Lettres À M. Buttafuoco.
[MS. Neuchâtel, 7899 (Rough Draft of Letters I. and II.),and Ed. 1782, Vol. xII. pp. 413–427.]
Motiers-Travers, le 22 septembre 1764.
Il est superflu, monsieur, de chercher à exciter mon zèle pour l’entreprise que vous me proposez. La seule idée m’élève l’âme et me transporte. Je croirais le reste de mes jours bien noblement, bien vertueusement, bien heureusement employé; je croirais même avoir bien racheté l’inutilité des autres, si je pouvais rendre ce triste reste bon en quelque chose à vos braves compatriotes, si je pouvais concourir par quelque conseil utile aux vues de leur digne chef et aux vôtres. De ce côté-là donc, soyez sûr de moi; ma vie et mon cœur sont à vous .
Mais, monsieur, le zèle ne donne pas les moyens, et le désir n’est pas le pouvoir. Je ne veux pas faire ici sottement le modeste: je sens bien ce que j’ai; mais je sens encore mieux ce qui me manque. Premièrement, par rapport à la chose, il me manque une multitude de connaissances relatives à la nation et au pays: connaissances indispensables, et qui, pour les acquérir, demanderont de votre part beaucoup d’instructions, d’éclaircissements, de mémoires, etc.; de la mienne, beaucoup d’étude et de réflexions. Par rapport à moi, il me manque plus de jeunesse, un esprit plus tranquille, un cœur moins épuisé d’ennuis, une certaine vigueur de génie, qui, même quand on l’a, n’est pas à l’épreuve des années et des chagrins; il me manque la santé, le temps; il me manque, accablé d’une maladie incurable et cruelle, l’espoir de voir la fin d’un long travail, que la seule attente du succès peut donner le courage de suivre; il me manque, enfin, l’expérience dans les affaires, qui seule éclaire plus, sur l’art de conduire les hommes, que toutes les méditations.
Si je me portais passablement, je me dirais: J’irai en Corse; six mois passés sur les lieux m’instruiront plus que cent volumes. Mais comment entreprendre un voyage aussi pénible, aussi long, dans l’état où je suis? le soutiendrais-je? me laisserait-on passer? Mille obstacles m’arrêteraient en allant; l’air de la mer achèverait de me détruire avant le retour. Je vous avoue que je désire mourir parmi les miens.
Vous pouvez être pressé: un travail de cette importance ne peut être qu’une affaire de très longue haleine, même pour un homme qui se porterait bien. Avant de soumettre mon ouvrage à l’examen de la nation et de ses chefs, je veux commencer par en être content moi-même. Je ne veux rien donner par morceaux; l’ouvrage doit être un; l’on n’en saurait juger séparément. Ce n’est déjà pas peu de chose que de me mettre en état de commencer; pour achever, cela va loin.
Il se présente aussi des réflexions sur l’état précaire où se trouve encore votre île. Je sais que, sous un chef tel qu’ils l’ont aujourd’hui, les Corses n’ont rien à craindre de Gênes. Je crois qu’ils n’ont rien à craindre non plus des troupes qu’on dit que la France y envoie; et ce qui me confirme dans ce sentiment est de voir un aussi bon patriote, que vous me paraissez l’être, rester, malgré l’envoi de ces troupes, au service de la Puissance qui les donne . Mais, monsieur, l’indépendance de votre pays n’est point assurée tant qu’aucune Puissance ne la reconnaît; et vous m’avouerez qu’il n’est pas encourageant pour un aussi grand travail de l’entreprendre sans savoir s’il peut avoir son usage, même en le supposant bon.
Ce n’est point pour me refuser à vos invitations, monsieur, que je vous fais ces objections, mais pour les soumettre à votre examen et à celui de M. Paoli. Je vous crois trop gens de bien, l’un et l’autre, pour vouloir que mon affection pour votre patrie me fasse consumer le peu de temps qui me reste à des soins qui ne seraient bons à rien.
Examinez donc, messieurs; jugez vous-mêmes, et soyez sûrs que l’entreprise dont vous m’avez trouvé digne ne manquera point par ma volonté.
Recevez, je vous prie, mes très humbles salutations.
P.S. En relisant votre lettre, je vois, monsieur, qu’à la première lecture j’ai pris le change sur votre objet. J’ai cru que vous me demandiez un corps complet de législation, et je vois que vous demandez seulement une institution politique: ce qui me fait juger que vous avez déjà un corps de lois civiles autre que le Droit écrit , sur lequel il s’agit de calquer une forme de Gouvernement qui s’y rapporte. La tâche est moins grande, sans être petite; et il n’est pas sûr qu’il en résulte un tout aussi parfait; on n’en peut juger que sur le recueil complet de vos lois.
Motiers, le 15 octobre 1764.
Je ne sais, monsieur, pourquoi votre lettre du 3 ne m’est parvenue qu’hier. Ce retard me force, pour profiter du courrier, de vous répondre à la hâte; sans quoi, ma lettre n’arriverait pas à Aix assez tôt pour vous y trouver .
Je ne puis guère espérer d’être en état d’aller en Corse. Quand je pourrais entreprendre ce voyage, ce ne serait que dans la belle saison. D’ici là le temps est précieux; il faut l’épargner tant qu’il est possible; et il sera perdu jusqu’à ce que j’aie reçu vos instructions, Je joins ici une note rapide des premières dont j’ai besoin; les vôtres me seront toujours nécessaires dans cette entreprise. Il ne faut point là-dessus me parler, monsieur, de votre insuffisance. À juger de vous par vos lettres, je dois plus me fier à vos yeux qu’aux miens; et à juger par vous de votre peuple, il a tort de chercher ses guides hors de chez lui.
II s’agit d’un si grand objet que ma témérité me fait trembler: n’y joignons pas du moins l’étourderie. J’ai l’esprit très lent; l’âge et les maux le ralentissent encore. Un Gouvernement provisionnel a ses inconvénients. Quelque attention qu’on ait à ne faire que les changements nécessaires, un établissement tel que celui que nous cherchons ne se fait point sans un peu de commotion; et l’on doit tâcher au moins de n’en avoir qu’une. On pourrait d’abord jeter les fondements, puis élever plus à loisir l’édifice. Mais cela suppose un plan déjà fait; et c’est pour tracer ce plan même qu’il faut le plus méditer. D’ailleurs, il est à craindre qu’un établissement imparfait ne fasse plus sentir ses embarras que ses avantages, et que cela ne dégoûte le peuple de l’achever. Voyons toutefois ce qui se peut faire. Les mémoires dont j’ai besoin reçus, il me faut bien six mois pour m’instruire, et autant au moins pour digérer mes instructions; de sorte que, du printemps prochain en un an, je pourrais proposer mes premières idées sur une forme provisionnelle; et au bout de trois autres années mon plan complet d’institution. Comme on ne doit promettre que ce qui dépend de soi, je ne suis pas sûr de mettre en état mon travail en si peu de temps; mais je suis si sûr de ne pouvoir l’abréger, que, s’il faut rapprocher un de ces deux termes, il vaut mieux que je n’entreprenne rien.
Je suis charmé du voyage que vous faites en Corse. Dans ces circonstances, il ne peut que nous être très utile. Si, comme je n’en doute pas, vous vous y occupez de notre objet, vous verrez mieux ce qu’il faut me dire que je ne puis voir ce que je dois vous demander. Mais permettez-moi une curiosité que m’inspirent l’estime et l’admiration. Je voudrais savoir tout ce qui regarde M. Paoli: quel âge a-t-il? est-il marié? a-t-il des enfants? où a-t-il appris l’art militaire? comment le bonheur de sa nation l’a-t-il mis à la tête de ses troupes? quelles fonctions exerce-t-il dans l’administration politique et civile? ce grand homme se résoudrait-il à n’être que citoyen dans sa patrie après en avoir été le sauveur? Surtout parlez-moi sans déguisement à tous égards; la gloire, le repos, le bonheur de votre peuple dépendent ici plus de vous que de moi. Je vous salue, monsieur, detout mon cœur.
Mémoire joint à cette réponse.
Une bonne carte de la Corse, où les divers districts soient marqués et distingués par leurs noms; même, s’il se peut, par des couleurs .
Une exacte description de l’île, son histoire naturelle, ses productions, sa culture, sa division par districts; le nombre, la grandeur, la situation des villes, bourgs, paroisses ; le dénombrement du peuple aussi exact qu’il sera possible; l’état des forteresses, des ports; l’industrie, les arts, la marine; le commerce qu’on fait, celui qu’on pourrait faire, etc.
Quel est le nombre, le crédit du clergé? quelles sont ses maximes? quelle est sa conduite relativement à la patrie? Y a-t-il des maisons anciennes, des Corps privilégiés, de la noblesse ? Les villes ont-elles des droits municipaux? en sont-elles fort jalouses?
Quelles sont les mœurs du peuple, ses goûts, ses occupations, ses amusements, l’ordre et les divisions militaires, la discipline, la manière de faire la guerre, etc. ?
L’histoire de la nation jusqu’à ce moment , les lois, les statuts; tout ce qui regarde l’administration actuelle, les inconvénients qu’on y trouve, l’exercice de la justice, les revenus publics, l’ordre économique, la manière de poser et de lever les taxes ce que paie à peu près le peuple, et ce qu’il peut payer annuellement et l’un portant l’autre.
Ceci contient en général les instructions nécessaires. Mais les unes veulent être détaillées; il suffit de dire les autres sommairement .En général tout ce qui fait le mieux connaître le génie national ne saurait être trop expliqué. Souvent un trait, un mot, une action dit plus que tout un livre; mais il vaut mieux trop que pas assez .
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
[This and the following letter exist, so far as I know, only in copy: MS. Neuchâtel, 7904. As their interest is mainly personal, this matters little.]
Motiers-Travers, le 24 mars 1765.
Je vois, monsieur, que vous ignorez dans quel gouffre de nouveaux malheurs je me trouve englouti. Depuis votre pénultième lettre on ne m’a pas laissé reprendre haleine un instant. J’ai reçu votre premier envoi sans pouvoir presque y jeter les yeux. Quant à celui de Perpignan, je n’en ai pas ouï parler. Cent fois j’ai voulu vous écrire; mais l’agitation continuelle, toutes les souffrances du corps et de l’esprit, l’accablement de mes propres affaires, ne m’ont pas permis de songer aux vôtres. J’attendais un moment d’intervalle; il ne vient point, il ne viendra point; et, dans l’instant même où je vous réponds, je suis, malgré mon état, dans le risque de ne pouvoir finir ma lettre ici.
Il est inutile, monsieur, que vous comptiez sur le travail que j’avais entrepris. Il m’eût été trop doux de m’occuper d’une si glorieuse tâche; cette consolation m’est ôtée. Mon âme, épuisée d’ennuis, n’est plus en état de penser; mon cœur est le même encore, mais je n’ai plus de tête ; ma faculté intelligente est éteinte; je ne suis plus capable de suivre un objet avec quelque attention. Et d’ailleurs, que voudriez-vous que fît un malheureux fugitif qui, malgré la protection du roi de Prusse souverain du pays, malgré la protection de milord Maréchal qui en est gouverneur, mais malheureusement trop éloignés l’un et l’autre, y boit les affronts comme l’eau, et, ne pouvant plus vivre avec honneur dans cet asile, est forcé d’aller errant en chercher un autre sans savoir plus où le trouver? . . .
Si fait pourtant, monsieur; j’en sais un digne de moi et dont je ne me crois pas indigne. C’est parmi vous, braves Corses, qui savez être libres, qui savez être justes, et qui fûtes trop malheureux pour n’être pas compatissants. Voyez, monsieur, ce qui se peut faire: parlez-en à M. Paoli. Je demande à pouvoir louer dans quelque canton solitaire une petite maison pour y finir mes jours en paix. J’ai ma gouvernante, qui depuis vingt ans me soigne dans mes infirmités continuelles: c’est une fille de quarante-cinq ans, française, catholique, honnête et sage; et qui se résout de venir, s’il le faut, au bout de l’univers partager mes misères et me fermer les yeux. Je tiendrai mon petit ménage avec elle, et je tâcherai de ne point rendre les soins de l’hospitalité incommodes à mes voisins.
Mais, monsieur, je dois vous tout dire; il faut que cette hospitalité soit gratuite, non quant à la subsistance, je ne serai là-dessus à charge à personne, mais quant au droit d’asile, qu’il faut qu’on m’accorde sans intérêt. Car, sitôt que je serai parmi vous, n’attendez rien de moi sur le projet qui vous occupe. Je le répète, je suis désormais hors d’état d’y songer. Et quand je ne le serais pas, je m’en abstiendrais par cela même que je vivrais au milieu de vous; car j’eus et j’aurai toujours pour maxime inviolable de porter le plus profond respect au Gouvernement sous lequel je vis, sans me mêler de vouloir jamais le censurer et1 critiquer, ou réformer en aucune manière. J’ai même ici une raison de plus, et pour moi d’une très grande force. Sur le peu que j’ai parcouru de vos mémoires, je vois que mes idées diffèrent prodigieusement de celle de votre nation. Il ne serait pas possible que le plan que je proposerais ne fît beaucoup de mécontents, et peut-être vous-même tout le premier. Or, monsieur, je suis rassasié de disputes et de querelles. Je ne veux plus voir ni faire de mécontents autour du moi, à quelque prix que ce puisse être. Je soupire après la tranquillité la plus profonde; et mes derniers vœux sont d’être aimé de tout ce qui m’entoure; et de mourir en paix. Ma résolution là-dessus est inébranlable. D’ailleurs mes maux continuels m’absorbent, et augmentent mon indolence. Mes propres affaires exigent de mon temps plus que je n’y en peux donner. Mon esprit usé n’est plus capable d’aucune autre application. Que si peut-être la douceur d’une vie calme pro-longe mes jours assez pour me ménager des loisirs, et que vous me jugiez capable d’écrire votre histoire, j’entreprendrai volontiers ce travail honorable, qui satisfera mon cœur sans trop fatiguer ma tête; et je serais fort flatté de laisser à la postérité ce monument de mon séjour parmi vous. Mais ne me demandez rien de plus: comme je ne veux pas vous tromper, je me reprocherais d’acheter votre protection au prix d’une vaine attente.
Dans cette idée qui m’est venue, j’ai plus consulté mon cœur que mes forces. Car, dans l’état où je suis, il est peu apparent que je soutienne un si long voyage, d’ailleurs très embarrassant, surtout avec ma gouvernante et mon petit bagage. Cependant, pour peu que vous m’encouragiez, je le tenterai; cela est certain, dussé-je rester et périr en route. Mais il me faut au moins une assurance morale d’être en repos pour le reste de ma vie; car c’en est fait, monsieur; je ne veux plus courir. Malgré mon état critique et précaire, j’attendrai dans ce pays votre réponse avant de prendre aucun parti. Mais je vous prie de différer le moins possible; car, malgré toute ma patience, je puis n’être pas le maître des événements. Je vous embrasse et vous salue, monsieur, de tout mon cœur.
P.S. J’oubliais de vous dire, quant à vos prêtres, qu’ils seront bien difficiles, s’ils ne sont contents de moi. Je ne dispute jamais sur rien, je ne parle jamais de religion. J’aime naturellement même autant votre clergé que je hais le nôtre. J’ai beaucoup d’amis parmi le clergé de France, et j’ai toujours très bien vécu avec eux. Mais, quoi qu’il arrive, je ne veux point changer de religion; et je souhaite qu’on ne m’en parle jamais, d’autant plus que cela serait inutile.
