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Title: An historical and moral view of the origin and progress of the French revolution;: and the effect it has produced in Europe
Author: Wollstonecraft, Mary
Language: English
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[Illustration: Mary Wollstonecraft]

                       HISTORICAL AND MORAL VIEW
                                 OF THE
                                 OF THE
                           FRENCH REVOLUTION;
                                AND THE
                         EFFECT IT HAS PRODUCED

                        BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT.

                           VOLUME THE FIRST.




This history, taking in such a variety of facts and opinions, has grown
under my hand; especially as in writing I cannot avoid entering into
some desultory disquisitions, and descriptions of manners and things
which, though not strictly necessary to elucidate the events, are
intimately connected with the main object; I have also been led into
several theoretical investigations, whilst marking the political effects
that naturally flow from the progress of knowledge. It is probable,
therefore, that this work will be extended to two or three more volumes,
a considerable part of which is already written.


The revolution in France exhibits a scene, in the political world, not
less novel and interesting than the contrast is striking between the
narrow opinions of superstition, and the enlightened sentiments of
masculine and improved philosophy.

To mark the prominent features of this revolution, requires a mind, not
only unsophisticated by old prejudices, and the inveterate habits of
the most enlarged principles of humanity.

The rapid changes, the violent, the base, and nefarious assassinations,
which have clouded the vivid prospect that began to spread a ray of joy
and gladness over the gloomy horizon of oppression, cannot fail to chill
the sympathizing bosom, and palsy intellectual vigour. To sketch these
vicissitudes is a task so arduous and melancholy, that, with a heart
trembling to the touches of nature, it becomes necessary to guard
against the erroneous inferences of sensibility; and reason beaming on
the grand theatre of political changes, can prove the only sure guide to
direct us to a favourable or just conclusion.

This important conclusion, involving the happiness and exaltation of the
human character, demands serious and mature consideration; as it must
ultimately sink the dignity of society into contempt, and its members
into greater wretchedness; or elevate it to a degree of grandeur not
hitherto anticipated, but by the most enlightened statesmen and

Contemplating then these stupendous events with the cool eye of
observation, the judgement, difficult to be preserved unwarped under the
factions, will continually perceive that it is the uncontaminated mass
of the french nation, whose minds begin to grasp the sentiments of
freedom, that has secured the equilibrium of the state; often tottering
on the brink of annihilation; in spite of the folly, selfishness,
madness, treachery, and more fatal mock patriotism, the common result of
depraved manners, the concomitant of that servility and voluptuousness
which for so long a space of time has embruted the higher orders of this
celebrated nation.

By thus attending to circumstances, we shall be able to discern clearly
of a few individuals; nor was the effect of sudden and short-lived
enthusiasm; but the natural consequence of intellectual improvement,
gradually proceeding to perfection in the advancement of communities,
from a state of barbarism to that of polished society, till now arrived
at the point when sincerity of principles seems to be hastening the
overthrow of the tremendous empire of superstition and hypocrisy,
erected upon the ruins of gothic brutality and ignorance.


                                _BOOK I._

                               CHAPTER I.

 _Introduction. Progress of society. End of government. Rise of
   political discussion amongst the french. Revolution in
   America. Virtue attempted to be built on false principles.
   The croisades, and the age of chivalry. Administration of
   Richelieu, and of Cardinal Mazarin. Theatrical
   entertainments, and dramatic poets of the
   french—Moliere,—Corneille,—Racine. Louis XIV. The
   regency.—Louis XV._                                           page 1.

                                CHAP. II.

 _Marie-Antoinette. Louis XVI. Administration of Necker, and of
   Calonne. Notables convened. Calonne disgraced,—and obliged to
   flee the kingdom. His character. Causes of the enslaved state
   of Europe._                                                    p. 33.

                               CHAP. III.

 _Administration of de Brienne. Dissolution of the notables.
   Land tax and stamp duty recommended by them, but refused to
   be sanctioned by the parliament. Bed of justice. The
   parliament banished to Troyes,—but soon compromised for its
   recall. Struggles of the court party to prevent the
   convocation of the states-general. Banishment of the duke of
   Orleans, and two spirited members of the parliament. Cour
   pléniere. Remarks on the parliaments. Imprisonment of the
   members. Deputies of the Province of Britanny sent to the
   Bastille. The soldiery let loose upon the people._             p. 48.

                               CHAP.  IV.

 _Necker recalled. His character. Notables convened a second
   time. Coalition of the nobility and clergy in defence of
   their privileges. Provincial assemblies of the people.
   Political publications in favour of the tiers-etat. General
   reflections on reform,—on the present state of Europe,—and on
   the revolution in France._                                     p. 59.

                               _BOOK II._

                                CHAP.  I.

 _Retrospective view of grievances in France—the nobles—the
   military—the clergy—the farmers general. Election of deputies
   to the states-general. Arts of the courtiers. Assembly of the
   states. Riots excited at Paris. Opening of the
   states-general. The king’s speech. Answer to it by the keeper
   of the seals. Speech of Mr. Necker. Contest respecting the
   mode of assembling. Tacit establishment of the liberty of the
   press. Attempt of the court to refrain it. The deputies
   declare themselves a national assembly._                       p. 75.

                               CHAP.  II.

 _The national assembly proceed to business. Opposition of the
   nobles, bishops, and court. A séance royale proclaimed, and
   the hall of the assembly surrounded by soldiers. The members
   adjourn to the tennis-court, and vow never to separate till a
   constitution should be completed. The majority of the clergy
   and two of the nobles join the commons. Séance royale. The
   king’s speech. Spirited behaviour of the assembly. Speech of
   Mirabeau. Persons of the deputies declared inviolable.
   Minority of the nobles join the commons. At the request of
   the king the minority of the clergy do the same,—and are at
   length followed by the majority of the nobles. Character of
   the queen of France,—of the king,—and of the nobles. Lectures
   on liberty at the palais royal. Paris surrounded by troops.
   Spirit of liberty infused into the soldiers. Eleven of the
   french guards imprisoned because they would not fire on the
   populace, and liberated by the people. Remonstrance of the
   national assembly. The king proposes to remove the assembly
   to Noyon, or Soissons. Necker dismissed. City militia
   proposed. The populace attacked in the garden of the
   Thuilleries by the prince of Lambesc. Nocturnal orgies at
   Versailles._                                                  p. 109.

                               CHAP. III.

 _Preparations of the parisians for the defence of the city. The
   guards, and city watch join the citizens. The armed citizens
   appoint a commander in chief. Conduct of the national
   assembly during the disturbances at Paris. They publish a
   declaration of rights,—and offer their mediation with the
   citizens,—which is haughtily refused by the king. Proceedings
   at Paris on the 14th of July. Taking of the bastille. The
   mayor shot. Proceedings of the national assembly at
   Versailles. Appearance of the king in the assembly. His
   speech._                                                      p. 165.

                                CHAP. IV.

 _Reflections on the conduct of the court and king. Injurious
   consequences of the complication of laws. General diffusion
   of knowledge. State of civilization amongst the ancients.
   It’s progress. The croisades, and the reformation. Early
   freedom of Britain. The british constitution. State of
   liberty in Europe. Russia. Decline of the Aristotelian
   philosophy, Descartes. Newton. Education improved. Germany.
   Frederick II. of Prussia._                                    p. 215.

                               _BOOK III._

                                CHAP. I.

 _A deputation of the national assembly arrives at Paris.
   Baillie chosen mayor, and La Fayette commander in chief of
   the national guards. Resignation of the ministry. Necker
   recalled. The king visits Paris. Character of the parisians.
   The revolution urged on prematurely. Emigrations of several
   of the nobility and others. Calonne advises the french
   princes to stir up foreign powers against France. Foulon
   killed._                                                      p. 241.

                                CHAP. II.

 _The duke of Liancourt chosen president. The people arm for the
   defence of the country. The municipal officers appointed
   under the old government superseded by committees. Some
   people treacherously destroyed by springing a mine at a civic
   feast. The genevese resident taken up by the patrole. The
   french suspicious of the designs of Britain. Necker returns.
   General amnesty resolved by the debtors of Paris. Debate on a
   declaration of rights. Declaration of rights separate from
   the constitution determined on. Sacrifices made by the
   nobles, clergy, &c._                                          p. 263.

                               CHAP. III.

 _Reflections on the members of the national assembly. Secession
   of several pseudo-patriots. Society ripe for improvement
   throughout Europe. War natural to men in a savage state.
   Remarks on the origin and progress of society. The
   arts—property—inequality of conditions—war. Picture of
   manners in modern France._                                    p. 295.

                               _BOOK IV._

                                CHAP. I.

 _Opinions on the transactions of the fourth of August.
   Disorders occasioned by those transactions. Necker demands
   the assembly’s sanction to a loan. A loan decreed. Tithes
   abolished. Debate on the declaration of rights. The formation
   of a constitution. Debate on the executive power. The
   suspensive veto adopted. Pretended and real views of the
   combination of despots against France. Debate on the
   constitution of a senate. Means of peaceably effecting a
   reform should make a part of every constitution._             p. 313.

                                CHAP. II.

 _Observations on the veto. The women offer up their ornaments
   to the public. Debate whether the spanish branch of the
   Bourbons could reign in France. Conduct of the king
   respecting the decrees of the fourth of August. Vanity of the
   french. Debates on quartering a thousand regulars at
   Versailles. Individuals offer their jewels and plate to make
   up the deficiency of the loan. The king sends his rich
   service of plate to the mint. Necker’s proposal for every
   citizen to give up a fourth of his income. Speech of Mirabeau
   on it. His address to the nation._                            p. 359.

                               CHAP. III.

 _Reflections on the new mode of raising supplies. No just
   system of taxation yet established. Paper money. Necessity of
   gradual reform._                                              p. 388.

                                _BOOK V._

                                CHAP. I.

 _Errour of the national assembly in neglecting to secure the
   freedom of France. It’s conduct compared with that of the
   american states. Necessity of forming a new constitution as
   soon as an old government is destroyed. The declaring of the
   king inviolable a wrong measure. Security of the french
   against a counter-revolution. The flight of the king
   meditated._                                                   p. 399.

                                CHAP. II.

 _Entertainment at Versailles. The national cockade trampled
   under foot. A mob of women proceed to the hôtel-de-ville—and
   thence to Versailles. The king’s reply to the national
   assembly’s request, that he would sanction the declaration of
   rights and the first articles of the constitution. Debates on
   it. Arrival of the mob at Versailles. The king receives a
   deputation from the women, and sanctions the decree for the
   free circulation of grain. The assembly summoned. La Fayette
   arrives with the parisian militia. The palace attacked by the
   mob—who are dispersed by the national guards. Reflections on
   the conduct of the duke of Orleans._                          p. 420.

                               CHAP. III.

 _The mob demand the king’s removal to Paris. This city
   described. The king repairs to the capital, escorted by a
   deputation of the national assembly and the parisian militia.
   The king’s title changed. Proceedings of the national
   assembly. Reflections on the declaration of rights._          p. 470.

                                CHAP. IV.

 _Progress of reform. The encyclopedia. Liberty of the press.
   Capitals. The french not properly qualified for the
   revolution. Savage compared with civilized man. Effects of
   extravagance—of commerce—and of manufactures. Excuse for the
   ferocity of the parisians._                                   p. 492.

                       HISTORICAL AND MORAL VIEW
                                 OF THE
                           FRENCH REVOLUTION.

                               _BOOK I._

                               CHAPTER I.

When we contemplate the infancy of man, his gradual advance towards
maturity, his miserable weakness as a solitary being, and the crudeness
of his first notions respecting the nature of civil society, it will not
appear extraordinary, that the acquirement of political knowledge has
been so extremely slow; or that public happiness has not been more
rapidly and generally diffused.

The perfection attained by the ancients, it is true, has ever afforded
the imagination of the poetical historian a theme to deck with the
choicest flowers of rhetoric; though the cool investigation of facts
seems clearly to prove, that the civilization of the world, hitherto,
has consisted rather in cultivating the taste, than in exercising the
understanding. And were not these vaunted improvements also confined to
a small corner of the globe, whilst, the political view of the wisest
legislators seldom extending beyond the splendour and aggrandizement of
their individual nation, they trampled with a ferocious affectation of
patriotism on the most sacred rights of humanity? When the arts
flourished in Greece, and literature began to shed it’s blandishments on
society, the world was mostly inhabited by barbarians, who waged eternal
war with their more polished neighbours, the imperfection of whose
government sapping it’s foundation, the science of politics necessarily
received a check in the bud—and when we find, likewise, the roman empire
crumbling into atoms, from the germ of a deadly malady implanted in it’s
vitals; whilst voluptuousness stopped the progress of civilization,
which makes the perfection of the arts the dawn of science; we shall be
convinced, that it demanded ages of improving reason and experience in
moral philosophy, to clear away the rubbish, and exhibit the first
principles of social order.

We have probably derived our great superiority over those nations from
the discovery of the polar attraction of the needle, the perfection
which astronomy and mathematics have attained, and the fortunate
invention of printing. For, whilst the revival of letters has added the
collected wisdom of antiquity to the improvements of modern research,
the latter most useful art has rapidly multiplied copies of the
productions of genius and compilations of learning, bringing them within
the reach of all ranks of men: the scientific discoveries also have not
only led us to new worlds; but, facilitating the communication between
different nations, the friction of arts and commerce have given to
society the transcendently pleasing polish of urbanity; and thus, by a
gradual softening of manners, the complexion of social life has been
completely changed. But the remains of superstition, and the unnatural
distinction of privileged classes, which had their origin in barbarous
folly, still fettered the opinions of man, and sullied his native
dignity; till several distinguished english writers discussed political
subjects with the energy of men, who began to feel their strength; and,
whilst only a rumour of these sentiments roused the attention and
exercised the minds of some men of letters in France, a number of
staunch disputants, who had more thoroughly digested them, fled from
oppression, to put them to the test of experience in America.

Locke, following the track of these bold thinkers, recommended in a more
methodical manner religious toleration, and analyzed the principles of
civil liberty: for in his definition of liberty we find the elements of
_The Declaration of the Rights of Man_, which, in spite of the fatal
errours of ignorance, and the perverse obstinacy of selfishness, is now
converting sublime theories into practical truths.

The revolution, it is true, soon introduced the corruption, that has
ever since been corroding british freedom.—Still, when the rest of
Europe groaned under the weight of the most unjust and cruel laws, the
life and property of englishmen were comparatively safe; and, if an
impress-warrant respected the distinction of ranks, when the glory of
England was at stake, splendid victories hid this flaw in the best
existing constitution; and all exultingly recollected, that the life or
liberty of a man never depended on the will of an individual.

Englishmen were then, with reason, proud of their constitution; and, if
this noble pride have degenerated into arrogance, when the cause became
less conspicuous, it is only a venial lapse of human nature; to be
lamented merely as it stops the progress of civilization, and leads the
people to imagine, that their ancestors have done every thing possible
to secure the happiness of society, and meliorate the condition of man,
because they have done much.

When learning was confined to a small number of the citizens of a state,
and the investigation of it’s privileges was left to a number still
smaller, governments seem to have acted, as if the people were formed
only for them; and, ingeniously confounding their rights with
metaphysical jargon, the luxurious grandeur of individuals has been
supported by the misery of the bulk of their fellow creatures, and
ambition gorged by the butchery of millions of innocent victims.

The most artful chain of despotism has ever been supported by false
notions of duty, enforced by those who were to profit by the cheat. Thus
has the liberty of man been restrained; and the spontaneous flow of his
feelings, which would have fertilized his mind, being choked at the
source, he is rendered in the same degree unhappy as he is made
unnatural. Yet, certain opinions, planted by superstition and despotism,
hand in hand, have taken such deep root in our habits of thinking, it
may appear daringly licentious, as well as presumptuous, to observe,
that what is often termed virtue, is only want of courage to throw off
prejudices, and follow the inclinations which fear not the eye of
heaven, though they shrink from censure not founded on the natural
principles of morality. But at no period has the scanty diffusion of
knowledge permitted the body of the people to participate in the
discussion of political science; and if philosophy at length have
simplified the principles of social union, so as to render them easy to
be comprehended by every sane and thinking being; if appears to me, that
man may contemplate with benevolent complacency and becoming pride, the
approaching reign of reason and peace.

Besides, if men have been rendered unqualified to judge with precision
of their civil and political rights, from the involved state in which
sophisticating ignorance has placed them, and thus reduced to surrender
their reasoning powers to noble fools, and pedantic knaves, it is not
surprizing, that superficial observers have formed opinions unfavourable
to the degree of perfection, which our intellectual faculties are able
to attain, or that despotism should attempt to check the spirit of
inquiry, which, with colossian strides, seems to be hastening the
overthrow of oppressive tyranny and contumelious ambition.

Nature having made men unequal, by giving stronger bodily and mental
powers to one than to another, the end of government ought to be, to
destroy this inequality by protecting the weak. Instead of which, it has
always leaned to the opposite side, wearing itself out by disregarding
the first principle of it’s organization.

It appears to be the grand province of government, though scarcely
acknowledged, so to hold the balance, that the abilities or riches of
individuals may not interfere with the equilibrium of the whole. For, as
it is vain to expect, that men should master their passions during the
heat of action, legislators should have this perfection of laws ever in
view, when, calmly grasping the interest of humanity, reason assures
them, that their own is best secured by the security of the commonweal.
The first social systems were certainly founded by passion; individuals
wishing to fence round their own wealth or power, and make slaves of
their brothers to prevent encroachment. Their descendants have ever been
at work to solder the chains they forged, and render the usurpations of
strength secure, by the fraud of partial laws: laws that can be
abrogated only by the exertions of reason, emancipating mankind, by
making government a science, instead of a craft, and civilizing the
grand mass, by exercising their understandings about the most important
objects of inquiry.

After the revolution in 1688, however, political questions were no
longer discussed in England on a broad scale; because that degree of
liberty was enjoyed, which enabled thinking men to pursue without
interruption their own business; or, if some men complained, they
attached themselves to a party, and descanted on the unavoidable misery
produced by contending passions.

But in France the bitterness of oppression was mingled in the daily cup,
and the serious folly of superstition, pampered by the sweat of labour,
stared every man of sense in the face. Against superstition then did the
writers contending for civil liberty principally direct their force,
though the tyranny of the court increased with it’s viciousness.

Voltaire leading the way, and ridiculing with that happy mixture of
satire and gaiety, calculated to delight the french, the inconsistent
puerilities of a puppet-show religion, had the art to attach the bells
to the fool’s cap, which tinkled on every side, rousing the attention
and piquing the vanity of his readers. Rousseau also ranged himself on
the same side; and, praising his fanciful state of nature, with that
interesting eloquence, which embellishes reasoning with the charms of
sentiment, forcibly depicted the evils of a priest-ridden society, and
the sources of oppressive inequality, inducing the men who were charmed
with his language to consider his opinions.

The talents of these two writers were particularly formed to effect a
change in the sentiments of the french, who commonly read to collect a
fund for conversation; and their biting retorts, and flowing periods,
were retained in each head, and continually slipped off the tongue in
numerous sprightly circles.

In France, indeed, new opinions fly from mouth to mouth, with an
electrical velocity, unknown in England; so that there is not such a
difference between the sentiments of the various ranks in one country,
as is observable in the originality of character to be found in the
other. At our theatres, the boxes, pit, and galleries, relish different
scenes; and some are condescendingly born by the more polished part of
the audience, to allow the rest to have their portion of amusement. In
France, on the contrary, a highly wrought sentiment of morality,
probably rather romantic than sublime, produces a burst of applause,
when one heart seems to agitate every hand.

But men are not content merely to laugh at oppression, when they can
scarcely catch from his gripe the necessaries of life; so that from
writing epigrams on superstition, the galled french began to compose
philippics against despotism. The enormous and iniquitous taxes, which
the nobles, the clergy, and the monarch, levied on the people, turned
the attention of benevolence to this main branch of government, and the
profound treatise of the humane M. Quesnai produced the sect of the
_economists_, the first champions for civil liberty.

On the eve of the american war, the enlightened administration of the
comptroller general Turgot, a man formed in this school, afforded France
a glimpse of freedom, which, streaking the horizon of despotism, only
served to render the contrast more striking. Eager to correct abuses,
equally impolitic and cruel, this most excellent man, suffering his
clear judgment to be clouded by his zeal, roused the nest of wasps, that
rioted on the honey of industry in the sunshine of court favour; and he
was obliged to retire from the office, which he so worthily filled.
Disappointed in his noble plan of freeing France from the fangs of
despotism, in the course of ten years, without the miseries of anarchy,
which make the present generation pay very dear for the emancipation of
posterity, he has nevertheless greatly contributed to produce that
revolution in opinion, which, perhaps, alone can overturn the empire of

The idle caprices of an effeminate court had long given the tone to the
awe-struck populace, who, stupidly admiring what they did not
understand, lived on a _vive le roi_, whilst his blood-sucking minions
drained every vein, that should have warmed their honest hearts.

But the irresistible energy of the moral and political sentiments of
half a century, at last kindled into a blaze the illuminating rays of
truth, which, throwing new light on the mental powers of man, and giving
a fresh spring to his reasoning faculties, completely undermined the
strong holds of priestcraft and hypocrisy.

At this glorious era, the toleration of religious opinions in America,
which the spirit of the times, when that continent was peopled with
persecuted europeans, produced, aided, not a little, to diffuse these
rational sentiments, and exhibited the phenomenon of a government
established on the basis of reason and equality. The eyes of all Europe
were watchfully fixed on the practical success of this experiment in
political science; and whilst the crowns of the old world were drawing
into their focus the hard-earned recompense of the toil and care of the
simple citizens, who lived detached from courts, deprived of the
comforts of life, the just reward of industry, or, palsied by
oppression, pined in dirt and idleness; the anglo-americans appeared to
be another race of beings, men formed to enjoy the advantages of
society, and not merely to benefit those who governed; the use to which
they had been appropriated in almost every state; considered only as the
ballast which keeps the vessel steady, necessary, yet despised. So
conspicuous in fact was the difference, that, when, frenchmen became the
auxiliaries of those brave people, during their noble struggle against
the tyrannical and inhuman ambition of the british court, it imparted to
them that stimulus, which alone was wanting to give wings to freedom,
who, hovering over France, led her indignant votaries to wreak their
vengeance on the tottering fabric of a government, the foundation of
which had been laid by benighted ignorance, and it’s walls cemented by
the calamities of millions that mock calculation—and, in it’s ruins a
system was entombed, the most baneful to human happiness and virtue.

America fortunately found herself in a situation very different from all
the rest of the world; for she had it in her power to lay the first
stones of her government, when reason was venturing to canvass
prejudice. Availing herself of the degree of civilization of the world,
she has not retained those customs, which were only the expedients of
barbarism; or thought that constitutions formed by chance, and
continually patched up, were superiour to the plans of reason, at
liberty to profit by experience.

When society was first regulated, the laws could not be adjusted so as
to take in the future conduct of it’s members, because the faculties of
man are unfolded and perfected by the improvements made by society:
consequently the regulations established as circumstances required were
very imperfect. What then is to hinder man, at each epoch of
civilization, from making a stand, and new modelling the materials, that
have been hastily thrown into a rude mass, which time alone has
consolidated and rendered venerable?

When society was first subjugated to laws, probably by the ambition of
some, and the desire of safety in all, it was natural for men to be
selfish, because they were ignorant how intimately their own comfort was
connected with that of others; and it was also very natural, that
humanity, rather the effect of feeling than of reason, should have a
very limited range. But, when men once see, clear as the light of
heaven,—and I hail the glorious day from afar!—that on the general
happiness depends their own, reason will give strength to the fluttering
wings of passion, and men will “_do unto others, what they wish they
should do unto them_.”

What has hitherto been the political perfection of the world? In the two
most celebrated nations it has only been a polish of manners, an
extension of that family love, which is rather the effect of sympathy
and selfish passions, than reasonable humanity. And in what has ended
their so much extolled patriotism? In vain glory and barbarity—every
page of history proclaims. And why has the enthusiasm for virtue thus
passed away like the dew of the morning, dazzling the eyes of it’s
admirers? Why?—because it was factitious virtue.

During the period they had to combat against oppression, and rear an
infant state, what instances of heroism do not the annals of Greece and
Rome display! But it was merely the blaze of passion, “live smoke;” for
after vanquishing their enemies, and making the most astonishing
sacrifices to the glory of their country, they became civil tyrants, and
preyed on the very society, for whose welfare it was easier to die, than
to practise the sober duties of life, which insinuate through it the
contentment that is rather felt than seen. Like the parents who forget
all the dictates of justice and humanity, to aggrandize the very
children whom they keep in a state of dependence, these heroes loved
their country, because it was their country, ever showing by their
conduct, that it was only a part of a narrow love of themselves.

It is time, that a more enlightened moral love of mankind should
supplant, or rather support physical affections. It is time, that the
youth approaching manhood should be led by principles, and not hurried
along by sensations—and then we may expect, that the heroes of the
present generation, still having their monsters to cope with, will
labour to establish such rational laws throughout the world, that men
will not rest in the dead letter, or become artificial beings as they
become civilized.

We must get entirely clear of all the notions drawn from the wild
traditions of original sin: the eating of the apple, the theft of
Prometheus, the opening of Pandora’s box, and the other fables, too
tedious to enumerate, on which priests have erected their tremendous
structures of imposition, to persuade us, that we are naturally inclined
to evil: we shall then leave room for the expansion of the human heart,
and, I trust, find, that men will insensibly render each other happier
as they grow wiser. It is indeed the necessity of stifling many of it’s
most spontaneous desires, to obtain the factitious virtues of society,
that makes man vicious, by depriving him of that dignity of character,
which rests only on truth. For it is not paradoxical to assert, that the
social virtues are nipt in the bud by the very laws of society. One
principal of action is sufficient—Respect thyself—whether it be termed
fear of God—religion; love of justice—morality; or, self-love—the desire
of happiness. Yet, how can a man respect himself; and if not, how
believe in the existence of virtue; when he is practising the daily
shifts, which do not come under the cognisance of the law, in order to
obtain a respectable situation in life? It seems, in fact, to be the
business of a civilized man, to harden his heart, that on it he may
sharpen the wit; which, assuming the appellation of sagacity, or
cunning, in different characters, is only a proof, that the head is
clear, because the heart is cold.

Besides, one great cause of misery in the present imperfect state of
society is, that the imagination, continually tantalized, becomes the
inflated wen of the mind, draining off the nourishment from the vital
parts. Nor would it, I think, be stretching the inference too far, to
insist, that men become vicious in the same proportion as they are
obliged, by the defects of society, to submit to a kind of self-denial,
which ignorance, not morals, prescribes.

But these evils are passing away; a new spirit has gone forth, to
organise the body-politic; and where is the criterion to be found, to
estimate the means, by which the influence of this spirit can be
confined, now enthroned in the hearts of half the inhabitants of the
globe? Reason has, at last, shown her captivating face, beaming with
benevolence; and it will be impossible for the dark hand of despotism
again to obscure it’s radiance, or the lurking dagger of subordinate
tyrants to reach her bosom. The image of God implanted in our nature is
now more rapidly expanding; and, as it opens, liberty with maternal wing
seems to be soaring to regions far above vulgar annoyance, promising to
shelter all mankind.

It is a vulgar errour, built on a superficial view of the subject,
though it seems to have the sanction of experience, that civilization
can only go as far as it has hitherto gone, and then must necessarily
fall back into barbarism. Yet thus much appears certain, that a state
will infallibly grow old and feeble, if hereditary riches support
hereditary rank, under any description. But when courts and
primogeniture are done away, and simple equal laws are established, what
is to prevent each generation from retaining the vigour of youth?—What
can weaken the body or mind, when the great majority of society must
exercise both, to earn a subsistence, and acquire respectability?

The french revolution is a strong proof how far things will govern men,
when simple principles begin to act with one powerful spring against the
complicated wheels of ignorance; numerous in proportion to their
weakness, and constantly wanting repair, because expedients of the
moment are ever the spawn of cowardly folly, or the narrow calculations
of selfishness. To elucidate this truth, it is not necessary to rake
among the ashes of barbarous ambition; to show the ignorance and
consequent folly of the monarchs, who ruled with a rod of iron, when the
hordes of european savages began to form their governments; though the
review of this portion of history would clearly prove, that narrowness
of mind naturally produces ferociousness of temper.

We may boast of the poetry of those ages, and of those charming flights
of imagination, which, during the paroxysms of passion, flash out in
those single acts of heroic virtue, that throw a lustre over a whole
thoughtless life; but the cultivation of the understanding, in spite of
these northern lights, appears to be the only way to tame men, whose
restlessness of spirit creates the vicious passions, that lead to
tyranny and cruelty. When the body is strong, and the blood warm, men do
not like to think, or adopt any plan of conduct, unless broken-in by
degrees: the force that has often spent itself in fatal activity becomes
a rich source of energy of mind.

Men exclaim, only noticing the evil, against the luxury introduced with
the arts and sciences; when it is obviously the cultivation of these
alone, emphatically termed the arts of peace, that can turn the sword
into a ploughshare. War is the adventure naturally pursued by the idle,
and it requires something of this species, to excite the strong emotions
necessary to rouse inactive minds. Ignorant people, when they appear to
reflect, exercise their imagination more than their understanding;
indulging reveries, instead of pursuing a train of thinking; and thus
grow romantic, like the croisaders; or like women, who are commonly idle
and restless.

If we turn then with disgust from ensanguined regal pomp, and the
childish rareeshows that amuse the enslaved multitude, we shall feel
still more contempt for the order of men, who cultivated their
faculties, only to enable them to consolidate their power, by leading
the ignorant astray; making the learning they concentrated in their
cells, a more polished instrument of oppression. Struggling with so many
impediments, the progress of useful knowledge for several ages was
scarcely perceptible; though respect for the public opinion, that great
softner of manners, and only substitute for moral principles, was
gaining ground.

The croisades, however, gave a shake to society, that changed it’s face;
and the spirit of chivalry, assuming a new character during the reign of
the gallant Francis the first, began to meliorate the ferocity of the
ancient gauls and franks. The _point d’honneur_ being settled, the
character of a _gentleman_, held ever since so dear in France, was
gradually formed; and this kind of bastard morality, frequently the only
substitute for all the ties that nature has rendered sacred, kept those
men within bounds, who obeyed no other law.

The same spirit mixed with the sanguinary treachery of the Guises, and
gave support to the manly dignity of Henry the fourth, on whom nature
had bestowed that warmth of constitution, tenderness of heart, and
rectitude of understanding, which naturally produce an energetic
character.—A supple force, that, exciting love, commands esteem.

During the ministry of Richelieu, when the dynasty of _favouritism_
commenced, the arts were patronized, and the italian mode of governing
by intrigue tended to weaken bodies, polished by the friction of
continual finesse. Dissimulation imperceptibly slides into falshood, and
Mazarin, dissimulation personified, paved the way for the imposing pomp
and false grandeur of the reign of the haughty and inflated Louis 14th;
which, by introducing a taste for majestic frivolity, accelerated the
perfection of that species of civilization, which consists in the
refining of the senses at the expence of the heart; the source of all
real dignity, honour, virtue, and every noble quality of the mind.
Endeavouring to make bigotry tolerate voluptuousness, and honour and
licentiousness shake hands, sight was lost of the line of distinction,
or vice was hid under the mask of it’s correlative virtue. The glory of
France, a bubble raised by the heated breath of the king, was the
pretext for undermining happiness; whilst politeness took place of
humanity, and created that fort of dependance, which leads men to barter
their corn and wine, for unwholesome mixtures of they know not what,
that, flattering a depraved appetite, destroy the tone of the stomach.

The feudal taste for tournaments and martial feasts was now naturally
succeeded by a fondness for theatrical entertainments; when feats of
valour became too great an exertion of the weakened muscles to afford
pleasure, and men found that resource in cultivation of mind, which
renders activity of body less necessary to keep the stream of life from

All the pieces written at this period, except Moliere’s, reflected the
manners of the court, and thus perverted the forming taste. That
extraordinary man alone wrote on the grand scale of human passions, for
mankind at large, leaving to inferiour authors the task of imitating the
drapery of manners, which points out the _costume_ of the age.

Corneille, like our Dryden, often tottering on the brink of absurdity
and nonsense, full of noble ideas, which, crouding indistinctly on his
fancy, he expresses obscurely, still delights his readers by sketching
faint outlines of gigantic passions; and, whilst the charmed imagination
is lured to follow him over enchanted ground, the heart is sometimes
unexpectedly touched by a sublime or pathetic sentiment, true to nature.

Racine, soon after, in elegant harmonious language painted the manners
of his time, and with great judgement gave a picturesque cast to many
unnatural scenes and factitious sentiments: always endeavouring to make
his characters amiable, he is unable to render them dignified; and the
refined morality, scattered throughout, belongs to the code of
politeness rather than to that of virtue[1]. Fearing to stray from
courtly propriety of behaviour, and shock a fastidious audience, the
gallantry of his heroes interests only the gallant, and literary people,
whose minds are open to different species of amusement. He was, in fact,
the father of the french stage. Nothing can equal the fondness which the
french suck in with their milk for public places, particularly the
theatre; and this taste, giving the tone to their conduct, has produced
so many stage tricks on the grand theatre of the nation, where old
principles vamped up with new scenes and decorations, are continually

Their national character is, perhaps, more formed by their theatrical
amusements, than is generally imagined: they are in reality the schools
of vanity. And, after this kind of education, is it surprising, that
almost every thing is said and done for stage effect? or that cold
declamatory extasies blaze forth, only to mock the expectation with a
show of warmth?

Thus sentiments spouted from the lips come oftner from the head than the
heart. Indeed natural sentiments are only the characters given by the
imagination to recollected sensations; but the french, by the continual
gratification of their senses, stifle the reveries of their imagination,
which always requires to be acted upon by outward objects; and seldom
reflecting on their feelings, their sensations are ever lively and
transitory; exhaled by every passing beam, and dissipated by the
slightest storm.

If a relish for the broad mirth of _fun_ characterize the lower class of
english, the french of every denomination are equally delighted with a
phosphorical, sentimental gilding. This is constantly observable at the
theatres. The passions are deprived of all their radical strength, to
give smoothness to the ranting sentiments, which, with mock dignity,
like the party-coloured rags on the shrivelled branches of the tree of
liberty, stuck up in every village, are displayed as something very
grand and significant.

The wars of Louis were, likewise, theatrical exhibitions; and the
business of his life was adjusting ceremonials, of which he himself
became the dupe, when his grandeur was in the wane, and his animal
spirits were spent[2]. But, towards the close even of his reign, the
writings of Fenelon, and the conversation of his pupil, the duke of
Burgundy, gave rise to different political discussions, of which the
theoretical basis was the happiness of the people—till death, spreading
a huge pall over the family and glory of Louis, compassion draws his
faults under the same awful canopy, and we sympathize with the man in
adversity, whose prosperity was pestiferous.

Louis, by imposing on the senses of his people, gave a new turn to the
chivalrous humour of the age: for, with the true spirit of quixotism,
the french made a point of honour of adoring their king; and the glory
of the _grand monarque_ became the national pride, even when it cost
them most dear.

As a proof of the perversion of mind at that period, and the false
political opinions which prevailed, making the unhappy king the slave of
his own despotism, it is sufficient to select one anecdote.

A courtier assures us,[3] that the most humiliating circumstance that
ever happened to the king, and one of those which gave him most pain,
was the publication of a memorial circulated with great diligence by his
enemies throughout France. In this memorial the allies invited the
french to demand the assembling of their ancient _states-general_. They
tell them, “that the ambition and pride of the king were the only causes
of the wars during his reign; and that, to secure themselves a lasting
peace, it was incumbent on them not to lay down their arms till the
states-general were convoked.”

It almost surpasses belief to add, that, in spite of the imprisonment,
exile, flight, or execution of two millions of french, this memorial
produced little effect. But the king, who was severely hurt, took care
to have a reply written[4]; though he might have comforted himself with
the recollection, that, when they were last assembled, Louis XIII
dismissed them with empty promises, forgotten as soon as made.

The enthusiasm of the french, which, in general, hurries them from one
extreme to another, at this time produced a total change of manners.

During the regency, vice was not only bare-faced, but audacious; and the
tide completely turned: the hypocrites were now all ranged on the other
side, the courtiers, labouring to show their abhorrence of religious
hypocrisy, set decency at defiance, and did violence to the modesty of
nature, when they wished to outrage the squeamish puerilities of

In the character of the regent we may trace all the vices and graces of
false refinement; forming the taste by destroying the heart. Devoted to
pleasure, he so soon exhausted the intoxicating cup of all it’s sweets,
that his life was spent in searching amongst the dregs, for the novelty
that could give a gasp of life to enjoyment. The wit, which at first was
the zest of his nocturnal orgies, soon gave place, as flat, to the
grossest excesses, in which the principal variety was flagitious
immorality. And what has he done to rescue his name from obloquy, but
protect a few debauched artists and men of letters? His goodness of
heart only appeared in sympathy. He pitied the distresses of the people,
when before his eyes; and as quickly forgot these yearnings of heart in
his sensual stye.

He often related, with great pleasure, an anecdote of the prior de
Vendôme, who chanced to please a mistress of Charles II, and the king
could only get rid of his rival by requesting Louis XIV to recall him.

At those moments he would bestow the warmest praises on the english
constitution; and seemed enamoured of liberty, though authorising at the
time the most flagrant violations of property, and despotic arts of
cruelty. The only good he did his country[5] arose from this frivolous
circumstance; for introducing the fashion of admiring the english, he
led men to read and translate some of their masculine writers, which
greatly contributed to rouse the sleeping manhood of the french. His
love of the fine arts, however, has led different authors to strew
flowers over his unhallowed dust—fit emblem of the brilliant qualities,
that ornamented only the soil on which they grew.

The latter part of the reign of Louis XV is notorious for the same
atrocious debaucheries, unvarnished by wit, over which modesty would
fain draw a veil, were it not necessary to give the last touches to the
portrait of that vile despotism, under the lash of which twenty-five
millions of people groaned; till, unable to endure the increasing weight
of oppression, they rose like a vast elephant, terrible in his anger,
treading down with blind fury friends as well as foes.

Impotence of body, and indolence of mind, rendered Louis XV the slave of
his mistresses, who sought to forget his nauseous embraces in the arms
of knaves, who found their account in caressing them. Every corner of
the kingdom was ransacked to satiate these cormorants, who wrung the
very bowels of industry, to give a new edge to sickly appetites;
corrupting the morals whilst breaking the spirit of the nation.

                              CHAPTER II.

During this general depravation of manners, the young and beautiful
_dauphine_ arrived; and was received with a kind of idolatrous
adoration, only to be seen in France; for the inhabitants of the
metropolis, literally speaking, could think and talk of nothing else;
and in their eagerness to pay homage, or gratify affectionate curiosity,
an immense number were killed.

In such a voluptuous atmosphere, how could she escape contagion? The
profligacy of Louis XIV, when love and war were his amusements, was
soberness, compared with the capricious intemperance of the inebriated
imagination at this period. Madame du Barry was then in the zenith of
her power, which quickly excited the jealousy of this princess, whose
strongest passion was that intolerable family pride, which heated the
blood of the whole house of Austria. An inclination for court intrigue,
under the mask of the most profound dissimulation, to preserve the
favour of Louis XV, was instantly called into action; and it soon became
the only business of her life, either to gratify resentment, or cheat
the satiety, which the continual and unrestrained indulgence of pleasure

Her character thus formed, when she became absolute mistress, the court
of the passive Louis, not only the most dissolute and abandoned that
ever displayed the folly of royalty, but audaciously negligent with
respect to that attention to decency, which is necessary to delude the
vulgar, was deserted by all persons, who had any regard for their moral
character, or the decorum of appearances. Constrained by the
_etiquette_, which made the principal part of the imposing grandeur of
Louis XIV, the queen wished to throw aside the cumbersome brocade of
ceremony, without having discernment enough to perceive, that it was
necessary to lend mock dignity to a court, where there was not
sufficient virtue, or native beauty, to give interest or respectability
to simplicity. The harlot is seldom such a fool as to neglect her
meretricious ornaments, unless she renounces her trade; and the
pageantry of courts is the same thing on a larger scale. The lively
predilection, likewise, of the queen for her native country, and love
for her brother Joseph, to whom she repeatedly sent considerable sums,
purloined from the public, tended greatly to inspire the most ineffable
contempt for royalty, now stript of the frippery which had concealed
it’s deformity: and the sovereign disgust excited by her ruinous vices,
completely destroying all reverence for that majesty, to which power
alone lent dignity, contempt soon produced hatred.

The infamous transaction of the necklace, in which she was probably the
dupe of the knaves she fostered, exasperated also both the nobility and
the clergy; and, with her messalinian feasts at _Trianon_, made her the
common mark of ridicule and satire.

The attention of the people once roused was not permitted to sleep; for
fresh circumstances daily occurred, to give a new spring to discussions,
that the most iniquitous and heavy taxes brought home to every bosom;
till the extravagance of the royal family became the general subject of
sharpening execrations.

The king, who had not sufficient resolution to support the
administration of Turgot, whom his disposition for moderation had
chosen, being at a loss what measures to take, called to the helm the
plausible Necker. He, only half comprehending the plans of his able
predecessor, was led by his vanity cautiously to adopt them; first
publishing his _Comte-rendu_, to clear the way to popularity. This work
was read with astonishing rapidity by all ranks of men; and alarming the
courtiers, Necker was, in his turn, dismissed. He retired to write his
observations on the administration of the finances, which kept alive the
spirit of inquiry, that afterwards broke the talisman of courts, and
showed the disenchanted multitude, that those, whom they had been taught
to respect as supernatural beings, were not indeed men—but monsters;
deprived by their station of humanity, and even sympathy.

Several abortive attempts were then made by two succeeding ministers, to
keep alive public credit, and find resources to supply the expenditure
of the state, and the dissipation of the court, when the king was
persuaded to place the specious Calonne at the head of these embarrassed

During the prodigal administration of this man, who acted with an
audacity peculiar to the arrogance common in men of superficial yet
brilliant talents, every consideration was sacrificed to the court; the
splendid folly and wanton prodigality of which eclipsing all that has
been related in history, or told in romance, to amuse wondering fools,
only served to accelerate the destruction of public credit, and hasten
the revolution, by exciting the clamourous indignation of the people.
Numberless destructive expedients of the moment brought money into the
state coffers, only to be dissipated by the royal family, and it’s train
of parasites; till all failing, the wish of still supporting himself in
a situation so desirable as that of comptroller general of the finances,
determined him to convene an assembly of _notables_: whose very
appellation points them out as men in the aristocratical interest.

Louis XVI, with a considerable portion of common sense, and a desire to
promote useful reformation, though always governed by those around him,
gave without hesitation the necessary orders for calling together the
assembly, that afforded the wearied nation the most pleasing prospect,
because it was a new one; but conveyed to their astonished minds at the
same time the knowledge of the enormity of a _deficit_, which a series
of vice and folly had augmented beyond all precedent.

The immoralities of Calonne, however, had created a general distrust of
all his designs: but with an overweening presumption, the characteristic
of the man, he still thought, that he could dexterously obtain the
supplies wanted to keep the wheels of government in motion, and quiet
the clamours of the nation, by proposing the equalization of taxes;
which, humbling the nobility and dignified clergy, who were thus to be
brought down from their privileged height, to the level of citizens,
could not fail to be grateful to the rest of the nation. And the
parliaments, he concluded, would not dare to oppose his system, lest
they should draw on themselves the distrust and hatred of the public.

