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SCOTT’S LIFE OF NAPOLEON 1828 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XX - Essays on French History and Historians 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XX - Essays on French History and Historians, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by John C. Cairns (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985).
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SCOTT’S LIFE OF NAPOLEON
Westminster Review, IX (Apr., 1828), 251-313. Headed: “Art. I.—The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, Emperor of the French. With a Preliminary View of the French Revolution. By the Author of ‘Waverley,’ &c. [Walter Scott.] In Nine Volumes. Edinburgh [: Cadell; London. Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green], 1827.” Running titles: “French Revolution— / Scott’s Life of Napoleon.” Unsigned. Pamphlet offprint, with title page reading: “A / Critical Examination / of the / Preliminary View / of the / French Revolution, / prefixed to / Sir Walter Scott’s Life of Bonaparte. / With Observations on the Work Itself. / From the Westminster Review, No. XVIII.” Printed London. Hansard, 1828. Headed: “Critical Examination, &c. &c. &c.” Paginated 1-63; no running titles. Unsigned. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Sir Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, in the 18th number of the Westminster Review” (MacMinn, 10). The copies of the offprint in Mill’s library, Somerville College, have no corrections or emendations.
For comment on the essay, see xliii-xlvi and xcv-xcvi above.
Scott’s Life of Napoleon
sir walter scott cannot write any thing which, as a literary composition, will not be read with pleasure; and if it were possible to consider the work before us merely as a well-told story, we are not sure that it is inferior even to the most perfect of his former productions. Few books, indeed, have ever afforded so much for minute criticism to fasten upon; and that description of critics with whom the substitution of one connecting particle where another would have been more appropriate is a crime for which all the higher excellencies of composition cannot atone, have made so great a noise concerning its small blemishes, that comparatively little has been heard of its uncommon merits.[*] But the extreme of carelessness in the minutiae of style, a fault always more endurable than the opposite one of a too studious and visible attention to them, is pardonable, and almost allowable, in a writer who has merits of so much higher a rank than mere correctness. In Sir Walter Scott, no faults are worth noting except those which impair the effect of beauties. The author who could conceive and execute the admirable narrative of Napoleon’s first Italian expedition, in the third volume,[†] could afford to be inelegant, to be even ungrammatical, in every page. His occasional repetitions, and the intermixture of many inappropriate, among many felicitous, similies, will be forgiven by those who know how few writers are capable of unfolding a complicated and intricate train of events so that it shall appear simple and intelligible, and of maintaining, throughout a voluminous work, so lively, rapid, and spirited a style, that the interest never flags, the attention never is wearied; in which qualities this work pre-eminently excels.
But these excellencies do not suffice to constitute a history. From that which is offered to the public as a record of real events, something more is required than that it should be sprightly and entertaining. The Life of Napoleon would be admirable as a romance: to have made it any thing higher, would have required far other endowments than had been displayed even in the most finished performances of the Author of Waverley.[‡]
If it be any part of the duty of an historian to turn the facts of history to any use; and if a fact can be of use only by being made subservient either to the confirmation or illustration of a principle; the historian who is fit for his office must be well disciplined in the art of connecting facts into principles, and applying principles to the explanation of facts: he must be a man familiar with generalization and general views; a man whose knowledge is systematic, whose mind can embrace classes as well as individuals, who can discriminate between the results of narrow and partial observation, and those of enlarged experience; in short, a philosopher. Further, if it be ever the duty of an historian to elicit real facts, from vague, scanty, or conflicting, testimony, it is necessary that he should be profoundly skilled in the difficult art of weighing evidence: he must be capable of combining together a chain of circumstances, each of which proves nothing by itself, but every thing when skilfully combined; he must be practised in striking the balance between opposing testimonies, or between testimony on the one side and probability on the other; he must be, to sum up this also in one word, a consummate judge. Sir Walter Scott’s title to these high qualifications still remained to be established. It is in the present volumes that we must look for the proof of it, if proof is to be found.
Of the degree in which he possessed those more common qualities, which suffice for giving a correct statement of ordinary events—the qualities of industry, candour, and impartiality—the public had some means of judging from his previous performances. And first, with respect to industry; while his earlier writings had proved how much he is capable of, his later ones had afforded no less conclusive evidence, that any degree of pains employed upon his productions, more than was necessary to their sale, was, in his estimation, superfluous. Applying himself in this frame of mind to the composition of an historical work, it was not very likely that he should have recourse to any other than the vulgar authorities, nor, consequently, that he should take any other than the vulgar view of the events which he relates. And the celerity with which he projected and completed a work which, to execute it tolerably, would have required many years reading, was a satisfactory proof, if there were no other, that, on this point at least, the presumption had not been fallacious.
With respect to his candour: if the studied forbearance towards political adversaries which distinguishes his writings, had flowed from a genuine, passionate, and overpowering love of truth, there would have been room for highly favourable anticipations indeed. But the prevailing tone of his works in every other respect, forbids us to ascribe to any such cause his specious semblance of impartiality. There is sufficient evidence in Sir Walter Scott’s writings, that he is a person of a mild and tolerant disposition, constitutionally exempt from acrimony of all kinds, with a decided bias towards aristocratic persons and aristocratic opinions, but not attaching so much importance to the difference between one opinion and another, as to feel, even towards persons of the most opposite principles, much positive dislike. This original liberality, and almost indifference, in matters of opinion, enabled him to fall easily into a practice which he appears to have prescribed to himself from an early period—that of adopting such a mode of writing as should be best calculated to win the good word and good opinion of every body. For this purpose he has laboured, with a skill and success surpassing all previous example; and since to please all is to please persons of all political opinions, the precise degree of compromise conducive to this end, was very accurately calculated, and studiously employed. All the substantial advantage in point of opinion must, indeed, be given to the aristocracy, because they, being accustomed to entire subservience, can ill bear any thing which falls far short of it; while, on the other hand, even democrats and democratic principles must be treated with a certain appearance of respect, because, the object being to please every body, it will not do to make intemperate and offensive attacks either upon men or opinions in which any considerable section of the reading public take an interest. But the democrats, being accustomed to pure abuse, are tolerably well satisfied when they meet with a writer in whom the abuse is a little qualified; and their favour is sufficiently attained by keeping somewhat to the liberal side of high Tory opinions, and allowing a fair share of the common feelings and intellect of men, to persons who, by Tory writers in general, are considered as destitute of them, being addicted to the notion that the House of Commons should represent the people, and similar heterodoxies. By this mark, accordingly, Sir Walter Scott has guided himself; and has taken pains to be, on all occasions, a little more just towards the friends of the people than is usual with their enemies. His Old Mortality is a miserable travestie of the Scottish Covenanters, compared with Laing’s History, or Mr. Galt’s Ringan Gilhaize;[*] and so is his View of the French Revolution, compared with Mignet or Bailleul.[†] But a bigotted Tory can scarcely read either work without some mitigation of his prejudices. Sir Walter Scott is not the man from whom it could be expected that he should be an unbiassed judge between the aristocracy and the people; but considering him as the advocate of the aristocracy against the people, he is not altogether an illiberal or disingenuous one.
The work may be appropriately divided into two parts; the History of the French Revolution, and that of the Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. This is somewhat more than a merely chronological division. The two subjects are as unlike as those of the Iliad and of the Odyssey; though, like these, they form a portion of the same series of events, and concern in part the same persons. The former period seems to contain nothing but what is extraordinary; the latter, hardly any thing but what is common-place. The reign of Napoleon affords little or nothing to the historian, except ordinary characters and ordinary events. The career which he ran, had been trodden times out of number by successful adventurers; there have never been wanting just such men as he, when such prizes have been attainable by them: the most obvious causes suffice to account for every event in his history: to comprehend it thoroughly, there needed no extraordinary depth of philosophy; the lowest impulses of the lowest description of human beings are the moving principle of the whole, and few men know and understand less of these than they ought. Where one man is the sole disposer of events, history is easily written: it is only to study the character of that one man: if this be vulgar, all is vulgar; if it be peculiar, he who has seized its peculiarities has the key to all which may appear remarkable in the events of the period. The lines of Napoleon’s character are few, and strongly marked: to trace them correctly, far inferior powers to those of Sir Walter Scott would have been sufficient. And if his story be inaccurate, as we have no doubt that it is, in many of the details, those details are of such sovereign unimportance for any purpose of utility or instruction, that we, for our share, should have little objection, provided they be amusing, to dispense altogether with their being true.
To write the history of the French Revolution was a task requiring far other powers, involving far other difficulties. To say that, on no occasion, did surprising events succeed one another with such breathless rapidity, that never were effects so extraordinary produced by such a complication of causes, nor in so short a space of time, would be to form a very inadequate idea of the peculiarities of that momentous period, considered as a theme for history. It was marked by a characteristic still more embarrassing to such men as those by whom history is commonly written. The moving forces in this vast convulsion, the springs by which so much complex machinery was now set in motion, now stopt, now swept away, were of a class for the laws of whose action the dictionary of historical common-places does not yet afford one established formula—a class which the routine-historian has not yet been taught by familiarity to fancy that he understands. Heretofore, when a change of government had been effected by force in an extensive and populous country, the revolution had been made always by, and commonly for, a few: the French Revolution was emphatically the work of the people. Commenced by the people, carried on by the people, defended by the people with a heroism and self-devotion unexampled in any other period of modern history, at length terminated by the people when they awoke from the frenzy into which the dogged resistance of the privileged classes against the introduction of any form whatever of representative government, had driven them; the French Revolution will never be more than superficially understood, by the man who is but superficially acquainted with the nature and movements of popular enthusiasm. That mighty power, of which, but for the French Revolution, mankind perhaps would never have known the surpassing strength—that force which converts a whole people into heroes, which binds an entire nation together as one man, was able, not merely to overpower all other forces, but to draw them into its own line, and convert them into auxiliaries to itself. The vulgar politician finds to his confusion (if indeed it is in the power of any vulgar politician to make the discovery), that all the causes which he is in the habit of calling in upon other occasions to account for every thing in history which perplexes him, are powerless here; that party interests, and class interests, and personal interests, and individual depravity, and individual virtue, and even the highest endowments of individual intellect and genius, appear to influence the train of events only when they fall in with it, and add force to the current, which, as often as they are thrown into opposition with it, they are found inadequate to withstand. The rules by which such a period is to be judged of, must not be common rules: generalizations drawn from the events of ordinary times, fail here of affording even that specious appearance of explanation, which is the utmost that such empirical philosophy can ever accomplish. The man who is yet to come, the philosophical historian of the French Revolution, will leave these solemn plausibilities far behind, and will draw his philosophy from the primaeval fountain of human nature itself. Whatever else he may derive from what are called the records of past times, a lesson which he will not learn from them is, what is meant by a people; or from what causes, and in obedience to what laws, the thing, which that name expresses, is accustomed to act, on those rare occasions on which the opportunity of acting is allowed to it, and it is quite possible to be a tolerable poet, and much more than a tolerable novelist, without being able to rise to the comprehension of that one idea, or to know more of those laws and those principles than a child in the cradle.
We have stated but a part of the inherent difficulties of the subject. That the very facts of the French Revolution, from the multitude of conflicting testimonies, are incapable of being elicited but by one who possesses all the endowments of the most sagacious and practised judge, is still but a part, perhaps not the greatest part, of those difficulties. Suppose the facts ascertained—to interpret and account for them would demand, along with the most minute knowledge of the circumstances of France and of the French people for centuries back, a mind profoundly conversant with human nature under all the modifications superinduced by acting upon the extensive theatre of a whole nation; and the deepest insight into the springs of human society, into the causes by the perpetual and often unseen agency of which, a nation is made to be what it is, in respect to civilization, morals, modes of thinking, physical condition, and social relations. Nor is this all. To judge of the French Revolution, is to judge statesmen, and the acts of statesmen, in novel and critical situations. It is to form an estimate of great changes in the government and institutions of a country; of new laws established, of old ones overthrown, and of the manner in which the helm of government was conducted through a course beset with perils and difficulties more trying, perhaps, than were ever before experienced by a great and powerful nation. It is not too much to expect, that the writer, whose judgment is to guide that of his readers in such high concerns, shall himself know as much as philosophy and experience can teach, of the science of government and legislation: that he shall be well skilled both in the theory and in the practice of politics; shall know at the same time what is best in itself, and how to make allowance for the obstacles and counteracting forces, which often render what is not best in itself, necessary either as a precaution or as a compromise.
To this rare combination of qualities, Sir Walter Scott has no claim. In political and social philosophy his principles are all summed up in the orthodox one, that whatever is English is best; best, not for England only, but for every country in Christendom, or probably the world. By starting from this point it must be acknowledged that much trouble is saved, and not a little of what is apt to be thought the duty of a historian, very comfortably abridged. To a mind properly imbued with this axiom, to sit in judgment upon the statesmen or institutions of other countries is an easy task. To inquire patiently into the suitableness of a system of government to the nature of man in general, or to the circumstances of any nation in particular; to examine how far it did or did not provide for the exigencies of that nation; to take account of the degree in which its framers might expect that causes peculiar to that nation would promote, modify, or impede, its action; and, if it be pronounced bad, to consider what means they had by whom it was adopted, of establishing any thing better; all this, to a person of such enlarged views, is unnecessary labour. Sir Walter Scott settles all these questions in a moment, by a summary appeal to that ever-ready standard of comparison, English practice. Whatever he finds here established, or whatever bears the same name with any thing which is here established, is excellent, and if the statesmen of France, unfortunately for themselves, not judging of things by the same comprehensive rule, formed a different opinion, the folly thus evinced accounts for all the subsequent misfortunes of their country. Should an institution happen not to be English, it is condemned: and here something more of thought is required in making out a case against it, though not much; for nobody is ignorant how ridiculously easy it is to find inconveniences and dangers on one side of every political question, sufficient to decide it, if we only take care to keep our eyes well shut to the inconveniences and dangers on the other. Although, too, no other reasons for condemnation should be discoverable, there is one argument against all systems that are not English, which can never be wanting; they are untried theories: no free institutions except ours, according to our author, having ever had the sanction of experience; for it never occurs to him that the principle of an institution may have been tried successfully any number of times, although the exact model may be to be found nowhere.
While Sir Walter Scott’s acquirements are of this mean description, in the science of politics, and the philosophy of the social union, he is almost equally deficient in that acquaintance with facts, without which the most philosophical statesman is no better qualified to judge what is fittest for a nation, than the most profound physician to prescribe what is fittest for a patient whom he has not seen. There is no proof, in this work of Sir Walter Scott, that he has taken the trouble to make himself well acquainted with the state of France at the time when the Revolution broke out; with the physical condition and mental peculiarities of the people, the habitual feelings and modes of thinking of the different classes of society, and the working of the great machine of government in the detail. Not only is there no proof that he has made himself well acquainted with these circumstances, but there is conclusive proof that he has not made himself acquainted with them at all; that he has scarcely so much as adverted to them as being among the things which it is necessary for a historian of the Revolution to know; and has therefore committed all the mistakes that are incident to a historian who is thoroughly unacquainted with the spirit of the times which he is describing. His complete ignorance of the position in which individuals and parties were placed, leads him regularly to ascribe their actions to other than the true causes. He blames men who did the best they could, for not doing better; treats men who had only a choice of inconveniences, as if they were the masters of events, and could regulate them as they pleased; reproaches men who were beset by dangers on both sides, because they did not, to avoid the dangers on one side, precipitate themselves into those on the other; goes to search for discreditable motives at an immense distance, when the most creditable ones were obviously afforded by the state of affairs; and judges of the conduct of men in the crisis of a revolution, by the same standard which he would have applied to persons securely in possession of the governing power in peaceable times.
Such and no higher being the qualifications which Sir Walter Scott brings to the task of making an estimate, moral and philosophical, of the French Revolution; the reader may judge what is the value of his opinions on the subject, and how well the conception which his book conveys of the Revolution resembles its real character. The work has, in addition to these, all the defects of a book hastily written: it is utterly without research. The author has been satisfied with resorting to the most hackneyed and obvious authorities: he has read perhaps one or two of the professed histories of the period; some of the more popular of the memoirs he has consulted, but we find it difficult to believe that he has read them: he has left but few references at the bottom of the page to betray to the public in general the superficiality of his reading, but, that some even of these few are made from memory, is demonstrated by his referring, for proof of an assertion, to the very passage which proves the assertion to be false.* The documents which breathe the living spirit of the time, the only monuments of really cotemporary history, (which is the most different thing imaginable from history written by cotemporaries, after they have undergone a thousand changes of opinion and feeling, and when the genuine impression of the present events has faded from their recollection) are the decrees of the national assemblies, the speeches of their members, the papers laid before them, and the immensely numerous books, pamphlets, and periodicals, of the day. These genuine authorities, as neither fame nor profit was to be got by consulting them, our author had not thought it necessary to consult. We doubt whether he has given, to more than two or three of them, even the most cursory perusal.
It may be thought surprising, that a book should be offered to the public, by so distinguished a writer, as the history of so recent and so universally interesting a period, in which so little pains have been taken to ensure that which, all other qualities being put out of the question, is at any rate a sine quâ non of history, namely, truth. But our author enjoyed two advantages, either of which would have made it safe for him to deviate from the truth even more widely than he has: he wrote for readers thoroughly ignorant of the subject, and for readers the whole of whose prepossessions were more or less strongly on his side. For being ignorant of the subject, some of his readers have the excuse, that to this very hour there does not exist one tolerable account of this remarkable portion of history, in the English tongue. But the number of Englishmen to whom works written in the French language are accessible, is now so great, that the marvellous extent of their ignorance respecting the French Revolution, must be regarded as a proof, that this reading nation chuses to read dissertations on Aeolic Digammas, or Iron Masks,[*] or any other matter of frivolous and idle curiosity, sooner than any thing which will furnish them with evidence upon matters on which their minds have been made up without it. For ignorance has not here had the effect which conscious ignorance in a well-regulated mind ought to have, that of preventing them from forming any opinion. Acted upon as their ignorance has been, from day to day and from year to year, by the torrents of unmeasured and undiscriminating invective which have been poured forth against the Revolution, by men who knew nearly as little about it as the public themselves, but who knew perfectly what mode of treating the subject would be acceptable to those on whom the reputation and the sale of their lucubrations depended; a feeling has been generated, which predisposes men to credit upon any evidence or no evidence, any assertion with respect to the French Revolution or revolutionists, provided only it be sufficiently unfavourable: and he who would seek to refute even the most extravagant of these assertions, finds it difficult to obtain a hearing, and scarcely possible to persuade.
