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gant in the exclusive privilege of wearing a sword, it was necessary to bring that nobility frequently before the nation on the field of battle; and, indeed, we find it pardoned, if not beloved, by a vain and military people, when it mingled valour with voluptuousness, ambition with frivolity chivalry with love.
But as war is carried on in modern times, it cannot be maintained without considerable expense, and every year increases the necessity and the danger of making peace. The condition therefore on which such a system was based rendered it, under the present military system, difficult of duration. The nobility, caged in the court, were likely to find themselves opposed by the great body of the people; and the sovereign, if he identified himself with the nobility, was likely to share the fate of an impotent and insolent aristocracy, whose pretensions he had left, and whose power he had destroyed.
Undoubtedly many circumstances hastened this conclusion, which the eye of Louis XV., less improvident than his disposition, had from afar dimly foreseen. The more indeed that we look at the events of those time, the more we are struck by the variety of elements which were working towards the same result. The commercial prosperity which rose with the wisdom and
economy of Colbert, the commercial ruin which followed the scientific and terrible operations of Law, were equally favourable to that monied nobility by whom the first revolution was aided, and to whom the second revolution belongs. More than this; the poetical vanity of Richelieu, the domineering arrogance of Louis XIV., the intriguing character of the regent, the weak and indolent disposition of Louis XV., all concurred in hastening the advancement of a new nobility, destined to be still more formidable to the ancient order of things, and which has in fact changed the destiny of a great part of the world.
Flattering the passions, and associating itself with the tastes, literature finally overthrew the interests of the great. The doctrines, which, delivered from a philosophic chair, would have been punished and prohibited, insinuated themselves into favour by the elegance of a song, the point of an epigram, ci the eloquence of the stage: conducted less by systematic artifice than casual interest, the writer who abused the class, praised the individual; and the same man, who from the solitude of Ferney breathed destruction to the clergy, the monarchy, and the court, dedicated a poem to a pope, corresponded with an empress, and was the unblushing panegyrist of a fashionable débauché, and a royal mistress.
Thus were there two new classes, the one powerful for its wealth, the other more mighty for its intelligence, in tacit league against the existing order of things—an order of things from which they had sprung, but which, having been formed at a time when they were hardly in existence, offered them no legitimate place in society equal to that which they found themselves called upon to assume. It was by the side of galleys crowded with musicians, and decorated with flowers, that you might once have seen the sombre vessel destined to bring to France the pestilence,* which had been merited by her crimes, and so with the prosperity and the glory of the golden days of the ancient 'régime,' with its commerce, and with its arts, came on, darkly, and unnoticed, the just but terrible revolution of 1789.
For many years it has been the custom to pick up our recollections of the ancient ‘régime' out of the ruins of the Bastille, or to collect our materials for the history of the revolution from the dungeons of the Conciergerie and La Force.
* The Chevalier d'Orléans, natural son of the regent and grand prior of Malta, was returning from Genoa, whither he had escorted his sister. By the side of his galleys floated several vessels, which, coming from a port in Syria, carried into France the plague, which desolated Marseilles.
The time is come when the writer is bound to be more impartial, and to allow that there was a certain glory and greatness in the ancient monarchy, a strict justice, and an almost inevitable necessity in the catastrophe which overwhelmed it. Of the revolution I shall speak presently. What I have to say of the ancient ' régime' will be confined to a few remarks. A writer, whose essay on the monarchy of Louis XIV. is at once calculated to impress posterity with a just idea of the ancient history and the modern genius of the French people, has said—
"Cette monarchie peut être ainsi définie; une royauté absolue et dispendieuse, sévère pour le peuple, hostile envers l'étranger, appuyée sur l'armée, sur la police, sur la gloire du roi, et tempérée par la justice du monarque et par la sagesse de ses conseils choisis dans les différens ordres de l'état, et par le besoin de ménager pour la guerre et pour l'impôt le nombre et la fortune de ses sujets." This sentence comprises the spirit of a military system which, as I have said before, depended upon the personal character of its chief. Scratch out the words 'dispendieuse' and 'sévère;' read "une royauté absolue mais économique, douce pour le peuple,”› and you have, what may be said with some propriety of the Prussian monarchy, not an unpo
pular government with an enlightened people at the present day, and a government peculiarly adapted to many characteristic dispositions of the French. It was into something like the Prussian government that Louis XVI. might perhaps have converted his own.
The expenses of the crown, the privileges of the nobility, the venality of places, the frequent imprisonments, and the excessive charges of the people these were faults incompatible with the welfare of a nation, but not necessarily combined with the haughty prerogatives of the crown. By diminishing the useless expenses of the court, the army might more easily have been supported; by equally dividing the burthens of the state, the commons might have become reconciled to the nobility; and by uniting the army with the nation, and thus avoiding the necessity of displaying the valour of one class in order to appease the discontent of another, the military system might have become one of defence, instead of one of aggression. By these means, doubtless the ancient monarchy might have been rendered tolerable, and its destruction prevented or deferred. Its faults, if you do not consider the court as part of the constitution, were faults chiefly of administration,-but were faults inseparable from the court. The