Without canvassing Calonne’s intentions, which the most enlarged
charity, after his former extravagance, can scarcely suppose to have
been the interest of the people, moderate men imagined this project
might have been productive of much good; giving the french all the
liberty they were able to digest; and, warding off the tumults that have
since produced so many disastrous events, whilst coolly preparing them
for the reception of more, the effervescence of vanity and ignorance
would not have rendered their heads giddy, or their hearts savage. Yet
some sensible observers, on the contrary, rather adopted the opinion,
that as the people had discovered the magnitude of the _deficit_, they
were now persuaded, that a specific remedy was wanting, _a new
constitution_; to cure the evils, which were the excrescences of a
gigantic tyranny, that appeared to be draining away the vital juices of
labour, to fill the insatiable jaws of thousands of fawning slaves and
idle sycophants. But though the people might, for the present, have been
satisfied with this salutary reform, which would gradually have had an
effect, reasoning from analogy, that the financier did not take, into
his account, the nobility were not sufficiently enlightened to listen to
the dictates of justice or prudence. It had been, indeed, the system of
ministers, ever since Richelieu, to humble the nobles, to increase the
power of the court; and as the ministry, the generals, and the bishops,
were always noble, they aided to support the favourite, who depressed
the whole body, only for the chance of individual preferment. But this
bare-faced attempt to abolish their privileges raised a nest of hornets
about his ears, eager to secure the plunder on which they lived; for by
what other name can we call the pensions, places and even estates of
those who, taxing industry, rioted in idleness duty free[6]?

An approaching national bankruptcy was the ostensible reason assigned
for the convening of the _notables_ in 1787; but the convocation, in
truth, ought to be ascribed to the voice of reason, founded through the
organ of twenty-five millions of human beings, who, though under the
fetters of a detestable tyranny, felt, that the crisis was at hand, when
the rights of man, and his dignity ascertained were to be enthroned on
the eternal basis of justice and humanity.

The _notables_, once assembled, being sensible, that their conduct would
be inspected by an awakened public, now on the watch, scrupulously
examined into every national concern; and seriously investigated the
causes, that had produced the _deficit_, with something like the
independent spirit of freemen. To their inquiries, however, the minister
gave only the evasive reply, ‘that he had acted in obedience to the
pleasure of the king:’ when it was notorious to all Europe, that his
majesty was merely a cipher at Versailles; and even the accusation
brought against Calonne, by La Fayette, of exchanging the national
domains, and appropriating millions of it’s revenue to gratify the
queen, the count d’Artois, and the rest of the cabal, who kept him in
place, was generally believed. In fact, the state had been fleeced, to
support the unremitting demands of the queen; who would have dismembered
France, to aggrandize Austria, and pamper her favourites. Thus the court
conniving at peculation, the minister played a sure game; whilst the
honest labourer was groaning under a thousand abuses, and yielding the
solace of his industry, or the hoards, which youthful strength had
reserved for times of scarcity or decrepit age, to irritate the
increasing wants of a thoughtless, treacherous princess, and the avarice
of her unprincipled agents.

This artful, though weak, machiavelian politician suffered no other
person to approach the king; who, seduced into confidence by his
colloquial powers, could not avoid being dazzled by his plausible
schemes. He had, nevertheless, a powerful enemy to contend with, in M.
de Breteuil; who, having gratified some of the little passions of the
dauphine, during her first struggles for dominion, was now protected by
the absolute power of the queen. Endeavouring to measure his strength
with her’s, the minister was discomfited; and the whole swarm of
flatterers, who had partaken of the spoil of rapine, were instantly
alert to open the eyes of Louis, over which they had long been
scattering poppies, and soon convinced him of the perfidy of his
favourite; whilst the two privileged orders joined their forces, to
overwhelm their common enemy, attending to their vengeance at the very
time they followed the dictates of prudence.

The accusations of La Fayette served, perhaps, as the ostensible reason
with the public, and even with the king; yet it can hardly be supposed,
that they had any effect on the cabal, who invented, or connived at the
plans necessary to raise a continual supply for their pleasures. The
fact is, that, most probably being found unequal to the task, or no
longer choosing to be a docile instrument of mischief, he was thrown
aside as unfit for use.

Disgraced, he quickly retired to his estate; but was not long permitted
to struggle with the malady of exiled ministers, in the gloomy silence
of inactivity; for, hearing that he had been denounced by the
parliament, he fled in a transport of rage out of the kingdom, covered
with the execrations of an injured people, in whose hatred, or
admiration, the mellowed shades of reflection are seldom seen.

The extravagance of his administration exceeded that of any other
scourge of France; yet it does not appear, that he was actuated by a
plan, or even desire, of enriching himself. So far from it, with wild
prodigality he seems to have squandered away the vast sums he extorted
by force or fraud, merely to gratify or purchase friends and dependents;
till, quite exhausted, he was obliged to have recourse to Necker’s
scheme of loans. But not possessing like him the confidence of the
public, he could not with equal facility obtain a present supply, the
weight of which would be thrown forward to become a stumbling-block to
his successors. Necker, by the advantageous terms which he held out to
money-holders, had introduced a pernicious system of stock-jobbing, that
was slowly detected, because those who could best have opened the eyes
of the people were interested to keep them closed.—Still Calonne could
not induce the same body of men to trust to his offers; which, not
choosing to accept, they made a point of discrediting, to secure the
interest and exorbitant premiums that were daily becoming due.

With an uncommon quickness of comprehension, and audacity in pursuing
crude schemes, rendered plausible by a rhetorical flow of words,
Calonne, a strong representative of the national character, seems rather
to have wanted principles than feelings of humanity; and to have been
led astray more by vanity and the love of pleasure, which imperceptibly
smooth away moral restraints, than by those deep plans of guilt, that
force men to see the extent of the mischief they are hatching, whilst
the crocodile is still in the egg. Yet, as mankind ever judge by events,
the inconsiderate presumption, if not the turpitude of his conduct,
brought on him universal censure: for, at a crisis when the general
groans of an oppressed nation proclaimed the disease of the state, and
even when the government was on the verge of dissolution, did he not
waste the treasures of his country, forgetful not only of moral
obligations, but the ties of honour, of that regard for the tacit
confidence of it’s citizens, which a statesman ought to hold sacred?
since which he has been caressed at almost every court in Europe, and
made one of the principal agents of despotism in the croisades against
the infant liberty of France.

Reflecting on the conduct of the tools of courts, we are enabled in a
great measure to account for the slavery of Europe; and to discover,
that it’s misery has not arisen more from the imperfection of
civilization, than from the fallacy of those political systems, which
necessarily made the favourite of the day a knavish tyrant, eager to
amass riches sufficient to save himself from oblivion, when the honours,
so hardly wrestled for, should be torn from his brow. Besides, whilst
ministers have found impunity in the omnipotence, which the seal of
power gave them, and in the covert fear of those who hoped one day to
enjoy the same emoluments, they have been led by the prevalence of
depraved manners, to the commission of every atrocious folly. Kings have
been the dupes of ministers, of mistresses, and secretaries, not to
notice sly valets and cunning waiting-maids, who are seldom idle; and
these are most venal, because they have least independence of character
to support; till in the circle of corruption no one can point out the
first mover. Hence proceeds the great tenacity of courts to support
them; hence originates their great objection to republican forms of
government, which oblige their ministers to be accountable for
delinquency; and hence, likewise, might be traced their agonizing fears
of the doctrine of civil equality.

                              CHAPTER III.

After the dismission of Calonne, M. de Brienne, a man whose talents
Turgot had overrated, was now chosen by the queen, because he had
formerly seconded her views, and was still the obsequious slave of that
power, which he had long been courting, to obtain the so much envied
place of minister. Having taken more pains to gain the post than to
prepare himself to fulfil it’s functions, his weak and timid mind was in
a continual tumult; and he adopted with head-long confusion the taxes
proposed by his predecessor; because money must be had, and he knew not
where to turn to procure it by an unhacknied mode of extortion.

The _notables_ were now dissolved; and it would have been a natural
consequence of the dismission of the minister who assembled them, even
if their spirited inquiries had not rendered their presence vexatious to
the court. This, however, was an impolitic measure; for they returned
highly disgusted to their respective abodes, to propagate the free
opinions, to which resentment and argumentation had given birth.

Before the breaking up of the _notables_, they were nevertheless
prevailed upon to recommend a land and stamp tax; and the edicts were
sent to the parliament to be enregistered. But these magistrates, never
forgetting that they enjoyed, in virtue of their office, the privileged
exemption from taxes, to elude sanctioning the first, which was to have
been an equal impost, took advantage of the public odiousness of the
second; thus avoiding, with a show of patriotism, an avowed opposition
to the interest of the people, that would clearly have proved, how much
dearer they held their own.

The gaudy and meretricious pageantry of the court was now displayed, to
intimidate the parliament, at what was termed a bed of justice, though
in reality of all justice a solemn mockery; and, whilst pretending to
consult them, the edicts were enregistered by a mandate of state. The
parliament, in the mean time, making a merit of necessity, declared,
that the right of sanctioning the impost belonged only to the
states-general, the convocation of which they demanded. Provoked by
their sturdy opposition, the court banished them to Troyes; and they
compromised for their recall by enregistering the prolongation of the
_deuxieme vingtieme_, a cowardly desertion of their former ground.

A century before (a proof of the progress of reason) the people,
digesting their disappointment, would have submitted, with brutal
acquiescence, to the majestic WILL of the king, without daring to scan
it’s import; but now, recognizing their own dignity, they insisted, that
all authority, which did not originate with them, was illegal and
despotic, and loudly resounded the grand truth—That it was necessary to
convoke the states-general. The government, however, like a dying wretch
cut off by intemperance, whilst the lust of enjoyment still remaining
prompts him to exhaust his strength by struggling with death, fought
some time longer inauspiciously for existence, depending on the succour
of the court empirics, who vainly flattered themselves, that they could
prevent it’s dissolution. From the moment, indeed, that Brienne
succeeded Calonne, all the machinery, which the demon of despotism could
invent, was put in motion, to divert the current of opinion, bearing on
it’s fair bosom the new sentiments of liberty with irresistible force,
and overwhelming, as it swelled, the perishing monuments of venerable
folly, and the fragile barriers of superstitious ignorance.

But supplies were still wanting; and the court, being fruitful in
stratagems to procure a loan, which was the necessary lever of it’s
insidious designs, coalesced with some of the members of the parliament,
and the agreement was to have been ratified in a _séance royale_. Yet,
as the parliament had determined to be governed by a clear majority, the
scheme of the keeper of the seals, who intended to have the business
hurried over without telling the votes, was completely defeated.

The discovery of this unfair attempt made the indignant magistrates,
glad to seize an occasion to recover their popularity, maintain with
boldness their own character, and the interest of the people. The duke
of Orleans, also, somewhat tauntingly suggesting to the king, that this
was only another bed of justice, was exiled, with two other members, who
had remonstrated with courage. These magistrates, now become the objects
of public adoration, were considered by the grateful public as their
only bulwark against the attacks of the ministry; which continued to
harrass invention, to contrive means to counteract a concurrence of
circumstances, that were driving before them all opposition.

The court, for I consider the government, at this period, completely at
an end, continued to stumble out of one blunder into another, till at
last they rested all their hopes on the popular reforms projected by
Brienne, in conjunction with Lamoignon, a man with more strength of
character, to cajole the people and crush the parliament. Several
strokes, the feeble blows of angry men, who wished still to retain the
stolen sweets of office, were aimed at this body, calculated to mislead
the people, who were also promised a reformed code of penal laws. But
the time when partial remedies would have been eagerly swallowed was
past, and the people saw distinctly, that their will would soon be law,
and their power omnipotent. But the minister, Brienne, not aware of
this, to steer clear of further opposition, proposed the plan of a _cour
pléniere_: an heterogeneous assembly of princes, nobles, magistrates,
and soldiers. A happy substitute, as he imagined, for the parliament;
and which, by restoring the ancient forms of the kings of France, would
awe and amuse the people. He did not consider, that their minds were now
full of other objects, and their enthusiasm turned into another channel.

This conduct proved more destructive to the court than any former folly
it’s advisers had committed. Imbecility now characterized every measure.
The parliament however fell into the snare, and forfeited the esteem and
confidence of the people by opposing some popular edicts; particularly
one in favour of the protestants, which they themselves had demanded ten
years before, and to which they now objected, only because it came from
another quarter. Yet the court, regardless of experience, endeavoured to
restore it’s credit by persecution; whilst, making all the clashing
movements that fear could dictate to manifest it’s power and overawe the
nation, it united all parties, and drew the whole kingdom to one point
of action.

The despotic and extravagant steps taken, to give efficiency to the
_cour pléniere_, awakened the sensibility of the most torpid; and the
vigilance of twenty-five millions of centinels was roused, to watch the
movements of the court, and follow it’s corrupt ministers, through all
the labyrinths of sophistry and tergiversation, into the very dens of
their nefarious machinations. To prevent the different parliaments from
deliberating, and forming in consequence a plan of conduct together, the
edict to sanction this packed cabinet was to be presented to them all on
the same day; and a considerable force was assembled, to intimidate the
members, who should dare to prove refractory. But, they were forewarned
in time, to avoid being surprised into acquiescence: for, having
received an intimation of the design, a copy of the edict had been
purloined from the press, by means of the universal engine of
corruption, money.

Warmed by the discovery of this surreptitious attempt to cheat them into
blind obedience, they bound themselves by an oath, to act in concert;
and not to enregister a decree, that had been obtained through a medium,
which violated the privilege they had usurped of having a share in the
legislation, by rendering their sanction of edicts necessary to give
them force: a privilege that belonged only to the states-general. Still,
as the government had often found it convenient to make the parliaments
a substitute for a power they dreaded to see in action, these
magistrates sometimes availed themselves of this weakness, to
remonstrate against oppression; and thus, covering usurpation with a
respectable veil, the twelve parliaments were considered by the people
as the only barriers to resist the encroachments of despotism. Yet the
sagacious chancellor L’Hôpital, not deceived by their accidental
usefulness, guarded the french against their illegal ambition: for was
it not a dangerous courtesy of the people, to allow an aristocracy of
lawyers, who bought their places, to be as it were the only
representatives of the nation? Still their resistance had frequently
been an impediment in the way of tyranny, and now provoked a discussion,
which led to the most important of all questions—namely, in whose hands
ought the sovereignty to rest?—who ought to levy the impost, and make
laws?—and the answer was the universal demand of a fair representation,
to meet at stated periods, without depending on the caprice of the
executive power. Unable to effect their purpose by art or force, the
weak ministry, stung by the disappointment, determined at least to wreak
their vengeance on two of the boldest of the members. But the united
magistrates disputing the authority of the armed force, it was necessary
to send to Versailles, to make the king sign an express order; and
towards five o’clock the next morning the sanctuary of justice was
profaned, and the two members dragged to prison, in contempt of the
visible indignation of the people. Soon after, to fill up the measure of
provocations, a deputation sent by the province of Brittany, to
remonstrate against the establishment of the _cour pléniere_, were
condemned to silence in the Bastille.

Without money, and afraid to demand it, excepting in a circumlocutory
manner, the court, like mad men, spent themselves in idle exertions of
strength: for, whilst the citizens of Paris were burning in effigy the
two obnoxious ministers, who thus outraged them in the person of their
magistrates, they were delivered up to the fury of the hired slaves of
despotism, and trampled under foot by the cavalry; who were called in to
quell a riot purposely excited.

Cries of horrour and indignation resounded throughout the kingdom; and
the nation, with one voice, demanded justice—Alas! justice had never
been known in France. Retaliation and vengeance had been it’s fatal
substitutes. And from this epoch we may date the commencement of those
butcheries, which have brought on that devoted country so many dreadful
calamities, by teaching the people to avenge themselves with blood!

The hopes of the nation, it is true, were still turned towards the
promised convocation of the states-general; which every day became more
necessary. But the infatuated ministers, though unable to devise any
scheme to extricate themselves out of the crowd of difficulties, into
which they had heedlessly plunged, could not think of convening a power,
which they foresaw, without any great stretch of sagacity, would quickly
annihilate their own.

The ferment, mean time, continued, and the blood that had been shed
served only to increase it; nay, the citizens of Grenoble prepared with
calmness to resist force by force, and the myrmidons of tyranny might
have found it a serious contest, if the intelligence of the dismission
of the ministers had not produced one of those moments of enthusiasm,
which by the most rapid operation of sympathy unites all hearts. Touched
by it, the men who lived on the wages of slaughter threw down their
arms, and melting into tears in the embraces of the citizens whom they
came to murder, remembered that they were countrymen, and groaned under
the same oppression: and, their conduct, quickly applauded with that
glow of sensibility which excites imitation, served as an example to the
whole army, forcing the soldiers to think of their situation, and might
have proved a salutary lesson to any court less depraved and insensible
than that of Versailles.

                              CHAPTER IV.

Such were the measures pursued to exasperate a people beginning to open
their eyes, and now clamourously demanding the restitution of their
long-estranged rights; when the court, having in vain attempted to
terrify or deceive them, found it expedient to still the storm by
recalling Necker. This man had the confidence of France, which he in
some degree merited for the light he had thrown on the state of the
revenue, and for the system of economy, that he had endeavoured to adopt
during his former administration: but unfortunately he did not possess
talents or political sagacity sufficient to pilot the state in this
perilous season. Bred up in a counting-house, he acquired that knowledge
of detail, and attention to little advantages, so necessary when a man
desires to amass riches with what is termed a fair character: and,
having accumulated a very large fortune by unremitting industry; or, to
borrow the commercial phrase, _attention to the main chance_, his house
became the resort of the men of letters of his day.

The foibles of a rich man are always fostered, sometimes perhaps
insensibly, by his numerous dependents and visitants, who find his table
amusing or convenient. It is not then surprizing, that, with the
abilities of a tolerable financier, he was soon persuaded, that he was a
great author, and consummate statesman. Besides, when the manners of a
nation are very depraved, the men who wish to appear, and even to be,
more moral than the multitude, in general become pedantically virtuous;
and, continually contrasting their morals with the thoughtless vices
around them, the artificial, narrow character of a sectary is formed;
the manners are rendered stiff, and the heart cold. The dupes also of
their flimsey virtue, many men are harshly called hypocrites, who are
only weak; and popularity often turns the head giddy, that would have
soberly fulfilled the common duties of a man in the shade of private

Having adopted with a timid hand many of the sagacious plans of his
model, the clear headed, unaffected Turgot, Necker was considered by the
greater part of the nation as a consummate politician: neither was it
surprizing, that the people, snatched from despondency, should have
mistaken the extent of his political knowledge, when they had estimated
it by that of the greatest statesman, which France, or, perhaps, any
other country, ever produced.

Having written on a subject, that naturally attracted the attention of
the public, he had the vanity to believe, that he deserved the
exaggerated applause he received, and the reputation of wise, when he
was only shrewd. Not content with the fame he acquired by writing on a
subject, which his turn of mind and profession enabled him to
comprehend, he wished to obtain a higher degree of celebrity, by forming
into a large book various metaphysical shreds of arguments, which he had
collected from the conversation of men, fond of ingenious subtilties;
and the style, excepting some declamatory passages, was as inflated and
confused as the thoughts were far fetched and unconnected[7].

As it is from this period, that we must date the commencement of those
great events, which, outrunning expectation, have almost rendered
observation breathless, it becomes necessary to enter on the task with
caution; as it ought not to be more the object of the historian to fill
up the sketch, than to trace the hidden springs and secret mechanism,
which have put in motion a revolution, the most important that has ever
been recorded in the annals of man. This was a crisis that demanded
boldness and precision; and no man in France, excepting Necker, had the
reputation of possessing extensive political talents; because the old
system of government scarcely afforded a field, in which the abilities
of men could be unfolded, and their judgment matured by experience. Yet,
whilst the kingdom was in the greatest fermentation, he seems to have
thought of none but those timid half-way measures, which always prove
disastrous in desperate cases, when the wound requires to be probed to
the quick.

The old government was then only a vast ruin; and whilst it’s pillars
were trembling on their baseless foundations, the eyes of all France
were directed towards their admired minister. In this situation, with
all his former empiricism he began his second career, like another
Sangrado. But the people could no longer bear bleeding—for their veins
were already so lacerated, it was difficult to find room to make a fresh
incision; and the emollient prescriptions, the practice of former times,
were now insufficient to stop the progress of a deadly disease. In this
situation, listening to the voice of the nation, because he was at a
loss what step to take to maintain his popularity, he determined to
hasten the convocation of the states-general: first recalling the exiled
magistrates, and restoring the parliaments to the exercise of their
functions. His next care was to dissipate all apprehension of a famine;
a fear that had been artfully excited by the court agents, in order to
have a pretext to form magazines of provision for an army, which they
had previously resolved to assemble in the vicinity of Paris.

Thus far he seems to have acted with some degree of prudence, at least;
but, inattentive to the robust strength which the public opinion had
then acquired, he wavered as to the mode of constituting the
states-general, whilst the parliament passed a decree to prevent their
assembling in any other manner than they did in 1614. This obstinate
pretention to legislate for the nation was no longer to be tolerated,
when they opposed the wishes of the people: yet, with the common
instinct of corporate bodies, they wrapped themselves up in the
precedents that proved their winding-sheet, provoking universal
contempt; for the herculean force of the whole empire was now clearing
away every obstacle to freedom.

At this critical moment, the minister, enjoying great popularity, had it
in his power, could he have governed the court, to have suggested a
system, which might ultimately have proved acceptable to all parties;
and thus have prevented that dreadful convulsion, which has shook the
kingdom from one extremity to the other. Instead of that, he convened a
second time the _notables_, to take their opinion on a subject,
respecting which the public had already decided, not daring himself to
sanction it’s decision. The strongest proof he could give, that his mind
was not sufficiently elastic to expand with the opening views of the
people; and that he did not possess the eye of genius, which, quickly
distinguishing what is possible, enables a statesman to act with firm
dignity, resting on his own centre.

Carried away by the general impulsion, with the inconsiderate fervour of
men, whose hearts always grow hard as they cool, when they have been
warmed by some sudden glow of enthusiasm or sympathy, the _notables_
showed, by their subsequent conduct, that, though they had been led by
eloquence to support some questions of a patriotic tendency, they had
not the principles necessary to impel them to give up local advantages,
or personal prerogatives, for the good of the whole community, in which
they were only eventually to share. Indeed romantic virtue, or
friendship, seldom goes further than professions; because it is merely
the effect of that fondness for imitating great, rather than acquiring
moderate qualities, common to vain people.

The _notables_ had now two essential points to settle; namely, to
regulate the election of the deputies, and how they were afterwards to
vote. The population and wealth of several provinces, from commercial
advantages and other causes, had given a new face to the country since
the former election; so much so, that, if the ancient division were
adhered to, the representation could not fail to be very unequal. Yet if
the natural order of population were followed, the grand question of
voting by orders or by voices seemed to be prejudged by the great
increase of the members of the _tiers-etat_.

The nobles and the clergy immediately rallied round the standard of
privileges, insisting, that France would be ruined, if their _rights_
were touched: and so true were they now to their insulated interest,
that all the committees into which the _notables_ were divided,
excepting that of which _monsieur_ was president, determined against
allowing the _tiers-etat_ that increase of power necessary to enable
them to be useful. Whilst, however, these disputes and cabals seemed to
promise no speedy determination, the people, weary of procrastination,
and disgusted with the obstacles continually thrown in the way of the
meeting of the states-general, by a court that was ever secretly at
work, to regain the trifling privileges, which it pretended to sacrifice
to the general good, began to assemble, and even to decide the previous
question, by deliberating together in several places. Dauphine set the
example; and the three orders uniting sketched a plan for the
organization of the whole kingdom, which served as a model for the other
provincial states, and furnished grounds for the constituent assembly to
work on when forming the constitution. Though the rumour was spread
abroad, the court, still so stupidly secure as not to see, that the
people, who at this period dared to think for themselves, would not now
be noosed like beasts, when strength is brought into subjection by
reason, beheld with wonder the arrival of deputations from different
quarters, and heard with astonishment the bold tones of men speaking of
their rights, tracing society to it’s origin, and painting with the most
forcible colours the horrid depredations of the old government. For
after the minds of men had been fatigued by the stratagems of the court,
the feeble measures of the minister, and the narrow, selfish views of
the parliaments, they examined with avidity the productions of a number
of able writers, who were daily pouring pamphlets from the press, to
excite the _tiers-etat_, to assert it’s rights on enlarged principles,
and to oppose vigorously the exorbitant claims of the privileged orders,
who stood up for ancient usurpations, as if they were the natural rights
of a particular _genus_ of man. Those of the abbé Sieyes and the marquis
de Condorcet were the most philosophical; whilst the unctuous eloquence
of Mirabeau softened these dry researches, and fed the flame of

In this posture of affairs, Necker, perceiving that the people were
grown resolute, prevailed on the council to decree, that the number of
the deputies of the _tiers-etat_ should be equal to that of the two
other orders taken together: but whether they were to vote by chambers,
or in the same body, was still left undetermined.

The people, whose patience had been worn out by injuries and
insults, now only thought of preparing instructions for their
representatives.—But, instead of looking for gradual improvement,
letting one reform calmly produce another, they seemed determined to
strike at the root of all their misery at once: the united mischiefs
of a monarchy unrestrained, a priesthood unnecessarily numerous, and
an over grown nobility: and these hasty measures, become a subject
worthy of philosophical investigation, naturally fall into two
distinct subjects of inquiry.

1st. If, from the progress of reason, we be authorized to infer, that
all governments will be meliorated, and the happiness of man placed on
the solid basis, gradually prepared by the improvement of political
science: if the degrading distinctions of rank born in barbarism, and
nourished by chivalry, be really becoming in the estimation of all
sensible people so contemptible, that a modest man, in the course of
fifty years would probably blush at being thus distinguished: if the
complexion of manners in Europe be completely changed from what it was
half a century ago, and the liberty of it’s citizens tolerably secured:
if every day extending freedom be more firmly established in consequence
of the general dissemination of truth and knowledge: it then seems
injudicious for statesmen to force the adoption of any opinion, by
aiming at the speedy destruction of obstinate prejudices; because these
premature reforms, instead of promoting, destroy the comfort of those
unfortunate beings, who are under their dominion, affording at the same
time to despotism the strongest arguments to urge in opposition to the
theory of reason. Besides, the objects intended to be forwarded are
probably retarded, whilst the tumult of internal commotion and civil
discord leads to the most dreadful consequence—the immolating of human

But, 2dly, it is necessary to observe, that, if the degeneracy of the
higher orders of society be such, that no remedy less fraught with
horrour can effect a radical cure; and if enjoying the fruits of
usurpation, they domineer over the weak, and check by all the means in
their power every humane effort, to draw man out of the state of
degradation, into which the inequality of fortune has sunk him; the
people are justified in having recourse to coercion, to repel coercion.
And, further, if it can be ascertained, that the silent sufferings of
the citizens of the world under the iron feet of oppression are greater,
though less obvious, than the calamities produced by such violent
convulsions as have happened in France; which, like hurricanes whirling
over the face of nature, strip off all it’s blooming graces; it may be
politically just, to pursue such measures as were taken by that
regenerating country, and at once root out those deleterious plants,
which poison the better half of human happiness. For civilization
hitherto, by producing the inequality of conditions, which makes wealth
more desirable than either talents or virtue, has so weakened all the
organs of the body-politic, and rendered man such a beast of prey, that
the strong have always devoured the weak till the very signification of
justice has been lost sight of, and charity, the most specious system of
slavery, substituted in it’s place. The rich have for ages tyrannized
over the poor, teaching them how to act when possessed of power, and now
must feel the consequence. People are rendered ferocious by misery; and
misanthropy is ever the offspring of discontent. Let not then the
happiness of one half of mankind be built on the misery of the other,
and humanity will take place of charity, and all the ostentatious
virtues of an universal aristocracy. How, in fact, can we expect to see
men live together like brothers, when we only see master and servant in
society? For till men learn mutually to assist without governing each
other, little can be done by political associations towards perfecting
the condition of mankind.

Europe will probably be, for some years to come, in a state of anarchy;
till a change of sentiments, gradually undermining the strongholds of
custom, alters the manners, without rousing the little passions of men,
a pack of yelping curs pampered by vanity and pride. It is in reality
these minor passions, which during the summer of idleness mantle on the
heart, and taint the atmosphere, because the understanding is still.

Several acts of ferocious folly have justly brought much obloquy on the
grand revolution, which has taken place in France; yet, I feel confident
of being able to prove, that the people are essentially good, and that
knowledge is rapidly advancing to that degree of perfectibility, when
the proud distinctions of sophisticating fools will be eclipsed by the
mild rays of philosophy, and man be considered as man—acting with the
dignity of an intelligent being.

From implicitly obeying their sovereigns, the french became suddenly all
sovereigns; yet, because it is natural for men to run out of one extreme
into another, we should guard against inferring, that the spirit of the
moment will not evaporate, and leave the disturbed water more clear for
the fermentation. Men without principle rise like foam during a storm
sparkling on the top of the billow, in which it is soon absorbed when
the commotion dies away. Anarchy is a fearful state, and all men of
sense and benevolence have been anxiously attentive, to observe what use
frenchmen would make of their liberty, when the confusion incident to
the acquisition should subside: yet, whilst the heart sickens over a
detail of crimes and follies, and the understanding is appalled by the
labour of unravelling a black tissue of plots, which exhibits the human
character in the most revolting point of view; it is perhaps, difficult
to bring ourselves to believe, that out of this chaotic mass a fairer
government is rising than has ever shed the sweets of social life on the
world.—But things must have time to find their level.

                       HISTORICAL AND MORAL VIEW
                                 OF THE
                           FRENCH REVOLUTION.

                               _BOOK II._

                               CHAPTER I.

Before we enter on the grand business produced by the meeting of the
states-general, it is necessary to take a retrospective glance over the
oppressions of which frenchmen so loudly complained; and, whilst we
trace their justness, the question will only be, why they did not sooner
raise their shoulders to heave off the mighty load. To ascertain this
truth, we need not enter into deep researches, though it may be
difficult to collect all the parts of the feudal chain, which linked the
despotism of sixty thousand nobles, who not only exercised all the
tyranny that the system authorized, but countenanced the still more
extensive depredations of their numerous dependents. What, indeed, could
equal the slavery of the poor husbandman; not only pillaged by the tythe
and game laws, but even obliged to let whole flocks of pigeons devour
his grain, without daring to destroy them, because those pigeons
belonged to the chateau; and afterwards forced to carry the scanty crop
to be tolled at the mill of _monseigneur_, which, to follow a
frenchman’s staff of life through all it’s stages of taxation, must then
be baked at the privileged oven?

It would be captious, perhaps, to dwell on some of the abominable
tenures of personal servitude, which, though grown obsolete, were not
abrogated; especially as more specious, if not less grinding, not less
debasing exactions were in force, to deprave every moral feeling of the
two divisions of society; the governing, and governed.

When chased from the country, of which the chief charm is independence,
by such worrying restraints, a man wished to pursue any occupation in a
town, he must previously purchase a patent of some privileged person, to
whom this tax had been sold by a farmer-general, or the parasite of a

All lived by plunder; and it’s universality gave it a sanction, that
took off the odium, though nothing could varnish the injustice. Yet,
such was the insensibility of the great, the pleasures these extortions
procured were not less grateful to the senses, because paid by the sweat
of industry.—No; like Vespasian’s obnoxious tax, money was money; and
who cared on what it was levied? Thus the rich necessarily became
robbers, and the poor thieves. Talking of honour, honesty was
overlooked; and, custom giving a soft name to different atrocities, few
thought it a duty to investigate disregarded principles; or to
relinquish their share of the plunder, to satisfy a romantic singularity
of opinion, which excited ridicule rather than imitation.

The military, a pest in every country, were here also all noble, and
leagued with a hundred thousand privileged persons, of different
descriptions, to support their prerogative of receiving a revenue, which
was a dead weight on agriculture; whilst they were not obliged, in a
direct way, to advance any thing towards defraying the public

The gabelle, the corvée, the obligation to supply horses to transport
the troops from one part of the kingdom to another, even when most
necessary at the farm; clogs on husbandry, equally unjust and vexatious;
were riveted only on the ankles of labour. Activity then being
continually damped by such various restrictions, instead of being braced
by encouragement, an invincible impediment was thrown in the way of
agricultural improvements; for each individual, insulated by oppression,
lived, strictly speaking, from hand to mouth; not caring to store up
comforts, at the expence of extraordinary toil, when the enjoyment
depended on so many casualties. Yet, never beginning to be sensible of
the effect, the people were not, probably, aware of the cause; and only
exclaimed against new impositions, because they did not think
sufficiently deep to detect the old.

Beside which, France maintained two hundred thousand priests, united in
the same spirit of licentiousness; who indulged themselves in all the
depraved pleasures of cloaked immorality, at the same time they embruted
the people by sanctifying the most diabolical prejudices; to whose
empire every consideration of justice and political improvement was

Added to evils of this magnitude, there were the canker-worms that
lurked behind monastic walls. For sixty thousand persons, who by
renouncing the world cut the thread of nature, served as a prop to the
priesthood that enjoyed more than a fourth of the produce of all France;
independent of the estates it possessed, which were immense. And this
body of men, the leeches of the kingdom, the idols of the ignorant, and
the palladium of tyranny, contributed not a farthing to the support of
the hydra, whom they were anxious to protect, as a guard to themselves.
Ostentatiously boasting of their charity, whilst revelling on the spoil
of fraud, by a sacrilege the most nefarious, their whole lives were a
mockery of the doctrines, which they taught, and pretended to reverence.
Beside these, and other vexations, almost innumerable, one entangled in
another; each petty monopoly contributed to strengthen the massy fabric
of despotism, which reared it’s head in defiance of time and reason.
Much, indeed, depended on the caprice of the individuals of the
privileged orders, whom the court could actuate at will, giving them
occasionally a sop to silence any peevish growl.

There were also the farmers general, with their army of fifty thousand
collectors, who, by their manner of levying and amassing the revenue,
gave an additional gripe to an oppression, the most wringing that could
be invented, because it’s very principles led to the exercise of the
vilest peculation; and impunity was secured by a coalition of robbers,
that multitude of men in office, whose families and flatterers all
lived, and fattened on the spoil of their continual war with justice.
And, whilst the interest of the people was continually sacrificed by the
parliaments, the inferiour courts of law were still more venal, because
composed of those litigious practitioners, who thicken like spawn on
putrid bodies, when a state is become corrupt.

Such were the grievances!—Such the impositions, ‘that, taken together,
levied a tax on the kingdom,’ says Rabaud, ‘which the imagination is
afraid to calculate.’ This body of men we may consider as constituting
France, till the great bulk of the people, who were slaves and dwarfs,
bursting their shackles and rising in stature, suddenly appeared with
the dignity and pretentions of human beings: Yes; With the same
feelings; or perhaps stronger, because more natural; and claiming equal
rights with those nobles, who, like the giants of old, were only great
by the courtesy of the imagination. Who is so callous to the interest of
humanity as to say it was not a noble regeneration? Who is so benumbed
by selfish fears, as not to feel a glow of warmth, at seeing the
inhabitants of a vast empire exalted from the lowest state of beastly
degradation to a summit, where, contemplating the dawn of freedom, they
may breathe the invigorating air of independence; which will give them a
new constitution of mind? Who is so much under the influence of
prejudice, as to insist, that frenchmen are a distinct race, formed by
nature, or by habit, to be slaves; and incapable of ever attaining those
noble sentiments, which characterize a free people? When the dawn of
them appeared conspicuously at the elections for the states-general,
which were the preparatory struggles to make a change of opinion produce
an essential alteration in government.

Six millions of men were now in motion to choose the deputies, and
prepare their instructions; and in these assemblies the commons
commenced their political career; discussing, on new ground, subjects
that quickly became the only interesting topics throughout the kingdom.

In some few places, the three orders meeting together seemed to decide
the important question respecting the equality of the representatives
but, in general, the first two chambered themselves to guard tenaciously
their trembling prerogatives; and the third, with a cautious jealousy,
to demand the redress of grievances, which they could scarcely expect
the others to denominate by so harsh a name.

Great decorum reigned in the chamber of the nobility, though split into
various ranks; the lower of which had ill brooked, for a long time, the
overbearing insolence of those princes and peers, who haughtily
contested every step of honour. Still all agreed, to resign their
pecuniary privileges, and joined in vague terms, with the public voice,
to demand a constitution.

The same divisions produced more visible effects amongst the clergy: for
considerable tumults were the consequence of the struggle of the
parish-priests, the commons of this order, to have their due weight in
the scale; and their success seemed a sure prognostic of the turn things
were going to take in the nation. In fact, every diocess was become the
centre of a petty despotism, more galling than the great, because at
each man’s elbow; and the parish-priests, who were not in the high road
to preferment, most oppressed, led the van in the new contest for
equality; whilst disrespect for the mitre paved the way to a contempt
for the crown.

Indivisible as had hitherto been the clerical body, the indecent pride
of the dignitaries of the church, at this juncture, produced the schism,
which induced the majority of the clergy to side with the people; whilst
only a small minority of the nobility deserted the common cause of the
party. The parish-priests, in fact, appeared, from the time of their
election, a corps in reserve for the third-estate; where they sought for
the consequence they were denied in their own chamber, finding
themselves more nearly allied by interest, as well as inclination, to
this order than to the rich pastors, who, separating the sheep from the
goats, bade them stand aloof, as possessing less riches—the holiness of
that body, as of all others. The electing of so many of the inferiour
clergy, in spite of the menaces and intrigues of their numerous
superiours, was a striking proof, that the power of the church was in
the wane; and that the people were beginning to feel their own strength.
The disturbances at this time seemed the rumbling of the approaching
tempest; and orators, formed in these provincial assemblies, to figure
afterwards in national, were encouraged by applause to persevere.

Having the same mark in view, an uniformity of sentiment breathed
throughout the instructions of the third-estate; principally levelled at
the privileges of the two other orders: for on these abuses the most
popular publications had hinged, rivetting conviction in the minds of
the suffering people. A celebrated pamphlet, written by the abbé Sieyes,
went through sixty editions; and the duke of Orleans, piqued at the
royal family, took great pains to spread abroad opinions, which were far
from being congenial with his own; thus, with purblind ambition,
labouring to overturn a court, the ruins of which have rebounded on his
own head.

But the temper of the nation, sore with suffering, and warmed by these
discussions, so ran a-head of their judgment, as to lead the electors,
with hasty zeal, to instruct their representatives, to demand the
immediate suppression of a host of abuses, without guarding against the
consequences.—Such, unfortunately, is always the conduct pursued by
exasperated passions; for, during the rage to correct abuses, one is,
too frequently, only exchanged for another. So difficult is it to
impress the salutary lessons of experience on irritated minds!—And so
apt are men, in the moment of action, to fly from one extreme to the
other, without considering, that the strongest conviction of reason
cannot quickly change a habit of body; much less the manners that have
been gradually produced by certain modes of thinking and acting.

With one voice, however, the whole nation called for a constitution, to
establish equal rights, as the foundation of freedom; and to guard
against the depredations of favourites, whether they attacked person or
property. So that the liberty of the press, and the abolition of
_lettres de cachet_, were, in general, the articles that followed the
positive injunction of confining the right of taxation to the
representative body of the nation. The institution of juries was
recommended, and the deputies were requested to take into consideration,
whether the number of capital punishments could not be lessened, or
totally abolished; remarks were made on the evil tendency of lotteries,
and on the vexatious impediments thrown in the way of trade, by barriers
and monopolies. In short, against the tyranny and injustice of the
court, the nobility, and the clergy, all remonstrated; unmasking one
species of oppression, and dilating on another; yet, among these
numerous animadversions, prayers and praises alone were addressed to the
king; and nothing like a glance at republicanism rendered their
sincerity doubtful.

To divert the gathering storm from breaking over their heads, the cabal
determined to rest all their hopes on the aid of the foreign troops;
which they were collecting from different parts of the kingdom, not
caring to trust to the french soldiery, who were assuming the character
of citizens. Mean while, with the usual chicanery of courtiers, they
continued to amuse the deputies, till they could crush them at once; and
effectually blast the hopes of the people. The human heart is naturally
good, though so often the dupe of passion.—For though it’s feelings be
sophisticated, or stifled; though the head contrives the blackest
machinations; even in the silence of solitude, who will whisper to
himself that he is a villain? Will he not rather try, like Milton’s
devil, to find out a damned plea of necessity, to cover his
guilt?—paying homage, in spite of himself, to the eternal justice he
violates under the pretext of self-preservation. But, it is not alone
the virtues of man, those changing hues, of which the colour is
undecided, that proclaim his native dignity. No; his vices have the same
stamp of the divinity: and it is necessary to pervert the understanding,
before the heart can be led astray. Men, likewise, indolently adopt the
habits of thinking of their day, without weighing them. Thus these very
courtiers, who could coolly contemplate the massacre, which must be the
consequence of assembling the foreign troops, because it was a
continuance of the established course of things, have since started,
probably with real horrour, from the contemplation of the butcheries,
which their very tenacity produced. Such is the deceitfulness of the
human heart, and so necessary is it to render the head clear to make the
principles of action pure.

The deputies, however, who were mostly collected from remote parts of
the country, had become in their villages the hale sons of independence.
And, though the french mania, of adoring their monarch, extended to
every part of the kingdom, it only gave hilarity to the cheering glass
at the homely tables of which they were masters; or activity to the
dance, that was a real burst of animal spirits. Very different from the
lascivious provocations to vice, exhibited at the opera, which, by
destroying the social affections that attach men to each other, stifle
all public spirit; for what is patriotism but the expansion of domestic
sympathy, rendered permanent by principle? Besides, the writings that
had awakened the spirit of these men had a little inebriated their
brain. Such is, for the most part, the baneful effect of eloquence,
that, persuading instead of convincing, the glory of the enthusiasm it
inspires is sullied by that false magnanimity, which vanity and
ignorance continually mistake for real elevation of soul; though, like
the scorching rays of the sun after rain, it dries into sterility the
heart, whose emotions are too quickly exhaled.

The courtiers, despising their rusticity, and still considering the
people as ciphers, continued to discharge the usual routine of office,
by adjusting the ceremonials of reception; all which tended to insult
the third-estate, and show, that the deputies of the privileged orders
were to be still treated as if they were a distinct class of beings. The
insolence of such proceedings could not fail to provoke the honest
indignation, and pique the vanity of those, who had been discussing on a
broad scale the rights of man; whilst a little disconcerted by the
ceremony that constrained them, they were obliged, every moment, to
recollect, that they were the equals of these courtiers; and blushed
even to own to themselves, that they could for an instant have been awed
by such childish pomp. Nor were they more astonished at the pageantry of
Versailles, than disgusted with the haughtiness of a court, whose
magnificence was a proof how much they had impoverished the people, who
now demanded emancipation. Full, therefore, of the new notions of
independence, which made them spurn at every idea of a distinction of
men, they took advantage of the majority accorded them by the council,
and began to rally their forces. Perceiving also, as they acted
decidedly, that they possessed the confidence of the people, who,
forgetting _vive le roi_, exclaimed only vive le tiers-etat!—they every
day became more firm.

The courtiers immediately fixed on a house of rendezvous, where they
were regularly to concert the best measures to crush the rising power of
the commons; and these, not without a portion of the mistrust, which
characterizes the nation, assembled in different places, till a mutual
interest united them in that chosen by the deputies from Brittany. The
disrespect, likewise, which the orders relative to their dress
announced, prepared them for the contempt they were destined to receive,
when separated like the indian casts, amongst whom a man fears to be
polluted by the touch of an inferiour: for true to the inveterate
prejudice in favour of precedents[8], the nobility were gaudily
caparisoned for the show, whilst the commons were stupidly commanded to
wear the black mantle, that distinguishes the lawyers. But, the tide of
opinion once turned, every thing contributes to accelerate it’s course.

Before the meeting of the states-general, the question that was first to
agitate the various interests, whether they were to vote by orders or
poll, had been so thoroughly discussed, that it made, in many of the
instructions, one of the foremost articles. For it was evident to the
nation, were the different orders allowed to assemble in their separate
chambers, each invested with the old privilege of putting a negative on
the decisions of the other two, that they should be gulled with promises
of reform, whilst the coffers of the court were replenished with a show
of legality. It was, in fact, prudent in the court party to maintain
this ground, because it appeared to be the only way to render abortive
all the plans of reformation that struck at their authority. This then
was the prefatory business, by which they were to measure their
strength; and, would to God! the vigour manifested on this occasion had
always been displayed by the representatives of those misled people.

