufficient to satisfy their own creatures, when one morning the King, in dressing himself, fell all at once into a swoon so deep and violent, that his officers believed him to be dead. He recovered his senses, it is true. But his malady was judged to be mortal, and his life was despaired of. This fatal mischance terrified the Guises. They pressed the Queen mother to execute the sentence against the Prince of Condé, while the breath remained in the body of the King, and to take the same resolution against the King of Navarre, to prevent all the revolutions which they might have to fear in case of the King’s death. They represented to her, with warmth, that this was the sole means of preserving the crown to her other infant children, and of dissipating the storm which menaced France; that, although the Constable was not arrested, and in the present delicate circumstances it would not be prudent to seize him, yet, that when they should have no longer to fear either the credit or the pretensions of the princes of the blood, the Constable would be less formidable, as he would neither have the nobility in his interests nor the Huguenots of his party; that to deliberate in the moment of execution, and suspend it in this critical situation of the King, would be to lose the fruit of so many projects conducted to their end with so much artifice and patience, that even the death of the King ought not to be an obstacle, because that brothers succeeding him of right, the same reasons and the same interests still subsisted both for them and their mother. The Queen who had known how to preserve herself neuter, at least in appearance, and who had no motives so urgent to precipitate measures, considered that under a minority, things might change their aspect, and that the excessive grandeur of the Guises, remaining without opposition, might become to her as formidable as the ambition of the princes of the blood. Thus, sometimes by supposing the distemper of the King to be less dangerous, sometimes by spreading favorable reports of a speedy cure, she gained time, delayed the execution of the Prince, and reserved the liberty of acting according to circumstances, conformably to those views, in which she was confirmed by the counsels of the Chancellor de l’Hôpital. As soon as she had known that the King’s life was in danger, she requested the son of the Duke de Montpensier to conduct her secretly one night into the apartment of the King of Navarre, and in a long conversation which she had with him, she endeavored, with her ordinary dissimulation, to persuade him that she was very far from approving all that had passed, and wished to act in concert with him, to oppose the ambition of the Guises. The Prince depended little on the sincerity of these protestations. They had, however, an effect in the sequel. On the fifth of December the King died.
“Charles IX., second son of the Queen, succeeded to Francis II., his brother. He was but eleven years of age, and must have a tutor, and the kingdom a regent.”
Utrumque regem, sua multitudo consalutaverat.
Each party expected its own regent. “The ancient usage and laws often confirmed by the States, called of right to the function the King of Navarre.” But what a reverse! “What an appearance? To confide the person of the young King and the government of the kingdom to a prince suspected of a conspiracy against the state, detained as a prisoner, and the accomplice of a brother condemned to death!
“The Guises had governed with supreme authority under the late King, and attempted the most violent measures. By committing to them the same power, it was easy to follow the same plan and execute the same designs. But they were not of the royal blood. How commit to them the tutorage of a young king, contrary to all the laws of the monarchy? What envy, what jealousy, what oppositions would they not have to contend with from the nobility and the grandees, who would be discontented with their power, and aspire to despoil them of it!
“The states had sometimes confided the regency to the mothers of kings, during their minority, and in the present competition of so many interests and contending factions, it was not prudent to place in other hands the life of the King and the conservation of the state. But a woman, a stranger, without partisans and without support, could she maintain her ground against two such powerful factions, ready to support their pretensions by the force of arms? The Guises, foreseeing what might easily happen, leagued themselves with the Cardinal de Tournon, the Duke de Nemours, the Marshals de Brissac and Saint-André, Sipierre, Governor of Orleans, and many other great lords, with whose influence they reinforced their party to defend their lives and preserve their power. The King of Navarre, conceiving happier hopes for the future, united, more strictly than ever, with the Châtillons, the Admiral and Cardinal, the Prince de Porcien, Jarnac, and many others of their partisans. He secretly armed his friends, and despatched courier after courier to the Constable. The two parties having thus placed themselves in a posture of defence, the whole court and the troops divided themselves among them, and even the deputies of the states took their party, each one following his passions, his interests, or his principles.”
Never did the necessity of a third mediating power or an umpire appear more plainly than in this case. Had there been a constitution in France, and had that constitution provided, as it ought to have done, a third party, whose interest and duty it should have been to do justice to the other two, and every individual of each, there would have been little danger to the peace, liberty, or happiness of the people. For such an intermediate authority, by doing justice to all sides, would have been joined and supported by the honest and virtuous of all sides, and by this means would have controlled both parties by the laws. But in this instance “it seemed impossible to form a third party. Agitation and terror reigned everywhere. It was dreaded every moment that the friends of the King of Navarre and those of the Guises would come to blows. All their measures and devices tended mutually to destroy each other.” Nature itself, however, without much aid from any constitution, produced an effect. “Although this unbridled ardor of ruling, inflamed as it was by private animosities, hindered not the two parties from rendering publicly their obedience to the King, this submission had no other principle than a jealousy and mutual apprehension that the one party would snatch from the other the first place in the government. This motive only, and not any respect for a constitution, had made both parties eager to appear to be the first to do homage to Charles IX., and on the day of the death of his brother, he was unanimously recognized as lawful sovereign. This step tended insensibly to reëstablish order and authority. The Queen mother saw that it would not be safe to trust the life of her young children nor the administration of the state to either of the parties, one of which was extremely irritated and embittered, and the other full of assurance and haughty pretensions, both well supported and ready to proceed to the last extremities. She desired to continue mistress of her children and of the government of the state. She proposed to this end to remain as a mediatrix; and thought that the two parties, unable to agree among themselves, and neither being able to triumph over the other, they would both unite in her favor, and abandon to her, by concert, an authority which the opposition of their competitors would hinder them from obtaining for themselves.”
We see in this instance that the triple balance is so established by Providence in the constitution of nature, that order without it can never be brought out of anarchy and confusion. The laws, therefore, should establish this equilibrium as the dictate of nature and the ordinance of Providence.
“Catherine hoped, that by conducting herself with ability, the reins of the state would return to her hands. She first thought of making sure of the Princes of Lorraine. A negotiation so delicate and thorny, ought not to be confided to any but the ablest hands. The Queen, after having cast her eyes on several persons, fixed them at last on the Marshal de Saint-André, as the man of the court the most proper to assure her success. She sent for him, and after several discourses, the result was, that it would be impossible to terminate the differences of the two parties without tumult and war, but by relaxing somewhat of their pretensions, by ceding a part on both sides, and making the Queen the arbitratrix of their interest. That by this plan the two parties, without yielding one to the other, would appear, from respect, and for the peace of the public, to give way to the mother of their King, who should hold the equilibrium between the Guises and the Bourbons.
“The Queen was a politician refined enough to pretend that she was indebted for this counsel to the prudence of the Marshal, rather than that she had suggested it to him, which was the fact. The Marshal, judging without passion, that this project would be very convenient to the slippery and perilous situation in which the Guises stood, undertook to negotiate with their party. Upon the proposition which he made of it to the Duke and Cardinal, and which they brought into deliberation in an assembly of their confidants, the opinions of these, and even of the two brothers, were divided. The Duke, who had more caution and moderation than his brother, yielded to the accommodation which was to leave him in possession of the governments and riches which he held from the liberality of the late kings. But the Cardinal, more ambitious and more violent, rejected all compromises, and pretended that they would preserve their power in the same degree as they had exercised it under Francis II. The sentiment of the Duke was approved by the Cardinal de Tournon, the Marshals Brissac and Saint-André, and, above all, by Sipierre, the advice of all which personages had a weight, which accompanies a high reputation for prudence, justly acquired. All judged it sufficient for the Guises to preserve their credit and honors, and preserve themselves for circumstances more favorable; and the result they communicated to the Queen, by Saint-André, and left to her the choice of means the most proper to treat with the King of Navarre.
“There remained still a greater obstacle to be overcome,—it was to appease the faction of the discontented princes, an enterprise which many thought impossible and chimerical; but the Queen, who perfectly knew the characters and dispositions of the persons with whom she had to treat, did not despair of obtaining her end. The King of Navarre had for his principal confidants Descars, and Lenoncourt, Bishop of Auxerre. Descars had a contracted genius and little experience; Lenoncourt was a crafty politician, but solely intent upon his own fortune. The Queen secretly gained both, by approaching each on his weak side. She dazzled Descars with presents, and amused him with specious reasonings. And she excited in the Bishop of Auxerre hopes of ecclesiastical benefices and dignities, which he could not easily obtain by the sole credit of the King of Navarre. They both promised, under the pretext of giving faithful and sincere counsel to their master, to favor the negotiations which tended to bring the two parties together, and commit the regency to the Queen mother.
“The Duchess of Montpensier carried the first proposals of accommodation. Her candor and frankness had gained the confidence of the Queen. In the progress of things, Carrouges and Lansac, lords of consummate prudence, entered insensibly into this negotiation. By means of these persons, the Queen proposed to the King of Navarre three conditions. 1. To set at liberty all who had been arrested for the conspiracy of Amboise, the Prince of Condé, Madame de Roye, and the Vidâme de Chartres; and to annul, by the Parliament of Paris, the sentence against the Prince. 2. To create the King of Navarre lieutenant-general of the kingdom, on condition that the Queen had the title and authority of regent. 3. To obtain of the King of Spain the restitution of Navarre. The confidential friends of the King of Navarre exaggerated to him these advantages; they represented to him that the name of regent, a title without reality, was but an empty and specious sound, for which he would be abundantly recompensed by the power and authority which would be given him over the provinces; prerogatives, in which consisted the effective government of the kingdom. That the glory of delivering the Prince of Condé, by the humiliation of his enemies, joined to the hope of reëstablishing forever his house in its original splendor, left him no room to hesitate. ‘It is not a time,’ said they, ‘to contend with rigor against enemies so powerful. You have to combat the prejudices which your enterprises against the state have excited. Why, upon the brink of a precipice, do you indulge chimerical hopes? The deputies of the States are almost all devoted to the Queen and the Guises, who have chosen them at their pleasure and gained them to their interests. If the affair is left to their decision, it is to be feared that their partiality will incline them to exclude the princes from the government, and commit it to the Guises, which would infallibly accomplish the final ruin of the House of Bourbon.’
“These reasons shook the resolution of the King of Navarre, and disposed him to follow these counsels; but he was still restrained by the Prince of Condé, whose keen resentment and desire of vengeance, rather than solid reasons, excited to advise the contrary. The Duke de Montpensier and the Prince de la Roche-sur-Yon supported those who negotiated an accommodation. Both were of the House of Bourbon, but of a branch more distant from the royal stock, and had not meddled in these troubles.
“The King of Navarre, before he concluded with the Queen, demanded of her, by the immediate negotiators, two new conditions:—1. That they should take away from the Guises all the employments they had at court. 2. That liberty of conscience should be given to the Huguenots. From the time that Calvin had begun to preach and to write, the first seeds of his doctrines had been sown in the court of Henry, King of Navarre, and Margaret of Valois, his consort, father and mother of the Queen Jane; and, as the minds of these princes were indisposed to the see of Rome, which had stripped them of their states, under pretext of an excommunication fulminated by the Pope, Julius II., against France and its allies, in the number of whom was the King of Navarre, they were easily persuaded of a doctrine contrary to the authority of the Pope,* and which taught that the censures by which they had lost their states were null. The Calvinistic ministers, frequenting the court of these princes, there taught their opinions, which had cast so deep roots into the mind of Queen Jane, that she had abandoned the Catholic faith to embrace Calvinism. Since her marriage with Antony of Bourbon, she persisted in the same sentiments. She had nearly converted her husband by the vehement eloquence of Theodore Beza, Peter Martyr Vermilly, and other ministers, who retired into Béarn, there to preach their opinions in full liberty. The Prince of Condé, the Admiral, and the other chiefs of the party of the princes of the blood, having also embraced Calvinism, some with sincerity, and others to disguise their political views under the pretext of religion, the King of Navarre persisted more constantly than ever to declare himself the protector of the Huguenots. For this reason, he demanded that they should grant to the Calvinists liberty of conscience, as an essential condition of the treaty opened with the Queen. This Princess answered, that to deprive the Guises of the dignities they held at court would be to go directly against the agreement which was in negotiation, and the resolution taken to restore the tranquillity of the kingdom. That these lords, who were very powerful, and actually armed, would not endure an affront so public and outrageous; but that, supported by the Catholics and the majority of the States, they would exert all their forces and efforts to maintain their ground. She promised, however, to employ, in due time, all her address to diminish their credit and power. As to the liberty of conscience, she convinced him that it was a point too delicate to be granted all at once. That the parliaments, and even the states, would not fail to oppose it. But she promised, in secret, that in governing with the King of Navarre, she would labor in concert with him, by indirect and concealed ways, to seize all favorable occasions to grant to the reformed all the liberty of conscience that might be possible. The Queen, yielding to the necessity of the conjuncture, gave these promises without any intention to observe them. She therefore delayed the execution of them with all her address. In fact she knew, or at least believed, that nothing was more contrary to the grandeur and interest of her children, than totally to depress the Guises, who served admirably well the purpose of balancing the power of the princes of the blood. On the other hand, the liberty of conscience granted to the Huguenots would have offended the see of Rome, and the other Catholic princes, and scattered forever, as she pretended, disorder and dissension in the kingdom.
“The coalition was on the point of conclusion, when the King of Navarre declared that he would determine nothing without the advice and consent of the Constable, who” had cured all his gouts, fluxions, and rheums, or, in other words, dismissed his pretexts, and “approached Orleans. It was therefore necessary to invent new projects to surmount this obstacle, which many imagined the most difficult of all. The Queen knew to the bottom the character of the Constable, and that nothing flattered him more than the part of umpire or moderator in every thing that passed around him. She thought that, by restoring to him the supreme command of the army, and by assuring him that it was from him that she wished to hold her own grandeur and the safety of her children, she would fix him easily in her own interest, and detach him equally from both parties. Thus, with the advice of the King of Navarre and the Guises, who were returning to pacific sentiments, and seemed to submit all to her will, she ordered the captains of the guards and the Governor of Orleans to surrender to the Constable, at his entrance into the city, the command of the armies, and to acknowledge him for their chief. These marks of honor awakened in the breast of Anne of Montmorenci the ancient sentiments of devotion and fidelity, which had attached him so many years to the father and grandfather of the King. Arrived at Orleans, he turned to the captains and said, with his ordinary dignity, that, since the King had restored him his command, they might dispense with guarding his majesty so exactly in full peace; and that, without employing the force of arms, he would make his master respected through the whole kingdom and by all his subjects. Arrived at the palace, where the Queen loaded him with honors, he rendered his homage to the young King, and, with tears in his eyes, conjured him to fear nothing from the present troubles, for that he and all good Frenchmen were ready to sacrifice their lives for the support of his crown.
“The Queen, encouraged by this discourse, the first proof of the success of her contrivances, entered without delay into secret conferences with the Constable, before others had time to entertain and to gain him. She protested that she expected every thing from him, both for her children and herself; that the royal authority and the public good were no longer any thing but idle names for two factions embittered against each other to their mutual destruction; that she despaired of preserving to her children under age a crown envied and attacked by such powerful enemies, unless his fidelity, of which he had so long given such shining proofs, should cause him to embrace the defence of the young monarch, of a kingdom torn with divisions, and of all the royal family. These words, in the mouth of a woman, a mother, a queen, in affliction, made so deep an impression on the mind of the Constable, that he consented to the accommodation ready to be concluded with the King of Navarre. Flattered with the humiliation of the Guises, and reëstablished in the functions of the first trust in the kingdom, he renounced all interests of faction, and resolved to unite with the Queen for the preservation of the state, in which he aspired only to reassume the place which he had merited by his long services.
“Concord being thus established by the authority of the Constable, they assembled the Council. All the princes and officers of the crown assisted at it; and the Chancellor having, according to custom, made the propositions in presence of the King, they concluded unanimously that the Queen should be declared regent of the kingdom; the King of Navarre, lieutenant-general in the provinces; the Constable, generalissimo of the armies; the Duke of Guise, grand master of the King’s household; and the Cardinal de Lorraine, superintendent of the finances.
