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Robespierre had this great advantage in the revolution, he arrived late in it. Too insignificant in the national assembly for the part he took there, to be attached to his career, he entered the convention at the head of a new party, whose ungratified ambition panted for action, when the Girondists, having succeeded in their object, were disposed to enjoy in quiet the fruits of the victory they had obtained. But the Girondists could not have gone so far as they had gone, without strongly exciting the passions of the people : and when the passions of the people are thoroughly excited, that faction the most violent soon becomes the most powerful. In order to understand the real character, the crimes, and the talents of Robespierre, it is necessary to say two or three words more of the views of the party with which he acted.
When St. Just talked of making justice and virtue “the order of the day,” he was sincere according to his comprehension of those terms. His idea was to banish misery and wealth from society, which he considered the origin of all vice. The St. Simonians of the present day say the same thing. But that which the St. Simonians wish to arrive at by means of the pulpit and the press, St. Just and Marat were determined to arrive at by the guillotine. They did not blind themselves to the necessity of establishing a tyranny for this, but they justified their means by their end : and to sanction the one, made perpetual references to the other.
These two men were fanatics who united the most horrible crimes with the most benevolent intentions. Robespierre was more of an egotist than a fanatic, and adopting the views of his faction less from general principles than private ambition, did not carry them to the same insatiate extent. We find him mild at times when his comrades are implacable, and it is only during the last two months of his reign, when he saw a system of blood indissolubly connected with himself, that he sent his fellow-eitizens by groups of fifty per day down to execution. Even then, however, he was meditating a compromise; and having sent his brother on an expedition into the provinces, would most probably have regulated himself by his advice. Once sensible of the re-action in favour of order, he would probably, if he had lived, have attempted to restore it, and
accomplished the part with
which the Directory discharged with feebleness and waste.
The march towards a new régime begun.-The government of III.-A sys
tem of energy succeeded by a system of repose.—Up to a certain time fortunate.-Could not continue so when its armies were defeated, its overthrow certain, and its successor sought for.-Bonaparte supplied the man whom Sièyes was in search of.
ROBESPIERRE was destroyed, but the guillotine was still furnished with victims; and the conquest made in the name of peace supported itself by terror; and “the golden youth,” their long hair dressed à la victime, were seen running up and down the Boulevards, and hunting their enemies with the same cry of “ Liberty!" that had presided over the noyades of Nantes, and the executions of Paris. But the march towards a new régime now began; after the committee, fell the Mountain; the Jacobins were cast down; the Faubourgs disarmed; and the bust of Marat removed from the Pantheon as the bust of Mirabeau had been before it. The re-action which commenced by depriving the people of power, ended by the appeal of the royalists to arms; and from the double defeat of the populace and the sections rose the constitution of III., the government of the Directory. The government of the Directory was the regency of the republic. To the system which had been adopted as the means of awaking all the energies of the nation, succeeded a system intended to lull those energies to repose. The city was wooed to pleasure in the balls of the luxurious Barras, and the army employed in suppressing the tumults which the Faubourgs had formerly been instigated to create.
This government had one merit-exposed to the attacks of two different factions, it spilt little blood. Pichegru and his party, with a humanity rare in those times, were transported to Cayenne, and the conspiracy which Babæus had denounced as so formidable, was suffered to disperse in quiet after the death of its leader. Up to a certain time the Directory was fortunate. At home, the royalists and the democrats were alike subdued. Abroad, the peace of Campo Formio and the treaty of Radstadt proclaimed in Germany and Italy the power of the republic. But a government perpetually obliged to conquer must be constituted on a system of concentration and force, and the constitution of III. was purposely weak, purposely divided; such a government could not always be victorious, and on its first failure its fall was certain. No sooner, then, were its armies on the retreat, than its overthrow,was foreseen, and its successor sought for. Bonaparte supplied the man whom Sièyes was in search of_his mind, endowed with all the elements of order and force, was the very type of that genius which the country, turbulent and dissatisfied under the irregular and enseebled sway of the quintumvirate, desired.