It cannot, however, be deemed of small importance to the best interests of mankind, that the opinions which they form on such a subject as the French Revolution, should be correct opinions. So long as all who hold the lot of mankind to be capable of any material improvement, or conceive that any good can be accomplished by taking the powers of government out of the hands of those who are interested in abusing them, are deemed to be sufficiently answered by pointing to the calamitous issue of that great experiment; so long it will be a duty not to suffer that its history should be rendered the fitter to form the groundwork of these decisive conclusions, by being falsified and garbled. It is not in such an article as the present, that we can pretend to sketch the true history or trace the character of the French Revolution. But we can at least shew that Sir Walter Scott is not to be trusted; which we the more willingly do, as, in refuting his misrepresentations, we are exposing à fortiori those of the crowd of hirelings, who with inferior abilities, but with the same purposes, daily essay to fling each his minute and separate portion of dirt upon some of the noblest deeds and brightest characters in history. Such men are not important enough for any other chastisement than they may indirectly suffer, from the blow aimed at a more formidable enemy, and we shall mention them no further in this notice.
The work opens with a sketch of the state of France before the Revolution, and a view of the remote causes of that catastrophe. The whole of this is comprehended in two chapters, which consist of seventy-nine pages: a shorter space, therefore, than is frequently taken up by the dull introductions of our author’s novels, is all that he allows for what ought to be the quintessence of the internal history of France during more than a century. To have executed this portion of his task well, would of itself have required more reading and research than he has given to the entire work. It is almost unnecessary to say, therefore, that he has performed it ill, and has not only failed to communicate full and accurate knowledge, but has betrayed the lamentable extent of his own ignorance. This is the more to be regretted, as he has stated the little which he knows, with considerable force, and very tolerable fairness. The influence of such an aristocracy as that of France upon the national literature, is powerfully delineated; the character of the noblesse and clergy, during the fifty years preceding the Revolution, is traced with an indulgent, but with no feeble hand: and the exclusion of the tiers-état, that is, of almost the whole of the talent, and much the greater part of the opulence, of France, from all employment or influence in the affairs of the state, is deservedly reprobated. Our author, however, shares the vulgar error, which considers this monopoly of office as the principal, and almost the sole, cause of the Revolution: at least we may gather as much from the fulness with which he developes and expatiates upon it, while all the other causes are lumped together in a short and passing notice. This is by no means a trifling error; on the contrary, few can be named, which have contributed more to prevent the Revolution from being understood, or to lend an apparent sanction to the conclusions which aristocratic logic has drawn from it for aristocratic purposes. We dwell not upon the gross injustice towards the eminent men who originally took the lead in the Revolution, and whom this theory represents as ambitious spirits, struggling for no higher object than the removal of their personal disabilities, instead of patriots striving to free their country from a yoke which weighed it down to the earth. We shall not insist upon this, characteristic though it be—for thus it is that our author always contrives to disguise or throw into the shade whatever is exalted in purpose or generous in sentiment, in those whose principles he disapproves, while he gives credit to the royalists for the most chivalrous disinterestedness and honour, not only without evidence, but in direct contradiction to the testimony of the better members of their own body. But (to say no more upon this point) mark the implied imputation upon the French people, which this theory of the Revolution conveys. If the excesses of the Revolution had no greater provocation than our author tells us of, what must not we think of them? Slur over the fact that every man’s liberty was at the mercy of every minister or clerk of a minister, or lacquey of a minister, or mistress of a lacquey of a minister—that every man’s property was at the mercy of intendants and subdélégués, and the whole fry of agents and sub-agents in one of the most odious systems of fiscal tyranny ever known; sink all this, and a hundred things besides, and fix upon non-admissibility to office as the great practical grievance of the tiers-état, and what is the inference? For our author certainly will not succeed in persuading anybody, that it was the ineligibility of the merchants and avocats of Paris and Bordeaux to public offices, and of their sons to promotion in the army, which caused the peasants of several of the provinces of France to rise in arms and burn the houses of their seigneurs:[*] the provocations, therefore, which are assigned, being obviously insufficient, and the real ones having been carelessly overlooked or purposely passed over, the only explanation which seems to offer itself is the perversity of the people: of whose supposed readiness at all times, unless kept down by terror, to rise against their superiors and make war upon person and property, another example is thus manufactured.
Sir Walter Scott may be well assured that the grievances which could excite in the peasantry feelings of such bitter hatred towards the privileged classes, were grievances which affected themselves, and not other people. The Roman tribune understood the nature of the people much better, when he reproached them with being abundantly eager and zealous when their efforts were required to prevent the usurpation of their lands, or protect their persons from the rapacity and cruelty of their creditors, but deaf to the call of their leaders when there was nothing to contend for except the privilege of rewarding those leaders with offices and honours.[*] The feelings of the people are not wont to be excited by an abstract principle. It is not a distant or a contingent evil which works upon them. The tyranny which excites them to resistance must be felt, not conceived; they must discover it by their sensations, not by their reason. The abuses which they resent, are those which bear upon their direct interests; which “come home to their business and bosoms.”[†] Never yet did a people hate their superiors, but for some real or imagined wrong; never were they stimulated to such outrages as those which signalized the breaking out of the French Revolution, except by the intolerable pressure of active, grinding oppression. And in no country, pretending to civilization, had the peasantry been so borne down by oppression as in France. “Les jeunes gens et les étrangers,” says Madame de Staël.
qui n’ont pas connu la France avant la révolution, et qui voient aujourd’hui le peuple enrichi par la division des propriétés et la suppression des dímes et du régime féodal, ne peuvent avoir l’idée de la situation de ce pays, lorsque la nation portait le poids de tous les priviléges. Les partisans de l’esclavage dans les colonies ont souvent dit qu’un paysan de France était plus malheureux qu’un nègre. . . . La misère accroît l’ignorance, l’ignorance accroît la misère; et quand on se demande, pourquoi le peuple François a été si cruel dans la révolution, on ne peut en trouver la cause que dans l’absence de bonheur, qui conduit a l’absence de moralité.*
Our author himself observes, that in La Vendée alone had the privileged classes done their duty towards the cultivators of the soil, and that in La Vendée alone was any stand made by those cultivators in their defence.[‡] This observation is an approach to the true theory of the causes of the Revolution, and is conceived in a spirit of which it were to be wished that there were more frequent examples in these volumes. Indications of such a spirit are indeed not rare in his occasional remarks; in which respect he resembles many other writers, who have falsified history in the gross, as thoroughly as himself. He is far too acute not to see a part of the truth; far too slightly acquainted with the monuments of the times, to have the faintest or most distant perception of it as a whole. We may perhaps take some future opportunity of making known to our readers, what substantial reasons the peasants had for detesting both the government and their seigneurs. In the meantime, we shall do no more than refer them to a book which is in every man’s hands. If, in place of his first two chapters, Sir Walter Scott had merely reprinted the concluding dissertation in the first volume of Arthur Young’s excellent work on France,[*] he would have done more to convey a just idea of the causes of the French Revolution than will be done by twenty such productions as his “Preliminary View.” We believe, that most men who have read that dissertation, will exclaim with its author, who had himself seen and heard all he describes—that no man of common sense and feeling can lament the fall of such a government, or look with any but a mitigated severity upon the terrible retribution which an oppressed people exacted from their tyrants the moment they were free.
Among the causes which most powerfully promoted, or at least directed, the tendency to change, our author justly assigns a high rank to the increased influence of literature. And here we may be sure that the opportunity is eagerly seized, of recommending himself to our moral public, by an invective against the French philosophers, as they are termed; principally upon the two points of licentiousness and irreligion. In the course of this diatribe, our author manifests no very accurate knowledge of the writings or lives of these objects of his somewhat undiscriminating dislike. As for fairness, it would be too much to expect it from such a writer on such a subject; and accordingly we are not surprised to find the immense benefits which the philosophers conferred upon their country and mankind, altogether overlooked, while whatever either is, or can be made to appear, objectionable in them or in their works, is grossly exaggerated. Thus, they are gravely stated to have been engaged in a sort of “anti-crusade,” not only against Christianity, but against “religious principles of every kind;”[†] a description which, if applicable at all, can apply only to one or two of them, and those neither the ablest nor the most influential, perhaps to one only, and him not a Frenchman, the Baron d’Holbach; while on the other hand, how large a portion of the writings of Rousseau, and especially of Voltaire, is taken up in maintaining and enforcing the being and attributes of God, is known to every one who has read them. The ancient fiction of a “league,” a “conspiracy,”[‡] is revived; when it is notorious, that the supposed heads of this conspiracy, Voltaire and Rousseau, were at open war with each other, that Condorcet, in like manner, did not disguise his contempt for Mably,[§] that Turgot wrote against Helvétius,[¶] while equal dissensions and differences of opinion existed among the less distingished thinkers and writers of the class; and that nothing like an organized system of concert or co-operation ever existed among any portion of their number. Our author can know little of French literary history, or he would not talk of the close union and alliance which existed among the philosophers, “and more especially the Encyclopedists”[*] —we presume, between Diderot and d’Alembert—for of these two individuals only was this formidable corps, whose name has so long resounded from every corner of Europe, composed; they having written (with scarcely any exception but that of a small number of articles by Voltaire) the whole of the moral, theological, and metaphysical part of the Encyclopédie;[†] and it is worthy of remark, that of this pair of conspirators against religion, d’Alembert never published a single line against it. With respect to licentiousness, our author forgets that what was the vice of their age and of the society in which they moved, cannot with justice be laid at their door; it was not they who made French society what it was; on the contrary, it was through the influence principally of their writings, that it ever became any thing else. It is high time that Sir Walter Scott should be told, if he has not yet found it out, that licentiousness was a quality with which what are termed the philosophers were not more, but, on the contrary, less chargeable, than most writers of their day; that none of the authors peculiarly remarkable for it were to be found in their ranks, while several of those most distinguished by it (among whom it is sufficient to name Piron) were no less characterized by a bitter hostility against the persons and principles of the philosophers: that the virtues most opposite to licentiousness, found in Rousseau, if not always a consistent, at least an enthusiastic, advocate, and that many of the most distinguished among the philosophical writers, as Condillac, Condorcet, and above all, Turgot, were pure on this point, some of them to a degree of scrupulosity. However, it must be admitted, that several of the writers whom our author mentions, have produced works in some degree deserving the character which he assigns to them. Most certainly we do not quarrel with him for expressing his disapprobation of these writings: he should remember, however, that there ought to be bounds even to the most merited censure, and that there is still an immense distance between any licentiousness of which they can be accused, and that libertinism, which he justly characterizes as inconsistent with manly and virtuous patriotism. Because the ideas prevalent in a country allow a certain latitude of speaking, or even of acting, with respect to the branch of morality here concerned, it does not follow that all who in any degree avail themselves of this licence must therefore make the pursuit of sensual gratifications the business of their lives. Such an occupation, like the inordinate pursuit of every other merely individual enjoyment, is incapable of co-existing with any nobler aspirations, and if it does not begin, is sure to terminate, in utter selfishness; but it is false that voluptuousness, in this sense of the word, was, or is, more prevalent in France than in any other nation; and most especially is it false that any portion of the philosophers, either in their own lives, or in the doctrines and principles they inculcated, are chargeable with it.*
Our author does not, like others of the alarmists, represent the philosophers, with the “licence and infidelity”[*] which they promoted, as the sole causes of, and movers in, the Revolution. He owns that a great political change would have been needed, and would have taken place,
had the French court and her higher orders retained the simple and virtuous manners of Sparta, united with the strong and pure faith of primitive Christians. The difference lay in this, that a simple, virtuous, and religious people, would have rested content with such changes and alterations in the constitution of their government as might remove the evils of which they had just and pressing reason to complain. They would have endeavoured to redress obvious and practical errors in the body politic, without being led into extremes, either by the love of realizing visionary theories, the vanity of enforcing their own particular philosophical or political doctrines, or the selfish arguments of demagogues, who, in the prospect of bettering their own situation by wealth, or obtaining scope for their ambition, aspired, in the words of the dramatic poet, to throw the elements of society into confusion, and thus
Now, inasmuch as the most moral and religious people that ever existed, the English of the reign of Charles I, carried their “changes and alterations” so far as to abolish monarchy and cut off the king’s head, we see that our author’s ideas of avoiding “extremes” and redressing “obvious and practical errors,” are of a tolerably radical extent.
It well becomes him to rail at theorists, who can overlook such a fact because it interferes with his theory. But it is ever thus with those who style themselves par excellence the men of practice and experience.
Our author takes a juster view of the causes which produced the errors of the Revolution, in the following acute and original remarks on the state of infancy in which the public mind had been kept by the restraints on the press.
An essay on the French monarchy, showing by what means the existing institutions might have been brought more into union with the wishes and wants of the people, must have procured for its author a place in the Bastille, and yet subsequent events have shown, that a system which might have introduced prudently and gradually into the decayed frame of the French government the spirit of liberty, which was originally inherent in every feudal monarchy, would have been the most valuable present which political wisdom could have rendered to the country. The bonds which pressed so heavily on the subject might thus have been gradually slackened, and at length totally removed, without the perilous expedient of casting them all loose at once. But the philosophers, who had certainly talent sufficient for the purpose, were not permitted to apply to the state of the French government the original principles on which it was founded, or to trace the manner in which usurpations and abuses had taken place, and propose a mode, by which, without varying its form, those encroachments might be restrained, and those abuses corrected. An author was indeed at liberty to speculate at any length upon general doctrines of government; he might imagine to himself an Utopia or Atalantis, and argue upon abstract ideas of the rights in which government originates; but on no account was he permitted to render any of his lucubrations practically useful, by adapting them to the municipal regulations of France. The political sage was placed with regard to his country, in the condition of a physician prescribing for the favourite sultana of some jealous despot, whom he is required to cure without seeing his patient, and without obtaining any accurate knowledge of her malady, its symptoms, and its progress. In this manner the theory of government was kept studiously separated from the practice. The political philosopher might, if he pleased, speculate upon the former, but he was prohibited, under severe personal penalties, to illustrate the subject by any allusions to the latter. Thus, the eloquent and profound work of Montesquieu[*] professed, indeed, to explain the general rights of the people, and the principles on which government itself rested, but his pages shew no mode by which these could be resorted to for the reformation of the constitution of his country. He laid before the patient a medical treatise on disease in general, instead of a special prescription, applying to his peculiar habits and distemper.
In consequence of these unhappy restrictions upon open and manly political discussion, the French government in its actual state was never represented as capable of either improvement or regeneration; and while general and abstract doctrines of original freedom were everywhere the subject of eulogy, it was never considered for a moment in what manner these new and more liberal principles could be applied to the improvement of the existing system. The natural conclusion must have been, that the monarchical government in France was either perfection in itself, and consequently stood in need of no reformation, or that it was so utterly inconsistent with the liberties of the people as to be susceptible of none. No one was hardy enough to claim for it the former character, and least of all those who presided in its councils, and seemed to acknowledge the imperfection of the system by prohibiting all discussion on the subject. It seemed, therefore, to follow, as no unfair inference, that to obtain the advantages, which the new elementary doctrines held forth, and which were so desirable and so much desired, a total abolition of the existing government to its very foundation, was an indispensable preliminary; and there is little doubt that this opinion prevailed so generally at the time of the Revolution, as to prevent any firm or resolute stand being made in defence even of such of the actual institutions of France as might have been amalgamated with the proposed reform.*
This is well thought, and well expressed; and the illustration which concludes the first paragraph, has a merit which our author’s figurative illustrations do not always possess; it really illustrates.
The reign of Louis XVI previous to the Revolution, is sketched in our author’s usual lively manner; the character of that well-meaning, but weak and vacillating prince, is justly estimated, and the series of blunders by which the court not only precipitated the crisis, but threw away the chances of giving it a direction favourable to themselves, are tolerably exposed.[*] But what our author sees and condemns in these proceedings is their weakness only, not their wickedness. The frantic struggles of enraged despotism to put down by force that rising spirit of liberty, which it already hated and feared with as much intensity as now after twenty years of exile—these are to be mildly censured, not for the atrocity of the end, but for the inefficacy of the means, and because the conspirators, being as imbecile as they were base, had the awkwardness to endanger their precious persons and privileges by the consequences of failure. A government, beggared by its profligate expenditure, exhausts every illegal resource, and tries all that can be done by the most desperate and tyrannical expedients to extort money from the people without giving them in return those constitutional reforms to which they were entitled; and this conduct appears to our author highly blameable, because it was bad policy, and rendered the crown “odious and contemptible.”[†] A government does its utmost to tread out the few sparks which centuries had not extinguished of freedom and constitutional control—it does this not so much as a year before the assembly is convened, which is destined to give to France a representative constitution; and this our author condemns—why? Because it excites “national discontent!”[‡] So liberal and indulgent is Sir Walter Scott towards the royalists: but his liberality and indulgence stop there. When every violence which tyranny prompted and fear would permit, has been tried in vain, this government at length has recourse to the people, and condescends to ask for what it has at last found that it no longer has power to seize: the National Assembly meets, and by means of a temporary popular enthusiasm, wrings from the government ten times as many of its unjust privileges, as the parliaments had ever dreamed of questioning; it adds, by its reforms, the parliaments themselves, and the whole of the privileged classes, to the number of its enemies;—and now, if the Assembly is not so silly as to suppose that the power of misrule has been resigned willingly, if it harbours even a suspicion that the fate of the parliaments is in reserve for it, or takes the commonest precaution to secure itself against the hostility of the court, and of the numerous and powerful classes whom it has offended,—not only its conduct is disapproved of, but its motives are misconstrued, and its whole system of action tortured and perverted. “Et voilà justement comme on écrit l’histoire.”*
There is something amusing in the naïveté with which our author lays it down, that the elections ought to have been tampered with, to obtain returns favourable to the court; evidently without the slightest suspicion that a course so perfectly according to the English model, can deserve or incur the disapprobation of any body. He says, with equal gravity, that the public mind ought to have been preoccupied with arguments of a sound and virtuous tendency. This is extremely fine; but by whom preoccupied? By the court and aristocracy of France? “Sound and virtuous”[*] arguments from such a quarter would indeed have been something new. By Necker? Does our author suppose that he could have retained his office for an hour, if he had attempted to promulgate among the people, either in his ministerial or in his private capacity, ideas of rational freedom? Necker shewed himself, on more than one occasion during the Revolution, unequal to the great difficulties of his very trying situation; but a writer who can so little appreciate those difficulties is scarcely entitled to sit in judgment on him, and affect to point out by what means he might have been more successful.
