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what the Gironde had been in the legislative assembly; and the king, whom the first dethroned, the second beheaded.
Thus perished Louis XVI., declaring that he had never harhoured a thought against the happiness of his people: the victim of his own character, and of the violence and the necessity of his times. Few persons have thought or written on this event, without hazarding some opinion on the possibility or impossibility of preventing it. Many have supposed that if the monarch had from the first sternly resisted all reforms, he would have succeeded. Others, again, have imagined that if he had yielded altogether to the popular movement, he might have retained his place as the beloved constitutional sovereign of his country. Some, and Mr. Burke among the number, have appeared to think that if Louis, not obstinate against change, but prescribing the changes to take place, had revived and renovated the ancient institutions-or that even if the states-general themselves had done this, by connecting the past with the present, a principle of duration would have been recognized and observed in the new system, which would thus have adapted itself better to the habits and wants of an ancient people, who had not their history to commence, but to continue.
The first course I deem altogether imposssible: because to keep things as they were, was to keep a parliament that refused to register taxes, a people who refused to pay them; and a clergy, a nobility, and an army, all the powers and all the classes of the state, discontented with the authority which flattered no opinion, and could no longer purchase adherents. The second course, plausible in theory, was, I fear, impossible in practice, since it supposed that one party would be always moderate in conquest, and another always patient in defeat. The third course offered the immense advantage of altering the spirit without changing the nominal form of the constitution. If resorted to at the death of Louis XIV.—as might have been the case if the Duc de Bourgogne had been his successor-it is possible that the new ideas gradually arising, would gradually have infused themselves into a form of government which was susceptible of popular improvements. But after the reign of Louis XV., of Rousseau and of Voltaire, to the modern ideas and the modern people who had
grown up, nothing could have appeared so new, so strange, and so grotesque, as the old and forgotten constitution which slumbered in the tomb of Louis XII. The nobility might, indeed, have received it; but it was against the nobility that the nation murmured.
More vain than proud, more alive to personal affronts than to public rights, enamoured with freedom as a novelty, rather than regarding it as a possession,-less the enemy of the crown than of the court, the nation would have bowed to a new tyranny which established equality in its empire, sooner than to an ancient system of liberty favourable to privileges and distinctions. Adopting the example of those who had founded the system over which he was called upon to preside—still further humbling, still more vigorously controlling the nobility which his great predecessor had humbled and controlled, Louis XVI. might have attempted arbitrarily to crush those vices, and to put down that insolence, and those pretensions, which a constitution was invoked to destroy. Like the savage, but illustrious Czar, he might have concentrated a revolution in his own person, which would probably have rendered him guilty of much of that violence, and many of those crimes, which have discoloured the fastes of the republic. But the enterprise would have been difficult; and the character of Louis XVI. (as little suited for his part as that of his predecessors had been for theirs) was wholly unequal to this great and hardy design, which he should have had Napoleon as a general, Mirabeau as a minister, to have accomplished.
The past generation suffered, the present generation has gained, by that king being better and weaker than the continuance of his dynasty required-he had not the fortune or the genius to offer an enlightened despotism; and the nation, in the natural evolutions of concession and aggression, arrived at a terrible republic.
THERE was a temple at Rome, where, by murdering the priest, you became his successor. Humanity shudders before a period in history when parties struggling for power adopted this maxim without remorse. First came the assassination of
Louis XVI., then that of the Girondists, then that of the Hebertists, then that of the Dantonists, then that of the Triumvirate. Terrible calamity of a terrible epoch-there is no safeguard in a revolution from error and from crime! Show me men more gifted with talents to promise greatness, with virtues to promise justice, than that noble and eloquent faction of the Gironde, that band of eminent and mistaken men, who by their brutal and insensate emissaries assaulted the palace of a monarch, whose goodness they knew, and whose errors it was their policy to have forgiven.
It was thus that they became the victims of their own example; and in vain did their leader in after times attempt to separate what he called the seditious insurrections of the Mountain, from the insurrection equally seditious by which his party had momentarily obtained the execution of their designs.* The Girondists had in view a system of government compatible with justice and society; they did not hesitate at committing a certain degree of violence in favour of that system. The Jacobins had in view a system of government which man and nature could not endure, and they were ready conscientiously to perpetrate any crime which gave their theory a chance of realization. "De l'audace, de l'audace, et encore de l'audace," said Danton. "Il n'y a que les morts qui ne reviennent pas," said Barrère. "Plus le corps social transpire, plus il devient sain," said Collot d'Herbois-and in the midst of massacres and executions, by scaffolds and through prisons, over the dead bodies of their friends, their countrymen, and their colleagues, these legislative frenetics marched with a cool and determined step towards the terrible Liberty, whose temple, like that of Juggernaut, was to be known by immolated victims with which its road was overlain.