We have seen the plots of this weak, headstrong cabinet every where
defeated, and traced their bloody footsteps; but we shall find them
still true to their scent, having recourse again to violence, when fraud
was of no avail.

To furnish a pretext to introduce adroitly a considerable military
force, at the time of the assembling of the states-general, two or three
riots had been excited at Paris, in which many of the thoughtless
populace were killed. One in particular, though still involved in the
shades of mystery, occasioned great confusion and considerable
slaughter, just at the eve of their meeting.

A respectable manufacturer in the suburbs of Paris, with the fairest
character, employed a number of poor, whom he paid liberally; yet
against this man some idle stories were industriously circulated, well
contrived to mislead and exasperate the people, because they touched
their vanity, and their most pressing want, the want of bread. The
scarcity, real or factitious, of this article, has always been taken
advantage of by those who wished to excite tumults in Paris; and at this
juncture the duped parisians rose, at the instigation of the court
agents, to destroy themselves. The riot was permitted to get a-head
before any serious attempts to quell it were taken, which rendered the
interference of a little army, the point aimed at, necessary; and
established an opinion, that the turbulent mob required to be awed by
the presence of troops, whilst the states-general deliberated.

During this effervescence, or, at least, when it was subsiding, the
states-general was opened, the 5th of may, 1789, by a speech from the
throne, to which courtiers, in the usual phraseology, would naturally
tack the epithet—_gracious_. The king commenced with a heartless
declaration of his satisfaction at seeing himself surrounded by the
representatives of the people; and then enumerating the heavy debts of
the nation, a great part of which had been accumulated during his reign,
he added one of those idle falsehoods, which swelled his declamation
without throwing dust into any one’s eyes, _that it was in an honourable
cause_; when it was notorious, that the cause ought to have been
reckoned most dishonourable, if power had not hitherto been the true
philosopher’s stone, that transmuted the basest actions into sterling
honour. He afterwards alluded to the spirit of innovation, that had
taken possession of the minds of the people, and the general discontent
that agitated the nation: but, in the true cant of courts, dictating
whilst complimenting, he assured them, that he depended on their wisdom
and moderation; concluding with the words of course, _the humble servant
of kings_, a declaration of his attachment to the public welfare.

The disregarded speech of the keeper of the seals was, like the reply
usually made to the king’s, in the house of commons in England, merely
an echo of his majesty’s, recommending moderation in the measures
adopted to reform the abuses of government, with the necessary quantum
of panegyric on the goodness of the king.

Attention and applause, however, awaited Necker, though followed by
weariness and disgust. He spoke for three hours, introducing, with his
customary pomp of words, a number of trivial observations; trying thus
to escape, in a mist of rhetorical flourishes, from the subject he
feared to bring forward, because he was equally apprehensive of
offending the court, and desirous of maintaining his reputation with the
people. Not a word was uttered relative to the sole right of the
states-general to levy taxes, the first demand of the nation. And men
who for some time had been talking of nothing but liberty and reform,
were astonished, and dissatisfied, that he avoided all mention of a new
constitution. Leaning to the side of the privileged orders, he asserted,
that the mode of deliberating and voting in separate assemblies was the
pillar of the nation—yet, cautiously adding a salvo, to have a pretext
to use another language should it be necessary, he remarked, that
_sometimes_ it was better to poll. This ill-timed management naturally
displeased both parties, as is always the case, when men of weak,
compound characters, who have not the courage to act right, want
effrontery to brave the censure, that would follow an open avowal of
their undecided opinions; or rather, their determination to keep well
with the strongest. Dwelling on the arrangement of the finances, he
assured them, that a public bankruptcy might easily be avoided; and that
even the _deficit_, which had been exaggerated by France, and Europe,
was only fifty-six millions; and would appear of less consequence, when
they recollected, that, since _his_ administration, the revenue was
augmented twenty-five millions. It is true, that, on entering into
details, the greater part of this sum was found to be still in
perspective; and at the same time was to be raised by taxes, which all
good citizens hoped would soon disappear. In short, the french, after
applauding with rapture this brilliant bird’s-eye view, observed, with
the shrug of _sang froid_, ‘that these hypothetical resources were
merely faith and hope, on condition that they should be charitable.’
With respect to the abolishing of privileges, that warred with humanity,
he made use of some of the same species of jesuitical arguments, which
are employed by the opposers of the abolition of the infamous traffic
for slaves; that, as these privileges were a kind of property, it was
necessary to find out a compensation, an indemnity, before they could be
done away—with justice.

Thus has the spirit of justice—it is difficult to keep down indignation
when attacking such sophisms—been always outraged by the mock respect of
selfishness; for, without parrying off tergiversation, it is sufficient
to prove, that certain laws are not just, because no government had a
right to make them; and, though they may have received what is termed a
legal sanction during the times of ignorance, “the duty lies in the
breach and not in the observance.” Besides, these pitiful arguments are
an insult to the common sense, and to the distress of a people.—Where,
indeed, could the french, or english, find a fund to indemnify the
privileged orders or the planters? The abuses then, must continue to the
end of time—out of sheer respect to the sacredness of public faith!

Thus spoke the king and Necker; but these addresses, instead of
conciliating, only rendered both parties more obstinate; so that the
smothering dispute respecting the manner of voting broke out
immediately, when they met to constitute themselves a legal assembly.
For the next day, even the deputies of the third-estate repaired to the
common hall, and agreed, that the three orders should proceed to verify
their powers together; clearly perceiving, that, were the orders once
allowed to do business separately, an union would be impracticable, and
all their efforts to obtain a constitution null, should they attempt to
make equality of rights the basis. The nobility and clergy not joining
the commons, they resolved to renew their meeting the following morning;
only as an aggregate of individuals, who had no power to act, not having
yet a political character. This very contest seemed to call upon them to
support their claim to equality, because it emphatically warned them,
that all their operations would be rendered perfectly nugatory, should
they permit the orders to be a check on each other. The most sensible
men of the commons being of opinion, that all expectations of a
permanent reform were chimerical, unless the whole representation was
formed into an indivisible assembly, encouraged the more undecided to
persevere; though the nobles signified to them, the 13th, that they had
ascertained the legality of their election.

The clergy, however, divided in their interest, proceeded with more
caution; and the most discerning of them, perceiving that their order
was becoming obnoxious to the people, who now deified the third-estate,
proposed a committee of conciliation, with a view, as they pretended, to
promote a good understanding between all parties. The king also, in his
turn, when the nobles rejected the mediation of the clergy, offered a
plan of accommodation; a mighty nothing, that the court brought
forth.—But this tub, thrown out to the whale, did not divert the
attention of either party from the main object; though the nobles, many
of whom were in the secret of the approach of the army, should things be
carried to extremes, pretended to acquiesce; yet guarding carefully at
the same time all their ancient pretentions: and this insincerity drew
on them the universal odium they merited, mixed with the contempt which
ineffectual struggles always produce. Conciliatory measures, in fact,
were only a solemn farce at this time; though the clergy, rather
insidiously, to ingratiate themselves with the people, lamenting the
high price of bread, requested, that deputies from the three orders
should meet to deliberate how this grievance might be lessened. The
deputies of the commons, with becoming dignity, tempered with prudence,
adhered to their point; and dexterously parrying off the artful stroke
levelled at their popularity, they represented to the clergy, that this
was another powerful motive, to make them entreat all parties to rally
round the same point, to remedy evils, which excited equal sympathy in
their bosoms.

The inactivity occasioned by these disputes could not fail to inflame
the public mind, especially as fresh publications were daily affording
it fuel. For the liberty of the press was now tacitly established, and
the freest sentiments uttered, with the heat of superficial knowledge,
in defiance of court manifestoes. Still, as a proof that the court
merely endured, for a season, what they could not prevent, the journal
of the proceedings of the states-general was stopped, by an express
order; to evade which it was continued in the form of letters from
Mirabeau to his constituents.

This prohibition was probably dictated by a desire of keeping the
provinces quiet in the stupor of ignorance, in which they had so long
dozed; but it was injudicious to awaken attention by rigorous steps,
that, quickly abandoned, had the very contrary effect, exciting, instead
of intimidating, the spirit of opposition. In reality, the eyes of all
France were at present directed towards the commons. The hopes of the
nation rested on their magnanimity; and the future happiness of millions
depended upon their perseverance. It was in this state of things, that
they afforded a convincing proof to the whole world, and to posterity,
that vigour and precision alone are requisite in the representatives of
a people, to give dignity to their proceedings, and to secure them
against the machinations of all the combined powers of despotism.

Almost five weeks having elapsed, and the patience of the nation being
quite exhausted by the delay, the commons resolved to present an address
to the king, written by Mirabeau, explanatory of their motives, and then
to proceed to business. But, previously, they sent a deputation to the
other orders, for the last time, to invite them once more to repair to
the common hall, that their powers might be verified together; adding,
that in default of their appearance, they should constitute themselves,
and act accordingly. This determination was a deadly blow to the power
of the two other chambers, and struck directly at the root of all

The nobles, whose inveterate pride and ignorance had prevented them from
joining the third-estate at the first assembling of the deputies, now
saw with dismay, that their power and influence, like the musty rolls of
their pedigree, were mouldering into common dust. The clergy, however,
more adroit, or rather a few of the parochial priests, by degrees,
attended the summons, and repaired to the hall. There can be little
doubt, but that the commons, at the first meeting, and for a long time
after, would gladly have coalesced with the nobles; by which means the
latter would have retained many of their privileges, and preserved a
weight in the nation, necessary to hinder that preponderance, on the
side of the people, which it was easy to foresee would be productive of
many excesses. This conclusion continual experience warranted; because
it generally happens, that men, who are not directed by practical
knowledge, in whatever business they engage, run precipitately from one
extreme to the other. And certainly, from the state of servility in
which the french nation was sunk, retaliation was to be expected; or, at
least, dreaded, from unbridled liberty. Like boys dismissed from school,
they might wish to ascertain their freedom by acts of mischief; and by
showing a total disregard of the arbitrary commands, that kept down
their spirits without exercising their understandings. However, the
stupid arrogance of the nobles stript them, before the time reason would
have determined, of those idle distinctions of opinion, the symbols of
barbarism, which were not completely worn out of esteem.

The minister, still afraid to act independent of the court, blamed this
spirited conduct of the commons, as an act of temerity, which the king
ought not to sanction. Yet they, firm and resolute, though fearing that
the court, like a dying savage, mortally wounded by his enemy, might,
during the agonies of death, aim a desperate stroke at them, took the
most prudent precautions, to avoid exasperating the falling foe. But
these mild resolutions having been mistaken by the infatuated nobles,
who confounded the true fortitude of moderation with cowardice, the die
was cast, and the deputies declared themselves a _NATIONAL ASSEMBLY_.

Enthusiasm fired every heart, and extended itself like thought from one
end of the kingdom to the other. The very novelty of this measure was
sufficient to animate a people less volatile than the french; and,
perhaps, it is impossible to form a just conception of the transports
which this decision excited in every corner of the empire. Europe also
heard with astonishment what resounding through France excited the most
lively emotions; and posterity must read with wonder the recital of the
follies and atrocities committed by the court and nobles at that
important crisis.

The Social Contract of Rousseau, and his admirable work on the origin of
the inequalities amongst mankind, had been in the hands of all France,
and admired by many, who could not enter into the depth of the
reasoning. In short, they were learned by heart, by those whose heads
could not comprehend the chain of argument, though they were
sufficiently clear to seize the prominent ideas, and act up to their
conviction. Perhaps, the great advantage of eloquence is, that,
impressing the results of thinking on minds alive only to emotion, it
gives wings to the slow foot of reason, and fire to the cold labours of
investigation. Yet it is observable, that, in proportion as the
understanding is cultivated, the mind grows attached to the exercise of
investigation, and the combination of abstract ideas. The nobles of
France had also read these writings for amusement; but they left not on
their minds traces of conviction sufficiently strong to overcome those
prejudices self-interest rendered so dear, that they easily persuaded
themselves of their reasonableness. The nobility and clergy, with all
their dependents under the influence of the same sentiments, formed a
considerable proportion of the nation, on the rest of which they looked
down with contempt, considering them as merely the grass of the land,
necessary to clothe nature; yet only fit to be trodden under foot. But
these despised people were beginning to feel their real consequence, and
repeated with emphasis the happy comparison of the abbé Seiyes, ‘that
the nobility are like vegetable tumours, which cannot exist without the
sap of the plants they exhaust.’ Nevertheless, in treating with the
nobles, the angles of pride, which time alone could have smoothed
silently away, were, perhaps, too rudely knocked off, for the folly of
distinctions was rapidly wearing itself out, and would probably have
melted gradually before the rational opinions, that were continually
gaining ground, fructifying the soil as they dissolved; instead of which
it was drifted by a hurricane, to spread destruction around as it fell.

Many of the officers, who had served in America during the late war, had
beheld the inhabitants of a whole empire living in a state of perfect
equality; and returned, charmed with their simplicity and integrity, the
concomitants of a just government, erected on the solid foundation of
equal liberty, to scan the rectitude, or policy of a different system.
Convinced of their inutility as nobles, these, when fired with the love
of freedom, seconded the views of the commons with heart and voice. But
the sycophants of the court, and the greater part of the nobility, who
were grossly ignorant of every thing that was not comprised in the art
of living in a continual round of pleasure, insensible of the precipice
on which they were standing, would not, at first, recede a single step
to save themselves; and this obstinacy was the chief cause that led to
the entire new organization of the constitution, framed by the national
assembly. The french in reality were arrived, through the vices of their
government, at that degree of false refinement, which makes every man,
in his own eyes, the centre of the world; and when this gross
selfishness, this complete depravity, prevails in a nation, an absolute
change must take place; because the members of it have lost the cement
of humanity, which kept them together. All other vices are, properly
speaking, superfluous strength, powers running to waste; but this morbid
spot shows, that there is death in the heart. Whatever, indeed, may be
the wisdom or folly of a mixed government of king, lords, and commons,
is of no consequence in the present history; because it appears
sufficiently obvious, that the aristocracy of France destroyed itself,
through the ignorant arrogance of it’s members; who, bewildered in a
thick fog of prejudices, could discern neither the true dignity of man,
nor the spirit of the times.

It also deserves to be noted, that the regeneration of the french
government, at this crisis, depended on the fortitude of the national
assembly at the outset of the contest for, if the court party had
prevailed, the commons would have rested in their usual state of
insignificancy, and their whole proceedings proved only a solemn farce.
They would have wrapped themselves up in their black mantles, like the
herd of undertaker’s men at a funeral, merely to follow with servile
steps the idle cavalcade to it’s resting place; and the people would
only have seen their ancient tyranny revive, tricked out in new

                              CHAPTER II.

The third-estate, having constituted themselves a national assembly, now
proceeded to business, with calm prudence, taking into consideration the
urgent necessities of the state. Closely also attending to their
instructions, they first pronounced, that all taxes not enacted by the
consent of the representatives of the people were illegal; and
afterwards gave a temporary sanction to the present levies, to avoid
dissolving one government before they had framed another. They then
turned their attention to the object next in importance, and declared,
that, as soon as, in concert with his majesty, they should be able to
fix the principles of national regeneration, they would employ
themselves to examine and liquidate the national debt; mean time the
creditors of the state were declared to be under the safe-guard of the
honour of the french nation. These decrees concluded with a resolve,
that the assembly, now become active, should dedicate it’s first moments
to inquire into the cause of the scarcity that afflicted the kingdom;
and to search for a remedy the most prompt and effectual.

The nobles, bishops, and, in fact, the whole court, now seriously began
to rally all their forces; convinced that it was become necessary, to
oppose their united strength against the commons, to prevent their
carrying every thing before them.

The chamber of the clergy had been engaged for several days, in
discussing the question, where they should verify their powers. A number
of them, during this discussion, appear to have advanced, feeling their
way; for when they now came to divide, the majority decided to join the
national assembly.

Alarmed by the prospect of this junction, one of the members of the
chamber, which almost arrogated to itself the prerogative of
legislation, that of the nobles, proposed an address to the king,
beseeching him to dissolve the states-general; whilst the cause of the
people was there vigorously supported by a minority, feeble as to
numbers, but powerful in argument, animated by the popularity, which
their bold declaration could not fail to produce during the reign of

This was a moment pregnant with great events. The court still trusted to
subterfuge, and, holding the representatives of the people in
superlative contempt, affected in some degree to yield to the prayer of
the nation; though signifying, that the king was the only fountain of
justice, and that he would grant every thing which his faithful subjects
could reasonably demand. A trick as palpable as the design was flagrant;
for at the instant they were pretending to see some reason in their
requisitions, they were guarding against their obtaining the only thing
that could secure their rights, an equal representation; holding for
this purpose mischievous councils, composed of characters most obnoxious
in the eyes of the people. In these meetings it was resolved, to amuse
the commons, until the army could be assembled; and then, in case of
obstinacy, they would draw on themselves the consequence. Accordingly
the 20th of june, the day on which the majority of the clergy was to
join the commons, the herald proclaimed a _séance royale_; and a
detachment of guards surrounded the hall of the national assembly, to
take care (such was the shallow pretext) that it should be properly
prepared for the reception of the king. The deputies came to the door at
the usual hour; but only the president (Baillie) and the secretaries
were permitted to enter to take away their papers; and they saw, that
the benches were already removed, and that all the entrances were
guarded by a great number of soldiers.

Courage is seldom relaxed by persecution; and the firm and spirited
proceedings of the assembly on this day, gave the decided blow to the
stratagems of the court. During the first tumult of surprise, it is
true, some of the deputies talked of going immediately to Marly, to
invite the king to come among them, and in a truly paternal manner to
unite his power with their’s to promote the public good; and thus by an
energetic appeal to his heart and understanding, to convince him that
they spoke the language of truth and reason. But others, more
experienced in ministerial wiles, calmly advised to adjourn the sittings
to the neighbouring tennis-court. For they knew, that the hearts of
courtiers are fortified with icy prejudices; and that, though a moment
of sympathy, a flow of life-blood, may thaw them at the instant, it is
only to render them more hard, when the glow of genial heat is passed.

Assembled at the tennis-court, they encouraged each other; and one mind
actuating the whole body, in the presence of an applauding crowd, they
joined hands solemnly, and took God to witness, that they would not
separate, till a constitution should be completed. The benedictions that
dropped from every tongue, and sparkled in tears of joy from every eye,
giving fresh vigour to the heroism which excited them, produced an
overflow of sensibility that kindled into a blaze of patriotism every
social feeling. The dungeons of despotism and the bayonets sharpened for
massacre, were then equally disregarded even by the most fearful; till,
in one of those instants of disinterested forgetfulness of private
pursuits, all devoted themselves to the promotion of public happiness,
promising to resist, to the last extremity, all the efforts of such an
inveterate tyranny. The absent deputies were sent for; and one, who
happened to be sick, had himself carried to unite his feeble voice with
the general cry. The very soldiers also, disobeying their officers, came
to be willing centinels at the entrance of the sanctuary of liberty,
eagerly imbibing the sentiments, which they afterwards spread through
their garrisons.

This indignity offered to the third-estate could not fail to excite new
sensations of disgust at Paris; and give a fresh spring to the animation
of the people at large. Yet, this spirited behaviour of the commons
excited only supercilious contempt at court. For the gay circles there
were so far sunk in fastidious delicacy, and squeamish respect for
polished manners, that they could not even discover magnanimity in the
conduit of a peasant, or a shopkeeper; much less grandeur in an assembly
regardless of ceremonials. And not to be deficient themselves in these
respects, the _séance royale_ was put off another day, in order that the
galleries, which had been erected for the accommodation of spectators by
the national assembly, might be removed.

This was another injudicious step on the part of the cabinet; because it
afforded time for the clergy to unite with the commons, who were in
search of a place sufficiently capacious to contain such a body. At
length, collected in a church, the clergy, with several bishops at their
head, and two nobles of Dauphine, joined them; and the place, seeming to
reflect a sanctity on their union, tended to consolidate, under a nobler
concave, the resolution taken in the tennis-court.

The following day, the _séance royale_ really took place, with all the
exteriour splendour usually exhibited at these shows; which hitherto
could scarcely be termed empty, because they produced the desired
effect. But the public, having their attention turned to other things,
now viewed with contempt, what had formerly inspired almost idolatrous
respect. The deputies of the third-estate were again ordered to enter by
a separate door, and even left a considerable time standing exposed to a
heavy shower. The people, who were totally excluded, formed themselves
into groups, making indignant comments on the repeated affronts offered
to their representatives, whole minds likewise recoiled at the idle
attempt to impress them with an opinion of their insignificancy; when
the very pains taken to do it proclaimed their growing importance in the

The object of the king’s speech, on this occasion, was to annul the
whole proceedings of the national assembly, and to hold out certain
benefits, as lures to submission, which the king meant to grant to the
people; as if, observes Mirabeau, ‘the rights of the people, were the
favours of the king.’ A declaration of his sovereign will and pleasure
was then read, in which, making an insidious attempt to withdraw from
the assembly the confidence of the public, he declared, that, is they
abandoned him, he would provide for the happiness of his people, without
their assistance, knowing the purport of the instructions given to the
deputies. The first article of the king’s benevolent _intentions_, was
to grant to the states-general the power of furnishing supplies;
carefully specifying, however, that it was to consist of the three
orders, who were to vote according to the ancient mode. Some other
salutary plans of reform were also brought forward; but always with
artful modifications, that would enable the old abuses to keep a sure
footing. For example, the taxes were to be levied equally; yet a
cautious respect for property sanctioned almost every other feudal
privilege; and the absolute abolition of _lettres de cachet_,[9] though
his majesty wished to secure personal freedom, was hinted at as
incompatible with public safety, and the preservation of the honour of
private families. The liberty of the press was allowed to be necessary;
but the states-general were requested to point out a mode of rendering
it compatible with the respect due to religion, to morality, and to the
honour of the citizens. The tenour of all the rest of the articles was
the same; commencing with a plan of reform, and concluding with the
_ifs_ and _buts_, that were to render it void.—Then, winding round to
the grand object of the meeting, the king terminated his discourse, with
saying, forgetful that this was not the period to imagine himself
reigning at Constantinople, ‘I _command_ you to separate immediately,
and to attend, each of you, to-morrow, at the chamber appropriated for
your order, there to resume your sittings; and I have commanded, in
consequence, the grand master of the ceremonies to order the halls to be

The majority of the nobles, and the minority of the clergy, obeyed this
peremptory order, and obsequiously followed the king, like the trained
horses of his court. The members of the national assembly, however,
remained sitting, preserving a silence, more menacing and terrible, than
the _I will_, or _I command_, of the cabinet; when the grand master of
the ceremonies entered, and addressing himself to the president,
reminded him, in the king’s name, of the order given to separate
immediately. The president answered, ‘that the assembly was not
constituted to receive orders from any person;’ but Mirabeau, who
thought this reply too tame, started up, and addressing the messenger,
said: ‘yes; we have heard the intentions which the king has been induced
to utter; and you cannot be his organ in this assembly.—You, who have
neither seat, nor right to speak, ought not to remind us of his
discourse. However, to avoid all equivocation or delay, I declare to
you, that if you are charged to make us go from hence, you should demand
orders to employ force; for only the bayonet can oblige us to quit our
places.’ It is difficult to conceive the ardour inspired by this prompt
eloquence. It’s fire flew from breast to breast, whilst a whisper ran
round, that what Mirabeau had just uttered, gave a finishing stroke to
the revolution.

A warm debate ensued; and the assembly declaring their adherence to
their former decrees, the abbé Sieyes said, in his dry, cogent manner:
‘gentlemen, you are to day what you were yesterday.’ A motion was then
made, by Mirabeau, who suggested, as a prudent precaution against the
measures of a desperate cabal, that the person of each deputy should be
pronounced inviolable; and, after a slight discussion, it was carried

From this moment we may consider the nation and court at open war. The
court had at their command the whole military force of the empire,
amounting, at least, to 200,000 men. The people, on the contrary, had
only their bare arms, invigorated, it is true, by the new-born love of
freedom, to oppose to the various weapons of tyranny. But the army,
partaking of the common misery, were not deaf to the complaints or
arguments of their fellow citizens: and they were particularly led to
consider them with complacency, because a just apprehension, or prudent
foresight, had induced many of the popular assemblies, to insert a
clause in their instructions, recommending, that the pay of the soldiers
should be augmented. Thus recognized as fellow citizens, this class of
men, whom it had been the policy of the despots of Europe to keep at a
distance from the other inhabitants, making them a distinct class, to
oppress and corrupt the rest, began to feel an interest in the common
cause. But the court, who either could not, or would not, combine these
important facts, rashly precipitated themselves into the very quicksand,
into which they were vainly endeavouring to drive the commons.

As Necker had not attended in his place, at the _séance royale_, it gave
colour to the rumour, which had for some time prevailed, that he
purposed to retire from the ministry: so that, when the king returned,
he was followed by an immense crowd, who could not conceal their
discontent. Under the influence also of the same fear, a number of the
deputies hastened to Necker, to entreat him not to resign. And the
consternation increasing, the queen, who has ever been the first to
desert her own plans, when there appeared a shadow of personal danger,
sent for him; and, the better to cover the project of the cabinet,
prevailed on him not to quit his post. The object of the cabinet he
either had not the penetration to discover; or he had not sufficient
magnanimity to resign a place, that gratified equally his pride and his
avarice. This measure tended to tranquillize the minds of the people,
though it was undermining their cause; for trusting to the integrity of
this minister, who promised, ‘to live or die with them,’ they did not
perceive, that he wanted the energy of soul necessary to enable him to
act up to the principles he professed. However, the cause of liberty, as
circumstances have proved, did not depend on the talents of one or two
men.—It was the fiat of the nation; and the machinations of the tyrants
of Europe have not yet been able to overturn it; though false patriots
have led them, in their ardour for reform, to the commission of actions
the most cruel and unjust. Every thing was effected by natural causes;
and we shall find, is we take a cursory view of the progress of
knowledge, that it’s advance towards simple principles is invariably in
a ratio, which must speedily change the tangled system of european

The _séance royale_ produced so little effect, that the assembly, as if
their sittings had never been interrupted, met the next day at the old
hall; and the day after, the minority of the nobles, which consisted of
forty-seven members, came to incorporate themselves with the commons.
All of these, and particularly the duke of Orleans, who led them,
acquired by this popular conduct, the love and confidence of the nation.
How far they merited it, deceiving the public, or themselves, their
future conduct will best explain.

The interesting events, in fact, which almost daily occurred, at the
commencement of the revolution, fired the fancies of men of different
descriptions; till, forgetting every selfish consideration, the rich and
poor saw through the same focus. But, when the former had time to cool,
and felt more forcibly than the latter the inconveniences of anarchy,
they returned with fresh vigour to their old ground; embracing, with
redoubled ardour, the prejudices which passion, not conviction, had
chased from the field, during the heat of action. This was a strong
reinforcement for the staunch aristocrats; because these were mostly
good, but short-sighted people, who really wished, that justice might be
established, as the foundation of the new government, though they
flinched when their present ease was disturbed; and it was necessary to
give more than good wishes.

This minority of nobles must certainly be allowed to have acted more
prudently than their peers; and several of them, the most respectable
men of that class, both in talents and morals, were probably actuated by
half comprehended principles. The great body of the nobles,
nevertheless, and the minority of the clergy, continued to meet in
different chambers, where their idle deliberations marked their decayed
influence. For, shrinking into nothing, their present struggles to
regain their power were as fruitless, as their former efforts had been
presumptuous. Yet the jealousies and contumely of the nobility continued
to agitate the commons; who, animated by a consciousness of the justice
of their cause, and feeling, that they possessed the confidence of the
public, determined to proceed with the objects of their meeting, without
the concurrence of the first order; proving to them, when it was too
late to preserve their factitious distinctions, that their power and
authority were at an end. In vain were they told, that they were acting
contrary to their true interest, and risking the salvation of their
privileges. In vain did one of the most moderate of the deputies[10]
remonstrate with them, on what, most probably, would be the consequence
of their obstinacy. No argument could move them; and, blind to the
danger with which they were threatened, they persisted to attend their
councils, without any determinate rule of action. It is true, the duke
of Luxembourg declared, in a private committee held by the king, the
26th of june, that ‘the division of the orders would controul the
exorbitant claims of the people, and preserve those of the monarch;
united,’ added he, ‘they know no master, divided, they are your
subjects:’ and he concluded, with emphatically saying, that ‘it would
save the independence of the crown, and stamp with nullity the
proceedings of the national assembly.’ These were manly, though not
patriotic sentiments; and if the court had rallied round them, and
defended them to the last extremity, they would at any rate have
prevented their disgrace, by avoiding the crooked path of treachery. But
abandoning all dignity of conduct, they trusted to the art of
manœuvring, which defeated by the people, they were left entirely at
their mercy.

With respect to the improvement of society, since the destruction of the
roman empire, England seems to have led the way, rendering certain
obstinate prejudices almost null, by a gradual change of opinion. This
observation, which facts will support, may be brought forward, to prove,
that just sentiments gain footing only in proportion as the
understanding is enlarged by cultivation, and freedom of thought,
instead of being cramped by the dread of bastilles and inquisitions. In
Italy and France, for example, where the mind dared to exercise itself
only to form the taste, the nobility were, in the strictest sense of the
word, a cast, keeping aloof from the people; whilst in England they
intermingled with the commercial men, whose equal or superiour fortunes
made the nobles overlook their inequality of birth: thus giving the
first blow to the ignorant pride that retarded the formation of just
opinions respecting true dignity of character. This monied interest,
from which political improvement first emanates, was not yet formed in
France; and the ridiculous pride of her nobles, which led them to
believe, that the purity of their families would be sullied, if they
agreed to act in the same sphere with the people, was a prevailing
motive, that prevented their junction with the commons. But the more
licentious part of the clergy, who followed with a truer scent their own
interest, thought it expedient to espouse, in time, the cause of the
power, from whence their influence derived its greatest force; and from
which alone they could hope for support. This schism proved, as it
promised, dangerous to the views of the court.

The desertion of the clergy rendered the mobility outrageous, and
hastened the crisis when the important contest was to be brought to an
issue.—Then it was that the king perceived how contemptible his
undecided conduct had been, and exclaiming, it is said confidently,
‘that he remained _ALONE_ in the midst of the nation, occupied with the
establishment of concord.’ Vain words! and this affectation was
particularly reprehensible, because he had already given orders for the
assembling of the foreign troops: the object of which was to establish
concord with the point of the bayonet.

This total want of character caused him to be flattered by all parties,
and trusted by none. Insignificancy had distinguished his manners in his
own court. Actions without energy, and professions without sincerity,
exhibiting a conduct destitute of steadiness, made the cabinet concert
all their measures regardless of his opinion, leaving to the queen the
task of persuading him to adopt them. The evil did not rest even here;
for the different parties following separate views, the flexibility of
his temper led him to sanction things the most at variance, and most
dangerous to his future honour and safety. For it appears obvious, that
whatever party had prevailed, he could only be considered as an
instrument; which, becoming useless when the object should be achieved,
would be treated with disrespect. Periods of revolution drawing into
action the worst as well as the best of men; and as audacity, in
general, triumphs over modest merit, when the political horizon is
ruffled by tempest; it amounted to a moral certainty, that the line of
conduct pursued by the king would lead to his disgrace and ruin.

Seeing, however, that the people were unanimous in their approbation of
the conduct of their representatives, and watchful to discover the
designs of their enemies; it could not but occur to the cabinet, that
the only way to lull attention to sleep, was to affect to submit to
necessity. Besides, fearing, if they continued to resort to their
different chambers, that their plot would take wind before all the
agents were assembled, a fresh instance of dissimulation evinced, that
their depravity equalled their stupidity. For the king was now prevailed
on to write to the presidents of the nobility, and the minority of the
clergy, requesting them, to represent to those two orders the necessity
of uniting with the third, to proceed to the discussion of his
proposals, made at the _séance royale_.

The clergy immediately acquiesced; but the nobility continued to oppose
a junction so humiliating, till the court invented a pretext of honour
to save the credit of their mock dignity, by declaring, that the life of
the king would be in imminent danger, should the nobles continue to
resist the desire of the nation. Pretending to believe this report, for
the secret of the cabinet was buzzed amongst them, and appearing to wish
to bury all rivalry in royalty, they attended at the common hall, the
27th. Yet even there, the first step they took was to enter a protest,
in order to guard against this concession being made a precedent.

A general joy succeeded the terrour which had been engendered in the
minds of the people by their contumelious perverseness; and the
parisians, cherishing the most sanguine expectations, reckoned, that an
unity of exertions would secure to them a redress of grievances.

It is perhaps unnecessary to dwell, for a moment, on the insensibility
of the court, and the credulity of the people; as they seem the only
clues, that will lead us to a precise discrimination of the causes,
which completely annihilated all confidence in the ministers, who have
succeeded the directors of those infamous measures, that swept away the
whole party; measures which involved thousands of innocent people in the
same ruin, and have produced a clamour against the proceedings of the
nation, that has obscured the glory of her labours. It is painful to
follow, through all their windings, the crimes and follies produced by
want of sagacity, and just principles of action. For instance, the
_séance royale_ was held on the 23d, when the king, not deigning to
advise, commanded the deputies to repair to their different chambers;
and only four days after he implored the nobility and clergy to wave
every consideration, and accede to the wish of the people. Acting in
this contradictory manner, it is clear, that the cabal thought only of
rendering sure the decided blow, which was to level with the dust the
power, that extorted such humiliating concessions.

But the people, easy of belief, and glad to be light-hearted again, no
sooner heard that an union of the orders had taken place, by the desire
of the king, than they hurried from all quarters, with good-humoured
confidence, called for the king and queen, and testified, in their
presence, the grateful joy this acquiescence had inspired. How different
was this frankness of the people, from the close hypocritical conduct of
the cabal!

The courtly, dignified politeness of the queen, with all those
complacent graces which dance round flattered beauty, whose every charm
is drawn forth by the consciousness of pleasing, promised all that a
sanguine fancy had pourtrayed of future happiness and peace. From her
fascinating smiles, indeed, was caught the careless hope, that,
expanding the heart, makes the animal spirits vibrate, in every nerve,
with pleasure:—yet, she smiled but to deceive; or, if she felt some
touches of sympathy, it was only the unison of the moment.

It is certain, that education, and the atmosphere of manners in which a
character is formed, change the natural laws of humanity; otherwise it
would be unaccountable, how the human heart can be so dead to the tender
emotions of benevolence, which most forcibly teach us, that real or
lasting felicity flows only from a love of virtue, and the practice of

The unfortunate queen of France, beside the advantages of birth and
station, possessed a very fine person; and her lovely face, sparkling
with vivacity, hid the want of intelligence. Her complexion was
dazzlingly clear; and, when she was pleased, her manners were
bewitching; for she happily mingled the most insinuating voluptuous
softness and affability, with an air of grandeur, bordering on pride,
that rendered the contrast more striking. Independence also, of whatever
kind, always gives a degree of dignity to the mien; so that monarchs and
nobles, with most ignoble souls, from believing themselves superiour to
others, have actually acquired a look of superiority.

But her opening faculties were poisoned in the bud; for before she came
to Paris, she had already been prepared, by a corrupt, supple abbé, for
the part she was to play; and, young as she was, became so firmly
attached to the aggrandizement of her house, that, though plunged deep
in pleasure, she never omitted sending immense sums to her brother, on
every occasion. The person of the king, in itself very disgusting, was
rendered more so by gluttony, and a total disregard of delicacy, and
even decency in his apartments: and, when jealous of the queen, for whom
he had a kind of devouring passion, he treated her with great brutality,
till she acquired sufficient finesse to subjugate him. Is it then
surprizing, that a very desirable woman, with a sanguine constitution,
should shrink abhorrent from his embraces; or that an empty mind should
be employed only to vary the pleasures, which emasculated her circean
court? And, added to this, the histories of the Julias and Messalinas of
antiquity, convincingly prove, that there is no end to the vagaries of
the imagination, when power is unlimited, and reputation set at

Lost then in the most luxurious pleasures, or managing court intrigues,
the queen became a profound dissembler; and her heart hardened by
sensual enjoyments to such a degree, that when her family and favourites
stood on the brink of ruin, her little portion of mind was employed only
to preserve herself from danger. As a proof of the justness of this
assertion, it is only necessary to observe, that, in the general wreck,
not a scrap of her writing has been found to criminate her; neither has
she suffered a word to escape her to exasperate the people, even when
burning with rage, and contempt. The effect that adversity may have on
her choked understanding time will show[11]; but during her prosperity,
the moments of languor, that glide into the interstices of enjoyment,
were passed in the most childish manner; without the appearance of any
vigour of mind, to palliate the wanderings of the imagination.—Still she
was a woman of uncommon address; and though her conversation was
insipid, her compliments were so artfully adapted to flatter the person
she wished to please or dupe, and so eloquent is the beauty of a queen,
in the eyes even of superiour men, that she seldom failed to carry her
point when she endeavoured to gain an ascendancy over the mind of an
individual. Over that of the king she acquired unbounded sway, when,
managing the disgust she had for his person, she made him pay a kingly
price for her favours. A court is the best school in the world for
actors; it was very natural then for her to become a complete actress,
and an adept in all the arts of coquetry that debauch the mind, whilst
they render the person alluring.

Had the hapless Louis possessed any decision of character, to support
his glimmering sense of right, he would from this period have chosen a
line of conduct, that might have saved his life by regulating his future
politics. For this returning affection of the people alone was
sufficient to prove to him, that it was not easy to eradicate their love
for royalty; because, whilst they were contending for their rights with
the nobility, they were happy to receive them as acts of beneficence
from the king. But the education of the heir apparent of a crown must
necessarily destroy the common sagacity and feelings of a man; and the
education of this monarch, like that of Louis XV, only tended to make
him a sensual bigot.

Priests have, in general, contrived to become the preceptors of kings;
the more surely to support the church, by leaning it against the throne.
Besides; kings, who without having their understandings enlarged, are
set above attending to the forms of morality, which sometimes produce
it’s spirit, are always particularly fond of those religious systems,
which, like a sponge, wipe out the crimes that haunt the terrified
imagination of unsound minds.

It has been the policy of the court of France, to throw an odium on the
understanding of the king, when it was lavishing praises on the goodness
of his heart. Now it is certain, that he possessed a considerable
portion of sense, and discernment; though he wanted that firmness of
mind, which constitutes character; or, in more precise words, the power
of acting according to the dictates of a man’s own reason. He was a
tolerable scholar; had sufficient patience to learn the english
language; and was an ingenious mechanic. It is also well known, that in
the council, when he followed only the light of his own reason, he often
fixed on the most sage measures, which he was afterwards persuaded to
abandon. But death seems to be the sport of kings, and, like the roman
tyrant, whose solitary amusement was transfixing flies, this man, whose
milkiness of heart has been perpetually contrasted with the pretended
watriness of his head, was extremely fond of seeing those grimaces, made
by tortured animals, which rouse to pleasure sluggish, gross sensations.
The queen, however, prevailed on him not to attempt to amuse her, or
raise a forced laugh, in a polite circle, by throwing a cat down the
chimney, or shooting an harmless ass. Taught also to dissemble, from his
cradle, he daily practised the despicable shifts of duplicity; though
led by his indolence to take, rather than to give the tone to his
domineering parasites.

The french nobility, perhaps, the most corrupt and ignorant set of men
in the world, except in those objects of taste, which consist in giving
variety to amusement, had never lived under the controul of any law, but
the authority of the king; and having only to dread the Bastille for a
little time, should they commit any enormity, could not patiently brook
the restraints, the better government of the whole society required.
Haughtily then disregarding the suggestions of humanity, and even
prudence, they determined to subvert every thing, sooner than resign
their privileges; and this tenacity will not appear astonishing, if we
call to mind, that they considered the people as beasts of burden, and
trod them under foot with the mud. This is not a figure of rhetoric; but
a melancholy truth! For it is notorious, that, in the narrow streets of
Paris, where there are no footways to secure the walkers from danger,
they were frequently killed, without slackening, by the least emotion of
fellow-feeling, the gallop of the thoughtless being, whose manhood was
buried in a factitious character.

I shall not now recapitulate the feudal tyrannies, which the progress of
civilization has rendered nugatory; it is sufficient to observe, that,
as neither the life nor property of the citizens was secured by equal
laws, both were often wantonly sported with by those who could do it
with impunity. Arbitrary decrees have too often assumed the sacred
majesty of law; and when men live in continual fear, and know not what
they have to apprehend, they always become cunning and pusillanimous.
Thus the abject manners, produced by despotism of any species, seem to
justify them, in the eyes of those who only judge of things from their
present appearance. This leads, likewise, to an observation, that partly
accounts for the want of industry and cleanliness in France; for people
are very apt to sport away their time, when they cannot look forward,
with some degree of certainty, to the consolidation of a plan of future

Every precaution was taken to divide the nation, and prevent any ties of
affection, such as ought always to unite man with man, in all the
relationships of life, from bringing the two ranks together with any
thing like equality to consolidate them. If, for instance, the son of a
nobleman happened so far to forget his rank, as to marry a woman of low
birth; what misery have not those unfortunate creatures
endured!—confined in prisons, or hunted out of the common nest, as
contagious intruders. And if we remember also, that, while treated with
contempt, only a twentieth part of the profit of his labour fell to the
share of the husbandman, we shall cease to inquire, why the nobles
opposed innovations, that must necessarily have overturned the fabric of

The inveterate pride of the nobles, the rapacity of the clergy, and the
prodigality of the court, were, in short, the secret springs of the
plot, now almost ripe, aimed at the embryo of freedom through the heart
of the national assembly. But Paris, that city which contains so many
different characters—that vortex, which draws every vice into it’s
centre—that repository of all the materials of voluptuous
degeneracy—that den of spies and assassins—contained likewise a number
of enlightened men, and was able to raise a very formidable force, to
defend it’s opinions.

The cabinet saw it’s rising spirit with suspicion; and, resorting to
their old wiles, produced a scarcity of bread, hoping that, when the
people should be disheartened, the approaching army under Broglio would
bring the whole affair to a speedy issue. But circumstances seemed
favourable to the people; for the electors of Paris, after they had
chosen their deputies, the election having been protracted very late,
continued to meet at the _Hôtel-de-Ville_, to prepare the instructions,
which they had not time to digest before the assembling of the

At this juncture also, a spacious square, equally devoted to business
and pleasure, called the _Palais Royal_, became the rendezvous of the
citizens. There the most spirited gave lectures, whilst more modest men
read the popular papers and pamphlets, on the benefits of liberty, and
the crying oppressions of absolute governments. This was the centre of
information; and the whole city flocking thither, to talk or to listen,
returned home warmed with the love of freedom, and determined to oppose,
at the risk of life, the power that should still labour to enslave
them—and when life is put on the cast, do not men generally gain that
for which they strive with those, who, wanting their enthusiasm, set
more value on the stake?

The turbulence of the metropolis, produced in great measure by the
continual arrival of foreign troops, furnished, nevertheless, a
plausible pretext for blockading it; and thirty-five thousand men, at
least, mostly consisting of hussars and mercenary troops, were drawn
from the frontiers, and collected round Versailles. Camps were traced
out for still more; and the posts, that commanded the roads leading to
Paris, were filled with soldiers. The courtiers, then unable to repress
their joy, vaunted, that the national assembly would soon be dissolved,
and the rebellious deputies silenced by imprisonment, or death. And
should even the french soldiers abandon them, among whom there were some
symptoms of revolt, the court depended on the foreign troops, to strike
terrour into the very heart of Paris and Versailles. The gathering army
was already a very formidable force; but the spirit of enthusiasm, and a
keen sense of injuries, rendered more sharp by insults, had such an
effect on the people, that, instead of being intimidated, they coolly
began to prepare for defence.

All had heard, or were now informed, of the efforts made by the
americans to maintain their liberty.—All had heard of the glorious
firmness of a handful of raw bostonian militia, who, on Bunker’s-hill,
resisted the british disciplined troops, crimsoning the plains of
Charles-town with the blood of the flower of their enemy’s army. This
lesson for tyrants had resounded through the kingdom; and it ought to
have taught them, that men determined to be free are always superiour to
mercenary battalions even of veterans.