There was a reason, more than Sir Walter Scott dreams of, for doing nothing to gain over the tiers-état to the court. Nobody doubted that they would be on the side of the court, without prompting. It was not from the commons, but from the privileged orders, that all resistance to the will of the monarch had previously come; it was they who, when called upon for the sacrifice of their pecuniary immunities, had demanded the convocation of the Etats Généraux to sustain them in their refusal. The commons, it was well known, were, and with good reason, inveterately hostile to the privileged orders, but they neither were, nor did any one suppose them to be, disaffected to the king; on the contrary, the privileged classes openly proclaimed that the tiers-état would be, as it had ever been, in favour of the king, and against liberty, that is, against aristocratical ascendancy. Accordingly the court party took no trouble to gain the tiers-état, while, on the contrary, every man and even every woman about the palace was assiduously engaged in paying court to the deputies of the noblesse, from whom alone any resistance was apprehended; and succeeded in gaining those who had taken the lead in the previous resistance, d’Epréménil and d’Antraigues.*
That chivalrous loyalty, therefore, which Sir Walter Scott admires in the noblesse, only commenced when they discovered that other persons than themselves were about to gain the ascendancy in the Etats Généraux, and that the engine which they had constructed in hopes to wield it against the royal authority, was wrested from them and turned against themselves, by that people whom they had scorned. Then, they were extremely willing to make a parade of their loyalty; as some of them who had never before mentioned the name of God but in mockery, became patterns of devotion from the moment when they had hopes that the yell of fanaticism might serve them to incite the country-people against the Assembly.* Then they were ready to die for that king, whom many of them had ridiculed and lampooned; that queen, whose character they had been the first to vilify;† and that despotism, against which, for their own purposes, they had struck the first blow.‡ Yet, amid all this pretence, still true to their character, they thought merely of their own privileges, and not for one instant of his safety whom they professed to serve. The majority fled to the courts of other despots, there to stir up foreign enemies, to make war upon their country in the name of their king: that king being all the time, as they studiously gave out, a captive in the hands of the very men whom they thus irritated to frenzy. Those who remained proclaimed everywhere the king’s insincerity, made his name a pretext for all their liberticide intrigues, and leagued themselves with the worst of the Jacobins to promote every measure which they thought calculated to raise the disorder to its height, in order to ruin those whom they hated bitterest of all, the partisans of an orderly and well-regulated liberty.*
We have now arrived at the opening of the Revolution itself; and from this point we can no longer give to our author’s attempt at history, even that qualified praise which we have bestowed upon the introductory chapters. From this point it conveys none but false impressions: it is a story skilfully, and even artfully constructed for a purpose. We have no intention of imputing insincerity to Sir Walter Scott. Though he obviously attempts throughout to impress the reader with a certain view of the facts, he probably is himself persuaded that this view is the true one. But that important branch of the talent of the narrator, which Sir Walter Scott in his character of a romancer pre-eminently possesses, the art of so relating every incident that it shall strike the reader not as an isolated incident, but as a part of the train of events,—of keeping the whole posture of affairs, such as it is supposed to be in the story, constantly present to the reader’s conception, and almost to his sight—is a talent most delightful in a novelist, most dangerous when the subject is real history, and the author’s view of the posture of affairs happens to be wrong. It is nothing less than the art of so dressing up a fact, as to make it appear to mean more than it does; of so relating and arranging the events to be related, as to make them tell a different story from what would be implied in the mere chronological recital of them. We are far from maintaining that this mode of relating facts is always blameable. We by no means affirm that an historian should be required to state first the naked facts, without any admixture of inference, and then speculate upon causes, motives, and characters, if he pleases. It would often be impossible to find room for all the facts, upon which inferences of this sort may very properly have been founded; and such part of the facts as are related, when the nature of the case does not permit the introduction of the whole, may justifiably be coloured, that is, although not sufficient in themselves to prove the theory, may be so related as to suggest it, if the theory be true, and evidence to prove it be produceable on fit occasions. Our quarrel with Sir Walter Scott is, that his theory is not true: that his view of the rationale of the French Revolution is not capable of being proved, but capable, on the contrary, of being disproved by the most cogent evidence. And if this be so, it undoubtedly is a great additional evil, that what cannot be proved is insinuated almost in every sentence; that the language in which the events are related, invariably implies a particular mode of accounting for them; that every separate fact as it arises, finds the reader artificially prepared to put that interpretation upon it which the author’s system requires; that causes are feigned, and the events so managed as to appear the natural consequences of them; that the hypothesis is slid in and gains credence under cover of the facts, because they are so related as seemingly not to allow of any other explanation.
During the Revolution, a variety of shades of opinion manifested themselves, and a variety of distinct and hostile parties grew up, among the defenders of the popular cause. The vulgar mouth-pieces of aristocracy to whom in our own country the office of forming the public sentiment on the Revolution was abandoned, have generally lumped all these parties and opinions together, in order that all of them, and the Revolution itself, might share the opprobrium which is justly due to the terrorists alone. Sir Walter Scott is quite superior to these low artifices: but he has fallen into an error as gross, and far more plausible. He has committed the very common blunder of ascribing to persons what was the effect of circumstances, and to settled design what was the result of immediate impulse. Every one of his characters has a part premeditated and prepared, and is ready to march upon the stage and enact it at the precise moment when his entrée will produce the most striking scenic effect. All the parties which gradually arose during the Revolution are represented as already existing from its commencement. At the very opening of the drama, we have already Constitutionalists, Republicans, and Jacobins, all of whom are described as even then entertaining all the opinions, and prosecuting systematically all the designs, which they manifested when they were most conspicuous, and most powerful. The struggle between the people and the court is made to appear, in all its stages, to have arisen solely from the endeavours of these different parties to carry their supposed designs into effect: the events are, with much skill, so presented as on every occasion to make the revolutionists appear the aggressors; they are pictured as omnipotent, having nothing to fear, nothing, for any good purpose, to desire; while the court and the aristocracy are represented from the first in no character but that of helpless unresisting victims, altogether without power even of self-defence, and quite impotent for attack. If any precaution, therefore, is taken, under the idea that any attack from that quarter is possible, it is held up as a studied indignity, intended to prepare the way for the subversion of the throne, and clear the ground for trying quackish political experiments, at the expense of a nation’s happiness.
Now there is not a word of all this but what is purely fabulous. There is not a truth in history more firmly established, than the non-existence of any republican party at the commencement of the Revolution. The wishes of all then centered in a constitutional monarchy. There may have been, and probably were, speculative philosophers, at that time as at most others, who preferred in the abstract a republican form of government; but, if such there were, they had not the remotest idea of introducing it into France; and it is not proved that at this early period so much as one member of the Constituent Assembly was even in this speculative sense a republican. If any were so, they were of the number of those whom Sir Walter Scott acknowledges to have been, in their conduct, supporters of monarchy.* The men who formed the extremity of the côté gauche, who were esteemed the most exagérés among the democrats, were Barnave, Duport, and the Lameths: yet all these, when at length there was a republican party, were its most determined opponents, and threw away safety, fortune, popularity, every thing which they most valued, to save the throne. One of the Lameths, even, on the subversion of monarchy, expatriated with La Fayette, and shared with him that memorable captivity which the brutal vengeance of an infuriated despot[*] inflicted, and in which the author of “New Morality,” in a spirit worthy of his sarcasm upon Ogden, found matter for savage exultation.[†]
The very name of a French republic was scarcely breathed, never publicly pronounced, until the king’s flight from Paris: when two years experience, terminated by that ill-fated attempt, had clearly proved the impossibility of trusting to his good faith, so long as all who surrounded him were inveterately hostile to the new order of things; when the experiment of a free constitution with him at its head, had decidedly failed, and all discerning persons saw the impossibility of arriving at a settled government, or maintaining the authority of the laws, while the executive authority was in hands which could not safely be intrusted with the power necessary to enforce them. It was not till after ample and melancholy experience of this fact, that some of those who afterwards composed the Girondist party became republicans; but even then, by the great majority of that party, nothing more was at first thought of than a change of monarch; and nothing more would have been thought of to the last, if the Duke of Orleans, the only member of the royal family who was not inveterately hostile to the popular cause, had been of a character to possess, or to deserve, the smallest portion of public respect.
It may surprise some readers to find that Sir Walter Scott makes no allusion to the Orleanist party, which used to be employed with so much effect, in the character of a bugbear, by the enemies of liberal principles in France. This party, which was supposed to comprise all the abler and more energetic of the adherents of the popular cause, was represented as compassing the king’s destruction as a means, and, as an end, the elevation of the Duke of Orleans either to the regency or to the throne, and of themselves to the principal offices of state. As it is unquestionable that Orleanists, if not an Orleanist party, did at one time exist, the discerning reader, when he finds that Sir Walter Scott is generous enough to forego all the advantages which the impugners of the popular leaders have derived from the connexion of several of them with that unhappy man, is apt to think that a writer with his partialities would hardly have been so unnecessarily candid on this point, without some ulterior object. Sir Walter Scott has sagacity enough to know, that different imputations suit different times, and that attacks upon visionary theorists take much better now, in this country at least, than accusations of aiming at personal aggrandizement under the mask of popular principles. This we suspect to be the true reason of his conjuring up a republican party, and putting aside not only what is fictitious, but what is true, in the denunciations of royalist writers against the Orleanists. For it is impossible that he should be ignorant (scanty and careless as his reading on the subject of the Revolution has been), that not Republicanism but Orleanism was the only reproach, connected with designs against the king, which was imputed at the time to any individual member of the Constituent Assembly: not Republicanism but Orleanism was the accusation brought against the only member of it, whom our author singles out by name as one of the republican party;* and, in fact, the only shade of opinion which existed in the Assembly beyond what our author terms the party of Bailly and La Fayette, was Orleanism. The difference between the Orleanists and the other section of the popular party did not consist in a greater hostility to royalty; for, on the contrary, their leader Mirabeau was inclined, as his speeches prove, to give a larger share of power to the king than even Necker himself, the largest indeed which was at all consistent with the circumstances of the time, or perhaps with constitutional freedom.[*] The distinction lay in this—that, while both parties desired a monarchical and representative government, La Fayette and the majority felt sufficient confidence in the good intentions of Louis, to be desirous of retaining him at its head, while the other party would have preferred his peaceable deposition, and the elevation of some individual to the constitutional throne, who had never known what it was to be a despot. All the more discerning among the friends of freedom, and especially Mirabeau, perhaps the only true statesman whom the Revolution produced, thoroughly distrusted the king. They knew, what in our times some other persons ought to have learned,—that it is next to an impossibility for a monarch, used to absolute power, to accommodate himself to limitations; and they were convinced that Louis, at least, was not the man who would be an exception to the rule. Incapable of maintaining and abiding by his firmest convictions, if they were in opposition to the will of those by whom he was immediately surrounded, he was formed to be the tool of any person who had the opportunity and the will to use him as such: completely at the beck of his queen and her counter-revolutionary counsellors, he had shewn by his conduct both before and immediately after the meeting of the Etats Généraux, that he was capable of being hurried into every extreme of despotism by such counsellors, although he personally did not share the passions in which their counsels originated: and the patriots thought, not without reason, that the man who, after saying that nobody except Turgot and himself desired the good of the people,[†] could dismiss this same Turgot a few months afterwards, at the persuasion of the very men of whose worthlessness he was so clearly convinced, was a man whose good feelings were no security against the worst conduct. Having this opinion of Louis, these statesmen, though fully aware of all the objections to the Duke of Orleans as a man, still thought, that owing the crown to the new order of things, and being unable to maintain it by any support but that of the friends of freedom, he would be less objectionable as the head of a constitutional monarchy, than a man who thought himself, and was thought by a powerful party, to be a despot by divine right. Our Revolution of 1688 formed at once a precedent for such a settlement of affairs, and an example of its beneficial effects. It is deeply to be regretted that uncontrollable circumstances prevented these views from being realized. As it turned out, the change of dynasty was only thought of for an instant, not by a party, but by scattered individuals, and thought of merely, like the republic at a later period, as a pis aller. The nullity of the Duke of Orleans as a politician, which became more clearly manifested by subsequent events, and the complete annihilation of the little character he possessed, detached from him all the more sincere and disinterested of his adherents; and when Louis had so acted that even Sir Walter Scott admits he ought not to have been replaced on the throne,[*] these and many others, being of the same opinion with Sir Walter Scott, became republicans because they had no choice.*
But it is not the republicans alone that have had the misfortune to offend our author: the constitutional royalists come in for nearly an equal share of his displeasure. Much good indignation, and no inconsiderable quantity of what is intended to be wit, is expended upon them, for rejecting the counsels of experience, and attempting to renovate the constitution of France by means of abstract and untried theories. It is with such vulgar weapons, that Sir Walter Scott does not disdain to assail some of the most remarkable men who have ever figured in public affairs. To point out the real faults in the conduct of the early revolutionists—to shew in what respects the means which they employed, were ill-suited to attain the ends which they had in view,—this, it is not every body who is capable of; but if to dub them theorists be sufficient, then there is not a creature so dull, so ignorant, so thoroughly mean in understanding and void of ideas, who is not perfectly competent to condemn philosophers and statesmen without a hearing, and decide at his ease all the questions which perplexed the most thinking men of their day. It seems no more than reasonable to demand, in behalf of conclusions which are the result of thought, that some portion of thought shall also be deemed necessary in order to criticize them; and that a body of men, who comprised in their ranks nearly all the political wisdom which could be found in an age and country abounding in it, shall at least be thought worthy of having their motives and reasons weighed, and of being condemned, if condemned they must be, for the injustice or inexpediency of their course of action, not for its novelty.
It cannot be denied that the early revolutionists did attempt to discover what was the best possible form of government; and, having, in their own opinion, found it, did endeavour to bring the government of their own country as nearly into accordance with it as they could. We shall not seek to defend them against these imputations; but, if our author’s objection to their scheme of government be that it was untried, we are entitled to require him to shew that there was any tried scheme, which would have afforded better prospects of success.
His opinion on the subject might have been foretold. It is, that they should have adopted the English constitution; or something as nearly resembling it as possible.
Now this, from a writer who is perpetually crying out against visionary projects, is a tolerable specimen of a visionary project; and its author is justly chargeable with the very fault which he imputes to the revolutionists, that of being so wedded to a favourite system, as to insist upon introducing it at all hazards, even when the very circumstances which constitute its excellence at other times, would infallibly work its destruction.
It is not on account of the imperfections of the British constitution, great as we deem these to be, on its native soil, that we blame those who, at this period of the Revolution, sought to introduce it into France. With all its defects, we are well content that foreign nations should look to it as their model; for there is little danger of their copying it in those parts which are the cause of our evils. It is not probable that they should fail of making their Lower House a real representative organ: and as we should be satisfied with this in our own country, so we are of opinion that in any other, the British constitution, with this modification alone, would suffice for good government.
But what may be very true of a settled order of things, it may be altogether absurd to affirm of a revolution. Why do the King and the House of Peers, in this country, never convert the powers which they constitutionally possess, to the overthrow of the constitution and the abolition of the House of Commons? Nobody supposes that it is because they would not; for it is the theory of our constitution, that every one who has power seeks its enlargement, and, in times more favourable to them, they have attempted such things. It is because they could not; and because, power to effect such schemes being manifestly wanting, the desire never arises in their minds. Nobody, however, will deny that it is in their power to impede and thwart in a hundred ways the operations of the Commons, and even to put a stop to the business of government altogether. They have, therefore, much power, capable of being mischievously employed. Our security against their so employing it is, that they could serve no purpose by doing so, except that of destroying the constitution; and, of success in such a design, they well know that they have no chance. Give them a chance, and you will soon know the mischief which they can still do. Let the time ever come, when by the exercise of their powers in a manner opposed to the end for which those powers were given, the king may hope to erect an absolute monarchy, or the peers to establish themselves in undivided rule as an aristocratical senate, and we are justified in saying that either their powers must be suspended, or the government cannot be carried on. Such was the posture of affairs during the French Revolution; and he who does not carry this conviction along with him through the whole of its history, will never form a rational conception of the Revolution in any of its stages, much less as a whole.
If the attempt to establish a government of two chambers on the English model, had been made, the Upper House must have been formed from among the high noblesse and clergy, either by the king’s choice, or by the suffrages of the privileged orders themselves. In whichever way selected, this second chamber would have been, as the high noblesse and the high clergy almost universally were, inveterately hostile to nearly every necessary reform, and (as soon as they saw that they were not about to have absolute control over the legislature) to the representative system itself. Not one of the great objects of the Revolution would, with their consent, have been effected; and either those objects must have been renounced, or it would have been necessary to decide which chamber should turn the other out of doors, or, what is most probable, the court would have taken advantage of their dissensions to discredit them in the public mind, and would have availed itself of the authority of one branch of the legislature to rid itself for ever of both. This is what stamps the conduct and counsels of Mounier (whom our author characterizes as one of the wisest men in France),[*] of Lally Tolendal, and the remainder of the modérés (or monarchiens, as they were afterwards called), with absurdity; and marks them as altogether unequal to the difficulties of the crisis which they had aided so powerfully in bringing on. That the intentions of these men were good, is not to be denied; but the good intentions of men, who not only give the most unseasonable and ruinous advice, but desert their post and abandon their country because that advice is not listened to, are of little use. The emigration of Mounier and Lally, at the time when, if ever, the presence of wise and moderate men was required, admits of but one excuse, and that is, the supposition that they were conscious of being deficient in all the qualities which could be available in troubled times, and felt that the moment was past when such men as they were, could act a part in the Revolution.*
Our author next pronounces that the Assembly erred, by not giving sufficient power to the king.[*] He gets over all the difficulties of this question very summarily. It was surely very foolish in the Assembly to waste so much time and labour in anxious deliberation on points which our author settles so perfectly at his ease. Nothing can be more conclusive than the case he can always make out against them; nothing more completely satisfactory than the reasons he gives, to prove them always in the wrong; and the chief impression which is made upon the reader, is one of astonishment, that a set of persons should have been found so perversely blind to considerations so obviously dictated by sound policy and common sense. But when we examine the original authorities, we find that these considerations were no more unknown or unheeded by the Assembly than by our author himself. The difference in point of knowledge between them and him consisted chiefly in this, that they likewise knew the reasons which made for the other side of the question, and might therefore be pardoned if, being thus burthened with arguments on both sides, they were slower to decide, and sometimes came to a different decision from that which, as long as we confine ourselves to one, appears so eminently reasonable.