“The Prince of Condé was now discharged from prison; and an arrêt of the Parliament of Paris, conceived in honorable terms, discharged him from all the accusations against him; and the sentence was declared null and irregular, as the work of judges incompetent in the cause of the princes of the blood. The Vidâme de Chartres died of chagrin in the Bastile before the coalition was finished. Thus ended the year 1560.
“In the beginning of the year 1561, the Queen mother and the King of Navarre dismissed the States-General, lest the Guises should excite some fermentation there.” The formation of a constitution, and the settlement of religion, were never the real objects for which they had been called. It appears not that they were even asked to ratify the regency in the Queen mother. So loose and uncertain was the sovereignty of that great nation, that a confused agreement of the chiefs of the two factions was thought sufficient for its government, without any forms or legal solemnities. The stability of the government, and the security of the lives, liberties, and properties of the people were proportionate to such a system. The court was still agitated with divisions and dissensions.
“The Guises, who had obtained but a small part of their pretensions,—that is to say, much in appearance, and little in reality,—accustomed to rule, and very discontented with the government and with the Queen, who failed to perform the promises she had made to them, watched all opportunities to regain their first advantages. The Prince of Condé, more irritated than ever, kept in view his ancient projects, and burned with an implacable desire of vengeance. The Colignis were obstinate to protect the Huguenots. The two parties labored to gain the Constable; but he declared that he would remain neuter, and attach himself only to the King and the Queen. He was confirmed in this resolution by the conduct of the King of Navarre, who, satisfied with the present arrangement, lived in good intelligence with the regent, and thought of nothing but peace. The Admiral, his brothers, and the Prince of Condé, flattered themselves that the connection of blood would draw the Constable ultimately to their party. The Guises, who knew his attachment to the Catholic faith, and his aversion to Calvinism, which he had cruelly persecuted under Henry II., despaired not to gain him under the pretext of defending religion and exterminating the Huguenots. The zeal of the King of Navarre, in urging the Queen to accomplish the promises she had made him in favor of the Huguenots, contributed not a little to keep up this fermentation. This Princess, satisfied with having established a kind of equilibrium, which secured her power and that of her children, dreaded to interrupt it, and avoided all occasions of displeasing the King of Navarre.
“She made use of delays and pretexts, in hopes that the King would relax; but that prince, excited and transported beyond the bounds of his character, by the continued instigations of his brother and the Admiral, and by the urgent solicitations of the Queen, his consort, became the more ardent in demanding what had been promised him. The Chancellor de l’Hôpital, whether he judged a liberty of conscience necessary to the good of the state, or whether he had an inclination to Calvinism, favored, underhand, the solicitations of the King of Navarre. He restrained with all his authority the severity of the other magistrates, and exhorted the Queen to be sparing of blood, to leave consciences in tranquillity, and to avoid every thing which might interrupt a peace which had cost so much pains to establish. Several of those who composed the council, supported these instances of the King of Navarre, and protested that they ought to be weary of imbruing their hands in the blood of Frenchmen; and that it was time to put an end to punishments, the fear of which forced so many good subjects to abandon their houses, families, and country. The Huguenots themselves, among whom were many persons of sense and merit, neglected no cares nor means proper to favor their cause; and sometimes by writing composed with art, and skilfully propagated, sometimes by petitions presented in proper seasons, and sometimes by persuasive discourses of their partisans, endeavored to impress the great in their favor, by pathetic paintings of the misfortunes with which they were oppressed. The Queen was, at length, obliged to give way to the sentiments and authority of so many persons. Perhaps she was convinced of the wisdom of relaxing a severity which she was in no condition to maintain, and of abandoning laws which they could no longer execute with rigor. She consented, therefore, to an edict, rendered by the council on the twenty-eighth of January. This edict enjoined all magistrates to release all the prisoners arrested on account of religion; to stop all prosecutions commenced for this cause; to hinder disputes upon matters of faith; forbidding individuals to give each other the odious appellations of heretics or papists; finally, to prevent unlawful assemblies, commotions, seditions, and maintain concord and peace in all their departments. Thus, with the design of putting an end to punishments and the effusion of blood, a motive dictated by religion and humanity, Calvinism was, if not permitted, at least tolerated and indirectly authorized.
“More lively contestations were expected concerning the promise which respected the Guises. The King of Navarre, recalling to the Queen the secret promises which she had made to him, pretended, that in his quality of lieutenant-general of the kingdom, they ought to deliver to him the keys of the palace* which the Duke of Guise kept, as grand master of the King’s household.
“The Queen, in truth, no longer doubted the attachment of the King of Navarre and of the Constable; but she was not ignorant of the increasing coldness of the Guises, and delayed with all her artifice the moment of offending them. She wished, on one hand, to manage the Huguenots, protected by the Admiral and the Prince of Condé; and, on the other, the Catholics, united under the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine. These two factions were like two powerful dikes, under the shelter of which she enjoyed a calm. By weakening the Catholics, she was afraid of putting the Huguenots in a condition to give her the law. Sometimes by temporizing, therefore, and sometimes by granting other favors to the King of Navarre, she endeavored to divert him from this pretension. But the more she endeavored to make him lose sight of this object, the more the Prince pursued it with warmth.
“Finally, the Queen, that she might not destroy the harmony she had taken so much pains to establish, commanded the captains of the guards no longer to carry the keys of the palace to the grand master of the King’s household, but to the Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, to whom this prerogative belonged of right. This proceeding irritated the Duke of Guise, but infinitely more the Cardinal of Lorraine, his brother; less, because they considered it as an affront, from which the regulation of the council of regency should have screened them, than because they saw clearly, that with the consent of the Queen, the King of Navarre aspired to depress and destroy them. They knew very well that they were accused of listening to nothing but their interest and ambition; and, seeing themselves no longer able to prevail in this private quarrel with the princes of the blood, who disposed of all the forces, as well as of the royal authority, they dissembled their resentments, and complained of nothing but the liberty of conscience which had been tacitly granted to the Huguenots, covering thus with the specious veil and the pretext of religion their passions and personal interests. Thus the discords of the great confounded themselves insensibly with the differences of religion; and, the factions of the princes, quitting the name of malcontents and Guisards to assume the more imposing titles of Catholics and Huguenots, they exerted themselves with the greater fury, as they disguised it under the names of zeal and of piety.
“The Regent and the Constable, masters of the person and authority of the King, held the balance in the middle. The Constable was indeed much opposed to Calvinism and attached to the Catholic religion; nevertheless, his affection for his nephews and the love of peace induced him to consent to make use of management in matters of religion until the King should arrive at his majority. But to corroborate more and more the authority of the young monarch, though a minor, those who held the reins of government thought proper to conduct him to Rheims, where they preserve with veneration the vial which a pigeon brought down from heaven full of holy oil, with which Clovis was anointed and consecrated.
“During the ceremony of consecration, there arose a new contest concerning precedency between the princes of the blood and the Duke of Guise. The former pretended that it was due to their birth. The Duke on his side demanded it as first peer of France. The council of state decided it in favor of the Duke of Guise, because the presence of the peers of France, who are twelve in number, six ecclesiastical and six laical, was necessary in this ceremony; whereas, the princes of the blood, who have no function to discharge in it, may dispense with their attendance.* This light spark served to enkindle and embitter more and more the spirits of all parties. The Admiral and the Prince of Condé had set every machine in motion to draw in the Constable to their interest. They were powerfully seconded by the Marshal of Montmorenci, his eldest son, who was strictly connected with them. The Constable, always firm in his resolutions, could not determine to dishonor his old age by placing himself at the head of a party, nor by leaguing himself with those whom he thought the new enemies of religion. The Admiral, always fruitful in resources and expedients, imagined one at this time, calculated to bring the Constable into their views by ways more indirect. There was then held at Pontoise, an assembly of some deputies of the provinces, to deliberate upon the means of acquitting the immense debts which the crown had contracted in the last wars. The Marshal of Montmorenci presided in it. There were also some friends of the Admiral. He made use of them to bring upon the carpet whatever he thought proper. The Colignis and the Prince of Condé there demanded, by the organ of their confidants, that they should oblige all those who had received benefits or gratifications from the Kings Francis I. and Henry II. to return them to the royal treasury,* pretending that a calculation being made, without imposing new burdens, they might extinguish the greatest part of the debt which, both within and without the kingdom, crushed the state and individuals.
Those who had received the greatest benefactions from the late kings were the Guises, Diana of Valentinois, the Marshal Saint-André, and the Constable. They were desirous indeed of humbling the former. But as to the last, they meant only to inspire him with fears and jealousies, and to force him to join the party of the princes, that he might not expose himself to lose the fruit of so many years of services and toils. The animosity of faction was so lively, that the Colignis were not afraid to excite in their uncle those chagrins and inquietudes. But this step had the ordinary fortune of designs too subtle and too refined. It produced an effect directly contrary to that which was intended. The proposition amounted to nothing less than to take away from the Constable and the Guises the greatest part of their property. Diana of Valentinois, with whom both parties had formed alliances, began to second the Constable, concerning this research, which interested them equally. She concerted her plan with art, or a kind of prudence which is not uncommon in women of her character; her aversion for the Queen, and her fears of losing all the gains of her trade, made her think that the true means of her safety would be to allure the Constable into the party of the Catholic religion and a closer connection with the Guises. She launched out into invectives against the Admiral and the Prince of Condé, whom she considered as the authors of the proposition made at the assembly at Pontoise; she deplored the miseries of the state, whose government, in the hands of a child and a foreign woman, was the instrument of pernicious councils, to foment the ambition and gratify the passions of certain individuals, to whom were sacrificed the safety and tranquillity of the kingdom; into which they introduced, without shame, heresies condemned by the church, and against which the late kings, with just severity, had employed fire and sword. She added, with the same vivacity and sincerity, that all France was astonished and enraged to see that a Montmorenci, whose house had been the first of the whole nation to embrace Christianity; that a man, who for so long a time had filled the first office in the state, should at present allow himself to be fascinated by the artifices of a woman; and that, a slave to her caprices and to the imperfect information of the King of Navarre, he consented to all their enterprises against religion.* She remonstrated with the Constable, that having the arms and the power in his hands, he was indispensably obliged to oppose the pernicious designs of government, and to watch still, as he had done so many times before, over the conservation of a tottering throne and a religion wholly forsaken. She recalled to his recollection that ancient conduct which had procured him so much glory, in opposing the aggrandizement of strangers. She conjured him not to suffer two women, one an Italian, the other of Navarre, to ruin the principal foundations of the French monarchy, that is to say, religion and piety; to remember that the regent was the same Catherine whose conduct he had always censured and whose character he detested; that the Huguenots were those same sectaries whom he had so eagerly persecuted under Henry II.; that neither the persons nor the nature of things were changed; that the whole world would believe, that enfeebled by age, he let himself be guided either by the ambition or caprice of others, since he appeared so different from what he had been.”
Such was the language of Diana; and who so proper as a harlot to prostitute religion to the purposes of ambition, avarice, and faction? The only wonder is, that these discourses of the Duchess, which she took care frequently to repeat, began to make an impression on the Constable.
“Sometimes an indignation against his nephews, sometimes the apprehensions of losing his fortune, and sometimes his hatred against Calvinism, so disposed him to listen to the Duchess, that at length her insinuations, together with those of Magdalen of Savoy, his wife, succeeded to detach him from the party of the Queen. This Magdalen saw with vexation the unbounded favors granted to the Colignis, which she wished might be conferred on her brother Honoré of Savoy, Marquis of Villars. Thus her jealousy neglected nothing to serve the latter and to hurt the nephews of her husband. Diana also engaged the Marshal de Saint-André to second her in this negotiation. The fear of losing his fortune, the violent hatred which he conceived against the Colignis, and the plausible pretext of preserving the Catholic faith, urged him to employ his influence with the Constable in favor of the Guises; who, as soon as they were informed of it, omitted neither artifices, submissions, nor intrigues to complete the conquest; hoping by this means to reëstablish their power, or at least to recover a great part of it. The Marshal of Montmorenci was the only one who could cross this negotiation. But Diana, his wife, having fallen sick at Chantilly, he was obliged to leave his father to attend her. The Guises, disembarrassed of this obstacle, put the last hand to their agreement with the Constable for the preservation of the Catholic religion and the mutual defence of their fortunes.
“The Queen, informed of this union, thought herself deprived of her firmest support, and dreaded that the Princes of Lorraine, supported by the credit of the Constable and discontented with her, might attempt to take from her the regency. She thought it necessary, therefore, to connect herself more strictly with the King of Navarre to counterbalance this new party. She directed all her cares to maintain that equilibrium which assured her power and that of her son. She entered into all the views of the King of Navarre, in favor of the Huguenots. Under the pretext of maintaining peace during the minority of the King, and of conciliating the hearts of the people by a reputation of clemency, she published new declarations which enjoined upon all the parliaments and all the other magistrates of each province to molest no man on account of religion; to restore the goods, houses, and possessions to all those, who, in times past, had been deprived of them on suspicion of heresy. The Parliament of Paris and some other magistrates refused to comply. But the Huguenots, thinking themselves authorized by the will and orders of the King, of the regent, and the dispositions of the council, assumed to themselves, as they had a better right to do from God and nature, a liberty of conscience, and their numbers and forces augmented from day to day. This was to fulfil the views of the Queen, if these religionists had known how to restrain themselves within the bounds of moderation and reason. But as it commonly happens to people who suffer themselves to be transported by their passions, and will not conform to the restraints of authority, as soon as they felt themselves tolerated, protected, and delivered from the fear of punishment, their resentments of former ill usage arose, they lost the respect due to the magistrates, and sometimes by public assemblies, and sometimes by injurious discourses or other violent proceedings, they drew upon themselves the hatred and indignation of the Catholics. Hence arose obstinate disputes, which, throwing the two parties into quarrels, spread tumult and insurrections through all the provinces of the kingdom. Thus, contrary to the intentions of government and the expectations of the public, the remedy employed to save the state and maintain peace became,” at least, as our historian represents, “contagious and prejudicial; and occasioned precisely those troubles and dangers which they sought so carefully to prevent.”
The Guises, we may be sure, were not at all mortified at this turn of affairs. It was precisely what they wished. “Encouraged and fortified by their union with the Constable, they seized this occasion to oppose the Queen and the King of Navarre. The Cardinal of Lorraine, finding the moment favorable to explain himself in council, without regard to the Queen or the King of Navarre, who were present, began to speak on the state of religion, and to represent, with all the vehemence of his character, that it was to betray religion, and to dishonor themselves in the eyes of the whole earth, to grant, in a most Christian kingdom, liberty of conscience to innovators already condemned by councils and the voice of the church. That, not satisfied with disseminating monstrous opinions, with corrupting the rising generation, and imposing on the simplicity of the weak, they blow up the fire of rebellion in all the provinces of the kingdom. That already the insolence and outrages of these heretics hindered the ministers of the church from celebrating mass, and from appearing in their pulpits, and left to the magistrates scarce a shadow of authority; that every thing was a prey to the sword and flames, by the imprudence and obstinacy of those who arrogated to themselves the license of believing and teaching at their pleasure; that the first kingdom of Christendom was upon the point of making a schism, of shaking off the yoke of obedience due to the holy see, and of abandoning the Catholic faith, to satisfy the caprice of a handful of seditious men. The Cardinal enforced these arguments with so much energy, with that confidence and natural eloquence which gave him such an ascendency, even in the most problematical opinions, that the protectors of the Huguenots opposed nothing to him but silence. The King of Navarre and the Queen replied not a word; and even the Chancellor appeared amazed and confounded. The counsellors of state, irritated against the Huguenots, were of opinion that they should assemble immediately all the princes and officers of the crown to the Parliament of Paris, there to treat on this subject, in the presence of the King, and determine the means of curing these disorders. This assembly was accordingly held on the thirteenth of July, 1561, in parliament. The King of Navarre dared not alone to make opposition openly; this would have been to declare himself a Calvinist. The Queen, indeed, desired that the Catholic party should not prevail; but she was not the less apprehensive that they would impute to her the establishment and progress of heresy. The contests in parliament were, however, animated. The partisans of the Huguenots forgot nothing that would procure them liberty of conscience, as the only means proper to appease all troubles and heal all divisions. Their efforts were useless.” There was some reason for saying, that liberty of conscience was “evidently opposed to the spirit and authority of the Catholic Church;” but none at all for pretending that “it was contrary to the fundamental laws of the kingdom.”