The popular leaders had also taken the surest means to ingratiate
themselves with the soldiery, by mixing with them, and continually
insinuating, that citizens ought not to allow the base ministers of
power, to treat them like passive instruments of mischief. Besides, it
was natural to expect, that the military, the most idle body of men in
the kingdom, should attend to the topics of the day, and profit by the
discussions, that disseminated new political principles. And such an
influence had the arguments in favour of liberty on their minds, that,
so early as the 23d of june, during a slight riot, two companies of the
grenadiers refused to fire on the people, whom they were sent to
disperse. But these symptoms of refractoriness roused the resentment of
the court, instead of putting it on it’s guard: consequently several
were sent to prison, and the troops were confined to their barracks;
yet, regardless of these orders, they came in crowds to the _Palais
Royal_, a day or two after, eager to unite their voices with the general
shout, _vive la nation_, which spoke the present sentiments of the
people. The regiments of french, also, that now arrived, to be stationed
with the foreign troops round Paris, were conducted to this hot-bed of
patriotism; and, meeting with the most cordial reception, they listened
with interest to the lively representations of the enormities committed
by their old government, and of the meanness of those men, who could
live on the bread earned by butchering their fellow citizens.

Whilst these opinions were taking root, the people heard, that eleven of
the french guards, confined in the abbey, because they would not obey
the order to fire on the populace, were to be transferred to the
_Bicetre_, the most ignominious of all the prisons. The contest now
commenced; for the people hastened to deliver them, and, forcing their
way, emancipated their friends; and even the hussars, who were called
out to quell the disturbance, laid down their arms. Yet, attentive to
justice, they sent back to confinement a soldier, who had been
previously committed by the police, for some other misdemeanour.

Exasperated as they were, the people, not yet become lawless, guarded
the men they had rescued; whilst they sent a deputation to the national
assembly, to intercede with the king in their behalf. This spirited, yet
prudent, behaviour produced the desired effect; and the assembly named a
certain number of the deputies, who with scrupulous decorum were to
demand this grace of the king: and he accordingly granted their pardon,
laying a cautious stress on it’s being the first request made by the
assembly. But it was still questionable, whether this extorted act of
lenity were not done, like the other actions of the court, only to blind
the preparations that were making, to humble effectually the soldiery,
the metropolis, and the assembly.

During this period of general suspicion, the presence of such a
considerable force, as now was encamped on every side of the capital,
particularly alarmed the electors, who held their deliberations very
constantly to watch over the public peace; and, in order to avert the
threatening storm, they proposed raising the city militia. Yet, before
they determined, they sent to apprise the national assembly of their
intention; wishing the king to be informed, that, if an armed force were
necessary to secure the public tranquillity, the citizens themselves
were the most proper persons to be entrusted with the commission.

The unsettled state of Paris, now suffering from a scarcity of bread,
furnished, however, a plausible pretext for the augmentation of the
troops, which increased the calamity. ‘When it is with the greatest
difficulty,’ says one of the electors, ‘that we can procure provision
for the inhabitants, was it necessary to increase the famine and our
fears, by calling together a number of soldiers, who were dispersed
through all the provinces? These troops,’ he adds, ‘were destined to
guard the frontiers, whilst the representatives of the nation are
deliberating on the formation of a constitution. But this constitution,
desired by the king, and demanded by all the provinces of France, has to
cope with dangerous interiour enemies.’

The national assembly, likewise, could not but perceive, that more
soldiers were stationed near them, than would have been sufficient to
repel a foreign invasion; and Mirabeau, with his usual fervour, animated
them to action, by a lively picture of their situation. ‘Thirty-five
thousand men,’ he observed, ‘are now distributed between Paris and
Versailles; and twenty thousand more are expected. Trains of artillery
follow them; and places are already marked out for batteries. They have
made sure of all the communications.—All our entrances are intercepted;
our roads, our bridges, and our public walks, are changed into military
posts. The notorious events, the secret orders, and precipitate
counter-orders—in short, preparations for war, strike every eye, and
fill with indignation every heart. Gentlemen, if the question were only
the insulted dignity of the assembly, it would demand the attention of
the king himself; for should he not take care, that we be treated with
decency, since we are deputies of the nation from which his glory
emanates, which alone constitutes the splendour of the throne?—Yes; of
that nation, who will render the person of the king honourable in
proportion as he respects himself? Since his wish is to command free
men, it is time to banish the old odious forms, those insulting
proceedings, which too easily persuade the courtiers, who surround the
prince, that royal majesty consists in the abasing relation of master
and slave; that a legitimate and beloved king ought on all occasions to
show himself with the aspect of an irritated tyrant; or, of those
usurpers condemned by their melancholy fate, to mistake the tender and
flattering sentiments of confidence.—And who will dare to say, that
circumstances have rendered necessary these menacing measures? On the
contrary, I am going to demonstrate, that they are equally useless and
dangerous, considered either with respect to good order, the quieting of
the public, or the safety of the throne: and, far from appearing the
fruit of a sincere attachment to the person of the monarch, they can
only gratify private passions, and cover perfidious designs. Undoubtedly
I do not know every pretext, every artifice of the enemies of
reformation, since I cannot divine with what plausible reason they have
coloured the pretended want of troops, at a moment, when not only their
inutility, but their danger strikes every mind.

‘With what eye will the people, harassed by so many calamities, see this
swarm of idle soldiers come to dispute with them their morsel of bread?
The contrast of the plenty enjoyed by one, with the indigence of the
other; of the security of the soldiers, to whom the manna falls, without
it’s being necessary for them to think of to-morrow, with the anguish of
the people, who obtain nothing but by hard labour and painful sweat; is
sufficient to make every heart sink with despondency. Added to this,
gentlemen, the presence of the troops heats the imagination of the
populace; and, by continually presenting new fears, excites an universal
effervescence, till the citizens are at their very fire-sides a prey to
every kind of terrour. The people, roused and agitated, form tumultuous
assemblies; and, giving way to their impetuosity, precipitate themselves
into danger—for fear neither calculates nor reasons!’ He concluded with
moving an address to the king, representing, that the people were
extremely alarmed by the assembling of such a number of troops, and the
preparations made to form camps during this season of scarcity; and to
remonstrate respecting the conduct of those, who sought to destroy the
confidence that ought to subsist between the king and the
representatives of the people—a confidence, which alone can enable them
to fulfil their functions, and establish the reform expected from their
zeal by a suffering nation.

This speech produced the desired effect; and the motion being carried,
Mirabeau was requested to prepare an address for their consideration.

The purport of the address was an abridgement of the above speech;
respectful; nay, even affectionate; but spirited and noble.

Yet this remonstrance, so well calculated to preserve the dignity of the
monarch, and appease the agitation of the public, produced no other
effect than a supercilious answer, that only tended to increase the want
of confidence, to which disgust gave a new edge. For, instead of
attending to the prayer of the nation, the king asserted, that the
tumultuous and scandalous scenes, which had passed at Paris, and at
Versailles, under his own eyes, and those of the national assembly, were
sufficient to induce him, one of whose principal duties it was to watch
over the public safety, to station troops round Paris.—Still, he
declared, that, far from intending to interrupt their freedom of debate,
he only wished to preserve them even from all apprehension of tumult and
violence. If, however, the necessary presence of the troops continue to
give umbrage, he was willing, at the request of the assembly, to
transfer the states-general to Noyon or Soissons; and to repair himself
to Compiégne, in order to maintain the requisite intercourse with the
assembly. This answer signified nothing; or, rather, it formally
announced, that the king would not send away the troops. Obvious as was
the meaning, and contemptible as was the dissimulation; yet, as it came
from the sovereign, the fountain of fortune and honours, some of the
supple hands of the deputies applauded.—But, Mirabeau was not to be
cajoled by such shallow fallacy. ‘Gentlemen,’ said he, impatiently, ‘the
goodness of the king’s heart is so well known, that we might tranquilly
confide in his virtue, did he always act from himself.—But, the
assurances of the king are no guarantee for the conduct of his
ministers, who have not ceased to mislead his good disposition.—And have
we yet to learn, that the habitual confidence of the french in their
king is less a virtue than a vice, if it extend to all parts of the

‘Who amongst us is ignorant, in fact, that it is our blind, giddy
inconsideration, which has led us from century to century, from fault to
fault, to the crisis that now afflicts us, and which ought at last to
open our eyes, if we have not resolved to be headstrong children and
slaves, till the end of time?

‘The reply of the king is a pointed refusal. The ministry would have it
regarded only as a simple form of assurance and goodness; and they have
affected to think, that we have made our demand, without attaching much
interest to it’s success, and only to appear to have made it. It is
necessary to undeceive the ministry—Certainly, my opinion is, not to
fail in the confidence and respect which we owe to the virtues of the
king; but I likewise advise, that we be no more inconsistent, timid, and
wavering in our measures.—Certainly, there is no need to deliberate on
the removal proposed; for, in short, notwithstanding the king’s answer,
we will not go to Noyon, nor to Soissons—We have not demanded this
permission; nor will we, because it is scarcely probable, that we should
ever desire to place ourselves between two or three bodies of troops;
those which invest Paris, and those which might fall upon us from
Flanders and Alsace. We have demanded the removal of the troops—that was
the object of our address!—We have not asked permission to flee before
them; but only that they should be sent from the capital. And it is not
for ourselves, that we have made this demand; for they know very well,
that it was suggested by a concern for the general interest, not by any
sentiment of fear. At this moment, the presence of the troops disturbs
the public order, and may produce the most melancholy events.—Our
removal, far from preventing, would, on the contrary, only aggravate the
evil. It is necessary, then, to restore peace, in spite of the friends
of disorder; it is necessary, to be consistent with ourselves; and to be
so, we have only to adhere to one line of conduct, which is to insist,
without relaxing, that the troops be sent away, as the only sure way to
obtain it.’

This speech, delivered on the 11th of july, produced no further decision
in the assembly, though it kept the attention of the members fixt to a

But things were now drawing rapidly to a crisis; for this very day
Necker, who had been retained in place, only to hoodwink the people, was
dismissed, with an injunction not to mention his dismission; and to
leave the kingdom in twenty-four hours. These orders he servilely
obeyed; and, with all the promptitude of personal fear, said, without
the least emotion, to the nobleman, who brought the king’s commands, ‘we
shall meet this evening at the council;’ and continued to converse, in
his usual strain of smoothness, with the company at dinner. Miserable
weakness! This man, who professed himself the friend of the people, and
who had so lately promised ‘to live or die with them,’ had not, when,
brought to the test, sufficient magnanimity to warn them where danger
threatened.—For he must have known, that this dismission was the signal
of hostilities: yet, fleeing like a felon, he departed in disguise,
keeping the secret with all the caution of cowardice.[12]

The next day, the appointment of the new ministry, men particularly
obnoxious to the public, made it known to the people; who viewed with
melancholy horrour the awful horizon, where had long been gathering the
storm, now ready to burst on their devoted heads. The agitation of the
public mind, indeed, resembled a troubled sea; which, having been put in
motion by a raging tornado, gradually swells, until the whole element,
wave rolling on wave, exhibits one unbounded commotion. All eyes were
now opened, all saw the approaching blast; the hollow murmurs of which
had inspired a confused terrour for some time past.

It had been proposed on the 10th, at the _Hôtel-de-Ville_, as a
regulation of the _Garde-Bourgeoise_, that twelve hundred men should be
raised at a time, to be relieved every week; and the capital having been
divided, at the election, into sixty districts, only twenty would be
called out of each. And it was further resolved, that the districts
should rest embodied until the entire evacuation of the troops,
excepting those who formed the common compliment of the guards. The
following day it was decreed; an address was voted to the national
assembly, to request their mediation with the king, to sanction
immediately the city militia; and the sittings of the committee were
adjourned till monday, the 13th. But some of the electors, having heard
on sunday, that the populace were all repairing to the _Hôtel-de-Ville_,
hastened there about six o’clock in the evening, and found the hall
indeed crowded with people of all conditions. A thousand confused voices
demanded arms, and orders to found the _tocsin_.

At eight o’clock, the patrol guard was relieved, at the
_Hôtel-de-Ville_, and the multitude pressed on the soldiers to disarm
them; redoubling the cry for arms at the moment; and even threatened to
set fire to the hall. But, still observing some respect for
subordination, they demanded, a little imperiously, it is true, an
order, in virtue of which, the citizens might arm themselves to repulse
the danger that menaced the capital—and amidst these clamours, several
precipitate reports painted, in the most lively colours, this danger.

One of the crowd said, that, no sooner had the news of the dismission of
Necker reached Paris, than the people hastened to a sculptor’s, and,
seizing the bulls of that minister, and of the duke of Orleans, they
were now actually carrying them through the streets:—Another informed
them, that the multitude had rushed into the different theatres, at the
hour of opening them, and required, that they should be instantly
shut;[13] and that in consequence all the spectators had been sent
away:—A third announced four cannons, placed at the entrance of the
_Champs Elysées_, with their cannoneers ready to light their matches,
which were to begin the combat; and that these four cannons were
supported by a regiment of cavalry, which, advancing under the command
of the prince de Lambesc to the place of Louis 15th, was stationed by
the bridge that leads to the Thuilleries. He added also, that a
_cavalier_ of this regiment, passing by a soldier of the french guards,
had fired his pistol at him; and, that the prince de Lambesc himself had
galloped into the garden, sabre in hand, followed by a detachment, who
put to flight the old men, women, and children, that were peaceably
taking their customary walk; nay, that he had actually killed, with his
own hand, an old man, who was escaping from the tumult. The reporter, it
is true, forgot to notice, that the populace had begun to pelt the
prince with the stones, that were lying ready, near the buildings which
were not finished. Startled, perhaps, by this resistance, and despising
the mob, that he expected, only by his presence, to have intimidated, in
a delirium, most probably, of terrour and astonishment, he wounded an
unarmed man, who fled before him. Be that as it may, this wanton outrage
excited the indignation necessary to fire every spirit.

The electors being still pressed for arms, and unable to furnish them,
at eleven o’clock decreed, that the districts should be immediately
convoked; and that they would repair to all the posts of armed citizens,
to beg them, in the name of their country, to avoid all species of
riot.—But this was not the moment to talk of peace, when all were making
ready for battle.—The tumult now became general. To arms! To arms!
re-echoed from all quarters—and the whole city was instantly in motion,
seeking for weapons of defence. Whilst the women and children rent the
air with shrieks and lamentations, the cannons were fired; and the
_tocsins_ of the different parish churches joined by degrees, to excite,
and continue, the universal alarm.

Still all their thoughts were turned on defensive measures. Many of the
citizens, by ransacking the warehouses of arms, and catching up spits
and pokers, appeared with weapons in their hands to second their
determinate countenances; and being joined by some of the french guards,
more completely accoutred, forced those foreign mercenaries, who had
first awakened their fury, to retreat, fleeing like the beasts of the
desert, before the bold and generous lion. Though victorious in this
midnight fray, because determined to conquer, still they had scarcely
any fire arms; and were as inexpert in the use of those they found, as
the inhabitants of capitals commonly are—But indignation made each of
them, so restless was their courage, seize something to defend himself
with: hammers, axes, shovels, pikes, all were sought for, and clenched
in hands nerved by heroism; yes, by true heroism, for personal safety
was disregarded in the common danger. Wives assisted to beat out pikes
for their husbands, and children ran about to pile up stones in
readiness for to-morrow. To increase the apprehensions of the night, one
of the barriers was set on fire; and a band of desperate robbers, taking
advantage of the confusion, began to pillage some houses. To arms! was
the cry of danger, and the watch-word of the city—for who could close
their eyes? Whilst the tocsin drowning the murmurs of rage, and
distress, made the confusion solemn.

Different sounds excited different emotions at Versailles; for there the
heart, beating high with exultation, gave way to the most intemperate
joy.—Already the courtiers imagined, that the whole mischief was
crushed, and that they had the assembly at their mercy.

Intoxicated by success, a little too soon reckoned on, the queen, the
count d’Artois, and their favourites, visited the haunt of the bribed
ruffians, who were lurking in ambush, ready to fall upon their prey;
encouraging them by an engaging affability of behaviour, and more
substantial marks of favour, to forget every consideration, but their
commands. And so flattered were they by the honied words, and coquetish
smiles of the queen, that they promised, as they drained the cup in her
honour, not to sheath their swords, till France was compelled to
obedience, and the national assembly dispersed. With savage ferocity
they danced to the sound of music attuned to slaughter, whilst plans of
death and devastation gave the zest to the orgies, that worked up their
animal spirits to the highest pitch. After this account, any reflections
on the baneful effects of power, or on the unrestrained indulgence of
pleasure, that could thus banish tenderness from the female bosom, and
harden the human heart, would be an insult to the reader’s sensibility.

How silent is now Versailles!—The solitary foot, that mounts the
sumptuous stair-case, rests on each landing-place, whilst the eye
traverses the void, almost expecting to see the strong images of fancy
burst into life.—The train of the Louises, like the posterity of the
Banquoes, pass in solemn sadness, pointing at the nothingness of
grandeur, fading away on the cold canvass, which covers the nakedness of
the spacious walls—whilst the gloominess of the atmosphere gives a
deeper shade to the gigantic figures, that seem to be sinking into the
embraces of death.

Warily entering the endless apartments, half shut up, the fleeting
shadow of the pensive wanderer, reflected in long glasses, that vainly
gleam in every direction, slacken the nerves, without appalling the
heart; though lascivious pictures, in which grace varnishes
voluptuousness, no longer seductive, strike continually home to the
bosom the melancholy moral, that anticipates the frozen lesson of
experience. The very air is chill, seeming to clog the breath; and the
wasting dampness of destruction appears to be stealing into the vast
pile, on every side.

The oppressed heart seeks for relief in the garden; but even there the
same images glide along the wide neglected walks—all is fearfully still;
and, if a little rill creeping through the gathering moss down the
cascade, over which it used to rush, bring to mind the description of
the grand water works, it is only to excite a languid smile at the
futile attempt to equal nature.

Lo! this was the palace of the great king!—the abode of
magnificence! Who has broken the charm?—Why does it now inspire only
pity?—Why;—because nature, smiling around, presents to the
imagination materials to build farms, and hospitable mansions,
where, without raising idle admiration, that gladness will reign,
which opens the heart to benevolence, and that industry, which
renders innocent pleasure sweet.

Weeping—scarcely conscious that I weep, O France! over the vestiges of
thy former oppression; which, separating man from man with a fence of
iron, sophisticated all, and made many completely wretched; I tremble,
lest I should meet some unfortunate being, fleeing from the despotism of
licentious freedom, hearing the snap of the _guillotine_ at his heels;
merely because he was once noble, or has afforded an asylum to those,
whose only crime is their name—and, if my pen almost bound with
eagerness to record the day, that levelled the Bastille with the dust,
making the towers of despair tremble to their base; the recollection,
that still the abbey is appropriated to hold the victims of revenge and
suspicion, palsies the hand that would fain do justice to the assault,
which tumbled into heaps of ruins walls that seemed to mock the
resistless force of time.—Down fell the temple of despotism;
but—despotism has not been buried in it’s ruins!—Unhappy country!—when
will thy children cease to tear thy bosom?—When will a change of
opinion, producing a change of morals, render thee truly free?—When will
truth give life to real magnanimity, and justice place equality on a
stable seat?—When will thy sons trust, because they deserve to be
trusted; and private virtue become the guarantee of patriotism? Ah!—when
will thy government become the most perfect, because thy citizens are
the most virtuous!

                              CHAPTER III.

Early in the morning of the 13th, the electors hastened to the centre of
the general alarm, the _hôtel-de-ville_, and, urged by the necessity of
the moment, passed the decrees, under deliberation, for the immediate
embodying the _garde-bourgeoise_, without waiting for the requested
sanction of the national assembly. The greater number then withdrew, to
convoke their districts; whilst the few that remained endeavoured to
calm the tumult, that was every moment augmenting, by informing the
people of this decree; representing at the same time, to the citizens,
the cogent motives which should induce them to separate, and each repair
to his own district to be enrolled. But the crowd again called for arms,
pretending, that there was a great number concealed in an arsenal, which
nobody could point out. To quiet these clamours for a moment, the people
were referred to the _prévot des marchands_[14]. He accordingly came,
and requested, that the multitude would confirm his nomination to the
function, which his majesty had confided to him. A general acclamation
was the signal of their consent; and the assembled electors immediately
turned their attention to the serious business before them.

They then established a _permanent committee_, to keep up a constant
intercourse with the different districts, to which the citizens were
again exhorted instantly to return, with all the arms they had
collected; that those arms might be properly distributed amongst the
parisian militia. But, it was impossible to pursue these important
deliberations, with any degree of order, for a fresh multitude was
continually rushing forward, to report fresh intelligence; often false
or exaggerated, and always alarming. The barriers, they were told, were
on fire; a religious house had been pillaged; and a hostile force was on
the road, in full march, to fall upon the citizens. An immense number of
coaches, waggons, and other carriages, were actually brought to the door
of the hotel; and the demands of the concourse, who had been stopped
going out of Paris, mingling with the cries of the multitude, eager to
be led towards the troops, whose approach had been announced, were only
drowned by the more lively instances of the deputies of the sixty
districts, demanding arms and ammunition, to render them active. To
appease them, and gain time, the mayor promised, if they would be
tranquil till five o’clock in the evening, then to distribute a number
of fusils; which were to be furnished by the director of a manufactory.

These assurances produced a degree of calm. Taking advantage of it, the
committee determined, that the parisian militia, for the present, should
consist of 48,000 citizens; and that the officers should be named by
each district. Many subordinate decrees also passed, all tending to
prevent the disasters naturally produced by confusion; and to provide
for the subsistence of the city. The french guards, who had during the
night assisted the citizens, now came to testify their attachment to the
common cause; and to beg to be enrolled with them. The commander of the
city watch, a military body, likewise presented himself; to assure the
committee, that the troops under his direction were disposed to obey
their orders, and assist in defending the city.

Among the carriages stopped was one of the prince de Lambesc. The people
imagined, that they had caught the prince himself; and, when they were
convinced of their mistake, it was impossible to save the coach, though
the horses were put into a neighbouring stable; and the portmanteau,
carefully detached, was lodged in the hall. This trivial circumstance is
worthy of notice, because it shows the respect then paid to property;
and that the public mind was entirely fixed on those grand objects,
which absorb private passions and interests. Stung also to the quick by
the insulting disregard of their claims, the people forcibly felt an
indignant sense of injustice, which rendered the struggle heroic.

Preparations of a warlike cast were made during the whole course of this
day; and every thing was conducted with a degree of prudence scarcely to
have been expected from such impetuosity. Trenches were thrown up,
several of the streets unpaved, and barricadoes formed in the
suburbs.—Defence was the sole object of every person’s thoughts, and
deriding personal danger, all were preparing to sell their lives at a
dear rate, furbishing up old weapons, or forging new. The old men,
women, and children, were employed in making pikes, whilst the able
bodied men paraded the streets, in an orderly manner, with most resolute
looks, yet avoiding every kind of violence: there was, in fact, an
inconceivable solemnity in the quick step of a torrent of men, all
directing their exertions to one point, which distinguished this rising
of the citizens from what is commonly termed a riot.—Equality, indeed,
was then first established by an universal sympathy; and men of all
ranks joining in the throng, those of the first could not be
discriminated by any peculiar decency of demeanour, such public spirited
dignity pervaded the whole mass.

A quantity of powder had been carried to the _hôtel-de-ville_, which the
populace, for the most unruly always collected round this central spot,
would probably have blown up in seizing, if a courageous elector[15] had
not, at the continual risk of his life, insisted on distributing it
regularly to the people. This engaged their attention a short time; but
in the evening the demand for arms became more pressing than ever,
mingled with a hoarse cry of perfidy and treason, levelled against the
mayor; which, for a while, was silenced by the arrival of a number of
military chests, thought to contain arms, and these were supposed to be
those promised by the mayor. Every possible precaution was immediately
taken by the electors, to have them speedily conveyed into the cellar,
that they might be given to those who knew best how to make use of them;
instead of being caught up by the unskilful. The french guards had
merited the confidence of the citizens; and four members of the
committee, after some deliberation, were appointed to hasten to them, to
request that they would come and take charge of the distribution. In
short, great preparations were made, previous to the opening of the
chests; but—when the chests were at last opened, in the presence of a
concourse of people, and found to contain only pieces of old
candlesticks, and such like rubbish, the impatience of the multitude,
whose courage and patriotism had been played with all day, instantly
changed into indignation and fury; and the suspicion of treason on the
part of the mayor was extended to the whole committee, whom they
threatened to blow up in their hall.

One of the electors, the marquis de la Salle, now observed, ‘that the
greatest inconvenience in their present cruel situation was the want of
order, and subordination; and that a correspondence of the different
parts of the grand machine, so necessary to promote expedition and
success, could not subsist without a commander, known and acknowledged
by the public: for all the citizens, become soldiers, are perpetually,’
he adds, ‘exposed to spend their zeal and intrepidity in superfluous
efforts; sometimes even counteracting their own designs. It is necessary
then to name a general of the first abilities and experience; I am far
from thinking myself worthy of your choice, though I offer all that I
can offer, my fortune and my life; and shall willingly serve in any
post.’ This motion produced a new discussion; and the duke d’Aumont was
appointed commander in chief. But, he half declining it, though he tried
to procrastinate his refusal, the post devolved to the marquis de la
Salle, who had been unanimously named second; and he entered immediately
on the discharge of this important trust. And this nomination
contributed to support the exertions of the committee; for in spite of
the chaotic shock, which seemed to have thrown into confusion all the
parts of this great city, the centre of union formed at the
_hôtel-de-ville_, by the assembling of the electors, was in a great
measure the salvation of the public. This municipal power, created by
circumstances, and tacitly consented to by the citizens, established a
great degree of order and obedience, even in the midst of terrour and
anarchy. The _garde-bourgeoise_ had been assembled in all the districts;
and the patrols relieved with the greatest exactness. The streets were
illuminated, to prevent confusion or dismay during the night; private
property was respected, and all the posts carefully superintended; but,
at the barriers, every carriage and every person was stopped, and
obliged to go to the _hôtel-de-ville_ to give an account of themselves.
The public particularly mistrusted the design of those who were going to
Versailles, or coming from it. Deputations had been regularly sent, to
inform the national assembly of the disturbances, which their danger and
the dread of a siege had occasioned in Paris, and of the measures
pursued to restrain the head-long fury of the people.

The national assembly, indeed, now appeared with the dignified aspect
becoming the fathers of their country; seeing their own danger, without
timidly shrinking from the line of conduct, which had provoked the
violence of the court: and the president, an old man, not being thought
equal to the present toils of office, a vice-president was appointed.

To fill this post, the marquis la Fayette was chosen: a deputy for
several reasons popular. In America, where he voluntarily risked his
life and fortune, before the french nation espoused their cause, he had
acquired certain just principles of government; and these he digested to
the extent of his understanding, which was somewhat confined. He
possessed great integrity of heart, though he was not without his
portion of the national vanity. He had already distinguished himself at
the meeting of the notables, by detecting, and exposing the peculation
of Calonne, and opposing the arbitrary proceedings of the count
d’Artois. Governed by the same motives, he had proposed, likewise,
during their sittings, some bold plans of reform, calculated to reduce
the public revenue, and lessen the grievances of the nation, at the same
stroke.—Amongst these was a motion for the abolition of the Bastille,
and other state prisons, throughout the kingdom; and the suppression of
_lettres de cachet_. And still having the same objects in view, he, the
very day the king’s sneering reply was received (the 11th), laid before
the assembly a proposal for a _DECLARATION OF RIGHTS_, similar to that
of some of the american states. The marquis de Condorcet had published a
declaration of this kind, to instruct the deputies, previous to their
meeting. La Fayette had transmitted a copy of his declaration of rights
to the assembled electors, to be read to the people; and nothing could
be better adapted to keep them firm, telling them to what point they
ought to adhere, than the short address with which it commenced.—‘Call
to mind the sentiments, that nature has engraven on the heart of every
citizen; and which take a new force, when recognized by all.—For a
nation to love liberty, it is sufficient that she knows it; and, to be
free, it is sufficient that she wills it[16].’

Mirabeau, even whilst supporting tenaciously the dignity of the national
assembly, felt a pang of envy, that another should bring forward such an
important business, as the sketch of a new constitution; avowedly that
the world might know how they had been employed, and what they were
contesting for, should they become the victims of their magnanimity.

It was impossible now for the whole assembly not to see in the change of
the ministry the danger at hand, the approach of which some had affected
to treat as a chimera. Determined, however, to continue their labours,
in the very face of such hostile preparations; yet taking every prudent
precaution to secure their safety, they sent to inform the king of the
disturbances at Paris; and to point out the evils which menaced the
state, if the troops that invested the metropolis were not sent to more
distant quarters:—offering, at the same time, to throw themselves
between the army and the citizens, to endeavour to ward off the
calamities that were likely to ensue. But the king, obstinately bent to
support the present measures, or controlled by the cabal, replied, ‘that
he was the only judge of the necessity of withdrawing the troops;’ and,
treating the offered interposition of the deputies with the most
ineffable contempt, told them, ‘that they could be of no use at Paris,
and were necessary at Versailles, to pursue those important labours,
which he should continue to recommend.’

This answer was no sooner communicated, than La Fayette moved, that
the present ministry should be declared responsible for the
consequence of their obstinacy: and the assembly further decreed, that
Necker and the rest of the ministry, who had just been sent away,
carried with them their esteem and regret:—that, alarmed by the
apprehensions of danger produced by the reply of the king, they would
not cease to insist on the removal of the troops, and the
establishment of a _garde-bourgeoise_.—They repeated their
declaration, that no intermediate power can subsist between the king
and the national assembly:—and that the public debt, having been
placed under the safe-guard of french honour, the nation not refusing
to pay the interest of it, no power had a right to utter the infamous
word—bankruptcy.—In short, the assembly declared, that they persisted
in their former decrees:—and that the present resolves should be
presented to the king, by the president, and printed for the
information of the public.

Still the court, despising the courageous remonstrances of the assembly,
and untouched by the apprehensions of the people, which seemed to be
driving them to the desperation that always conquers, stimulated the
king to persist in the prosecution of the measures, which they had
prevailed on him to adopt. The assembly, thus rendered vigilant by the
various tokens, that the crisis was arrived, which was to determine
their personal and political fate, in which that of their country was
involved, thought it prudent to make their sittings permanent. Animated
and united by the common danger, they reminded each other, ‘that, should
they perish, their country still surviving would recover it’s vigour;
and that their plans for the good of the public again warming the hearts
of frenchmen, a brave and generous people would erect on their tomb, as
an immortal trophy, a constitution solid as reason, and durable as
time:—whilst their martyrdom would serve as an example, to prove, that
the progress of knowledge and civilization is not to be stopped by the
massacre of a few individuals.’

Whatever might have been the object of the court, respecting the
national assembly, which was probably the slaughter or imprisonment
necessary to disperse them, and disconcert their theories of reform, it
is certain, that their situation wore the most threatening aspect; and
their escape was owing to the courage and resolution of the people; for
the breast of the cabinet was too callous, to feel either respect or
repugnance, when emoluments and prerogatives were in question.

It was a circumstance favourable to the people, and the cause of
humanity, that the want of common foresight in the court prevented their
guarding against resistance. For so negligent were they, that the
citizens, who were early in the morning of the 14th every where scouring
about in search of arms, requested of the committee an order to demand
those they heard were stored up at the _hôtel des invalides_; and one of
the electors was accordingly sent with them, to desire the governor to
give up to the nation all the arms and ammunition committed to his care.
He replied, that a body of citizens having already been with him, he had
sent to Versailles for orders, and entreated them to wait till the
return of the courier, whom he expected in the course of an hour or two.
This, answer at first satisfied the people, who were preparing to wait
contentedly, till one of them observing, that this was not a day to lose
time, they insisted on entering immediately; and instantly made
themselves masters of all the arms they found, to the amount of 30,000
muskets, and six pieces of cannon. A considerable quantity of different
sorts of arms were also carried away from the _garde meuble_, by a less
orderly party; and fell into the hands of vagabonds, who always mix in a
tumult, merely because it is a tumult. A hundred and fifty persons of
this description had been disarmed the preceding night at the
_hôtel-de-ville_, where they had dropped asleep on the stairs and
benches, stupefied by the brandy they had stolen: but, when they awoke,
and requested work, not having any money or bread, they were sent to
assist in the making of pikes, and the fabricating of other weapons,
which required little skill. None of the citizens appeared, in fact,
without some weapon, however uncouth, to brandish defiance, whilst sixty
thousand men, enrolled and distributed in different companies, were
armed in a more orderly, though not in a more warlike manner. The army
of liberty now, indeed, assumed a very formidable appearance; yet the
cabinet, never doubting of success, neglected in the thoughtlessness of
security, the only way left to oblige the roused people to accept of any

Paris, that immense city, second, perhaps, to none in the world, had
felt a scarcity of bread for some time, and now had not sufficient flour
to support the inhabitants for days to come[17].

If, therefore, the mareschal Broglio had cut off the supplies, the
citizens would have been reduced to the alternative of starving, or
marching in confusion to fight his army, before they could have been
disciplined for a regular action. But directed only by the depraved
sentiments of tyranny, they deemed assassination the most speedy method
of bringing the contest to an end favourable to their designs.
Unaccustomed to govern freemen, they dreamt not of the energy of a
nation shaking off it’s fetters; or, if their classical reveries had
taught them a respect for man, whilst reading the account of that brave
handful of spartans, who drove back, at the straits of Thermopylæ,
millions of marshalled slaves; they had no conception, that the cause of
liberty was still the same, and that men obeying her impulse will always
be able to resist the attacks of all the enervated mercenaries of the

The imaginations of the parisians, full of plots, created hourly many of
the objects of terrour from which they started; though the troops being
in motion around Paris naturally produced many false alarms, that their
suspicious temper might have exaggerated sufficiently, without the help
of invention. Various accounts of massacres and assassinations were
consequently brought to the _hôtel-de-ville_, which inflamed the people,
though afterwards they proved to be the idle rumours of fear. Thus much,
however, appeared certain; a squadron of hussars had actually been seen
hovering about the entrance of the _fauxbourg Saint-Antoine_, who
disappeared when two companies of the french guards approached. The
people of the same fauxbourg observed also, that the cannons of the
Bastille were turned towards their street. On receiving this
information, a message was sent from the committee to the governor of
the Bastille, to expostulate with him; and one to each of the districts,
desiring them to sound an alarm throughout, to break up the pavement of
the streets, dig ditches, and oppose every obstacle, in their power, to
the entrance of the troops. But, though the accounts of the hostile
demeanour of some of the detachments in the skirts of Paris excited
terrour, there was still reason to doubt the real disposition of the
soldiery; for a considerable number, belonging to different regiments,
had presented themselves at the barriers with arms and baggage,
declaring their decided intention to enter into the service of the
nation. They were received by the districts, and conducted to the
_hôtel-de-ville_: and the committee distributed them amongst the
national troops, with the precaution necessary to guard against the
surprise of treason.

The deputation, sent to the Bastille, now returned, to give an account
of their mission. They informed the committee, that the people, rendered
furious by the menacing position of the cannon, had already surrounded
the walls; but that they had entered without much difficulty, and were
conducted to the governor, whom they had requested to change the
disposition of his cannons; and that the reply he gave was not as
explicit as they could have wished. They then demanded to pass into the
second court, and did not without great difficulty obtain permission.
The little draw-bridge, they continued, was let down; but the great one,
which led to this court yard was raised, and they entered by an iron
gate, opened at the call of the governor. In this court they had seen
three cannons ready for action, with two cannoneers, thirty-six swiss,
and a dozen of invalids, all under arms; and the staff officers were
also assembled.—They immediately summoned them, in the name of the
honour of the nation, and for the sake of their country, to change the
direction of the cannons; and, at the instance even of the governor
himself, all the officers and soldiers swore, that the cannons should
not be fired, or would they make any use of their arms, unless they were
attacked. In short, another deputation from one of the districts had
likewise been received with great politeness by the governor; and while
they were taking some refreshment, he had actually ordered the cannons
to be drawn back; and a moment after they were informed, that the order
was obeyed.

To calm the people, these very men descended the stair-case of the
_hôtel-de-ville_, to proclaim the assurances they had received of the
amicable intentions of the governor; but, whilst the trumpet was
sounding to demand silence, the report of a cannon from the quarter of
the Bastille was heard; and at the same moment, an immense crowd
precipitated themselves into the square, fronting the hotel, with the
cry of treason. And to support the charge, they brought with them a
citizen, and a soldier of the french guards, both wounded. The rumour
was, that fifteen or twenty more, wounded at the same time, were left to
be taken care of, in different houses on the way; for that the governor,
Delaunay, had let down the first draw-bridge to engage the people to
approach, who were demanding arms; and that they, entering with
confidence on this invitation, had immediately received a discharge of
all the musketry of the fortress. This report, confirmed by the presence
of the two wounded men, demonstrated to the committee the perfidy of the
troops who guarded the Bastille, and the necessity of sending succour to
those, who, without order or sufficient force, had commenced the attack.
Mean time the fury of the people was directed against the mayor, who
endeavoured by various subterfuges to appease the rage which had been
excited by his vain promises of procuring arms. He had, it is true,
several times dispersed the multitude by sending them to different
places with orders for arms, where he knew they were not to be found;
and now, to silence the suspicions that threatned to break out in some
dreadful acts of violence, involving the whole committee in the same
destruction, he offered to make one of the third deputation; the second
appearing to be detained, to remonstrate with Delaunay, and try to
prevent an effusion of blood. A drum and colours were ordered to attend
them, because it was supposed, that the want of some signal had
prevented the others from executing their commission.

Shortly after their departure, however, the second deputation returned,
and informed the committee, that, in their way to the Bastille, they had
met a wounded citizen, carried by his companions, who informed them,
that he had received a shot from a fusil, fired from the Bastille into
the street St. Antoine; and that immediately after they had been stopped
by a crowd, who were guarding three invalids, taken firing on their
fellow citizens. Judging by these events, added they, that the danger
was increasing, we hastened our steps, animated by the hope of putting a
stop to such an unequal combat. Arrived within a hundred paces of the
fortress, we perceived the soldiers on the towers firing upon the street
St. Antoine, and we heard the report of the guns of the citizens in the
court, discharged on the garrison. Drawing nearer, we made several
signals to the governor, which were either unobserved, or disregarded.
We then approached the gate, and saw the people, almost all without any
thing to defend themselves, rushing forward exposed to the brisk fire of
artillery, that hailed directly down upon them, making great havoc. We
prevailed on those who had arms, to stop firing for a moment, whilst we
reiterated our signal of peace; but the garrison, regardless of it,
continued their discharges, and we had the grief to see fall, by our
sides, several of the people, whose hands we had stopped. The courage of
the rest, again inflamed by indignation, pushed them forward.—Our
remonstrances, our prayers, had no longer any effect; and they declared,
that it was not a deputation they now wished for.—It was the siege of
the Bastille—the destruction of that horrible prison—the death of the
governor, that they demanded, with loud cries. Repulsed by these brave
citizens, we partook their momentary indignation, so fully justified by
the abominable act of perfidy, with which they charged the
governor.—They then repeated to us the information which has already
reached you—that in the morning a crowd having approached the Bastille
to demand arms, the governor had allowed a certain number to enter, and
then had fired upon them. Thus the treason of the governor had been the
first signal of a war, that he himself had begun with his fellow
citizens, and seemed willing to continue obstinately, since he refused
to attend to the deputation. Through all parts it was now
resounded.—‘Let us take the Bastille!’—And five pieces of cannon,
conducted by this cry, were hastening to the action.

Some time after, the third deputation also came back, and recounted,
that, at the sight of their white flag, one had been hoisted on the top
of the Bastille, and the soldiers had grounded their arms;—that, under
the auspices of these ensigns of peace, the deputies had engaged the
people, in the name of the permanent committee, to retire to their
districts, and take the measures the most proper to re-establish
tranquillity—and, that this retreat was actually taking place; the
people all naturally passing through the court where the deputation
remained.—When, notwithstanding the white emblem of a pacific
disposition, displayed on the tower, the deputies saw a piece of cannon
planted directly at the court, and they received a sudden discharge of
musketry, which killed three persons at their feet—that this atrocity,
at the moment they were calming the people, had thrown them into a
transport of rage; and many of them had even held their bayonets at the
breasts of the deputies; saying, ‘you are also traitors, and have
brought us here that we might be more easily killed’—and it would have
been difficult to calm them, is one of the deputies had not bid them
observe, that they shared the same danger. The effervescence then
abating, they hastened back and met 300 of the french guards, followed
by the cannons taken at the invalids, all marching with a quick step,
crying that they were going to take the Bastille. One of the deputies,
who had been separated from the rest, further recited;—that having been
obliged to scramble over the dead and dying to escape, the people, who
recognized him as an elector, desired him to save himself—for that the
treason was manifest. ‘It is rather you, my friends, he replied, who
ought to retire; you who hinder our soldiers and cannons from entering
this encumbered court, where you are all going to perish, for no
purpose.’ But, that they interrupted him in a transport,
exclaiming—‘No!—No! our dead bodies will serve to fill up the trench.’
He therefore retired with the balls hissing about his ears. These
recitals, and the rumour of the second act of treachery, spreading
through the city, violently agitated minds already alive to suspicion.

Fresh crowds continually rushed into the _hôtel-de-ville_, and again
they threatened to set fire to it, repeating how many times the mayor
had deceived them. And, when he attempted to calm them by making
plausible excuses, they stopped his mouth by saying, with one voice,—‘he
seeks to gain time by making us lose our’s.’ Two intercepted billets
also having been read aloud, addressed to the principal officers of the
Bastille, desiring them to stand out, and promising succour; increased
the public fury, principally directed against the governor of the
Bastille, the mayor, and even the permanent committee.—Outcry followed
outcry, and naked arms were held up denouncing vengeance—when an old man
exclaimed, my friends, what do we here with these traitors!—Let us march
to the Bastille! at this cry, as at a signal of victory, all the people
hastily left the hall, and the committee unexpectedly found themselves

In this moment of solitude and terrour, a man entered with affright
visible on every feature, saying, that the square trembled with the rage
of the people; and that they had devoted all of them to death.—‘Depart!’
he exclaimed, running out, ‘save yourselves while you can—or you are all
lost!’ But they remained still; and were not long permitted in silence
to anticipate the approach of danger; for one party of people following
another, brought in a number of their wounded companions:—and those who
brought them, described with passion the carnage of the citizens
sacrificed under the ramparts of the Bastille. This carnage, the
military officers attributed to the disorder of the attack, and to the
intrepidity of the assailants still greater than the disorder.

The accounts of the slaughter, nevertheless, were certainly very much
exaggerated; for the fortress appears to have been taken by the force of
mind of the multitude, pressing forward regardless of danger. The ardour
of the besiegers, rather than their numbers, threw the garrison into
confusion; for the Bastille was justly reckoned the strongest and most
terrific prison in Europe, or perhaps in the world. It was always
guarded by a considerable number of troops, and the governor had been
previously prepared for it’s defence; but the unexpected impetuosity of
the parisians was such as nothing could withstand. It is certain, that
Delaunay, at first, despised the attempt of the people; and was more
anxious to save from injury or pillage, a small elegant house he had
built in the outer court, than to avoid slaughter. Afterwards, however,
in the madness of despair, he is said to have rolled down large masses
of stone from the platform on the heads of the people, to have
endeavoured to blow up the fortress, and even to kill himself. The
french guards, it is true, who mixed with the multitude, were of
essential service in storming the Bastille, by advising them to bring
the cannon, and take some other measures, that only military experience
could have dictated; but the enthusiasm of the moment rendered a
knowledge of the art of war needless; and resolution, more powerful than
all the engines and batteries in the world, made the draw-bridges fall,
and the walls give way.