The point which Sir Walter Scott so quietly disposes of was, in fact, the great difficulty of their situation. There is no denying, that the king, or whoever else is placed at the head of the executive, ought to have more power than the Constituent Assembly gave him. And most of the popular leaders felt this strongly enough; all, after a very short experience of the constitution they had framed. In truth, the executive had not power enough to enforce obedience to the laws, or to prevent, in many places, the most worthless part of the population, often headed and organized by professional robbers, from availing themselves of the universal relaxation of restraint, and perpetrating the most horrid enormities. The popular party knew all this; but they knew also, that every atom of power which they gave to the executive over the military, through whom alone these disorders could have been suppressed, would be employed at the first favourable opportunity to put down the Revolution and restore absolute monarchy. It was this conviction, strong from the first, and continually gaining strength by the conduct of the court from 1789 to 1792, which finally brought on, and rendered imperatively necessary, the subversion of the throne. And it is this conviction which induced even d’Escherny, a writer who regards the republicans with horror, and calls the constitution of 1791 un systême monstrueux, to declare, that the day of the 10th of August decided whether France should be governed by an absolute king, or by demagogues, meaning the republican leaders.*
“Avant d’avoir une monarchie constitutionnelle,” says M. Bailleul, “il fallait vaincre les hommes puissans qui n’en voulaient pas. Les erreurs viennent de ce qu’on confond toujours les institutions avec les combats qu’il fallait livrer pour les obtenir.”† This is a truth which, as applied to the French Revolution, our author cannot or will not see. In reading him, nobody would ever guess, that France had for the time no choice but between an absolute monarchy and a republic. Of the first we should never learn from him that there was the least danger; and to the latter, France according to him was only brought by the criminal recklessness of a set of hair-brained enthusiasts, wild in their ends and unscrupulous in the choice of their means, who were willing to let murder and rapine loose upon society, to deluge their country with bloodshed, and stain their consciences with guilt, for the mere difference between monarchical and republican forms.
“N’est-il pas bien étrange de voir,” says M. Bailleul, “et ceux qui prennent le titre d’historiens, et ceux qui prétendent faire de la morale sur la révolution, en saisir l’esprit, comme Madame de Staël,” and we will add, like Sir Walter Scott, “faire une abstraction entière et complète de l’attaque, ne s’occuper que de ceux contre qui elle est dirigée, signaler comme des forfaits, non seulement les coups que par erreur ou par esprit de vertige, ils se sont portés entr’eux, mais appeler surtout crimes, forfaits, les combats qu’ils ont livrés aux ennemis de la patrie?”‡ This sentence might be imagined to have been written on purpose to describe the work before us. Our author systematically “makes abstraction of the attack,” and treats the defence as a premeditated and unprovoked aggression. This it is to start with false ideas, and read just enough to be confirmed in them—not enough to correct them.
Burke has asserted, in one of his rhapsodies against the French Revolution, that, from the day when the Etats Généraux assembled at Versailles, despotism was no more.[*] We will not take this assertion in the sense in which it was meant; for, in that sense, nothing was ever thrown out even by that author in his wildest moments, more glaringly absurd. But there is a sense in which it is perfectly well founded; that despotism, and the National Assembly, could not subsist together; and that the existence of the one necessarily implied the subversion of the other. The popular party were thoroughly aware of this. So were the royalists. They knew that, not indeed when the Assembly met, but as soon as it shewed itself firmly determined that France should be free, she was free, and could not be again enslaved while the Assembly remained, to guard and consolidate her freedom. Accordingly, the dissolution of the Assembly entered into all their plans; and they never, for a single moment, ceased plotting to accomplish it. We agree with Burke, that the Revolution, so far as it was necessary or justifiable, was terminated when the Assembly met. From that time the struggle was not for a revolution, but against a counter-revolution. To the well-grounded apprehension of such a calamity, and to the precautions necessary to be taken in order to guard against it, ought really to be ascribed all those proceedings, both of the constitutionalists and of the Gironde, which, in the former party, our author imputes to the desire of reducing the royal authority to a name; in the latter, to a fanatical hatred even of the name.[†]
Could the revolutionists forget that the attempt to put down the Revolution had once been made, and had failed only because the military had remembered that they were citizens before they were soldiers? We allude to the events which preceded the insurrection of Paris and the destruction of the Bastille.
Few of our readers, we hope, are ignorant, that in July 1789, when the Constituent Assembly had only sat for a few weeks, when it had done nothing, as yet, of what our author deems blameable in its proceedings; when his friends Lally and Mounier were still predominant in its counsels; when it had scarcely begun to occupy itself with the reform of abuses, or the establishment of a constitution, and had only had time to shew that it would not resign the entire power of legislation to the privileged classes, by giving to each order a separate voice; so early as this, troops from distant parts of the kingdom were marched upon Paris; a large force, under an avowed anti-revolutionist,[‡] was encamped in its immediate vicinity, and artillery was moved upon that city and upon Versailles, sufficient for a siege. At this juncture, Necker, and all the ministers not decidedly hostile to the new order of things, received an abrupt dismissal, and Necker was banished from France. They were succeeded by men notoriously inimical to the Revolution;[*] men odious to the people, some of them for their personal corruption, all for their political views, and every thing seemed prepared for dissolving the Assembly and crushing resistance by force of arms. That this purpose was really entertained, none but the most prejudiced and dishonest even among the royalist writers have hitherto been bold enough to deny. The king in person, at the famous séance royale, had threatened the Assembly with dissolution if it did, what it had nevertheless done.* The courtiers themselves made no secret of what was intended: with their accustomed fool-hardiness, they openly triumphed in the approaching humiliation of the popular party, and punishment of its leaders; and it is a fact known to many now living, that several members of the minority of the noblesse, who had relatives or friends connected with the court, were warned by them to save themselves, by a timely flight, from the death or captivity which was in store for them.† At this crisis the people rose in arms, organized the burgher-milita afterwards called the National Guard, were joined by a portion of the military, took the Bastille, and reduced the court to the necessity of indefinitely postponing the execution of its criminal design. Now let us hear our author speculate, and conjecture, and calculate, probabilities, in opposition to the plain and well-established facts above related.
The successful party may always cast on the loser the blame of commencing the brawl, as the wolf punished the lamb for troubling the course of the water, though he drank lowest down the stream. But when we find one party completely prepared, and ready for action, forming plans boldly, and executing them skilfully, and observe the other uncertain and unprovided, betraying all the imbecility of surprise and indecision, we must necessarily believe the attack was premeditated on the one side, and unexpected on the other. The abandonment of thirty thousand stand of arms at the Hotel des Invalides, which were surrendered without the slightest resistance, though three Swiss regiments lay encamped in the Champs Elysées; the totally unprovided state of the Bastille, garrisoned by about one hundred Swiss and Invalids, and without provisions even for that small number; the absolute inaction of the Baron de Bezenval, who—without entangling his troops in the narrow streets, which was pleaded as his excuse—might, by marching along the Boulevards, a passage so well calculated for the manoeuvres of regular troops, have relieved the siege of that fortress; and finally, that general’s bloodless retreat from Paris—shew that the king had, under all these circumstances, not only adopted no measures of a hostile character, but must, on the contrary, have issued such orders as prevented his officers from repelling force by force. We are led, therefore, to believe, that the scheme of assembling the troops round Paris was one of those half-measures, to which, with great political weakness, Louis resorted more than once—an attempt to intimidate by the demonstration of force, which he was previously resolved not to use.*
And accordingly, the insurrection is ascribed to “dark intrigues,”[*] which had been long formed by the Republican and Jacobin parties for the subversion of the throne. Thus far Sir Walter Scott. Now hear the marquis de Ferrières; himself a member of the Assembly, a deputy of the noblesse, who always voted with the noblesse, and who is so far from being a revolutionist, that there are few of the revolutionists to whom he will allow the common merit of sincerely desiring the public good: “Trente régimens,” says he, “marchaient sur Paris. Le prétexte était la tranquillité publique; l’objet réel, la dissolution des états” (Vol. I, p. 71); with much more to the same effect, from which we shall quote only what follows. The circumstances which it relates took place on the very day on which the Bastille was taken, and are the more memorable from the allusion made to them the next day by Mirabeau, in perhaps the most splendid apostrophe recorded in history.[†]
La cour était résolue d’agir cette même nuit. Les régimens de Royal-Allemand et de Royal-Etranger avaient reçu ordre de prendre les armes. Les hussards s’étaient portés sur la place du château; les gardes-du-corps occupaient les cours. A ces préparatifs menaçans la cour joignit un air de fête, qui, dans la circonstance, ajoutait l’insulte à la cruauté. Le comte d’Artois, les Polignac, Mesdames, Madame,[‡] et Madame d’Artois, se rendirent sur la terrasse de l’orangerie. On fit jouer la musique des deux régimens. Les soldats, auxquels on n’avait pas épargné le vin, formèrent des danses: une joie insolente et brutale éclatait de toutes parts: une troupe de femmes, de courtisans, d’hommes vendus au despotisme, regardaient cet étrange spectacle d’un oeil satisfait, et l’animaient par leurs applaudissemens. Telle était la légèreté, ou plutôt l’immoralité de ces hommes, qu’assurés, à ce qu’ils croyaient, du succès, ils se livraient à un insultant triomphe. L’assemblée nationale offrait un aspect bien différent, un calme majestueux, une contenance ferme, une activité sage et tranquille, tout annonçait les grands desseins dont elle était occupée, et le danger de la chose publique. Ce n’était point ignorance des desseins de la cour. L’assemblée savait qu’au moment même de l’attaque de Paris, les régimens de Royal-Etranger et les hussards devaient environner la salle des états-généraux, enlever les députés que leur zèle et leur patriotisme avaient désignés pour victimes, et en cas de résistance employer la force. Elle savait que le roi devait venir le lendemain faire accepter la déclaration du 23 Juin, et dissoudre l’assemblée;[§] que déjà plus de quarante mille exemplaires de cette déclaration étaient envoyés aux intendans et aux subdélégués, avec ordre de la publier, et de l’afficher dans toute l’étendue du royaume.
(Vol. I, pp. 130-1.)
Is this sufficient? We are curious to know what more unexceptionable evidence our author can demand. No doubt he disbelieves Ferrières—though he too can quote Ferrières when it answers his purpose. No doubt he disbelieves Madame de Staël;* he disbelieves Bailly;† he disbelieves Dumouriez—a writer to whom, on other occasions, he gives even more credit than is due, and who informs us, that, even at Cherbourg, the royalists were exulting in their anticipated victory, and triumphing in the thought that the minority of the noblesse were, perhaps, already in the Bastille.‡ But we will make free to inquire, does he disbelieve two persons, who ought to know whether the design existed or not; viz. the person who planned it, and the person who was to have executed it—the minister Breteuil, and the minister and commander of the troops, the Maréchal de Broglie himself? The former boasted, both subsequently and at the time, not only of the conspiracy, but of what were to have been its sanguinary consequences; and named several of the very men who were marked out to pay with their lives the penalty of having wished their country to be free. As for Broglie, the letter is extant in which he offered himself to be the wretched instrument in the perpetration of crimes, compared with which those of the butcher of Porlier and Lacy are innocence itself.[*] “Avec cinquante mille hommes,” says he, “je me chargerais volontiers de dissiper tous ces beaux esprits qui calculent sur leurs prétentions, et cette foule d’imbécilles qui écoutent, applaudissent, et encouragent. Une salve de canons, ou une décharge de coups de fusils, aurait bientôt dispersé ces argumentateurs, et remis la puissance absolue qui s’éteint, à la place de cet esprit républicain qui se forme.” See the Correspondence published at Paris and London in 1789, and never disavowed; or the History, by the abbé de Montgaillard.§ We shall now adopt the words of the latter author.
Lorsque le maréchal de Broglie eut pris le commandement des troupes destinées à dissoudre l’assemblée des états-généraux, le baron de Breteuil, qu’on pouvait considérer en quelque sorte, comme premier ministre, par l’influence sans bornes qu’il exerçait sur l’esprit de la reine et sur celui du roi, le baron de Breteuil disait, portes ouvertes; “Au surplus, s’il faut brûler Paris, on brûlera Paris, et l’on décimera ses habitans, aux grands maux, les grands remèdes.” On répète mot pour mot ce qu’on a entendu dire au baron de Breteuil en 1794, ce dont il se glorifiait encore à cette époque.¶ . . . On tient également de ce ministre, que le duc d’Orléans, le marquis de la Fayette, le comte de Mirabeau, l’abbé Sieyès, Barnave, Chapelier, Lally-Tolendal, Mounier, et huit ou dix autres membres de l’assemblée nationale étaient désignés comme victimes impérieusement réclamées par le salut du trône et de l’état. Une compagnie de canonniers avait été casernée aux écuries de la reine, et l’on ne cachait pas que cette compagnie était destinée à mitrailler l’assemblée.*
Let no man wonder that Mounier and Lally, men whose love of freedom was sufficiently lukewarm to suit even Sir Walter Scott, were doomed to perish on the same scaffold with Barnave and Mirabeau. To have desired the liberty of France was an offence which nothing could redeem. By being more scrupulous, more moderate, a less envenomed opponent than the rest, all which was ever gained was, to be more bitterly detested. An enemy always hates those most whom he most fears; a criminal ever most abhors those among his pursuers whom he believes to be most inflexibly virtuous.
It is of little use to heap up quotations in order to convince a writer who, by an elaborate argument, concludes that it is most likely a thing is white, when every credible person who has seen it assures him that it is black. yet we cannot refrain from quoting one passage more; it is from Lacretelle; an author whose principles are those of the most decided royalism, and who has written a History of the Constituent Assembly, in a spirit generally as unfair as that of Sir Walter Scott, but who, on this occasion, pays the following tribute to truth:
Le château était rempli de généraux, de colonels, d’aides-de-camp qui revenaient essouflés de leurs courses insignifiantes. Tout présentait à la fois un air de mystère et de confiance. Le roi seul laissait lire sur son visage la perplexité de son esprit. La reine semblait jouir avec orgueil de la pensée qu’elle seule dirigeait toute cette noblesse armée pour la défense du trône. Sa figure était empreinte d’une majesté nouvelle. Les adorateurs de la cour lui faisaient oublier les aveugles et atroces malédictions du peuple. Il n’était plus douteux pour personne qu’un coup d’état ne dût être frappé. Quelles en devaient être la force et l’étendue? Les mémoires de ce temps sont si stériles et si rares, qu’ils fournissent peu de moyen d’éclaircir ce mystère. Ce qu’il y a de certain, c’est que la reine, ni le comte d’Artois, n’avaient ni conçu ni présenté des projets sévères et cruels, qui, fort éloignés de leurs propres penchans, auraient fait une violence intolérable au coeur du roi. Il s’agissait, si j’en crois et la vraisemblance et les renseignemens particuliers qu’il m’a été possible de recueillir, de faire respecter la déclaration du 23 Juin dans toute son étendue, d’y ajouter encore quelques clauses satisfaisantes pour le parti populaire, et de dissoudre l’assemblée, si elle persistait à vouloir, à elle seule, déterminer la constitution du royaume.†
This is the testimony which Sir Walter Scott would refute by a ratiocination: and what a ratiocination! Nothing can be more engaging than the amiable simplicity which it betokens, if the author is himself persuaded by his own reasoning. That want of preparation, or rather of means adequate to the intended purpose, which was really owing to blind, besotted, headlong confidence, imagining that the troops had only to show themselves and all would be quiet, he, good man, esteems a demonstrative proof that no violence was intended! Truly it is no wonder that they were unprepared, when, on the very day of the capture of the Bastille, at the very instant when a deputation of the Assembly was waiting upon the king, to represent to him the state of Paris, and express their alarms; “l’intendant de Paris était dans la chambre, en bottes et le fouet à la main, assurant que tout était tranquille;”* when, “le soir même du 14 Juillet, on regardait à Versailles dans les cercles des femmes à-la-mode et des petits-maîtres, tous les avis que l’on recevait de Paris comme autant de fables; à les entendre, il ne s’agissait que de quelques misérables, dont la maréchaussée ferait justice.”†
Hear Ferrières again: “La cour, habituée à voir Paris trembler sous un lieutenant de police, et sous une garde de huit cents hommes à cheval, ne soupçonna pas même une résistance. Elle ne prévit rien, ne calcula rien, ne songea pas même à s’assurer des soldats dont elle voulait faire l’instrument de ses desseins.” (Vol. I, p. 75.) And again, speaking of the ministers, “Ils regardaient la situation de Paris comme l’effet d’une émeute passagère; ils ne doutaient pas qu’à l’approche des troupes le peuple tremblant ne se dispersât, que les chefs consternés ne vinssent implorer la clémence du monarque” (p. 116). He even intimates a suspicion that they allowed the insurrection to proceed, in order that they might have a better excuse for the rigorous measures which they had previously resolved upon (p. 115).‡
No wonder that the king had not given the necessary orders, when he was kept in such profound ignorance of what was passing, that he did not even know of the insurrection, and the capture of the Bastille, until the duc de Liancourt, a member of the popular party in the Assembly, who had access to him by office, as grand master of his wardrobe, awakened him in the night, and apprised him of those events which his counsellors had till then concealed from him: “Mais, dit le roi, après un silence, c’est une révolte.—Sire, c’est une Révolution.”§
Our readers must excuse us for dwelling a little longer on this great aera in the history of the Revolution. If the events themselves are important, the manner in which they are here treated is no less curious, as a specimen of the book. We are presented with a lecture, in a strain of lofty morality, on the duties which were incumbent upon Louis in this great emergency.[*] We are told, that he ought to have marched into Paris at the head of his guards, and put down the insurrection by the strong hand of power: his life itself was not too much to be sacrificed in the performance of this sacred obligation, so exalted is Sir Walter Scott’s idea of the duties of kings; but, when the revolt was quelled, our author is pleased to say that Louis would have been infinitely criminal, if he had not given to his subjects a national representation. This is excellent advice, and admirably, no doubt, the latter part of it would have been observed, if the enterprise had succeeded; but we could have suggested something which would have been still better, viz. not to attempt to deprive his subjects of the national representation which they already possessed. This would have been less grand; it would not have called upon the monarch for any exposure of his life; but it would have prevented the insurrection. To tell us that Louis ought to have put down the tumults and to have renounced despotism, when if he had renounced despotism there would have been no tumults to put down, is a very pleasant way of begging the question against the people. Other persons besides kings would have reason to be thankful for a similar lesson of morality. You rob a man of his watch: the man discovering the theft, seizes you by the collar, and insists upon your giving back the stolen property: at this juncture Sir Walter Scott comes up, and lectures you as follows: Knock down the insolent aggressor: when you have done this, I shall then hold you infinitely criminal, if you do not restore to him his watch; but in the mean time, I will gladly assist you in chastising him, his violence deserves it!