“It was decided that the Calvinistical preachers and ministers should be driven out of the kingdom; and that they should conform in the public worship wholly to the customs and ceremonies authorized by the Roman Church. All assemblies, of every kind and in every place, with arms or without, except in the Catholic churches, there to hear divine service, according to their usages, were forbidden. To grant, however, some mitigation to the Huguenots, they added, in the same edict, that the cognizance of the crime of heresy should be reserved to bishops and their grand vicars; and if they had recourse to the secular arm, they could not condemn the guilty but to banishment; finally, they gave a general amnesty for all disorders committed in times past on account of religion. A declaration, accordingly, was drawn, signed by the King, the Queen, and all the princes and lords of both parties.
“The Prince of Condé and the Admiral, irritated to see a party suppressed, upon whose number and forces they had founded all their hopes, and unable to hinder the execution of the edict, which all the parliaments and most of the inferior tribunals pressed into execution with great ardor, imagined another expedient;—it was, to engage the ministers of the Huguenots to demand a public conference, in presence of the King, with the Catholic prelates, upon the controverted points. This indirect method appeared to them proper to obtain insensibly a liberty of conscience. The Cardinal de Tournon and several other Catholic prelates opposed this request. They remonstrated, that it was useless to dispute about religion with a people who were very obstinate, and who persisted in a doctrine condemned by the church. That if they wished to lay open their reasons, they might address themselves to the Council of Trent. The opinion of the Cardinal of Lorraine was in favor of the conference; whether he flattered himself that he should confound the Huguenots by his irresistible reasoning, and convince those whom he thought seduced; or whether, as those who envied him gave out, by making an ostentatious exhibition of his eloquence and erudition, he wished still further to increase his reputation and glory in so celebrated an assembly. Whatever were his intentions, it is certain that, by not opposing the demand of the Protestants, he drew into his sentiment the other prelates, who yielded to the solicitations of the King of Navarre. This Prince, who had long desired to hear a dispute in form between the Catholics and Huguenots, to clear up his own doubts, supported with warmth the demand of the Protestants. They sent, therefore, safe conducts to the ministers, refugees at Geneva, and assigned for the place of conference, Poissy, a little town five leagues from Paris.
“The King appeared at Poissy with all his court, accompanied by the Cardinals of Bourbon, of Lorraine, of Tournon, of Armagnac, and of Guise, who were to assist at the conference on the part of the Catholics. The most distinguished bishops and prelates, several doctors of the Sorbonne, and other theologians of the most celebrated universities of the kingdom, were present. There appeared, on the side of the Huguenots, Theodore Beza, Peter Martyr Vermilly, Francis de Saint Paul, John Raymond, John Viret, with several others, who came from Geneva or Germany. Beza explained his doctrines with great pomp of eloquence; and the Cardinal of Lorraine answered him with what he called proofs and authorities drawn from the Scriptures and the fathers of the church. The council judged proper to withdraw the young King, because the tenderness of his age, not permitting him to discern the truth, there was reason to fear that he might be surprised by some dangerous opinion, contrary to the faith. After several debates, the assembly separated without deciding any thing.
“The Catholics gained only one advantage. The King of Navarre was not satisfied with the Huguenots, having observed some variations of their ministers in the doctrines which they maintained. Some followed literally the sentiments of Calvin; others inclined to the doctrine of Luther; these adhered to the profession of faith of the Swiss; those to the Confession of Augsburg. Shocked with this inconsistency, as he thought it, this weak Prince began to be disgusted with the new opinions, and to attach himself to the Catholic religion. But the Huguenots drew from this conference all the fruit that they had promised themselves. As soon as they came out of it, they boasted loudly that they had demonstrated the truth of their belief, convinced the Catholic doctors, confounded the Cardinal of Lorraine, and obtained of the King permission to preach their doctrine. In fact, of their own private authority, they began to assemble wherever they pleased, to hold publicly their sermons, with so great an affluence of people, and so great a concourse of nobility as well as others, that it was no longer possible to restrain them.
“When the magistrates attempted to hinder their assemblies, or the Catholics attempted to drive them from the churches where they met, the Huguenots ran to arms and defended themselves. The two parties attacked each other with fury, under the names of Huguenots and Papists. The whole kingdom was in a flame. The power of the magistrates lost its energy; the people were in continual terror and alarms; the collection of the revenues was interrupted; and, in the bosom of peace, an intestine and cruel war was seen to be enkindled. The Queen mother and the King of Navarre, moved with these excesses, seeing that the severity of the edict of July had only increased the disorders, convoked another assembly of deputies from all the parliaments of the kingdom, to be informed by them of the state of each province, and to deliberate upon the most proper means of reëstablishing tranquillity. The views of the ministry changing continually, as the interests of ministers and the passions of the great varied, it was not astonishing that, after so many measures taken, abandoned, reassumed, affairs should still remain in greater disorder, and a more strange confusion. It was, indeed, impossible that such frequent variations should restore good order, which an equal and uniform conduct could alone maintain.
“This assembly was holden at Paris, in the beginning of the year 1562. The Queen, according to her ordinary maxims, employed herself in holding the balance between the two parties, and to hinder one from prevailing over the other, for fear she should be the victim of the strongest. The greatest part of the magistrates concurred in her views; some, persuaded that it was impossible to restrain so great a multitude animated by a furious zeal for religion; and others, seeing with regret so much blood shed to no good purpose. They prepared that famous edict of January, which granted to the Huguenots the liberty of conscience, and the liberty of holding their assemblies and preaching their sermons, upon condition that they should meet without arms, without the cities, in the fields, and in presence of the judges of the places. The parliaments and other tribunals opposed, at first, the execution of this edict; but it was finally registered, upon repeated letters of jussion” (sealed commands, to do a thing which they had refused to do,) “of the King and council. This was a thunderbolt to the chiefs of the Catholic party. To bring on a crisis, to force all the Catholics to join them, and to hinder the execution of the edict, the Duke of Guise, the Constable, all the Cardinals except de Tournon, who was lately dead, the Marshals de Brissac and Saint-André, quitted the court, to oppose themselves with all their forces to the Calvinistical party.” So near was liberty of conscience at that time to a complete and final establishment in France, that nothing but this violent measure could have prevented it; even this retreat of all the Catholics would not have succeeded without another artifice. “They sufficiently foresaw that, as long as the good intelligence subsisted between the Queen mother and the King of Navarre, they should have no power to intermeddle in the government of the kingdom, and that all their efforts would be in vain; they proposed, therefore, to break it. Convinced that the Queen mother would never change her plan or her conduct, at least until the majority of her son, they thought it would be more easy to gain upon the understanding of the King of Navarre. Their retreat enabled them to conduct with more secrecy this negotiation, which required time and address. D’Est, legate of the Pope, and Manriquez, ambassador of Spain, let into the secret, and intrusted with the conduct of it, easily commenced the conferences by the interposition of the confidants of the King of Navarre. This weak Prince had, or pretended to have, no longer the same inclination for the Huguenots since the colloquy at Poissy, where he had remarked their variations upon the contested points of faith; and not having found in Theodore Beza, nor in Peter Martyr, the same confidence, as he thought, that they affected when they dogmatized without contradictors, he had consulted Doctor Baudouin, equally versed in scriptures and in controversy. This theologian had decided the King of Navarre to reunite himself to the faith of the church, and to adopt neither the Profession of Faith of the Swiss Protestants, nor the Confession of Augsburg. His acquiescence in the edict of January was less from any inclination to the Huguenots, than from an opinion that consciences ought not to be restrained, and that toleration was an infallible means of extinguishing the troubles of the kingdom. As soon as his confidants, already disposed to serve the Catholic party, had informed the Legate and Ambassador that he was in this temper, these last failed not to take advantage of it to open the negotiation. In order to unite to motives of conscience personal advantages and temporal interests, they proposed to him to divorce his Queen Jane, with a dispensation from the Pope, because she was a heretic, and to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, the niece of the Guises, and widow of Francis II., a Princess who united to the charms of youth and beauty the actual possession of a great kingdom. The King of Navarre, attached to his children, rejected firmly this proposition. They then brought upon the carpet once more, the exchange of Sardinia, so often proposed in vain. This was the delicate point, which touched him the most sensibly. His hopes, indeed, were not very strong; but this negotiation not having been wholly broken off, Manriquez, the Spanish ambassador, by his ordinary artifice, renewed it with so much apparent seriousness, as to reanimate the desires and the confidence of the King of Navarre. Not content with giving him the strongest assurances of the good dispositions of the Catholic King, he proceeded so far as to treat of the means of exchange, and of the quality of the rents and services which the King of Navarre should render the crown of Spain, as acknowledgments of its sovereignty. They debated these clauses and conditions as seriously as if they were upon the point of signing the treaty. The character of the King of Navarre, and his inclination to embrace always the most honorable and plausible measures, favored the designs of the Catholics.
“This Prince began gravely to acknowledge that the Huguenots disguised their passions and their interests under the veil of Christian charity and the cloak of religion. Moreover, he was made to apprehend that the Admiral with his policy would persuade all France to believe that the King of Navarre blindly followed his counsels. They piqued his jealousy, by representing to him that the Calvinists highly blamed his sloth and indolence, while all their affections and attachments were to the Prince of Condé, whose courage, prompitude, and magnanimity they never ceased to exalt and celebrate. A last consideration of extreme importance touched a nerve of exquisite sensibility. The King of France and his brothers were of feeble and delicate complexions, ill constituted, subject to dangerous distempers, and too young to have children. The succession to the crown regarded him as the first prince of the blood, and to declare himself the head and protector of the Huguenots was to place between the throne and him an impenetrable barrier. To smooth his way the more easily to the throne, he inclined to reunite himself to the Catholic party, to attract the favor of the Pope and the King of Spain, and to attach to himself the forces of the faction which was the best united and the most powerful. He began to distrust the councils of the Queen, his wife, blindly devoted to Calvinism, and naturally an enemy of pacific measures. The magnificent promises and persuasive discourses of the legate and of Manriquez, joined to so many other motives, determined him finally to unite himself with the Constable and the Duke of Guise. They declared loudly in words and by writings that they were leagued only for the defence of the Catholic religion; but their views were, in reality, much more vast. The King of Navarre abandoned one party, in which he found himself eclipsed by his brother, to attach himself to another, in which they offered him more brilliant hopes. And the Guises entered into this convention, only to reëstablish their credit and ancient grandeur.
“Such was the union which taught the French the art of forming leagues and combinations without the knowledge of their sovereigns. The Huguenots represented it in the most odious colors, and called it the triumvirate. The Queen Jane conceived a lively resentment of this unexpected resolution of her husband. Full of indignation to see him become the most ardent persecutor of her favorite religion, in which she flattered herself she had confirmed him, she resolved to quit the court, and retired into Béarn with the Prince Henry and the Princess Catherine, her children, whom she instructed in the reformed religion, declining all further society and commerce with her husband. The Queen mother was not less alarmed with a change so sudden and incredible. The triumvirate destroyed all the projects of an equilibrium which she had founded on the distrusts and animosities which divided the grandees. She feared as much for the safety of her children as for her own authority. These reciprocal variations, these combinations of interests, totally opposite to each other, announced clearly enough to her understanding, that this union concealed high hopes and vast designs. She knew that the Guises had unravelled her artifices, and that, burning with ambition, they sought every means of reëntering into the ministry. Moreover, what probability was there that the King of Navarre would renounce the friendship of his brother and of his most faithful partisans to unite with his most cruel enemies, if he had not been assured of great advantages in such a change? She was not ignorant of the empire which is held over human hearts, even the most upright, by ambition and the thirst of ruling. Finally, considering every thing which threatened her, she could not dissemble her own weakness nor that of her children. Forced by these reflections to trust no longer either the sincerity of the King of Navarre, or the demonstrations made by the Catholics, of having no design of making any innovation in the government, a prey to constant terrors, alarms, and suspicions, nothing was capable of calming her inquietude. She passed often whole nights in conference with her confidants, and among others with the Bishop of Valence and the Chancellor de l’Hôpital. Their counsels, and above all the critical position in which she stood, determined her to form a coalition with the Prince of Condé and the Admiral, to favor their designs, and support herself with their forces, in order to counterbalance as much as possible the power of the opposite faction; alleging among other motives, to her Catholic confidants, that God himself permits evil for the sake of good. And since the Huguenots had caused so many disorders, it was but just to make use of them, to cure the distempers which had infected the heart of the state.
“The Huguenots, delivered from the fear of punishment by the publication of the edict of January, had begun to recover courage, and held frequently public assemblies; their party appeared considerable, both by their number and the quality of their members. And their forces were not inconsiderable. The Prince of Condé had openly declared himself their head; he was, in appearance, reconciled with the Guises, in obedience to the orders of the King. But, in his heart, he burnt with an impatient desire to revenge himself against his principal persecutors for the outrages which he had received. The Admiral, who in the view to aggrandize himself as well as his brothers, became more strictly united than ever to the party of the Huguenots, moderated the ardor and vehemence of the Prince by the maturity of his counsels. Under these chiefs, and in the same sentiments, were engaged the Prince of Porcien, the Lords of Genlis, of Grammont, of Duras, the Earls of Rochefoucauld and of Montgomery, the Barons of Ardrets, of Bonchavannes, Soubize, and several other great men of the kingdom. With any, the least authority from government, they were in a condition to resist and oppose boldly the opposite party.
“The Queen, forced, as she thought, to take advantage of a conjuncture so favorable for her own defence and that of her children, and reduced to the necessity of embracing the first party which presented, however dangerous it might be, expected from time and events the unravelling of all this intrigue. She feigned to be staggered by the reasonings of the Huguenots, and disposed to embrace their opinions. To confirm them the more in this opinion by exterior demonstrations, she caused their ministers to come into her apartment, and appeared to hear them with pleasure. She manifested great confidence and benevolence to the Admiral and the Prince of Condé, in the frequent conversations she had with them. She deceived the Duchess of Montpensier by her false confidences, and made use of her to allure the principal Huguenots, the better to color the promises and hopes, which she gave in secret, with apparent measures. She wrote even to the Pope in equivocal terms. Sometimes she demanded a free and general council, such as the Calvinists desired. Sometimes, permission to convoke a national council. Another time she solicited the use of the communion in both kinds, a dispensation to priests to marry, the liberty of praying in the vulgar language, and other similar innovations, as the Catholics called them, which the Huguenots wished and introduced. De Lisle, the French ambassador at Rome, seconded her so perfectly, that, by exciting doubts concerning her faith in the minds of the Pope and the Catholics, she obliged them to observe great caution in their own conduct, for fear they should irritate her and disgust her against the Roman religion. By the same artifice, she deceived the penetration, and gained the hearts of the Huguenots, by persuading them that she was wholly disposed in their favor, to such a degree, that the implacable hatred which they once bore her, had given place to confidence and attachment. It was not the people only that she amused by these appearances; the Admiral himself, in spite of all his policy and penetration, had suffered himself to be seduced. He hesitated not to give the Queen a circumstantial account of the number, forces, and designs of the Calvinists, of the correspondences which they maintained, both within and without the kingdom, and of all other particulars which concerned his party, the moment she gave him to understand that she desired to have exact information before she declared herself, assuring him that she would openly embrace that party as soon as it should be sufficiently powerful to place her out of the reach of the vengeance of the Catholics, and the triumvirate composed of the Duke of Guise, the Constable, and the King of Navarre. Thus, by a change equally prompt and incredible, the King of Navarre attached himself to the Catholic party, and Queen Catherine, at least in appearance, became favorable to the Huguenots. These variations were at the time attributed to the levity of mind of the King of Navarre and the natural inconstancy of the sex of the Queen. And it is thus that some historians have since judged, who were either not capable, or had not opportunity,” like Davila, “to unravel the secret springs of these resolutions.”
Is it possible to place an unbalanced government in a light more despicable or more contemptible? Can human nature be more disgraced than by this endless series of unions, separations, coalitions, combinations, and tergiversations? And yet it is most obvious that such a series must forever be the effect of a constitution where there is no legal equilibrium.