Whilst then the people were carrying every thing before them, the
committee only thought of preventing the further effusion of blood.
Another deputation was therefore nominated, more numerous than had
hitherto been sent; and they were just setting out on this errand of
peace, when some voices announced, that the Bastille was taken. Little
attention, however, was paid them; and the news was so improbable, that
the impression made by the rumour was not sufficiently strong to stop
the outrages of the mob, who still were menacing the mayor and the
committee.—When a fresh uproar, heard at first at such a distance that
it could not be distinguished, whether it were a cry of victory or of
alarm, advancing with the crash and rapidity of a tempest, came to
confirm the unlooked for intelligence.—For the Bastille was taken!

At the instant even the great hall was inundated by a crowd of all
ranks, carrying arms of every kind.—The tumult was inexpressible—and to
increase it, some one called out, that the hotel was giving way, under
the mingled shout of victory and treason! vengeance and liberty!—About
thirty invalids and swiss soldiers were then dragged into the hall,
whose death the multitude imperiously demanded.—Hang them! Hang them!
was the universal roar.

An officer of the queen’s regiment of guards (M. Elie) was brought in on
the shoulders of the conquerors of the Bastille, and proclaimed by them,
as the first of the citizens, who had just made themselves masters of
it. The efforts he used to repress the testimonies of honour, which were
lavished on him, were of no avail; and he was placed, in spite of his
modesty, on a table opposite the committee, and surrounded by the
prisoners, who seemed to be standing in fearful expectation of their
doom. In this situation he was crowned, and trophies of arms awkwardly
placed around, to which sentiment and circumstances gave dignity. All
the plate taken at the Bastille was brought to him, and his comrades
pressed him, in the most earnest manner, to accept it, as the richest
spoil of the vanquished enemy. But he refused with firmness, explaining
the motives of his refusal so eloquently, he persuaded all who heard
him, that the spoil did not belong to them; and that patriotism, jealous
only of glory and honour, would blush at receiving a pecuniary
recompense.—And, making a noble use of the ascendency which he had over
the people, he began to recommend moderation and clemency.—But he was
soon interrupted by the account of the death of Delaunay; seized in the
court of the Bastille, and dragged by the furious populace almost to the
_hôtel-de-ville_, before he was massacred.—And soon after the death of
three other officers was reported.

The prisoners listened to these tales with the countenances of victims
ready to be sacrificed, whilst the exasperated crowd demanded their
instant execution. One of the electors spoke in their favour, but was
scarcely permitted to go on. The people, indeed, were principally
enraged against three of the invalids, whom they accused of being the
cannoneers, that had fired so briskly on the citizens. One of them was
wounded, and consequently inspired more compassion. The marquis de la
Salle placed himself before this poor wretch, and forcing, in some
degree, the people to hear him, he insisted on the authority which he
ought to have as commander in chief; adding, that he only wished to
secure the culprits, that they might be judged with all the rigour of
martial law. The people seemed to approve of his reasoning; and taking
advantage of this favourable turn, he made the wounded invalid pass into
another apartment.—But, whilst he was preserving the life of this
unfortunate man, the mob hurried the other two out of the hall, and
immediately hung them on the adjacent lamp-post[18]. The effervescence,
nevertheless, in spite of this overflowing of fury, still continued, and
was not even damped by these cruel acts of retaliation. Two sentiments
agitated the public mind—the joy of having conquered, and the desire of
vengeance. Confused denunciations of treason resounded on all sides, and
each individual was eager to show his sagacity in discovering a plot, or
substituted suspicion instead of conviction with equal obstinacy. The
mayor, however, had given sufficient proofs of his disposition to
support the court, to justify the rage which was breaking out against
him; and a general cry having been raised around him, that it was
necessary for him to go to the _palais royal_, to be tried by his fellow
citizens, he agreed to accompany the people.

Mean time the clamour against the rest of the invalids redoubled. But
the french guards, who entered in groups, requested as a recompense for
the service which they had rendered to their country the pardon of their
old comrades; and M. Elie joined in the request; adding, that this
favour would be more grateful to his heart, than all the gifts and
honours which they wished to lavish on him. Touched by his eloquence,
some cried out—Pardon! and the same emotion spreading throughout the
circle—Pardon! Pardon! succeeded the ferocious demand of vengeance,
which had hitherto stifled sympathy. And to assure their safety, M. Elie
proposed making the prisoners take an oath of fidelity to the nation and
the city of Paris: and this proposition was received with testimonies of
general satisfaction. The oath being administered, the french guards
surrounded the prisoners and carried them away, in the midst of them,
without meeting with any resistance.

The committee now endeavoured to re-establish something like order, for
in the tumult the table had been broken down, and destruction menaced on
every side—when a man entered to inform them, that an unknown, but,
indeed, a merciful hand had shot the mayor, and thus by the only
possible mean snatched him from the popular fury, The whole tenour of
his conduct, in fact, justified the charge brought against him, and
rendered at least this effect of public indignation excusable.—So
excusable, that had not the passions of the people, exasperated by
designing men, afterwards been directed to the commission of the most
barbarous atrocities, the vengeance of this day could hardly be cited as
acts of injustice or inhumanity.

The Bastille was taken about four o’clock in the afternoon; and after
the struggle to save the prisoners, some necessary regulations were
proposed, to secure the public safety. The conduct of the men in office
had so irritated the people, that the cry against aristocrats was now
raised; and a number of persons of distinction were brought to the
_hôtel-de-ville_ this evening, by the restless populace, who, roving
about the streets, seemed to create some of the adventures, which were
necessary to employ their awakened spirit. Breathless with victory,
they, for the moment, gave a loose to joy; but the sounds of exultation
dying away with the day, night brought back all their former
apprehensions; and they listened with fresh affright to the report, that
a detachment of troops was preparing to enter one of the barriers. Not,
therefore, allowing themselves to sleep on their conquering arms, this
was, likewise, a watchful night; for the taking of the Bastille, though
it was a proof of the courage and resolution of the parisians, by no
means secured them against the insidious schemes of the court. They had
shown their determination to resist oppression very forcibly; but the
troops that excited their resistance were still apparently waiting for
an opportunity to destroy them. Every citizen then hurried to his post,
for their very success made them the more alive to fear. The _tocsin_
was again rung, and the cannon that had forced the Bastille to surrender
dragged hastily to the place of alarm. The pavement of the adjacent
streets was torn up, with astonishing quickness, and carried to the tops
of the houses; where the women, who were equally animated, stood
prepared to hurl them down on the soldiers.—All Paris, in short, was
awake; and this vigilance either frustrated the designs of the cabal, or
intimidated the hostile force, which never appeared to have entered with
earnestness into it’s measures. For it is probable, that some decisive
stroke had been concerted; but that the officers, who expected by their
presence only to have terrified into obedience the citizens, whose
courage, on the contrary, they roused, were rendered irresolute by the
disaffection of the soldiers. Thus was the nation saved by the almost
incredible exertion of an indignant people; who felt, for the first
time, that they were sovereign, and that their power was commensurate to
their will. This was certainly a splendid example, to prove, that
nothing can resist a people determined to live free; and then it
appeared clear, that the freedom of France did not depend on a few men,
whatever might be their virtues or abilities, but alone on the will of
the nation.

During this day, while the parisians were so active for it’s safety, the
national assembly was employed in forming a committee, to be charged
with digesting the plan of a constitution, for the deliberation of the
whole body: to secure the rights of the people on the eternal principles
of reason and justice; and thereby to guarantee the national dignity and
respectability. Towards the evening, the uncertainty of what was passing
at Paris, the mysterious conduct of the cabinet, the presence of the
troops at Versailles, the substantiated facts, and the suspected
proscriptions, gave to this sitting the involuntary emotions, that must
naturally be produced by the approach of a catastrophe, which was to
decide the salvation or destruction of a state. Mirabeau, firm to his
point, showed the necessity of insisting on the sending away the troops
without delay; and soon after the viscount de Noailles, arriving from
Paris, informed them, that the arms had been taken from the _hôtel des
invalides_; and that the Bastille was actually besieged. The first
impulse was for them to go altogether, and endeavour to open the king’s
eyes; but, after some reflection, a numerous deputation was
nominated;—to insist on the removal of the troops; and to speak to his
majesty with that energetic frankness, so much more necessary as he was
deceived by every person by whom he was surrounded. Whilst they were
absent, two persons, sent by the electors of Paris, informed the
assembly of the taking of the Bastille, and the other events of the day;
which were repeated to them, when they returned with the king’s vague

A second deputation was then immediately sent, to inform him of these
circumstances:—To which he replied—‘You more and more distress my heart,
by the recitals you bring me of the miseries of Paris. But I cannot
believe, that the orders which I have given to the troops, is the cause
of them: I have, therefore, nothing to add to the answer that you have
already received from me.’

This reply tended to increase the general alarm; and they determined
again to prolong the sitting all night; either to be ready to receive
the enemy in their sacred function, or to make a last effort near the
throne to succour the metropolis. Nothing could surpass the anxious
suspense of this situation; for the most resolute of the deputies were
uneasy respecting their fate, because their personal safety was
connected with the salvation of France. Their nocturnal conversation
naturally turned on the late events that had taken place at Paris; the
commotions in the provinces; and the horrours of famine, ready to
consume those whom a civil war spared. The old men sought for an hour of
repose upon the tables and carpets; the sick rested on the benches.—All
saw the sword suspended over them, and over their country—and all feared
a morrow still more dreadful.

Impressed by their situation, and the danger of the state, one of the
deputies (the duke de Liancourt) left his post, and sought a private
audience with the king, with whom he warmly expostulated, pointing out
the critical situation of the kingdom; and even of the royal family,
should his majesty persist to support the present measures. Monsieur,
the king’s eldest brother, and not only the most honest, but the most
sensible of the blood royal, immediately coincided with the duke,
silencing the rest of the cabal. They had at first treated with contempt
the intelligence received of the Bastille’s being taken; and now were so
stunned by the confirmation, that, at a loss how to direct the king,
they left him to follow the counsel of whoever dared to advise him.—And
he, either convinced, or persuaded, determined to extricate himself out
of the present difficulties, by yielding to necessity.

On the morning of the 15th, the national assembly, not informed of this
circumstance, resolved to send another remonstrance to the king;—and
Mirabeau, giving a sketch of the address, drew a rapid and lively
picture of the exigencies of the moment. ‘Tell him,’ said he, ‘that the
hordes of foreigners, by whom we are besieged, have yesterday been
visited by the princes and princesses, their favourites, and their
minions, who, lavishing on them caresses and presents, exhorted them to
perseverance—tell him, that the whole night these foreign satellites,
gorged with gold and wine, have, in their impious camp, predicted the
subjugation of France, and, that they invoked, with brutal vehemence,
the destruction of the national assembly—tell him, that, even in his own
palace, the courtiers have mingled in the dance to the sound of this
barbarous music—and, tell him, that such was the scene, which announced
St. Bartholomew.

‘Tell him, that the Henry, whose memory the world blesses, the ancestor,
whom he ought to wish to take for a model, allowed provision to pass
into Paris in a state of revolt, when he was in person besieging it;
whilst his ferocious counsellors are turning back the flour, that the
course of commerce was bringing to his faithful and famished city.’

The deputation left the hall; but was stopped by the duke de Liancourt;
who informed them, that the king was then coming to restore them to
tranquillity and peace. Every heart was relieved by this intelligence;
and a cynic, probably, would have found less dignity in the joy, than
the grief of the assembly. A deputy, however, moderated these first
emotions, by observing, that those transports formed a shocking contrast
with the distress which the people had already endured.—He added, ‘that
a respectful silence was the proper reception of a monarch during a
moment of public sorrow: for the silence of the people is the only
lesson of kings.’

Shortly after, the king appeared in the assembly, standing uncovered;
and without any attention to ceremony. He addressed the representatives
of the people with artful affection: for as it is impossible to avoid
comparing his present affectionate style, with the cold contempt with
which he answered their repeated remonstrances the preceding evening, it
is not judging harshly to despise the affectation, and to suggest, that
it was dictated rather by selfish prudence than by a sense of justice,
or a feeling of humanity. He lamented the disorder that reigned in the
capital, and requested them to think of some method to bring back order
and tranquillity. He alluded to the report, that the personal safety of
the deputies had been menaced; and, with contemptible duplicity asked,
if his well-known character did not give the lie to such a
rumour.—Reckoning then, he concluded, on the love and fidelity of his
subjects, he had given orders to the troops to repair to more distant
quarters—and he authorized, nay, invited them, to make known his
intentions to the metropolis.

This speech was interrupted and followed by the most lively expression
of applause; though the sagacity of a number of the deputies could not
possibly have been clouded by their sympathy: and the king returning to
the palace on foot, great part of the assembly escorted him, joined by a
concourse of people, who rent the air with their benedictions. The
declaration of Louis, that, trusting to the representatives of the
people, he had ordered the troops to withdraw from Versailles, being
spread abroad, every person, feeling relieved from the oppression of
fear, and unshackled from the fetters of despotism, threw off care; and
the national assembly immediately appointed eighty-four of it’s most
respectable members, to convey to Paris the glad intelligence; that the
harrassed parisians might participate in the joy they had procured the
assembly, by the most noble exertions.

Arrived at Paris, they were received with enthusiasm, as the saviours of
their country; and saw there more than a hundred thousand men in arms,
formed into companies; showing the superiority of a nation rising in
it’s own defence, compared with the mercenary machines of tyranny. The
transports of the people, and the sympathy of the deputies, must have
formed a highly interesting scene: success elevating the heart for the
moment, and hope gilding the future prospect.—But the imagination would
languidly pourtray this dazzling sunshine, depressed by the recollection
of the sinister events, that have since clouded the bright beams.
Precluded then by melancholy reflections from rejoicing with the happy
throng, it is necessary to turn our attention to the circumstances, from
which mankind may draw instruction:—and the first that present
themselves to our notice are those which disconcerted the flagitious
plan of the ministry;—the regulations that preserved order in the
metropolis;—the astonishing reduction of the Bastille;—the union of the
french guards with the citizens;—the prompt establishment of a city
militia;—and, in short, the behaviour of the people, who showed neither
a thirst for pillage, nor a fondness for tumult.

The court by their criminal enterprises had entirely disorded the
political machines, that sustained the old worn out government[19];
which, worm-eaten in all it’s pillars, and rotten in all it’s joints,
fell at the first shock—never to rise again. The destruction of the
Bastille—that fortress of tyranny! which for two centuries had been the
shame and terrour of the metropolis[20], was the sentence of death of
the old constitution.

The junction of the three orders in fact securing the power of the
national assembly, and making the court appear a cipher, could not fail
to prove sorely mortifying to it’s old minions; and the success of the
people on the 14th of july proclaiming their supremacy, the courtiers,
resorting to their old arts, suggested to the king a line of conduct the
most plausible and flattering to the inconsiderate partizans of a
revolution; whilst it betrayed to the more discerning a dissimulation as
palpable as the motives of the advisers were flagrantly interested. For
their views being narrowed by the depravity of their character, they
imagined, that his apparent acquiescence, exciting the admiration and
affection of the nation, would be the surest mode of procuring him that
consequence in the government, which ultimately might tend to overthrow
what they termed an upstart legislature; and, by the appropriation of
chances, reinstate the tyranny of unlimited monarchy.

This serious farce commenced previous to that memorable epocha; and in
marking the prominent features of the events that led to the disasters,
which have sullied the glory of the revolution, it is impossible to keep
too near in view the arts of the acting parties; and the credulity and
enthusiasm of the people, who, invariably directing their attention to
the same point, have always been governed in their sentiments of men by
the most popular anarchists. For this is the only way to form a just
opinion of the various changes of men, who, supplanting each other, with
such astonishing rapidity, have produced the most fatal calamities.

The cabinet, indeed, the better to disguise their secret machinations,
made the king declare, the 23d of june, that ‘he annulled and dissolved
all powers and restrictions, which by cramping the liberty of the
deputies would hinder them either from adopting the form of deliberation
by orders separately, or in common, by the distinct voice of the three
orders,’ absolutely gave his sanction for constituting the national
assembly one and indivisible.—And in the same declaration, article the
6th, he says, ‘that he will not suffer the _cahiers_, or mandates, to be
regarded as dictatorial; for they were only to be considered as simple
instructions, entrusted to the conscience and free opinion of the
deputies, who have been chosen.’ This was giving them unbounded latitude
for their actions.—This was not only a tacit consent to their
proceedings; but it was granting them all his authority to frame a
constitution.—It was legalizing their actions, even according to the
arbitrary rules of the old despotism; and abrogating in a formal manner
that imaginary authority, the sanction of which, at a former period,
would have been necessary to their existence as representatives of the
people.—But happily that period had passed away; and those men, who had
known no rule of action paramount to the commands of their sovereign,
were now sufficiently enlightened, to demand a restitution of their
long-estranged rights;—and a constitution, upon which they could
consolidate their liberty and national fraternity.

This imperious demand was irresistible; and the cabinet, unable to check
the current of opinion, had recourse to those stratagems, which, leading
to their ruin, has buried in the wreck all that vain grandeur elevated
on the spoil of industry, whilst it’s gilding obscured the sad objects
of misery that pined under it’s shade. Lively sanguine minds, disgusted
with the vices and artificial manners produced by the great inequality
of conditions in France, naturally hailed the dawn of a new day, when
the Bastille was destroyed; and freedom, like a lion roused from his
lair, rose with dignity, and calmly shook herself.—With delight they
marked her noble pace, without ever supposing that the tiger, who
thirsts for blood, and the whole brutal herd, must necessarily unite
against her.—Yet this has been the case; the dogs of war have been let
loose, and corruption has swarmed with noxious life.—But let not the
coldly wise exult, that their heads were not led astray by their hearts;
or imagine, that the improvement of the times does not betoken a change
of government, gradually taking place to meliorate the fate of man; for,
in spite of the perverse conduct of beings spoilt by the old system, the
preponderancy of truth has rendered principles in some respects
triumphant over men; and instruments of mischief have wondered at the
good which they have unwittingly produced.

                              CHAPTER IV.

The effect produced by the duplicity of courts must be very great, when
the vicissitudes, which had happened at Versailles, could not teach
every person of common sense, that the moment was arrived, when
subterfuge and treachery could no longer escape detection and
punishment; and that the only possibility of obtaining the durable
confidence of the people was by that strict attention to justice, which
produces a dignified sincerity of action. For after the unravelling of
the plot, contrived to cheat the expectation of the people, it was
natural to suppose, that they would entertain the most wakeful suspicion
of every person who had been privy to it.

It would have been fortunate for France, and the unhappy Louis, if his
counsellors could have profited by experience. But, still pursuing the
old track, bounding over the mine, the bursting of which had for a
moment disconcerted them, we shall find, that the continual
dissimulation of the king, and the stratagems of his advisers, were the
principal, though perhaps not the sole cause of his ruin. He appears to
have sometimes mistrusted the cabal; yet, with that mixture of facility
and obstinacy in his character, the concomitants of indolence of mind,
he allowed himself to be governed without attempting to form any
principle of action to regulate his conduct. For if he had ever really
desired to be useful to his people, and to lighten their accumulated
burdens, as has been continually insisted, he was astonishingly
defective in judgment not to see, that he was surrounded with
sycophants, who fattened on their hearts blood, using his own hand to
brand his name with infamy. It may possibly be urged in reply, that this
yielding temper was a proof of the king’s benign desire to promote the
felicity of his subjects, and prevent the horrours of anarchy. To
confute such remarks, it is only necessary to state, that the
preparations which had been made to dissolve the national assembly, and
to reduce the people to entire subjection, if they were not his
immediate contrivance, must have had his sanction, to give them
efficiency; and that the tergiversation, which he employed on this
occasion, was sufficient to make every other transaction of his reign
suspected. And this will be found to be the case in all the steps he
afterwards took to conciliate the people, which were little regarded
after the evaporation of the lively emotions they excited; whilst the
want of morals in the court, and even in the assembly, made a prevailing
mistrust produce a capriciousness of conduct throughout the empire.
Perhaps, it is vain to expect, that a depraved nation, whatever examples
of heroism, and noble instances of disinterested conduct, it may exhibit
on sudden emergencies, or at the first statement of an useful reform,
will ever pursue with steadiness the great objects of public good, in
the direct path of virtuous ambition.

If the calamities, however, which have followed in France the taking of
the Bastille, a noble effort, be attributed partly to ignorance, or only
to want of morals, the evils are in no degree lessened; neither does it
justify the conduct of the virulent opposers of those manly exertions
inspired by the voice of reason. The removal of a thousand grinding
oppressions had been demanded;—and promised, to delude the public; who
finding, at last, that the hopes, which had softened their misery, were
likely to be blasted by the intrigues of courtiers, can we wonder, that
the worm these courtiers were trying to crush, turned on the foot
prepared to stamp it to nothing.

The complication of laws in every country has tended to bewilder the
understanding of man in the science of government; and whilst artful
politicians have taken advantage of the ignorance or credulity of their
fellow citizens, it was impossible to prevent a degeneracy of morals,
because impunity will always be a stimulus to the passions. This has
been the cause of the insincerity, which has so long disgraced the
courts of Europe, and pervading every class of men in their offices or
employ, has extended it’s poison throughout the higher orders of
society; and it will require a simplification of laws, an establishment
of equal rights, and the responsibility of ministers, to secure a just
and enlightened policy. But till this be effected, it ought not to
surprize us, should we hear the mock patriots of the day declaiming
about public reform, merely to answer sinister purposes; or should we
chance to discover, that the most extolled characters have ben actuated
by a miserable selfishness, or prompted by corroding resentment, to
exertions for the public good; whilst historians have ignorantly
attributed the political advantages, which have been attained by a
gradual improvement of manners, to their resolution, and the virtuous
exercise of their talents.

And we ought not to be discouraged from attempting this simplification,
because no country has yet been able to do it; since it seems clear,
that manners and government have been in a continual and progressive
state of improvement, and that the extension of knowledge, a truth
capable of demonstration, was never at any period so general as at

If at one epocha of civilization we know, that all the improvements
which were made in arts and sciences were suddenly overturned, both in
Greece and Rome, we need not inquire, why superficial reasoners have
been induced to think, that there is only a certain degree of
civilization to which men are capable of attaining, without receding
back to a state of barbarism, by the horrid consequences of anarchy;
though it may be necessary to observe, that the causes which produced
that event can never have the same effect again:—because a degree of
knowledge has been diffused through society by the invention of
printing, which no inundation of barbarians can eradicate. Besides, the
improvement of governments do not now depend on the genius of particular
men; but on the impetus given to the whole society by the discovery of
useful truths. The opposers then of popular governments may tell us, if
they please, that Themistocles had no motive in saving his country, but
to gratify his ambition; that Cicero was vain, and Brutus only envious
of the growing greatness of Cæsar.—Or, to approach our own times;—that,
if the supercilious Wedderburne had not offered an indignity to
Franklin, he never would have become an advocate for american
independence; and that, if Mirabeau had not suffered in prison, he never
would have written against the _lettres de cachet_, or espoused the
cause of the people.—All of which assertions I am willing to admit,
because they exactly prove what I wish to enforce; namely, that—though
bad morals, and worse laws, have helped to deprave the passions of men
to such a degree, as to make the benefits which society has derived from
the talents or exertions of individuals to arise from selfish
considerations, still it has been in a state of gradual improvement, and
has arrived at such a pitch of comparative perfection, that the most
arbitrary governments in Europe, Russia excepted, begin to treat their
subjects as human beings, feeling like men, and with some powers of

The most high degree of civilization amongst the ancients, on the
contrary, seems to have consisted in the perfection the arts, including
language, attained; whilst the people, only domesticated brutes, were
governed and amused by religious shows, that stand on record as the most
egregious insult ever offered to the human understanding. Women were in
a state of bondage; though the men, who gave way to the most unbridled
excesses, even to the outraging of nature, expected that they should be
chaste; and took the only method to render them so in such a depraved
state of society, by ruling them with a rod of iron; making them,
excepting the courtezans, merely household, breeding animals.

The state of slavery, likewise, of a large proportion of men, tended
probably, more than any other circumstance, to degrade the whole circle
of society. For whilst it gave that air of arrogance, which has falsely
been called dignity, to one class, the other acquired the servile mien
that fear always impresses on the relaxed countenance. It may be
delivered, I should imagine, as an aphorism, that when one leading
principle of action is founded on injustice, it sophisticates the whole

In the systems of government of the ancients, in the perfection of the
arts, and in the ingenious conjectures which supplied the place of
science, we see, however, all that the human passions can do to give
grandeur to the human character; but we only see the heroism that was
the effect of passion, if we except Aristides. For during this youth of
the world, the imagination alone was cultivated, and the subordinate
understanding merely exercised to regulate the taste, without extending
to it’s grand employ, the forming of principles.

The laws, made by ambition rather than reason, treated with contempt the
sacred equality of man, anxious only to aggrandize, first the state and
afterwards individuals: consequently, the civilization never extended
beyond polishing the manners, often at the expence of the heart, or
morals; for the two modes of expression have, I conceive, precisely the
same signification, though the latter may have more extent. To what
purpose then do semi-philosophers exultingly show, that the vices of one
country are not the vices of another; as if this would prove, that
morality has no solid foundation; when all their examples are taken from
nations just emerging out of barbarism, regulating society on the narrow
scale of opinions suggested by their passions, and the necessity of the
moment? What, indeed, do these examples prove? Unless they be allowed to
substantiate my observation, that civilization has hitherto been only a
perfection of the arts; and a partial melioration of manners, tending
more to embellish the superiour rank of society, than to improve the
situation of all mankind. Sentiments were often noble, sympathies
just—yet the life of most men of the first class was made up of a series
of unjust acts, because the regulations thought expedient to cement
society, did violence to natural justice. Venerable as age has rendered
many of these regulations, cold substitutes for moral principles, it
would be a kind of sacrilege not to strip them of their gothic vests.
And where then will be found the man who will simply say—that a king can
do no wrong; and that, committing the vilest crimes to sully his mind,
his person still remains sacred?—Who will dare to assert, that the
priest, who takes advantage of the dying fears of a vicious man, to
cheat his heirs, is not more despicable than a highwayman?—or that
obedience to parents should go one jot beyond the deference due to
reason, enforced by affection?—And who will coolly maintain, that it is
just to deprive a woman, not to insist on her being treated as an
outcast of society, of all the rights of a citizen, because her
revolting heart turns from the man, whom, a husband only in name, and by
the tyrannical power he has over her person and property, she can
neither love nor respect, to find comfort in a more congenial or humane
bosom? These are a few of the leading prejudices, in the present
constitution of society, that blast the blossoms of hope, and render
life wretched and useless—And, when such were tolerated, nay, reckoned
sacred, who can find more than doubtful traces of the perfection of man
in a system of association pervaded with such abuses? Voluptuousness
alone softened the character down to tenderness of heart; and as taste
was cultivated, peace was sought, rather because it was convenient, than
because it was just. But, when war could not be avoided, men were hired
by the rich to secure to them the quiet enjoyment of their luxuries; so
that war, become a trade, did not render ferocious all those who
directly, or indirectly waged it.

When, therefore, the improvements of civil life consisted almost
entirely in polishing the manners, and exercising the transient
sympathies of the heart, it is clear, that this partial civilization
must have worn itself out by destroying all energy of mind. And the
weakened character would then naturally fall back into barbarism,
because the highest degree of sensual refinement violates all the
genuine feelings of the soul, making the understanding the abject slave
of the imagination. But, when the advances of knowledge shall make
morality the real basis of social union, and not it’s shadow the mask of
selfishness, men cannot again lose the ground so surely taken, or forget
principles, though they may accomplishments.

And that a civilization founded on reason and morality is, in fact,
taking place in the world, will appear clear to all those, who have
considered the atrocious vices and gigantic crimes, that sullied the
polish of ancient manners. What nobleman, even in the states where they
have the power of life and death, after giving an elegant entertainment,
would now attract the detestation of his company, by ordering a domestic
to be thrown into a pond to fatten the fish.[21]—What tyrant would dare,
at this time, to poison his brother at his own table; or stab his
enemy’s mother, not to mention his own, without colouring over the deed?
and do not the exclamations against boxing matches, in England, also
prove, that the amphitheatre would not now be tolerated, much less
enjoyed? If the punishment of death be not yet abolished, tortures worse
than twenty deaths are exploded, merely by the melioration of manners. A
human being is not now forced to feed the lamp that consumes him; or
allowed vainly to call for death, whilst the flesh is pinched off his
quivering limbs. Are not, likewise, many of the vices, that formerly
braved the face of day, now obliged to lurk, like beasts of prey, in
concealment, till night allows them to roam at large. And the odium
which now forces several vices, that then passed as merely the play of
the imagination, to hide their heads, may chase them out of society,
when justice is common to all, and riches no longer stand in the place
of sense and virtue. Granting then to the ancients that savage grandeur
of imagination, which, clashing with humanity, does not exclude
tenderness of heart, we should guard against paying that homage to
sentiment, only due to principles formed by reason.

Their tragedies, this is still but a cultivation of the passions and the
taste, have been celebrated and imitated servilely; yet, touching the
heart, they corrupted it; for many of the fictions, that produced the
most striking stage effect, were absolutely immoral. The sublime
terrour, with which they fill the mind, may amuse, nay, delight; but
whence comes the improvement? Besides, uncultivated minds are the most
subject to feel astonishment, which is often only another name for
sublime sensations. What moral lesson, for example, can be drawn from
the story of Oedipus, the favourite subject of such a number of
tragedies?—The gods impel him on, and, led imperiously by blind fate,
though perfectly innocent, he is fearfully punished, with all his
hapless race, for a crime in which his will had no part.

Formerly kings and great men openly despised the justice they violated;
but, at present, when a degree of reason, at least, regulates
governments, men find it necessary to put a gloss of morality on their
actions, though it may not be their spring. And even the jargon of crude
sentiments, now introduced into conversation, shows to what side leans
vanity, the true thermometer of the times.—An affectation of humanity is
the affectation of the day; and men almost always affect to possess the
virtue, or quality, that is rising into estimation.

Formerly a man was safe only in one civilized patch of the globe, and
even there his life hung by a thread. Such were the sudden vicissitudes,
which, keeping the apprehension on the stretch, warmed the imagination,
that clouded the intellect. At present a man may reasonably expect to be
allowed tranquilly to follow any scientific pursuit; and when the
understanding is calmly employed, the heart imperceptibly becomes
indulgent. It is not the same with the cultivation of the arts. Artists
have commonly irritable tempers; and, inflaming their passions as they
warm their fancy, they are, generally speaking, licentious; acquiring
the manners their productions tend to spread abroad, when taste, only
the refinement of weakened sensations, stifles manly ardour.

Taste and refined manners, however, were swept away by hordes of
uncivilized adventurers; and in Europe, where some of the seeds
remained, the state of society slowly meliorating itself till the
seventeenth century, nature seemed as much despised in the arts, as
reason in the sciences. The different professions were much more knavish
than at present, under the veil of solemn stupidity. Every kind of
learning, as in the savage state, consisted chiefly in the art of
tricking the vulgar, by impressing them with an opinion of powers, that
did not exist in nature—The priest was to save their souls without
morality; the physician to heal their bodies without medicine; and
justice was to be administered by the immediate interposition of
heaven:—all was to be done by a charm. Nothing, in short, was founded on
philosophical principles; and the amusements being barbarous, the
manners became formal and ferocious. The cultivation of the mind,
indeed, consisted rather in acquiring languages, and loading the memory
with facts, than in exercising the judgment; consequently, reason
governed neither law, nor legislation; and literature was equally devoid
of taste. The people were, strictly speaking, slaves; bound by feudal
tenures, and still more oppressive ecclesiastical restraints; the lord
of the domain leading them to slaughter, like flocks of sheep; and the
ghostly father drawing the bread out of their mouths by the idlest
impositions. The croisades, however, freed many of the vassals; and the
reformation, forcing the clergy to take a new stand, and become more
moral, and even wiser, produced a change of opinion, that soon appeared
in humanizing the manners, though not in improving the different

But whilst all Europe was enslaved, suffering under the caprice or
tyranny of despots, whose pride and restless ambition continually
disturbed the tranquillity of their neighbours; the britons, in a great
degree, preserved the liberty that they first recovered. This singular
felicity was not more owing to the insular situation of their country,
than to their spirited efforts; and national prosperity was the reward
of their exertions. Whilst, therefore, englishmen were the only free
people in existence, they appear to have been not only content, but
charmed with their constitution; though perpetually complaining of the
abuses of their government. It was then very natural, in such an
elevated situation, for them to contemplate with graceful pride their
comparative happiness; and taking for granted, that it was the model of
perfection, they never seem to have formed an idea of a system more
simple, or better calculated to promote and maintain the freedom of

That system, so ingenious in theory, they thought the most perfect the
human mind was capable of conceiving; and their contentions for it’s
support contributed more to persuade them, that they actually possessed
an extensive liberty, and the best of all possible governments, than to
secure the real possession. However, if it had no specific basis beside
magna charta, till the habeas corpus act passed; or before the
revolution of 1688, but the temper of men; it is a sufficient
demonstration, that it was a government resting on principles emanating
from the consent, if not from the sense of the nation.

Whilst liberty had been consumed by the lascivious pleasures of the
citizens of Venice and Genoa;—corroded in Switzerland by a mercenary
aristocracy;—entombed in the dykes of the covetous Hollanders;—driven
out of Sweden by an association of the nobles;—and hunted down in
Corsica by the ambition of her neighbours;—France was insensible to her
value;—Italy, Spain, and Portugal, cowering under a contemptible
bigotry, which sapped the remains of the rude liberty they had enjoyed,
formed no political plans;—and all Germany was not only enslaved, and
groaning beneath the weight of the most insulting civil tyranny, but
it’s shackles were riveted by a redoubtable military phalanx.—Despotism,
in fact, had existed in that vast empire for a greater length of time
than in any other country;—whilst Russia stretched out her arms with
mighty grasp, embracing Europe and Asia. Sullen as the amphibious bear
of the north; and so chilled by her icy regions, as to be insensible to
the charms of social life, she threatened alternate destruction to every
state in her vicinity. Huge in her projects of ambition, as her empire
is extensive, the despotism of her court seems as insatiable, as the
manners of her boors are barbarous.—Arrived at that stage of
civilization, when the grandeur and parade of a palace are mistaken for
the improvement of manners, and the false glory of desolating provinces
for wisdom and magnanimity, the tzarina would sooner have abandoned her
favourite plan of imitating the conduct of Peter the great, in labouring
to civilize her kingdom, than have allowed freedom to find a firm seat
in her dominions to assist her. She has vainly endeavoured, indeed, to
make the sweet flowers of liberty grow under the poisonous shade of
despotism; giving the russians a false taste for the luxuries of life
before the attainment of it’s conveniences. And this hasty attempt to
alter the manners of a people has produced the worst effect on their
morals: mixing the barbarism of one state of society, deprived of it’s
sincerity and simplicity, with the voluptuousness of the other, void of
elegance and urbanity, the two extremes have prematurely met.

Thus pursued and mistaken, liberty, though still existing in the small
island of England, yet continually wounded by the arbitrary proceedings
of the british ministry, began to flap her wings, as if preparing for a
flight to more auspicious regions—And the anglo-americans having carried
with them to their place of refuge the principles of their ancestors,
she appeared in the new world with renovated charms, and sober matron

Freedom is, indeed, the natural and imprescriptible right of man;
without the enjoyment of which, it is impossible for him to become
either a reasonable or dignified being. Freedom he enjoys in a natural
state, in it’s full extent: but formed by nature for a more intimate
society, to unfold his intellectual powers, it becomes necessary, for
carrying into execution the main objects, which induces men to establish
communities, that they should surrender a part of their natural
privileges, more effectually to guard the most important. But from the
ignorance of men, during the infancy of society, it was easy for their
leaders, by frequent usurpations, to create a despotism, which choking
up the springs that would have invigorated their minds, they seem to
have been insensible to the deprivations under which they lived; and
existing like mere animals, the tyrants of the world have continued to
treat them only as machines to promote their purposes.

In the progress of knowledge, which however was very tardy in Europe,
because the men who studied were content to see nature through the
medium of books, without making any actual experiments themselves, the
benefits of civil liberty began to be better understood: and in the same
proportion we find the chains of despotism becoming lighter. Still the
systematizing of pedants, the ingenious fallacy of priests, and the
supercilious meanness of the literary sycophants of courts, who were the
distinguished authors of the day, continued to perplex and confound the
understandings of unlettered men. And no sooner had the republics of
Italy risen from the ashes of the roman jurisprudence, than their
principles were attacked by the apostles of Machiavel, and the efforts
made for the revival of freedom were undermined by the insidious tenets
which he gave to his prince.

The arts, it is true, were now recovering themselves, patronized by the
family of the Medicis: but the sciences, that is, whatever claimed the
appellation, had still to struggle with aristotelean prejudices; till
Descartes ventured to think for himself; and Newton, following his
example, explained the laws of motion and gravity, displaying the
mechanism of the universe with wonderful perspicacity; for the analysis
of ideas, which has since diffused such light through every branch of
knowledge, was not before this period applied even to mathematics. The
extension of analytical truths, including political, which at first were
only viewed as splendid theories, now began to pervade every part of
Europe; stealing into the very seminaries of learning in Germany, where
formerly scholastic, dry theology, laborious compilations of the
wanderings of the human understanding, and minute collations of the
works of the ancients, had consumed the fervour of youth, and wasted the
patience of age. The college and the court are always connected:—and
literature beginning to attract the attention of several of the petty
sovereigns of the empire, they were induced to patronize those daring
men who were persecuted by the public for attacking religious or
political prejudices; and allowing them an asylum at their courts, they
acquired a relish for their conversation. The amusements of the chace
then yielding to the pleasures of colloquial disquisition on subjects of
taste and morals, the ferocity of northern despotism began imperceptible
to wear away, and the condition of it’s slaves to become more tolerable.

Education, in particular, has been studied; and the rational modes of
instruction in useful knowledge, which are taking place of the exclusive
attention formerly paid to the dead languages, promise to render the
germans, in the course of half a century, the most enlightened people in
Europe. Whilst their simplicity of manners, and honesty of heart are in
a great degree preserved, even as they grow more refined, by the
situation of their country; which prevents that inundation of riches by
commercial sources, that destroys the morals of a nation before it’s
reason arrives at maturity.

Frederic the IId of Prussia, with the most ardent ambition, was
nevertheless as anxious to acquire celebrity as an author, as he was
fame as a soldier. By writing an examination of Machiavel’s Prince, and
the encouragement he gave to literary talents and abilities, he
contributed very much to promote the acquirement of knowledge in his
dominions; whilst, by granting his confidence to the philosophical
Hertzberg, the administration of his government grew considerably

His splendid reputation as a soldier continued to awe the restless
ambition of the princes of the neighbouring states, which afforded an
opportunity to the inhabitants of the empire to follow, during the reign
of tranquillity, those literary pursuits, which became fashionable even
at the half civilized court of Petersbourg. It now, indeed, appeared
certain, that Germany would gain in future important political
advantages; for men were beginning to presume to think, and scanned the
conduct of the supercilious Joseph with freedom, treating his vanity
with contempt.

It is by thus teaching men from their youth to think, that they will be
enabled to recover their liberty; and useful learning is already so far
advanced, that nothing can stop it’s progress:—I say peremptorily
nothing; for this is not the era hesitatingly to add, short of
supernatural events. And though the unjustifiable proceeding of the
english courts of justice, or rather of the arbitrary chief judge
Mansfield, who established it as a law precedent, that the greater the
truth the greater the libel, tended materially to prevent the authors of
the american war from being attacked for those tyrannical steps, that
ultimately tended to stop the progress of knowledge and the
dissemination of political truth; yet the clamour which was raised
against that unpopular war is a proof, that, if justice slept, liberty
of thought had not forsaken the island.

The overweening presumption, however, of men ignorant of true political
science; who beheld a nation prosperous beyond example, whilst all the
neighbouring states were languishing, and knew not how to account for
it; foolishly endeavouring to preserve this prosperity, by mad attempts
to throw impediments in the way of those very principles, which had
raised Great Britain to the elevated rank she has attained in Europe,
served only to accelerate their diffusion. And France being the first
among the nations on the continent, that had arrived at a civilization
of manners, which they have termed the only art of living, we find was
the first to throw off the yoke of her old prejudices.

It was at this crisis of things, that the despotism of France was
completely overturned, and twenty-five millions of human beings unloosed
from the odious bands, which had for centuries benumbed their faculties,
and made them crouch under the most ignominious servitude—And it now
remains to observe the effect of this important revolution, which may
fairly be dated from the taking of the Bastille.

                       HISTORICAL AND MORAL VIEW
                                 OF THE
                           FRENCH REVOLUTION.

                              _BOOK III._

                               CHAPTER I.

The presence of the deputies had diffused throughout the capital the
most intoxicating joy—for where is joy expressed with such infantile
playfulness, such entire forgetfulness of to-morrow, as at Paris? and
the citizens, with their usual burst of gratitude, which always
resembles adoration, made choice of Baillie, the first acting president
of the national assembly, for mayor, and of La Fayette for commander in
chief of the national guards: the name now given to the
_garde-bourgeoise_, and the other soldiers incorporated with them. But
the rapture of the parisians, as transient as lively, dwindled, as their
spirits were exhausted, into the murmurs of suspicion.—The ministry,
said they, who were chosen to depress us, are not yet dismissed; and the
troops, that were to have been their instruments of mischief, still
hover round Paris, and are even augmented by the arrival of two fresh
regiments at St. Denis. A rumour was spread, that a convoy of flour had
been intercepted by the order of the ministers, in it’s way to Paris;
and some disturbances at the Bastille had given colour to a report, that
they had attempted to make themselves once more masters of this
important fortress. The night of the 15th was then another devoted to
watchfulness and anxiety; and in the morning a deputation was sent to
the national assembly, praying them to demand the dismission of the
present ministry, and the recall of Necker.

The assembly took the subject into deliberation; but still attentive to
_etiquette_, they debated about the decorum of interfering with the
appointment of the executive power. This roused the genius of Mirabeau;
and the bubbles of fear, and the straw-like objections of timidity, were
carried away by the torrent of his eloquence. The discussion grew warm;
yet for the present occasion soon became of little importance, because
the ministry, finding that they could not stand the brunt of the storm,
resigned; Necker also, in whom the public had still the most implicit
confidence, was invited to return;—and the king, appearing to be anxious
to give every proof of his desire to establish general tranquillity,
signified, that he wished to visit Paris. A short time after they were
officially informed that the troops were promptly removing to more
distant quarters. The national assembly accordingly sent some of their
members to communicate to the parisians this welcome intelligence, to
prepare for the reception of the king by calming the fears of the

And he, adhering to his purpose, left Versailles the next day (the
17th), though his family ridiculously endeavoured to dissuade him;
insinuating, that he ought not to trust his sacred person to the mercy
of an enraged multitude; whilst rumours of projected assassinations were
repeated before him, with exaggerated comments. But, being a man of
considerable animal courage, and now almost perceiving, that all the
evils with which he was struggling had been produced by his headstrong
advisers, he seemed determined, at least for the present, not to be
governed by their dangerous councils. And he had even the sagacity to
foresee, that, convulsed as the kingdom was, they would occasion a civil
war, and his life might then be still more exposed. In this instance, as
we shall find in many others, Louis appears to have been directed by a
kind of glimmering instinct of propriety; for at the present juncture it
was particularly discreet, considering the little effect the pageantry
of the court had produced at the _séance royale_, to meet the people
without the parade of robes or guards. And, in fact, the hundred
deputies who followed him, were now the only retinue that would have
appeared respectable in the eyes of the people. What too must have been
his surprise, in spite of all he had heard, to pass through an immense
avenue of armed parisians with such a new aspect.—Till now he had always
seen a timid multitude flying before the watch, giving vent to their
vengeance in vain songs, and to their grief in feeble murmurs:—to-day he
saw them triumphant, moving orderly along, calling out on every side,
during the procession, for a constitution and laws! marching in unison
with their reflections, they advanced, but slowly; for, almost afraid to
hope, they proceeded with the measured step of thought, or rather
sadness; and the people, whose mind was still agitated, as the swell of
the sea continues after the storm has subsided, uttered not the shout of
gladness—_vive le roi_;—but the menacing memento—_vive la nation_.