We must not pass unnoticed another characteristic trait in our author’s narrative of these transactions. When the soldiers, who were intended to overawe Paris, fraternized with the people, and refused to fire upon their fellow citizens, he can find no means of accounting for conduct so extremely un-military, except the influence of debauchery. “They were plied,” says he, “with those temptations which are most powerful with soldiers—wine, women, and money, were supplied in abundance—and it was amidst debauchery and undiscipline that the French army renounced their loyalty, which used to be even too much the god of their idolatry, and which was now destroyed like the temple of Persepolis, amidst the vapours of wine, and at the instigation of courtezans.”*
Does not Sir Walter Scott richly deserve the pointed sarcasm of Madame de Staël, upon the royalist party? “Un des grands malheurs de ceux qui vivent dans les cours, c’est de ne pouvoir se faire une idée de ce que c’est qu’une nation.”† Once more, does our author really not believe in the possibility of public spirit or patriotism, or if these expressions do not please him, sincere enthusiasm? The alternative was that of being slaves or freemen, of enslaving their countrymen or helping them to be free; and he can find no more creditable motive for preferring freedom, than wine, women, and money! If Sir Walter Scott had one tenth part as much knowledge of the Revolution, as an author who writes its history ought to have, he would have known that the sentiments which, according to him, it required debauchery to excite in the regiments assembled at the metropolis, were shared by the military without the aid of debauchery, all over France. Let him read, for example, the address of the garrison of Strasbourg to the National Assembly on the 16th October, 1789, a perfect model of propriety and good taste:‡ let him read in Dumouriez’s Memoirs§ the conduct of the garrison of Cherbourg; let him read in Bouillé’s Memoirs,¶ or in Soulavie’s Annals of Louis XVI,[*] or in the Life of Malesherbes, the refusal of the troops in Dauphiné, even before the Revolution, to act against the people:** let him read in the Histoire de la Révolution par Deux Amis de la Liberté, numerous instances of the most sublime disinterestedness and self-devotion in these very gardes-françaises whom he has so unjustly inculpated, and he will then see whether these were men who needed the “vapours of wine” and the “instigation of courtezans,” to impel them to act as citizens and freemen ought.[†]
We make no apology for having detained our readers so long on the first and greatest epoch of the Revolution. Where, from the immensity of the subject, much must necessarily be left undone, it is better to establish one important point thoroughly, than a hundred imperfectly. If the reader is now convinced, that Sir∥ Walter Scott has altogether misunderstood and misrepresented that event upon which all the subsequent history of the Revolution turns (and if he is not, we utterly despair of making any impression upon him), he will be willing to believe without much further proof, that the other great events of the Revolution are similarly dealt with. Yet, in alluding to the plots and aggressions of the royalist party against the order of things established by the Constituent Assembly, we cannot help pausing for a moment at the famous fifth of October, 1789, to give a further specimen of our author’s fitness for the office of an accurate and impartial historian.
We need scarcely remind any reader, not thoroughly unacquainted with the facts of the Revolution, that, on the occasion to which we allude, the king was brought from Versailles to the Tuileries, under circumstances of considerable indignity, by a mob of Parisians who sallied out from Paris for this if for any preconcerted purpose, and by a portion of whom, during their stay at Versailles, various excesses were committed, and in particular an attempt was made (there is too much reason to believe) against the life of the queen. In all this, our author is very perfect; but he never hints that a plot existed among the royalists to convey the king to Metz, and placing him under the protection of the anti-revolutionary general Bouillé, to commence a civil war; that a variety of other intrigues were on foot for effecting a counter-revolution, and that the removal of the king from Versailles to Paris, was really on the part of the revolutionists a defensive act. Yet he would have found all this asserted not only by many writers of the constitutional party, but by the royalist Ferrières;* it has been avowed by Breteuil, Bouillé,[*] and the comte de Mercy, then ambassador of Austria at the court of France;† and it may be gathered even from the proceedings before the Châtelet, notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of that tribunal to disguise it. Our author does not scruple to quote Ferrières for an insignificant expression vaguely attributed to Barnave, which he imagines can be turned in some manner to the discredit of that distinguished person.[†] We have seen, however, that Sir Walter Scott can be very incredulous, as well as very easy of belief, when a favourite hypothesis is concerned. Even if he did not give credit to the assertion of Ferrières with respect to the royalist plots, that assertion proves at least, that their reality was generally believed; and might have suggested to our author that there may have been a more creditable motive for wishing to bring the king to Paris, than the desire of placing him and the Assembly “under the influence of popular frenzy.”[‡]
But our author had a different theory. We need scarcely say, that in his theory all is ascribed to the manoeuvres of the republican party; his established mode of accounting for all the commotions under the first two national assemblies. The imputed object of these agitators, is of course the establishment of a republic; and he insinuates that regicide formed, even at this time, part of their ultimate intentions. Need we repeat, that this pretended republican party is a mere fiction of his own brain; that no such party existed for nearly two years afterwards; and that most of the men who subsequently composed it were, at this time, peaceably following their professions at Bordeaux or Marseilles? Will our author pretend that Mirabeau and the Duke of Orleans were republicans, or will he deny, that, by the universal admission of revolutionists and royalists, this affair was concerted by them, if concerted at all? Sir Walter Scott is not contented with inventing leaders for this popular tumult, he must invent subordinate agents for it too. “The Jacobins were the first to sound the alarm through all their clubs and societies.”[*] The reader may form some conception of the accuracy of this history, and of the spirit in which it is written, when we inform him, that at this time the Jacobin club did not exist, much less any of the affiliated societies. The “alarm” was sounded, to use our author’s expression, not in any club or society, but in the district assemblies, and in a place tolerably well known in the Revolution, to wit, the gardens of the Palais-Royal; not by Jacobins, but by all the more ardent and enthusiastic partisans of the Revolution, to whom indeed it is sufficiently fashionable to give that now opprobrious name, but who had nothing whatever in common with the party called the Terrorists, to whom alone the appellation of Jacobins is usually given by our author.
The reader must forgive us, if a desire to do justice to the wisest, most honest, and most calumniated, body of legislators, who ever held in their hands the destinies of a nation, induces us to be more prolix than may perhaps suit that class of minds, to whom the truth or falsehood of an historical statement is matter of indifference compared with its liveliness or dulness. It is for the maligner of the Constituent Assembly, it is for the apologist, the panegyrist, of the vindictive and sanguinary satellites of despotism, it is for him to be amusing, he knows that his readers, at least those whom he chiefly cares for, are to the full as eager to believe him, as he to be believed. It is for Sir Walter Scott to assert: our part must be to prove. Assertion is short, and proof is long: assertion is entertaining, and proof is dull: assertion may be read, as glibly and as cursorily as it is written; proof supposes thought in the writer, and demands it of the reader. Happy the historian who can permit himself to assert, for he will count ten readers to one of him who is compelled to prove!
There was scarcely a month during the first three years of the Revolution, which was not signalized by some plot or counter-revolutionary movement in the interior.* In the south of France, large bodies of armed men were repeatedly collected, for the avowed purpose of restoring the ancient order of things. The assemblages which took place and the camps which were formed at Jalès and elsewhere, form a highly important, though to most persons almost an unknown, chapter of the history of the Revolution.* Armed bodies of emigrant Frenchmen were constantly hovering over the frontiers, by the connivance, and at length with the open encouragement, of the neighbouring powers: while France might be said to be without an army for her defence, the officers being counter-revolutionists almost to a man, feuds existing in most of the regiments between them and the soldiers, which were fomented even by the royalists, in order to disorganize the army, and disable it from offering any effectual resistance.† The ministers of the king were several of them declared anti-revolutionists. The courtiers and the privileged classes were continually giving out, that the emigrants were on the point of returning with a powerful army to dissolve the Assembly, and deliver its leaders to the rigour of the law.‡ The royalists openly and universally asserted that the king was insincere in his professions of attachment to the new institutions; and nothing contributed more than these reports, to convert the enthusiastic attachment which was universally manifested towards him when he gave in his adhesion to the constitution, into suspicion and hatred. Ferrières has no doubt that, if Louis had put forth his authority, and exerted his personal influence over the troops, he could have crushed the Assembly;§ and so conscious were the popular leaders of their own insecurity, that the abbé Sieyès said to a person, from whom we have the information, toutes les nuits je vois ma tête rouler sur le plancher. Even in 1791, the aristocrats, according to Ferrières, “ne parlaient que de guerre, de sang, et de vengeance.”¶ It was suspected at the time, it is now fully established by the avowals of the minister Bertrand de Moleville (who enters into the minutest details on the subject), that the king was in regular correspondence with the emigrants and with foreign powers, to procure his restoration to absolute authority by Austrian bayonets. Meanwhile he continued to profess, in language apparently the most feeling and sincere, his adherence to the new order of things. He came spontaneously to the Assembly on the 4th of February, 1790, to associate himself formally (such was his expression) with the plans and proceedings of the Assembly; and professed a devoted attachment to the new constitution, in a really eloquent and affecting speech, if we could suppose it to be sincere, which rendered him for a considerable time the idol of the people.[*] At the federation of July 1790∥ (an event of which, strange to say, our author makes no mention), he solemnly swore adherence to the constitution; he spontaneously renewed his oath but a few weeks before his flight from Paris;* he spontaneously addressed to his ambassadors abroad, for communication to the courts at which they were accredited, a long letter, embodying every thing in sentiment which was constitutional, and revolutionary, and such as La Fayette himself would have dictated, together with the firmest assurances that he highly approved of the Revolution; that France’s greatest enemies were the enemies of the new order of things, and that the pretence that he was not free was a calumny:† again and again he solemnly assured La Fayette, Rochambeau, and others, that he had no intention of flying; and this almost up to the very day when he fled to join the allies, leaving behind him a solemn protestation against all which had been done since the 5th of October 1789, from which date, he pretended, his want of liberty had rendered the sanction which he had given to all the decrees of the Assembly, a nullity.[*]
We do not recite these facts for the sake of casting reproach upon the memory of Louis. His faults have been bitterly expiated. But, in bare justice to the men who, after all this, had the generosity to replace him on the throne, it ought to be considered whether they had not reason to be niggardly of power to such a king, so circumstanced; a king, whose word, whose oath, was an empty sound; a king, incapable of adhering to his firmest convictions, and surrounded by persons who, if he formed an honest resolution, never suffered him to keep it.
If we have had any success at all in convincing our readers, we have now made it apparent to them, that the Constituent Assembly understood their own position, and that of their country, far better than Sir Walter Scott imagines, and that if they did not adopt the course which he, judging after the event, imagines would have prevented the ills which befel their country, it was not because they were less wise than he, but because they were wiser. No course which they could have adopted would have been so dangerous, as to establish a vigorous and efficient executive government with Louis at its head. And few will blame them for not having adopted the only third course which was open to them, the deposition and confinement of the king; few will deny that, before proceeding to this last and most painful extremity, such a scheme of limited monarchy as they attempted was an experiment which they would not have been excusable if they had refused to try. It is on the probabilities of success which this scheme held out, that we ground the justification of the Constituent Assembly; it is on the failure of the experiment, that we rest our defence of the Gironde, or, as our author terms it, the Republican party, who succeeded them.
None have sustained so much injustice at the hands of our author as this last, and most unfortunate party: of none have the conduct and aims been so miserably misunderstood, so cruelly perverted. The following extract is a very favourable specimen of his mode of treating them.
After saying that the Girondist party was “determined that the Revolution should never stop until the downfal of the monarchy,” our author continues:
Its most distinguished champions were men bred as lawyers in the south of France, who had, by mutual flattery, and the habit of living much together, acquired no small portion of that self-conceit and over-weening opinion of each other’s talents, which may be frequently found among small provincial associations for political or literary purposes. Many had eloquence, and most of them a high fund of enthusiasm, which a classical education, and their intimate communication with each other, where each idea was caught up, lauded, re-echoed, and enhanced, had exalted into a spirit of republican zeal. They doubtless had personal ambition, but in general it seems not to have been of a low or selfish character. Their aims were often honourable though visionary, and they marched with great courage towards their proposed goal, with the vain purpose of erecting a pure republic in a state so disturbed as that of France, and by hands so polluted as those of their Jacobin associates. It will be recorded, however, to the disgrace of their pretensions to stern republican virtue, that the Girondists were willing to employ, for the accomplishment of their purpose, those base and guilty tools which afterwards effected their own destruction. They were for using the revolutionary means of insurrection and violence, until the republic should be established, and no longer; or, in the words of the satirist,
He afterwards terms them, in a spirit of more bitter contempt, “the association of philosophical rhapsodists, who hoped to oppose pikes with syllogisms, and to govern a powerful country by the discipline of an academy.”†
He derides “the affected and pedantic fanaticism of republican zeal of the Girondists, who were amusing themselves with schemes, to which the country of France, the age and the state of manners were absolutely opposed.”‡
And elsewhere, he calls them, “the Brissotin, or Girondist faction” (he seldom, if ever, terms the supporters of despotism a faction), “who, though averse to the existence of a monarchy, and desiring a republic instead, had still somewhat more of principle and morals than the mere Revolutionists and Jacobins, who were altogether destitute of both.”*
The utmost which he can find to say in behalf of the purest and most disinterested body of men, considered as a party, who ever figured in history, among whose leaders not so much as one man of even doubtful integrity and honour can be found, is, that they had “somewhat more” of principle and morals, than persons who were “altogether destitute of both”!
His commendations of one of their number are less sparingly bestowed.
In raking up the disgusting history of mean and bloody-minded demagogues, it is impossible not to dwell on the contrast afforded by the generous and self-devoted character of Barbaroux, who young, handsome, generous, noble-minded, and disinterested, sacrificed his family-happiness, his fortune, and finally his life, to an enthusiastic, though mistaken, zeal for the liberty of his country.†
Unquestionably nothing can be better deserved than this panegyric; but why is a particular individual singled out to be the subject of it, when he, although excellent, was only one among many, alike in all the noble qualities which adorned this favourite of our author, and for the misery of France, alike also in their unhappy fate? Justice required that the same measure should be dealt out to them as to Barbaroux, even if it were true that their zeal for the liberty of their country was a “mistaken” zeal, and that they were for using the “revolutionary means of insurrection and violence” to establish a republic. But their zeal was not a mistaken zeal, and they were not for establishing a republic by insurrection and violence; most of them did not contemplate a republic at all, and designed at most nothing further than to depose the king, and elevate the young prince royal, under the direction of a council of regency, to the constitutional throne.
These may be startling assertions to some, who have formed their opinions solely from the indefatigable perseverance with which Sir Walter Scott, almost in every page, assures us of the contrary: but however paradoxical here, on the other side of the channel they are established truths, which few persons indeed of any party think of disputing, and of which nothing but the profound ignorance of our countrymen on the Revolution, could render it necessary to offer any proof: especially as this is not in any degree a question of opinion and reasoning, but one of mere fact and evidence, which every person, who has read the authorities carefully, is competent to decide.
We have already mentioned, that the first germ of a republican party appeared in France, when the king, after a long course of dissimulation and insincerity, fled from the capital, and was brought back by force. Notwithstanding the decisive evidence which he had thus afforded of his undiminished hostility to the constitution, the predominant party in the Constituent Assembly thought fit to restore him to the throne. We are far from contending that they ought to have acted otherwise, although Sir Walter Scott is of that opinion, and maintains that they were alike wrong in again offering, and Louis in accepting, the constitutional crown.[*] What is now his opinion, was that of many of the more ardent revolutionists at the time; and, among the rest, of a few who subsequently became aggregated to the Gironde party; for the great majority, including those from whom that party derives its distinctive name, were not in Paris until they came thither as members of the second National Assembly. In July 1791, before the resolution had been definitively taken to reinstate the king, a meeting was held in the Champ de Mars to subscribe a petition calling for his dethronement.[†] In this document no change in the monarchical constitution of France, as decreed by the Constituent Assembly, was hinted at: but the acknowledged fact, that the petition was drawn up by Brissot, whose speculative opinions were certainly republican, together with an expression of Brissot and Pétion, about the same time, which is recorded by Madame Roland, “qu’il fallait préparer les esprits à la république,”[‡] and the fact, that a newspaper under the title of The Republican was set on foot at this period by Brissot and Condorcet (although it only reached the second number), seem to render it probable, that if they had succeeded in obtaining the deposition of Louis, they would really have made an effort for the establishment of a republican government in preference to a change of monarch.* When the Assembly, however, under the guidance of Barnave and Chapelier, esteemed up to that time the most democratic of the popular leaders, re-established royalty in the person of the former sovereign, the idea of a republic was dropped, and the two or three men who had entertained it became amalgamated with the general body of the Girondist party, who, as we have previously stated, were not republicans.
The difference between the Constitutionalists and the Gironde, at the opening of the second, or Legislative Assembly, is thus expressed by Mignet: “Il [the Gironde party] n’avait alors aucun projet subversif; mais il était disposé à défendre la révolution de toutes les manières, à la différence des constitutionnels, qui ne voulaient la défendre qu’avec la loi.”[§] This assertion of Mignet (whom however we do not cite as an authority, since he was not, any more than ourselves, a contemporary and actor in the scene) is borne out by the direct testimony of every credible witness who had any tolerable means of knowing the fact. It is demonstrated as cogently by the recorded acts and speeches of the men themselves.