Pour ne pas perdre de temps, en cas d’affirmation, il faudrait m’indiquer quelqu’un à Livourne, à qui je pusse demander des instructions pour le passage.
Motiers, le 26 mai 1765.
La crise orageuse que je viens d’essuyer, monsieur, et l’incertitude du parti qu’elle me ferait prendre, m’ont fait différer de vous répondre et de vous remercier, jusqu’à ce que je fusse déterminé. Je le suis maintenant par une suite d’événements qui, m’offrant en ce pays sinon la tranquillité, du moins la sûreté, me font prendre le parti d’y rester sous la protection déclarée et confirmée du Roi et du Gouvernement. Ce n’est pas que j’aie perdu le plus vrai désir de vivre dans le vôtre; mais l’épuisement total de mes forces, les soins qu’il faudrait prendre, les fatigues qu’il faudrait essuyer, d’autres obstacles encore qui naissent de ma situation, me font, du moins pour le moment, abandonner mon entreprise, à laquelle, malgré ces difficultés, mon cœur ne peut se résoudre à renoncer tout-à-fait encore. Mais, mon cher monsieur, je vieillis, je dépéris, les forces me quittent; le désir s’irrite et l’espoir s’éteint. Quoi qu’il en soit, recevez et faites agr er à M. Paoli mes plus vifs, mes plus tendres remercîments de l’asile qu’il a bien voulu m’accorder. Peuple brave et hospitalier! . . .Non, je n’oublierai jamais un moment de ma vie que vos cœurs, vos bras, vos foyers m’ont été ouverts à l’instant qu’il ne me restait presque aucun autre asile en Europe. Si je n’ai point le bonheur de laisser mes cendres dans votre île, je tâcherai d’y laisser du moins quelque monument de ma reconnaissance; et je m’honorerai aux yeux de toute la terre, de vous appeler mes hôtes et mes protecteurs.
Je reçus bien par M. le chevalier R . . ..la lettre de M. Paoli. Mais, pour vous faire entendre pourquoi j’y répondis en si peu de mots et d’un l’on si vague, il faut vous dire, monsieur, que, le bruit de la proposition que vous m’aviez faite s’étant répandu sans que je sache comment, M. de Voltaire fit entendre à tout le monde que cette proposition était une invention de sa façon: il prétendait m’avoir écrit au nom des Corses une lettre contrefaite dont j’avais été la dupe. Comme j’étais très sûr de vous, je le laissai dire, j’allai mon train, et je ne vous en parlai pas même. Mais il fit plus: il se vanta l’hiver dernier que, malgré milord Maréchal et le Roi même, il me ferait chasser du pays. Il avait des émissaires, les uns connus, les autres secrets. Dans le fort de la fermentation, à laquelle mon dernier écrit servit de prétexte, arrive ici M. de R . . .. Il vient me voir de la part de M. Paoli, sans m’apporter aucune lettre ni de la sienne, ni de la vôtre, ni de personne; il refuse de se nommer; il venait de Genève; il avait vu mes plus ardents ennemis, on me l’écrivait. Son long séjour en ce pays sans y avoir aucune affaire avait l’air du monde le plus mystérieux. Ce séjour fut précisément le temps où l’orage fut excité contre moi. Ajoutez qu’il avait fait tous ses efforts pour savoir quelles relations je pouvais avoir en Corse. Comme il ne vous avait point nommé, je ne voulus point vous nommer non plus. Enfin il m’apporte la lettre de M. Paoli, dont je ne connaissais point l’écriture. Jugez si tout cela devait m’être suspect. Qu’avais-je à faire en pareil cas? Lui remettre une réponse dont, à tout événement, on ne pût tirer d’éclaircissement: c’est ce que je fis.
Je voudrais à présent vous parler de nos affaires et de nos projets; mais ce n’en est guère le moment. Accablé de soins, d’embarras, forcé d’aller me chercher une autre habitation à cinq ou six lieues d’ici, les seuls soucis d’un déménagement très incommode m’absorberaient quand je n’en aurais point d’autres; et ce sont les moindres des miens. À vue de pays, quand ma tête se remettrait, ce que je regarde comme impossible de plus d’un an d’ici, il ne serait pas en moi de m’occuper d’autre chose que de moi-même. Ce que je vous promets, et sur quoi vous pouvez compter dès à présent, est que, pour le reste de ma vie, je ne serai plus occupé que de moi ou de la Corse; toute autre affaire est entièrement bannie de mon esprit. En attendant, ne négligez pas de rassembler des matériaux, soit pour l’histoire, soit pour l’institution; ils sont les mêmes. Votre Gouvernement me paraît être sur un pied à pouvoir attendre. J’ai parmi vos papiers un mémoire daté de Vescovado, 1764, que je présume être de votre façon et que je trouve excellent. L’âme et la tête du vertueux Paoli feront plus que tout le reste. Avec tout cela, pouvez-vous manquer d’un bon Gouvernement provisionnel? aussi bien, tant que des Puissances étrangères se mêleront de vous, ne pourrez-vous guère établir autre chose.
Je voudrais bien, monsieur, que nous pussions nous voir: deux ou trois jours de conférences éclairciraient bien des choses. Je ne puis guère être assez tranquille cette année pour vous rien proposer; mais vous serait-il possible, l’année prochaine, de vous ménager un passage par ce pays? J’ai dans la tête que nous nous verrions avec plaisir, et que nous nous quitterions contents l’un de l’autre. Voyez! puisque voilà l’hospitalité établie entre nous, venez user de votre droit. Je vous embrasse.
Subjoined are the important parts of Buttafuoco’s first letter (Mézières, 31 Août, 1764). It is copied from MS. Neuchâtel, 7899.
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
Vous avez fait mention des Corses dans votre Contrat social d’une façon bien avantageuse; un pareil éloge est bien flatteur, quand il part d’une plume aussi sincère. Rien n’est plus propre à exciter l’émulation et le désir de mieux faire. Il a fait souhaiter à la Nation que vous voulussiez être cet homme sage qui pourrait procurer les moyens de conserver cette liberté qui a coûté tant de sang à acquérir. Les Corses espèrent que vous voudrez bien faire usage pour eux de vos talents, de votre bienfaisance, de votre vertu, de votre zèle pour l’avantage des hommes; surtout pour ceux qui ont été le jouet de la tyrannie la plus affreuse.
Une nation ne doit se flatter de devenir heureuse et florissante que par le moyen d’une bonne institution politique. Notre île, comme vous le dites très bien, monsieur, est capable de recevoir une bonne législation. Mais il lui faut un Législateur. Il lui faut un homme dans vos principes: un homme dont le bonheur soit indépendant de nous; un homme qui, connaissant au fond la nature humaine, et qui, dans les progrès des temps se ménageant une gloire éloignée, voulût travailler dans un siècle et jouir dans un autre . Daignerez-vous, en traçant le plan du système politique, coopérer à la félicité de toute une nation?
Dans la position où est le Gouvernement de la Corse, on pourrait y apporter sans inconvénient tous les changements nécessaires. Mais cette matière est bien délicate. Elle doit être traitée par des personnes qui, comme vous, connaissent les vrais fondements du droit politique et civil de la Société et des individus qui la composent. La Corse est à peu près dans la situation que vous fixez pour établir une législation. Elle n’a point encore porté le vrai joug des lois; elle ne craint point d’être accablée par une invasion subite; elle peut se passer des autres peuples; elle n’est ni riche, ni pauvre, et peut se suffire à elle-même. Ses préjugés ne seraient pas difficiles à détruire; et j’ose dire qu’on y trouverait les besoins de la nature joints à ceux de la société .
Des personnes qui n’examinent que les apparences des choses, et qui ne jugent pas des effets par les causes, reprochent aux Corses des vices qui ne leur sont pas propres, mais qui sont ceux de tous les hommes abandonnés à eux-mêmes. Les homicides continuels, qui désolaient la Corse sous l’administration génoise, donnaient lieu à ces sortes d’imputations. Mais vous savez mieux que personne, monsieur, que les hommes ont le funeste droit de tirer par eux-mêmes la vengeance qui leur est refusée par ceux qui ont le pouvoir légitime de l’exercer.
Vous trouverez, j’ose le dire, quelques vertus et des mœurs chez les Corses. Ils sont humains, religieux, hospitaliers, bienfaisants; ils tiennent leur parole; ils ont de l’honneur, de la bonne foi. Et si l’on en excepte les cas de vengeance particulière qui sont à présent très rares, les exemples d’assassinats y sont moins fréquents que chez les autres peuples. Les femmes y sont vertueuses, uniquement occupées de la conduite de leurs maisons et de l’éducation de leurs enfants. On ne les voit point rechercher les assemblées, les bals, les festins. Elles sont moins agréables que le reste des femmes de l’Europe; mais elles sont très estimables.
Il n’y a chez les Corses ni arts, ni sciences, ni manufactures, ni richesses, ni luxe. Mais qu’importé, puisque tout cela n’est point nécessaire pour être heureux?
Je sens bien, monsieur, que le travail que je vous prie d’entreprendre exige des détails qui vous fassent connaître au fond ce qui a rapport au système politique. Si vous daignez vous en charger, je commencerai par vous communiquer ce que mes faibles lumières et mon attachement pour ma patrie m’ont dicté d’après vos principes et ceux de M. de Montesquieu ; puis je me mettrai à même de vous procurer de Corse les éclaircissements dont vous pourriez avoir besoin, et que M. Paoli, Général de la nation, nous fournira. Ce digne chef, et ceux d’entre mes compatriotes qui sont à portée de connaître vos ouvrages, partagent avec toute l’Europe les sentiments d’estime qu’ils vous ont acquis à si juste titre. Ils y admirent l’honnête homme et le citoyen, toujours inséparable de l’auteur. Mais je me tais, parce que ce n’est qu’à vos ouvrages et à vos mœurs à faire dignement votre éloge.
The rest of Buttafuoco’s Letters are to be found in StreckeisenMoultou, Œ;uvres et Correspondance inédites de J.-J. Rousseau (Paris, 1861), pp. 21–52. The dates of his Letters are August 31, 1764; Oct. 3, 1764; Nov. 10, 1764; Feb. 26, 1765; April 11, 1765; Oct. 19, 1765.
Boswell (Account of Corsica, pp. 366–8) attempts to deny that Rousseau had been invited to legislate for Corsica. If his account of Paoli’s intentions is correct, which I rather doubt, we must conclude either that Paoli had forgotten what had passed between Buttafuoco and Rousseau, or that he was not responsible for it. In either case, the above Letter of Buttafuoco, together with his other Letters, furnishes abundant justification for Rousseau’s action. In spite of Rousseau’s modest uncertainty , it was as Legislator, and nothing else, that he was invoked .
CONSIDÉRATIONS SUR LE GOUVERNEMENT DE POLOGNE
Matter and Circumstances of the Treatise.
With the completion of Émile and the Contrat social, it had been Rousseau’s intention to write no more on matters of public concern . This resolve was broken by the necessity of defending himself and his writings against the successive Decrees and Mandements which were launched against them . It was broken again by the needs of Corsica in 1764–5 . It was broken once more at the call of Poland in 1771–2.
The events which led to that call demand a brief explanation. On the death of Auguste III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony (1763), Poland found herself torn between two factions: that of the Potoçki, who desired to limit the royal power in favour of the aristocracy; and that of the Czartoryski, who aimed at strengthening the royal power and weakening the disastrous influence of the Jesuits. Both parties—at least, the leading members of them—were at one in the wish to put an end to the chronic anarchy of the State and to its potent instrument, the liberum veto. In all else, they were diametrically opposed; most of all, in their bearing towards Russia which, under Catherine, was strengthening its hold upon the distracted country every day. The Czartoryski were subservient to the wily Empress; the Potoçki, whatever their other faults, had the merit of stoutly opposing her. The Czartoryski set reform before independence; the Potoçki, independence before reform. And, sorely though reform was needed, the latter were right in holding that independence must come first.
In the Diet preceding the election of the new king, the Potoçki, in protest against the presence of Russian troops, solemnly withdrew. Their antagonists, after carrying some useful reforms, found their further way barred by the veto of Russia and Prussia . They consoled themselves, under pressure from the Catholic fanatics, by imposing further disabilities upon the religious Dissidents (Lutheran and Orthodox); so giving a fresh handle for the interference of Catherine and Frederick. The triumph of the foreigner was sealed by the election of Stanislas Poniatowski, a member of the Czartoryski family and cast off lover of Catherine (Sept. 1764),
In the years that followed, the interference of Russia grew more and more insolent . But the very extremity of the evil roused the national spirit to resist it. A general rising was planned by Krasinski, to break out at the moment, easy to foresee, when Russia should become involved in war with Turkey. The declaration of war was, however, unfortunately delayed until the beginning of 1769; and a year earlier the landowners of Podolia had already risen and formed the Confederation of Bar against the tyranny of the foreigner (Feb. 29, 1768). This, according to the inveterate custom of Poland, meant the formation of a State within the State. It also meant a further handle for the machinations of Catherine. In the name of the authorised Government, she denounced the Confederates as ‘rebels’; and at the same time called in the Cossacks of the Dnieper to aid the orthodox serfs in overwhelming them. The struggle which followed was more of a mutual massacre than a war. And this gave an opening to Catherine for betraying, with odious hypocrisy, the unhappy instruments of her cruelty. The Cossack community was dissolved; the peasants, handed over to the Polish Government for execution .
With all her astuteness, the policy of Catherine seemed likely to come to naught. The war with Turkey absorbed more and more of her energies. The Confederates won more and more influence with their fellow-countrymen. At the end of 1769 they were able to convoke representatives from every district of the Republic at Biala. It appeared not impossible that Stanislas would join hands with them against the common foe. But the influence of France was thrown into the scale against all schemes of conciliation (1770) . The golden moment was allowed to slip. And a new danger broke upon the doomed Republic.
Long before he became king, Frederick the Great had set covetous eyes upon the north-west districts of Poland . In the interval, the conquest of Silesia had whetted his appetite for more. And now, in the embarrassments of Catherine and the distraction of Poland, he saw that his moment was at last come. Realising that his end would be best secured by joint action, he spared no pains to draw his rivals, Russia and Austria, into the scheme . The main difficulty was with Catherine. He was in fact asking her to surrender virtual possession of the whole for legalised sovereignty of a small part. And she was far too clever not to fight shy of so unpromising a bargain. But Frederick was more than a match for her; and, hampered by the Turkish war, she at length reluctantly consented. A secret Treaty of Partition was signed between her and Frederick on Feb. 17, 1772. Austria acceded ‘in principle’ two days after. And some six months later, the final terms of Partition between the three powers were agreed to at Petersburg (Aug. 5, 1772). Throughout the iniquitous business, Frederick was the moving spirit. Catherine on grounds of self-interest, Maria Theresa from scruples of conscience, were accomplices against their will .
Twenty years later, the first Partition was followed by a second (1793); and that again by a third, which finally swept the Republic from the map of Europe, in 1795 . The money, given to the allies by England for the war against France, was employed to complete the work which Frederick had begun.