“Affairs had now taken a new face. It was easy to foresee that the animosities of the two factions would never be extinguished but by arms; and that the tempest which had long grumbled in the air would soon pour upon their heads. Accident soon produced a favorable conjuncture for precipitating France into the greatest misfortunes. The King of Navarre having declared himself openly for the Catholic party, fixed his residence at Paris. This city, situated in the centre of France, is much more populous, more rich, more magnificent, and more powerful than any other in the kingdom. This Prince, believing that the other cities would easily conform to the example of the capital, forgot nothing to hinder the Huguenots from holding their assemblies and preaching their sermons there; in which the Parisians in general, enemies of the reformation, seconded him with zeal. By this means, he hoped in time insensibly to diminish the credit and the forces of the Protestants, and take away their liberty of conscience, which alone supported their existence. The Prince of Condé resided also at Paris, where he promoted and fomented the designs of the Huguenot ministers. Under the pretext of causing to be observed the edict of January, he extended from day to day the liberty of conscience; and, whether by power or by right, arrogated to himself a great authority in what respected the state. The King of Navarre, equally animated against his brother by a love of repose and by jealousy, resolved to compel him to go out of Paris. Several other motives determined him to put an end to troubles and seditions, as well as conventicles, in a city which was the firmest support of the Catholic party; but whether he felt himself too weak to attempt such an enterprise alone, or whether he wished to consult his confederates before he executed any thing, he invited the Duke of Guise and the Constable to come and join him with their partisans.
“The Duke of Guise, since his retirement from court, resided at Joinville, one of his country seats, upon the frontiers of Champagne and Picardie. Upon the invitation of the King of Navarre, he departed for Paris, accompanied by the Cardinal, his brother, a numerous retinue of gentlemen attached to his interests, and two companies of men in arms. The first of March, in the morning, as he passed by Vassi, a little town in Champagne, his people heard an unusual ringing of bells, and, having asked the reason of it, were told that it was the signal of a sermon at which the Huguenots assembled. The valets and footmen of the Duke, who were most in advance on the road, excited by the singularity of the thing, and by curiosity to see one of these assemblies, which were but lately begun to be publicly holden, advanced in a tumult, uttering their coarse jokes, towards the place where the Huguenots were assembled to hear their ministers. The Calvinists, understanding that the Duke of Guise, whom they regarded as one of their most ardent persecutors, was not far off, and seeing a troop of his people coming directly to them, whether they dreaded some insult, or whether they were piqued at the rude railleries and scornful speeches of this servile mob, answered by acts of violence, pelting with stones the first who were advancing towards their congregation.”
This is the account of Davila; and at this day it may be of as little consequence to inquire which side began to use force, as to ascertain which party fired the first gun at our Lexington. When a nation is prepared for a civil war, when parties are formed and passions inflamed, which can be extinguished no other way, it is only for the sake of popularity, necessary to inquire which strikes the first blow. But in our American revolution, we know it was the party who were in the habit of domineering, who began; and such is commonly the case. Most probably De Thou is in the right for the same reason; who asserts that the Duke of Guise’s servants threw the first stones; and if this was done without the Duke’s orders, it is certain that his mother, a bigoted, furious Catholic, had often entreated him to deliver her from the neighborhood of the Protestants of Vassi; and very probably she had inflamed his whole family against them. However this might be, “the Catholics abandoned all their prudence, and attacked the Protestants, sword in hand, and the skirmish soon became furious. The Duke, informed of the tumult, and wishing to appease it, ran in all haste, and rushed into the midst of the combatants; while he reprimanded his own people, and exhorted the Huguenots to retire, he was slightly wounded by the stroke of a stone upon his left jaw. The blood which he lost, obliged him to retire from the uproar, when his followers, growing outrageous, had recourse to firearms, forced the house where the Calvinists had barricaded themselves; killed more than sixty of them; and their minister, dangerously wounded, escaped with great difficulty over the roofs of the neighboring houses. When the commotion was assuaged, the Duke of Guise sent for the judge of the place, and reprimanded him for tolerating such conventicles. The judge excused himself, because these assemblies were permitted by the edict of January. The Duke, as much enraged at this answer as at the disorder which occasioned it, laid his hand on the hilt of his sword, and replied with great fury,—‘The edge of this steel shall soon deliver us from the edict which they think so solidly established.’ These words, uttered in the ardor of his indignation, did not escape the attention of those who heard them; and in the sequel he was accused of being the Boute-feu and the author of the civil wars.
“The Huguenots, irritated by the massacre at Vassi, could no longer contain themselves within the bounds of moderation. Not content with the excesses committed by them in several cities of the kingdom, and especially in Paris, where they had massacred several Catholics, and set fire to the church of St. Medard, they listened only to their own rage, and excited everywhere troubles and bloody seditions; monasteries were pillaged, images broken, altars overturned, and churches profaned. These excesses, on both sides, embittered men’s minds, and they everywhere rushed to arms. The chiefs of the two parties, agitated by the same motives, assembled their forces and prepared openly for war. But the leaders of both factions were not ignorant that, in the actual state of things, they could not take arms without rendering themselves guilty of rebellion, and that there was neither pretext nor color which could authorize any measures which tended to war. The Catholics could not interrupt the execution of the edict of January, without controverting openly the decisions of the council, and wounding the royal authority from which this edict had issued. The Huguenots had no reasonable motive to revolt, while they were protected and allowed to enjoy the liberty of conscience granted them by that edict. The leaders of each party desired to draw the King to their side, and to become masters of his person, either to abolish the edict, or to derive new advantages from it, in order to prove that their cause was the most just, and that it was the opposite party which erected the standard of revolt, by opposing the apparent will of the sovereign, and by attacking even his person.”
“The Queen, perfectly informed of all these projects, and wishing to preserve, with all her power, her own liberty and that of her children, continued to play off her artifices, to balance the power of the grandees, and to prevent the ascendency of one party over the other from drawing after it the ruin of the state. Thus, that she might not be obliged to favor one or the other party, she quitted Paris and retired to Fontainebleau. She thought that in this residence, where she was more at liberty than in Paris, they could not compel her to declare herself; and she still studied to support the confidence which she had earned with both factions, whose chiefs she amused by equivocal discourses and ambiguous promises. The Prince of Condé and Coligni, yielding to the superiority of the Catholic party, had quitted Paris to take arms. The Queen gave them secretly to understand that she was disposed to join them, as soon as she should see them supported by forces sufficient to make head against their enemies. On the other hand, she protested to the King of Navarre, the Constable, and the Duke of Guise, that she had no intention to separate herself from the Catholics, nor to consent to the new reform, any further than necessity and the advice of good men should oblige her to grant to the Huguenots a moderate liberty.
“Her letters were not less ambiguous than her words; and she did not explain herself more clearly abroad than at home. She continually gave new instructions to the ambassadors in foreign courts, and especially to Delisle, who resided at Rome. Sometimes she contracted, and at other times she extended their powers; and by these variations held all minds in suspense. But this conduct began to be more difficult than ever. The chiefs of the two parties were not less politicians than herself. During the course of her regency, they had found opportunities to unravel all her artifices and penetrate all her disguises. The King advanced in age; and that circumstance was to them a necessity to hasten the execution of their designs. His minority might give to certain measures a color which would no longer exist when he would be of age; when all ought to depend upon his will, to which they could no longer oppose themselves without the guilt of rebellion. At the present moment they could pretend that their opposition was only to a bad administration and the pernicious designs of those who governed under his authority.
“Already the Duke of Guise, more enterprising and more alive than the others, directed, at his pleasure, the resolutions of his party. He had drawn into his sentiments the Constable and the King of Navarre, by persuading them, that if they would all resort to court, they might bring off the King and the Queen mother to the capital, and reduce them to the necessity of taking measures and issuing edicts, as the Catholics should judge convenient to their interests, without exposing themselves any longer to the danger of being anticipated, and without permitting their enemies to seize on the King, and avail themselves of his authority. The Prince of Condé had formed the same design. He had retired at first to Meaux, and from thence to his estate at La Ferté, where he intended to assemble the main body of his forces. This resolution was the effect of the advice of the Admiral, suggested by the Queen, and the projects of the Catholics which had not escaped his penetration; nothing being more common in civil wars than to discover the designs of the enemy, either by the infidelity of some to the secret, or by the multitude of spies who are employed. The chiefs of the Catholic party had occasion only for their ordinary retinue to execute their design; the neighborhood of Paris, which was wholly devoted to them, assured them of sufficient forces, and offered them favorable opportunities. On the contrary, the Prince of Condé, weaker than his enemies, and followed by few troops, was obliged to wait for the lords of his party and the nobility, whom he had summoned from several provinces, who assembled but slowly. Thus the Catholics were beforehand, by appearing all well attended at the court.
“Their unforeseen arrival did not disconcert the Queen. Although she depended little on the success of her intrigues, she exerted herself to persuade the King of Navarre to depart from court with the princes and lords who had accompanied him. ‘No man is ignorant,’ said she to him, ‘that the Catholic lords desire to take advantage of my weakness and that of my son, to compel us to regulate the state according to their inclinations, by governing at the will of their ambition and private interests. This conduct, directly opposite to the principles of honor and of fidelity, of which they boast, is not less contrary to the tranquillity and the conservation of the state, which they pretend to have alone in view. To issue new edicts, and revoke those which have been published, is it not to put arms into the hands of the Huguenots? These sectaries, already so audacious and so ready to revolt, will complain aloud of injustice if we annul without reason an edict prepared and accepted with the consent of both parties. During the minority of the King we ought to avoid war and the troubles inseparable from it, to the utmost of our care and power. To whom will the nation impute the disasters which will overwhelm it? Will not eternal infamy be the portion of those who have the principal share in government? It was to avoid these dangers, and to take away all pretexts from the incendiaries, that I subscribed the edict of January and quitted the capital. The most effectual means of aggravating the violence of an evil, which as yet is only creeping on secretly, would be to carry us into a suspected city, and repeal an edict already published. The King of Navarre and the Catholic princes ought to remember that it belongs only to the flagitious, whose fortune is uncertain or desperate, to excite civil wars. The Prince commands without contradiction. The lords of his party, loaded with riches, dignities, employments, and honors, enjoy the most flourishing fortune. Can they envy the people an imaginary and momentary liberty? Let them suffer the King to arrive at his majority without seeing his kingdom distracted with war. Forced by necessity, I have only pardoned faults which I could not punish; nor have I granted to the Huguenots other liberty than that which they had usurped. It is only by management that we can cure the people of this frenzy. Let the Catholic chiefs, then, arm themselves with patience, for fear that, by rash remedies, they may envenom an evil which may draw after it fatal revolutions and the most melancholy events. If, however, you are resolved to make any alteration in the edict, it ought only to be done by insensible degrees and by the favor of suitable opportunities and conjunctures. To employ violent means, would be to furnish the seditious with pretexts which they seek with so much ardor.’ ”
“These reasons of the Queen, urged and repeated with energy, would have staggered the King of Navarre, and perhaps the Constable, if the Duke of Guise would have listened to them. But he wished for war; by the favor of which he flattered himself he should recover and even increase his ancient power. Moreover, in quality of chief and protector of the Catholic party, he wished to annul, by any means whatever, all that had been done against his inclination to the prejudice of the church; and to arrogate to himself all the glory of such a revolution. He combated therefore, with vivacity, all the reasons of the Queen, and remonstrated to his confederates that they would infallibly lose all their credit and reputation by suffering themselves to be so easily amused by a woman, who had no other design than to throw herself into the arms of the opposite party, as soon as they, from a blind confidence in her words, should depart from court. ‘Nothing,’ added the Duke, ‘will be more prejudicial to our cause, nor more infamous for us, than to avow that it is neither the public good nor the maintenance of the royal authority, but private passions and personal interests which have put us in motion. It will be believed that the remorse of our consciences has obstructed us in the pursuit of our enterprise. The artificial discourses of the Queen ought not to prevail with us to abandon a resolution maturely weighed and taken by concert, nor to interrupt the execution of a project dictated by reason, prescribed by honor, and commanded by that attachment which we have professed to religion, whose preservation and interest have chiefly determined us to this measure. It is no longer the season to delay and to waste time in disputes. Already the Prince of Condé is advancing in arms; the forces of the Huguenots are assembled; they are ready to seize on the person of the King, if we do not hasten to place him in a situation of safety; and since we cannot terminate this affair by persuasion, let us not be intimidated from employing force. Let us take away the King, and leave the Queen to take the part which she shall judge most convenient. The resolutions of this Princess are of little moment to us, as soon as we shall be supported by the presence of our lawful sovereign, aided by the authority of the first prince of the blood, to whom, by right of birth, belongs the government of the kingdom.’
“The Prince of Condé, united with the Colignis and other lords of his party, approached the court. The Constable and the King of Navarre, persuaded by the Duke of Guise, gave the Queen to understand that it was necessary to take her resolution without loss of time; that, for themselves, they had resolved to conduct the King and his brothers to Paris, for fear they should fall into the hands of the Huguenots, who, according to intelligence, were not far distant. That they would not abandon their master to the mercy of heretics, who intended to take him away, in order to make an ill use of his name and undermine the foundations of the monarchy. That there was no time to be lost or trifled away. That they should conduct the King to Paris, as their own honor and the good of the state required. That, as to herself, they pretended not to constrain her in any thing; but should leave her, with all the respect that was due to her, at liberty to dispose of her person as she should think fit. The Queen was not astonished at this declaration, bold and sudden as it was. She had foreseen it, and determined beforehand on her plan in such a situation. Forced to declare herself, although she foresaw that the two parties would soon come to blows, she would not abandon the Catholic party. She pretended that her honor and her reason attached her to it. She imagined she saw her safety and that of her children in it. Taking, therefore, in an instant, her resolution, she answered, with her usual presence of mind, that no person was more attached than herself to the Catholic religion, nor more zealous for the good of the State. That she would, upon this occasion, give way to their sentiments; and, since they were all for quiting Fontainebleau, she would concur with them.
“With the utmost promptitude, she gave orders for their departure; but, at the same time, she wrote to the Prince of Condé a letter, in which she lamented that she could not commit herself and the person of the King into the hands of his partisans, according to the promise she had made him. That the Catholics had prevented them, by conducting them by force to Paris. That, provided he did not lose his courage, she exhorted him not to suffer his enemies to take possession of the whole authority of government. She then commenced her journey, with the King and her other children, surrounded by the triumvirate and the other Catholic lords, who, to console her, treated her with great respect and honor. She arrived that evening at Melun, the next day at Vincennes, and in the morning of the third day at Paris. Many persons observed the young King in tears, thinking the Catholic lords had deprived him of his liberty. The Queen, irritated by the ill success of her artifices, and foreseeing the calamities of an inevitable war, discovered during the whole journey a mournful and mortified air and countenance. The Duke of Guise was so little affected with this, that he said, freely and openly, that the public good was a public good, whether it was obtained by consent or by force.
“The Prince of Condé was informed, upon his march, of the departure of the King; and perceiving himself either prevented by the Catholics, or deceived by the Queen, made a halt, and remained some time undecided what course he should take. The terrible picture of those dangers which threatened him, presented itself in lively colors before his eyes; but the Admiral, who had remained a little in the rear, arriving, they conferred together a few minutes, and the Prince, with a profound sigh, cried out, ‘The die is cast; we are too far advanced to retreat.’ He took immediately another road, and marched with rapidity towards Orleans, of which he had for some time resolved to take possession. This city, one of the principal of the kingdom, about thirty leagues from Paris, is vast, well built, and very populous; it is situated in the province of Beauce, almost in the middle of France, upon the banks of the Loire, a large navigable river, which, after having watered several provinces, falls into the ocean in Brittany. Orleans, by its navigation and its facility of communication with several other provinces, appeared to the Prince very proper for a place of arms and the centre of his party, and to be opposed, in some sort, to Paris.
“For several months that he had meditated to make himself master of this city, he had entertained a secret intelligence with some of the inhabitants inclined to the doctrines of Calvin, whom he employed to engage a great part of the young men, who were restless, seditious, and greedy of novelties.”