This was as ominous a sound, as the woe! woe! resounding through the
silent streets of a besieged city—for it was equally the voice of fate,
proclaiming the will of the people, disgusted with courts, and
suspicious even of the king. Louis seems to have been forcibly struck by
the energy every where displayed; and not more by the eloquent
discourses addressed to him at the hôtel-de-ville, than by the
countenance of each citizen: for the fire of liberty had already lighted
up in every face the serene lustre of manly firmness.—So impressed,
indeed, was his mind by the whole scene, that, when the animated
speakers were silent, he exclaimed in reply—‘My people! my people, may
always rely on my love.’—And taking the national cockade from the hands
of the mayor, he appeared at the window with his heart in his eyes, as
if eager to convince the multitude of his sincerity: and perhaps
conscious, that, first submitting to necessity, he now yielded to
feeling. At these words, the repetition of which flew like lightning
from rank to rank, the whole concourse of people caught the electrical
sympathy.—_Vive le roi_ was shouted from every quarter; and revived
affection glowed with the fresh fervour, that effaces the remembrance of
doubts, and makes the fear of having been unjust, the most powerful
spring of tenderness. And persuading themselves, for the moment, that
the disposition of the king was not so much at variance with their
happiness as his conduct, they poured blessings on him, bestowing all
their execrations on his counsellors.

Pleasure, now almost mounting to a feverish height, set all Paris
quickly in motion; and the sound of the thundering artillery was the
swift harbinger of the tidings of reconciliation to Versailles, where
the royal family must have been anxiously alive to the events of the

These sudden transitions from one extreme to another, without leaving
any settled conviction behind, to confirm or eradicate the corroding
distrust, could not be seen in such a strong light any where as at
Paris, because there a variety of causes have so effeminated reason,
that the french may be considered as a nation of women; and made feeble,
probably, by the same combination of circumstances, as has rendered
these insignificant. More ingenious than profound in their researches;
more tender than impassioned in their affections; prompt to act, yet
soon weary; they seem to work only to escape from work, and to reflect
merely how they shall avoid reflection. Indolently restless, they make
the elegant furniture of their rooms, like their houses, voluptuously
handy. Every thing, in short, shows the dexterity of the people, and
their attention to present enjoyment.

And so passive appears to be their imagination, it requires to be roused
by novelty; and then, more lively than strong, the evanescent emotions
scarcely leave any traces behind them. From being devoted to pleasure in
their youth, old age is commonly passed in such merely animal
gratifications, that a respectable looking aged man or woman is very
rarely to be seen. Independent, likewise, of the vanity which makes them
wish to appear polite, at the very moment they are ridiculing a person,
their great susceptibility of disposition leads them to take an interest
in all the sensations of others, which are forgotten almost as soon as
felt. And these transient gusts of feeling prevent their forming those
firm resolves of reason, that, bracing the nerves, when the heart is
moved, make sympathy yield to principles, and the mind triumph over the

Besides, the climate of France is so genial, and the blood mounted so
cheerily in the veins, even of the oppressed common people, that, living
for the day, they continually basked in the sunshine, which broke from
behind the heavy clouds that hung over them.

It is impossible, after tracing the horrid conspiracy formed by the
court against the lives and liberty of the people, not to feel the most
ineffable contempt for that kind of government, which leaves the
happiness of a nation at the mercy of a capricious minister of state.
The awful and interesting lesson, which the developement of this
treachery afforded, was such as ought to have made an indelible
impression on their minds.—It was a lesson, the very thought of which
stops for a moment the genial current of the heart.—It was a lesson,
that should be repeated to mankind, to bring home to their very senses a
conviction of the lengths to which a depraved and absolute government
will go, for the sake of holding fast it’s power.—It was, in short, a
deduction of experience, which will teach posterity that life, and every
thing dear to man, can be secured only by the preservation of liberty.

The want of decision in the character of Louis seems to have been the
foundation of all his faults, as well as of all his misfortunes; and
every moment fresh occasions to make the observation arise as we trace
his misconduct, or compassionate his situation.

To give a striking instance, it is only necessary to turn our attention
to the fatal effects that flowed from his consenting to assemble an army
of foreigners, to intimidate the states-general. He could not resist the
court, who counselled this measure; or silence the misgivings of his
heart, which made him averse to the troops taking any decisive step,
that might lead to slaughter. And still governed by these undisciplined
feelings, when he dismissed the army, he pursued the advice of the very
cabal, that had led him into this errour; giving way to the wishes of
the people, yet dissembling with them even in the act of reconciliation.
Thus, for ever wavering, it is difficult to mark any fixt purpose in his
actions; excepting that which does him honour—the desire to prevent the
shedding of blood. This principle has, in general, directed his conduct;
though the short-sighted measures of timid humanity, devoid of strength
of mind, turned all his efforts to a very contrary effect.

From the presence of these troops, and their abortive attempt to crush
liberty in the egg, the shell was prematurely broken, and the enthusiasm
of frenchmen excited before their judgment was in any considerable
degree formed. Intoxicated by conquest, each began to descant on the
existing abuses, to show his own cleverness in pointing out the remedy;
and arms being once in the hands of the people, it was difficult to
persuade them to give them up for the occupations of peace. It is true,
had the national assembly been allowed quietly to have made some
reforms, paving the way for more, the Bastille, though tottering on it’s
dungeons, might yet have stood erect.—And, if it had, the sum of human
misery could scarcely have been increased. For the _guillotine_ not
finding it’s way to the splendid square it has polluted, streams of
innocent blood would not have flowed, to obliterate the remembrance of
false imprisonment, and drown the groans of solitary grief in the loud
cry of agony—when, the thread of life quickly cut in twain, the
quivering light of hope is instantly dashed out—and the billows suddenly
closing, the silence of death is felt!—This tale is soon told.—We hear
not of years languished away in misery, whilst dissolution by inches
palsies the frame, or disturbs the reason: yet, who can estimate the sum
of comfort blasted; or tell how many survivors pine the prey of an
imagination distracted by sorrow?

The character of the french, indeed, had been so depraved by the
inveterate despotism of ages, that even amidst the heroism which
distinguished the taking of the Bastille, we are forced to see that
suspicious temper, and that vain ambition of dazzling, which have
generated all the succeeding follies and crimes. For, even in the most
public-spirited actions, celebrity seems to have been the spur, and the
glory, rather than the happiness of frenchmen, the end.—This observation
inforces the grand truth on mankind, that without morality there can be
no great strength of understanding, or real dignity of conduct. The
morals of the whole nation were destroyed by the manners formed by the
government.—Pleasure had been pursued, to fill up the void of rational
employment; and fraud combined with servility to debase the
character;—so that, when they changed their system, liberty, as it was
called, was only the acme of tyranny—merely with this difference, that,
all the force of nature being roused, the magnitude of the evil
promised, by some mighty concussion, to effect it’s own cure.

The reunion of the king and people not only routed, but terrified, the
cabal; and as cowardly in adversity, as presumptuous in prosperity, they
immediately took to flight different ways, and even disguised. One man,
who had long been obnoxious to the people on account of inordinate
covetousness, and, vulgar tyranny, not softened by the graceful
condescension of the nobility, caused it to be reported, that he was
dead. The renowned mareschal Broglio sought an asylum at Luxemburgh,
whilst madame Polignac fled to Basle. Thus went into exile an amiable
woman, who had been the instrument of the ambition of a family, that
rapaciously availed themselves of her great favour with the queen, whose
strange predilection for handsome women blighted the reputation of every
one, whom she distinguished.

The count d’Artois, with several others of the blood royal and principal
nobility, likewise thought it prudent to leave the kingdom for the
present; either to provide for their safety, or to seek vengeance. At
Brussels they met the unquiet Calonne, who, having heard of the
dismission of Necker, was lured back by the first glimpse of hope. For
wishing to wipe away the indignity, which he had so impatiently brooked;
and fondly believing, that the army had had sufficient time to quash the
verbal disputes of the nation; he was hastening towards France, to be
ready to come in for his share of the triumph.

To his country this meeting has proved a source of evil, that could only
have been hatched in such an unprincipled brain, fertile in plans of
mischief, and prone to puzzle the cause which he wanted force to
subvert. His last effort for power had been to obtain a seat in the
states-general. And, had not the remembrance of his former
administration stood in his way, it is probable he would have succeeded,
and there have become a flaming patriot, could he have been the leader
of a party; for he possessed the showy talents necessary to procure
instantaneous applause in a popular assembly—a deceiving, rather than a
commanding eloquence. Mirabeau, on the contrary, seems to have had from
nature a strong perception of a dignified propriety of conduct; and
truth appearing to give earnestness to his arguments, his hearers were
compelled to agree with him out of respect to themselves. Leaving then
plausibility far behind, he always stood forth as the sturdy champion of
reason; even when, laying down his club, he loitered to dally with the
imagination. Whilst therefore Mirabeau was teaching the national
assembly dignity[22], the resentment of the vain-glorious Calonne,
sharpened to the keenest edge by disappointment, made him suggest to
those crest-fallen princes, the necessity of engaging foreign aid, to
reinstate the king in his former plenitude of power, and to heal their
wounded pride. Unfortunately, the plausibility of his manners, and the
ingenuity of his arguments, awakened their fears, and nourished their
prejudices; and quickly persuaded to assert what they wished to believe,
they protested against the conduct of the national assembly;
insinuating, that the body of the people did not support their
pretensions. The delusion, however, did not rest here; for he even
convinced them, that, if the appeal made to the national honour of the
french did not recall crowds to their chivalrous allegiance, it would
not be a difficult task to engage all the powers of Europe in behalf of
his most christian majesty, by showing them, that, if freedom were once
established in France, it would soon extend beyond it’s confines,
bounding over the Alps and Pyrenees.

Such are the opposite sentiments, or rather conduct of court parasites,
and men struggling to be free, that it is sufficient to contrast them.
The deputies, whose lives had been threatened, and their persons grossly
insulted, not only excused the ill advised monarch for the countenance
which he had given to the violation of the most sacred principles; but
expressed a conciliatory disposition to all parties. The mob, it is
true, in the heat of rage, inhumanly butchered two of the vile
instruments of despotism. But this violence offered to justice ought not
to be attributed to the temper of the people, much less to the
connivance of the national assembly, who acted with a degree of
magnanimity, at this time, of which it can never be enough lamented that
they have since lost sight. The behaviour however of the hardened
children of oppression in all countries is the same; whether in the
amphitheatre at Rome, or around the lantern-post in Paris.

The king’s eldest brother alone remained with the court, a man with more
resources of understanding in himself, than the rest of his family; yet,
making it a point of honour to be treated like his younger brother the
count d’Artois, he contributed by his rapacity to drain the royal
treasure, though such an expensive variety of amusements was not
necessary to give a zest to his pleasures.

The noble depredators had now escaped; yet Foulon, the minister, the
most desperate and pusillanimous of the gang, was taken, in spite of his
mock funeral.—I purposely use the word gang; for a squeamish delicacy
with respect to terms makes us sometimes confound characters to such a
degree, that the great villain is not stigmatized with the epithet
associated with the idea of a gallows; because, by the grossest
subversion of reason, the aggravation of guilt has so palliated the
punishments, that the head, which would have disgraced a halter, has
been respectfully severed on a block.

Once seized, no authority could prevent the murder of this miserable
wretch; and the same evening the intendant of Paris, his son-in-law, met
a death still more shocking, being prolonged by the humane interposition
of the respectable mayor, and La Fayette, in his favour.

Strange, that a people, who often leave the theatre before the
catastrophe, should have bred up such monsters! Still we ought to
recollect, that the sex, called the tender, commit the most flagrant
acts of barbarity when irritated.—So weak is the tenderness produced
merely by sympathy, or polished manners, compared with the humanity of a
cultivated understanding. Alas!—It is morals, not feelings, which
distinguish men from the beasts of prey! These were transactions, over
which, for the honour of human nature, it were to be wished oblivion
could draw the winding-sheet, that has often enwrapped a heart, whose
benevolence has been felt, but not known. But, if it be impossible to
erase from the memory these foul deeds, which, like the stains of
deepest dye revived by remorse in the conscience, can never be rubbed
out—why dwell circumstantially on the excesses that revolt humanity, and
dim the lustre of the picture, on which the eye has gazed with rapture,
often obliged to look up to heaven to forget the misery endured on
earth? Since, however, we cannot ‘out the damned spot,’ it becomes
necessary to observe, that, whilst despotism and superstition exist, the
convulsions, which the regeneration of man occasions, will always bring
forward the vices they have engendered, to devour their parents.

Servility, destroying the natural energy of man, stifles the noblest
sentiments of the soul.—Thus debased, heroic actions are merely directed
by the head, and the heart drops not into them it’s balm, more precious
than the trees of Arabia ever distilled! Ought we then to wonder, that
this dry substitute for humanity is often burnt up by the scorching
flame of revenge? This has now actually been the case; for there has
been seen amongst the french a spurious race of men, a set of cannibals,
who have gloried in their crimes; and tearing out the hearts that did
not feel for them, have proved, that they themselves had iron bowels.
‘But, if the anger of the people be terrible,’ exclaims Mirabeau, ‘it is
the sang froid of despotism, that is atrocious; those systematic
cruelties, which have made more wretches in a day than the popular
insurrections have immolated in a course of years![23] We often fear,’
adds he, ‘the people, because we have injured them; and thus are forced
to fetter those we oppress.’

The example of the capital was followed by the provinces; and all the
citizens flew to arms, whilst the soldiers grounded their’s, swearing
not to stain their hands with the blood of their fellow citizens. Added
to the account of the conspiracy to dissolve the states-general, and
massacre their representatives, a number of idle rumours of present
danger tended to make the country people not only eager to guard against
they scarcely knew what, but also desirous to enter into the adventures,
and share the honours of the parisians.

In all civil wars, personal vengeance mixing with public, or taking
advantage of it, has directed the dagger of the assassin: and in France
it ought particularly to have been dreaded; because, when fear induces a
man to smother his just resentment, the festering wound is only to be
cured by revenge. It is then highly probable, that most of the
barbarities in the towns were the effervescence of private anger, or the
sport of depraved, uncultivated minds, who found the same pleasure in
tormenting men, as mischievous boys in dismembering insects; for public
indignation, directed against aristocratical tyranny, was elsewhere, in
general, displayed only in burning the country castles, and the archives
of nobility. But, in the country, indeed, men rarely commit such crimes,
as lift up their reptile heads in the capital, where the rank atmosphere
affords the noxious particles necessary to give virulence to the poison.
The vices of villagers are, in fact, rather the rich exuberance of the
passions, than the vile dregs of exhausted nature.

                              CHAPTER II.

The duke of Liancourt, whose warning voice had made the king look around
him, when danger was at his heels, was now chosen president. At this
moment the obstacles, which at first clogged the exertions of the
assembly, seemed to have been overcome: still fresh ones starting up
threw a damp on their exultation; and the apprehensions of a famine,
real or factitious, were not the least alarming, though the most

New conspiracies were already formed on the borders of France, by the
princes, and those who had subsisted by the corruptions of the old
system. But this only proved a stimulus; because the nation, being
determined to secure the rights it had so suddenly regained, raised new
regiments in every part of the country, and was soon in a situation to
repel any attack, which it was possible for all Germany to have made;
the only quarter from which the fugitive princes, at that period, could
expect assistance. So rapid was the spirit, so general the momentum,
that in the course of a week upwards of three millions of men in arms
were formed into companies by a common interest resembling an electrical
sympathy. Such was the quick succession of events—Such the unanimous
sense of the nation; and such the formidable force which instantly
opposed itself to the impotent threats of departing despotism. History
will record this memorable era, when the disciplined forces of the most
puissant tyranny vanished before the force of truth, though still but
half unveiled; obliging the haughty sycophants to search for shelter in
the recesses of a forest, whither they stole under cover of the night
from the presence of an injured people.

The conduct of the _garde-bourgeoise_, during the progress of the
revolution, without varnishing over the excesses produced by ebullitions
of zeal, is of itself sufficient to prove, that a national militia
should every where take place of standing armies, did not experience
invariably attest, that the laws were never respected by men, whose
business is war, unless they are reduced to mere machines by despotism.

The old municipal officers, mostly suspected, because nominated by the
friends of the court, were now obliged to give place to committees
elected by the common voice. These taking the administration of public
business into their hands, a new order of things began every where to
prevail. Still, however, the disturbed imagination of the people was
filled with plots, to which some mysterious and fatal incidents gave

The municipality of Soissons informed the national assembly, that troops
of banditti had cut down the corn before it was ripe, and obliged the
villagers to take refuge in the towns. But on further inquiry, it
appeared, that this report arose from a simple quarrel of the peasants
amongst themselves, which had alarmed some labourers, who flew to the
neighbouring town, imagining that they had thousands of banditti at
their heels.

Paris was also disturbed by an idle rumour of a riot at St. Denis; so
seriously affirmed by those, who declared that they had been
eye-witnesses of the violence, that troops and cannon were sent, but
they could find no traces of the disturbance.

Another, more serious, had exasperated the people against the nobility,
and roused the indignation of the national assembly. A nobleman and
counsellor of the parliament gave a civic feast in his castle to the
inhabitants of his village; from which, on some pretext, he was absent.
All was joy and festivity; but in the midst of the dance of gladness,
the sudden explosion of a mine spread around affright and death.—Hearing
of this treachery, the people, catching up their rustic weapons,
firebrands, hastened to the neighbouring castles; some of which they
burnt, others they demolished by pulling them down.

The recital of this atrocity produced a great effect in the national
assembly; and, says Mirabeau, ‘though great assemblies are often much
too susceptible of theatrical emotions; and this narration was
accompanied with circumstances, of which the invention is seldom
presumed; and though it was also attested by a public officer; yet the
atrocity of the crime gave it an air of improbability.’ This wanton act
of barbarity, which the historian also would fain believe a monstrous
chimera of heated brains, was, nevertheless, as well substantiated, as
such a fact could be; which nothing, but the confession of the guilty
party, can render absolutely certain, because it seems equally foolish
and barbarous.

These disorders, warmly represented by Lally-Tolendal, determined the
assembly, on the 23d of july, to publish a proclamation, inviting all
good citizens to the maintenance of order; and declaring, that to try
and punish for all crimes of _leze-nation_ was the sole prerogative of
the national assembly, till, by the constitution which it was about to
establish, a regular tribunal should be instituted, for the trial of
such offences. After endeavouring to excuse the violence, or, more
properly speaking, to account for it, Mirabeau observed to the assembly,
‘that they ought to be thoroughly convinced, that the continuation of
this formidable dictator would expose liberty to as much risk as the
stratagems of her enemies. Society,’ he continues, ‘would soon be
dissolved, if the multitude, accustomed to blood and disorder, placed
themselves above the magistrates, and braved the authority of the law.
Instead of running to meet freedom, the people would soon throw
themselves into the abyss of servitude; for danger too often rallies men
round the standard of absolute power; and in the bosom of anarchy, a
despot even appears a saviour. For Carthage is not yet destroyed; there
remains a mass of instruments to impede our operations, and to excite
divisions in an assembly, that has only been united by danger.’

Some trifling incidents, swelled into importance by supposition, kept
alive the inventive mistrust of the nation, to which some innocent
victims were sacrificed, without allaying it’s brooding propensity to
produce, like jealousy, the evil it feared. Suspecting every body, and a
little vain of authority, the patroles of parisian citizens sometimes
officiously arrested whomever they thought fit, without assigning a
sufficient cause; and among the rest, they stopped the resident in
France from Geneva. Three letters were found on him; and one of them
being addressed to the count d’Artois, rendered suspicious the
circumstance of his tearing a fourth.

The letters were sent by the mayor of Paris to the assembly; and the
facts laid before them afforded Mirabeau an opportunity, to display his
eloquence on a subject, that recalled to his mind abuses, which had
formerly touched himself—the violation of private correspondence.—Though
this did not appear to be exactly the present question; for they were
not intercepted letters, but letters to which chance had annexed some
suspicious characters, to point them out for inspection. The despotism
of opening indiscriminately all letters, to enable the government to
judge of the character and sentiments of each individual, is too obvious
to need animadversion.—And who, indeed, will not exclaim against the
tyranny, be it even parental, that dares to steal into the secrets of
the heart; or the impertinent curiosity, that seeks for information only
to diversify an idle life? The latter may be termed petty larceny; yet
often the peace of whole families is invaded by these cowardly thefts,
and quarrels are rendered irreconcilable, by giving air to angry
expressions, the utterance solely of the passion of the moment. The
allowing letters, also, surreptitiously obtained, to appear as evidence,
in courts of justice, is a gross violation of the first principle of
law; because no letters can lawfully be opened, but as other suspected
things are sought for—after information given to a magistrate. But, when
seals are broken at the discretion of an individual, and brought forward
to criminate a person, it is to the full as unjust, as to make a man
plead against himself.—And for justice to be awarded in consequence of
an act of injustice, is an abuse that demands investigation. But the
present was not a case in point. It was not a clandestine ransacking of
all letters, to search for the clue of some suspected plot; or like the
reading of the correspondence of a babbling conspirator, after the
danger was over, whose letters might contain a list of timid
accomplices, who would be driven to desperation by publicity. However,
the decided turn was given to the question by the bishop of Langres
observing, that all ages had applauded the generosity of Pompey, who
committed to the flames the letters, which the senators had addressed to
Sertorius. The mania of imitating the romans on this began to appear,
producing one of those instances of false magnanimity, that always arise
from imitation: yet so trifling, indeed, in it’s present consequence,
that it would scarcely deserve to be ridiculed, much less censured, had
not the same affectation afterwards brought forth more serious and even
fatal follies.

The temper also of the parisians, who mix in the world very early in
life, leads them to imagine, that they have acquired the profound
knowledge of the springs of human passions, which enables a sagacious
man almost to foresee future events, only because they have often
detected the weaknesses of the human heart. This made them now suppose,
that the court of Great Britain was about to profit by their intestine
troubles. The phraseology had long been in both countries, that they
were the natural enemies of each other; and the mistrustful french
quickly imagined, that the english meant immediately to take vengeance
for their interference in favour of the americans, by seizing some of
their West-India islands. The duke of Dorset, in his justification of
England, only changed the object of mistrust, by giving rise to some
vague conjectures respecting a conspiracy for delivering Brest into the
hands of the english; and, as there was no clue to lead to the discovery
of the traitors, several nobles of Brittany, probably innocent, were

These were, nevertheless, but slight impediments; for the invigorating
voice of the awakened nation gave energy to the assembly, who now named
committees to expedite the present business, preparatory to their grand
talk of framing a constitution. The authority and respectability of the
assembly being acknowledged, they attentively considered the state of
the kingdom; and, mindful of the present distress of the people, issued
orders for the free circulation of provision, which had been obstructed
by the ancient forms, so opposite to the true principles of political

At this juncture, Necker, still esteemed by the nation, unfortunately
returned. Intoxicated by popularity, this minister had not sufficient
prudence to decline the honours, which he could not support by that
dignity of conduct the present crisis required. In his way to Paris,
having heard, that the life of the baron de Benzenval, commandant of the
swiss guards, who had been with Broglio, was in danger, he humanely
interposed to stop the hand of violence; and so far he deserves praise.
But when, arrived at Paris, he was received, by the lively inhabitants,
as the tutelar genius of France, this apotheosis had it’s usual effect;
and assuming the demi-god, at the _Hôtel-de-Ville_, he was not content
to preserve this victim from the public fury, without recommending a
general amnesty; a measure which was as inconsiderately adopted, as
proposed. For the electors pretending to issue laws for the whole
nation, gave great umbrage to the parisians, who had winked at the
stretch of their power, which the pressing exigency of circumstances
required, during the moment danger menaced the capital. The wild current
thus turned, the men, who in the morning had declared, ‘that liberty was
safe, since Necker was allowed to watch over her,’ now accused him of
ambition, and a desire to keep well with the court, by facilitating the
return, or escape, of it’s minions. Such in fact was the inconstancy of
a people, always running after theatrical scenes, that the tocsin was
rung to denounce Necker as a courtier in one quarter of the city, at the
very time the _Palais Royal_ was illuminated to celebrate his return as
a patriot.

The business, however, being referred to the national assembly, with a
modifying explanation, they decided it mildly, paying the respect due to
the good intentions from which it proceeded, though they did not pretend
to sanction the hasty resolve of the electors.

After this tumult had subsided the narrow capacity of the minister did
not allow him to take a determined part in the grand work, in which the
deputies were engaged. His mind had not sufficient strength to burst the
shackles of it’s old opinions; and, acting with his usual commercial
calculations, he seems to have been one cause of the divisions, which
began to agitate an assembly, united rather by circumstances than by
sentiments. Besides, the sudden emancipation of the people occasioned a
delirium of joy, which required to be managed with the greatest
delicacy. A vigorous ministry was certainly necessary to check the
licentious spirit manifesting itself continually by acts of violence, in
so many parts of the kingdom, where tumults and assassinations were the
effects of the giddiness of unexpected success. Whilst complaining of
the old government, every man in his sphere seemed to be eager to try
how he himself could govern, and make up for the time he had delegated
his authority. Besides, the procrastination of the relief looked for as
the immediate consequence of the Revolution, however unavoidable, made
the people not only murmur, but, disregarding all reason, attempt to
gain more by force than could, for a long time, be granted by
justice—even had justice been unbiased by self-interest.

The nation called for a constitution; and the assembly debated about the
declaration of rights inherent to man, and those he gives up when he
becomes a citizen, on which they designed to rest it, as an explanatory

Several members argued, that the declaration ought to conclude, and not
precede the constitution; insisting, that it was dangerous to awaken a
_somnambulist_ on the brink of a precipice; or to take a man to the top
of a mountain, to show him a vast country that belonged to him, but of
which he could not immediately claim the possession. ‘It is a veil,’
said they, ‘that it would be imprudent to raise suddenly.—It is a
secret, that it is necessary to conceal, till the effect of a good
constitution puts them into a situation to hear it with safety[24].’

But Barnave terminated the sitting, though the question was still in
debate, by observing, ‘that the declaration of rights was in two
respects practically useful;—first, as it fixed the spirit of the
legislation, in order that it might not vary in future;—and, secondly,
as it would direct the representatives of the nation in the formation of
laws, in all the details of legislation, the completion of which could
only be the work of time. As to the apprehension expressed of the people
abusing these rights, when they acquire a knowledge of them, it is,’
said he, ‘futile,—and we need only turn over the page of history, to
lose these vain fears; for we shall constantly find the people tranquil
in the same proportion as they are enlightened.’

Poizing thus the pillars of equal liberty, the discussion was the next
day interrupted by the report made by the committee appointed for the
purpose of digesting the information sent to the assembly, of the
melancholy intelligence which they daily received from the
provinces.—‘The taxes, the rents were no longer paid, the revenue was
exhausted, the laws were without force; and the social ties almost
broken.’ To remedy so many evils, the committee proposed to the assembly
to publish, as soon as possible, a solemn declaration to testify their
deep sense of the misery of the provinces, and their disapprobation of
the non-payment of taxes and rents; and to declare, that, till the
assembly had time to consider the decrees necessary to be passed to
regulate these objects, there did not exist any cause to justify similar
refusals. This proposition occasioned a warm debate.

Some of the deputies represented, that the feudal laws were too
iniquitous,—the taxes too unequally assessed—the wretchedness too
general, to hope for any happy effect from such a declaration—it would
soon fall into oblivion, as had done the proclamation for peace:—it
would aggravate the misery of the state, by manifesting the impotence of
the national assembly:—it would irritate even the people, who had need
of comfort; and of whom they could not, without a kind of derision, in
their present circumstances, require the payment of taxes, of which they
knew well that each of them felt the injustice.

Others did not fail to insist on the danger of letting the disorder
increase; on the sacredness of property; and on the immense _deficit_
with which the nation was menaced; adding, that the national assembly
would become contemptible, if it did not take the most vigorous
measures.—They further dilated on the necessity of re-establishing the
authority of the courts of justice;—and other arguments of the same
tendency, which would have been more conclusive, more useful, if the
supporters of the declaration had brought forward the shadow of a mode
to assure it’s execution. The debate from being warm became bitter, till
it was at length resolved, that a declaration should be issued for the
security of property, and that the remaining proposals of the committee
should be discussed the next evening, the 4th of august.

But, before they separated, the assembly was informed, that Broglio had
ordered all the arms, deposited at the town-house of Thionville, to be
carried away.—This step appeared to them the height of imprudence, at a
moment when the community was obliged to arm itself to watch over the
public safety.

The following morning it was decided by a great majority, that there
should be a declaration of rights separate from the constitution. The
sitting of the evening was impatiently expected, and the opposers of a
new proclamation flattered themselves, that they should secure the
general suffrage, by making it appear, that patriotism demanded great
sacrifices; and that instead of the vain formality of an exhortation,
soon despised by the people, it was necessary to carry real offerings to
the altar of peace.—This was the purport of a speech made by one of the
nobles, the viscount de Noailles; who showed, in a very forcible manner,
‘that the kingdom, at this moment, fluctuated between the alternative of
the destruction of society, or of a government which would be admired
and imitated by all Europe. How is this government to be obtained?’ said
he, ‘how are the relaxed ties of society to be strengthened? By calming
the people,’ he continues, ‘by letting them see, that we are really
employed for their good; and that we resist them only where it is
manifestly conducive to their interest, that they should be resisted,—To
attain then this tranquillity, so necessary, I propose:

‘1st. That it be declared, before the proclamation digested by the
committee, that the representatives of the nation have decided to levy
the impost, henceforward, in proportion to the income of each

‘2dly. That all the public charges shall, in future, be equally
supported by the whole community.

‘3dly, That all the feudal claims shall be redeemable, on a fair

‘4thly, That all the manorial claims, the _mains-mortes_, and other
personal services, shall be done away, without any ransom.

‘5thly. That the manorial rents in poultry, and other kinds of
provision, shall be redeemable by the proprietor or contractor, at a
just valuation.’

The duke d’Aiguillon seconded this motion, which had been warmly
applauded; or rather made another tending to the same end. For dreading
the suppression of his pension, when the _Livre Rouge_ should be
reviewed, he suddenly, from being a minion of the old court, became a
loud patriot. And further to evince his zeal in the cause of liberty, he
declared, ‘that the insurrection sound it’s excuse in the vexations to
which the people were subject. The lords of manors,’ he observes,
‘seldom commit the excesses of which their vassals complain; but their
agents are often devoid of humanity, and the wretched husbandmen,
subject to the barbarous feudal laws still in force, groan under the
restriction to which they become the victims. At this happy era, when
united for the public good, and disengaged from all personal interest,
we are going to labour for the regeneration of the state, it seems to
me, gentlemen, that it is necessary, before establishing this
constitution, so desired by the nation, to prove to all the citizens,
that our intention is to establish, as soon as possible, that equality
of rights which alone can assure their liberty.’

It too frequently happens, that men run from one extreme to another, and
that despair adopts the most violent measures. The french people had
long been groaning under the lash of a thousand oppressions; they were
the hewers of wood, and drawers of water, for the chosen few. It was,
therefore, to be apprehended, after they had once thrown off the yoke,
which had imprinted on their character the hateful fears of servitude,
that they would expect the most unbridled freedom, detesting all
wholesome restraints, as reins they were not now bound to obey. From
observing, perhaps, that this was the disposition of the times, the
political empirics have continually inflamed the foibles of the
multitude, by flattering them. Thus the nobility, whose order would
probably lose most by the revolution, made the most popular motions, to
gain favour with the people; tickling the spirit they could not tame.
Thus also we have seen the desperate leaders of factions selecting
ingeniously the terms _sans-culottes_, _citoyen_, and _egalité_, in
order to cajole the minds of the vulgar; and hence it has happened,
that, in proportion as this cajolery was more highly seasoned, the power
of ruling has descended to the most desperate and impudent of the
smatterers in politics; whilst public anarchy, and private discord, have
been productive of the dreadful catastrophes, and wanton outrages, which
have given such home thrusts to the dignity of freedom.

The feudal claims that insult humanity, and show how near man is to the
brute creation when laws are first made, were afterwards attempted to be
enumerated; but a general cry of indignation and horrour prevented the
deputy from finishing the frightful picture of human debasement and
brutality. The vestiges of these direful oppressions, however, were
still held dear by these very men, who, not having the compass of
morality to direct their politics, were humane rather through weakness
of nerves than soundness of understanding.

Be this as it may, the motion of the viscount de Noailles excited a
sudden enthusiasm, mixed with anger. The members of the privileged
orders, like children, seemed to say, by their actions, if you force me
to give up this toy, it is fair that you should resign your
sugar-plumb.—One gave a blow in the face; and the retort courteous was a
back-handed stroke. For a member, that the duke d’Aiguillon should not
be generous at the expence of others, proposed the _immediate_
suppression of all places and emoluments granted so profusely by the
court, as the heaviest burthen of the people—because obliged to support
with their necessaries the luxuries of the great; who, detained as a
kind of guards at court, were not only prevented from enlivening the
provinces by their presence, but distressed them by drawing away their
produce. Distinguishing, however, between the pensions obtained by
intrigue, and those that were the reward of actual services,—he moved,
that the former should be suppressed, and the latter reduced.

A motion was then made, that not only feudal rights, but all the
jurisdiction of the lords of manors, established on the same arbitrary
ground, should be abolished.

The president now, according to rule, perceiving that no one attempted
to speak against the motion, was proceeding to put it to the vote—but he
paused, reproaching himself for attempting to put an end to such an
interesting discussion before such among the clergy, as wished to speak,
had had an opportunity of declaring their sentiments.

This artful compliment roused the bishop of Nancy to declare, ‘that, the
continual and sympathizing witnesses of the misery of the people, the
clergy undoubtedly sighed after an opportunity to contribute to their
relief; and that the motion anticipated their desire: yet, to show their
entire approbation of it, he must be permitted to propose in addition,
that the price of the ransom of ecclesiastical feudalities should not be
converted to the profit of the actual incumbent; but thrown into a fund
for the relief of the poorer part of the body.’

The bishop of Chartres, after approving of the sacrifices already made,
demanded, that the suppression of the game laws should be joined to
them. This worthy prelate painted the injustice of those laws, not less
absurd than oppressive, which force the farmer to be the tranquil
spectator of the ravages of his harvest; condemning him to endure cruel
punishments, if he follow the first impulse of nature, which would lead
him to kill the animals that injure him. A number of the nobility
concurred in these sentiments; for who would be outdone in heroism? and
demanded the renunciations of these unnatural privileges.

The president de Saint-Fargeau now rose, to demand an explanation
relative to the taxes of which the clergy and nobility offered to divide
the weight. ‘We have given,’ said he, ‘hopes to the people; but we ought
to give them something more substantial; we have decreed, that,
provisionally, the taxes should continue to be paid as they have been
hitherto; that is to say, we have reserved to the clergy and the
nobility the benefit of their exemptions, till they are expressly
revoked.—Why do we delay to pronounce this revocation, so strictly
imposed in almost all our instructions?—I propose, therefore, that not
only for the last six months, but from the very commencement of the
year, all privileged persons, without exception, support their
proportional part of the public impost.’

As the discussion of the propositions of the viscount de Noailles
advanced, the necessity of effacing all the traces of servitude became
more and more obvious; and all the members seemed eager to point out to
their colleagues the new sacrifices, that ought to be made to the good
of their country. One demanded the suppression of the exclusive right to
warrens;—another that of fisheries; a third the sale of offices, and
that justice should be administered gratuitously.

The parish priest of Soupes, in the name of his brethren, joined the
oblations of the poor to the hecatombs, of which the most part cost
nothing to those who proposed them; ‘he declared, that, animated by a
desire to contribute to the relief of the people, they would relinquish,
from the present time, all their casual (or surplice) fees.’ This offer,
made with great simplicity of heart, affected the assembly; nor could a
very different proposal, made by the duke du Châtelet, respecting the
buying up of the tithes, efface it entirely.

The transition to gaiety, when a member asked permission to offer also
his sparrow, was very natural in a people, who always mix a degree of
sarcastic pleasantry, the good-humoured face of which first appears,
with the most serious things. However, after the laughter ceased,—he
continued to make his demand more seriously, by observing, that an
object, trifling in appearance, was a real grievance to the husbandmen;
he moved, therefore, for the total demolition of all the _dove-cotes_
throughout the kingdom.

The respectable duke de la Rochefoucault, after having applauded all
these propositions, remarked, that the king had given the example of
freeing the serfs in his demesnes; and that the moment was come, to
extend this benefit to all the kingdom. This benevolent citizen did not
stop here; but added a wish, that, before the close of the sessions, the
assembly would take into consideration the fate of the unhappy victims
of covetousness, retained in slavery under another hemisphere.

A member now made a motion, that excited testimonies of the most sincere
satisfaction from the assembly; it was to augment the stipends of the
parish priests, the most respectable part of the clergy.

Several dignitaries of the church, possessing two or more benefices,
unwilling to be left behind in generosity, followed with a declaration,
that, conformable to the canons, they were resolved to limit themselves
to a single one.

The deputies of the provinces enjoying peculiar privileges receiving a
hint, that the appellation of french citizens, all partaking the same
rights, was the most glorious they could bear, immediately came forward
to renounce them. A number of propositions, more or less important,
brought up the rear. The suppression of the first fruits; the rights of
wardenship; and the abrogation of those barbarous vows, which fetter
unfortunate beings for life.—In short, full and entire liberty for the
non-catholics.—Admission of all the citizens into all offices,
ecclesiastical, civil, and military.—Abolition of the plurality of
ecclesiastical pensions.—And then, not forgetting their national
character, it was proposed, that a medal should be struck in
commemoration of this night[25]; and a decree also passed, conferring
gratuitously on the king the august title, it might savour of a style
that scarcely befits the dignity of history, to say _nick-name_, of
_RESTORER OF FRENCH LIBERTY_. A deputation was accordingly appointed to
carry this new mark of homage to the king, and to request his presence
at a solemn _Te Deum_, to be celebrated throughout the kingdom.—And
behold night closed on the renowned 4th of august!

It is not possible, says a journalist of the day, to give a distinct
description of the scenes which were continually shifting during this
sitting.—The vivacity of the sentiments, the quick transition from a
generous emotion to an epigrammatical sensation, the disorder which made
sensibility predominate over legislative dignity—the reciprocal
mistrust, and the combat of generosity—all diversified by the amiable
and seducing enthusiasm, so characteristic of the nation, made this an
epocha in the history of the revolution, on which the contemplative
mind, accustomed to consider the varied character of man, will ponder.

Another observation, also, naturally occurs; for it is just to remark,
as a proof of the crudeness of the political notions, not to mention
principles, of these legislators, that all talked of _sacrifices_, and
boasted of generosity, when they were only doing common justice, and
making the obvious practical comment on the declaration of rights, which
they had passed in the morning.—If such were the rights of man—they were
more or less than men, who withheld them; and the resignation, rather a
resumption of their reason than a sacrifice of their property, was
called for, the moment they acknowledged the sovereignty of the people
by becoming their representatives.

It is very possible, that the next morning the different parties could
scarcely believe, that they had more than the imperfect recollection of
a dream in their heads. So quick, indeed, had been the determinations of
the meeting, which encroached on the midnight hour, that they had not
the sober cast of thought to give them dignity. They seem in reality to
have been mostly the effect of passion, of ambition, or a vain desire of
vengeance; for those who were led only by enthusiasm, and the vanity of
the moment, esteemed their conduct as highly extravagant, when they had
time to cool. But the commons, who had the deepest views, knew to what
they had urged them, and would not let them recede.

It is true, the abolition of these privileges and powers had been
strictly enjoined, in the instructions given to the deputies by their
constituents; but, it is doubtful, whether they would have been attended
to, had not the most sagacious foreseen, that the neglect might occasion
a civil war. Knowing, that then property would not be cautiously
respected, they began by attacking that of their presumptuous
adversaries; and actually surprised the assembly into the unanimous
renunciation of all revenues arising from feudal dues, and even into the
abolition of tithes. The nobility, also, who saw, that they should gain
more by the suppression of tithes, than they should lose by the
sacrifice of the obnoxious manorial fees, came into the same system. The
steps likewise taken to increase the salaries of the indigent clergy,
the most numerous part of the body in the assembly, secured their
influence. And by destroying the monopoly of municipal and judicial
employments, the support of the cities was obtained.—Thus the national
assembly, without a struggle, found itself omnipotent. Their only
enemies were individuals, seemingly of importance, it is true, as they
had been accustomed to lead the great corporate bodies; but what was
their empire, when all their former subjects were withdrawn from their
control? of these enemies, the church dignitaries were of the most
consequence; but, after the confiscation of ecclesiastical property, it
would have been impossible for the court, even supposing a
counter-revolution, to provide for them; as they would have been a dead
weight on the royalists.

Unfortunately, almost every thing human, however beautiful or splendid
the superstructure, has, hitherto, been built on the vile foundation of
selfishness; virtue has been the watch-word, patriotism the trumpet, and
glory the banner of enterprize; but pay and plunder have been the real
motives. I do not mean to assert, that there were not any real patriots
in the assembly.—I know there were many. By real patriots, I mean men
who have studied politics, and whose ideas and opinions on the subject
are reduced to principles; men who make that science so much their
principal object, as to be willing to give up time, personal safety, and
whatever society comprehends in the phrase, _personal interest_, to
secure the adoption of their plans of reform, and the diffusion of

But most of the leaders of the national assembly were guided by the
vulgar import of the word, a vain desire of applause, or deep schemes of
emolument. The Lameths, for instance, who had been the obsequious slaves
of the queen, were among the hottest advocates for popular power; and
throughout the assembly there were traces of a similar spirit.

During the first struggle, the national assembly and the people were
divided into republicans and royalists; but we shall find, from the
moment all danger of disturbance appeared to be over, the higher class
were receding from the patriots, and recruiting from the royalists, to
form for themselves, under the appellation of the _impartiaux_, the
elements of a growing aristocracy.

                              CHAPTER III.
                       MANNERS IN MODERN FRANCE.

The despotism of the former government of France having formed the most
voluptuous, artificial characters, in the higher orders of society,
makes it less extraordinary to find the leading patriots men without
principles or political knowledge, excepting what they had casually
gleaned from books, only read to while away an idle hour not employed in
pleasure. So superficial indeed was their acquaintance with any subject
that demanded thought—and so great the degeneracy of their manners, it
was natural for every man of reflection to infer, that a considerable
length of time must elapse before the new order of things, which they
were about to create, could attain stability. But this was not a
discouraging consideration, when it was obvious, that important
advantages had already been gained by the people; and by the improvement
of morals, which would necessarily follow, it was to be presumed, that
the evils, the old system produced, would vanish before gradual
amendments; whilst, by a practical knowledge of political and civil
liberty, the great objects of the revolution would be ascertained;
namely, just laws, and equal liberty.

The depravity of the higher class, and the ignorance of the lower
respecting practical political science, rendered them equally incapable
of thinking for themselves; so that the measures which flattered the
foibles, or gratified the weakness of either, were sure to have great
influence in producing a schism in the public mind; which gave an
opportunity to the enemies of the revolution to impede it’s course. And
the number of the lower class having it’s due weight, when they became
free, the most daring innovators became the greatest favourites with the
public, to whose will every prudential consideration was obliged to

Much had been gained on the 4th of august by the nation: the old forms
of feudal vassalage were completely overturned—and France then stood at
the point the most advantageous in which a government was ever
constructed.—She stood fair as the dawn of her liberty, having shaken
off the prejudices of ages; and reason was tracing out the road, which
leads to virtue, glory, and happiness—Still ambitious selfishness,
melancholy drawback! governed too great a proportion of the assembly;
and the nobles and clergy who had been averse to the junction of the
orders now intriguing, every debate became a bitter or violent contest,
in which the popular advocates continued to gain an ascendency.