Among the acts of the convention of 1769 had been a Resolution that the political theorists of France should be requested to give their advice as to the best form of Constitution to be established in Poland, when the foreign yoke should be shaken off. Wielhorski, one of the few independent members of the Diets of 1767 and 1768, was the agent employed for the purpose. He seems to have applied to Mably without delay. And Mably’s suggestions on the subject, begun apparently in the former half of 1770, were completed by midsummer of the year following . At what time Wielhorski turned to Rousseau for help, it is not possible to determine precisely, It cannot have been before Rousseau’s return to Paris towards the end of June, 1770. It cannot have been after the first public announcement of the Partition in the third quarter of 1772 . It was probably about a year after the former event and before the latter. In any case, directly he had satisfied himself of the urgency of the call, he seems to have put aside all other tasks, in order to meet it. And during the six months that he tells us he was at work upon the Considérations, it is obvious, even without his assurance, that he can have had little time for anything else . For reasons which will be found fully stated elsewhere, it seems almost certain that the treatise was begun about October, 1771, and completed in the following April.
The only autograph manuscript, now known, of the Gouvernement de Pologne is that in the Bibliothèque de la Ville, Neuchâtel (No. 7838) . Like all the other Rousseau manuscripts in that Library, it was bequeathed by du Peyrou, Rousseau’s ‘universal trustee.’ at his death. It is neatly written on 87 quarto pages, the writing being on both sides of the sheet. In a few places, additions have been inserted, mostly in the margin and all in the hand of Rousseau himself. Two sheets (pp. 83–86) have been torn out, for reasons which will be explained later, just before the end.
Good though the writing is, it is impossible that this manuscript should have been intended for the final copy, that to be delivered to Wielhorski. And this, for two reasons. In the first place, as we learn from a note in another hand at the end, it was still in Rousseau’s possession at his death; whereas the final copy must have been forwarded, as soon as completed, to Wielhorski. In the second place, what is manifestly a rough copy of the covering letter to Wielhorski is scribbled, often almost illegibly on the last page (87). When he wrote this, it is clear that Rousseau must have abandoned, if he had ever entertained, the intention of forwarding this particular copy to Wielhorski.
The fist thing to strike us in the manuscript is a running fire of corrections, bearing almost solely on points of style, pencilled in the margin. They are continued throughout the manuscript, except from p. 37 to p. 58. And the important thing to observe is that all these corrections, together with a small number more not marked in the manuseript, reappear in the text of the Editio princeps which forms part of the first volume of du Peyrou’s Quarto Edition, published at Geneva in 1782 . They have been reproduced in every subsequent edition. For convenience sake, I shall henceforth speak of the text of the Editio princeps as the Received Text.
We at once ask ourselves: By whose hand were these corrections made? Quite certainly, not by the author’s. On a comparison of hand-writings, I can have little doubt that they are from the hand of du Peyrou, many of whose letters to Rousseau and others are preserved in the Library of Neuchâtel.
This brings us to the further question: How did du Peyrou— whom not to prejudice matters, I will call the Reviser—arrive at these corrections? Are they of his own making? or had he access to some other manuseript, autograph or copy, in which— or, if a copy, in the original of which—they had been entered by Rousseau himself?
Until within the last few years, it would have been impossible to say for certain. It is clear indeed, if a foreigner may venture an opinion on such matters, that the readings of the Received Text are almost always an improvement upon those of the Neuch tel Manuscript. And this in itself would have constituted a presumption that they came from the hand of Rousseau. This presumption was further strengthened by the fact that Coindet’s copy and, apparently, Mirabeau’s copy also —shews — or, in the case of Mirabeau’s copy, must have shewn—the same corrections. It might further have been argued, though with less confidence, that the Reviser would hardly have been so presumptuous as to substitute his own style for that of Rousseau. The inference from all this would have been—and it was the inference which I had myself drawn—that the Reviser had before him a second autograph manuscript, or a copy of it: one representing a later version of Rousseau’s text than that contained in the Neuchâtel Manuscript; and that this second version, the original of the Received Text, was in all probability the manuscript sent by Rousseau to Wielhorski.
By the publication of the correspondence which passed between Girardin, the self-constituted executor of Rousseau, and Wielhorski in the eighteen months following the death of Rousseau (Oct. 1778- Nov 1779), this is now proved to be the case The original manuscript, that sent by Rousseau to Wielhorski in April 1772, was forwarded by Wielhorski to Girardin in May 1779, for publication in du Peyrou’s edition. It was taken by Girardin to Neuehâtel in September of that year ; and it must have been then that du Peyrou copied from it on the Neuehâtel Manuscript the corrections in question. Girardin had pledged himself that the Wielhorski Manuscript should not be used in the printer’s office. He had also promised to return it to Wielhorski, as soon as it had served his purpose. It is to be presumed that both promises were fulfilled. But the published correspondence does not enable us to say .
Of the copy presumably made by, or for, du Peyrou for the press there is no trace. Nor have I been able to discover the present home of the Wielhorski Manuscript. It can hardly have been destroyed. It may be at Horochow, the estate of Wielhorski ; or it may have found its way to some other Library, public or private, in Poland or elsewhere.
It is thus certain that the manuscript, as finally corrected by Rousseau and sent by him to Wielhorski in 1772, served for the text of the Editio princeps ; and, considering the accuracy of du Peyrou, it may be fairly presumed that he made a faithful copy. This presumption is confirmed by the fact that the Edition of 1801, which was professedly based on yet another manuscript—that of Mirabeau—agrees with du Peyrou’s at every point. For these reasons the text of the Editio princeps has been taken for the text of the present edition. The variants of the Neuehâtel Manuscript, the only autograph manuscript at present known, are given in the notes.
These preliminaires disposed of, we now turn to the treatise itself. In one respect, the problem here before Rousseau offers the sharpest contrast with that presented a few years earlier by Corsica. In Corsica there was no established form of government, no sharply defined social fabric. Everything was in flux. All was to be built anew from the foundation. The task was difficult enough. In Poland, the difficulties were far greater; but they were of a directly opposite kind. Here was a Government, here was a whole social fabric, which had come down from a remote past and which, for that very reason if for no other, were wholly unsuited to the life and needs of the present. Everything needed to be recast—as some might have said, everything needed to be swept away—in order to secure a more effective government, a better social fabric, in the future. And at every step, it was certain that the Reformer, however bold or however cautious, would be met by ‘tastes, habits, prejudices and vices, too deeply rooted to be easily stifled by the new seed ‘with which he desired to replace them.
Thus the first question which confronted Rousseau was a question of method: Is the reform, which all agree to be necessary, to be cautious or sweeping? should the aim be to retain as much, or as little, as possible of the existing fabric? There was a time—that in which he wrote the Discours sur l’inégalité and the opening pages of the Contrat social—when Rousseau would have accepted the latter alternative; when he would have been tempted to ‘make a clean sweep of all that had come down from the past, to cast aside all the old materials and to raise a sound building in their place .’ That, however, was before the teaching of Montesquieu had sunk into his mind. And the later books of the Contrat social—still more, perhaps, the practical treatises of the three following years-shew how great was the change that had come over his spirit. But in none of his works is that change so manifest as in that which was destined to be his last political writing, Le Gouvernement de Pologne.
The vices of the Polish Grovernment and the Polish social System are acknowledged by Rousseau without reserve: the corruption and want of concert that paralysed the one, the insolence and oppression that wrought havoc with the other. Yet the positive changes he proposes are surprisingly small. A guarantee that the Crown should be in fact, as well as name, elective ; the appointment of the Senate, or a majority of its members, by the Diet instead of by the king ; a limitation on the liberum veto ; a provision for casting all taxation, in equitable proportion, upon the produce of the land ; a reform in the whole educational system of the country ; an elaborate graduation of social service and promotion, from the bottom to the top of the ladder —these are almost the only tangible alterations that he desires to see made. And none of these, with the exception of those relating to education, taxation and possibly the appointment of the Senate, were such as to rouse any violent opposition; while even the most contentious of them were likely to win the support of all the more enlightened members of the State. Nor could it be denied that the boldest of them were likely to prove a remedy for crying abuses. And, though Rousseau may have under-rated the strength of the resistance that would be brought against them, there was nothing that could be fairly called revolutionary in them; nothing that betrays the touch of the fanatic or the dreamer .
On the other side, it is only fair to consider all the things which the fanatic would have brushed scornfully aside, but which Rousseau, sorely against his will, was ready to let stand: a constitution aristocratie to the very core ; the vast wealth and ascendancy of a Church, intolerant in the last degree and always eager to assert her authority against that of the State; above all, the total exclusion of all traders, artisans and labourers from political power, the ruthless denial of the most elementary civil rights to the serfs. When we take into account both what he did, and what he did not, say—both what he proposed and what he omitted—we may well be inclined to think that he left too much, rather than too little, of the existing fabric in its place. Whatever judgment we may pass upon his proposais, it can hardly be asserted that they were revolutionary. Once more, we are driven to admit that the teaching of Montesquieu had done its work. Once more, we are compelled to acknowledge that the popular image of Rousseau, as the fanatical champion of abstract rights, as the determined foe of all historic institutions ‘which do not quadrate with his theories ,’ is a pure delusion.
And when we ask, What was it which led him to see hope where he might naturally have found cause for nothing but despair?—the answer will probably go to deepen this impression. He makes no attempt to conceal the evils from which Poland was suffering. He looks for the remedy, however, not in the application of any ready-made Constitution, however excellent, from without; but in the patriotic spirit, the ‘passion for liberty with all its hazards,’ which he believed that the past history of the nation proved to be at work within. Her unsettlement, her very anarchy, was to him a fresh proof of her vigour. ‘I see all the States of Europe rushing to their ruin. Monarchies, Republics, all those Governments so splendidly constituted, so cunningly balanced, are fallen into decrepitude, and bear every sign of approaching death; while Poland, at the very height of her disasters and her anarchy, still shews all the fire of youth. She has the courage to call for a Constitution and for laws, as if she had but just sprung to birth. Already in chains; she is debating on the means to preserve her freedom. She is conscious of a strength which all the might of tyranny cannot force under the yoke .’
And if this spirit has been formed and fostered under her old constitution, that should make her think twice before engaging for a new one. ‘Beware lest, by asking too much, you impair that which you already have. While you are thinking of what you would fain acquire, never forget what it is possible that you may lose. Correct, if you find it possible, the abuses of your existing constitution. But never despise the constitution which has made you what you are. I will not say that you ought to leave things as they are. But I will say that you ought not to touch them, save with the greatest caution. At this moment you are more struck with their defects than with their advantages. I fear the time will come when you will be more keenly alive to those advantages; and unfortunately, that will be when you have lost them .’
Thus, in the mind of Rousseau the two thoughts are inseparably intertwined: The true hope for Poland lies not in any outward reform, however désirable that may be; but in the spirit of liberty, which is independent of all reform and which incautious reform may poison at the source. And, Reform is needed to guard you both from misery within and from the designs of your enemies without. But let the changes you make be as few, as simple, as possible. Preserve as much of the past as the most crying needs of the present will allow. Above all, do nothing to weaken the national spirit, the distinctive character, which ‘has made you what you are.’ It is not exactly the Rousseau of popular imagination.
It would be useless to follow the proposais of the Considérations point by point. Those only will be taken which serve to throw light either upon the author’s method, or upon his dominant ideas.
The first relates to the limitations which he desired to place upon the powers of the Crown. From the moment of the election of Stanislas, a proposai for making the Crown hereditary had been frequently mooted. It was encouraged by Stanislas himself; it was favoured by many of the Confederates; it was strongly supported by Mably ; and it was eventually passed into law by the abortive Constitution of 1791. Rousseau will have none of it. Such a change would serve, he admits, to get rid of all the evils—the interference of the foreigner, corruption, disorder and so forth—which have been found to attend royal elections in the past. But these evils can be remedied, or largely so, in other ways. And, even if this were not so, no contingent gain on this side can make up for the certain loss upon the other. To make the Crown hereditary would undoubtedly be to increase its power. And, though this resuit may be little apparent at the first moment, in the long run it will proclaim itself in letters of fire. And nothing could be more fatal to all hopes of liberty. ‘You have seen it in Denmark; you have seen it in England; you are about to see it in Sweden,’ Recent experience had only served to confirm Rousseau in the judgment which he had passed ten years earlier in the Contral social. Then, as now, though he had spoken with more reserve, his conviction clearly was that ‘heredity in the Crown and liberty in the Nation are two things which can never be united .’
We pass to the question of Education. ‘Here,’ so run the opening words of the chapter, ‘here lies the root of the whole matter. It is education which ought to stamp on the soul of your citizens the print of their nationality and so to guide their tastes and opinions that by inclination, by passion, by necessity they will be patriots .’ This gives the key to the whole chapter. All that may be said in favour of private, individual training is at once thrown to the winds. And the author of Émile boldly declares for an education whose first object is to train citizens for the State. As we have already seen, the gulf between the two ideals is not so wide as we are apt at the first moment to imagine. The object of Émile also was to fashion a citizen for the State. Only it was to be the idéal State—the State purged of all local and temporal accidents—which at moments hovered before the imagination of Rousseau, as centuries earlier before that of Plato. Here, no doubt, the local and temporal accidents are brought back with a vengeance. And the resuit is that the contrast with Émile has struck the cursory reader much more than the resemblance. Charges of invertebracy and incoherence have been flung broad-cast against the author. And it has been conveniently forgotten that, in the very act of opening his scheme of private education, he makes no attempt to conceal that, if circumstances had not barred the way, he would have been found pleading for the opposite ideal. In this conviction, if the evidence be fairly judged, he would appear never to have wavered. It is implied in the Économie politique, which is among the earliest of his writings. It is implied in the Gouvernement de Pologne, which was his last word upon the subject. Had the Comparison between public and private Education, which we know to have been composed in the interval, come down to us, it is probable that we should have there found it openly proclaimed . And if he feels, as many have felt, that ‘the finest treatise on Education ever written is the Republic of Plato .’ it is with the full knowledge that the ideal of Plato is essentially a civic ideal; that the Republic is concerned with the training not of isolated individuals, but of citizens for the State.
A more damaging criticism is that which comes from a very different side. It is the fundamental principle of Rousseau that education is to be withdrawn from the priests . Can he have supposed that the Church would quietly submit to this sweeping assault upon her privileges? that the clergy, nowhere more powerful than in Poland, would cheerfully surrender their power of influencing the young? There is not a hint that he was aware what a hornet’s nest he was bringing about his ears by this injunction . It is probable that he was fully alive to the danger, and deliberately ignored it. This is perhaps the weakest spot in the whole treatise; and Mably, in most points so inferior to Rousseau, has at least the merit of explicitly recognising the various abuses connected with the Church, and of admitting that, unless the nation (if not the clergy themselves) can be convinced that they are abuses, the labour of the Reformers will largely have been in vain . It is true that, having once uttered this warning he goes on his way, as though to have admitted the obstacle were to have swept it from his path. But even that is better than, with Rousseau, to ignore it altogether.