Long torn by factions, accustomed to no particular form of freedom, the people sighed for stability, and did not feel repugnant to change. They knew not that agitation is the necessity of a free state, and that when their general exclaimed, “ Je ne veux point de factions,” he said in reality “ Je ne veux point de liberté.”
THE CONSULATE AND THE EMPIRE.
The constitution of Abbé Sièyes.-Excellent, but formed without consideration
for the persons who were to perform its parts.-Bonaparte at Corsica-At Toulon-As First Consul-Destroyed liberty, maintained equality; sensible of literary influence, and calling himself membre de l'Institut, and founding the legion of honour-Took as the foundation of his power the passions of mankind, but could not understand their virtues-His genius was to materialize every thing - His empire, a great mass, which he rolled along, but which without him had no vitality, no power to move.-The consulate employed in preparing for the empire.-Bonaparte's situation before the war with Spain.—All his faults concentrated and made visible in his marriage.Greater than the greatest legitimate kings as their enemy, far smaller than the smallest as the suitor for their alliance.—The rising of Germany.-The last war.-}le fell easily, for he stood unsupported. The energies of the nation he represented pulverized under the weight of his image.—Bonaparte not to be judged as an ordinary general. The conduct of the English in persevering in a war against him justified.—His statue now put up. There is a generosity approaching to meanness.—The effects of the empire.- Advantages and disavantages.--It contains three epochs.-Bonaparte mistook public opinion, but always valued it.
THÈRE never was perhaps a government so vast in its conception, so simple and yet so various in its details, so proper as it appeared for the time, as that proposed after the triumph of Bonaparte by Abbé Sièyes. It offered order, it preserved liberty-immense in its basis, and rising regularly to its apex, it was popular, it was strong, and it gave neither to the masses, nor to one man, a power that could be against the will and the interests of the community. It was an immense design, but it had the fault which on a less stage has frequently marred the effect of genius; it was formed without sufficient consideration of the persons for whom its parts were destined. The soldier who had returned from Egypt to drive the 500 from the Orangery at the point of the bayonet, was not the indolent citizen to be satisfied with the idle guards, or the insignificant splendour of grand Electeur. Sièyes's system was rejected ; Sièyes's name was kept as a kind of emblem to the constitution of VIII. —this constitution however, imperfect as it was, obtained double the number of votes that had appeared in favour of the two preceding ones : so powerful was the desire for repose—so great was the name of Bonaparte. Already in 1792 this enterprising and ambitious soldier had seen the throne of France in his horizon : advised to return to Corsica, and offered the prospect of Paoli's succession, he had said, " Il est plus aisé de devenir roi de France que roi de Corse," and from that day his star rose steadily and proudly, and, as if by an irresistible influence, above the destinies of his contemporaries.
A second-rate officer of artillery at Toulon, and haying Marescot, the most expert engineer of his time, for rival, he maintained his opinions before the terrible tribunal which pronounced death when it pronounced censure, and spoke already with the voice aud superiority of a master. Commanding under Barras at the battle of Vendémiaire, he gave his name to the victory that was obtained, and established for a time the tottering republic that he was doomed to overthrow. Sent as a general to Italy, he assumed the part of a sovereign, received ambassadors, concluded treaties, and formed and overthrew states. Impatient of repose, from Italy he passed to the East, with the desire and the hope of imprinting his genius upon the soil over which the shadow of so many mighty conquerors has passed and faded—and at last he returned to take his place in the revolution—which had known many chiefs, but which in bim received for the first time—a master..
With that instinct, the attribute of those who are born to 'command, he saw at once the despotism that was possible, and the characteristics of the time and of the nation he aspired to govern. He quarrelled with no faction-for he wished to found a new system, and was willing to comprehend all parties who were willing to compromise their opinions. The sentiment of equality is natural to all men, and if admitted into society takes a deep and eternal root. The love of liberty is a passion that requires long growth; it is remote in its ramifications, difficult in its definition, and for the most part associated with particular laws and particular institutions, that must have entered into our habits, in order to take a firm hold upon our hearts.