This disposition to intrigue, and want of sincerity, so generally
remarked in the French character, laid the foundation of universal
distrust; and the coalesced parties, who had not been actuated by a love
of liberty, or regard for the prosperity of the kingdom, but dexterously
fell in with the spirit of the day, were not aware, that a watchful,
suspicious multitude, would be as likely to mistrust them in their turn,
as the court, which had thriven on the ruin of their happiness. This was
a blindness so gross, that it appears not a little wonderful, after
considering the different characters, who succeeded each other in the
ministry, or directed the helm of the state, that men should not acquire
sufficient judgment to adopt the integrity of conduct, with which alone
people in their senses, awake to their interest and rights, will ever be

For a vain-glorious ambition, mixing with the abortions of giddy
patriotism, acts as the most fatal poison to political disquisitions,
during seasons of public ferment. The solid views of deep thinkers are
adapted to the spirit of the times, and the state of reason of their
compeers. And if they find, that the current of opinion, in overturning
inveterate prejudices, and the decayed walls of laws, that no longer
suit the manners, threatens the destruction of principles the most
sacred; they ought firmly to wait at their post, until, the fervour
abating, they could, by diverting the stream, gradually restrain it
within proper bounds.—But such patriotism is of slow growth; requiring
both a luxuriant public soil, and to be fostered by virtuous emulation.
Yet this emulation will never flourish in a country where intriguing
finesse, supplying the place of exalted merit, is the surest ladder to
distinction. It was by debasing artifices, under the old government,
that men obtained favour and consequence; and whilst such men, men who
were educated and ossified by the ancient _regimen_, act on the
political stage of France, mankind will be continually distressed and
amused by their tragic and comic exhibitions.

Art applied to art, and stratagem against stratagem, may produce, for a
time, alternate defeats; but ultimately the most cunning will triumph.

Vanity had made every frenchman a theorist, though political aphorisms
were never ascertained under the reign of tyranny or caprice. The
sagacious part of the nation, it is true, clearly perceived, that the
period was arrived, when a revolution was inevitable; but selfishness
being incompatible with noble, comprehensive, or laudable views, it is
not wonderful, keeping in sight the national foible, that at the meeting
of the states-general every deputy had his particular plan to suggest.
Few of the leaders embraced the same; and acting, without coalescing,
the most violent measures were sure to be the most applauded. We shall
find also, that some of the most strenuous advocates for reforming
abuses, and establishing a constitution, when their favourite systems
were exploded, peevishly retired in disgust: and by afterwards venting
it, have hurried into action a race of monsters, the most flagitious
that ever alarmed the world by the murder of innocents, and the mockery
of justice; and whilst the profanation of her temple, besprinkled with
blood, has branded with an indelible stigma the sanguinary brutes, the
deserters cannot escape without a share of the odium.

Contemplating the progress of the revolution, a melancholy reflection is
produced by observing, that almost every precipitate event has been the
consequence of a tenacity and littleness of mind in the political
actors, whilst they were affecting a roman magnanimity of conduct—to
which they appear to have been as great strangers, as they were
destitute of legitimate patriotism, and political science.

We have first seen Calonne, in order to secure his popularity and place,
proposing an equalization of taxes; and, when he found that his
consequence and power were lost, abandoning his country in disgust, and
employing the most unwarrantable means to involve his fellow citizens in
all the horrours of a civil war. We shall find, likewise, several other
declaimers, for their subsequent conduct obliges me to consider them in
no better light, when their plans were disregarded, if not acting the
same shameful part, yet leaving their posts; their patriotism expiring
with their popularity.—And it will be only necessary to keep in mind the
conduct of all the leading men, who have been active in the revolution,
to perceive, that the disasters of the nation have arisen from the same
miserable source of vanity, and the wretched struggles of selfishness;
when the crisis required, that all enlightened patriots should have
united and formed a band, to have consolidated the great work; the
commencement of which they had accelerated. In proportion as these
desertions have taken place, the best abilities which the country
contained have disappeared. And thus it has happened, that ignorance and
audacity have triumphed, merely because there were not found those
brilliant talents, which, pursuing the straight forward line of
political economy, arrest, as it were, the suffrage of every well
disposed citizen.—Such talents existed in France: and had they combined,
and directed their views by a pure love of their country, to one point;
all the disasters, which in overwhelming the empire have destroyed the
repose of Europe, would not have occurred to disgrace the cause of

Every great reform requires systematic management; and however lightly
weak daring heads may treat the gravity of such a remark, the pacific
progress of every revolution will depend, in a very material degree, on
the moderation and reciprocity of concessions made by the acting
parties. It is true, that in a nation chiefly celebrated for wit so much
prudence could scarcely be expected—yet that is not a sufficient reason
for condemning all the principles, that produced the revolution: for
liberty cannot be considered as belonging exclusively to any particular
climate, or temper of mind, as a physical effect. It was peculiarly
urgent, indeed, to form such a coalition, to counteract the dangerous
consequences of old prejudices. The stubborn habits of men, whom
personal interest kept firm to their ground, it was morally certain
would interrupt the tranquil march of the revolution: it would have been
prudent then for men, who agreed in the main objects, to have overlooked
trifling differences of opinion, till they were secured: and of this
several members seem to have been aware.[26]

Had the conduct of men been sincere, and had they really pursued that
fraternity, about which they so continually declaimed; they might, in
consolidating the rights of french citizens, have established every
political advantage, which the then state of reason was capable of
adopting for the immediate benefit of society. But resentment bursting
forth, which had long lain concealed (the effect of servitude and
contumely), joined with the vanity of excelling all other nations in the
science of government, to produce an insolent audacity of conduct,
which, aiming at overturning every thing, discouraged the wavering, and
frightened the timid. Designing knaves then conceived the plan of rising
to eminence by the accumulating foibles of the multitude, who, loosened
from all restraint, were easily caught by the insidious arts of the most
contemptible anarchists.

The object of those monsters, who were meditating the violation of the
sacred ties of honour and humanity, was early perceived by the more
penetrating; but instead of opposing themselves to their designs, they
for the most part became initiated into their clubs; whilst others, more
haughty, though perhaps less under the direction of principles,—if there
were any among them,—emigrated, leaving their country verging towards
the whirlpool of civil discord, and all it’s concomitant wretchedness.

It is necessary for us to attend closely to these considerations, in
order to be enabled to form a just opinion of the various revolutions
which have succeeded each other:—because, from a superficial view of
things of this nature, we frequently attribute to the passions, or
innate turpitude of man, what was merely the effect of moral depravity.
Hence it has happened, that so many of the admirers of the revolution,
in its infancy, now talk of extravagant innovations, tending to overturn
all the barriers of justice,—to trample on the feelings of humanity, and
to destroy every thing splendid and beautiful,—the production of ages,
industry, taste, and learning.

But this revolution did not interest frenchmen alone; for it’s influence
extending throughout the continent, all the passions and prejudices of
Europe were instantly set afloat. That most favoured part of the globe
had risen to an astonishing pre-eminence, though every where it’s
inhabitants have had to contend with distinctions the most unnatural,
and prejudices the most veteran. But, having overcome those formidable
obstacles to the happiness of her citizens, society seems to have
arrived at that point of civilization, when it becomes necessary for
governments to meliorate it’s condition, or a dissolution of their power
and authority will be the consequence of a wilful disregard of the
intimations of the times. This is a truth, which the people have
perceived; but which the parasites of courts, and the advocates for
despotism have not been willing to believe. And besides, their support,
it might be said existence, being attached to the continuation of those
savage abuses, they have fought with unusual intrepidity in their
defence. Thus wars have been the business of courts, in which they have
artfully interested the passions of the people.

Men in a savage state, without intellectual amusements, or even fields
or vineyards to employ them, depending for subsistance on the casual
supply of the chace, seem continually to have made war, one with
another, or nation with nation; and the booty taken from their enemies
formed the principal object of contest, because war was not, like
industry, a kind of abridgement of their liberty. But the social
feelings of man, after having been exercised by a perilous life, flow
over in long stories, when he reaches garrulous old age. Whilst his
listening progeny wondering at his feats, their hearts are fired with
the ambition of equaling their fire. His soul also warmed by sympathy,
feeling for the distresses of his fellow creatures, and particularly for
the helpless state of decrepit age; he begins to contemplate, as
desirable, associations of men, to prevent the inconveniencies arising
from loneliness and solitude. Hence little communities living together
in the bonds of friendship, securing to them the accumulated powers of
man, mark the origin of society: and tribes growing into nations,
spreading themselves over the globe, form different languages, which
producing different interests, and misunderstandings, excite distrust.

The invention of the arts now affords him employment; and it is in
proportion to their extension that he becomes domestic, and attached to
his home. For whilst they were in their infancy his restless temper, and
savage manners, still kept alive his passion for war and plunder; and we
shall find, if we look back to the first improvement of man, that as his
ferocity wore away, the right of property grew sacred. The prowess or
abilities of the leaders of barbarians gave them likewise an ascendency
in their respective dynasties; which gaining strength in proportion to
the ignorance of the age, produced the distinctions of men, from which
the great inequality of conditions has originated; and they have been
preserved long since the necessity has ceased to exist.

During the reign of ignorance, the disagreements of states could be
settled only by combats; and the art of dexterously murdering seems to
have decided differences, where reason should have been the arbitrator.
The custom then of settling disputes at the point of the bayonet, in
modern Europe, has been justified by the example of barbarians; and
whilst fools continually argue from the practice of inhuman savages,
that wars are necessary evils, courts have found them convenient to
perpetuate their power: thus slaughter has furnished a plausible pretext
for peculation.

Fortunately, in spite of the various impediments that have thwarted the
advancement of knowledge, the blessings of society have been
sufficiently experienced to convince us, that the only solid good to be
expected from a government must result from the security of our persons
and property. And domestic felicity has given a mild lustre to human
happiness superiour to the false glory of sanguinary devastation, or
magnificent robberies. Our fields and vineyards have thus gradually
become the principal objects of our care—and it is from this general
sentiment governing the opinion of the civilized part of the world, that
we are enabled to contemplate, with some degree of certainty, the
approaching age of peace.

All that could be done by a body of manners, without a soul of morals,
to improve mankind, had been tried in France—The result was polished
slavery; and such an inordinate love of pleasure, as led the majority to
search only for enjoyment, till the tone of nature was destroyed. Yet
some few really learned the true art of living; giving that degree of
elegance to domestic intercourse, which, prohibiting gross familiarity,
alone can render permanent the family affections, whence all the social
virtues spring.

It is a mistake to suppose that there was no such thing as domestic
happiness in France, or even in Paris. For many french families, on the
contrary, exhibited an affectionate urbanity of behaviour to each other,
seldom to be met with where a certain easy gaiety does not soften the
difference of age and condition. The husband and wife, if not lovers,
were the civilest friends and the tenderest parents in the world—the
only parents, perhaps, who really treated their children like friends;
and the most affable masters and mistresses. Mothers were also to be
found, who, after suckling their children, paid a degree of attention to
their education, not thought compatible with the levity of character
attributed to them; whilst they acquired a portion of taste and
knowledge rarely to be found in the women of other countries. Their
hospitable boards were constantly open to relations and acquaintance,
who, without the formality of an invitation, enjoyed there cheerfulness
free from restraint; whilst more select circles closed the evening, by
discussing literary subjects. In the summer, when they retired to their
mansion houses, they spread gladness around, and partook of the
amusements of the peasantry, whom they visited with paternal solicitude.
These were, it is true, the rational few, not numerous in any
country—and where is led a more useful or rational life?

In the provinces, likewise, more simplicity of manners prevailing, their
morals were more pure: though family pride, as in England, made the most
noble house the royal family of each village, who visited the grand
court only to import it’s follies. Besides, in France, the women have
not those factitious, supercilious manners, common to the english; and
acting more freely, they have more decision of character, and even more
generosity. Rousseau has taught them also a scrupulous attention to
personal cleanliness, not generally to be seen elsewhere: their coquetry
is not only more agreeable, but more natural: and not left a prey to
unsatisfied sensations, they were less romantic indeed than the english;
yet many of them possessed delicacy of sentiment.

It is, perhaps, in a state of comparative idleness—pursuing employments
not absolutely necessary to support life, that the finest polish is
given to the mind, and those personal graces, which are instantly felt,
but cannot be described: and it is natural to hope, that the labour of
acquiring the substantial virtues, necessary to maintain freedom, will
not render the french less pleasing, when they become more respectable.

                       HISTORICAL AND MORAL VIEW
                                 OF THE
                           FRENCH REVOLUTION.

                               _BOOK IV._

                               CHAPTER I.
                          EVERY CONSTITUTION.

The numerous offerings made to their country by the deputies, on the 4th
of august, excited loud applause; but not without a mixture of sarcastic
censure, and murmurs of disapprobation.

Some blamed the decrees, which, said they, have sacrificed the property
of several thousand families to the vain desire of popularity.—Others
complained of the neglect of those forms, by which every assembly, that
aspires at putting some maturity into it’s decrees, ought to direct it’s
debates;—they disapproved of an afternoon sitting;—of the rapid
succession of subjects, not allowing time for any to be weighed;—of the
multiplicity of them;—and of the continual acclamations, which rendered
a calm discussion physically impossible.—‘What!’ they continued, ‘shall
the most important business always be treated with the levity, which
characterized us before we deserved to be termed a nation? Eternally the
sport of our vivacity, a happy turn decides with us the most serious
point; and gay sallies are ever our substitutes for arguments.—We do
madly the wisest things; and even our reason is always connected by some
filament or other to inconsistency.—The national assembly had been a
long time reproached for dwelling on trifling objects; and not attending
sufficiently to the promotion of general good.—When suddenly—in a single
night, more than twenty important laws are decided by an uproar. So much
done, in such a short time, is so astonishing, that it appears like a

In reply it was said—‘Why deliberate, when all are agreed?—Does not a
general good always appear self-evident?—Was it not sufficient to
declare these patriotic propositions to prove their justness?—The first
person, who pointed out a new tribute to the public interest, only gave
utterance to what we all before felt—there was no need then of
discussion or eloquence, to make that be adopted, which had already been
resolved by the greater number of the deputies, and commanded by the
awful authority of the nation, in their mandates.—The assembly might
have proceeded more methodically; but the result could not have been
more advantageous. It seemed as if all the old effects, all the
mouldering titles of feudal oppressions were then put up to auction: and
the kind of mistrust of the different orders, which provoked reciprocal
concessions, was still for the public good.’

The nobles and clergy of the provinces, who had not been carried away by
the enthusiasm of the 4th of august, felt themselves particularly
aggrieved. Those who were recently noble did not like to mix again on
equal terms in towns where they had received the homage paid to princes;
and the people, eager to exercise their liberty, began to hunt down the
game, regardless of the mischief they did to the standing corn. The very
concessions of the nobility seemed to rouse the vengeance it ought to
have allayed; and the populace vented their rage by burning the castles,
which had been, as it were, legally dismantled of their feudal

The clergy, in particular, complained, that their deputies had exceeded
all bounds in voting away the private property of the body; for they
would not allow, that tithes came within the description of feudal
tenures. The want of provision, likewise, tended to make the people
clamour about present grievances, without suffering the prospect of
future comfort and respectability to have it’s due force towards calming
their minds. All, therefore, flew to arms, and three millions of men
wearing the military garb, showed the natural disposition of the nation;
and their present resolve, no longer to couch supinely under oppression.
Many excesses were the consequence of this sudden change; and it is
notorious, that the people, in some instances, became the instruments of
the routed party; who continued to use every stratagem to render the
nation dissatisfied with the revolution.

It is the nature of man, either in a savage state or living in society,
to protect his property; and it is wise in a government to encourage
this spirit. For the example now displayed by France is a notable proof
of the inexpediency of standing armies, so long as the people have an
interest in supporting the political system under which they live. The
national assembly, aware of this, invited the militia and the
municipalities, to endeavour to quell the disorders which did violence
to persons and property; and they were particularly requested to take
the most watchful care, that the convoys of wheat and flour were not
stopped by the idle and lawless. For several of the most fatal tumults
had originated from this cause.

The decrees of the 4th of august, were then brought forward to be
examined and explained; and some attempts were made to argue away the
essence of many of the vaunted sacrifices.—But the discussion was
interrupted, to attend to business of a more pressing nature. The
present state of the nation was most alarming; and the ministers, not
knowing how to act under the new trammels of responsibility, came to
represent to the assembly;—that the laws were without force;—the courts
of justice without activity;—and they requested them, immediately to
point out the coercive measures necessary to give to the executive
authority the influence it had lost.—‘For,’ observed they, ‘whether the
irritated sense of the abuses, which the king wishes to reform, and you
desire to proscribe for ever, have led the people astray; or, the
declaration of an universal regeneration have shaken the various powers
upon which the social order reposed—or whatever, in fact, be the cause,
gentlemen, the truth is, that public order and tranquillity are
disturbed in aloft every part of the kingdom.’

Necker, afterwards, having explained the deplorable state of the
finances, the extraordinary expences, and the diminution in the produce
of the revenue, demanded, in the name of the king, that the assembly
would sanction a loan of thirty millions of livres, to fulfil the
engagements, and discharge the inevitable expenditure of the two
approaching months; by which time, he presumed, the constitution would
be nearly established. Thinking also, that the patriotism of
moneylenders was not to be reckoned upon, he proposed to add to the five
per cent. he mentioned some allurements of speculation, to quicken the
determination of the lenders—and he further inferred, that private
interest would then tend to quiet the kingdom, whilst they were
advancing in the formation of the constitution, which was to secure it’s
future tranquillity, and provide a permanent revenue.

This proposal produced the most warm and loud applause.—One member
proposed, that the loan should instantly be voted in the presence of the
minister, as a mark of their entire satisfaction—another offered six
hundred thousand livres as a security, that he would raise the loan in
his own province. This effervescence, so contagious, which is after all
only physical sensibility, excited by a commotion of the animal spirits,
proves, that a considerable length of time is necessary to accustom men
to exercise their rights with deliberation; that they may be able to
defend themselves from a kind of instinctive confidence in men; and to
make them substitute respect for principles, to a blind faith in
persons, even of the most distinguished abilities.—But to elevate a
numerous assembly to this calm grandeur; to that permanent dignity,
which represses the emotions of the moment, demands, it is probable, a
more advanced state of reason.

Lally-Tolendal supported the necessity of adopting the measures proposed
for the obtaining a loan to supply the exigencies of government, which
were become very urgent; and he refuted the objection, made by several
deputies, who were against the grant, that in their instructions they
had been strictly enjoined not to sanction any tax or loan before the
constitution was formed. On this side Mirabeau ranged himself; for with
all his great talents and superiority of genius, he could not avoid
envying inferiour abilities, when they attracted the least popularity.
He therefore, with plausible rhetoric, but shallow arguments, opposed
the loan; and with great parade moved, that the deputies should offer
their individual credit, instead of departing from the very letter of
their instructions. This was one of those instances of pretended
disinterestedness, or false patriotism, calculated to dazzle the people,
whilst it involved the nation in fresh embarrassments.

The plan was referred to the consideration of the committee, appointed
to make financial reports: and they accordingly acknowledged the
necessity of a prompt supply; but thought, that the loan might now be
obtained without the additional advantages, which Necker mentioned as a
necessary bait. The discussion was then renewed with great heat, and
even personality; till at last the interest of the loan was fixed at
four and an half per cent.; and to slip through the knot they were
afraid to cut, it was to be sanctioned under the wing of the decrees of
the 4th of august.

It did not, however, prove productive; for in the course of three weeks,
only two millions, six hundred thousand livres were subscribed. And this
delay of business induced the assembly to adopt, with less scruple,
another proposal for a fresh loan, instead of the one that did not
promise to answer, at a rate less advantageous to the nation: or rather
they yielded to the necessity, into which they had plunged themselves;
and lest the mode of obtaining it to the executive power, in spite of
their former objection. But it was not an easy task to inspire the
bankers and money-holders with sufficient faith in the new government,
to induce them to come forward to support it; besides, the previous
discussion had converted caution into timidity; and the more desperate
the state of the finances appeared, the stronger grew the suspicion,
that threw insurmountable obstacles in the way of a temporary relief.

Settling the precise terms of the decrees, which were to abolish
feudal vassalage, the question respecting the including of tithes was
agitated with most earnestness; and the objections urged against the
abolition were not only ingenious, but reasonable[27]. The abbé Sieyes
spoke with great good sense, asserting, ‘that the tithes were not a
tax levied on the nation; but a rent-charge, for which a proper
allowance had been made to the present possessors of the estates, to
not one of whom they actually belonged. He, therefore, insisted, that,
if the sacrifice were necessary, it ought to be made to the public, to
relieve the people, and not to enrich the proprietors; who were,
generally speaking, of the most opulent part of the community.’ He
advised the assembly to be on their guard, lest avarice, under the
mask of zeal, should deceive them, leading the nation to reward rather
than indemnify the nobility. The fact was, that the landed interest
were only resigning obsolete privileges, which they scarcely dared
exercise, to secure a solid advantage. Society has hitherto been
constructed in such a vicious manner, that to relieve the poor you
must benefit the rich. The present subject was a delicate one; the
abolition of tithes would remove a very heavy vexatious clog, that had
long hung on the neck of industry; yet it were to be wished, that it
could have been settled in such a way as not to have secured a great
pecuniary advantage to the nobility. For though it was physically
impossible, to make this sacrifice to society at large immediately;
because the proprietors, and more particularly the leaseholders of the
estates, could not have redeemed the tithes, without distressing
themselves to a degree, that would nearly have stopped the course of
husbandry; not to mention agricultural improvements, so necessary in
France, and to be looked for as the fruit of liberty:—yet a gradual
tax on the original landlord would have prevented the nobility from
being the great gainers by their so much extolled disinterestedness,
in their fallacious sacrifice of privileges. Because, for all real
property they were to be reimbursed; and for the obnoxious feudal
tenures, such as personal servitude, with others they were ashamed to
enumerate as being due from man to man, the tithes were an ample
indemnity; or more properly speaking clear profit, except to those who
parted with the plumes which raised them above their fellows with
great regret. It was, indeed, very difficult to separate the evil from
the good, that would redound to the nation by the doing away of this
tax.—The clergy, however, cut the debate short, by resigning their
right, offering to trust to the justice of the public for the stipend
in return necessary to enable them to support the dignity of their

On the 13th, therefore, the whole discussion closed; for the other
articles did not admit of much disputation. The president accordingly
waited on the king, who received his new title with the decrees, to
which he afterwards made some objections, though the assembly considered
them as virtually sanctioned[28].

A committee of five had been employed to digest a declaration of rights,
to precede the constitution. The opinion of those, who thought that this
declaration ought to have been kept back, has already been alluded to;
yet the subject seems to require a little further consideration. And,
perhaps, it will appear just to separate the character of the
philosopher, who dedicates his exertions to promote the welfare, and
perfection of mankind, carrying his views beyond any time he chooses to
mark; from that of the politician, whose duty it is to attend to the
improvement and interest of the time in which he lives, and not
sacrifice any present comfort to a prospect of future perfection or
happiness. If this definition be just, the philosopher naturally becomes
a passive, the politician an active character. For though the desire of
loudly proclaiming the grand principles of liberty to extend them
quickly, be one of the most powerful a benevolent man, of every
description of mind, feels; he no sooner wishes to obey this impulse,
than he finds himself placed between two rocks.—Truth commands him to
say all; wisdom whispers to him to temporize.—A love of justice would
lead him to bound over these cautious restraints of prudence; did not
humanity, enlightened by a knowledge of human nature, make him dread to
purchase the good of posterity too dearly, by the misery of the present

The debates respecting the adoption of the declaration of rights became
very spirited; and much heterogeneous matter was introduced, to lengthen
the discussion, and heat the disputants, as the different articles were
reviewed. The article respecting religion particularly arrested the
attention of the assembly, and produced one of those tumultuous scenes,
which have so often disgraced their deliberations. The intolerant
sentiments uttered; and even the insertion of some amendments, which
could not, without a contradiction in terms, find a place in a
declaration of rights; proved, that the assembly contained a majority,
who were still governed by prejudices inimical to the full extent of
that liberty, which is the unalienable right of each citizen, when it
does not infringe on the equal enjoyment of the same portion by his
neighbour[29]. The most sensible part of the assembly asserted, that
religion ought not to be mentioned, unless to declare, that the free
exercise of it was a right in common with the free utterance of all
opinions; which came under civil cognizance only when they assumed a
form, namely, when they produced effects, that clashed with the laws;
and even then it was the criminal action, not the passive opinion, which
was proscribed by the penalty of punishment.

In this declaration are found the principles of political and civil
liberty, introduced by a very solemn exordium:—Declaring ‘that, as
ignorance, forgetfulness, and contempt of the rights of men, are the
sole causes of public grievances, and of the corruption of governments,
the assembly had resolved to re-establish, in a solemn declaration, the
natural, imprescriptible, and sacred rights of man; in order that this
declaration, constantly present to all the members of the social body,
may continually remind them of their rights, and of their duties; that,
having it in their power every moment to compare the acts of the
legislative and executive authorities with the purpose of all political
institutions, they may the more respect them; and that the remonstrances
of the citizens, founded, in future, on simple and incontestible
principles, may always tend to support the constitution, and to promote
the happiness of the whole community.’

Some temporary business, towards restoring public tranquillity, and to
give force to the laws, insulted by the licentious conduct of men
inebriated merely by the expectation of freedom, scented from afar,
being dispatched, the formation of a constitution became the standing
labour of the assembly.

The first question naturally fell under this head—what share of power
ought the king to be allowed to possess in the legislature? This was an
important consideration for men, who were all politicians in theory; and
many of whom, having suffered under the absolute sway of the king’s
ministers, still felt the smart of their oppression, and a contempt for
the power that authorized their dominion: whilst the blind zealots for
the indefeasible rights of kings, though they were ashamed of the
phrase, heated the imagination of their party, by the most inflated
encomiums on the benefits arising from extensive kingly prerogatives,
and vapid remarks on the british constitution, and other forms of
government, obviously to display their erudition. The most noisy
indecorus debates ensued, and the assembly seemed to meet rather to
quarrel than deliberate. A division the most decided consequently took
place; which, under different appellations, and professing different
principles, has ever since continued to convulse the senate; if the
legislative assembly, or the convention, deserve a name so dignified.

In discussing whether the royal sanction should be necessary to the
validity of the acts of the legislative body, a variety of extraneous
subjects, and others prematurely brought forward, so entangled the main
question, as to render it difficult to give a clear and brief account of
the debates; without lending a degree of reasonableness to them, that
the manner of arguing, rudely personal, and loudly uncivil, seemed to
destroy. For good lungs soon became more necessary in the assembly than
sound arguments, to enable a speaker to silence the confusion of
tongues; and make known his opinion to men, who were eager only to
announce their own. Thus modest men had no chance to be heard, though
persuasion dwelt on their lips: and even Mirabeau, with his commanding
eloquence, and justness of thought, procured attention as much by the
thundering emphasis, which he gave to his periods, as by his striking
and forcible association of ideas.

As a nation, the french are certainly the most eloquent people in the
world; their lively feelings giving the warmth of passion to every
argument they attempt to support. And speaking fluently, vanity leads
them continually to endeavour to utter their sentiments, without
considering whether they have any thing to recommend them to notice,
beside a happy choice of expressions. Only thinking then of speaking,
they are the most impatient of hearers, coughing, hemming, and scraping
with their feet, most audibly, to beguile the time. Laying aside also,
in the assembly, not only their national politeness, but the common
restraints of civility; good manners seldom supply the place of reason,
when they are angry. And as the slightest contradiction sets them on
fire, three parts out of four of the time, which ought to have been
employed in serious investigation, was consumed in idle vehemence.
Whilst the applauses and hisses of the galleries increased the tumult;
making the vain still more eager to mount the stage. Thus every thing
contributing to excite the emotions, which lead men only to court
admiration, the good of the people was too often sacrificed to the
desire of pleasing them. And so completely was the tide of their
affection for the king turned, that they seemed averse to his having any
portion of legislative authority in the new constitution.

The duke de Liancourt divided the question respecting the share of power
he was to enjoy as a part of the government. _1st. Is the royal sanction
indispensably necessary, to give the actual force of law to the decrees
of the national assembly? 2dly. Ought the king to be an integrant
portion of the legislature?_ In England the phrase _royal assent_ has
been adopted, as expressive of a positive act; but the french, rather
choosing to distinguish the same act of power by a negative, fixed on
the latin word _veto_, _I forbid_. And then it became a question, how
far this _veto_ ought to extend, supposing the prince to be invested
with it.—Was it decisively to obstruct the enaction of a law passed by
the legislative body? or only to suspend it, till an appeal could be
made to the people by a new election?

The assembly in this instance seem to have acted with strange confusion
of mind, or a total ignorance of the nature of a mixed government: for
either the question was nugatory, or a king useless. Lally-Tolendal,
Mounier, and Mirabeau, argued for the absolute _veto_.—‘Two powers,’
says Mirabeau, ‘are necessary to the existence of the body-politic, in
the orderly discharge of it’s functions:—To will—and to act. By the
first, society establishes the regulations which ought all to conspire
to one end—the good of all:—By the second, these regulations are carried
into execution; and public authority is exerted, to make society triumph
over the obstacles, which might arise from the opposite wills of
individuals. In a great nation, these two powers cannot be exercised by
the people: whence comes the necessity of representatives, to exercise
the faculty of willing, or the legislative power; and also of another
species of representation, to exercise the faculty of acting; or, the
executive power.’

He further insists, that ‘the possession of this power is the only way
to render a king useful, and to enable him to act as a check on the
legislative body: the majority of which might tyrannize in the most
despotic manner, even in the senate, to the very expulsion of the
members, who dared to thwart the measures they could not approve. For
under a weak prince, a little time and address alone would be necessary,
to establish legally the dominion of an army of aristocrats; who, making
the royal authority only the passive instrument of their will, might
replunge the people into their old state of debasement.

‘The prince, therefore, being the perpetual representative of the
people, as the deputies are their representatives elected at certain
periods, is equally their safe-guard.

‘No person exclaims against the _veto_ of the national assembly; which
is, in reality, only a right the people have confided in their
representatives, to oppose every proposition, that would tend to
re-establish ministerial despotism. Why then object to the _veto_ of the
prince, which is but another right, especially confided in him by the
people, because he and they are equally interested to prevent the
establishment of an aristocracy?’

He proceeds to prove, ‘that, whilst the legislative body is respectable,
the _veto_ of the king cannot do harm, though it is a salutary check on
their deliberations; and granting, that the influence of the crown has a
tendency to increase, a permanent assembly would be a sufficient
counterpoise for the royal negative. Let us,’ he concludes, ‘have an
annual national assembly, let ministers be made responsible; and the
royal sanction, without any specified restrictions, but, in fact,
perfectly limited, will be the palladium of national liberty, and the
most precious exercise of the liberty of the people.’

Having suffered by the abuse of absolute power, many of the deputies,
afraid to entrust their constitutional monarchs with any, opposed the
_veto_; lest it should palsy the operations of the national assembly,
and bring back the old despotism of the cabinet. The discussion likewise
extending beyond it’s walls, was as superficially and as warmly treated
by those, who thought only of the old government, when they talked of
framing a new one. And as the people were now led by hot-headed men, who
found it the shortest way to popularity, to deliver exaggerated elogiums
on liberty, they began to look for a degree of freedom in their
government, incompatible with the present state of their manners; and of
which they had no perfect idea. It is not then surprising, that it
should become a mark of patriotism, to oppose the _veto_; though
Mirabeau never gave a stronger proof of his, than in supporting it;
convinced that it was the interest of the people he was espousing,
whilst he risked their favour.

The will of the public was, in reality, so decided, that they would
scarcely allow the _veto_ to be mentioned; and the assembly, to steer a
middle course, adopted the _suspensive veto_; after considering some
other important elements of the constitution, which seemed to them to be
intimately connected with the royal prerogative.

Certainly a few of the most judicious deputies must have perceived the
impolicy of the _suspensive veto_; and they could only have agreed to
fall into the measure, under an idea that the minds of the people not
being completely ripe for a total change of government—from absolute
despotism to complete republicanism, it was politically necessary still
to maintain the shadow of monarchy. ‘To assign,’ says one of the
deputies, ‘a term to the _veto_, is at last to force the king to execute
a law of which he disapproves: and making him thus a blind and passive
instrument, a secret war is fomented between him and the national
assembly. It is, in short, to refuse him the _veto_; though those who
refuse it have not the courage openly to say, that France has no longer
any need of a king.’

But, from the commencement of the revolution, the misery of France has
originated from the folly or art of men, who have spurred the people on
too fast; tearing up prejudices by the root, which they should have
permitted to die gradually away. Had they, for example, allowed the king
to have enjoyed the share in the government promised by the _absolute
veto_, they would have let him gently down from the altitude of
unlimited sway, without making him feel the ground he lost in the
descent. And this semblance of his former authority would have gratified
him; or rather, breaking his fall, have induced him to submit patiently
to other restraints, less humiliating to him, though more beneficial to
the people. For it is evident from experience, and might have been
foreseen, that the determination on this question was one grand source
of the continual bickerings of the assembly with the court and ministry;
who took care to make the king see, that he was set up as an idol,
merely to receive the mock respect of the legislative body, till they
were quite sure of the people.

Could it, indeed, have been ascertained, that Louis, or rather the
queen, would have tamely born with such a diminution of power, this
measure might have been deemed prudent; because it was then morally
certain, that the monarchy would have expired naturally with the
dissolution of the king. But, when the pride and restless spirit of the
queen were well known; and that it was probable, from the whole tenour
of her former life, she would contrive to have the ministry composed of
the most dissolute and headstrong men; it must appear the height of
folly only to have left the king the power of perplexing their
proceedings, after they had piqued his pride. And when, to give, as it
were, efficiency to the conspiracies, which would naturally be formed by
the courtiers, to recover the authority rest from them, we find they
afterwards voted such an enormous sum to defray the civil list, as was
sufficient to move like puppets hundreds of the corrupt french; it must
be confessed, that their absurdity and want of discernment appear not
less reprehensible, than the subsequent conduct of the court flagitious.

The constitutional committee had given it as their opinion, that the
contested _veto_ did not concern the national assembly then existing;
which, being a constituting body, it was their duty to see that the
constitution was accepted, not sanctioned. This report carries with it
an air of imbecility, which renders it almost incredible: for, if the
assembly were determined to oblige the king to accept their decrees,
they had better have told him so with becoming dignity, and made
provision for his retiring from a post in which he was useless. Instead
of this, he was in a manner shuffled off the throne; and treated with
cruelty as well as contempt. It would have been at least ingenuous, and
might be deemed magnanimous, had they allowed him to retire with a third
of the stipend, which they afterwards voted him, when he continued to
appear like a theatrical king, only to excite the pity of the vulgar,
and to serve as a pretext for the despots of Europe to urge in
justification of their interference. The liberating an imprisoned
monarch was a plausible motive, though the real one was obviously to
stop the progress of principles, which, once permitted to extend
themselves, would ultimately sap the foundation of their tyranny, and
overturn all the courts in Europe. Pretending then only to have in view
the restoration of order in France, and to free an injured king, they
aimed at crushing the infant brood of liberty.

Similar sentiments must have occurred to every thinking person, who ever
seriously reflected on the conduct of the germanic courts, which has
actually destroyed the tranquillity of Europe for centuries past. War is
the natural consequence of their wretched systems of government.—They
are supported by military legions; and without wars they could not have
veteran soldiers. Their aggrandisement then, and half-lived pleasures,
cast in a mould of ceremony, spring out of the miseries, and are
fostered by the blood of human beings; whom they have sacrificed with as
much _sang froid_, sending them in herds to slaughter, as the
hard-hearted savage romans viewed the horrid spectacle of their
prize-fighters; from the bare idea of which the mind turns, disgusted
with the whole empire, and particularly with the government that dared
to boast of it’s heroism and respect for justice, when not only
tolerating, but encouraging such enormities.

To the sympathizing princes of the continent, therefore, the king should
have been given up; or, if it were necessary to humour the prejudice of
the nation, and still suffer frenchmen to have a most christian king, or
_grand monarque_, to amuse them by devouring capons or partridges before
them; it would have been but just, both in reason and policy, to have
allowed him such a portion of liberty and power, as would have formed a
consistent government. This would have prevented those clamours, which
were sure to draw together an host of enemies, to impede the settlement
of rational laws; flowing from a constitution, that would peaceably have
undermined despotism, had it been allowed gradually to change the
manners of the people. Though had this power been granted, it might have
been productive perhaps of great inconveniences; as it is not likely,
that a court accustomed to exercise unbridled sway would contentedly
have co-operated with the legislature, when possessing only reasonable

Some apprehensions of this kind may have occurred to the assembly:
though it rather appears, that they were either influenced by a
ridiculous pride, not being willing to take the british constitution, so
far as it respected the prerogative, for their model; or intimidated by
the people, who, during the long debate, had outrageously expressed
their will, and even handed about a list of proscriptions, in which the
_vetoists_ were denounced as traitors worthy of death. Be this as it
may, they determined on a half-way measure, that irritated the court
without appeasing the people. Having previously decreed, that the
national assembly should be permanent, that is always existing, instead
of being dissolved at the close of every session, they resolved, that
the _veto_ of the king should suspend the enaction of a law only during
two legislatures. ‘The wisdom of this law,’ says Rabaud, ‘was
universally acknowledged:’ though the folly of it rather merited
universal reprobation.

From the manner indeed, in which the assembly was constituted, it was to
be dreaded, that it’s members would not long sustain the dignity, with
which they commenced the career of their business: because the party,
that opposed with such bitterness the junction of the three orders,
still opposing with rancorous heat, and wily stratagems, every measure
proposed by the really patriotic members, were indirectly seconded by
the insincere and wavering; who, having no motive to govern their
conduct, but the most detestable selfishness, the offspring of vanity or
avarice, always took the side best calculated to gratify the crude
wishes of the multitude. And this unyoked multitude, now suddenly
initiated into the science of civil and natural rights, all become
consummate politicians, began to control the decisions of a divided
assembly, rendered timid by intestine broils.

There were besides many circumstances, which tended to make any attempt
to counteract this influence very difficult. At the meeting of the
states-general, the whole court party, with the greater proportion of
both the nobility and clergy, were in opposition to the third-estate:
and though the number of the latter was equal to that of the other two
orders, they had also to contend with the inveterate prejudices of ages.
The court had thought only of devising means to crush them; and had the
soldiery acted with the blind zeal common to men of this profession, it
would of itself have been sufficient to have completely disconcerted
their views. This conduct of the cabinet, and the discovery of the
atrocious conspiracy, which had been formed against the people and their
idolized representatives, provoking the resentment and vengeance of the
nation, palsied all authority, and rendered the laws that had emanated
from it contemptible. To oppose this torrent of opinions, like an
impetuous current, that after heavy rains, defying all resistance, bears
away on it’s raging bosom every obstacle, required the most enlightened
prudence and determined resolution.

So much wisdom and firmness seldom fall to the lot of any country: and
it could scarcely have been expected from the depraved and volatile
french; who proudly, or ignorantly, determining to follow no political
track, seem to have fixed on a system proper only for a people in the
highest stage of civilization;—a system of itself calculated to
disorganize the government, and throw embarrassments into all it’s
operations. This was an errour so gross, as to demand the severest
animadversions. For this political plan, ever considered as utopian by
all men who had not traced the progress of reason, or calculated the
degree of perfectibility the human faculties are capable of attaining,
was, it might be presumed, the most improper for the degenerate society
of France. The exertions of the very admirers of the revolution were,
likewise, far from being permanent; and they could hardly have been
expected to possess sufficient virtue to support a government, the
duration of which they at least feared would be short. The men termed
experienced believed it physically impossible; and no arguments were
cogent enough to convince them of the contrary: so that, they leaving
the task to mock patriots and enthusiasts, a fresh odium has been thrown
on principles, which, notwithstanding are gaining ground. Things must be
left to their natural course; and the accelerating progress of truth
promises to demonstrate, what no arguments have hitherto been able to

The foundation of liberty was laid in the declaration of rights; the
first three articles of which contain the great principles of natural,
political, and civil liberty.—First, that men are born, and always
continue, free, and equal in respect to their rights:—civil
distinctions, therefore, can be founded only on public utility.
Secondly, the end of all political associations is the preservation of
the natural and imprescriptible rights of man: which rights are—liberty,
property, security, and resistance of oppression. Thirdly, the nation is
the source of all sovereignty: no body of men, no individual, can then
be entitled to any authority, which is not derived from it. The first
article, establishing the equality of man, strikes at the root of all
useless distinctions:—the second, securing his rights against
oppression, maintains his dignity:—and the third, acknowledging the
sovereignty of the nation, confirms the authority of the people.—These
are the essential points of a good government: and it is only necessary,
when these points are ascertained by a nation, and solemnly ratified in
the hearts of it’s citizens, to take care, in the formation of a
political system, to provide against the abuse of the executive part;
whilst equal caution should be observed, not to destroy it’s efficiency,
as on that depend it’s justice, vigour, and promptitude. The other
articles are explanatory of the nature and intent of these rights, and
ought to have had more attention paid to them, when the structure was
raised, to which they served as a basis.

Whilst defining the authority of the king, or rather determining, that
he should have no authority, unless the option of disturbing the
legislation deserve that name, they debated the question of two chambers
with equal inconsideration, and all the puerile self-sufficiency of
ignorance. The opposers of two chambers, without allowing, that there
was any political wisdom in appointing one house of representatives to
reconsider the resolves of the other, ridiculed the idea of a balance of
power, and instanced the abuses of the english government to give force
to their objections. At the same time fearing, that the nobles of the
court would contend for an hereditary senate, similar to the british
house of peers; or, at least, for a seat during life, paramount to the
representatives who they determined should be elected every two years;
they fought to bring the business to a speedy issue. The very division
of the nobility served to hasten it, and strengthened the arguments of
the popular members; who finding that they could rely on the concurrence
of the parish-priests, whose wishes in favour of the unity of the
assembly were quickly betrayed by the opinions of their leading orators,
demanded the decision of a question, that had been agitated in the most
tumultuous manner.

Mirabeau wished to prove, that the decision of the question respecting
the permanency of the assembly had prejudged that of the two chambers;
and the plan of a senate, proposed by the constitutional committee, only
excited fresh apprehensions, that the ancient hydra would again rear
it’s head. They represented this senate as the cradle of a new
aristocracy; as a dangerous counterpoise to popular violence, because it
would still foster the prejudices, which produced inequalities amongst
men, and give continual play to the overbearing passions, that had
hitherto degraded mankind. And to show previously their entire
disinterestedness, as well as fear of allowing the exercise of power to
become familiar, much less necessary to any members of the community,
they unanimously voted, that for each legislature, the name given to the
meeting of the representatives, a total change of the deputies should
take place.

The very nobility, in fact, were far from being united in support of two
chambers. The order was a numerous one: and to establish an equality of
privileges, it was necessary, that they should all concur to elect the
upper chamber, as the representatives of the whole body; whilst the
nobles of the court, and of the ancient houses, secretly indulged the
hope of establishing a peerage; which would not only raise them above
the commons, but keep at a proper distance the upstart nobility, with
whom they had heretofore impatiently jostled. There was even another
cause of jealousy: for it was presumed, that the forty-seven nobles, who
first joined the assembly, would now be rewarded. In short, the idle
fears and more contemptible vanity of the different parties now operated
so much in favour of an indivisible senate, that the question was
decided by a great majority, to the entire satisfaction of the public,
who were almost as eager for one chamber, as averse to the _veto_.

The deputies, who opposed the upper chamber to promote the good of
society, did it from a belief, that it would be the asylum of a new
aristocracy; and from a total ignorance, or obscurity of ideas,
respecting it’s utility. Whilst the oppressions of the feudal system
being still present to the minds of the people, they considered a
division of the legislative body as inconsistent with the freedom and
equality they were taught to expect as the prime blessings of a new
constitution. The very mention of _two chambers_ carried them back to
the old dispute, respecting the negative of the different orders; and
seemed to subvert the revolution. Such fears, degenerating into
weakness, can only be accounted for by recollecting the many cruel
thraldoms, from which they had so recently escaped. Besides, the
remembrance of their former servitude, and the resentment excited by the
late struggle to prove they were men, created in their enthusiastic
imaginations such a multitude of horrours, and fantastic images of new
dangers, as did not allow them to exercise the full powers of their
reason. So that to convince them of the propriety of a new institution,
and heat the supporters of it, nothing more was necessary, than to show,
that it was the very reverse of those maintained by the partizans of the
old government.