With this serions abatement, there is little in Rousseau’s suggestions to which exception can be taken. As to the provision of teachers, his views are now markedly sounder than when he wrote the Économie politique. There, teaching is regarded as a task to be taken up when the active work of life is over; a haven of rest for the soldier or statesman, who has earned the right to repose. But, by the time he wrote Émile, he had learned that no good could come of duties undertaken in this easy-going fashion. And in the Gouvernement de Pologne, he places the term to be set apart for teaching not at the end, but the beginning of the citizen’s career; he treats it as one of the first steps, instead of the last, in the scale of public service. He insists as strongly as ever that teaching must never be made a separate profession: and this, not only with a view to excluding mercenary motives, but also for the purpose of ensuring that the teacher shall never forget himself to be a citizen before he is a teacher; or rather, shall always remember that his first duty, as teacher, is to train citizens for the service of the State. The main object, indeed, of education, he holds now as ever, is not to give instruction, but to form character. And with this in mind, he lays more stress upon the sports of the children than their book-learning. A careless reader might almost believe himself to be listening to a champion of the ‘playing-fields of Eton ‘; were it not that the ‘public spirit,’ which is said to be fostered by the cult of cricket and football, exists mainly in the fancy of amiable theorists while in the public sports and the civic training of Rousseau as in those of Plato and Milton, it is a hard reality.
As to Rousseau’s treatment of Serfdom, little need be added to what has already been said upon the matter, It is the crucial instance of his readiness to bow to circumstances, which a bad tradition had brought down from the past; to accept, at least for the moment, conditions which he felt to be hateful and degrading. It is an instance also of his determination not to put up with them one moment longer than he was compelled. For, if he tolerates serfdom at the present moment, it is only in the hope that it may ultimately be abolished; if he bends his neck to the yoke, to avoid worse evils, it is only because he is ready with a plan by which it may gradually be shaken off. His scheme for the progressive enfranchisement of the serfs is cautious and well considered . But for the first Partition, it may well be that Poland would have followed the good example set in this matter by Frederick the Great across the frontier. But for her final extinction, she could hardly have stood against the reforming impulse which twenty years later came from beyond the Rhine.
What are the grounds on which Rousseau bases his plea for caution in carrying through so urgent a reform? That is, perhaps, the most enlightening part of the whole treatise; and it is well to give the passage at length. ‘I am aware,’ he writes, ‘that the project of enfranchisement is beset with difficulties. What I fear is not only the mistaken self-interest, the vanity and prejudice of the masters. Even were this obstacle overcome, I should still fear the vices and meanness of the serfs. Liberty is a strong food, but it needs a stout digestion; it demands a healthy stomach to bear it. I laugh at those degraded peoples, who rise in revolt at a word from an intriguer; who dare to speak of liberty, in total ignorance of what it means; and, their hearts full of every slavish vice, imagine that, to be free, it is enough to be a rebel. High-souled and holy liberty ! if these poor men could only know thee; if they could only learn what is the price at which thou art won and guarded; if they could only be taught how far sterner are thy laws than the hard yoke of the tyrant—they would shrink from thee a hundred times more than from slavery ; they would fly from thee in terror, as from a burden made to crush them .’
Contrast this with the confident opening of the Contrat social —’Man is born free’—and we have the measure of the distance which Rousseau had traversed in the interval; of the degree to which the teaching of Montesquieu had sunk into his spirit, ‘Freedom is no fruit for all climates; it is not within the reach of all nations .’ So he had written in the latter part of the Contrat social; and the letter of Montesquieu’s teaching, with its exaggerated stress on climate, would hardly have entitled him to go further. Here, bettering the instruction of his master, he passes from physical to historical conditions; from the outward to the inward obstacles which may bar or retard the achievement of a political ideal. The ideal’ speaks to his heart and reason’ as loudly as ever; the passage which immediately precedes the above quotation assures us of that ; but he has now learned that the higher the ideal, the more difficult its attainment. Idealist he could never cease to be; but it is the idealist who has put himself with Montesquieu, to the school of experience, and mastered the harsh lesson of experience more thoroughly than Montesquieu himself.
If we turn to what Mably says upon the same subject, we are at once struck with the immeasurable superiority of Rousseau. Like Rousseau, Mably starts from the iniquity of serfdom: ‘on ne viole point impunément les lois de la nature.’ But the only obstacle to reform that he recognises is the ‘vanity and prejudice of the masters ‘; he has nothing to say of the iron that has entered into the soul of the serfs. He sees only the more superficial results of a corrupt institution; he has no eye for the worse evils which it breeds within the bone. Moreover, his sense; of the wrong done to the serfs is both less deep and less wide than it is with Rousseau. His indignation is far less passionate; and his claim for these despised outcasts is limited to a demand for their personal emancipation . Rousseau boldly asserts that justice will not have been done, until they are made not only civilly, but politically, free.
Two points only now remain to be considered: what Rousseau says about confederation among the different Provinces of Poland; and his elaborate scheme for graduating the responsibilities and honours of the State.
The importance of the former subject to Rousseau’s political theory has already been indicated in the General Introduction. All that he does here is to apply the principles, shadowed forth in the Contrat social, to the particular case of Poland. It is best to give his opinions in his own words.
’Great nations, vast States—first and chief cause of the miseries of mankind; above all, of the countless calamities which undermine the highly civilised nations and bring them to destruction. Almost all the small States—it matters not whether they are republics or monarchies—prosper, just because they are small . . .. All the large nations, crushed by their own mass, either groan like you in anarchy, or sink beneath the petty oppressors that their kings are forced to give them . . ..I cannot too often repeat it. Think twice before laying a finger upon your laws, and especially those which have made you what you are. The first reform you require is in the size of your territory. Your vast provinces will never admit the stern administration of a small State. If you wish to reform your Government, begin by reducing your frontiers. It may be that your neighbours have already designs for doing you this service. It would, doubtless, be a grievous loss to the parts dismembered; but it would be a great gain to the nation as a whole .’
Partition, in other words, may be a blessing in disguise. But, even without this forced remedy, something may be done on your own motion, by your own courage and foresight. There is one means, and one only, of ‘combining the outward strength of a great nation with the easy discipline and the good order of a small State.’ It is Confederation ; or, to use a term more familiar in current controversy, Home Rule. ‘And fortunately this means is laid ready to your hand by the spirit of your Constitution.’ Lithuania has already, for many purposes, a separate establishment, a distinct administration, of its own. ‘Let the separation of the two Polands—Great and Little—be as strongly marked as that of Lithuania. Have three States united in one. I should desire, if it were possible, that you should have as many States as there are Palatinates (i.e. 33). Institute in each of them a distinct administration. Perfect the design of the Dietines’ (which already existed, for electoral purposes, in each Palatinate) ‘and extend their powers over their respective territories. Be careful, however, to mark the limits of those powers. See to it that nothing is done to break the legislative bond which binds them to each other, or their subordination to the Republic as a whole. In one word, set yourselves to extend and perfect the system of federative government: the only one which unites the advantages of the large and the small State; and, for that very reason the only one which is suitable to your needs. If you disregard this advice, I doubt whether your enterprise will ever come to good .’
To this general plea for devolution, or Home Rule, Rousseau adds but little in the sequel, He urges, indeed, that the Palatine, or Grovernor of each province, should be elected by the Dietine of his province . And, as that office carried with it a seat in the Senate, he would thus have given to the various localities a larger voice in the government of the country than they had under the existing constitution. The same end is secured by his insistence that the Dietines should give imperative instructions to their representatives (nonces) in the Diet , and that at the close of each Diet the old custom of holding Diétines de relation, in which the conduct of the representatives was scrutinised, should be revived . Both proposals, no doubt, were in part dictated by the democratic spirit, the belief in the sovereignty of the people which runs through the whole treatise. But that only serves to remind us that the chief reason why Home Rule commended itself to Rousseau was that it is an instrument for securing the predominance of the popular will.
It may, of course, be objected that we have here the real reason why Rousseau presses Devolution upon the Poles: not because it suited their particular circumstances, but because it flowed naturally from his own theory of the State. There are, however, strong grounds for rejecting this convenient explanation. The first is the cautious spirit, the readiness to allow for circumstances, even those least agreeabie to him, which is the distinguishing mark of his whole argument. And the second, that Devolution might well have suggested itself to any man as a likely remedy for the anarchy which was the worst misery of Poland. The only means of curbing anarchy was to multiply the centres of government in one way or another. And, quite apart from Rousseau’s own personal preferences, who can doubt that some form of local autonomy was a more hopeful means of doing this than the appointment of provincial despots—the ‘petty oppressors’ of Rousseau’s argument—which was the only possible alternative? Even so, it must be remembered that he bases his proposal upon precedents already rooted in the constitutional practice of the country; that he does little more than ‘extend and perfect a system’ which he found already in possession of the ground. It is one more proof of the inferiority of Mably that none of these considerations finds the smallest place in the advice he offered to the Poles.
The last point to be noticed is Rousseau’s scheme for graduating the service of the State from the lowest rung of the ladder to the highest. Into the details of this scheme, some of which may be thought strained and fantastic, there is no need to enter. The important thing is the principle of it, and its bearing upon the temper which he brought to political discussion. It is commonly supposed that he treats men, for purposes of the State, as creatures of pure reason; and that, the moment passion or interest find their way into the field, as in practice they are bound to do, his whole theory falls to pieces. That there is an element of truth in this charge, it is impossible to deny. His description of the law as ‘the voice from heaven which proclaims to every citizen the precepts of civic reason ,’ his assertion that the general will is always just, ‘because it is impossible for any man to do injustice to himself ,’ are enough to prove it.
Yet it is only fair to point out that such conceptions are by no means peculiar to Rousseau; that, in a greater or less degree, they are presupposed in all political theories, and in all tolerable forms of political society. Unless it were assumed that the law does, in some sense, embody the ‘permanent reason’ of man, unless it were taken for granted that the policy of the community is, in the main, directed towards the general happiness and prosperity of its members, no State could hold together for a moment. The fault of Rousseau’s presentment of the case—and it is characteristic enough of him—is to speak as if the ideal must always be, what assuredly it never has been and never will be, completely realised in fact.
In other parts of his writings, as we have already seen, he shews himself alive to the error involved in these sweeping declarations. ‘It seems to me,’ he writes in criticising the airy assumptions of the Physiocrats, ‘that compelling evidence is never to be found in natural and political laws, unless when we consider them in the abstract. In any given Government, composed as it must be of very diverse elements, this evidence is necessarily wanting. For the science of government is a science purely of combinations, applications and exceptions, which are determined by time, place and circumstance. And the public will never detect with intuitive certainty (avec evidence) the relations and workings of all that—.Moreover, even supposing this certainty of evidence, . . .how can philosophers who know anything of human nature assign to it such influence upon the actions of men? Can they be ignorant that men guide themselves very seldom by the light of evidence, and very often by their passions? . . .My friends, allow me to tell you that you give too much weight to your calculations, and not enough to the promptings of the heart and the play of passion. Your system is excellent for Utopia. For the children of Adam it is worth nothing .’ And a passage to the same effect is to be found in the fragment known as L’état de guerre .
Here lies the significance of the Gouvernement de Pologne. It gives practical form to the objections urged against the theory of the Physiocrats. From the first page to the last, it is directed towards enlisting the passions and interests of the citizens in the service of the State. The foundation is laid in the schools, the ruling principle of which is to make the children ‘patriots by inclination by passion, by necessity .’ But it is with the serious work of life that the scheme is first brought into full play. Trustworthiness in the lower grades of the public service is to be the sole qualification for election to the Diet; good service in the Diet the sole qualification for election to the Senate (a post hitherto conferred purely at the good pleasure of the king); honourable toil in the Senate, the sole title to appointment as Palatin or Castellan; and proved capacity in one of the latter posts the necessary condition to election as King. The same principle is to be applied by degrees to the political enfranchisement of the trading classes, and to the civil, eventually the political enfranchisement of the serfs . Thus from the top to the bottom of the public service, diligence, probity and public spirit will be the interest, no less than the duty, of the individual citizen. His private ambition is to be served only in and through the service of the State. Once more, the ideal may be too bright to be realised more than most imperfectly in practice; and a scheme on paper, especially when concerned with the moral virtues, is not the same thing as a reformation carried into act. Of this objection Rousseau himself was well aware. Yet, if ever put in force, his proposals would probably have borne fruit. And the mere statement of them does something to qualify current criticisms of his political ideal.
It may seem ungracious to reveit to a comparison between his Memoir and that of Mably. Yet nothing can serve so well to point the moral of his last political writing, or bring home its bearing upon his political theory, as a whole. There are matters of detail in which Mably shews himself more alive to unwelcome realities than his rival. It is so with his recognition of the dangers attending the claims and influence of the Church. It is so also with what he says of the evils brought upon the country by the usurious dealings of the Jews . In these and other like matters, it would have been well if Rousseau, who seems to have seen his Memoir, had followed in his steps. Yet if Mably has the defects of his qualities, much more is it the case that Rousseau has the qualities of his defects. The one is content to deal mainly with the mere mechanism of politics; with the ‘combinations’ which look so ingenious on paper, but are little likely to stand the test of facts, and are therefore, for the most part, no better than an idle and barren exercise . The other may disregard, or even misconstrue, essential details. But the spirit of his work is untouched, and it is by this that he must be judged.
The guiding principle of the whole treatise is that neither mechanical contrivances, nor outward aids, such as foreign alliances can do anything for Poland; that she must trust solely to the national spirit, which has already preserved her in the face of a thousand dangers, and to herself. This spirit may be directed more wisely than it has been in the past; and, with caution it may be possible both to purify and strengthen it. But the worst thing the nation can do is to turn her back upon the past, or to seek for remedies which are not themselves drawn from the life of the past and sanctioned by its traditions. It is her own traditions that ‘have made her what she is.’ And, in the main, they cannot be sacrificed without the sacrifice of her distinctive character, of all that draws out the love and devotion of her children. Some institutions, no doubt, have been handed down, some customs have grown up, which are manifest abuses. And these must be swept away, as soon as prudence will permit. Yet even here, nothing must be done which will imperil the vigour of the national life, or impair the keenness of its spirit. This is the one test by which the good or evil of all institutions must be judged, the wisdom or folly of all changes be decided. And judged by this test, even such customs as that of Confederations which have been freely denounced as abuses, ought to be jealously guarded as remedies in case of need; as a means of appealing from the worse self of the nation to the better, ‘from her occasional will to her permanent reason.’ The Confederation of Bar is a necessity at the present moment, to save Poland from herself. Who shall say that the same need may not again arise in the future ?
In the Contrat social, two ideals, the humanitarian and the national are to be seen striving for the mastery. In the Gouvernement de Pologne—as already, to some extent, in the Lettres de la Montagne—the former has faded, more or less, into the background The national ideal, and with it a markedly conservative temper, has for the most part, taken its place. It is the same change that, a generation later, was to come over the soul of Wordsworth. And it is due to the same cause. Experience had taught both men the lesson that a strong civic life, in some form, is necessary to man’s being, and that it is more easily destroyed than called to life again. For the preservation of this life, both had learned that a nation must trust only to herself:
That from herself her safety must be sought,
That with her own right hand it must be wrought,
That she must stand unpropped, or be laid low,
This, as applied to the inner no less than the outer life of the nation is the chief lesson of Rousseau’s last political writing, its chief significance in the history of his political ideals.