Sir Walter Scott, as we have already observed, has allowed, has asserted indeed, with more confidence than we should venture to do, that the reasons for deposing Louis preponderated, at the time of his return from Varennes, over those for retaining him on the throne.[*] These reasons, which our author considered sufficient, could be no others, than the certainty of the king’s insincerity, and the necessity of having a first magistrate sincerely attached to the constitution. Let us reflect how vastly more imminent that necessity had become, in the interval which separated the meeting of the second National Assembly from the memorable 10th of August 1792.
During this period, a new and most formidable element of danger had been introduced into the already perilous and embarrassing state of public affairs. A foreign despot had not only countenanced the emigrants in their warlike preparations, and in assuming a hostile attitude on the frontier, but had presumed to require, as a condition of friendship between the two governments, the re-establishment of the monarchy upon the footing of the royal declaration of the 23rd of June, 1789.[†] War had ensued; its commencement had been disastrous, an invasion was at hand, and the disorganization of the army, from the general relaxation of discipline, the emigration of most of the officers, and the want of military experience in the soldiers, had reached to such a height, that nothing but the most unheard-of efforts, such efforts as were at last made by Dumouriez and Carnot, could give the nation a chance of saving herself from the enemies of her freedom. It was not in such times as these that France could be preserved by men who were only half desirous that she should extricate herself from her difficulties. There were needed other “organizers of victory”[‡] than a chief magistrate who sympathized with the invaders of his country more than with his country itself. It was not from Louis that exertions could be expected for the prosecution of a war against his own brothers, and the assertors of his absolute authority. Yet not so soon did the Gironde renounce the hope of saving at once their country and the king. Louis, who was as vacillating in his choice of counsellors as in his counsels, had changed from a purely royalist to a mixed administration composed of constitutionalists and royalists. The divisions which speedily arose in this motley ministry (our author is here, as usual, most elaborately wrong) had terminated by the dismissal of the leading constitutional minister,[§] which the Assembly soon caused to be succeeded by the forced retirement of his royalist colleagues. Louis selected his next ministers from the ranks of the Gironde; and so far was this party from entertaining any hostility to the king, that Roland and Clavières, as Madame Roland informs us,[*] were at first completely the dupes of his apparent sincerity. Had he consented to the strong measures which they deemed necessary to secure the constitution against its foreign and internal enemies, they would have continued in office, and Louis probably, had remained constitutional monarch of France. But he refused to sanction the two decrees of the Assembly, for the banishment of the non-juring priests,* and for the formation of a camp of twenty thousand men under the walls of Paris.[†] The discussions consequent on this refusal occasioned the dismissal of the Girondist ministers, and ultimately produced the downfall of the throne: not however until the leading Girondists had made another effort to save the unfortunate and misguided monarch, which we shall relate in the words of their friend and apologist Bailleul.
J’ai déjà dit plusieurs fois dans le cours de cet ouvrage, et je viens de répéter tout à l’heure, que le parti républicain se formait insensiblement, et n’existait pas. En effet, l’autorité royale circonvenue, obsédée par les intrigues et les projets de la conspiration, ne laissait plus même échapper de ces lueurs de bonne volonté qui avaient jusque-là soutenu l’espoir des patriotes. Que faire? Que résoudre dans cet état d’anxiété? L’établissement d’une république se présentait à eux comme une dernière ressource, s’il était impossible de sauver autrement la liberté, contre laquelle toutes les forces étaient dirigées.
Puisque Madame de Stael† veut bien accorder quelque valeur aux députés que l’on a désignés sous le nom de Girondins,[‡] a-t-elle pu croire que des hommes de ce talent, tout grand qu’était leur enthousiasme, n’aient pas quelquefois réfléchi sur la position où se trouvait la France, et qu’ils se soient ainsi précipités en aveugles dans les événemens les plus affreux et les plux épouvantables? A-t-elle pu croire même qu’ils n’aient pas prévu les dangers dont cette conflagration les menaçait personnellement? Ce serait une bien grande erreur. Non-seulement ils y avaient pensé, mais ils en étaient occupés, et singulièrement préoccupés: on en jugera par le récit suivant.
Je ne crois pas me tromper, en disant que les trois hommes les plus distingués du parti appelé de la Gironde, étaient Vergniaud, Guadet, et Gensonné. Vergniaud, l’un des orateurs les plus éloquens qui aient jamais parlé aux hommes, avait une âme encore bien au-dessus de son talent. Guadet, d’un caractère emporté, était un homme de beaucoup d’esprit, plein de franchise, et capable de revenir à toutes les idées saines et raisonnables La gravité de Gensonné eût pû passer en proverbe: esprit méditatif et profond, chacune de ses paroles, même dans la conversation, était pesée et mûrie avant d’être livrée à l’examen et à la réflexion des autres. On fera peut-être bien à des hommes de cette supériorité, la grâce de croire, sans que j’insiste, qu’ils ne se sont pas trouvés environnés de toutes les circonstances extraordinaires et redoutables, sans y donner quelqu’attention. Voici ce que Vergniaud et Gensonné ont répété nombre de fois devant moi, et tous les prisonniers qui se trouvaient alors à la Conciergerie, du côté nommé des douze.
Ils avaient cherché à se ménager une entrevue avec Thierry, valet-de-chambre du roi. Cette entrevue eut lieu. Là, Vergniaud, Guadet et Gensonné exposèrent à Thierry les dangers de la patrie et les dangers personnels du roi; ils lui en indiquèrent les causes, et, par suite, ils tracèrent des plans de conduite, au moyen desquels des rapprochemens indispensables, si l’on ne voulait livrer l’état aux plus horribles convulsions, auraient lieu.
Thierry, accoutumé à n’entendre que les choses les plus dégoûtantes sur le compte de ces hommes; qui, comme tout ce qui composait l’entourage du roi, croyait être généreux à leur égard, en pensant qu’ils ne mangeaient pas des petits enfans, fut on ne peut plus ébahi de tant de franchise, de raison et de prévoyance; je dois dire plus, il en fut touché il leur exprima à quel point il était enchanté de les avoir entendus, il ne leur dissimula point combien cette ouverture lui donnait de consolations et d’espérances, et il les termina en les priant de mettre par écrit tout ce qu’il venait d’entendre, s’ils l’autorisaient à en faire part au roi. La proposition fut acceptée avec empressement. On se sépara, en convenant du jour où l’on se réunirait. Tous furent exacts au rendez-vous. Un mémoire contenant le fond de ce qui avait été dit à Thierry dans la premiere conférence, lui fut remis. Il promit de le communiquer aussitôt au roi, et de faire connaître sa réponse; ce qui donna lieu à une troisième réunion, dans laquelle Thierry, fondant en larmes, déclara que l’on ne voulait entendre à aucun rapprochement. Vergniaud lui répondit: Dites bien à votre maître que nous ne nous dissimulons pas nos propres dangers, mais qu’à partir de ce moment il n’est plus en notre pouvoir de le sauver. Voilà ce que j’ai entendu dire, répéter, et répéter encore par Vergniaud et par Gensonné. Guadet n’était pas avec nous à la Conciergerie, il était en fuite. Ce mémoire, confié par eux à Thierry, s’est, autant qu’il m’en souvient, retrouvé dans l’armoire de fer, et l’on en fit un des chefs les plus graves de l’accusation de ses auteurs.[*]
This Mémoire, admirable for its good sense and good feeling, may be seen in the Appendix to the second volume of the Memoirs of Dumouriez, as recently reprinted at Paris.[†] It is with difficulty that we refrain from increasing the length of an already long article, by transcribing this document into our pages. We beseech the reader to refer to it, to read it diligently, and then endure, if he can, to hear these men represented as conspirators, who plotted the destruction of royalty, who watched the king’s acts with a desire to find them such as afforded a hold for misrepresentation, and were never so well pleased as when he rendered himself unpopular, and gave pretexts for holding up his office as a nuisance, and himself as an enemy of the people. We cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of employing, for the expression of our own feelings, the affecting words of M. Bailleul.
O vous qui serez grands dans la postérité, vous dont je reçus, avec vos derniers adieux, les protestations d’un amour si sincère, si ardent pour votre patrie, l’expression si pure de vos voeux pour le bonheur de vos concitoyens; vous qui versiez des larmes si amères sur les malheurs de ces temps, et qui en retraciez les causes avec tant de justesse et d’énergie, auriez-vous jamais cru qu’on eût pu vous accuser d’avoir bouleversé la France pour le plaisir d’essayer un systême de gouvernement absolument nouveau pour elle, et qu’une femme aimant la liberté, par conséquent la vérité, écrirait, sous les yeux des témoins de votre courage, de votre sublime dévouement et de vos derniers momens, ces paroles: “Les Girondins voulurent la république, et ne parvinrent qu’à renverser la monarchie?”[*] Ils ne voulaient que la liberté; une monarchie constitutionnelle franchement établie eût fait leur bonheur. M. de Lally, cité par Madame de Staël, en proclamant que leur existence et leur mort furent également funestes à la patrie,[†] a commis dans la première partie de son assertion une effroyable injustice; il a prouvé qu’il ne soupçonnait même pas les causes véritables des événemens qui se sont succédés avec tant de rapidité à cette époque.*
Greatly as we have already exceeded the usual limits of an article, we cannot permit ourselves to leave the stain which is attempted to be cast upon men in so many respects admirable, imperfectly washed away. We should feel as if we had violated a duty, if we did not exhibit by ample evidence how unanimously men of all parties have concurred in exculpating the Girondists from the imputations now sought to be fixed upon them by Sir Walter Scott. We shall offer no apology to the reader for heaping up a multitude of attestations; we do not solicit his attention to this mass of evidence, we demand it. We demand it in the name and in behalf of the whole human race, whom it deeply imports that justice should be done, at least by another age, to the few statesmen who have cared for their happiness. Does the man exist who, having read the accusation brought against such men, will consider it too much trouble to listen to the defence? Let such amuse themselves with romance; it belongs to other men to read history.
Our first quotation shall be drawn from the Histoire de la Révolution de France, par Deux Amis de la Liberté, one of the most impartial works which have appeared on the subject of the Revolution, and written, as our quotation will shew, in a spirit very far indeed from being favourable to the Gironde:
La vérité est, que ni les uns ni les autres [the Gironde nor the Montagne] ne pensoient à cette époque à fonder une république en France. Le parti de la Gironde ou de Brissot, fier d’appartenir à une ville qui s’étoit, plus qu’aucune autre, fait remarquer par un ardent amour pour la liberté, comptant d’ailleurs sur le talent de la plupart des individus qui le composoient, vouloit s’illustrer par quelque coup d’éclat, soit en se rendant maître des volontés d’un monarque au moins avili, soit en le faisant descendre d’un trône où il ne pouvoit plus être qu’un objet de dérision, afin d’y placer son fils dont ils auroient dirigé l’enfance, exercé les pouvoirs et distribué les faveurs. S’il n’est pas démontré par des preuves écrites, que ce fussent-là les intentions ultérieures de Brissot et des députés de la Gironde, ou de ceux qui suivoient la même bannière, le projet n’en est pas moins incontestable, pour tous les hommes qui ont un peu observé la conduite des intrigans qui s’agitoient alors, et je dirai à ceux qui peuvent en douter, rappelez-vous les discours des chefs, quelques jours avant que le canon écrasât le château des Tuileries, vous les verrez éperdus, essayant de soutenir, pour quelque tems encore, le colosse ruiné qu’ils avoient eux-mêmes sappé par ses bases, vous les verrez effrayés de l’audace de ceux dont jusqu’alors ils avoient su diriger les mouvemens, qu’ils avoient regardés comme des machines dont ils avoient cru pouvoir disposer à volonté, vous les verrez prévoir les désordres sanglans auxquels cette troupe avide de trésors, avide de pouvoirs dont elle étoit incapable de jouir, devoit nécessairement s’abandonner: mais il n’étoit plus tems, l’abîme qu’ils avoient eux-mêmes ouvert étoit sous leurs pas; il n’y avoit plus d’espoir rétrograde, il fallait suivre le torrent, et s’y précipiter.
Au surplus, leur conduite publique prouvoit assez qu’ils ne vouloient qu’une simple déchéance. Dans toutes les adresses qu’ils se faisoient faire contre le roi, on ne demandoit que la déchéance, on ne parloit que de la déchéance, en maintenant l’acte constitutionnel, jamais on n’y insinua le mot de république.
Mais voici un fait plus positif: lorsque, pour porter le dernier coup de massue à Louis XVI, on fit venir à la barre les prétendues sections de Paris, le maire a leur tête. Pétion, l’intime ami de Brissot, et la plus vigoureuse colonne du parti, Pétion, introduit dans la salle du corps législatif, tout enivré de sa gloire présente, et encore plus de celle qui l’attendoit, dit hautement, et avec une naïveté qui n’étoit qu’à lui, aux députés qui faisoient grouppe à l’entrée de la salle. Ma foi, Messieurs, je vois que la régence me tombe sur la tête, je ne sais pas comment m’en défendre. Et ce propos, ou tel autre semblable, il l’a répété plusieurs fois, des personnes qui l’ont entendu, et qui vivent encore, peuvent dire si on en impose.
(Vol. VII, pp. 12-15.)
Compare this account of the conduct and designs of the Gironde with that of Sir Walter Scott. Need we say more?
Our next citation shall be from Toulongeon, also a constitutional monarchist, equal to the author last quoted in impartiality, and far superior to him in philosophy. We shall not quote from this writer any of the passages in which he denies the existence of a republican party at the commencement of the Revolution. In his account of the events which followed the king’s flight, he says, “La république n’était alors même, ni dans l’opinion de ceux qui réfléchissaient, ni dans le sentiment de ceux qu’il détermine toujours seuls” (Vol. II, p. 49). Of the Gironde at the opening of the second national assembly, he remarks, “Ce parti ne voulait pas la république; mais la marche de ce parti rendit la république nécessaire” (Vol. II, p. 91). Even in June, 1792, “Vergniaud, Isnard, étaient des chefs du parti de la Gironde: ils voulaient mettre l’autorité royale dans leur dépendance; mais ils ne voulaient pas la détruire en l’avilissant” (Vol. II, p. 171). Again, “Vergniaud, Guadet, tout ce qu’on appelait la Gironde, parce que les députés de ce département s’y faisaient le plus remarquer, voulut d’abord gouverner la royauté, plus encore par son influence et par son crédit, que par l’autorité, qu’ils aimaient mieux distribuer qu’exercer; et lorsque la royauté fut abolie, ils voulurent fonder la république par les moyens licites et avec les formes légales” (Vol. III, p. 9). And, finally, of Vergniaud, on the very day of the subversion of the throne, “Au dix Août, il voulait encore une monarchie systématique peut-être, mais tempérée. Dès que le mot république fut proclamé, il fut républicain.” (Vol. IV, p. 11.)[*] These are Sir Walter Scott’s fanatical enthusiasts, who plotted the destruction of royalty for years before, and made no scruple of employing insurrection and bloodshed to realize their visionary projects of a pure republic.
“Quoique la faction des Girondins,” says Soulavie, “fût un composé de toute sorte d’opinions, sa majorité a voulu une régence pendant la minorité du fils de Louis XVI, pour gouverner et pour perdre la reine, dont les projets connus de contre-révolution mettaient en péril, non-seulement l’existence politique mais la vie même des Girondins.”* If we were disposed to place much dependence upon anecdotes, which are only related by this author, we could transcribe several which he adduces to show that not only down to the subversion of the throne, but almost to the very day when the convention met and the republic was proclaimed, neither the Gironde nor the Montagne had finally decided upon establishing it: we could quote the story which he tells of the almost ludicrous consternation of Condorcet and Sieyès, when this event was reported to them,† and the declaration of the minister Montmorin to Soulavie himself, that a republic was then the least bad of all governments which were likely to be established, but that what the Gironde desired was a regency, which would be infinitely worse.[*] As we have less confidence, however, in the testimony of Soulavie, than in that of either of the writers whom we have before quoted, we allude to his evidence only in confirmation of theirs, and shall proceed to show that the royalists themselves, even those among them who have spoken of the Gironde with the most bitter hatred, have by no means accused them of being republicans, but of wishing for a king who should distribute honours and places among themselves, or, at most, of being indifferent to every form of government, provided they themselves were at the head of it. We have no apprehension that these last imputations should be believed, for Sir Walter Scott himself does ample justice to the character of the Girondists, as far as regards personal views; but, that the only accusation brought against them by their bitterest enemies should be that of selfish ambition,[†] proves at least the extreme absurdity of the charge of fanatical republicanism, and the following passages further add the direct testimony of the most decided, and the most trustworthy of the royalist writers, to the fact that most of these statesmen were not republicans.
We shall begin with Ferrières, generally the most candid and impartial of the royalists, but whose moderation entirely deserts him when he touches upon the Girondists. This writer particularly distinguishes the Girondist party from the republicans. Among the latter, he ranks Buzot and Pétion; but of the Girondists, especially the deputies of the Gironde itself, Vergniaud, Guadet, Gensonné, Ducos, and Fonfrède, he says, “Les Girondins étaient assez indifférens à la forme du gouvernement pourvu qu’ils gouvernassent et qu’ils pussent disposer de l’argent et des places; mais sentant que les constitutionnels ne lâcheraient pas leur proie, ils se rallièrent aux républicains, attendant à prendre un parti décidé d’après les événemens, et à se vendre à la cour ou à se donner à la république, selon que l’exigeraient leurs intérêts et les circonstances” (Vol. III, pp. 16-17). Assuredly, if these persons had shown the slightest symptom of fanatical attachment to a republican government, and hatred of royalty, such things could not have been said of them. Again, long after the insurrection, or rather tumult, of the 20th June 1792, we are told by Ferrières, “les Girondins ne voulaient qu’effrayer la cour. La déchéance n’entrait pas alors dans leurs vues,” (Vol. III, p. 165): that Pétion opposed the insurrection of the 10th of August, because it was the wish of the Gironde that the deposition of Louis should be decreed by the Assembly, and executed without tumult or violence (p. 178); that the Gironde had no concern in that insurrection (p. 180); that they were astonished at it (p. 182); that even at the opening of the convention, “la république n’était point définitivement arrêtée dans l’opinion des Girondins” (p. 245); and was carried independently of them, by what he terms the republican party.