As it is not intended to relate in detail the whole of this history, it is sufficient to say, that he got possession of Orleans; that the two parties published manifestoes; and that chicanery, negotiations, battles, sieges, conflagrations, and assassinations succeeded, in all their usual train of horrors in civil wars.
We shall now content ourselves with reciting the summary of this first civil war. After the publication of declarations and manifestoes, the two armies took the field. The Queen mother wishes to avoid a war, and to procure peace. She negotiates an interview for this purpose with the Prince of Condé, but without success. She continues, however, to negotiate an accommodation, and obtains a conclusion of it. The Prince repents of it, by the persuasion of his partisans, and resumes his arms. He attempts in the night to surprise the royal army. His enterprise does not succeed. The King receives powerful reinforcements from Germany and Switzerland. The Prince of Condé is obliged to shut himself up in Orleans, and separate his army, which he could not hold together in a body. He sends to demand succors in Germany and England, and consents to deliver Havre de Grace to the English, and receive their garrisons into Rouen and Dieppe. The Queen, irritated and afflicted at these resolutions, joins the Catholic party, and declares the Huguenots rebels. The royal army takes Blois, Tours, Poitiers, and Bourges. The fifteenth of September, 1562, it lays siege to Rouen; in the course of which, the King of Navarre, visiting the trenches to reconnoitre the state of the place, was wounded in the left shoulder by a shot of an arquebuse, which broke the bone, wounded the nerves, and felled him to the ground, as if he was dead. He was carried immediately to his quarters, where all the other generals assembled. The surgeons who dressed his wound, in the presence of the King and Queen, judged it mortal, because the ball had penetrated too far into the body.
The twenty-sixth of October, 1562, the city was carried by assault, and the whole army entered, making a horrible carnage of the garrison and inhabitants, by putting to the sword, without any quarter, all who presented themselves, armed or unarmed. The city was delivered up to be plundered, except the churches and consecrated things, which the soldiers were made to respect, by the vigilance and good discipline of the generals.
“The King of Navarre, suffering under the pains of his wound, and wounded in spirit almost as much as in body, insisted on embarking on the Seine, to be transported to Saint-Maur, a pleasure-house near Paris, where he often went to take the air and enjoy the tranquillity of solitude. He scarce arrived at Andeli, a few leagues from Rouen, when his fever was augmented by the agitation of the bàteau, he lost his senses, and died in a few hours. He united to his high birth an elegant person and a softness of manner. If he had lived in other times, and under a better constitution of government, he might have been reckoned among the greatest princes of his age; but the candor and sincerity of his heart, the sweetness and affability of his disposition, in the midst of political troubles and civil dissensions, served only to hold him in continual agitation and inquietude. Inconstant in his projects, and uncertain in his resolutions; drawn away, on one side, by the impetuous character of his brother, and excited by the party of the Calvinists, in which he long held the first rank; restrained, on the other hand, by motives of honor, as he thought, by his natural inclination for peace and aversion to civil wars, he discovered, on many occasions, but little firmness or constancy in his designs. Placed in the number of those who lay under the reputation of seeking to distrub the state, he shared in their disgrace; and he was seen afterwards at the head of the opposite party, persecuting those whom he had formerly protected.
“In point of religion, sometimes allured to Calvinism, by the persuasions of his wife and the discourses of Theodore Beza; and sometimes brought back to the Catholic faith, by the torrent of fashion and the eloquence of the Cardinal of Lorraine, he gained the confidence of neither party, and left in his dying moments suspicious and equivocal ideas of his creed. Many thought that, though he was in his heart attached to Calvinism, or rather to the Confession of Augsburg, he separated from the Huguenots from secret views of ambition; and suffering impatiently that the Prince, his brother, by his valor and greatness of soul, had acquired among them more esteem than himself, he chose rather to hold the first rank among the Catholics, than the second among the Calvinists. He died at the age of forty-two, in a time when, his prudence increasing with age, he might perhaps have surpassed the opinion which had been conceived of him. Jane of Albret, his widow, continued in possession of the title of Queen, and of what remained of Navarre. She had two children,—Henry, Prince of Béarn, then nine years of age, and afterwards the all-glorious Henry IV. of France; and the Princess Catherine, then very young. Their mother lived with them at Pau and at Nerac, supervising their education in the new religion.”
The Prince of Condé, reinforced by the auxiliary forces from Germany, makes haste to attack Paris. The King and Queen return thither with their army, and, after various negotiations, the Prince is constrained to depart. The two armies march towards Normandy; a memorable battle is fought at Dreux, where the Prince of Condé is made prisoner by the Catholics, and the Constable by the Huguenots. In the first onset of this action, Gabriel of Montmorenci, the son of the Constable, had been killed; the Comte of Rochefort had been thrown from his horse, and lost his life; and the Catholics, in spite of all their bravery, began to give way. The German cavalry, armed with pistols, and divided into two large squadrons, having joined the Admiral in this critical moment, made a fresh charge with such fury, that they broke the Catholics, and forced them to fly. The Constable, who fought in this place with great bravery, exerted himself in vain, to stop and rally the fugitives. His horse fell under him, and he was wounded in the left arm, surrounded by the Germans, and made prisoner, after having seen perish at his side the Duke of Nevers and several other officers of distinction.
“The Prince of Condé, in charging the cavalry of the Duke of Guise, was afterwards wounded in his right hand, and, covered over with blood and dust and sweat, was made prisoner by Damville, who, wishing to avenge the capture of his father, fought with desperation. The Duke of Guise remained master of the field of battle, the baggage and artillery of his enemy. The Prince of Condé was brought into the presence of his conqueror, and it was a memorable scene to see those two famous men, whom past events, and especially the last battle, had rendered implacable enemies, reconciled at once by the caprice of fortune, sup at the same table, and, for want of other lodgings and better accommodations, pass the night in profound sleep on the same bed.
“Those who first fled from this action, carried to Paris the news of the defeat and captivity of the Constable, and threw the court into deep mourning and great inquietudes. They were dissipated, however, a few hours afterwards, by the captain of the King’s guards being despatched by the Duke of Guise. The news which he spread, and the assurances which he gave, of the victory gained by the Catholics, diminished the grief caused by the death of so many brave men, whose loss had put all France in mourning. Besides the lords and knights of distinguished nobility and reputation, they reckoned eight thousand men among the slain. The Duke of Guise acquired a glory without bounds by this victory, which gave a great check to the Huguenots. The King and Queen declared him general of the army; and he took the route to Orleans, that he might not leave his enemy the time to repair their losses.”
The siege and defence of Orleans may be a good lecture on the military art, but is not directly to our purpose, which, at present, is only to relate the fortunes and catastrophe of the great actors in those scenes of emulation, which have been before described.
“There was in the party of the Huguenots a gentleman named Poltrot, of an active mind and a designing character. He had lived some years in Spain; and, having afterwards embraced Calvinism, and resided some time at Geneva, he discovered so much zeal for his new faith, and entered so earnestly into all the intrigues of the party, that the Calvinists in general considered him as a personage capable of attempting in their favor the most hazardous enterprises.”
It is not one of the least evils of a civil war, that no man’s character is secure against suspicions and imputations of the most enormous crimes. It is almost the universal practice for each party to charge the leaders of the other with every base action, every sinister event, and every high-handed wickedness, without much consideration or inquiry, whether there is truth or evidence, or even color, to support the accusation.
“The Catholics pretended that the Admiral and Theodore Beza engaged Poltrot to assassinate the Duke of Guise, by promises of great rewards, and by persuading him that he could do nothing more acceptable to God, than to deliver his people from their most cruel persecutors. Poltrot, yielding to their instigations, pretended to have abandoned the Calvinist party, and threw himself into the royal army, where, having insinuated himself into the house of the Duke of Guise, he watched for a favorable moment to execute his design. The twenty-fourth of February, 1513, the Duke, after having given his orders for an assault, which he intended to make the next day at the bridge of Orleans, returned at night to his quarters, about a league distant from the trenches; Poltrot, mounted on a Spanish horse, very fleet, waited for him on his passage, and, seeing him accompanied only by a gentleman of the Queen, with whom he was closely engaged in conversation, he shot him in the back with an arquebuse, loaded with three balls. The Duke was without arms; the three balls struck him under the right shoulder, and pierced him through the body; he fell from his horse for dead. His gentlemen, who marched before, that they might not interrupt his conversation, returned at this accident, and carried him to his lodgings, where, as soon as they had examined his wound, his life was despaired of. The King, the Queen mother, and all the lords in the army, at the news of so fatal a disaster, hastened to the Duke’s lodgings; but all their cares and remedies were useless; he died in three days, with great sentiments,” says Davila, “of piety and religion, discovering in his discourses a greatness of soul and a most admirable moderation. This Prince united, with the highest valor and singular abilities, a consummate prudence. As profound in council, as active in execution, he always saw his designs crowned with the happiest success. These qualities had procured him the reputation of the first captain of his age; and his exploits merited the title of the defender and protector of the Catholic religion. He left a name glorious and celebrated to posterity,” tarnished, however, to endless ages, with the just imputation of intolerance.
“Poltrot had escaped into a neighboring forest; but tortured by the remorse of his conscience and by the terror of being pursued on all sides, he wandered all night in the woods without being able to find the road to Orleans. The next morning, exhausted by fatigue, he was arrested by some Swiss guards, and led to the Queen and the principal officers of the army. He alternately accused and acquitted, both on the rack and at his execution, the Admiral and Theodore Beza, who published declarations throughout all Europe, denying in the most solemn manner their knowledge of the design of Poltrot. The court hastened the execution of this monster, by quartering him between four horses, before an opportunity had been given to confront and examine him, as the Admiral requested. The consequence was, that the suspicion was fastened on these two austere and excellent characters in the minds of the Catholic party, though they have been uniformly acquitted by the whole impartial world. In consequence of the prejudices of the Catholics, the children of the Duke of Guise preserved a cruel resentment, and took a horrible revenge.”
The death of the Duke of Guise was followed by a general peace; and the royal army retakes Havre de Grace from the English. The King arrives at his fourteenth year, and is declared of age. The Queen’s inventive genius imagines various means of appeasing the discontented princes; and to accomplish her designs, travels with the King through all the provinces of the kingdom. In Dauphiny, they contrived an interview with the Duke of Savoy; at Avignon, with the ministers of the Pope; and on the frontiers of Guienne, with the King and Queen of Spain. To these princes they might communicate their secret designs, without apprehension of their coming to the knowledge of the Huguenots, which would have been almost inevitable if they had employed ambassadors. The Queen, with her usual dissimulation, endeavored to prevent the public from suspecting her genuine design and secret views. She pretended that it was a simple desire in the King to see his kingdom and show himself to his people. The Queen pretended to consent to it, only to display before the eyes of the people the magnificence of her court, and to see her daughter, the Queen of Spain. Under the veil of these appearances, so different from the truth, nothing was seen but magnificent preparations and sumptuous liveries; nothing was talked of but huntings, balls, comedies, and feasts. The interviews and intrigues in the course of their journey with the Dukes of Lorraine, of Wirtemberg, and other chiefs of the Protestants or Catholics in Germany; the Count Palatine, the Duke of Deux Ponts, the Duke of Saxony, and Marquis of Baden, the Duke of Savoy, and the ministers of the Pope, we pass over.
“In 1565, at Bayonne, they met the Queen of Spain, accompanied by the Duke of Alva and the Count de Benevento. While they pretended to be there wholly employed in feasts and pleasures, they held secret councils in concert to abolish the diversity of religion. The Duke of Alva, a man of a violent character, whose very name, as well as that of the Cardinal de Lorraine, is associated in every mind with bloody bigotry and anti-christian intolerance, said boldly, that to cut the root of all novelties in matters of religion, it was necessary to ‘cut off the heads of the poppies; to angle for the large fish; not amuse themselves with the frogs. When the winds shall cease to blow, the waves of the populace will soon be calmed.’ ”
These are the miserable maxims of tyranny, whether it be exercised by a single man or a multitude. “There is no difference,” according to Aristotle and history and experience, “between a people governing by a majority in a single assembly, and a monarch in a tyranny; for their manners are the same, and they both hold a despotic power over better persons than themselves. Their decrees are like the other’s edicts; their demagogues like the other’s flatterers.”*
Old Tarquin would not utter these maxims in words to the messenger of his son from Gabii, but walked out into his garden, and struck off the heads of the tallest poppies with his staff. With no better authority than these trite aphorisms of despotism, did the Duke of Alva support his dogmatism that a sovereign could do nothing more shameful or contrary to his interests than to grant to his subjects liberty of conscience, and his advice to employ fire and sword to exterminate the chiefs of the Huguenots.
The Queen mother had either more hypocrisy, more softness of temper, or more cunning. She was for essaying all means of alluring the chiefs of the Huguenots to the bosom of the church and their obedience to the King.
The difference of circumstances, of manners, of interests and characters, as usual, divided their sentiments, and, causing them to look at things on different sides, dictated opposite resolutions. The two Kings, however, take measures in concert to suppress rebellions. The Queen of Navarre comes to court. The King engages the family of the Châtillons to a reconciliation with that of the Guises. Their reciprocal hatreds soon rekindle and break out afresh. The Queen of Navarre in discontent quits the court.
The advice of the Duke of Alva was conformable to the temper and character of this King. He said he highly relished the sentiment of the Duke; that the heads of those rebels were too high in the state. The four families of Bourbon, Montmorenci, Guise, and Châtillon, all stimulated by other subordinate families dependent on them, continue their emulations, fallacies, hatreds, envies, oppositions, intrigues, manœuvres, combinations, decompositions, tergiversations. Another civil war breaks out, the history of which, with its causes and events, we shall leave the reader to read in detail.
“In 1567, at the battle of St. Denis, the Constable de Montmorenci, in spite of five wounds he had received in the head and face, fought with extreme valor, and endeavored to rally his troops and lead them back to battle, when Robert Stuart, a Scot, came up to him, and presented a pistol to him; the Constable said to him, ‘are you ignorant, then, that I am the Constable?’ ‘It is because I know you,’ said Stuart, ‘that I present you this,’ and at the same time shot him in the shoulder with his pistol. Although the violence of the blow struck down the Constable, he had strength enough left to strike Stuart in the face, with the hilt of his sword, which remained in his hand, though the blade was broken, with such force as to break his jaw, beat out three of his teeth, and bring him down by his side half dead. The Huguenots were defeated, however, but the next day the Constable died at the age of fourscore, after having shown in the action as much enterprise, bravery, and vigor, as if he had been in the full strength of his youth. He preserved to his last moment an admirable firmness and presence of mind; a priest approached his bed to prepare him for death; the Constable turned to him with a serene countenance, and prayed to be left in repose; adding, it would be shameful for him to have lived eighty years, without learning to die for half an hour. His wisdom, his rare prudence, and long experience in affairs procured for him and his family immense riches and the first employments under the crown. But he was always so unfortunate in the command of armies, that in all the enterprises where he had the command-in-chief, he was either beaten or wounded or made prisoner.
“The Calvinistic army retired into Champagne, and afterwards into Lorraine, to meet the troops they expected from Germany. The Queen, whom the death of the Constable had now delivered from the power and ambition of the grandees, and who remained the single arbiter of the Catholic party, would no longer expose herself to the dangers of an unlimited power, by advising the King to name another constable or general of the army. She judged more proper to reserve to the disposition of the King, and in her own power, the whole authority of the command. She, therefore, persuaded Charles, by many reasons, to place at the head of his army the Duke of Anjou, his brother, a young prince of great hopes, but who was not yet sixteen years of age. The army is reinforced by succors sent from Flanders by the King of Spain, and from Piedmont and many other places. The Duke of Anjou follows the Huguenots, to give them battle before their junction with the Germans. He overtakes them near Châlons. But the misunderstandings and other obstacles excited in his council hinder him from hazarding a battle. The Calvinists pass the Meuse, and form a junction with the auxiliary troops commanded by the Prince Casimir. They return into Champagne. The Queen goes to the army to extinguish the divisions that reign there. They take the resolution not to attack the Huguenots, now become too formidable, but to draw out the war into length. The two armies march off satisfied with observing each other’s motions.