The Date of the Treatise
It is, I believe, the common impression—it is certainly the view of the scholar responsible for the notes to Hachette’s edition—that the Gouvernement de Pologne was not completed until the closing months of 1772: after the coup d’État of Gustav III in Sweden (Aug. 19, 1772) and possibly after the public announcement of the Partition of Poland (Sept. 18, 1772). And this conclusion is supported by the title of the treatise, as it is given in most, if not all, modern editions . That title runs as follows: Considérations sur le Gouvernement de Pologne, et sur sa réformation projetée en Avril, 1772. The natural—it would seem, the only possible—interpretation of these words is that Rousseau was moved to write his Considérations by the knowledge of certain reforms proposed by Polish patriots in April 1772. And, as we know from his own statement that the treatise was six months in writing , it would follow that the earliest date assignable for its completion is the last quarter of the same year.
So far as this conclusion rests upon the commonly received title, it is absolutely without value. For the received title itself is a garbled version of that prefixed to the treatise in the Editio princeps, which, in the absence of the Wielhorski Manuscript, is our sole authority in the matter. The title, in that edition, runs thus: Considérations | sur le Gouvernement de Pologne | et | sur sa réformation projettée. | Par J. J. Rousseau. | En Avril, 1772 . In whatever way we may take the grammar of the closing words —whether we suppose that the project was made by Rousseau in April 1772, or that the treatise itself was written at that time—the practical effect is the same. It is that the work was not begun, but completed, in April 1772. And, allowing six months for its composition, it would follow that it was begun in the autumn—October, or possibly September—of the preceding year (1771).
A consideration of the other evidence, internal or otherwise, available on the point will bring us to the same conclusion. The extreme limits of time, between which the treatise must have been written, are June 1770, and the first half of September 1772. That it cannot have been begun before Rousseau’s return to Paris appears from the first letter to Wielhorski, printed below. ‘Lorsque vous me recherchâtes avec tant d’empressement, j’ignorais point dès lors vos liaisons,’ etc.—these words, together with those that follow, plainly imply some oral communication between him and Wielhorski; and this cannot have taken place before he settled in Paris, towards the end of June 1770 . That it cannot have been written after the first public announcement of the Partition of Poland is shewn by Rousseau’s reference to Partition as a more or less remote possibility. ‘Commencez par resserrer vos limites, si vous voulez réformer votre Gouvernement. Peut-être vos voisins songent-ils à vous rendre ce service .’ It is impossible that these sentences should have been written after the Partition was an accomplished fact, or even a declared intention And this it became, when formai notice of the impending act was handed in by Prussia and Austria at Warsaw, on September 18, 1772.
There are, however, other facts which make it necessary to put the final date (Sept. 1772) slightly backward, and the initial date (June 1770) considerably forward, We take both points together In the course of the treatise, Rousseau twice alludes to the aflfairs of Sweden. In both passages, he speaks of the in vitable tendency of hereditary monarchy to put a yoke upon the liberties of the nation. In the former of them, he writes: ‘De ce joug les Polonais seul sont encore exempts; car je ne compte déjà plus la Suède .’ In the latter: ‘Vous avez vu le Danemarck vous voyez l’Angleterre, et vous allez voir la Suède .’ It has been generally assumed that thèse passages refer to the coup d’État of August 19, 1772. Those who draw this conclusion must have forgotten that, had Rousseau been writing after the high handed act of Gustav, he would have spoken very differently: he would have given the verdict not merely as his personal opinion, but as that of the whole world; he would have said not ‘vous allez voir,’ but ‘vous avez vu la Suède.’ It follows that the usual interpr tation is the reverse of the right one; that the words must have been written not after, but before, the révolution of August 1772.
The truth is that the dissensions between Gustav and the Estates began to shew themselves very soon after his return to Stockholm at the end of May 1771. They became notorious in the prolonged disputes over the coronation oath to be exacted from him (July 1771-February 1772). And Rousseau, who had had peisonal relations with him, direct or indirect, in Paris (Feb.March 177l) , was likely enough to have formed a shrewd suspicion of his character and designs. So far as thèse references go therefore, we may put back the completion of the treatise to any time after February 1772; or even, to any time after the July of the preceding year.
Much the same argument applies to Rousseau’s mention of the coming partition of Poland. That measure had been widely expected for at least a year before it was officially announced. Austria had claimed and occupied the Polish territory of Zips in June 1771. And the Annual Register for that year (p. 83∗) speaks of it as ‘the commonly received opinion ‘that Prussia was about to seize her share of the spoil . The reference to partition therefore, may have been written at any time after the middle of 1771.
These facts supply all that is necessary to meet the conditions furnished by the authentic title of the treatise. Completing it in April 1772, Rousseau would have begun to work at it in the autumn—say, September or October—of 1771. And by that time he would, as we have seen, been in a condition to forecast the approach both of the révolution in Sweden and of the triple aggression against Poland; not to mention the possibility that the reference to both may have been inserted at any moment before the Memoir was finally handed to Wielhorski . When he completed the fair copy, it would be natural enough that he should date it, as Mably had done, in the case of his rival memoir. He must certainly have dated the covering letter to Wielhorski, the rough copy of which is scribbled at the end of the Neuchâtel Manuscript Or, in the very improbable case that neither the fair copy nor the covering letter was dated, Wielhorski, who had every reason for remembering the facts, may have supplied du Peyrou with the necessary information. It is to the last degree unlikely that the latter should have inserted any unauthorised date in his title. And, in the light of the considerations here brought forward, can any one doubt that the date there given (April 1772), refers not to the commencement, but to the completion of the treatise?
One difficulty alone remains. How did it happen that Wielhorski did not apply sooner to Rousseau for advice? The Confederates as we have seen, had authorised him to consult the French publicists as early as 1769. And, considering the fame of Rousseau and the notorious fact that, a few years before, he had been asked to legislate for Corsica, one would have thought that his name must have suggested itself sooner than any other. The answer is that, during 1769 and the first half of 1770, Rousseau was buried in the remote parts of Dauphiné, and that he was known to have broken off correspondence with the outside world almost entirely. In default of him, it was natural that Wielhorski should turn to Mably, a far more inveterate constitution-monger than Rousseau, in the first instance. And, having once done so, he may have thought well to take no further step until he was in possession of Mably’s Report . It is, in fact, pretty clear that Mably s Memoir—or at least the first Part of it —was before Rousseau when he wrote . And, though there is, so far as I can see, no internal evidence that the second Part (which is an answer to criticisms upon the first, and which was completed in July 1771) was also in his hands, the dates, as arrived at by the above piocess would create a probability that it was. I suppose, then, that Wielhorski either did not make any application to Rousseau until the summer of 1771, or did not succeed in inducing him to undertake the task until that date; and that he then furnished Rousseau both with Mably’s Memoir—the first Part, or both—and with any suggestions from Polish sources which were available. In any case, it is clear that Rousseau began to work upon thèse materials in the autumn of 1771, and completed his Memoir in the following April.
The Manuscripts ofLe Gouvernement de Pologne
The Manuscripts of the Gouvernement de Pologne present several difficulties. For it is necessary to take account not only of those which are now accessible, but also of those which, having now disappeared, have yet left authentic traces.
A. Of the Wielhorski Manuscript enough has been said in the first Section (p. 375). And an account of the correspondence which passed about it between Girardin, Wielhorski and others in 1778-9 will be found in the next Section. The reader need only be reminded that recent publications (1909) have now proved what before might have been suspected, that it served as the text for the Editio princeps (1782). Except for the three passages there omitted, or altered, by du Peyrou at Wielhorski’s request the text of that edition is, until the Wielhorski Manuscript is brought to light , the final authority for what Rousseau wrote.
B. The Neuchâtel Manuscript (No. 7838) is the only autograph manuscript now accessible. But, for the reasons stated in the first Section, it is clear that it does not represent the final version of the author’s text. It is certainly not the first draft, which was probably scribbled on the backs of letters and loose scraps of paper. And, when Rousseau began to write it, it is quite possible that he intended it for the fair copy, that which was to be sent to Wielhorski. But it is evident that, by the time he finished it, he had become dissatisfied with it; and that, in recopying for Wielhorski, he made a great number of alterations—nearly all of them, however, in matters not of substance, but of style.
A description of the manuscript has been given in the first Section. The only thing further to notice is that two sheets (pp. 83–6) have been torn out just before the end. They contain, with a good deal besides, the passage in which Rousseau discusses the conduct of Stanislas and the manner in which he should be treated by the nation. ‘For the rest, when you have delivered yourselves from the Russians, beware of taking half measures with the king they have imposed upon you. You must either cut off his head, as he has well deserved; or, ignoring his first election, which was null and void, you must elect him afresh with new pacta conventa. The second course is not only the more humane, but the more prudent ! ‘A note at the end of the manuscript informs us that these pages were already torn out when, directly after Rousseau’s death, it came into the owner’s hands. And there can be little doubt that the writer was correct in his suspicion that this was done by Rousseau himself in a panic, the causes of which will be explained directly.
The gap thus made in the Neuchâtel MS. was filled up from another manuscript, belonging to Foulquier, of which something will be said below; the four pages, copied from this source, are still attached to the manuscript. When the treatise came to be published, however, the three paragraphs relating to Stanislas were suppressed, at the request of Wielhorski and, doubtless, with the full approval of du Peyrou himself. A like suppression was made in the case of an allusion to the Russian intrigues at the time of Stanislas’ election (Chap. xiv.), and of a reference to the Russian troops as ‘brigands’ (Chap. xii.) . But, whereas the first passage was restored (from Mirabeau’s MS.) in the Edition of 1801 (Naigeon and others) and has been printed in all subsequent editions the two others, to the best of my belief, have never been published until now. They will be found respectively on pp. 505 and 485 of the present volume .
We pass to three changes of substance, one of which certainly, and the two others probably, were made by Rousseau himself. The first—and it is an alteration slight enough—is to be found near the beginning of Chapter xi. In recommending the Poles to avoid commercialism and military aggression, Rousseau had originally written: ‘Je conviens . . .que les beaux esprits ne vous chanteront pas dans leurs odes.’ In the Editio princeps—and therefore we may suppose, in the Wielhorski Manuscript—this becomes ‘Je conviens . . .que les philosophes ne vous encenseront pas, que les poètes ne vous chanteront pas.’ The sneer at the philosophers—Voltaire, Diderot and others—is made rather more biting ; and that is all. The two other changes are in the way of omission. The former of them is an allusion to malversation in Canton Bern (Chap. xi.), and it appears also in Coindet’s Copy. As, however, it is said to be wanting in the recently discovered Manuscript of Wielhorski, we must infer that it was suppressed by Rousseau himself. The latter occurs near the end of Chapter vii., where the Neuchâtel Manuscript offers a short paragraph about the policing of the Diet. This does not appear in the Editio princeps, nor in that of Naigeon (1801). It contains a scornful description of the Grand Council of Venice, as an assembly ‘where vice and rascality sit enthroned ‘; and it is possible that it was left out by Wielhorski and du Peyrou, from motives of prudence. On the other hand, it may have been cancelled by Rousseau himself, as unimportant and needlessly aggressive. In favour of the latter alternative is the fact that it is wanting in Coindet’s Copy, as well as in Naigeon’s Edition . And on the whole, this is much the more likely explanation. So far as I know, the passage has never been printed; it will be found on p. 459 of the present volume .
A word must be said about the history of this manuscript, which is not without difficulty. A loose sheet, inserted at the end of it, gives us the following information. ∗ This rough draft (minute) was that of the author. At his death, it passed directly into my hands. The four pages, from 82 to 87 ‘-it would have been less misleading to say 83 to 86-’ were already torn out, doubtless by the hand of the author-However that may be, I have myself transcribed the four missing pages from a copy, not from the hand of the author himself, which was lent to me by M Foulquier of Toulouse .’
The question at once arises: Who was the writer of this note? It is signed with a monogram which, for a long time, I was unable to decipher. At last, however, it became clear that the letters in question are L. R. G.; and these are the initiais of Louis René, Marquis de Girardin (1735–1808), in whose house (or rather, in a cottage on his grounds) at Ermenonville Rousseau died. There is no doubt about this. And it makes everything clear. Girardin, probably finding Thérèse Levasseur peculiarly helpless in such matters took possession of the dead man’s papers, and proceeded to act for her with regard to their publication. Of the Confessions, the Dialogues and the Rêveries there could be no immediate question. But the treatise on Poland stood on very different ground. There were no reasons against—on the contrary, there was the strongest reason for—immediate publication. A third party, supposed by Girardin to be d’Alembert, who had possessed himself of a copy of the manuscript (apparentiy in the Wielhorski version) and who had already given some trouble in the matter, was known to be planning a piratical edition . And, in the interest both of the living and the dead, it was necessary to prevent—or, if that were impossible, to forestall—this injustice. Girardin, therefore promptly informed du Peyrou of the existence of the Neuchâtel Manuscript ; and at the same time opened negotiations with Wielhorski for a loan of the final version. Both men fell in readily with his views. The Wielhorski Manuscript was sent to Girardin, on the understanding that, when it had served its purpose it should be returned to the owner ; and the Neuchâtel Manuscript was apparently handed over to du Peyrou, as the ‘universal trustee’ of Rousseau . At his death (1794), it was bequeathed by du Peyrou, together with all the other Rousseau Manuscripts, to the Library of Neuchâtel . As has already been mentioned, du Peyrou pencilled upon this manuscript, throughout three-quarters of the treatise, all the variants offered by the Wielhorski Manuscript. And, in the absence of the original, we are thus supplied with important—though not, of course, absolutely conclusive—evidence of the final form in which the Gouvernement de Pologne came from the author’s hand.
C. The Foulquier Manuscript, mentioned in the last Section, is known to us solely by what Girardin says of it in the note appended to the Neuchâtel Manuscript. His words are as follows: ‘It was lent to me by M. Foulquier, Counsellor in the Parliament of Toulouse. And it was doubtless copied from the copy made furtively by M. d’Alemberg (sic), at the time when he was clever enough to get into his hands the manuscript belonging to M. de Wielhorski .’ In his guess at the source of Foulquier’s copy, Girardin was almost certainly at fault. For, when the four pages copied by Girardin from Foulquier’s Manuscript are examined, they are found, like the rest of the Neuchâtel Manuscript (to which they are now attached), to contain the pencilled corrections of du Peyrou. This can only mean that the original, from which Foulquier’s Manuscript was copied, represented a text different from that of the Wielhorski Manuscript, and, in all probability, identical with the Neuchâtel version. If we may assume that d’Alembert’s copy was really transcribed from Wielhorski’s Manuscript—a point, however, on which we are not entitled to speak with absolute certainty—this would prove to demonstration that Foulquier’s copy was not taken from d’Alembert’s, but from some other version. Foulquier, it may be mentioned, had exchanged letters with Rousseau on the subject of the illegality of the marriage of Protestants in France (Oct. 1764) —a subject upon which both men felt deep concern; and there is evidence that Rousseau resumed intercourse with him in Paris, after his return thither in 1770. It is, therefore, possible, though it would be surprising, that the original was lent to Foulquier by Rousseau himself .