Our next authority shall be Bertrand de Moleville, a royalist far more inveterately prejudiced than Ferrières; a man who avowedly disapproves of the introduction of any form of representative government into France, and cannot quite reconcile himself to its existence in England; and this man, it is important to observe, was a minister of Louis within a few months preceding his deposition. This author always speaks of the Girondists in the bitterest terms, and even accuses them of what we believe was never imputed to them by any other writer (it was scarcely insinuated even in the acte d’accusation against them, by the horrible Amar),[*] we mean personal corruption. After speaking of the letter (formerly alluded to) which was addressed to the king by the trois scélérats (it is thus that he designates Vergniaud, Guadet, and Gensonné)* —of which letter he seems to confess that he knew the contents only at second-hand (he certainly gives a most incorrect account of them), he next describes a plan of insurrection, which he affirms to have been devised by the Gironde in consequence of the ill success of their attempt to conciliate the king; and hereupon he observes.
Les chefs du parti de la Gironde, qui avaient conçu et dirigé ce plan, n’avaient point alors le projet de détruire le gouvernement monarchique, ils voulaient seulement que la déchéance du roi fût prononcée, pour faire passer la couronne à son fils, et établir un conseil de régence qu’ils auraient composé de leurs créatures, s’ils n’avaient pu s’y placer eux-mêmes, et sur lequel ils auraient eu, dans tous les cas, assez d’influence pour être assurés d’en obtenir tout l’argent et tous les emplois qu’ils auraient demandés, mais, comme il était bien plus aisé d’exciter une insurrection violente, que de la modérer à volonté, et d’en obtenir précisément tels ou tels résultats, ils n’auraient pas hésité à abandonner ce plan, si le roi avait voulu consentir à rappeler au ministère trois scélérats [by this polite expression we are here to understand Roland, Servan and Clavières] qui leur étaient trop servilement dévoués, pour oser leur rien refuser.
(Vol. II, p. 122.)
The abbé Georgel, a Jesuit, than whom the abbé Barruel himself scarcely regards the Revolution with a more frantic abhorrence, takes precisely the same view of the conduct and designs of the Gironde.* We shall not prolong our article by quoting, in the ipsissima verba of this author, any portion of his dull abuse. The substance of it is all contained in the passages which we have already quoted from Bertrand and Ferrières.
It will be thought, probably, that we have rather been too profuse than too sparing of evidence to prove Sir Walter Scott ignorant of his subject, and the story of the reckless enthusiasm and republican zeal of the Girondists a romance. It will amuse the reader to compare the above quotations with the passages which we previously transcribed from Sir Walter Scott. They contradict him point-blank in every particular, whether of praise or of blame. In support of his view of the Gironde we can find only one authority, that of Madame de Staël;[*] the most questionable of all witnesses, when she deposes to any facts but those within her own immediate observation. We have not nearly exhausted the evidence on the other side. We have cited as yet none of the witnesses who may be supposed partial to the Gironde, except Bailleul, from whom, moreover, we have drawn but a small part of the testimony which his highly instructive pages afford. We shall only further direct the attention of the reader to Lavallée, a writer of no very decided political opinions, but friendly to the Gironde, being personally acquainted with their principal leaders, and having been an employé of Roland, when minister of the interior. From him we have an interesting statement of what passed at a secret meeting of the leading Girondists and one or two other persons. They were all agreed that France was in a state nearly approximating to anarchy; that it would remain so, until there was a change of government; and that, with a view to this change, it was above all to be desired, that the king should voluntarily abdicate; but they were by no means agreed, supposing that a change could be brought about, what the change should be. Brissot declared strongly for a republic; Gensonné desired time for consideration; Condorcet and Guadet were not indisposed to a proposition which was made, of elevating the prince of Conti to the Regency; and, when the meeting broke up, nothing had been resolved upon.† If any decision was subsequently come to, the appointment of the Girondist ministry, which took place subsequently, must naturally have altered it; and what is known of their subsequent plans has been already stated.
We shall here take our leave, both of the Girondists and of Sir Walter Scott. We have left much unsaid, which cannot so properly be said on any other occasion; many misrepresentations unanswered, which it would have been of importance to expose. We would willingly have entered into considerable details respecting the royalist party, whose faults our author has extenuated as much as he has exaggerated those of the revolutionists; respecting the Montagnards, some of whom individually he has treated with great injustice, and of whose character and principles of action, as a body, he has no more than the most superficial conception; respecting the libéraux of the present day, whom he has treated, in the latter part of his work, with greater asperity and unfairness than is shewn towards the revolutionists themselves.* We could have wished to take notice of his sophisms on the Napoleon Code,[*] and on every subject, without exception, connected with English institutions and English politics; sophisms which are adapted to the state of all these different questions twenty years ago, and which prove that from that time he has kept his eyes closed to all that has been passing around him, and can neither accommodate his mode of defence to the present modes of attack, nor to the existing state of the public mind. But we must forbear all this, and in conclusion, we shall only say, that with all the faults which we have pointed out and all those which we have not pointed out in this book, the lover of truth has reason to rejoice at its appearance. Much as Sir Walter Scott has wronged the honest part of the revolutionists, the general opinion has hitherto wronged them far more; and to have much chance of correcting that opinion, it was perhaps necessary to temporize with it, and at first give into some portion of the prevailing error. The work contains juster views, and above all, breathes a less malignant spirit, than almost any other Tory publication on the Revolution, and will so far work a beneficial effect upon many minds, which would turn from a perfectly true history of the Revolution without examination or inquiry. We have, therefore, pointed out the errors of this work, not with any wish to see its influence diminished, far less with any hostility towards the author, for whom, politics apart, we share that admiration which is felt by every person possessing a knowledge of the English language. We have been influenced solely by the conviction, that if some readers can as yet endure no more than a part of the truth, there are many who are fully prepared to listen to the whole; and that our remarks have a greater chance of being extensively read and attended to, by being connected, however indirectly, with so celebrated a name.
[[*] ]See, e.g., Anon., review of Scott, Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, Monthly Review, n.s. VI (Sept., 1827), 92-5.
[[†] ]Pp. 85ff.
[[‡] ]Walter Scott, Waverley; or, ’Tis Sixty Years Since, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Constable, London: Longman, et al., 1814).
[[*] ]Scott, Old Mortality, in Tales of My Landlord, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: Blackwood, London: Murray, 1816), Vols. II-IV; Malcolm Laing, The History of Scotland, 2 vols. (London: Cadell and Davies; Edinburgh: Manners and Miller, 1800); and John Galt, Ringan Gilhaize; or, The Covenanters, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1823).
[[†] ]François Auguste Marie Mignet, Histoire de la révolution française, 2 pts. (Paris: Didot, 1824); Jacques Charles Bailleul, Examen critique de l’ouvrage posthume de Mme la baronne de Staël, 2 vols. (Paris: Bailleul, 1818).
[* ]On presenting Louis XVI with the keys of Paris, Bailly said, comparing the entry of Louis with that of Henry IV, “Il avait reconquis son peuple, aujourd’hui c’est le peuple qui a reconquis son roi.” Our author places this in Bailly’s speech of the 6th October 1789, and moralizes on the insulting irony of such an address on such an occasion. For this he refers to the Mémoires de Bailly, Choix de ses Lettres et Discours; and the speech is there, sure enough, but the expressions above alluded to are not in it. Those expressions were used on a different occasion, immediately after the capture of the Bastille, when they were neither insulting nor inappropriate, but well suited, on the contrary, to conciliate the vanquished, and soften the humiliation of defeat. [See Jean Sylvain Bailly, Mémoires de Bailly, 3 vols. (Paris: Baudouin, 1821-22), Vol. II, p. 58; Scott, Vol. I, p. 199.]
[[*] ]For the Aeolic digamma, see Alexander Pope, The Dunciad (1728), in Works, new ed., ed. Joseph Warton, et al., 10 vols. (London, Priestley, and Hearn, 1822-25), Vol. V, p. 253 (Bk. IV, ll. 215-18); Richard Payne Knight, An Analytical Essay on the Greek Alphabet (London: Elmsley, 1791); and (closer to the date of Mill’s comment) such works as Thomas Burgess, A Letter to the Lord Bishop of Durham (Carmarthon: Evans, 1815), Burgess, Vindication of the Late Bishop of Asaph’s Edition of the Lacedaemonian Decree (Durham: printed Walker, 1816); Herbert Marsh, Horae Pelasgicae (London: Murray, 1815), and the edition published in 1820 of Knight’s Carmina Homerica, Ilias et Odyssia (London: Valpy). For the Iron Mask, see, e.g., Joseph Delort, Histoire de l’homme au masque de fer (Paris: Delaforest, 1825); and George Agar Ellis, The True History of the State-Prisoner Commonly Called “The Iron Mask” (London: Murray, 1826).
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, pp. 43-4.
[[*] ]See Livy (Latin and English), 14 vols., trans. B.O. Foster, et al. (London: Heinemann: New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1919-59), Vol. III, p. 334 (vi. 39, 9-10), he records the sentiment as being that of two tribunes, Gaius Licinius and Lucius Sextius.
[[†] ]Francis Bacon, The Essays or Counsels, Civile and Morall (1625), in The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, et al., 14 vols. (London: Longman, et al., 1857-74), Vol. VI, p. 373.
[* ][Anne Louise Germaine Necker, baronne de Staël-Holstein,] Considérations sur [les principaux événemens de] la Révolution Françoise, Pt. I, Chap. vi [Vol. I, p. 79].
[[‡] ]Scott, Vol. I, pp. 30-1.
[[*] ]Travels during the Years 1787, 1788, and 1789 (1792), 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London and Bury St. Edmunds: Richardson, 1794), Vol. I, pp. 597-629.
[[†] ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 61.
[[‡] ]Ibid., pp. 61, 59.
[[§] ]Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, marquis de Condorcet, Vie de Voltaire (1787), in Voltaire, Oeuvres complètes, 66 vols. (Paris: Renouard, 1817-25), Vol. LXIV, p. 169.
[[¶] ]Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, “A Monsieur de C[ondorcet] sur le livre De l’esprit” (1760?), in Oeuvres, 9 vols. (Paris: Delance, et al., 1808-11), Vol. IX, pp. 288-98.
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 53.
[[†] ]Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, ed. Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, 17 vols. (Paris: Briasson, et al., 1751-65). Voltaire in fact contributed more than twenty articles (in the E. F. and G sections), e.g., “Esprit,” Vol. V, pp. 973-5; “Franchise,” Vol. VII, pp. 283-4; “Gens de lettres,” ibid., pp. 599-600; and “Histoire,” Vol. VIII, pp. 220-5.
[* ]With how much greater discrimination does the editor of Madame Campan’s memoirs animadvert upon the same persons, and the same faults, which are the subject of our author’s less judicious and less considerate disapprobation. After censuring some of the philosophers, and in particular Diderot by name, for participating practically in the licentiousness of the times, he adds, “Non que je veuille assurément jeter du blâme sur les philosophes: si leur conduite était légère, la plupart de leurs doctrines étaient pures; elles ont passé de leurs écrits dans nos moeurs. Si les liens de la famille se sont resserrés; si nous sommes meilleurs époux, meilleurs pères, et plus hommes de bien; si le vice est méprisé, si la jeunesse, avide d’études sérieuses, repousse avec dégoût les ouvrages licencieux qu’accueillait le libertinage de ses pères, nous le devons à un nouvel ordre de choses. En morale, comme en politique, en législation, en finances, les philosophes ont préparé d’utiles réformes.” ([Jean François Barrière, “Notice sur la vie de madame Campan,” in Jeanne Louise Henriette Genest Campan, Mémoires sur la vie privée de Marie Antoinette, 2 vols. (London: Colburn and Bossange, 1823), Vol. I,] p. xx.)
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 62.
[* ]Ibid. [The concluding quotation is from Thomas Otway, Venice Preserv’d, or, A Plot Discover’d (London: Hindmarsh, 1682), p. 17 (Act II).]
[[*] ]Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu, De l’esprit des loix, 2 vols. (Geneva: Barillot, ).
[* ]Scott, Vol. I, pp. 69-71.
[[*] ]Ibid., pp. 84ff.
[[†] ]Ibid., p. 103.
[[‡] ]Ibid., p. 105.
[* ][François Marie Arouet Voltaire, Charlot, ou La comtesse de Gevry (1767), in Oeuvres complètes, Vol. VI, p. 108 (Act I, Scene vii).] There occurs in the same chapter a signal instance of the almost incredible inaccuracy which runs through the details of this work. Our author asserts that the second assembly of Notables, which was called together by Necker, recommended that the tiers-état might have a body of representatives equal in number to those of the noblesse and clergy united. [Scott, Vol. I, pp. 113-14.] Now, he would have found in the commonest compilations [see, e.g., Montgaillard’s Histoire, Vol. I, p. 440], that this measure, commonly called the double representation of the tiers, was recommended by one only of the seven bureaux into which the Notables were divided, namely that over which Monsieur, afterwards Louis XVIII presided; while the remaining six bureaux gave their suffrages against it, and the point was conceded, not in consequence of, but in spite of, the advice of that assembly.
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 114.
[* ]Of the eagerness, and we will add, the duplicity and treachery, with which the deputies of the noblesse de campagne were caressed and cajoled by the men and women of the court, we have an amusing account from one of those deputies, the marquis de Ferrières (see his Memoirs, Vol. I, pp. 34-7), who, though a decided royalist and anti-revolutionist, draws a picture of the courtiers both in respect to head and heart, which, indifferently as we think of courtiers in general, and of the French court in particular, we cannot help believing to be somewhat overcharged. Toulongeon describes these cajoleries in still stronger terms ([François Emmanuel Toulongeon,] Histoire de France, depuis la Révolution de 1789 [7 vols. (Paris: Treuttel and Würtz, 1801-10)], Vol. I, p. 25), and adds that attempts were made to gain the principal orators of the tiers-état, when it was afterwards found that this order was likely to become formidable (p. 57). The court must therefore stand acquitted from the imputation of not having made ample use of those “usual ministerial arts” which our author fancies that they neglected, and thinks they ought to have employed [Scott, Vol. I, pp. 116-17.] The following anecdote to the same effect, related by the royalist Dampmartin, is amusing. “Je dînai,” says he, “chez le duc de Luxembourg. . . . Nous étions trop nombreux pour que l’entretien devînt général; mais on appercevait sans peine les soins consacrés avec peu d’art à séduire les provinciaux nouvellement débarqués Je reçus en mon particulier des attentions qui ne me parurent pas naturelles. L’énigme se trouva résolue par la demande que me fit la duchesse, de quel bailliage j’étais député.” ([Anne Henri Cabet, vicomte de Dampmartin,] Evénemens qui se sont passés sous mes yeux pendant la Révolution Française [2 vols. (Berlin: n.p., 1799)], Vol. I, pp. 33-4.) [The concluding reference is to Adélaïde Geneviève, duchesse de Montmorency-Luxembourg.] The same writer hints that he exertions of Cazalès, the leading church-and-king orator in the Constituent Assembly, were partly the effect of similar allurements. “Cazalès, dont le riche talent a depuis fixé l’admiration générale, ne laissait encore appercevoir qu’une pétulance qui s’exaltait par les égards et les cajoleries que les habitans des cours savent si bien employer vis-à-vis des personnes dont ils pensent avoir besoin. Leurs charmes ont assez de pouvoir pour que les caractères les plus prononcés en soient amollis.” (Pp. 34-5.)
[* ]Our authority is the memoirs of the royalist Ferrieres, Vol. II, pp. 199, 259.
[† ]Our authority is the memoirs of the royalist Madame Campan, passim. See also Deux Amis, Vol. IX, pp. 215n-17n.
[‡ ]On this point, we may at least indicate a portion of that evidence which we have not room to exhibit. That the privileged classes commenced the Revolution, by resisting, in the Notables, the proposed new taxes, and by demanding, in the assembly of the clergy and in the parliaments, the convocation of the Etats Généraux, is matter of undisputed fact. That they did so in the hope of getting the powers of government into their hands by means of an aristocratical legislature, is asserted in express terms by three royalists, [François Claude Amour, marquis de] Bouillé (Mémoires, ed. 12mo [2 vols. (Paris: Giguet, 1802)], Vol. I, pp. 49, 67, 69), Ferrières (Vol. I, p. 2), and [Jean François] Marmontel (Mémoires , London ed. [4 vols. (Peltier, 1805)], Vol. IV, pp. 12-13), as well as by Madame de Staël, in her Considerations, &c. (Vol. I, pp. 174-7.) The whole of the introductory portion of the History of the Revolution by [Antoine Etienne Nicolas] Fantin Desodoards [Histoire philosophique de la révolution de France, new rev. ed., 4 vols. (Paris: Perlet, et al., 1797), Vol. I, esp. pp. 61-2 (Bk. I, Chap. xviii)], and the Memoir of Necker, which M. Boissy d’Anglas has annexed to his Life of Malesherbes, are filled with evidence of the same fact. [François Antoine Boissy d’Anglas, “Sur M. Necker,” Essai sur la vie, les écrits et les opinions de M. de Malesherbes, adressé à mes enfans, 3 pts. (Paris: Treuttel and Würtz, 1819-21), Pt. 2, pp. 239-88.] For proof that the ministers relied upon the tiers-état, and its influence in the Etats Généraux, for support against the refractory nobles and parliaments, the reader may refer to Toulongeon (Vol. I, pp. 15, 22), Madame de Staël (Vol. I, pp. 126-7), Bouillé (Vol. I, Chap. iv [esp. p. 61]), Marmontel (Vol. IV, p. 39). Bertrand de Moleville (Mémoires Particuliers pour servir à l’Histoire de la fin du Règne de Louis XVI [2 vols. (Paris: Michaud, 1816)], Vol. I, pp. 21-2).