This Fabian system of the Catholics disconcerts the Prince of Condé and the Admiral, unprovided with money to support, for any length of time, their army. In order to draw the royal army to battle they form the siege of Chartres. The danger of that city gives occasion to new propositions of peace.* Indeed a peace is concluded, and the two armies are separated; but the Huguenots did not surrender all the places they were masters of, nor did the King discharge his Swiss or Italian troops, which occasion new quarrels.
The court, seeing that the Huguenots did not execute the conditions under which they had been promised an oblivion of the past, attempts to take off the Prince of Condé and the Admiral, who had retired well accompanied to Noyers in Burgundy. They are advertised of their danger, and escape to La Rochelle, reassemble their forces, and make themselves masters of Saintonge, Poitou, and Touraine. The King orders the Duke of Anjou to march against them. The two armies meet at Jaseneuil without engaging. They meet again at Loudun; the rigor of the season prevents a battle. The excessive cold obliges them to march at a distance from each other. Distempers break out in both armies, and carry off vast numbers. They open the next campaign in the month of March. The Huguenots pass the Charente, break down the bridges, and guard all the passages. The Duke of Anjou, by the means of a stratagem, passes the river. The battle of Jarnac ensues. On the sixteenth of March, 1569, this famous action, so fatal to the Protestant cause and to liberty of conscience in France as to have annihilated, or at least to have oppressed both for two hundred and fifty years, took place. The young Duke of Guise distinguished himself on that day, by attacking the left wing of the Calvinists, commanded by the Admiral and D’Andelot, at the head of the nobility of Brittany and Normandy, and gave proofs of a courage and talents capable of performing as much good, or committing as much evil, as his father had done.
The Prince of Condé, who commanded the main body opposed to the Duke of Anjou, supported with intrepidity the shock of the enemy, and, when abandoned by his right and left, charged on all sides by the conquerors, and surrounded by a whole world of enemies, he and those who accompanied him fought with desperation. In arranging his squadrons, he had been wounded in the leg by a kick of the Duke de la Rochefoucauld’s horse, and, in the combat, his own was killed and overthrown upon him. This prince, thus dangerously wounded, put one knee to the ground, and continued to fight, until Montesquiou, Captain of the Guards of the Duke of Anjou, shot him through the head with a pistol. Robert Stuart, who had killed the Constable at the battle of St. Denis, and almost all the gentlemen of Poitou and Saintonge, were cut in pieces by the side of the Prince.
“The Duke of Anjou fought in the first ranks of his squadron with a valor above his years, had a horse killed under him, and ran great risks of his life. The Huguenots lost near seven hundred noblemen or knights of distinction. The soldiers, in derision, with scoffs and insults, brought the body of the Prince of Condé upon an ass or packhorse to the Duke of Anjou at Jarnac.
“Young Henry, Prince of Navarre, begged the body of the Duke of Anjou, who sent it to Vendôme, to the tombs of his ancestors. Thus lived and died Louis of Bourbon, Prince of Condé, whose valor, constancy, and greatness of soul, distinguished him above all the greatest princes and most famous captains of his age.” I shall reverse the reproaches of Davila, and say that he deserves to be canonized as one of the protomartyrs to liberty of conscience, instead of that crowd of bloody tyrants with which the calendar has been disgraced.
“The affairs of the Huguenots were in a critical situation. It was not doubted but that, after the death of the Prince, the Admiral would be chosen for their chief, both because of the distinguished employments which he had held in the party, and the reputation which his prudence had acquired. After the battle of Dreux, when the Prince was made prisoner, the whole party, with unanimous consent, had deferred to Coligni the honor of the command. But at present, there were several gentlemen, who, by their birth, their riches, or their other qualities, thought themselves not his inferiors. Some of these tore his reputation with slanders; some detested the austerity of his character, manners, and habits.”
Unhappy Admiral! thy fortune, however, is not singular. Merit, talents, virtues, services of the most exalted kind, have, in all ages, been forced to give way, not to family pride, for this alone would be impotent and ridiculous, but to the popular prejudice, the vulgar idolatry, or the splendor of wealth and birth, with which family pride is always fortified, supported, and defended.*
“The Admiral had lost, by malignant fevers, his brother D’Andelot and his friend Boucard. Deprived of these two, the party which interested itself in the grandeur and elevation of the Admiral was considerably weakened. But Coligni surmounted all obstacles by his address; he began by renouncing in appearance those chimerical titles with which a vain ambition would have been satisfied, proposing, however, in fact, to preserve all the authority of the command. He resolved to declare chiefs of the party and generals of the army, Henry, Prince of Navarre, and Henry, Prince of Condé, son of the deceased prince. During the childhood of these, the Admiral remained necessarily charged with the conduct and administration of all affairs of importance. It was, among Protestants as well as Catholics, in the cause of liberty as well as that of tyranny, the only means of repressing the ambition and pretensions, the envy, jealousy, malignity, and perfidy of the grandees; the only means of answering the expectations of the people, and of uniting minds which the diversity of sentiment had already very much divided.
“In this resolution, without demanding what he felt he could not obtain, the Admiral entreated the Queen of Navarre to come to the army, representing to her, that the moment was arrived for elevating the Prince, her son, to that degree of grandeur for which he was born, and to which she had long aspired. The Queen was not wanting in courage or fortitude. Already resolved, at all hazards, to declare her son the head of the party, she came with all the diligence which a stroke of so much importance required, and appeared with the two princes at the camp at Cognac. Discord reigned in the army, notwithstanding the necessity of union and unanimity, to such a degree, that it was on the point of disbanding. The Queen of Navarre, after having approved the views of the Admiral, assembled the troops. She spoke to them with a firmness above her sex, and exhorted all those brave warriors to continue constant and united for the defence of their liberty and their religion. She proposed to them for chiefs the two young princes, who were present, and whose noble air interested the spectators; adding, that, under the auspices of these two young shoots from the royal blood, they ought to hope for the most happy success to the just pretensions of the common cause. This discourse animated the courage of the army, who appeared to forget in an instant the chagrin caused by the loss of the battle, and by the dissensions which had followed it. The Admiral and the Earl of Rochefoucauld were the first to submit and to take an oath of fidelity to the Princes of Bourbon; the nobility and all the officers did the same, and the soldiers, with great acclamations, applauded the choice which their generals had made of the Princes for chiefs and protectors of the reformed religion.”
This, in human imaginations, is considered, and, in human language, is called Dignity! The greatest statesman and the greatest general of his age must resign the command of his own army, even in the cause of religion, virtue, and liberty, to two beardless boys, because they had more wealth and better blood!
“Henry of Bourbon, Prince of Navarre, aged fifteen, had, however, a lively spirit, a great and generous soul, and discovered a decided inclination for war. Animated by the councils of his mother, he accepted, without hesitation, the command of the army, and promised the Huguenots, in a concise military eloquence, to protect their religion, and to persevere in the common cause, until death or victory should procure them liberty. The Prince of Condé, whose tender age did not permit him to express his sentiments, marked his consent only by his gestures. Thus the Prince of Navarre, who joined to the superiority of age the prerogative of first prince of the blood, became really the head of the party. In memory of this event, the Queen Jane caused medals of gold to be struck, which represented on one side her own bust, on the other that of her son, with this inscription,—Pax certa, victoria integra, mors honesta,—A safe peace, complete victory, or honorable death.”
Coligni remains charged with the conduct of the war, by reason of the youth of the princes; he divides his troops, and throws them into the cities which adhered to him. The Duke of Anjou pursues his victory, and forms the siege of Cognac, which he is obliged however to raise, by the vigorous resistance of the besieged. He takes several other cities. A new army of Germans, commanded by the Duke of Deux-Ponts, enters France to assist the Huguenots. Wolfgang of Bavaria, Duke of Deux-Ponts, excited by the money and the promises of the Huguenots, with the aid of the Duke of Saxony and the Count Palatine of the Rhine, and at the solicitation of the Queen of England, had raised an army of six thousand infantry and eight thousand horse. In the same army was William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, and Louis and Henry, his brothers, who, after having quitted Flanders, to avoid the cruelty of the Duke of Alva, supported the interests of the Calvinists of France, whose religion they professed. This army marches towards the Loire, takes La Charité, and passes the river. The Duke of Deux-Ponts dies of a fever, and is succeeded in command by Count Mansfeld. The Princes, and their mentor, the Admiral, march to meet this succor. The Duke of Anjou, for fear of being surrounded by these two armies, retires into Limousin. The Huguenots, combined with their allies, follow the royal army. A spirited action ensues at Roche-Abeille. The sterility of the country forces the Huguenots to retire. The Queen mother comes to the camp. The resolution is taken to separate the royal army, to leave the forces of the Huguenots to consume by time. It is separated, in fact, and the Duke of Anjou retires to Loches in Touraine.
The Huguenots lay siege to Poitiers. The Duke of Guise resolves to throw himself into it to succor the garrison. This young prince, the object of the hopes of the Catholics, proposed to himself to become one day their chief, by imitating thus, at the beginning of his career, by an illustrious and memorable example, the glory of his father, who, by the defence of Metz against the forces of the Emperor Charles V., had prepared his way to the highest power and most brilliant reputation.
The Duke of Anjou proposes to raise the siege by a diversion; he assembles his army, and leads it to Châtelleraud. The Admiral raises the siege of Poitiers, and obliges the Duke of Anjou to raise that of Châtelleraud. The Duke of Guise, however, by his activity in defence of Poitiers and his frequent sallies, came out of it covered with glory and applause; the whole Catholic party began to consider him as the support of religion, and the worthy successor of the power of his father. Sansac in vain lays siege to La Charité. The Earl of Montgomeri defeats the royalists in Béarn, surrounds Terride, and takes him prisoner.
“The Duke of Anjou came to Tours to consult with the King, his brother, and the Queen mother. The Duke of Guise came there also, shining with honor and glory, for the great actions by which he had signalized himself at the defence of Poitiers. They all deliberated on the means of pushing the war, and the Duke of Guise, coming in the place of his father, was then admitted for the first time into the secret council. He owed this favor to the splendor of his birth, to the services of his father, to his own valor, to the protection of the Cardinal of Lorraine, his uncle, but above all to the implacable hatred which the King had conceived against the Admiral. After the death of the Prince of Condé, at the battle of Jarnac, Charles had entertained hopes that the Calvinistical party, no longer supported by the authority of a prince of the blood, nor of a general capable by his reputation and his valor of supporting the weight of so great an enterprise, would separate and disperse, or at least incline to submit. But he saw, on the contrary, that the policy of the Admiral had reanimated the forces of his party; that his valor and his ability, by availing himself of the name of the two young princes of the blood royal, had preserved union among the Calvinists, caused greater commotions, and exposed the state to dangers more terrible, than any which had been before experienced. He, therefore, caused the Admiral Coligni to be declared a rebel, by an arrêt of the Parliament of Paris, which was published and translated into several languages. They dragged him in effigy upon a hurdle, and attached him to a gibbet, in the place destined to the execution of malefactors. They ordained that his houses should be razed to the foundations, and his goods sold at auction. From this time, the King, resolved to pursue the Admiral to death, began to elevate and favor the house of Lorraine, and above all the Duke of Guise, who, burning with ardor to avenge the death of his father, did not dissimulate the implacable hatred he bore to Coligni.”
The Admiral continues the war with vigor. The Duke of Anjou, whose army had been reinforced, seeks a battle. The Admiral endeavors to avoid it. At length he prepares for it, forced by a mutiny of his own army who demand it. He endeavors nevertheless to retire. The Duke of Anjou pursues him, and joins him near Moncontour; the two armies come to action on the plains of Moncontour, and a bloody battle ensues; victory remains to the Duke of Anjou, with a great carnage of the Huguenots. The party is discouraged; but the Admiral, although dangerously wounded, raises their spirits, and persuades them to continue the war. The Princes and the Admiral abandon the whole country, except La Rochelle, Angoulême, and Saint-Jean d’Angeli.
“Their design was to join the Earl of Montgomeri; a resource which fortune seemed to have reserved to reëstablish their forces and repair their losses. After that junction, they intended to remain in the mountains, until the Princes of Germany and the Queen of England should send them succors. They founded, moreover, some hopes on the Marshal of Damville, Governor of Languedoc, who for some time appeared inclined in their favor, and with whom they maintained a secret intelligence. While the Constable lived, Damville had held a distinguished rank in the Catholic party, and had shown himself a declared enemy of the Huguenots. His jealousy against Francis of Montmorenci, his elder brother, who was connected in friendship with the Prince of Condé and the Colignis, his relations, had inspired him with this hatred of the Calvinists, which had been fomented by the esteem which the Guises professed for him and the favors they procured him. Able and profound in dissimulation, according to conjunctures, they had employed all possible artifices to retain him in their party, and, by his intervention, to attach to them indissolubly the Constable, who discovered much predilection and partiality for Damville, whom he believed superior in courage and abilities to his other children. The Queen mother made him the same demonstrations. Obliged, during the minority of the King, to manage the grandees, she employed the Marshal Damville to preserve her the attachment of the Constable; but, after his death, all these motives and considerations ceased. The Queen, who had no longer occasion for Damville, gave herself little trouble to reward his services. The Guises, far from showing him the same regard, employed the management and persuasions of the Cardinal of Lorraine, who was now very high in favor with Charles IX., to depress and disserve the Marshal, as a sprout of a house which had been long the object of hatred and jealousy to that of Lorraine.
“Damville soon perceived this change. The death of his father put an end to his differences with his elder brother, who was not less exasperated than himself at the refusal of the office of Constable, possessed so long by their father, and which they had solicited more than once. He began to make advances to the friends and relations of his family, and sought to renew an intercourse with the Admiral, to whom he intimated secret though uncertain hopes. This motive had hindered him from succoring Terride, in Béarn, and from taking from the Huguenots the places which they held in Gascony and Languedoc. He was the more inclined in favor of the Calvinists, as he saw the Admiral already advanced in years, and every day exposed to evident dangers. If this nobleman should die before the princes were of an age to command, Damville hoped to succeed him in the command of the Calvinistic party. Finally, he dreaded that, if the King and the Guises should overbear the princes, the Admiral, and all the Huguenots, they would then turn their efforts against the family of Montmorenci, which would remain alone of all the ancient rivals, who had inspired him with jealousy. These dispositions did not escape the penetration of the Admiral. Excited by such hopes, he persuaded the princes to abandon the flat country, and retire with a small number of troops into the mountains of Gascony and Languedoc.”
The Duke of Anjou besieges and takes Saint-Jean d’Angeli, and loses much time and many soldiers. He falls sick, and retires, first to Angers, and then to Saint Germain. The princes join the Earl of Montgomeri, and reinforce their troops in Gascony. They pass the winter in the mountains, and descend into the plains in the spring. They pass the Rhône, and extend themselves into Provence and Dauphiné. They march towards Noyers and La Charité, with the design to approach Paris. The King sends against them an army, under the command of the Marshal de Cossé, a general of little activity, and who desired not the ruin of the Huguenots. From a fear of confiding his armies to noblemen, whom their elevation, their power, and their animosities, or the great number of their partisans, had rendered suspected by him, the King committed the conduct of it to a general, who, persisting in his ordinary inclination, gave the Huguenots a favorable opportunity to revive. This resolution was also attributed to the policy of the Duke of Anjou, who dreaded that some other general might take away the fruit of his labors and victories. It is pretended that such motives engaged him to inspire the King with suspicions against all the other princes and generals, and to prefer to them a man whom he considered as incapable of gaining any great advantages.
Patrum interim animos, certamen regni ac cupido versabat.
The two armies met in Burgundy; but the princes, being inferior, evaded an engagement.