D. The next Manuscript to be considered is the copy made for François Coindet, Rousseau’s friend, and presented to the Geneva Library by his great-nephew, Dr Charles Coindet, in 1874 (Geneva MS. f. 246). It is written on 36 folio pages, in three or four different hands, apparently by clerks. It is, unfortunately, imperfect ending in the middle of a sentence, with the words, ‘produit peu de bonnes choses, et produit,’ at the bottom of p. 36 (Chap. xii., last paragraph but two): i.e. about a quarter of the entire text is wanting. There is, however, conclusive evidence that it was originally entire. For, in a note prefixed to the MS., Dr Charles Coindet informs us that a friend, the Comte de Saint-Priest , who had always doubted the authenticity of the three paragraphs about Stanislas, first published by Naigeon, was convinced of it by seeing them in Coindet’s Copy. As this passage occurs at the close of the treatise, there can be no doubt that the copy was originally complete. The most significant point about the manuscript is that, with one serious and three or four trifling exceptions which are noted in the text of this edition, it agrees with the Wielhorski Manuscript, as represented (save for the three excised passages) by the Editio princeps. The trifling exceptions are so infinitesimal in character that, if they stood alone, they might well be due to an oversight of the copyist. But the presence of the passage about malversation in Canton Bern, which is said to be wanting in the Wielhorski Manuscript, proves that Coindet cannot have made his copy from that MS. On the other hand, the absence of the passage about the Grand Council of Venice, which is in the Neuchâtel Manuscript, together with innumerable other variations, shews that neither was he working upon that. And the only course left is to suppose thathe had access to a version intermediate between the two, but far nearer to the Wielhorski than to the Neuchâtel model. It will be asked how Coindet managed to get sight of a work which Rousseau might have been expected to keep to himself. On this point, we have no information. But it may be suggested that, as Coindet was a clerk in Necker’s Bank , he may have had access, surreptitious or otherwise, to the Mirabeau Manuscript, which was transcribed for Necker, either with, or without, Rousseau’s permission and which may, not impossibly, have been transcribed by one, or more, of Necker’s clerks within the walls of the Bank itself.
E. This brings us to Mirabeau’s Manuscript, the existence of which has been doubted, but, for all that, may be asserted as confidently as it is possible to assert anything on circumstantial évidence. The first link in the chain of proof is supplied by the Pr face to Naigeon’s Edition of 1801. We there read: ‘Pour les Considérations sur le Gouvernement de Pologne, nous avons suivi le précieux Manuscrit du Comte de Mirabeau, dans lequel il existe plusieurs morceaux inédits, que le public jugera sans doute dignes de l’auteur du Contrat social .’ Now, it is almost impossible that any editor should have risked this assertion, unless it were true. It could not be denied that this edition did contain—not, indeed, ‘several passages,’ but—one passage, at any rate, which was not in the Editio princeps. In spite of Saint-Priest’s suspicions, it could not reasonably be supposed that this passage was invented by Naigeon himself. Even if capable of such an act, he ran far too Great a risk of being exposed by du Peyrou’s representatives, to venture on a forgery which might so easily be brought home to him The same argument applies to the supposition that he was speaking the truth when he claimed to have manuscript authority for the inserted passage, but lying when he asserted that the manuscript had once belonged to Mirabeau. For, here again considering that Mirabeau had been dead for no more than ten years, it was too easy to prove a negative against him. Moreover he takes the precaution to add a note, referring his readers to the Catalogue de Mirabeau. And, on the assumption that he was playing false, this was to furnish a quite gratuitous piece of evidence against himself.
It is just this reference, however, which has been used against him In the edition published by Lefèvre in 1819–20, and edited by Petitain, it is flatly asserted that there is no such entry in the ‘Catalogue de Mirabeau, imprimé en 179l .’ And as this—the catalogue which was printed, for the sale of Mirabeau’s library, at the close of 179l —is the catalogue obviously meant by the editor of 1801, it is clear that, in spite of his disclaimer, Petitain intended to throw doubt upon the whole story; and his insinuation appears to have been accepted by some later writers.
As a matter of fact, it is Petitain’s assertion which is demonstrably false. It may be that he contented himself with glancing at the list of books under the head of Politique. And there—rather strangely, no doubt—the manuscript in question is not. But if he had taken the trouble to look under the rubric of History, he would have found a heading, Histoire de Pologne. And, under that heading, the first entry to strike his eye would have been the following :
2540. Considérations sur le Gouvernement de Pologne, et sur la réforme projettée; par J. J. Rousseau, en avril 1772. Manuscrit en 8.; mar[oquin] v[ert] doub[lé] de tab[is]. Then, in a note: ‘L’original de cet ouvrage a été communiqué par J. J. Rousseau à M. Necker, qui l’a fait copier et mettre au net, comme le voici. Il est d’autant plus précieux, qu’il s’y trouve plusieurs passages importants qui n’ont jamais été imprimés, tels que les trois paragraphes singuliers des pages 214, 215, 216, d’après la vérification que nous en avons faite. Il est à présumer que, lors de l’impression de cet ouvrage ‘by du Peyrou-’on a changé plusieurs autres passages qui pouvaient paraître trop forts contre le Despotisme. Le texte de l’auteur est ici dans toute sa pureté.’
No proof could be more complete. Not only is the existence of the Mirabeau Manuscript proved to demonstration. But we gain some very substantial information about the date of the treatise— which, as given here, exactly tallies with that offered by the title-page of the Editio princeps—about the origin of the manuscript and even about the form in which it was written.
On the first of these points, there is no need to add anything to what has already been said. As to the last, seeing that the manuscript was of 8vo form and contained at least 218 pages (against the 86 4to pages of the Neuchâtel MS.), it is clear that each page contained very much less than half of the matter comprised in each page of the Neuchâtel Manuscript.
The second point calls for a slightly longer comment. We are told that the original of the manuscript was lent to Necker who had it copied. The ‘original ‘must mean either the Wielhorski Manuscript , or one differing but slightly from it. If the former, it must have been ‘communicated ‘to Necker, before it was sent in to Wielhorski: that is, in the early spring of 1772. If the latter, the ‘communication’ may have taken place any time before Rousseau’s death (1778). That he should have let it pass into any hands save those of Wielhorski, may excite surprise. With the doubtful exception of Foulquier, he would seem to have guarded his secret carefully, as indeed he was bound to do. But, if anyone was to be let into his confidence, Necker was a not unnatural choice. He was a Genevese; he held a public position —that of Agent for the Genevan Republic at the Court of Versailles; and he had a Great name for probity. Whether Rousseau intended him to take a copy, or knew that he had done so, is another matter. On this point the Catalogue is silent and we have no other means of information.
The importance of this manuscript is that it served as base for the text of the Edition of 1801; and, for the three paragraphs about Stanislas at the end of the treatise, it was the only authority then avallable. Naigeon’s version of those paragraphs is, however, confirmed by the Neuchâtel Manuscript and by the corrections which du Peyrou pencilled upon it-corrections which we know to have been made from the Wielhorski Manuscript. How far the remainder of the treatise represents a careful collation of the Editio princeps with the Mirabeau Manuscript, it is impossible to say with certainty. All that can be asserted is that Naigeon’s readings agree in every particular with those of the Editio princeps. The most charitable explanation of this is that he was really working, as he claimed to be, on a manuscript copied word for word from the ‘original .’
What ultimately became of the Mirabeau Manuscript, I am unable to say . In a priced Catalogue, now in the Rylands Library, it is marked as having been disposed of at Mirabeau’s sale (Jan. 9, 1792) for 130 fr., 3 sous . But the name of the purchaser is not mentioned. And, so far as I know, the last thing heard of it is that it was used by Naigeon and his fellow-editors for -the edition of 1801.
F. The only manuscript of importance now remaining to consider is that which, for convenience’ sake and without prejudice, must be called the Manuscript of d’Alembert. About the existence of this manuscript there can be no doubt whatever. It is established beyond question by the letters which passed between Rousseau and Wielhorski in 1774, and between Wielhorski and others after Rousseau’s death, in 1778–9.
From the former correspondence we learn the foliowing facts. ‘Le libraire Guy,’ writes Rousseau, ‘est venu hier (June 30) me demander s’il était vrai que je fusse l’auteur d’un écrit sur le Gouvernement de Pologne, qui est entre les mains de M. d’Alembert: écrit qu’on m’attribue et qu’on lui propose d’imprimer.’ Guy shewed Rousseau the opening and the closing sentences of this writing; and Rousseau established its identity at a glance . Three days later, d’Alembert, who had been informed in the interval of what had passed between Guy and Rousseau, wrote thus to Wielhorski: ‘On m’assure, Monsieur, que vous avez une lettre de M. Rousseau, dans laquelle il prétend que le sieur Guy lui a dit qu’il tenait de moi je ne sais quel manuscrit sur la Pologne. Would it be indiscreet to ask you,’ he continues, ‘to give me some explanations on the point? It is important to me to have them, for the purpose of confounding Guy, whose assertion is a most cruel falsehood (la plus inique fausseté) .’ Wielhorski, at once laying his finger on the discrepancy, replied as follows: ‘II est certain que le sieur Guy vint chez M. Rousseau . . . pour lui demander s’il était vrai qu’il fût l’auteur d’un écrit sur le Gouvernement de Pologne, Il n’a pas dit qu’il le tenait de vous, mais que vous l’aviez entre les mains . . ..Je suis sûr que la copie de mon manuscrit existe, puisque le sieur Guy en a montré le commencement et la fin .
The thread of the story has to be taken up from the correspondence of Wielhorski and others, four years later. ‘You will remember Madame,’—Wielhorski writes to Rousseau’s widow, Thérèse Levasseur—’ that there was a slight quarrel between M Rousseau and me on the subject of this manuscript. M. Jay [Guy], the publisher, came one day to your husband to ask if the work of which he shewed him the beginning and the end, was by him. He added that it had just been brought to him for publication. M. Rousseau did not deny the authorship. But, surprised at the discovery, he at once informed me of it and asked me to meet him. We saw each other. I assured him that the only man to whom I had lent the original manuscript—and it was with his consent—was Prince Czartoryski, General of Podolia. I promised to take the necessary steps to prevent its publication; and we made it up (nous nous rapatriâmes). In order to discharge this promise—in which I was even more interested than the author himself—I addressed myself to M. de Sartine, Lieutenant-général of Police, who was then in Paris. My demand was granted; and the work was not published .
In a later letter, Wielhorski writes to Girardin that he had been informed it was d’Alembert’s secretary who had presented the manuscript to Guy. ‘I at once wrote to d’Alembert. He answered that neither he, nor his secretary, had any knowledge of the matter. Dissatisfied with this reply, I begged Mme Blondel, who was very intimate with him, to speak to him about it, She answered me that neither M. d’Alembert, nor his secretary, knew anything about it. I communicated this answer to M. Rousseau .’
It is clear that Wielhorski did not believe d’Alembert’s denial. It is equally clear that Rousseau shared his opinion. ‘The writing on the Government of Poland,’ he says, ‘fell into the hands of M d’Alembert, perhaps as soon as it left mine .’ And it must be admitted that, on the facts as related in these letters, the case against d’Alembert has an ugly appearance. On the other hand, one would be slow to believe that, when he denied all knowledge of the matter, d’Alembert was telling a deliberate lie. And that makes it necessary to sift the evidence with all possible care. In the last resort, it will be seen that the charge against d’Alembert rests upon the assertion made by Guy to Rousseau, and upon the information subsequently received by Wielhorski and conveyed to Girardin in these words: ‘Il est vrai que, dans le temps que je faisais des perquisitions pour découvrir l’auteur du vol de mon manuscrit on me dit que le Sieur le Jay [i.e. Guy] en tenait la copie des mains du secrétaire de M. d’Alembert .’ The source of the last information is not mentioned by Wielhorski; and this considerably weakens its value. Nor, again, does Rousseau inform us what grounds Guy had for his statement that the manuscript, brought to him for publication, ‘was in the hands of d’Alembert .’ Believing as he did that d’Alembert was deep in the conspiracy of Grimm and Diderot against himself and his good name he may not unnaturally have accepted Guy’s assertion without further enquiry; regarding it as one more proof of d Alembert’s inveterate baseness and desire to injure him . We are left, in fact, with one assertion against another. And, in the absence of the grounds of Guy’s assertion and in the face of d’Alembert’s explicit and reiterated denials, it is fair to give the latter the benefit of the doubt.
This, however, does not in the least impair the proof that the manuscript existed; that an attempt was made to publish it in 1774; and that the attempt was foiled only by the interference of the Government. It seems to have been renewed in the months immediately following the death of Rousseau; and Girardin induced Wielhorski to apply once more to the Government for aid. The Minister for Foreign Affairs however—the person to whom the application was made—refused to stir in the matter, and contented himself with expressing a mild hope that the collected edition of Rousseau’s Works, which he was informed that du Peyrou had in preparation, would ‘contain as little objectionable as possible .’ As a matter of fact, the possessor of the manuscript on Poland appears to have taken no further steps . The announcement of du Peyrou’s forthcoming edition must have convinced him that piracy was not likely to be profitable.
The only question yet unanswered is: How can the leakage of the manuscript be accounted for? And for the answer, we, like the persons concerned, are left to bare conjecture. Girardin mentions a rumour-set afloat, as he supposes, by the present possessor of the manuscript-that Thérèse had furtively disposed of it for a consideration . For the sake of human nature, one may hope that he was right in dismissing this, as a baseless calumny. Wielhorski suggests that it was stolen by his former secretary, Konig , who had confessed to other thefts of the kind, but steadily asserted his innocence in this instance. But, in truth, both Wielhorski and Rousseau had been so incautious in ‘communicating ‘the manuscript that it was small wonder if surreptitious copies had been taken. Rousseau had lent it to Necker and, in its earlier version, perhaps to Foulquier also. Wielhorski had confided it to Sandoz Rollin —a fact which he seems to have forgotten. He admits having shewn it to Prince Czartoryski , to the duc de la Rochefoucault and to a young friend in Poland . In the last case, it is true, he assures us that the loan was only for a night, But he allows that a copy was taken of it, for all that. And unless the young man had a hundred hands at his command, it is clear that the manuscript must have been kept much longer than Wielhorski cared to remember. Necker certainly had the treatise copied; so had Foulquier; and, though Wielhorski goes bail for their secrecy, there is no certainty that Czartoryski and la Rochefoucault had not done the same. Coindet, finally, had contrived to get a copy; very possibly, from that of Necker. Among this multitude of possibilities, the one thing certain is that it is impossible even to guess at the particular person who was guilty of the fraud.
G. From Girardin’s letter to du Peyrou of Oct. 4, 1778 , we learn that a Manuscript of the Considérations had been offered ‘by a third party ‘to du Peyrou. Whether this was an autograph or a copy does not appear. If a copy, it may have been identical with Coindet’s or with Necker’s (Mirabeau’s); or it may be one of which we have no further record. If an autograph , we can only suppose that Rousseau reserved a duplicate of the Wielhorski Manuscript for himself, and that, some time before his death, he either gave it away (which is most unlikely) or was robbed of it. As we have seen, there are indications that such a duplicate, or virtual duplicate, of the Wielhorski Manuscript did exist and that both Necker’s and Coindet’s copies were derived from it. I fear we cannot altogether put aside the possibility that Thérèse, according to the rumour discredited by Girardin, purloined it during Rousseau’s lifetime and parted with it for a consideration.
The conclusion of the whole matter is that, in addition to the two or possibly three, autograph versions of the treatise—the Wielhorski Manuscript, the Neuchâtel Manuscript, and perhaps one closely resembling the former—we can trace the existence of no less than five copies: that of Coindet, that of Foulquier, that of Mirabeau, that of Wielhorski’s Polish friend, and finally that which takes its name from d’Alembert. It is, of course, not impossible that the Mirabeau copy and the d’Alembert copy are identical . If so, the number of copies would be reduced to four. Even the smaller number is large enough for a writing which was supposed to be confidential. Given so many, the only wonder is that there were not as many more.