It is impossible to deny these men a daring disposition, a stern intelligence, which, if under the influence of a less horrible delirium, would have rendered them dear to France, as her national defenders. Threatened at once by foreign and civil war-rebellion in the east, rebellion in the south, the
"Vous êtes libres; mais pensez comme nous, ou nous vous dénoncerons aux vengeances du peuple. Vous êtes libres; mais associez-vous à nous pour persécuter les hommes dont vous redoutez la probité et les lumières, ou nous vous dénoncerons aux vengeances du peuple."-Speech of Vergniaud.
Girondists, the royalists in arms-the white flag flying from Toulon, and an English fleet in the harbour,-they never for a moment doubted, hesitated, or feared;-proving the assurance of Machiavel, which Montesquieu has repeated, viz. that a nation is never so powerful to a foreign enemy as when torn by civil dissensions-in the midst of enemies at home, they daringly threw down the gauntlet to Europe, and proved by 1,200,000 men in arms, that their means and their boasts were equal.
There are two historians who, dazzled, as it appears to me, by the courage and character which these men displayed in circumstances so critical, have veiled their crimes under a pedantic fatalism, have connected by a horrid necessity their massacres with their victories, and imagined that the new principles of liberty could not have been defended at that time from the hostile cabals of the aristocracy, but by the most infernal system of illegality, espionage, and blood. I respect the character, I respect the valour of the French nation more than either of these authors: I do not think that the descendants of those men who fought under Bayard and du Guesclin-I do not think that the same race which furnished the brave soldiers of Henry IV. and filled the armies in the brilliant days of Louis the Great-I do not-I cannot-think that the French, known in every period of their history for their bravery, their enthusiasm, their hatred of a foreign yoke,-were obliged to derive their valour from their fears. The Romans were better judges of the sentiment which animates, and ought to animate, an army-when they left honour even to defeat. They felt that we humiliate those whom we threaten, or whom we punish, and that the way to make men capable of great actions, is to show a great generosity for their weaknesses.
As for liberty, it does not consist in planting trees, and signing decrees with the names symbolic of a republic. When Danton said, "We are few in number-we must show no mercy, for the sake of liberty, to those who are opposed to us," he did not simply establish a momentary despotism among his fellow citizens; he said that which will favour despotism through all ages-he did not merely inflict an injury upon his countrymen, he inflicted a severer injury upon his principles, upon the principles "professed by him and his; for he sullied
and rendered suspicious those great words which the Romans had left us, and which up to that time were fresh in all their antique purity-and thus it is hardly wonderful that the crimes of Jacobinism were said to be paid by royal gold.
No one would willingly pause long upon the events of this mysterious and awful epoch. I pass them gladly by—but there was one man who, when politics were a game at which the loser laid down his head, took a prominent part in that terrible amusement.
You who declaim against the vice and venality of Mirabeau, will be delighted to know that this man was surnamed the pure, the incorruptible, the just. No follies had disfigured his youth; severe, neat, careful in his carriage and his costume, there was none of that easy negligence, of that nervous susceptibility in his character or his person, which marks and makes a man forgetful of himself. In the preciseness of his dress, you saw what was uppermost in his opinion. In every thing about him you read the egotism which reigned in his heart, and that firm and unconquerable will, superior to all things, even to genius, which elevated him above Vergniaud and Danton, chiefs of a party like himself-more capable of great enterprizes--but less active, less intriguing-their views were most vast than his, but their views were also more obscure, for they knew not frequently at what they aimed.
He never doubted, never for one moment doubted as to the object of his endeavours. It was circumscribed, concentrated, clear: amidst all the misery, all the terror, all the victories, and all the glories which stupified the world, that man saw nothing but the success, the power of one little individual—that individual was himself, was Robespierre. More evil has been said of this triumvir than perhaps he merited. The most powerful of the terrible Mountain, he has frequently been taken as its representative. The slayer of those by whom so many had been slaughtered; the sole possessor for a time of the terrible machine which then dictated the law; the vanquisher of the Gironde which had vanquished the monarchy; the vanquisher of C. Desmoulins, who had commenced the revolution, of Danton whose name was so terrible in its annals; he has been considered as a person at once more marvellous and more monstrous than he really was.