“The Queen mother, in 1570, had too much penetration not to unravel the manœuvres of the Marshals de Cossé and Damville. She informed the King of them, and persuaded him to listen to propositions of accommodation. She perceived that the passions and the perfidy of these grandees might throw the state into the greatest dangers, if the war was continued. She was still more determined by the news which she received from Germany, where the Prince Casimir began to raise troops in favor of the Huguenots. The finances were exhausted to such a degree, that they knew not where to find funds to pay the Swiss and Italian troops, to whom they owed large arrears. In short, they wished for peace; and were weary of a war which held all men’s minds in perpetual alarm, which reduced a great part of the people to beggary, and which cost the state so many men and so much money. The King held, with the Queen mother, the Duke of Anjou, and the Cardinal of Lorraine, councils, in which they resolved to return to the project already so many times formed and abandoned, to grant peace to the Huguenots, to deliver the kingdom from foreign troops, and finally to employ artifice and take advantage of favorable conjunctures to take off the chiefs of the party, which they thought would yield of itself infallibly, as soon as it should see itself deprived of the support of its leaders. It was thus that the court would have substituted craft instead of force, to execute a design, which the obstinacy of the Huguenots, or the want of fidelity in those who commanded armies, had always defeated, when recourse had been only to arms.”
With such dark and horrid views were overtures of peace made, and conditions concluded. The Princes and Admiral, still diffident and distrustful, retire to Rochelle. The King endeavors to gain their confidence. To this end, he proposes to give his sister Marguerite in marriage to the Prince of Navarre, and to make war in Flanders upon the Spaniards. The marriage is resolved on, and all the chiefs of the Huguenots come to court. The Queen of Navarre is poisoned. After her death the marriage is celebrated, during the feasts of which, Admiral Coligni is wounded by an assassin. The King takes the resolution that, as in extreme cases it is imprudence to do things by halves, the Huguenots should be exterminated. The night between the twenty-third and the twenty-fourth of August, 1572, a Sunday called Saint Bartholomew’s Day, the Admiral is massacred, and almost all the other Calvinists are cut in pieces in Paris, and in several other cities in the kingdom.
Such, in nations where there is not a fixed and known constitution, or where there is a constitution without an effectual balance, are the tragical effects of emulation, jealousies, and rivalries,—destruction to all the leaders, poverty, beggary, and ruin to the followers. France, after a century of such horrors, found no remedy against them but in absolute monarchy; nor did any nation ever find any remedy against the miseries of such rivalries among the gentlemen, but in despotism, monarchy, or a balanced constitution.* It is not necessary to say, that every despotism and monarchy that ever has existed among men, arose out of such emulations among the principal men; but it may be asserted, with confidence, that this cause alone is sufficient to account for the rise, progress, and establishment of every despotism and monarchy in the four quarters of the globe.
It is not intended, at this time, to pursue any further this instructive though melancholy history, nor to make any comparisons, in detail, between the state of France in 1791, and the condition it was in two or three centuries ago. But, if there are now differences of opinion in religion, morals, government, and philosophy; if there are parties and leaders of parties; if there are emulations; if there are rivalries and rivals;—is there any better provision made by the constitution to balance them now, than formerly? If there is not, what is the reason? Who is the cause? All the thunders of heaven, although a Paratonnere had never been invented, would not, in a thousand years, have destroyed so many lives, nor occasioned so much desolation among mankind, as the majority of a legislature, in one uncontrolled assembly, may produce in a single Saint-Bartholomew’s Day.* Saint Bartholomew’s Days are the natural, necessary, and unavoidable effect and consequence of diversities in opinion, the spirit of party, unchecked passions, emulation, and rivalry, where there is not a power always ready and inclined to throw weights into the lightest scale, to preserve or restore the equilibrium.†
With a view of vindicating republics, commonwealths, and free states from unmerited reproaches, we have detailed these anecdotes from the history of France. With equal propriety, we might have resorted to the history of England, which is full of contests and dissensions of the same sort. There is a morsel of that history, the life and actions of the Protector, Somerset, so remarkably apposite, that it would be worth while to relate it. For the present, however, it must be waved. It is too fashionable with writers to impute such contentions to republican governments, as if they were peculiar to them; whereas, nothing is further from reality. Republican writers themselves have been as often guilty of this mistake, in whom it is an indiscretion, as monarchical writers, in whom it may be thought policy; in both, however, it is an error. We shall mention only two, Machiavel and De Lolme.
In Machiavel’s History of Florence, we read: “It is given from above, that in all republics there should be fatal families, who are born for the ruin of them; to the end that in human affairs nothing should be perpetual or quiet.”‡
If, indeed, this were acknowledged to be the will of Heaven, as Machiavel seems to assert, why should we entertain resentments against such families? They are but instruments, and they cannot but answer their end. If they are commissioned from above to be destroying angels, why should we oppose or resist them? As to “the end,” there are other causes enough, which will forever prevent perpetuity or tranquillity, in any great degree, in human affairs. Animal life is a chemical process, and is carried on by unceasing motion. Our bodies and minds, like the heavens, the earth, and the sea, like all animal, vegetable, and mineral nature, like the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, are continually changing. The mutability and mutations of matter, and much more of the intellectual and moral world, are the consequence of laws of nature, not less without our power than beyond our comprehension. While we are thus assured that, in one sense, nothing in human affairs will be perpetual or at rest, we ought to remember, at the same time, that the duration of our lives, the security of our property, the existence of our conveniences, comforts, and pleasures, the repose of private life, and the tranquillity of society, are placed in very great degrees in human power. Equal laws may be ordained and executed; great families, as well as little ones, may be restrained. And that policy is not less pernicious, than that philosophy is false, which represents such families as sent by Heaven to be judgments. It is not true in fact. On the contrary, they are sent to be blessings; and they are blessings, until, by our own obstinate ignorance and imprudence, in refusing to establish such institutions as will make them always blessings, we turn them into curses.
There are evils, it is true, which attend them as well as other human blessings, even government, liberty, virtue, and religion. It is the province of philosophy and policy to increase the good and lessen the evil that attends them as much as possible. But it is not surely the way, either to increase the good or lessen the evil which accompanies such families, to represent them to the people as machines, as rods, as scourges, as blind and mechanical instruments in the hands of divine vengeance, unmixed with benevolence. Nor has it any good tendency or effect, to endeavor to render them unpopular; to make them objects of hatred, malice, jealousy, envy, or revenge to the common people. The way of wisdom to happiness is to make mankind more friendly to each other. The existence of such men or families is not their fault. They created not themselves. We, the plebeians, find them the workmanship of God and nature, like ourselves. The constitution of nature, and the course of Providence, has produced them as well as us; and they and we must live together; it depends on ourselves, indeed, whether it shall be in peace, love, and friendship, or in war or hatred. Nor are they reasonably the objects of censure or aversion, of resentment, envy, or hatred, for the gifts of fortune, any more than for those of nature. Conspicuous birth is no more in a man’s power to avoid than to obtain. Hereditary riches are no more a reproach than they are a merit. A paternal estate is neither a virtue nor a fault. He must, nevertheless, be a novice in this world, who does not know that these gifts of fortune are advantages in society and life, which confer influence, popularity, and power. The distinction that is made between the gifts of nature and those of fortune appears to be not well founded. It is fortune which confers beauty and strength, which are called qualities of nature, as much as birth and hereditary wealth, which are called accidents of fortune; and, on the other hand, it is nature which confers these favors as really as stature and agility.
Narrow and illiberal sentiments are not peculiar to the rich or the poor. If the vulgar have found a Machiavel to give countenance to their malignity, by his contracted and illiberal exclamations against illustrious families as the curse of Heaven, the rich and the noble have not unfrequently produced sordid instances of individuals among themselves, who have adopted and propagated an opinion, that God hates the poor, and that poverty and misery on earth are inflicted by Providence in its wrath and displeasure. This noble philosophy is surely as shallow and as execrable as the other plebeian philosophy of Machiavel; but it is countenanced by at least as many of the phenomena of the world. Let both be discarded, as the reproach of human understanding, and a disgrace to human nature. Let the rich and the poor unite in the bands of mutual affection, be mutually sensible of each other’s ignorance, weakness, and error, and unite in concerting measures for their mutual defence against each other’s vices and follies, by supporting an impartial mediator.
That ingenious Genevan, to whom the English nation is indebted for a more intelligible explanation of their own constitution, than any that has been ever published by their own Acherly or Bacon, Bolingbroke or Blackstone, has quoted this passage of Machiavel, and applied it, like him, to the dishonor of republican governments. De Lolme says: “I cannot avoid transcribing a part of the speech which a citizen of Florence addressed once to the senate. The reader will find in it a kind of abridged story of all republics.”1 He then quotes the passage before cited from Machiavel.
Why should so grave an accusation be brought against republics? If it were well founded, it would be a very serious argument, not only against such forms of government, but against human nature. Families and competitions are the unavoidable consequence of that emulation, which God and nature have implanted in the human heart for the wisest and best purposes, and which the public good, instead of cooling or extinguishing, requires to be directed to honor and virtue, and then nourished, cherished, and cultivated. If such contentions appeared only in republican governments, there would be some color for charging them as a reproach to these forms; but they appear as frequent and as violent in despotisms and monarchies as they do in commonwealths. In all the despotisms of Asia and Africa, in all the monarchies of Europe, there are constant successions of emulation and rivalry, and consequently of contests and dissensions among families. Despotism, which crushes and decapitates, sometimes interrupts their progress, and prevents some of their tragical effects. Monarchies, with their spies, lettres de cachet, dungeons, and inquisitions, may do almost as well. But the balance of a free government is more effectual than either, without any of their injustice, caprice, or cruelty. The foregoing examples from the history of France, and a thousand others equally striking which might be added, show that Bourbons and Montmorencis, Guises and Colignis, were as fatal families in that kingdom as the Buondelmonti and Alberti, the Donati and Cerchi, the Ricci and Albizzi, or Medici at Florence.
Instead of throwing false imputations on republican governments; instead of exciting or fomenting a vulgar malignity against the most respectable men and families, let us draw the proper inferences from history and experience; let us lay it down for a certain fact, first, that emulation between individuals, and rivalries among families never can be prevented. Second, let us adopt it as a certain principle, that they ought not to be prevented, but directed to virtue, and then stimulated and encouraged by generous applause and honorable rewards. And from these premises let the conclusion be, as it ought to be, that an effectual control be provided in the constitution, to check their excesses and balance their weights. If this conclusion is not drawn, another will follow of itself; the people will be the dupes, and the leaders will worry each other and the people too, till both are weary and ashamed, and from feeling, not from reasoning, set up a master and a despot for a protector. What kind of a protector he will be, may be learned hereafter from Stephen Boetius.*
If any one wish to see more of the spirit of rivalry, without reading the great historians of France, he may consult L’Esprit de la Ligue, L’Esprit de la Fronde, and the Memoirs of De Retz and his contemporaries. The history of England is more familiar to Americans; but, without reading many volumes, he may find enough of rivalries in those chapters of Henry’s History of Great Britain, which treat of civil and military affairs. If even this study be too grave, he may find in Shakspeare’s Historical Plays, especially Henry IV., V., and VI., and Richard III., enough to satisfy him. If the gayety of Falstaff and his associates excite not so much of his laughter as to divert his attention from all serious reflections, he will find, in the efforts of ambition and avarice to obtain their objects, enough of the everlasting pretexts of religion, liberty, love of country, and public good, to disguise them. The unblushing applications to foreign powers, to France, Germany, the Pope, Holland, Scotland, Wales, and Jack Cade, to increase their parties and assist their strength, will excite his indignation, while the blood of the poor cheated people, flowing in torrents on all sides, will afflict his humanity.
The English constitution in that period was not formed. The house of commons was not settled; the authority of the peers was not defined; the prerogatives of the crown were not limited. Magna Charta, with all its confirmations and solemnities, was violated at pleasure by kings, nobles, and commons too. The judges held their offices at pleasure. The habeas corpus was unknown; and that balance of passions and interests, which alone can give authority to reason, from which results all the security to liberty and the rights of man, was not yet wrought into the English constitution, nor much better understood in England than in France. The unity of the executive power was not established. The national force, in men and money, was not in the king, but in the landholders, with whom the kings were obliged to make alliances, in order to form their armies and fight their enemies, foreign and domestic. Their enemies were generally able to procure an equal number of powerful landholders, with their forces, to assist them, so that all depended on the chance of war.
It has been said, that it is extremely difficult to preserve a balance. This is no more than to say that it is extremely difficult to preserve liberty. To this truth all ages and nations attest. It is so difficult, that the very appearance of it is lost over the whole earth, excepting one island and North America. How long it will be before she returns to her native skies, and leaves the whole human race in slavery, will depend on the intelligence and virtue of the people. A balance, with all its difficulty, must be preserved, or liberty is lost forever. Perhaps a perfect balance, if it ever existed, has not been long maintained in its perfection; yet, such a balance as has been sufficient to liberty, has been supported in some nations for many centuries together; and we must come as near as we can to a perfect equilibrium, or all is lost. When it is once widely departed from, the departure increases rapidly, till the whole is lost. If the people have not understanding and public virtue enough, and will not be persuaded of the necessity of supporting an independent executive authority, an independent senate, and an independent judiciary power, as well as an independent house of representatives, all pretensions to a balance are lost, and with them all hopes of security to our dearest interests, all hopes of liberty.
Paris, 20 December, 1812.
About midnight of the eighteenth instant his Majesty the Emperor arrived in this city; and, on Sunday, the twentieth, at noon, being on his throne, surrounded by the imperial princes, the princes grand dignitaries, the cardinals, the ministers, the grand eagles of the Legion of Honor, &c., he received the conservative senate, (composed of about one hundred members, who are all counts of the empire, except a few, who are princes and dukes, and are all appointed by the Emperor,) who were introduced by his Excellency, the Grand Marshal, (Duroc,) and presented by his Serene Highness, the Prince Vice-Grand Elector, (Talleyrand.)
His Excellency, the Count de Lacépède, President of the Senate, addressed his Majesty in these terms:—
Sire,—The senate hastens to present, at the foot of the throne of your Imperial and Royal Majesty, the homage of its felicitations, upon the happy arrival of your Majesty in the midst of your people.
The absence of your Majesty, Sire, is always a national calamity; your presence is a benefit, which fills with joy and confidence the whole French nation.
Your Imperial and Royal Majesty has laid all the basis of the organization of your vast empire; but there still remain many things for your Majesty to consolidate or to conclude, and the smallest delay in the completion of our institutions is a national calamity.
While your Majesty, Sire, was distant eight hundred leagues from your capital, at the head of your victorious armies, some men, who had escaped from the prisons where your imperial clemency had saved them from the death that they had merited by their past crimes, endeavored to disturb the public order in this great city. They have suffered the penalty of their new attempts.
Happy France, Sire, whose monarchical constitution protects her from the fatal effects of civil discords; from the sanguinary dissensions which party spirit produces; and from the horrible disorders with which revolutions are attended!
The senate, the first council of the Emperor, and whose authority exists only while the monarch requires and puts it in motion, is established for the preservation of that monarchy, and of the hereditary succession to your throne in our fourth dynasty.
France and posterity will find it, under all circumstances, faithful to this sacred duty; and all its members will ever be ready to perish in defence of this palladium of the national safety and prosperity.
In the commencement of our ancient dynasties, Sire, we find, on more than one occasion, the monarch directing that a solemn oath should, by anticipation, bind the French of every rank to the heir to the throne; and sometimes, when the age of the young prince permitted, a crown was placed upon his head, as the emblem of his future authority, and the symbol of the perpetuity of the government.
The affection that the whole nation entertains for the King of Rome, proves, Sire, both the attachment of the French to the blood of your Majesty, and that internal sentiment which encourages every citizen, and which shows him, in that august infant, the security of his family, the safeguard of his property, and an invincible obstacle to the intestine divisions, those civil commotions, and those political disorders, which are the greatest scourges that can afflict nations.
Sire, your Majesty has planted the French eagles upon the towers of Moscow. The enemy was unable to put a stop to your success and to counteract your projects, otherwise than by resorting to the terrific resources of despotic governments; by creating deserts upon the whole of his frontiers; by carrying conflagrations into his provinces; and by delivering to the flames his capital, the centre of his riches, and the product of so many ages.
They little knew your Majesty’s heart, who thus renewed the barbarous tactics of their savage ancestors. Your Majesty would have willingly renounced trophies that were to cost so much blood, and so many miseries to humanity.
The hasty arrival that we witness, from all the departments of the empire, to join your Majesty’s standard, of the numerous soldiers called upon by the senatus consultum of September last, is an example of what your Majesty may expect from the zeal, the patriotism, and the warlike ardor of the French, to snatch from the influence of our enemies the different parts of the Continent, and to conquer an honorable and solid peace.