The six or seven manuscripts obviously fall into two ‘schools ‘: that of the earlier version, represented by the Neuchâtel autograph and apparently, by Foulquier’s copy; and that of the revised version represented by the Wielhorski autograph (as reproduced in the Edition of 1782) and probably, with trifling variations, by all the other copies.
Correspondence regarding the Treatise.
A. LETTERS 0F ROUSSEAU, WIELEORSKI AND D’ALEMBERT (1774).
[Two letters of J. J. Rousseau to Michel Wielhorski, first published by M. Askenazy in the Biblioteka Warszawska of March, 1898, Vol. CCXXIX. pp 443–454. I give them, together with the two letters which passed between d’Alembert and Wielhorski, by the kind permission of the Editor of the Bib. War.]
à Paris, le 20 Avril 1774.
Depuis longtemps, M. le Comte, j’aperçois en vous un tel changement à mon égard, et je ne sais quoi de si peu naturel, que pour conserver toute l’estime que vous m’avez inspirée, je suis forcé de soupçonner ici quelque mystère dont vous me devez l’éclaircissement.
Lorsque vous me recherchâtes avec tant d’empressement, je n’ignorais pas dès lors vos liaisons avec des gens qui ne cachent si soigneusement la haine qu’ils me portent qu’afin de la mieux assouvir. Cependant vous employâtes des motifs si puissants sur mon cœur et vous m’inspirâtes tant de confiance qu’entrant dans vos vues j’oubliai mon découragement, mon épuisement, le sentiment de mon incapacité actuelle, et, suppléant à tout à force de zéle, je vous offris, avec un cœur qui eût dû m’ouvrir le vôtre, le tribut de mes idées sur l’objet qui vous occupait: idées dans lesquelles j’avais, et je vous montrai, peu de confiance; mais j’en avais une grande et bien fondée dans la droiture des sentiments qui me les avaient suggérées. C’était le travail de six mois dans un temps dont ma situation me rendait un autre emploi nécessaire. Je n’en fis point valoir le sacrifice; et la simplicité de ma conduite devait m’attirer votre estime, quand aucune de mes idées n’eût m rité votre attention. Cependant, depuis lors, j’ai vu dans vos manières un tel changement qu’à moins d’être aveugle et insensible il m’était impossible de ne pas l’apercevoir et de n’en pas être affligé. Je vous savais obsédé par mes ennemis; je les connaissais par leurs œuvres; et je ne pouvais douter qu’instruits de vos désirs et de ma déférence ils ne travaillassent à empoisonner tous les fruits de mon zèle. Pour éluder l’effet de leurs mauvais desseins je vous demandai le secret que vous ne m’avez point gardé. Ceux qui se disaient mes amis, et à qui je n’avais pas communiqué mon travail ne m’ont point pardonné cette réserve. Me reposant néanmoins dans la pureté de mes intentions et dans vos lumières, je craignais peu leurs manœuvres et pensais du moins qu’elles ne parviendraient pas à vous abuser sur mon compte, en ce que vous aviez éprouvé et vu par vous-même. J’ai lieu de croire que je me suis trompé et que, préoccupé d’opinions que vous n’eussiez jamais dû adopter, vous me voyez uniquement par les yeux d’autrui, et non plus par les vôtres.
Tout cela me serait peu difficile à expliquer, si l’opinion que j eus toujours de votre droiture et de vos vertus me permettait d’admettre une supposition qui vous fût injurieuse; mais, Monsieur, j’aime mieux vous supposer abusé que de vous croire un moment injuste. Si vous aviez adopté la maxime de mes persécuteurs de cacher soigneusement à l’accusé qu’on juge et qu’on défame l’accusation l’accusateur et ses preuves, je n’aurais aucun éclaircissement à espérer de vous. Mais comment supposer que M.le Comte Wielhorski admette une maxime que je m’abstiens ici de qualifier, mais qu’on sent être aussi favorable aux imposteurs et dont ils font à mon égard un si cruel usage? Ce n’est pas à lui qu’il faut apprendre qu’en fait de délit de toute espèce il n’y a point d évidence sans conviction; et quel homme sensé ne voit pas que, par la méthode qu’on suit à mon égard, rien n’est plus aisé à des gens ligués en secret pour cet effet que de prouver d’un homme tout ce qu’il leur plaît? Non, Monsieur, j’aime mieux me livrer à l’idée qui m’est venue, que vous avez cherché vous-même l explication que je désire et que je vous demande: idée qui m’explique votre conduite à mon égard, laquelle sans cela me paraît incompréhensible.
Je tire cette idée d’un billet que vous m’avez écrit ci-devant en ces termes: ‘Le Comte de Wielhorski, ne voulant rien devoir à M. Rousseau que son estime et son amitié, lui envoyé trente sols qu il lui redoit.’ Assurément, Monsieur, dans le travail que j’ai fait pour vous obéir je n’ai jamais ni prétendu ni pensé que vous eussiez contracté une dette envers moi; mais peut-être, avec les sentiments que j’ai dû vous connaître, ne deviez-vous pas toutà-fait penser de même; et un billet si singulier ne saurait avoir été écrit sans dessein. Je ne vous dissimulerai pas que ce billet n’excita d’abord en moi qu’un mouvement d’indignation, et que ma fierté ne me permit pas d’y répondre. Depuis lors j’y ai souvent repensé avec une nouvelle surprise.
Enfin, depuis le dernier manifeste de la Confédération que vous m’avez envoyé si tard et avec tant de précaution, cherchant à m’expliquer et m’excuser vos procédés, il m’est venu des soupçons qui m’ont engagé à la démarche franche et digne de moi que je fais aujourd’hui. J’ai réfléchi sur les visites aussi frivoles qu’affectées que, depuis l’écrit que je vous remis, j’ai souvent reçues de plusieurs personnes d’une nation dont je ne pense pas mieux que vous, qui sûrement m’aime encore moins que je ne l’estime, et qui ne laisse pas de me proposer un asile avec assez d’empressement. Ces visites faites souvent avec une sorte d’ostentation n’auraient-elles point quelque motif insidieux qui, dans la simplicitéde mon cœur, m’eût échappé jusqu’ici? J’ai appris par la plus terrible expérience ce que savent faire deux hommes de ma connaissance, qui ont un grand crédit chez cette nation. Ces deux hommes viennent de faire un voyage . Ils ont fait en route des pauses qui n’étaient pas sans motifs; et bien d’autres gens, dont vous ne vous doutez pas, concourent à leurs manœuvres,
Tout cela n’aurait-il point quelque rapport à vos dispositions à mon égard? S’il est vrai que vous aimez l’équité, veuillez, Monsieur me mettre à portée de m’expliquer avec vous; et vous sentirez bientôt, j’en ai la juste confiance, que le Jean Jacques qui vous écrit, qui vous honore, et qui n’a jamais cessé d’être tendrement et sincèrement attaché à votre estimable et infortunée nation ne ressemble guère à celui qu’on vous a peint sous son nom. Et plût à Dieu que ces recherches nous menassent plus loin et vous donnassent enfin une idée plus juste et plus vraie et de moi-même et des trames dont je suis la victime. Mais tenons nous-en, quant à présent, à ce qui nous regarde et qu’il vous est plus aisé d’approfondir. Bien instruit de ce qu’on a su faire à cet égard, vous pourrez présumer plus aisément ce qu’on a pu faire à d’autres.
Si vous vous prêtez à l’éclaircissement que je désire, il faut, M.le Comte, que vous me gardiez le plus profond secret sur cette lettre; que, sans vous presser, vous ménagiez vos entrevues de manière à ne donner aucun ombrage à mes vigilants persécuteurs; et qu’aucun tiers, pas même aucun domestique, n’y soit employé d aucune manière, quelque confiance que vous puissiez avoir en lui.
Si, suivant leurs injustes maximes, vous vous refusez aux seuls vrais moyens de constater la vérité et de démasquer les fourbes, alors je me retire et remets entièrement ma cause à la Providence, sans exiger de vous ni réserve ni secret. Mais je vous prédis, M.le Comte, que si vous me survivez, comme je l’espère, cette lettre méprisée vous causera quelque jour des regrets.
J. J. ROUSSEAU.
Je vous conjure de bien réfléchir à cette lettre, et, quelque usage que vous en fassiez, d’écrire au bas le parti qu’elle vous aura fait prendre, afin que, si elle existe après nous, une génération moins prévenue puisse juger entre vous et moi.
Comme je ne veux, Monsieur le Comte, vous remettre cette lettre qu’en main propre, je vais la fermer et la tenir dans ma poche pour en attendre l’occasion, qui peut-être ne viendra de longtemps
à Paris le pr., Juillet 1774.
Vous verrez, M.le Comte, dans la lettre ci-jointe que j’attendais toujours l’occasion de vous remettre en main propre ce que dans la droiture de mon cœur, je pensais encore de vous quand elle fut écrite. Vous comprendrez sans peine, par ce que j’ai maintenant à vous dire, ce que j’en puis penser aujourd’hui. Vous recevrez cette lettre ouverte, parce qu’avant de vous l’envoyer j’ai cru devoir en prendre une copie.
Le libraire Guy est venu hier me demander s’il était vrai que je fusse l’auteur d’un écrit sur le Gouvernement de Pologne qui est entre les mains de M. d’Alembert: écrit qu’on m’attribue et qu’on lui propose d’imprimer. Il me montra le commencement et la fin de cet écrit, et j’y reconnus avec la plus incroyable surprise celui qu’avec tant d’instances et au nom de l’humanité, de la justice et de la vertu vous m’arrachâtes il y a quelques années. Voici fidèlement ce que je lui répondis: ‘Vous devez croire qu’un honnête homme, digne de toute mon estime, aurait pu seul obtenir de moi un pareil écrit, et qu’un tel homme ne l’aurait pas laissé sortir de ses mains pour passer dans celles de M d’Alembert, et de là sous la presse.’
Quoique je ne me sois jamais bien trouvé de l’usage d’informer directement les personnes à qui j’ai à faire de ce que j’apprends d elles, et de ma conduite à leur égard, vous voyez que je ne m’eu dépars pas.
Adieu, M.le Comte Wielhorski! je ne me souviendrai jamais de vous sans me sentir content de moi: je souhaite de tout mon cœur que vous puissiez dire la même chose.
[The two following letters appeared in the same Article.]
d’Alembert à Wielhorski, 4 Juillet, 1774.
On m’assure, Monsieur, que vous avez une lettre de M. Rousseau dans laquelle il prétend que le Sr. Guy, libraire à Paris, lui a dit qu’il tenait de moi je ne sais quel manuscrit sur la Pologne. N’y aurait-il point d’indiscrétion à vous prier de me donner quelques éclaircissements sur cette lettre? Il m’importe de les avoir, pour confondre le Sr. Guy, qui avance la plus inique fausseté.
Wielhorski à d’Alembert, 4 Juillet, 1774.
Il est certain que le Sr. Guy vint chez M. Rousseau le 30 du mois passé, pour lui demander s’il était vrai qu’il fût l’auteur d’un écrit sur le Gouvernement de Pologne. Il n’a point dit qu’il le tenait de vous, mais que vous l’aviez entre les mains. Si cela est, comme le bien m’appartient, et qu’il ne m’a été dérobé que par fraude je connais trop votre façon de penser pour croire que vous vouliez jamais en disposer sans mon agrément. Je suis sûr que la copie de mon manuscrit existe, puisque le Sr. Guy en a montré le commencement et la fin.
[Guy was the partner and successor of Duchesne, who, with Néaulme, was one of the two publishers of Émile. Guy himself published a collected edition of Rousseau’s Works in 1765, and the Dictionnaire de Musique in 1767.]
B. ABSTRACT OF CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN GIRARDIN, WIELHORSKI AND OTHERS. (1778–9.)
[Bulletin du Bibliophile et du Bibliothécaire, Nov. 15, 1909. Article by M. le Comte de Girardin, who possesses the originals, or Girardin’s drafts.]
1. Girardin to Sandoz Rollin (Secretary to Prussian Embassy at Paris): Ermenonville, Oct. 10, 1778.
’Von Goltz [the Prussian Ambassador] tells me that you know Wielhorski. What is his address in Poland, where I believe that he is now? Rousseau wrote for him a work on the Constitution of Poland giving him leave to make any use of it he might think fit, short of publishing it. Several copies, faithful or otherwise, of this work are now being circulated; and a calumny has been put about that Mme Rousseau sold it to ‘a person of considération ‘for 1000 crowns. Is the original still in Wielhorski’s hands? And will he name the persons, if any, to whom he has shewn it, so that we may know whether, or no, it is possible that surreptitious copies have been taken and who is to be credited with the honour of this manœuvre, qui sent bien le Portique?’
2. Rollin to Girardin: Paris, Oct. 20, 1778.
’I well remember to have read the Manuscript of which you speak. Wielhorski confided it to me during his sojourn at Paris , and I am pretty sure that the original is still in his hands. I enclose his address in Poland.’ [There is a P.S. to this letter, dated Oct. 29.]
3. Girardin to Wielhorski (at Horochow). [Undated, but end of Oct. or beginning of Nov. 1778 .]
’You know better than anyone the conditions under which Rousseau sent you the writing on Poland. You know that he wrote it for you gratuitously, and that it cannot justly be printed, unless (in accordance with his last will) his wife receives a due recompense for the author’s labour; this indeed is her only resource ‘Then follows, in the same words as in Letter 1, the passage about the ‘calumny ‘against Thérèse. Girardin continues: ‘You will feel that you owe it to yourself and to your friendship with Rousseau to silence such rumours; either by stating in the Courrier d’Europe, or in any other newspaper, whether the Manuscript is still in your hands, and the names of any persons to whom it may have been shewn; or, failing that, by a letter to the same effect which Mme Rousseau can shew to anyone she pleases.’
4. Wielhorski to Girardin: Horochow, Nov. 29, 1778.
’Rousseau composed the writing on Poland gratuitously. I had intended to shew my gratitude by a présent. But I was assured by Mme Rousseau that this would mortally offend him. His death, however, removes my scruples; and I beg you to inform his widow that 600 f. are lodged with my Paris Bankers for her use’
5. Wielhorski to Mme Rousseau (Nov. 30, 1778): enclosed in the preceding.
’I am much troubled to learn that the work which Rousseau wrote for me on Poland is about to be published. I am the more vexed because it cannot possibly be published without omissions or modifications. It must necessarily be mangled, which is at variance with the author’s intentions. So far from having the smallest part in its publication, which is the result of a theft or a breach of confidence, I can assure you that, if it were still in my power I should wish to stop the impression. You will remember that there was a slight quarrel between Rousseau and me on the same subject. When Jay [Guy] informed him of the previous attempt at publication (1774), your husband asked me to meet him. We met. I told him that I had lent the MS., with his permission to Prince Czartoryski, General of Podolia, and to him alone; I promised to take the necessary steps for stopping the publication; and we made it up. In fulfilment of this promise—and I was more interested in the matter than the author himself—I applied to de Sartine, Lieutenant General of Police. I obtained what I demanded, and the work was not published. After my return to Poland, . . .I lent the Manuscript, for one night only, to one of my fellow countrymen. He returned it the next morning; but I have since learned that he was indiscreet enough to make a copy. I need not name him, because it is manifest that it can only be the earlier copy [that oftered to Guy] which is now being used for the press. As for the personal question, the profits of the work belong, in equity, to you. Legally, it belongs to me; and I can dispose of it, as I please. I resign all my rights in your favour. I make only one condition: it is that the Manuscript should be examined by a censor representing the [French] Foreign Office. I have no doubt that, when certain passages are cancelled or modified, he will give his consent to its publication.’
