of disasters to overthrow. Even the great vice of Louis XIV. was not without its advantages. The immense buildings in which so much was lavishly expended, useful in promoting a taste for architecture, which has since tended, not merely to the embellishment, but to the health and comfort of France and Europe (for its effects extended far), was also useful in creating that power and majesty of thought which, proceeding from the admiration of what is great, and the conquest of what is difficult, is, under proper regulation and control, a mighty element in the composition of any state which aspires to a high place among the royal dynasties of the world.

Seen, then, from afar, where its outlines are only dimly visible, there is much in the ancient " régime" to admire as well as to accuse. But penetrate more into the subtile mechanism of the political machine, turn from the sovereign to his servants, from the design of the government to the vices of the administration,—vices interwoven and inseparably connected each with the other; follow out the court into its various ramifications, from the “ noblesse” to the “ nobilace,” it is there that you find faults impossible to continue, and yet almost impossible to amend.

The impoverishment of the high aristocracy threw thirty thousand noble paupers upon the community, for whom forty thousand places were created. Here was the formidable body united in the support of abuses, and connecting, if supported by the crown, those abuses with its majesty and prerogatives. The monarch must have been no ordinary man to have attacked such a cortège, the representatives of his authority, the creatures of his bounty, and the organs of that public opinion which circulated about his person. The people, on the other hand, long since forgetful of the benefits it originally conferred, could no longer endure a system which, founded on the ideas of foreign conquest and domestic tranquillity, had not even glory to offer as an excuse for the injustice, the extravagance, and insecurity that it contained.


In the history of all nations, an invisible hand seems ever mingling with human affairs, and events apparently the most distant and inseparable are linked mysteriously together. Louis XIV. founded an absolute system of order on the ruins of a powerful noblesse, for whose adherents he is thus obliged to provide. The evil attendant on a greater good produces in turn its calamity and advantages. The destruction of the great aristocracy burdened the monarch with the vices of the gentry, and the wrath of the people delivered the nation for a time into the hands of the mob.

The fanatics who traversed the unnatural career of those gloomy times have passed away, and produced nothing in their generation for the immediate benefit of mankind. But Providence, ever watchful for futurity, was even then preparing its events. The terrible philosophers of the “ salut public,” like the husbandman in the fable of Æsop, dug for a treasure impossible to find: but as the husbandman, by reason of stirring the mould about his vines, so fertilized the soil as to make it abundant to his successors; so these rash and mistaken philosophers, in quest of impossible advantages, produced ulterior benefits, and while they lost their labour, enriched posterity by the vanity of their search.



m ht P. a




The procession of the States-General at Versailles—The conse

quences of Richelieu's policy-All classes demanded the StatesĠeneral-Each had a different object-The conduct of the people, of the parliament, of the army-Mirabeau's death, and flight of Louis XVI.-Character of the National Assembly-Character of Mirabeau-What could have saved Louis XVI.-The factions of the revolution like the priests of the temple at Rome, who became the successors of the man they murdered_Conduct of the Girondists-Character of the Mountain-Character of Robespierre.

Many can yet remember the day when through the streets of Versailles-through the streets of that royal Versailles, whose pomp, when I spoke of the olden monarchy, I was desirous to restore ;--many can even now remember the day when through those streetshere conspicuous for their violet robes or snow-white plumes ; there for their dark, modest, and citizen-like attire-marched in solemn order the States-General; the men to whom had been confided the happiness and the destinies of France. This was the first scene of the revolution, then on the eve of being accomplished. For the philosopher had prepared an age of action as the poet had prepared an age of philosophy.

One of the consequences of the policy of Richelieu and Louis XIV. was, that having made the crown the spoliator of every class in the kingdom, every class imagined it had something to gain by despoiling the

The Parliament of Paris, which had once assisted the king against the aristocracy of the sword, passed naturally over to the people on that aristocracy being subdued, and raised at every interval, when the weakness of the sovereign or the force of the subject gave it power, the standard of magisterial revolt. The noblesse de l'épée themselves, imbued with that respect for their ancestors, which hereditary honours always inspire, looked back with jealousy to a time when their families enjoyed a kind of feudal independence, and felt something like pleasure in the humiliations of a power by which their own consequence had been humbled. Every class saw a chance, in the convocation of the States-General, for asserting its own privileges; every class therefore demanded that convocation.* But the different motives which induced all parties to unite for this common object separated them as soon as it was attained. The differing factions commenced a struggle for power--the famous meeting at the racket court decided to which faction power should belong.


And now the parliament, accustomed to aid the weaker party, united with the crown; while the military nobility under the Comte d'Artois recovered in this crisis the old spirit of their order, and at the head of an army would have rendered themselves at once independent of the people and the throne. The 14th of July, which separated the officers from the soldiery, offered no resource to this body but a foreign camp: and as the aristocracy of France united itself with the aristocracy of Europe, the emigration commenced: signal of a war which was to be waged between two opinions.

The succeeding epochs of the revolution are at short distances from each other, and bring us speedily to the great catastrophe. The natural consequence of the events of July confined the court to Paris, and confirmed the power of the assembly : the death of Mirabeau left Louis no alternative but an unconditional submission or flight; his capture and his pardon changed his condition from that of a monarch who had made concessions, into that of a captive who had to be grateful for a favour, and contrite for a fault. In this situation the dissolution of the national assembly left him.

With the national assembly perished the best portion of the revolution-rather learned than wise, rather

* By the parliament and the peers of France, by the states of Dauphiny, and by the clergy in the assembly of Paris.



vain than ambitious, rather democratic than loyal, rather loyal than aristocratic—more profound than practical, more zealous than able, more rhetorical than eloquent-virtuous, great, courageous—it has left a vast monument of enthusiasm, energy, disinterestedness, superb language, deep thought, and political incapacity.

It contained all that a great nation, stirred by a noble passion, could produce, without being educated for affairs-it proved the value of that education ;-with more than the ideas necessary to form a good government, it wanted the tact which, in bodies that have long existed, becomes the instinct of conversation; and in setting for itself the trap in which Cromwell caught his opponents, displayed the most profound ignorance of the variable nature of revolutions in general, as well as of the peculiar and characteristic disposition of the French people.* The national assembly was called upon, not merely to announce certain opinionsas I have been told in France such opinions were already announced—it was called upon to give a durable form to these opinions, and in this, the most important part of its mission, it was egregiously, unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably unsuccessful.

Let us pause for a moment upon this epoch: it was then that you might have seen a man, his high brow wrinkled with study, his eye haggard with debauchthere he stands surrounded by wild and strange figures, in whose countenances you read, “ Revenge upon our

oppressors !" while their agitated lips pronounce words 1 -destined to be so terrible, then so pure" Liberty,

justice for the great masses of mankind”—there he stands, his large hand clenched, his broad chest expanded, his great head erect and high, and rendered

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Depuis qu'on nous rassassie de principes,” said Duport, the founder of the Jacobins, one of the leaders of the Mountain, and the most practical politician of the assembly; “ depuis qu'on nous rassassie de principes, comment n'est on pas avisé que la stabilité est aussi un principe de gouvernement ! veut-on exposer la France dont les têtes sont si ardentes et si mobiles, à voir arriver tous les deux ans une révolution dans les lois et dans les opinions."

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