[* ]We had made references to an incredible number of passages, chiefly from Bertrand de Moleville, Ferrières, Bouillé, Madame Campan, and other royalist writers, bearing testimony to the abhorrence in which the royalists held the very idea of a constitution even on the English model, the pertinacity with which they clung to the ancien régime, refusing to hear of the slightest modification or reform, and their inveterate malignity towards all the moderate revolutionists, contrasted with a sort of favour and partiality towards the furious Jacobins, whom, according to Madame Campan, they declared that every true royalist ought to cherish, because they were the enemies of their enemies, and because their excesses tended to the ruin of the Revolution. [See, e.g., Campan, Mémoires, Vol. II, pp. 154-5, 182.] But we have not room to insert these extracts entire; while, if abridged, they would lose a great part of their force; and what hope can we entertain of convincing any one, whom the conduct of the royalist party since the restoration has not convinced?
[* ]Lafayette, for example, who in his beautiful letter of thanks to the chevalier d’Archenholz, written in the dungeons of Olmutz, takes credit to himself for having sacrificed republican inclinations to the welfare of his country [“Lettre du général La Fayette au chevalier d’Archenholz” (Magdebourg, 27 Mar., 1793), in Jean Baptiste Regnault-Warin, Mémoires pour servir à la vie du général La Fayette, 2 vols. (Paris: Hesse, 1824), Vol. II, p. 116.]
[[*] ]Frederick William II of Prussia.
[[†] ]George Canning and George Ellis, [“New Morality,”] Anti-Jacobin; or, Weekly Examiner, II, 36 (9 July, 1798), 282-7, for Canning’s sarcasm on William Ogden, see his Speech on the Indemnity Bill (11 Mar., 1818), PD, 1st ser., Vol. 37, cols. 1026-8.
[* ]We mean Barnave. For the truth of our assertion, see the furious Memoirs of the Abbe Georgel [Jean François Georgel, Mémoires pour servir a l’histoire des événemens de la tin du dix-huitième siècle, 6 vols. (Paris: Eymery and Delaunay, 1817-18), Vol. II, e.g., p. 422]; and a still more intemperate production (if that be possible), intituled Conjuration d’Orléans, and attributed to the noted royalist writer, Montjoie [Christophe Félix Louis Montjoie, Histoire de la conjuration de L.P.J. d’Orléans, 6 vols. (Paris: Les marchands de nouveautés, 1800), esp. Vol. II, pp. 65-140 (Book V)] See even the work, above cited, of the Abbé de Montgaillard, Vol. II, p. 81.
[[*] ]Mirabeau, speeches of 1 and 12 Sept., 1789, in Oeuvres, Vol. VII, pp. 244-63 and 266-9.
[[†] ]See Charles Durozoir, biography of Turgot, in Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne, ed. Louis Gabriel Michaud, 52 vols. (Paris: Michaud frères, 1811-28), Vol. XLVII, p. 81.
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, pp. 255-6.
[* ]Of the view which has been taken of the Orleanist party in the text, the decisive evidence is of course to be sought for in the lives, the speeches, and the writings of the men themselves. But in order to shew that several of the most intelligent writers on the Revolution have concurred substantially in the opinion above expressed, we may refer the reader to Toulongeon (Histoire de France depuis la Révolution de 1789, Vol. I, pp. 118-19), to Madame de Staël (Considérations sur la Révolution Françoise, Vol. I, 2nd pt., Chap. vi, near the end [pp. 306-7]), and to a passage in Arthur Young (see, in his work on France, the diary of his third tour in that country, ad diem 12th June, 1789 [2nd ed., Vol. I, p. 121]).
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 140.
[* ]We are aware that the ostensible motive for their desertion of their duty, was the horrors of the fifth and sixth of October; but it is difficult to mention such an excuse with a grave face. Without doubt, there was enough in the events of that day to disgust men, such as they were, of feeling and humanity, but, after all, what could become of a nation in troubled times, if the murder of two persons were sufficient to frighten every well-meaning and virtuous man from his post?
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, pp. 141-2.
[* ][François Louis, comte] D’Escherny, Philosophie de la Politique [2 vols. (Paris: n.p., 1796)], quoted at great length in the Appendix to the second volume of the Memoirs of Madame Campan [Vol. II, p. 444 (Note P), quoted from d’Escherny, Vol. II, p. 297]. For the strongest and most distinct testimony to the fact, that what appears the unnecessary limitation of the king’s power was not occasioned by any fanaticism of democracy, or bigotted attachment to system, but by real dread of the use to which that power would be converted, vide Madame de Staël, (Vol. I, pp. 308, 316,) who, being of the party of Mounier, and a perfect idolator of the British constitution, cannot be here suspected of partiality. Ferrières is, if possible, still more positive on the same point; (see Vol. I, pp. 368, 391, Vol. II, pp. 236-7, 481), passages which, although written by a royalist, and one who not only perceives but exaggerates the faults of the constitution of 1791, contain the most entire and honorable vindication of the authors of that constitution, which has ever appeared. The same author says, that the constitutional party were, perhaps, more deeply impressed than even the royalists, with the necessity of giving efficiency to the executive, as well as more sincerely attached to the person of the king, (Vol. III, p. 15.)
[† ]Examen Critique de l’Ouvrage Posthume de Madame de Staël, 2me partie, chap. ix [Vol. I, p. 317].
[‡ ]Ibid., Vol. II, p. 34.
[[*] ]Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, in Works, 8 vols. (London: Dodsley, et al., 1792-1827), Vol. III, pp. 182-3.
[[†] ]Scott, Vol. I, pp. 140-6.
[[‡] ]Victor François, duc de Broglie.
[[*] ]For the names of the ministers dismissed and their replacements, see above p. 9 in the quotation from Mignet.
[* ]His words were, “seul je ferai le bien de mes peuples, seul je me considérerai comme leur véritable représentant; et connaissant vos cahiers, &c. &c.” (See the Memoires de Bailly, Vol. I, p. 213.)
[† ]Ferrières also attests the fact, Vol. I, p. 122.
[* ]Scott, Vol. I, pp. 163-5. [For the fable referred to in the quotation, see Jean de La Fontaine, Fables choisies mises en vers (Paris: Thierry, 1668), pp. 23-4 (Book I, Fable x).]
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 154.
[[†] ]Mirabeau, Speech of 15 July, 1789, in Oeuvres, Vol. VII, pp. 167-8.
[[‡] ]“Mesdames” refers to Marie Adélaide and Victoire Louise, the surviving daughters of Louis XV; “Madame” to Louise Marie Joséphine, comtesse de Provence.
[[§] ]See above, p. 72n.
[* ]Considérations sur la Révolution Françoise, Vol. I, pp. 231-2.
[† ]Mémoires de Bailly, Vol. I, pp. 191, 299, 313, 342, 361, 391-2. Some of these passages prove more, others less, but all are important.
[‡ ][Charles François Dumouriez, La vie et les] Memoires de Dumouriez [4 vols. (Paris: Baudouin, 1822-23)], Vol. II, p. 35.
[[*] ]The Spanish generals Juan Díaz Porlier and Louis de Lacy were put to death by Ferdinand VII.
[§ ]Vol. II, pp. 63-4 [where the letter is given].
[¶ ]“Et dix ans plus tard,” the author indignantly adds, “ce despote de la vieille roche (suivant son expression favorite), était dans les antichambres de Cambacérès, et recevait de Napoléon une pension de douze mille francs sur sa cassette!” There would bematter enough for indignation here, if it were rational to be angry with the beasts of the field for merely following their nature. Any act of baseness is credible in a royalist of 1789. The court of Napoleon was thronged with émigrés of the 14th of July. It was the despotism which they had valued, not the despot. No one licked the dust before the parvenu emperor with greater gusto than the abbé Maury, than whom a more unprincipled intrigant never sold his conscience for gain.
[* ][Montgaillard,] Histoire de France depuis la fin du règne de Louis XVI, Vol. II, pp. 62-3.
[† ][Charles Jean Dominique de Lacretelle, Histoire de l’assemblée constituante, 2 vols. (Paris, Strasburg, and London: Treuttel and Würtz, 1821),] Vol. I, pp. 68-9.
[* ]Toulongeon, Vol. I, p. 18. The vicomte de Toulongeon was himself a distinguished member of the minority of the noblesse, and his History is equal in authority to the memoirs of an eye witness. It is by far the most instructive and most philosophical work of its class. [Louis Bénigne François de Bertier de Sauvigny was Intendant of Paris.]
[† ][Joseph] Lavallée, Histoire [de l’origine, des progres, et de la decadence] des [diverses] Factions de la Révolution Française, [3 vols. (London: Murray, 1816),] Vol. I, p. 86.
[‡ ]Montgaillard (Vol. II, p. 82) confirms the assertion.
[§ ]Toulongeon, Vol. I, p. 78, &c. &c. The cause of the precipitate retreat of the baron de Bezenval is thus stated by Montgaillard, on the authority of the minister Breteuil, as before “Le baron de Bezenval faisait achever des bains où toutes les recherches du luxe avaient été prodiguées; il craignait leur dévastation, et ce favori, si brave à Versailles, donna aux troupes placées sous ses ordres l’ordre de battre en retraite, quoique le roi lui eût formellement prescrit d’avancer, coûte qui couûte. M. de Breteuil s’exprimait publiquement de la sorte sur cette particularité, pendant son séjour à Londres,” (Vol. II, p. 81.) The reader will recollect, that from this inaction of Bezenval, Sir Walter Scott concludes, not only that Louis had not ordered him to attack Paris, but that he had expressly ordered him not even to repel force by force. [Scott, Vol. I, pp. 164-5.] No wonder; our author’s knowledge of the events of this day being chiefly derived from the Memoirs of the veridical baron de Bezenval himself. [Pierre Joseph Victor, baron de Besenval, Mémoires, 4 vols. (Paris: Buisson, 1805-06); see, e.g., Vol. III, p. 411.]
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, pp. 159-60.
[* ]Ibid., p. 154.
[† ]Staël, Considerations, &c., Vol. I, p. 228.
[‡ ]In the Appendix to the first volume of Toulongeon. [P. 131; the Appendix is separately paged.]
[§ ]Vol. II, p. 48.
[¶ ]Chap. iii. [Vol. I, p. 49.]
[[*] ]Jean Louis Soulavie, Mémoires historiques et politiques du règne de Louis XVI, 6 vols. (Paris: Treuttel and Wurtz, 1801), Vol. VI, pp. 209-11, 268-9.
[** ]See also, on the sentiments of the army in general Madame de Stael, Considerations, &c., Vol. I, pp. 208, 213; and the Memoirs of Bertrand de Moleville, Vol. I, p. 23.
[[†] ]See Deux amis, Vol. I, pp. 346-51, and Vol. II, 308-17, e.g.
[∥ ]Essai sur la Vie, les Ecrits, et les Opinions, de Malesherbes, par M. le Comte Boissy d’Anglas, Vol. II, p. 191.
[* ]Mémoires, Vol. I, pp. 261, 263, 277-8, Vol. II, p. 177.
[[*] ]Bouillé, Chaps. ix-xi; Vol. I, pp. 146-88, Vol. II, pp. 5-90.
[† ]Montgaillard, Vol. II, p. 154.
[[†] ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 206n, quoting Ferrières, Vol. I, p. 307.
[[‡] ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 181.
[[*] ]Ibid., p. 184.
[* ]See Volumes II to VI of the Histoire de la Revolution, par Deux Amis de la Liberte.
[* ]See, for many interesting particulars, the work of Dampmartin, above referred to. [See, e.g., Vol. I, pp. 187ff.]
[† ]Ferrières, Vol. II, p. 99.
[‡ ]Ibid., p. 100.
[§ ]Ibid., Vol. I, p. 391.
[¶ ]Ibid., Vol. II, p. 254.
[[*] ]“Discours prononcé par le roi à l’assemblée nationale” (4 Feb., 1790), Gazette Nationale, ou Le Moniteur Universel, 6 Feb., 1790, pp. 147-8.
[∥ ]Mémoires particuliers, &c. par Bertrand de Moleville, Vol. I, pp. 371, 373, 375, 377; Vol. II, pp. 309, 312-13, 317, 323ff., 329, 331-2.
[* ]Mémoires de Dumouriez, Vol. II, p. 111, &c. &c.
[† ]This letter may be found entire in the Appendix to the second volume [pp. 419-22] of Dumouriez’s Memoirs, forming part of the collection of Memoirs on the Revolution, now publishing at Paris. [Collection des mémoires relatifs à la révolution française, ed. Saint-Albin Berville and Jean François Barrière, 68 vols. (Paris: Baudoin, 1820-28).] It may not be useless to remark, that our references to the pages of any work forming part of this collection, are to be understood of that edition, unless otherwise expressed.
[[*] ]“Proclamation du roi à tous les Français à sa sortie de Paris” (20 June, 1791), Gazette Nationale, ou Le Moniteur Universel, 22 June, 1791, p. 718.
[* ]Scott, Vol. I, pp. 264-6. [The concluding verse is Samuel Butler, Hudibras (1678), ed. Zachary Grey, 2 vols. (London: Vernor and Hood, et al., 1801), Vol. II, p. 307 (Pt. III, Canto ii, ll. 1043-6).]
[† ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 269.
[‡ ]Ibid., p. 313.
[* ]Ibid., p. 307.
[† ]Ibid., p. 342.
[[*] ]Ibid., p. 255.
[[†] ]See Deux amis, Vol. VIII, p. 73.
[[‡] ]Mémoires, Vol. I, p. 351.
[* ]We are also assured by Ferrières, Vol. II, p. 347, that Brissot at this time proposed a republican government in the Jacobin club; and a proclamation to the same effect by his friend Achille Duchâtelet, which was placarded in the streets of Paris, is given verbatim by the same author, pp. 388-91.
[[§] ]Mignet, Histoire, p. 206. Mill’s words in square brackets.
[[*] ]Scott, Vol. I, p. 256.
[[†] ]Leopold II, Letter to Louis XVI (3 Dec., 1791), Gazette Nationale, ou Le Moniteur Universel, 26 Dec., 1791, p. 1505.
[[‡] ]Mill is adapting a well-known description of Carnot, see Mémoires historiques et militaires sur Carnot, ed. Saint-Albin Berville and Jean François Barrière (Paris: Baudouin, 1824), pp. 69-70.
[[§] ]Louis Marie Jacques Amalric, comte de Narbonne-Lara.
[[*] ]Mémoires, Vol. I, p. 362.
[* ][“Décret sur les prêtres non-sermentés” (27 May, 1792), Gazette Nationale, ou Le Moniteur Universel, 4 June, 1792, p. 647, for Louis XVI’s refusal to sanction it, see ibid., 20 June, 1792.] Sir Walter Scott cannot refrain from imputing this decree, though purely political in its object, to philosophic intolerance, and an intention of degrading and subverting the national faith. [Scott, Vol. I, p. 300.] But it is useless to expose in further detail these endless instances of blind and obstinate prejudice.
[[†] ]“Décret d’augmentation de vingt mille hommes pour l’armée” (8 June, 1792), Gazette Nationale, ou Le Moniteur Universel, 9 June, 1792, p. 668; for Louis XVI’s refusal to sanction it, see ibid., 20 June, 1792, p. 716.
[† ]To understand this allusion, it must be remembered, that Bailleul’s work was suggested and occasioned by Madame de Staël’s Considerations.
[[‡] ]Staël, Considérations, Vol. II, p. 28.
[[*] ]Bailleul, Examen critique, Vol. II, pp. 42-6.
[[†] ]“Copie de la lettre écrite au citoyen Boze, par Guadet, Vergniaud et Gensonné,” in Dumouriez, Vol. II, pp. 422-6.
[[*] ]Staël, Considérations, Vol. II, p. 28.
[[†] ]Ibid., pp. 28-9.
[* ]Bailleul, Examen Critique, Vol. II, pp. 46-7.
[[*] ]Mill’s reference is incorrect, and the passage has not been located.
[* ]Soulavie, Mémoires, Vol. VI, p. 450.
[† ]Ibid., pp. 454-6.
[[*] ]Ibid., pp. 463-5.
[[†] ]See Jean Baptiste Amar’s speech in presenting the “acte d’accusation” against the Girondists (3 Oct., 1793), Procès-verbal de la convention nationale, Vol. XXII, pp. 55-6.
[* ]Vol. II, p. 111.
[* ]Georgel, Mémoires, Vol. III, pp. 361-2, et passim [Jean François Georgel and Augustin Barruel, Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du jacobinisme, 4 vols. (London: Boussonnier, 1797-98)].
[[*] ]Considérations, Vol. II, pp. 28-31.
[† ][Lavallée,] Histoire des Factions de la Révolution Française, Vol. I, pp. 199-213.
[* ]Every one who knows what the liberaux of the present century are, is aware that they comprise every shade of political opinion from Mounier to Carnot. Our author, however, industriously identifies all of them with the extinct, and now universally detested, sect of Jacobins. As an example of his mode of dealing with individuals, we may instance his treatment of Comte, known to all Europe as the intrepid writer who, at great personal risk, vindicated the principles of constitutional freedom in the Censeur Européen, at a time when there were few to aid him in the glorious conflict; and who has suffered five years exile, and the mean-spirited persecution of the Holy Alliance, in consequence of his manly and stedfast adherence to liberal opinions. This individual, of whom Sir Walter Scott is so consummately ignorant as to have discovered the correct orthography of his name only time enough to insert it in the Errata, he does not scruple to accuse of having been “a promoter of Bonaparte’s return.” [Scott, Vol. VIII, p. 422, Comte’s name appears as “Lecompte.”] Will it be believed, that when Napoleon was in full march towards Paris, M. Comte published a pamphlet, which went through three editions in as many days, denouncing the imperial government as tyrannical, and calling upon the French people to resist the usurper! [François Charles Louis Comte, De l’impossibilité d’établir un gouvernement constitutionnel sous un chef militaire, et particulièrement sous Napoléon (Paris: Les marchands de nouveautés, 1815).] This work (of which we possess a copy) was translated and widely circulated in Germany, as a proof that the enlightened portion of the French people were hostile to Bonaparte. [Über die Unmöglichkeit einer constitutionellen Regierung unter einem militärischen Oberhaupte, besonders unter Napoleon, trans. T. von Haupt (Cologne Dumont, Bachmann, 1815).] Let the reader give credit after this to our author’s imputations against men of whom he knows nothing.
[[*] ]Code Napoléon (Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1807), see Scott, Vol. VI, pp. 52-65.