6. Girardin to Wielhorski (at Horochow): Jan. 15, 1779,
’Mme Rousseau begs me to return the letter of change offered by you. She thinks like her husband, and is not willing to sell you what he simply confided to you. What she desires, what she has the right to expect of you, is that you should explain clearly what passed in respect of the first copy [Guy’s]. Rousseau confided the MS. to you only; it follows that the surreptitious copy must have been made from your Manuscript. Czartoryski cannot be suspected for a moment. De Sartine might prevent the publication but not do away with the existence of the copy, which has given rise to many others; these have been misused to spread calumnies against the widow, and may be further misused at any moment to dishonour the memory of the author by publishing a false version of his work . . ..I cannot doubt for an instant that you will see the justice of telling Mme Rousseau without further delay (enfin) the names of all those through whose hands the Manuscript passed prior to Guy’s interview with Rousseau. We know already that d’Alembert has had it in his possession and you need be the less reticent on the subject, as we can hardly be deceived for an instant as to the men responsible for having taken advantage of the chance, theft, or confidence, which brought the Manuscript within their reach.’
7. Wielhorski to Girardin: Warsaw, March 12, 1779.
’I regret that Mme Rousseau refuses my offer. You ask me to explain clearly how the first copy can have reached the hands of Guy. I thought I had done so already; but, as I recall some further circumstances, I will mention them without reserve. Why should I not? I have never had any relations with d’Alembert and, if I had, truth and justice must come first. It is the case that, when I made enquiries to discover who had stolen my Manuscript, I was informed that Guy had the copy from the hands of d’Alembert’s Secretary. I at once wrote to d’Alembert, who replied that neither he, nor his Secretary, had any knowledge of the matter. Dissatisfied with this answer, I begged Mme Blondel, who was very intimate with him, to speak to him on the subject. She answered me that neither d’Alembert, nor his Secretary, knew anything about it. I communicated the answer in question to Rousseau but cannot remember whether I sent him the letter, or no. Anyhow, I will look on my return home and, if I find it, will send it to you. I believe, though I do not remember clearly, that I also lent the MS. to the Duc de la Rochefoucault. If he made a copy, he will assuredly guard it jealously; but I greatly doubt if he did. Finally, to tell you the whole truth, I had a German copyist Könich (sic), whom I discovered to be untrustworthy before I left for Poland. He restored several copies he had made from my papers. But the one in question was not among them; and he would never confess that he had made it . . .. The treatise on Poland was not a trust confided to me; but, as I can prove from the letters of Rousseau himself, a work written solely for my sake . . ..I have really more to suffer than the memory of Rousseau from its publication. There are expressions, and even thoughts (choses) which a philosopher allows himself to use to a friend and which, for the love of that very friend, he would not wish to see the light. There are passages of this kind in the present writing. You will feel, therefore, that it is of infinite importance to me that it should not be published without omissions or changes. This could do no wrong to a fame so well established as that of Rousseau. On the other hand, it if were not done, I should be put seriously in the wrong, as it might be supposed that the ideas of the author were, in fact, prompted by me. If you had read the work, I am sure you would agree. However, to spare Mme Rousseau trouble and annoyance, I will send you the MS., marking the changes I should wish to have made. This will enable you to cut the ground from under the pirated edition, even if it should appear, by a simple statement that yours is the only edition made with my consent, and from the original MS.’
8. Girardin to Wielhorski (at Warsaw): March 31, 1779,
’Your letter just received. From what you tell me, it is no wonder that, the theft once made, the MS. should have been repeatedly copied, whoever the thief may have been. I hope, however that, one way or another, you have recovered the original MS., since you are good enough to offer it to us. Owing to this obliging offer, it is certain that, having the original MS. in their hands, the editors will be in a position, both in your interests and in their own , to give the lie to any edition based upon any of the copies. I should even think it well, since you hold that the treatise contains things liable to compromise you—things which are quite certain to be preserved in all the copies—that you should at once give warning to the Foreign Minister (Vergennes), so that he may prevent any version of the treatise, which you do not certify as correct, from being published or admitted in France. This would furnish a safeguard both to you and the editors, giving them a kind of privilege (copyright) in France, by the exclusion of all other editions . . .. Please send the MS. [to Vergennes] in a double envelope, begging him to forward it to me as soon as possible. By this means, I might receive it in the course of April, before I start on a journey which I have to take [i.e. to see du Peyrou at Neuchâtel] . . .. If you consent to this, I will promise that your MS. shall not go out of my hands; or that I will pledge the editors—who, however, have the Rough Draft of the author [i.e. the Neuchâtel MS.]—to adopt the omissions which you may indicate as desirable. I shall do so with the less scruple, because I am very sure that Rousseau’s intention was not that a work which he wrote for your sake should bring you into the smallest trouble. As for your MS., the printing will in all cases be done from copies, collated under the eyes of Rousseau’s friends; none of the originals will therefore be stained in the press; accordingiy, if you wish it, we can return your MS. after the edition is completed’
9. Wielhorski to Girardin: Horochow, May 20, 1779.
’Having been at Warsaw, I could not send the MS. sooner. Since my return I have re-read the work and made the necessary observations. You will find my notes on a loose sheet at the beginning of the work . I am sure you will approve the changes and alterations I have made. They do not disfigure the work; and the author himself would certainly have suppressed these passages if he had been writing for the public, since, as you say, it was certainly not his wish to compromise me. It is a great sacrifice to me to part with a manuscript so precious. I do so only in the full confidence that you will take Great care of it and return it as soon as the printing is complete.’
10. Girardin to Wielhorski. Undated (but, as appears from Letter 11, July, 1779).
’I have written to Vergennes. He replies that, as he had already told you, it would be useless for him to attempt to do you the small service you ask, and that he cannot meddle with the matter . Rousseau’s literary executors—foreigners—had already in their hands a duplicate of your MS. It was included—together with all the other MSS. which they had or could recover—in their bargain with the Geneva publishers. I am therefore left with no weapon but persuasion. This will be feeble indeed when the omissions which I shall demand of the foreign printers are no longer compensated by the grant of a more favoured entry of their edition into France. Moreover, they will be exposed at any moment to the reproach of having mutilated the Manuseript, seeing that a large number of copies are current, and that any one of these may be printed, without sparing a letter, and be circulated everywhere now that there is no Government Order to stop them. All that I can do, therefore, is—on the journey which I am about to undertake with a view to arranging terms for Mme Rousseauo to see those who are superintending this edition [that of 1782, Geneva], to shew them your observations, and to press them as strongly as I can to comply with them. But under no circumstances will I part with the MS.; and as soon as I return (towards November) I will send it back to you by the first safe channel you may direct.’
11. Vergennes to Girardin: July 2, 1779. [This is the letter referred to in the preceding.]
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
’The method you suggest for meeting the wishes of Wielhorski seems to me very suitable; and I think that, through the interest you take in the widow, you can do more than anyone to influence the Geneva printers. As for me, I am glad to leave the task of permitting or forbidding the sale of this edition to those charged with the Censorship; and I confine myself to the hope that it will contain as little as may be that calls for blame.’
12. Wielhorski to Œrardin: Nov. 20, 1779.
’Owing to absence from home, I did not get your letter till eight days ago. Please thank MM. du Peyrou and Moultou for their kindness, in accepting my proposals; and tell them that I authorise them to print the work in question on the conditions to which they have kindly agreed. As for the condition regarding the return of my MS. when the edition is completed and delivered, I agree with all my heart. It is only just that these gentlemen, having charged themselves with the superintendence of this business should take all the measures they think necessary against the chance of being compromised (pour n’être jamais compromis). I will write to Vergennes, to express my pleasure at the conduct of these gentlemen.’
C. WIELEORSKI’S LIST OF ALTERATIONS.
In his letter to Girardin of May 20, 1779, Wielhorski writes: ‘Vous trouverez mes notes au commencement de l’ouvrage sur une feuille détachée.’ On a blank page at the end of the Wielhorski MS. is pasted the following note, said to be in the hand of Wielhorski and probably the very ‘note on a loose sheet’ mentioned in his letter:—
P. 74, 1. 19: Lisez troupes, non brigands.
P. 97, 1. 8: Ôtez et surtout dans la dernière; laissez la phrase suivante avec les changements que voici: où l’on a vu dans plusieurs élections que, sans égard pour ceux que la nation favorisait, on l’a forcée de choisir celui qu’elle aurait rébuté. Mais pour cet avantage qu’elle n’a plus et qu’elle a sacrifié etc.
P. 106: Ôtez trois articles: Au reste, Je sais bien et De quelque embarra. Commencez par Quant à la manière .
At the top of the page, above troupes, is pencilled les armées. This is said to be in another hand; it is likely to be that either of du Peyrou or of Girardin.
On the last of the three blank pages at the beginning of the MS. is the following note in Polish, ‘written in an unknown hand’:
’The autograph, in the hand of Jean Jacques Rousseau, on the Government of Poland. Written at the request of Michel Wielhorski who was sent by the Confederation of Bar as Ambassador to Paris. Brought and offered by Joseph, son of the said Michel Wielhorski, April 8 ([n. s.] 20), 1804, to the Library . . ..’
The MS., which covers 109 pages, is now in the Czaitoryski Museum, Cracow. It has been collated by M. Olszewicz. His results, with a Facsimile of 2 pages (pp. 1 and 97) of the MS. are given by him in Annales de la Société Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Vol IX. (1913).
D. ∗EXTRACT FROM GIRARDIN’S ACCOUNT OF THE MSS. IN ROUSSEAU’S POSSESSION AT HIS DEATH.
[Girardin to du Peyrou, Oct. 4, 1778: MS. Neuchâtel, 7923.]
État des Écrits posthumes qui sont ici, ou dont on s’en procure la connaissance ailleurs.
1. Considérations sur le Gouvernement de Pologne; minuté de la main de l’auteur. Le cahier contient 87 pages, dont les pages 83, 84, 85 et 86 manquent et paraissent avoir été déchirées.
Cet ouvrage, composé dans les dernières années de l’auteur, montre bien de quoi il était encore capable, si une mort prématurée ne l’eût enlevé à l’univers. On y trouve tout le feu de la jeunesse et l’énergie de l’âge mûr. Il semble que son génie se fût encore exalté par la considération du bien de l’humanité. Cet ouvrage est véritablement sublime, puisqu’à la théorie profonde du Contrat social il s’unit la pratique qui pourrait faire la félicité et perpétuer l’existence d’une nation que cet ouvrage pourrait relever, si elle était encore capable de le comprendre.
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
À l’étât ci-dessus vous pouvez ajouter:
1°. Les six derniers livres des Confessions, offerts par la tierce personne.
2°. Idem l’Éloge du Régent [not, however, the Regent d’Orléans, but his son].
3°. La Constitution de Pologne, manuscrit sans doute plus au net et plus complet que celui qui est ici [i.e. the Neuchâtel MS., described above]. En tout cas, on pourrait le réclamer (?) pour l’impression. L’original est en les mains du Comte de Willorsky (sic) en Pologne, dont vous pouvez facilement vous procurer l’adresse par vos correspondants de Berlin.
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
Je dois aussi vous prévenir de vous assurer si le manuscrit sur la Pologne est de la main de l’auteur, afin de savoir si c’est véritablement le double conservé par l’auteur, celui qui se trouve ici n’étant qu’un brouillon incomplet. Cette vérification est d’autant plus importante dans ce moment-ci que je crois devoir être assuré qu’à l’exception du double conservé par l’auteur il n’est jamais venu de cet ouvrage qu’un seul exemplaire à M, le Comte de Willoski, actuellement en Pologne. Cet ouvrage a été fait et lui a été remis gratuitement, à la condition expresse de s’en servir uniquement pour le bien de sa patrie, mais de ne le point faire imprimer. Cependant cet exemplaire, ainsi que M. de Willoski en est convenu lui-même vis-à-vis de M. Rousseau, a été transmis par son valet de chambre, qui a trouvé son secrétaire ouvert et qui a été soidisant assez osé pour l’y prendre et le porter au plus grand géomètre de la secte à laquelle vous faites beaucoup d’honneur en ne l’appelant qu’intrigante. Il faut que pendant le peu de jours que le manuscrit, de manière ou d’autre, a passé sur la table de l’Algèbre, il s’y soit promptement multiplié; car tout à l’heure je viens d’être instruit qu’on avait proposé dernièrement à la veuve Duchesne libraire, Eue Saint-Jacques à Paris, cet ouvrage sur la Pologne en ajoutant à l’honnêteté moderne de chercher à voler le denier de la veuve l’atroce calomnie de dire qu’une personne de considération l’avait acheté d’elle mille écus: ce manuscrit qu’on cherche à vendre à son détriment et qui n’est vraisemblement que la copie multipliée et subreptrice. Or, cette calomnie est aussi infâme que sotte: car, si Mme Rousseau eût vendu du vivant de son mari quelqu’un de ses ouvrages, il s’en fût nécessairement aperçu; et les derniers moments de ses malheureux jours n’eussent point été aussi remplis de témoignages continuels de la plus tendre affection pour elle; et, depuis sa mort, je puis bien certifier qu’il n’a pas pu être détourné une seule ligne de son écriture. Mais les Walpolades les plus dégoûtantes ne sont que les jeux innocents de ces messieurs. ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
CONSIDÉRATIONS sur LE GOUVERNEMENT DE POLOGNE, et SUR SA RÉFORMATION PROJETÉE.
Par J.-J. Rousseau.
En Avril 1172 .
[The treatise was published for the first time after Rousseau’s death, in du Peyrou’s Edition of 1782 (17 volumes, Q°, Geneva). Du Peyrou used the manuscript which Rousseau sent to Wielhorski in 1772, returning it to him, when it had served its purpose. In 1804 it was presented by Wielhorski’s son, Joseph, to Prince Adam Czartoryski, who was already familiar with its contents and quite recently it has been unearthed in the Muséum Czartoryski at Cracow. An account of it will be found in Annales de J.-J, Rousseau, Vol. IX, pp. 29–36. Saving the alterations made at Wielhorski’s request, it seems to agree absolutely with the text of 1782. Until a complete and accurate collation of it has been made, the text of 1782 may therefore be taken as the final authority. A rough draft of the treatise, in Rousseau’s hand, is preserved in the Library of Neuehâtel (MS. 7838). It offers many variations from the final text; all these are indicated in the notes. A copy of the final text, made for Coindet, is preserved in the Library of Geneva (MS. f. 246). With two or three exceptions, indicated in the notes, it agrees absolutely with the Edition of 1782. In the notes to the text, N. = the Neuchâtel Manuscript; C = Coindet’s copy. The unmarked variants are all from N. The few variants given in the Annales from the Wielhorski MS. are indicated by W.]