May your Imperial and Royal Majesty, Sire, accept the tribute of acknowledgments of the love and inviolable fidelity of the senate, and of the French people.
THE EMPEROR’S ANSWER.
Senators,—What you tell me is very agreeable to me. I have at heart the glory and the power of France. My first wishes are for every thing that can perpetuate interior tranquillity, and forever secure my people from the lacerations of factions and the horrors of anarchy. It is upon those enemies of the welfare of nations, that I have founded, with the consent and love of the French, this throne, to which are henceforth attached the destinies of the country.
Timid and cowardly soldiers lose the independence of nations; but pusillanimous magistrates destroy the empire of the laws, the rights of the throne, and social order itself.
The noblest death would be that of a soldier who perishes in the field of honor, if the death of a magistrate, perishing in the defence of the sovereign, of the throne, and of the laws, were not still more glorious.
When I undertook the regeneration of France, I asked of Providence a determinate number of years. We can destroy in a moment; but we cannot rebuild without the assistance of time. What a state most wants is courageous magistrates.
Our fathers had for a rallying word, The king is dead; long live the king! These few words contain the principal advantages of monarchy. I believe that I have well studied the disposition that my people have exhibited during the differentages. I have reflected upon what has taken place in the different epochs of our history. I shall continue to do so.
The war that I am carrying on against Russia is a political war. I have made it without animosity. I wished to spare her the calamities that she has inflicted upon herself. I might have armed the greater part of her population against herself, by proclaiming liberty to the slaves. A great number of villages requested me to do so; but, knowing the debasement of that numerous class of the Russian people, I refused to take that measure, which would have devoted many families to death, and to the most horrible torments. My army has suffered losses, but it is owing to the premature inclemency of the season.
I accept of the sentiments that you express to me.
3 March, 1813.
The contents of the foregoing volume are summarily comprehended in a few sentences in the following
by Napoleon, Emperor of France:—
“On the twentieth of December, 1812, the council of state were conducted into the imperial presence, and presented by His Serene Highness, the Prince Arch-Chancellor of the empire (Cambacères.)
“His Excellency, Count de Fermon, Minister of State, President of the Section of Finance, made an address. To which the Emperor made the following answer:—
“It is to ideology, to that obscure metaphysics, which, searching with subtlety after first causes, wishes to found upon them the legislation of nations, instead of adapting the laws to the knowledge of the human heart and to the lessons of history, that we are to attribute all the calamities that our beloved France has experienced. Those errors necessarily produced the government of the men of blood. Indeed, who proclaimed the principle of insurrection as a duty? Who flattered the people, by proclaiming for them a sovereignty which they were incapable of exercising? Who destroyed the sanctity and the respect to the laws, by making them to depend, not upon the sacred principles of justice, upon the nature of things, and upon civil justice, but only upon the will of an assembly of men, composed of men strangers to the knowledge of the civil, criminal, administrative, political, and military laws?
“When we are called to regenerate a state, we must act upon opposite principles. History paints the human heart. It is in history that we are to seek for the advantages and disadvantages of different systems of law. These are the principles of which the council of state of a great empire ought never to lose sight. It ought to add to them a courage equal to every emergency, and like the Presidents Harlay and Molé, be ready to perish in defence of the sovereign, the throne, and the laws.”
COMMENT ON THE COMMENT.
Napoleon! Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur. This book is a prophecy of your empire, before your name was heard!
The political and literary world are much indebted for the invention of the new word Ideology.
Our English words, Idiocy or Idiotism, express not the force or meaning of it. It is presumed its proper definition is the science of Idiocy. And a very profound, abstruse, and mysterious science it is. You must descend deeper than the divers in the Dunciad to make any discoveries, and after all you will find no bottom. It is the bathos, the theory, the art, the skill of diving and sinking in government. It was taught in the school of folly; but alas! Franklin, Turgot, Rochefoucauld, and Condorcet, under Tom Paine, were the great masters of that academy!
It may be modestly suggested to the Emperor, to coin another word in his new mint, in conformity or analogy with Ideology, and call every constitution of government in France, from 1789 to 1799, an Ideocracy.
Quincy, 6 December, 1814.
This volume was yesterday returned from Mr. C., who has had it almost a year. The events in Europe, since 3 March, 1813, are remarkable. Napoleon is now in Elba, and Talleyrand at Vienna! Let us read Candide, and Zadig, and Rasselas, and see if there is any thing extravagant in them.
Have not philosophers been as honest, and as mad, as popes, Jesuits, priests, emperors, kings, heroes, conquerors? Has the Inquisition been more cruel than Robespierre, or Marat, or Napoleon?
Man ought to “drop into himself.”
The Inquisition is now revived, and the order of the Jesuits is restored. Sic transit gloria philosophiœ. Even Gibbon was for restoring the Inquisition! Philosophy is now as distracted as it was in Alexandria during the siege of Jerusalem! And where is our New England bound? To Hartford Convention!
Vide Rasselas, Candide, Zadig, Jenni, Scarmentado, Micromegas, &c.
FOUR LETTERS: BEING AN INTERESTING CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THOSE EMINENTLY DISTINGUISHED CHARACTERS, JOHN ADAMS, LATE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES; AND SAMUEL ADAMS, LATE GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS, ON THE IMPORTANT SUBJECT OF GOVERNMENT.
[* ]Barbeyrac’s Preface to his History of Ancient Treaties. Corps Dipl. tom. xxii. Harris’s Philological Inquiries, part iii. chap. 1.
[* ]Barlow’s Vision of Columbus.
[1 ]Dr. Price, whose publication gave rise to this work, seems to have been convinced by it. In a letter addressed to the author, he says,—
[* ]The writer of this preface is unknown to me. I only furnished the quotation at the bottom from Bolingbroke’s Remarks, &c. John Adams.
[1 ]Henrico Caterino Davila. Dell’ Istoria delle Guerre civili di Francia.
[* ]Turgot’s ideas were equally confused. His “all authority in one centre, the nation,” is just as great nonsense. J. A. 1812.
[* ]I wish this were true in any establishments, new or old. J. A.
[† ]See the review of this work in the Anthology. The writer was “a young man; a forward young man.” But he did not know that the first order of nobility among the Franks were priests. It is true, the Salique laws were made by the nobility; it is also true that they were made by their priests; because the nobility and the priests were the same persons. The writer’s criticism, therefore, might have been spared. J. A. 1812.
[* ]Here again is the French jargon of all authority in one centre, without one clear idea. 1812.
[† ]Misera Servitus est, ubi jus est vagum aut incognitum. 1804.
[* ]Two authorities up, neither supreme. 1812.
[* ]Thus the Prince de Conti was in opposition to Louis XV., and the Duke of Orleans to Louis XVI.
[† ]Frederick borrowed this from Fontenelle. J. A. 1812.
[* ]Our mock funerals of Washington, Hamilton, and Ames, our processions, escorts, public dinners, balls, &c., are more expensive, more troublesome, and infinitely less ingenious. J. A. 1812.
[† ]Logan. Not one drop of Logan’s blood remains. Jefferson’s Notes.
[* ]This is a truth; but by no means a justification of the system of nobility in France, nor in other parts of Europe. Not even in England without a more equitable representation of the Commons in the legislature. J. A. 1812.
[* ]Witness the quintuple directory and the triumvirate consulate. J. A.
[† ]Witness France and Europe in 1813. J. A.
[1 ]Adam Smith. Theory of Moral Sentiments, vol. i. pp. 125-141.
[* ]The style in these quotations from Shakspeare has little of the fluency, and less of that purity, which sometimes appear in his writings; but the sense is as immortal as human nature. J. A. 1813.
[* ]By John Adams.
[† ]France has thrown away all advantages by her want of wisdom.
[‡ ]The anti-federalists. J. A. 1813.
[* ]How are distinctions abolished now in 1813? J. A.
[* ]Condorcet. It was then my intention to have examined those letters at large; but the rage and fury of the Jacobinical journals against these discourses, increased as they proceeded, intimidated the printer, John Fenno, and convinced me, that to proceed would do more hurt than good. I therefore broke off abruptly. J. A. 1813.
[* ]See Napoleon’s speech, 20 December, 1812, at the close of these discourses.
[* ]Oh! that Dr. Price and Dr. Franklin had lived to read the addresses and answers, of 20 December, 1812, at the end of this volume. Jefferson has lived to see it. J. A. 1813.
[* ]Read the history of the world, from 1790 to 1813, as a comment.
[† ]Napoleon is not all this. J. A. 1813.
[* ]Frenchmen neither saw, heard, nor felt or understood this. J. A. 1813.
[* ]Americans paid no attention or regard to this. And a blind, mad rivalry between the north and the south is destroying all morality and sound policy. God grant that division, civil war, murders, assassination, and massacres may not soon grow out of these rivalries of states, families, and individuals.
[† ]This Boston pamphlet was drawn by the great James Otis. J. A. 1813.
[* ]The declaration of independence of 4 July, 1776, contained nothing but the Boston declaration of 1772 and the congress declaration of 1774. Such are the caprices of fortune. This declaration of rights was drawn by the little John Adams. The mighty Jefferson, by the declaration of independence of 4 July, 1776, carried away the glory of the great and the little. J. A. 1813.
[* ]This was a summary of the language of the world in 1790, in newspapers, pamphlets, and conversation. In 1813 we can judge of it, as the author of these discourses judged of it then, to the destruction of all his popularity.
[† ]View France, Europe, and America, in 1813, and compare the state of them all with this paragraph written twenty-three years ago! J. A.
[* ]The Duchess d’Enville, the mother of the Duc de la Rochefoucauld. The author heard those words from that lady’s own lips; with many other striking effusions of the strong and large mind of a great and excellent female character. J. A.
[1 ]Davila, liv. i. p. 8.
[* ]See the late correspondence between the Prince of Wales and his father, brother, &c. Also recollect the conduct of the Duke of Marlborough and Queen Anne and her ministers. By such combination of circumstances, what havoc is made with constitutions and administrations. 1804. (Editor’s note in the edition of 1805.)
[* ]This is not a chain of being from God to nothing; ergo, not liable to Dr. Johnson’s criticism, nor to the reviewer’s.
[* ]Voltaire and all other Frenchmen may strive to throw all the blame upon Catherine; but the Guises opposed her to the Bourbons and Montmorencis. Montmorenci opposed her and the Guises to the Bourbons. The Bourbons opposed Montmorenci to the Guises, to the queen, &c. &c. In short, all four parties in their turn opposed la France à la France. In point of public virtue, sincere religion, and real principle, there appears no difference between them.
[† ]Compare the conduct of our parties for twenty-four years,—our federalists and antifederalists; our republicans and federalists; how easily the federalists united with Clinton and Ingersoll in 1812, and the New England republicans with Jefferson and Madison in 1800! State rivalries threaten our tranquillity. Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts may keep us in hot water, as Valois, Bourbons, Montmorencis, and Guises did France. J. A. 1813.
[1 ]“Suivant le génie de son sexe,” omitted from the French translation.
[* ]With what sacrifices of family pride did these two haughty houses court the aid and influence of a harlot! J. A. 1813.
[* ]The French writers all endeavor to lay all the blame upon Catherine; but I can see no more selfishness in her, than in Montmorenci, the Cardinal, the Duke, Navarre, or Condé. Coligni seems to have had religion, but his conscience was very ambitious. The Admiral seems to have had somewhat of the spirit of martyrdom. But it may be doubted whether Montmorencis, Guises, Bourbons, Châtillons, or Medici, believed more than her relation, Leo X., who is said to have believed the fabula christi to be only a political institution.
[† ]Here were four families,—The King under his mother, the Guises, the Montmorencis, and the Bourbons. The coalitions and separations of these four houses, all struggling for superiority, all making religion the pretext, deluged France in blood. The King had the crown and the forms of law on his side, which gave him and his mother an advantage, and produced the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and others, more in number and ferocity than any produced by the other three. The conjunctions and oppositions of these four primary planets, disturbed the whole solar system. J. A. 1813.
[* ]That is, of nobility and third estate and clergy.
[† ]Napoleon, in 1812 and 1813, has determined the question. Indeed, he determined it in 1800 or before.
[‡ ]What is Napoleon in 1813?
[§ ]Men of letters, where are ye? Ask La Harpe what barrier they found.
[∥ ]This was written on Richmond Hill or Church Hill, in New York, when the author was Vice-president, and when the grandees, the warriors, and sachems of the Creek nation, with Mac Gillivray at their head, were lodged in sight and hearing. J. A. 1813.
[* ]Remember this was written in 1790. The blood of Louis and the government of Napoleon show to kings and people the truth.
[* ] Jura neget sibi lata, nihil non arroget armis. On this principle Great Britain claims the legislation of the ocean.
[* ]How could such a booby beget so sensible a man as Henry IV.? J. A.
[* ]Cromwell, when defeated with tapsters, forced them and others with religion.
[* ]The haughty, arrogant insolence of aristocracy, and the feeble, timorous patience and humility of democracy, are apparent in this and all other history. But when democracy gets the upper hand, it seems to be conscious that its power will be short, and makes haste to glut its vengeance by a plentiful harvest of blood and cruelty, murder, massacre, and devastation. Hence despotism! Hence Napoleon! Hence Cæsar! Hence Cromwell! Hence Charles XIL! Hence Zengis! Hence Tamerlane! Hence Kouli Khan!
[* ]Let not Geneva be forgotten or despised. Religious liberty owes it much respect, Servetus notwithstanding. J. A. 1813.
[* ]Every one of the three parties a mere oligarchical cabal.
[† ]Cut off the heads of the tallest poppies. Tarquin and all other heads of parties; Marat, Charlotte Corday, Robespierre. Danton, &c. &c.
[‡ ]All authority in one centre, and that centre the nation! The clergy, the nobility, and the third estate! Neither had a negative on the other. The representation of the third estate was a mere mockery. The King had no negative on the states; they none upon him. All was uncertainty, confusion, and anarchy. J. A. 1813.
[* ]The nation has found a mode of uniting all authority in one centre, and that centre Napoleon, who, in 1813, thinks he has cured the ideology of the nation; but he has not, nor his own. J. A.
[* ]The constitution of 1789.
[* ]Lorraine, the archetype of Laud. J. A.
[* ]Is it not astonishing that so great a man as Mr. Burke should tell the French nation that this constitution was a very good one? J. A. 1813.
[* ]Pretexts, cloaks, veils, masques. Hypocrisy, duplicity, intrigue, Machiavelism, Jesuitism, Pharisaical simulation. So says honest candor. So says naked frankness.
[* ]Poor Louis XVI., his Queen, sister, son, &c. soon exemplified this observation. J. A.
[* ]What an artful hyæna! J. A.
[* ]One fair character!
[† ]How deep a dungeon is the human heart! J. A.
[* ]How artfully Davila insinuates, that the Protestantism of the House was produced by the fulmination of the Pope against France and its allies! J. A.
[* ]The keys of the palace. One spark. J. A.
[* ]Precedence. Another spark. J. A.
[* ]A flame. A hornet’s nest disturbed. J. A.
[* ]A harlot preaches popery. Not the first, neither the last. J. A. 1813.
[* ]Aristotle’s Politics, lib. iv. ch. iv.
[* ]Compare this negotiation with that of Lord Howe with the committee of congress in 1776. J. A.
[* ]So says the world; not I. J. A.
[* ]France has tried another experiment, more tragical to all Europe, as well as to herself, as we see in the history of Napoleon, in 1813. Similar causes have produced similar effects, and always will. J. A.
[* ]Upon Franklin’s authority, the French adopted their government in one assembly.
[† ]The reign of the men of blood soon followed the writing of this, and produced horrors, massacres, drownings, guillotines, and butcheries, much worse than St. Bartholomew’s Day. J. A.
[‡ ]Lib. 3.
[1 ]On the Constitution of England, book ii. c. 1.
[* ]And better still in 1813, from the history of Napoleon, not forgetting Lafayette, Dumouriez, Pichegru; nor Marat, Robespierre, Sieyes, and Talleyrand. Nor should our own country be forgotten. J. A.