The wisdom of giving to the executive part of a government an absolute
_veto_ might very justly have been questioned; as it seems to be giving
a power to one man to counteract the will of a whole people—an absurdity
too gross to merit refutation. Still, whilst crowns are a necessary
bauble to please the multitude, it is also necessary, that their
dignity, should be supported, in order to prevent an overweening
aristocracy from concentrating all authority in themselves. This seems
to have been expedient, likewise, as long as the manners of barbarians
remained: as savages are naturally pleased with glass and beads, in
proportion as they afford a striking contrast to the rude materials of
their own fabrication.

In the progressive influence of knowledge on manners, both dress and
governments appear to be acquiring simplicity; it may therefore be
inferred, that, as the people attain dignity of character, their
amusements will flow from a more rational source than the pageantry of
kings, or the view of the fopperies exhibited at courts. If these have
been supported hitherto by childish ignorance, they seem to be losing
their influence, as the understanding of the world approaches to
manhood: for, as they grow wiser, the people will look for the solid
advantages of society; and watching with sufficient vigilance their own
interest, the _veto_ of the executive branch of the government would
become perfectly useless; though in the hands of an unprincipled, bold
chief magistrate, it might prove a dangerous instrument. In forming a
representative plan of government it appears necessary then to take care
only, that it be so constructed, as to prevent hasty decisions; or the
carrying into laws dangerous, impolitic measures, which have been urged
by popular declaimers, who are too apt to gain an ascendancy in a
numerous assembly. Until the principles of governments become
simplified, and a knowledge of them be disseminated, it is to be feared,
that popular assemblies will often be influenced by the fascinating
charms of eloquence: and as it is possible for a man to be eloquent
without being either wise or virtuous, it is but a common precaution of
prudence in the framers of a constitution, to provide some check to the

Besides, it is very probable, in the same state of reason, that a
faction may arise, which will control the assembly; and, acting contrary
to the dictates of wisdom, throw the state into the most dangerous
convulsions of anarchy: consequently, it ought to form a primary object
with a constituting assembly, to prevent, by some salutary contrivance,
the mischief flowing from such sources. The obvious preventative is a
second chamber, or senate, which would not, it is most likely, be under
the influence of the same faction; and it is at least certain, that it’s
decisions would not be directed by the same orators. The advantage would
be more certain if business were not conducted in the two chambers in a
similar manner. Thus by making the most numerous assembly the most
active, the other would have more time to weigh the probable consequence
of any act or decree, which would prevent those inconveniences; or, at
least, many of them, the consequence of haste or faction.

This system in an old government is susceptible of improvement. The
minds of young men generally having more fire, activity, and invention,
it would be politically wise to restrict the age of the senators to
thirty-five, or forty years; at which period of life they most likely
would have gone through a certain routine of business; and become more
sage, and steady, they would be better calculated to decide respecting
the policy, or wisdom of the acts of the chamber of representatives.

It is true France was in such a state at the time of the revolution,
that a like improvement could not have been instantly carried into
execution, because the aristocratical influence was justly to be
dreaded. The constituting assembly then should have remained
indivisible; and as the members became in some measure acquainted with
legislative business, they would have prepared senators for the upper
chamber. All the future legislatures being divided into two chambers, a
house of representatives, and a senate, the members of the national
assembly might have been permitted to be elected for the senate, though
they should not have attained the age prescribed; for the restriction
needed not to have taken place until the government found it’s level,
and even then, the members of the preceding house of representatives
might have been allowed to be returned for the senate.

It has been a common remark of moralists, that we are the least
acquainted with our own characters. This has been literally the case
with the french: for certainly no people stand in such great need of a
check; and, totally destitute of experience in political science, it
must have been clear to all men of sound understanding, that some such
plan alone would have enabled them to avoid many fatal errours.

The first efforts of the national assembly were truly magnanimous; but
the character of the men was too light, to maintain the same heroism,
when not warmed by passion—too giddy, to support with grave dignity the
splendour of sudden glory. Their vanity was also unbounded; and their
false estimate of disinterestedness of conduct, whilst they betrayed
puerility of sentiment, was not among the least of the misfortunes,
which have befallen that unhappy country. Their hearts had been too long
sophisticated, to suggest the best mode of communicating freedom to
millions; and their heads were still less calculated to lay down a
practicable plan of government, adapted to the state of knowledge of the
age. So much so, that they seem to have selected from books only the
regulations proper for a period of perfect civilization.

The revolutions of states ought to be gradual; for during violent or
material changes it is not so much the wisdom of measures, as the
popularity they acquire by being adapted to the foibles of the great
body of the community, which gives them success.—Men are most easily led
away by the ingenious arguments, that dwell on the equality of man, and
these are always employed by the different leaders of popular

Whilst the most ingenious theorists, or desperate partizans of the
people, take advantage of this infirmity of our nature, the consequences
must sometimes prove destructive to society, is they do not end in the
most dreadful anarchy. For when the members of a state are not directed
by practical knowledge, every one produces a plan of polity, till the
confusion becomes general, and the nation plunges into wretchedness,
pursuing the schemes of those philosophers of genius who, advancing
before their age, have sketched the model of a perfect system of
government. Thus it happened in France, that Hume’s idea of a perfect
commonwealth, the adoption of which would be eligible only when
civilization has arrived at a much greater degree of perfection, and
knowledge is more generally diffused than at the present period, was
nevertheless chosen as the model of their new government, with a few
exceptions, by the constituent assembly: which choice doubtless
proceeded from the members not having had an opportunity to acquire a
knowledge of practical liberty. Some of the members, it is true, alluded
to the improvements made by the americans on the plan of the english
constitution; but the great majority, despising experience, were for
forming, at once, a system much more perfect. And this self-sufficiency
has produced those dreadful outrages, and attacks, made by the
anarchists of that country, on personal liberty, property, and whatever
else society holds sacred.

These melancholy considerations seem to me to afford irrefragable
arguments, to prove that it is necessary for all governments, which have
for their object the happiness of the people, to make the power of
altering peaceably a fundamental principle of their constitution.

Still, if the attempt to carry prematurely into execution the sublime
theory, which has occupied some of the best heads to form, have afforded
an opportunity to superficial politicians, to condemn it as absurd and
chimerical, because it has not been attended with immediate success, the
advocates for the extension of truth and reason ought not to despair.
For when we contemplate the slow improvement, that has been made in the
science of government; and, that even the system of the british
constitution was considered, by some of the most enlightened ancients,
as the sublimest theory the human mind was able to conceive, though not
reducible to practice, they should not relax in their endeavours to
bring to maturity a polity more simple—which promises more equal
freedom, and general happiness to mankind.

                              CHAPTER II.

After the national assembly had determined, that the legislative body
should consist of one house, to be renewed every two years, they appear
to have had some suspicion of the impolicy of the decree; but not
allowing themselves time to comprehend the use of a senate taken from
the body of the people, they attempted to silence the fears, some
moderate men entertained, of the bad consequences which might arise from
the decisions of an impetuous assembly without a check, by assuring
them, that the delay, the _veto_ would occasion, was a sufficient
counterpoise. They represented the king’s _veto_ as the negative
archetype of the national will; adding, that it would be the duty of the
sovereign to examine with vigilance the justice or wisdom of their
decrees; and by the exertion of his power prevent the hasty
establishment of any laws inimical to the public good. So easy is it for
men to frame arguments, to cover the homely features of their own
folly—so dangerous is it to follow a refined theory, however feasible it
may appear, when the happiness of an empire depends on it’s success; and
so inconsiderately did the national assembly act in this great business,
that they did not wait even to determine the precise meaning of the word

If the king then represented the negative will of the nation, which the
assembly pretended to say he did; and if he possessed the supreme wisdom
and moderation necessary to guaranty that will, which supposing he did
not, it was a folly too gross to require any comment; in the name of
common sense—why was his _veto suspensive_?

The truth is obvious,—the assembly had not sufficient courage to take a
decided part.—They knew, that the king and court could not be depended
upon; yet they had not the magnanimity to give them up altogether. They
justly dreaded the depravity and influence of the nobles; but they had
not the sagacity to model the government in such a manner, as would have
defeated their future conspiracies, and rendered their power nugatory;
though they had the example of the Thirteen States of America before
them, from which they had drawn what little practical knowledge of
liberty they possessed.—But, no; the regeneration of France must lead to
the regeneration of the whole globe. The political system of frenchmen
must serve as a model for all the free states in the universe!—_Vive la
liberté_ was the only cry—and _la bagatelle_ entered into every
debate—whilst the whole nation, wild with joy, was hailing the
commencement of the golden age.

The women too, not to be outdone by the roman dames, came forward,
during this discussion, to sacrifice their ornaments for the good of
their country. And this fresh example of public spirit was also given by
the third-estate; for they were the wives and daughters of artizans, who
first renounced their female pride—or rather made one kind of vanity
take place of another. However, the offering was made with theatrical
grace; and the lively applauses of the assembly were reiterated with
great gallantry.

Another interruption had likewise occurred, of a more serious
nature.—For after they had decreed, with an unanimous voice—That _the
person of the king is sacred and inviolable_, that _the throne is
indivisible_; that _the crown is hereditary, in the males of the
reigning family, according to the order of primogeniture, to the
perpetual exclusion of females_, a deputy proposed, that, before going
any further, they should decide ‘whether the branch reigning in Spain
could reign in France, though it had renounced the crown of the latter
kingdom by the most authentic treaties.’

Several of the most respectable members represented, that this was a
delicate business, with which it was impolitic to meddle at present, and
as unnecessary as imprudent. Mirabeau was of this opinion; but when he
found, that much time was likely to be consumed in idle debates, and
contemptible vehemence, he endeavoured to cut the matter short by moving
a new question—namely, ‘that no one could reign in France, who was not
born in the kingdom.’

But nothing could prevent the agitation of the same subject for three
days; prolonged either by the fears of one party, or the desire of
another to embroil the assembly, and retard the formation of a
constitution. Mirabeau made several severe, but just remarks, on the
character of Louis XIV, whose ambition had produced the dispute; and
reprobated with dignity, their manner of treating a people, as if they
were the property of a chief. Should any difficulty arise, in future, he
maintained, that the nation would then be competent to judge of it; and
had an equal right to determine the succession, as to choose a new
system of government.

The assembly, though generally so inattentive to the suggestions of
sound policy, despising moderation, became now beyond measure
scrupulous. Some deputies represented the danger of alienating to the
english the commerce of Spain, by disgusting it’s court; and others
anticipated the intestine troubles, which a doubt respecting the
unchangeable descent of the crown might produce. At last they resolved
to add to the declaration, respecting the monarchy, that they did not
mean to make the decree, _by any means prejudge the effect of

Whilst they were settling these things in the assembly, the refractory
nobles and clergy were intriguing to prevent the king from giving his
assent to the promulgation of the decrees of the 4th of august. The
royal _sanction_ had been demanded before the import of the word was
scanned; and the court taking advantage of this ambiguity, made the king
pretend he misunderstood the demand; and imagined that they merely asked
for his opinion, and not to know his will. Instead then of a simple
monosyllable, he replied by a memoire. He approved, in general, of the
spirit of these determinations; but entered into an investigation, more
or less copious, of every article. He weighed the advantages and
inconveniences; and pointed out precautions and modifications, which
appeared to him necessary to realize the former and prevent the latter.
He objected particularly to the abolition of some rents; which, though
substitutes for personal service, were now actual property; he suggested
some difficulty that might attend the abolition of tithes; and hinted,
that the german princes, who had possessions in Alsace, secured to them
by treaty, might resent the infringement. In answer to the last
objection, a member observed, that the inhabitants of this province, who
had long been sinking under the weight of these privileges, daily
augmented by the connivance of ministers, had inserted an article in
their instructions expressly demanding the abolition of this destructive
system; which reduced them to despair, and forced them continually to
emigrate. Several of the deputies wished to have the king’s reply
referred to the examination of a committee; yet, a great majority
insisting, that the decrees of the 4th of august were not new laws, to
be carried into force by the executive power, but abuses which it was
absolutely necessary to clear away before the formation of the
constitution, demanded their immediate promulgation. Accordingly they
resolved, that the president should wait on the king and request him
immediately to order the promulgation of the decrees; assuring him at
the same time, that the national assembly, when considering each article
separately, would pay the most scrupulous attention to the observations
communicated by his majesty.

This imperative petition had the desired effect, and the king acceded,
the 20th of september, to their will, sanctioning decrees he did not

This was the first glaring instance of the constituting assembly acting
contrary to it’s pretensions; and the king, long in the habit of
dissembling, always yielding to the pressure of remonstrances, no matter
from what quarter they came, with criminal insincerity acknowledging
himself a cipher, laid the foundation of his own insignificancy, by
ordering the promulgation of decrees, which he believed were
incompatible with justice, and might involve the french monarchy in
disagreeable disputes with foreign princes, when peace was particularly
necessary to calm it’s internal convulsions.

If a chief magistrate be of any consequence to a state, his wisdom ought
to appear in the dignity and firmness of his actions.—But, if he be
considered as the fountain of justice and honour, and do not possess the
abilities and magnanimity of a common man, in what a wretched light must
he be viewed by the eyes of discernment and common sense?—And, if the
framers of a constitution create a power that must continually act at
variance with itself, they not only undermine the pillars of their own
fabric, but they insert the scion of a disease the most destructive to
truth and morals.

After complying with this compulsatory request, Louis, who, finding that
he was left without any share of power, seems to have thought very
little of his _suspensive veto_, determined to play a part that would
give an air of sincerity to his present conduct, whilst his object was
secretly to favour the efforts of the counter-revolutionists; and if
possible effect his own escape.—But, in the mean time, he endeavoured to
make such use of it as might prevent the total derangement of the old
system, without unveiling his secret views, and intentions. It is
difficult to determine which was the most reprehensible, the folly of
the assembly, or the duplicity of the king. If Louis were without
character, and controlled by a court without virtue, it amounted to a
demonstration, that every insidious mean would be employed by the
courtiers to reinstate the old government; and recover, if possible,
their former splendour and voluptuous ease. For, though they were
dispersed, it was notorious to all France, nay, to all Europe, that a
constant correspondence was kept up between the different parties, and
their projects concerted by one of the most intriguing of disappointed
men[30]. It was obvious, therefore, to Mirabeau, that the king ought to
be gained over to the side of the people; and made to consider himself
as their benefactor, in order to detach him from the cabal. But in this
respect he was unfortunately over-ruled. This mixture of magnanimity,
and timidity, of wisdom and headstrong folly, displayed by the assembly,
appears, at the first view, to involve such a contradiction, that every
person unacquainted with the french character would be ready to call in
question the truth of those undeniable facts, which crowd on the heels
of each other during the progress of the great events, that formed the
revolution. A superficial glance over the circumstances, will not enable
us to account for an inconsistency, which borders on improbability.—We
must, on the contrary, ever keep in our thoughts, that, whilst they were
directed in their political plans, by a wild, half comprehended theory,
their sentiments were still governed by the old chivalrous sense of
honour, which diffusing a degree of romantic heroism into all their
actions, a false magnanimity would not permit them to question the
veracity of a man, on whom they believed they were conferring favours;
and for whom they certainly made great allowance, if they did not
forgive him for countenancing plots, which tended to undermine their
favourite system.

It is, perhaps, the characteristic of vanity, to become enamoured with
ideas, in proportion as they were remote from it’s conception, until
brought to the mind by causes so natural, as to induce it to believe,
that they are the happy and spontaneous flow of it’s own prolific brain.
Their splendour then eclipsing his judgment, the man is hurried on by
enthusiasm and self-sufficiency, like a ship at sea, without ballast or
helm, by every breath of wind: and, to carry the comparison still
further, should a tempest chance to rise in the state, he is swallowed
up in the whirlpools of confusion, into the very midst of which his
conceit has plunged him; as the vessel, that was not prepared to stem
the violence of a hurricane, is buried in the raging surge.

The occasions of remarking, that frenchmen are the vainest men living,
often occur, and here it must be insisted on; for no sooner had they
taken possession of certain philosophical truths, persuading themselves,
that the world was indebted to them for the discovery, than they seem to
have overlooked every other consideration, but their adoption. Much evil
has been the consequence; yet France is certainly highly indebted to the
national assembly for establishing many constitutional principles of
liberty, which must greatly accelerate the improvement of the public
mind, and ultimately produce the perfect government, that they vainly
endeavoured to construct immediately with such fatal precipitation.

The consideration of several other articles of the constitution was
continually interrupted, and not more by the variety of business, which
came under the cognizance of the assembly, than by the want of a proper
arrangement of them. Much time was lost in disputing about the choice of
subjects of deliberation; and the order in which they ought to proceed.
The business of the day was perpetually obliged to give place to
episodical scenes; and men, who came prepared to discuss one question,
being obliged to turn to another, lost in some measure the benefit of
reflection, and the energy, so different from the enthusiasm of the
moment, with which a man supports a well digested opinion.

Two or three slight debates had arisen on the subject of quartering a
thousand men, of the regular troops, at Versailles. The commandant of
the guards had requested permission of the municipality; pointing out
the necessity for the security of the town, the national assembly, and
the person of the king. The necessity did not appear so obvious to the
public, and, in fact, the demand seemed calculated to provoke the
tumults, against which they were so officiously guarding. Mirabeau also
observed, ‘that the executive power had undoubtedly a right to augment
the military force, in any particular place, when private information,
or urgent circumstances, appeared to require it; and that the
municipality had, likewise, a right to demand the troops they judged
necessary; yet he could not help thinking it singular, that the
ministers should have entrusted the municipality with a secret, which
they did not communicate to the assembly,—who might be supposed at least
as anxious to take every precaution for the safety of the town and the
king’s person.’ To these pertinent remarks no attention was paid; and a
letter from the mayor of Paris, informing the assembly, that a great
number of the districts of the metropolis had remonstrated against the
introduction of regular troops into Versailles, to awe the national
guards, was equally neglected; whilst a letter to the president, in the
name of the king, informing him, that he had taken the different
measures necessary to prevent any disturbances in the place where the
national assembly were sitting, was thrown aside without any comment.

The loan still failing, several individuals made magnificent presents;
sacrificing their jewels and plate, to relieve the wants of their
country. And the king sent his rich service to the mint, in spite of the
remonstrances of the assembly.—The disinterestedness of this action, it
is absurd to talk of benevolence, may fairly be doubted; because, had he
escaped, and the escape was then in contemplation, it would have been
confiscated; whilst the voluntary offer was a popular step, which might
serve for a little time to cover this design, and turn the attention of
the public from the subject of the reinforcement of the guards to the
patriotism of the king.

These donations, which scarcely afforded a temporary supply, rather
amused than relieved the nation; though they suggested a new plan to the
minister. Necker, therefore, incapable of forming any great design for
the good of the nation, yet calculating on the general enthusiasm, which
pervaded all descriptions and ranks of people, laid before the assembly
the ruinous state of the finances, proposing at the same time, as the
only mode of remedying the evil, to require of the citizens a
contribution of one-fourth of their income. The assembly was startled by
this proposal, but Mirabeau, believing that the people would now grant
whatever their representatives required, prevailed on the assembly, by a
lively representation of the perilous state of the kingdom, to adopt the
only plan of salvation which had yet been suggested—insisting, that this
was the only expedient to avoid an infamous national bankruptcy. ‘Two
centuries of depredations and pillage,’ he exclaimed, ‘have hollowed out
an immense gulph, in which the kingdom will soon be swallowed. It is
necessary to fill up this frightful abyss. Agreed!—Choose out the rich,
that the sacrifice may fall on the fewer citizens; but, determine
quickly! There are two thousand notables, who have sufficient property
to restore order to your finances, and peace and prosperity to the
kingdom. Strike; immolate without pity these victims!—precipitate them
into the abyss—it is going to close on them—ye draw back, with
horrour—ye men! pusillanimous and inconsistent!—and see ye not in
decreeing a bankruptcy, or, which is still more contemptible, rendering
it inevitable, ye are sullied by an act a thousand times more criminal?’

But it is impossible to do justice to this burst of eloquence, in a
translation; besides, the most energetic appeals to the passions always
lose half their dignity, or, perhaps, appear to want the support of
reason, when they are coolly perused.—Nothing produces conviction like
passion—it seems the ray from heaven, that enlightens as it warms.—Yet
the effect once over, something like a fear of having been betrayed into
folly clings to the mind it has most strongly influenced; and an obscure
sense of shame lowers the spirits that were wound up too high.

From the whole tenour of this speech it is clear, that Mirabeau was in
earnest; and that he had fired his imagination, by considering this plan
as an act of heroism, that would ennoble the revolution, and reflect
lasting honour on the national assembly. In this extemporary flow of
eloquence, probably the most simple and noble of modern times, mixed
none of the rhetoric which frequently entered into his studied
compositions; for his periods were often artfully formed;—but it was the
art of a man of genius. He proposed to the assembly to address their
constituents on this occasion; and he was accordingly requested to
prepare an address for their consideration.

His address to the nation is, indeed, a master-piece; yet, being written
to persuade, and not spoken to carry a point immediately, and overwhelm
opposition, there is more reasoning in it; and more artful, though less
forcible, appeals to the passions. And, though this expedient appears to
be the most wild that folly could have blundered upon, the arguments
ought to be preserved with which it was glossed over.

To expect a man to give the fourth of what he lived on; and that in the
course of fifteen months, leaving it to him to make the estimate, was
expecting that from virtue, which could only have been produced by
enthusiasm. All the ancient acts of heroism, were excited by the spur of
present danger; and of this kind of virtue the french were equally
capable; yet, though the plan afforded them an opportunity to give a
splendid proof of their patriotism, it by no means answered; because, it
being the effect rather of temper than of principle, selfishness had
time to find a plausible pretext to elude it; and vanity is seldom
willing to hide it’s good works in the common measure.

As the removing the national assembly to Paris forms an epocha in the
history of the revolution, it seems proper to close this chapter with
Mirabeau’s address.

‘The deputies of the national assembly suspend a while their labours to
lay before their constituents the wants of the state, and to call upon
their patriotism to second the measures, which a country in danger

‘It were betraying you to dissemble. Two ways are open—the nation may
stride forward to the most glorious pre-eminence, or fall head-long into
a gulph of misfortune.

‘A great revolution, the very plan of which some months ago would have
appeared chimerical, has taken place amongst us. Accelerated by
unforeseen circumstances, the momentum has suddenly overthrown our
ancient institutions. Without allowing us time to prop what must be
preserved, or to replace what ought to be destroyed, it has at once
surrounded us with ruins.

‘Our efforts to support the government are fruitless, a fatal numbness
cramps all it’s powers. The public revenue is no more; and credit cannot
gain strength at a moment, when our fears equal our hopes.—This spring
of social power unbent, has weakened the whole machine; men and things,
resolution, courage, and even virtue itself, have lost their tension. If
your concurrence do not speedily restore life and motion to the
body-politic, the grandest revolutions, perishing with the hopes it
generated, will mingle again in the chaos, whence noble exertions have
drawn it; and they, who shall still preserve an unconquerable love of
liberty, will refuse to unworthy citizens the disgraceful consolation of
resuming their fetters.

‘Since your deputies have buried all their rivalry, all their contending
interests, in a just and necessary union, the national assembly has
laboured to establish equal laws for the common safety. It has repaired
great errours, and broken the links of countless thraldoms, which
degraded human nature: it has kindled the flame of joy and hope in the
bosoms of the people, the creditors of earth and nature, whose dignity
has been so long tarnished, whose hearts have been so long discouraged:
it has restored the long-obscured equality of frenchmen, estabblished
their common right to serve the state, to enjoy it’s protection, to
merit it’s rewards: in short, conformably to your instructions, it is
gradually erecting, on the immutable basis of the imprescriptible rights
of man, a constitution mild as nature, lasting as justice, and the
imperfections of which, the consequence of the inexperience of it’s
authors, will easily be repaired. We have had to contend with the
inveterate prejudices of ages, whilst harassed by the thousand
uncertainties which accompany great changes. Our successors will have
the beaten track of experience before them; we have had only the compass
of theory to guide us through the pathless desert. They may labour
peaceably; though we have had to bear up against storms. They will know
their rights, and the limits of their power: we have had to recover the
one, and to fix the other. They will consolidate our work—they will
surpass us—What a recompense! Who shall dare, mean while, to assign
limits to the grandeur of France? Who is not elevated by hope? Who does
not felicitate himself on being a citizen of it’s empire?

‘Such, however, is the crisis of the finances, that the state is
threatened with dissolution before this grand order of things can find
it’s centre. The cessation of the revenue has banished specie. A
thousand circumstances hasten it’s exportation. The sources of credit
are exhausted; and the wheels of government are almost at a stand. If
patriotism then step not forward to the succour of government, our
armies, our fleets, our subsistence, our arts, our trade, our
agriculture, our national debt, our country itself, will be hurried
towards that catastrophe, when she will receive laws only from disorder
and anarchy—Liberty would have glanced on our sight, only to disappear
for ever, only to leave behind the bitter consciousness, that we did not
merit the possession. And to our shame, in the eyes of the universe, the
evil could be attributed solely to ourselves. With a soil so fertile,
industry so productive, a commerce so flourishing, and such means of
prosperity—what is this embarrassment of our finances? Our wants amount
not to the expence of a summer’s campaign—and our liberty, is it not
worth more than those senseless struggles, when even victory has proved

‘The present difficulty overcome, far from burdening the people, it will
be easy to meliorate their condition. Reductions, which need not
annihilate luxury; reforms, which will reduce none to indigence; a
commutation of the oppressive taxes, an equal assessment of the impost,
together with the equilibrium which must be restored between our revenue
and our expenditure; an order that must be rendered permanent by our
vigilant superintendency.—These are the scattered objects of your
consolatory perspective.—They are not the unsubstantial coinage of
fancy; but real, palpable forms—hopes capable of proof, things
subordinate to calculation.

‘But our actual wants—the paralysis of our public strength, the hundred
and sixty extra millions necessary for this year, and the next—What can
be done? The prime minister has proposed as the great lever of the
effort, which is to decide the kingdom’s fate, a contribution
proportional to the income of each citizen.

‘Between the necessity of providing instantly for the exigencies of the
public, and the impossibility of investigating so speedily the plan
before us; fearing to enter into a labyrinth of calculations, and seeing
nothing contrary to our duty in the minister’s proposal, we have obeyed
the dictates of our consciences, presuming they would be yours. The
attachment of the nation to the author of the plan, appeared to us a
pledge of it’s success; and we confided in his long experience, rather
than trust to the guidance of our speculative opinions.

‘To the conscience of every citizen is left the valuation of his income:
thus the effect of the measure depends on your own patriotism. When the
nation is bursting from the nothingness of servitude to the creation of
liberty—when policy is about to concur with nature in unfolding the
inconceivable grandeur of her future destiny—shall vile passions oppose
her greatness? interest stay her flight? and the salvation of the state
weigh less than a personal contribution?

‘No; such madness is not in nature; the passions even do not listen to
such treacherous reckonings. If the revolution, which has given us a
country, cannot rouse some frenchmen out of the torpor of indifference,
at least the tranquillity of the kingdom, the only pledge of their
individual security, will influence them. No; it is not in the whirl of
universal overthrow, in the degradation of tutelary authority, when a
crowd of indigent citizens, shut out from the work-shops, will be
clamouring for impotent pity; when the soldiery disbanded will be
forming itself into hungry gangs of armed plunderers, when property will
be violated with impunity, and the very existence of individuals
menaced—terrour and grief waiting at the door of every family—it is not
amidst such complicated wretchedness, that these cruel and selfish men
will enjoy in peace the hoards which they denied their country. The only
distinction that awaits them, in the general wreck, will be the
universal opprobrium they deserve, or the useless remorse that will
corrode the inmost recesses of their hearts.

‘Ah! how many recent proofs have we of the public spiritedness, which
renders all success so easy! With what rapidity was formed the national
militia, those legions of citizens armed for the defence of the country,
the preservation of tranquillity, and the maintenance of the laws! A
generous emulation has beamed on all sides. Villages, towns, provinces,
have considered their privileges as odious distinctions, and solicited
the honour of depriving themselves of peculiar advantages, to enrich
their country. You know it: time was not allowed to draw up the mutual
concessions, dictated by a purely patriotic sentiment, into decrees; so
impatient was every class of citizens to restore to the great family
whatever endowed some of it’s members to the prejudice of others.

‘Above all, since the embarrassment of our finances, the patriotic
contributions have increased. From the throne, the majesty of which a
beneficent prince exalts by his virtues, has emanated the most
striking example.—O thou, so justly the dearly beloved of thy
people—king—citizen—man of worth! it was thine to cast a glance over
the magnificence that surrounded thee, and to convert it into national
resources. The objects of luxury which thou hast sacrificed, have
added new lustre to thy dignity; and whilst the love of the french for
thy sacred person makes them murmur at the privation, their
sensibility applauds thy magnanimity; and their generosity will repay
thy beneficence by the return it covets, by an imitation of thy
virtues, by pursuing thy course in the career of public utility.

‘How much wealth, congealed by ostentation into useless heaps, shall
melt into flowing streams of prosperity! How much the prudent economy of
individuals might contribute to the restoration of the kingdom! How many
treasures, which the piety of our forefathers accumulated on the altars
of our temples, will forsake their obscure cells without changing their
sacred destination! “This I set apart, in times of prosperity;” says
religion; “it is fitting that I dispense it in the day of adversity. It
was not for myself—a borrowed lustre adds nothing to my greatness—it was
for you, and the state, that I levied this honourable tribute on the
virtues of your forefathers.”

‘Who can avoid being affected by such examples? What a moment to display
our resources, to invoke the aid of every corner of the empire!—O
prevent the shame, with which the violation of our engagements, our most
sacred engagements, would stain the birth of freedom! Prevent those
dreadful shocks, which, in overturning the most solid institutions, and
shattering the most established fortunes, would leave France covered
with the sad ruins of a shameful hurricane. How mistaken are those, who
at a certain distance from the capital contemplate not the links, which
connect public faith with national prosperity, and with the social
contract! They who pronounce the infamous term bankruptcy, are they not
rather a herd of ferocious beasts, than a society of men just and free?
Where is the frenchman who will dare to look his fellow citizens in the
face, when his conscience shall upbraid him with having contributed to
empoison the existence of millions of his fellow creatures? Are we the
nation to whose honour it’s enemies bear witness, who are about to sully
the proud distinction by a _BANKRUPTCY_?—Shall we give them cause to
say, we have only recovered our liberty and strength to commit, without
shuddering, crimes which paled even the cheek of despotism?

‘Would it be any excuse to protest, that this execrable mischief was not
premeditated? Ah! no: the cries of the victims, whom we shall scatter
over Europe, will drown our voice. Act then!—Be your measures swift,
strong, sure. Dispel the cloud, that lowers over our heads, the gloom of
which sheds terrour into the hearts of the creditors of France.—If it
burst, the devastation of our national resources will be more tremendous
than the terrible plague, which has lately ravaged our provinces.

‘How will our courage in the exercise of the functions, you have
confided to us, be renewed! With what vigour shall we labour in forming
the constitution, when secured from interruption! We have sworn to save
our country—judge of our anguish, whilst it trembles on the verge of
destruction. A momentary sacrifice is sufficient; a sacrifice offered to
the public good, and not to the encroachments of covetousness. And is
this easy expiation of the faults and blunders of a period, stigmatized
by political servitude, above our strength? Think of the price which has
been paid for liberty by other nations, who have shown themselves worthy
of it:—for this, rivers of blood have streamed—long years of woe, and
horrid civil wars, have every where preceded the glorious birth!—Of us
nothing is required, but a pecuniary sacrifice—and even this vulgar
offering is not an impoverishing gift:—it will return into our bosom, to
enrich our cities, our fields; augmenting our national glory and

                              CHAPTER III.

The task certainly was very difficult, at this crisis, for a minister to
give satisfaction to the people, and yet supply the wants of the state;
for it was not very likely that the public, who had been exclaiming
against the incessant demands of the old government, would have been
pleased with new burdens, or patiently endured them. Still it is always
the height of folly in a financier, to attempt to supply the exigencies
of government by any but specific and certain means: for such vague
measures will ever produce a _deficit_, the consequences of which are
most pernicious to public credit and private comfort.

A man, who has a precise sum to live upon, generally takes into his
estimate of expences a certain part of his income as due to the
government, for the protection and social advantages it secures him.
This proportion of his income being commonly the same from period to
period, he lays it by for that particular purpose, and contentedly
enjoys the remainder. But, should a weak minister, or a capricious
government, call on him for an additional sum, because the taxes have
proved unproductive, either through the inability of some of the members
of the state, or that they were laid on articles of consumption, and the
consumption has not been equal to the calculation; it not only deranges
his schemes of domestic economy, but may be the cause of the most
serious inconvenience.

A man who has a limited income, and a large family, is not only obliged
to be very industrious to support them, but he is likewise necessitated
to make all his arrangements with the greatest circumspection and
exactness; because a trifling loss, by involving him in debt, might lead
to his ruin, including that of his family. The rich man, indeed, seldom
thinks of these most cruel misfortunes; for a few pounds, more or less,
are of no real importance to him. Yet the poor man, nay even the man of
moderate fortune, is liable to have his whole scheme of life broken by a
circumstance of this kind, and all his future days embittered by a
perpetual struggle with pecuniary vexations.

Governments, which ought to protect, and not oppress mankind, cannot be
too regular in their demands; for the manner of levying taxes is of the
highest importance to political economy, and the happiness of
individuals. No government has yet established a just system of
taxation[31]: for in every country the expences of government have
fallen unequally on the citizens; and, perhaps, it is not possible to
render them perfectly equal, but by laying all the taxes on land, the
mother of every production.

In this posture of affairs, the enthusiasm of the french in the cause of
liberty might have been turned to the advantage of a new and permanent
system of finance. An able, bold minister, who possessed the confidence
of the nation, might have recommended with success the taking of the
national property under the direct management of the assembly; and then
endeavouring to raise a loan on that property, he would have given
respectability to the new government, by immediately procuring the
supplies indispensably necessary not only to keep it, but to put it in

In times of civil commotion, or during a general convulsion, men who
have money, and they are commonly most timid and cautious, are very apt
to take care of it, even at the expence of their interest; and,
therefore, it was to be presumed, that the monied men of France would
not have been very ready to subscribe to the different loans proposed by
the minister, unless the security had been obvious, or the speculative
advantages exorbitant. But if Necker, whom the prudent usurer adored as
his tutelar god, had said to the nation ‘there is a property worth
4,700,000,000 _l._ independent of the property of the emigrants, take it
into your immediate possession; and, whilst the sales are going on, give
it as a guarantee for the loan you want. This just and dignified measure
will not only relieve your present necessities, but it will be
sufficient to enable you to fulfil great part of your former
engagements.’ There would have been then no need of the eloquence of
Mirabeau; reason would have done the business; and men, attending to
their own interest, would have promoted the public good, without having
their heads turned giddy by romantic flights of heroism.

The immediate and incessant wants of a state must always be supplied;
prudence therefore, requires, that the directors of the finances should
rather provide by anticipation for it’s wants than suffer a _deficit_.
The government being once in arrears, additional taxes become
indispensable to bring forward the balance, or the nation must have
recourse to paper notes; an expedient, as experience has shown, always
to be dreaded, because by increasing the debt it only extends the evil.
And this increasing debt, like a ball of snow, gathering as it rolls,
soon attains a wonderful magnitude. Every state, which has unavoidably
accumulated it’s debt, ought, provided those at the helm wish to
preserve the government, and extend the security and comforts of it’s
citizens, to take every just measure to render the interest secure, and
to fund the principal; for as it augments, like the petrifying mass, it
stands in the way of all improvement, spreading the chilling miseries of
poverty around—till the evil baffling all expedients, a mighty crash
produces a new order of things, overwhelming, with the ruins of the old,
thousands of innocent victims.

The precious metals have been considered as the best of all possible
signs of value, to facilitate the exchange of commodities, to supply our
reciprocal wants: and they will ever be necessary to our comfort, whilst
by the common consent of mankind they are the standards of exchange.
Gold and silver have a specific value, because it is not easy to
accumulate them beyond a certain quantity. Paper, on the contrary, is a
dangerous expedient, except under a well established government: and
even then the business ought to be conducted with great moderation and
sagacity.—Perhaps it would be wise, that it’s extent should be
consistent with the commerce of the country, and the quantity of species
actually in it—But it is the spirit of commerce to stretch credit too
far. The notes, also, which are issued by a state before it’s government
is well established, will certainly be depreciated; and in proportion as
they grow precarious, the gold and silver, which was formerly in
circulation will vanish, and every article of trade, and all the
comforts of life, will bear a higher price.

These are considerations, which ought to have occurred to the french
minister, and have led him to take decided measures. The interest of the
national debt was 255,395,141 _l._ by a report for the year
1792.—Necker, by his account dated the 1st of may, 1789, states the
income at 475,294,000 _l._, and the expences at 531,533,000 _l._:
consequently there was a deficiency of 56,239,000 _l._; and it was not
probable, it could not even be expected, that during the convulsions of
a revolution, the taxes would be regularly paid: the debt, then, and the
demands of the state, must increase.

The credit of every government greatly depends on the regulation of it’s
finances; and the most certain way to have given stability to the new
system, would have been by making such arrangements as would have
insured promptitude of payment. No minister ever had it so much in his
power to have taken measures glorious for France, beneficial to Europe,
happy for the people of the day, and advantageous to posterity. No
epocha, since the inflated system of paper (the full blown bladders of
public credit, which may be destroyed by the prick of a pin) was
invented, ever appeared so favourable as that juncture in France, to
have overturned it completely: and by overlooking these circumstances,
the nation has probably lost most of the advantages, which her finances
might have gained by the revolution.

Such mistakes, whilst they involve in them a thousand difficulties,
prove the necessity of gradual reform; lest the light, suddenly
breaking-in on a benighted people, should overpower the understanding it
ought to direct. The line in which Necker had been accustomed to move,
by restraining what little energy his mind was capable of exerting,
precluded the possibility of his seeing the faint lines marked on an
expansive scale, which afforded the data for calculations; and the
nation, confiding to him the direction of a business for which he had
not sufficient talents, seems to have contemplated in imagination a
prospect, which has not yet been realized; and whilst expectation
hovered on it’s margin, the dazzling scenery was obscured by clouds the
most threatening and tremendous.

These are evils that from the beginning of time have attended
precipitate and great changes. The improvements in philosophy and morals
have been extremely tardy. All sudden revolutions have been as suddenly
overturned, and things thrown back below their former state. The
improvements in the science of politics have been still more slow in
their advancement than those of philosophy and morals; but the
revolution in France has been progressive. It was a revolution in the
minds of men; and only demanded a new system of government to be adapted
to that change. This was not generally perceived; and the politicians of
the day ran wildly from one extreme to the other, without recollecting,
that even Moses sojourning forty years in the wilderness could but
conduct the jews to the borders of the promised land, after the first
generation had perished in their prejudices; the most inveterate sins of

This is not a discouraging consideration. Our ancestors have laboured
for us; and we, in our turn, must labour for posterity. It is by tracing
the mistakes, and profiting from the discoveries of one generation, that
the next is able to take a more elevated stand. The first inventor of
any instrument has scarcely ever been able to bring it to a tolerable
degree of perfection; and the discoveries of every man of genius, the
optics of Newton excepted, have been improved, if not extended, by their
followers.—Can it then be expected, that the science of politics and
finance, the most important, and most difficult of all human
improvements; a science which involves the passions, tempers, and
manners of men and nations, estimates their wants, maladies, comforts,
happiness, and misery, and computes the sum of good or evil flowing from
social institutions; will not require the same gradations, and advance
by steps equally slow to that state of perfection necessary to secure
the sacred rights of every human creature?

The vanity and weakness of men have continually tended to retard this
progress of things: still it is going forward; and though the fatal
presumption of the headstrong french, and the more destructive ambition
of their foreign enemies, have given it a check, we may contemplate with
complacent serenity the approximation of the glorious era, when the
appellations of fool and tyrant will be synonymous.

                       HISTORICAL AND MORAL VIEW
                                 OF THE
                           FRENCH REVOLUTION.

                               _BOOK V._

                               CHAPTER I.

The conduct of the assembly in losing so much time—the most precious
time to secure the happiness of their country, and enable the present
generation to participate in the blessings they were preparing for
posterity, instead of having to encounter all the miseries of anarchy,
can never be sufficiently lamented. France had already gained her
freedom; the nation had already ascertained certain, and the most
important, political truths: it ought, therefore, to have been the next
consideration, how these were to be preserved, and the liberty of the
empire consolidated on a basis that time would only render more firm.

Moderate men, or real patriots, would have been satisfied with what had
been gained, for the present, allowing the rest to follow progressively.
It was the most political and the most reasonable way to secure the
acquisition. In this situation France had to contend with the prejudices
of half Europe, at least, and to counteract the influence of the
insidious intriguers, who were opposing themselves to her regeneration;
to facilitate which the assembly ought to have made it one of their main
objects to render the king contented with the change; and then the
machinations of all the underminers of the revolution, would not have
loosened one fundamental stone, to endanger the rising edifice.

Such is the difference between men acting from a practical knowledge,
and men who are governed entirely by theory, or no principle whatever.
Most of the United States of America formed their separate constitutions
within a month, and none took more than three, after the declaration of
their independence by congress. There certainly was a vast distinction
between those States, then the colonies of Great Britain, and France
after the 14th of july; but both countries were without a government.
America with an enemy in the heart of their empire, and France
threatened with an attack. The leading men of America, however, knew,
that there was a necessity of having some kind of government, and seem
to have perceived the ease, with which any subsequent alterations could
be effected. The members of the national assembly, on the contrary,
found themselves surrounded with ruins; and aiming at a state of
perfection for which the minds of the people were not sufficiently
mature; affecting likewise to be directed by a magnanimous
disinterestedness, they not only planted the germ of the most dangerous
and licentious spirit, but they continued to irritate the desperate
courtiers, who, having determined to oppose stratagem to force, and not
succeeding, rested all their future hopes on the king’s escape.

The liberty of the press, which had been virtually established, at this
period, was a successful engine employed against the assembly. And to a
nation celebrated for epigrammatic fancy, and whose taste had been so
refined by art, that they had lost the zest of nature, the simplicity of
some of the members, their awkward figures, and rustic gait, compared
with the courtly mien, and easy assurance of the chevaliers of
Versailles, afforded an excellent subject. Some of these satires were
written with considerable wit, and such a happy turn of caricature, that
it is impossible not to laugh with the author, though indirectly
ridiculing the principles you hold sacred. The most respectable decrees,
the most important, and serious discussions, were twisted into jests;
which divided the people without doors into two distinct parties; one,
speaking of the assembly with sovereign contempt, as a set of upstarts
and babbling knaves; and the other, setting up new thrones for their
favourites, and viewing them with blind admiration, as if they were a
synod of demi-gods. The contenancing of this abuse of freedom was
ill-judged. The different parties were already sufficiently heated; yet
it would have been impossible, perhaps, to have restrained the temper of
the times, so strong is the intoxication of a new folly, though it would
have been easy for the assembly to have passed a decree respecting
libels. But so ardent was become their passion for liberty, that they
were unable to discriminate between a licentious use of that important
invention, and it’s real utility. Treating then with an untimely disdain
the many abusive publications, which were sold within the very walls
where they were sitting, they were not aware of the effect which they
produced on the minds of mock heroes, who, having no principle but
honour, were ready to risk their lives to sooth distressed beauty, no
matter what produced it; or to alleviate the sufferings of a king,
though the consequence of his turpitude or tergiversation.

After the wreck of a government the plan of a new constitution ought to
be immediately formed, that is, as soon as circumstances will possibly
admit, and presented to the citizens for their acceptance; or rather the
people should depute men for that purpose, and give them a limited time
for framing one. A constitution is a standard for the people to rally
round. It is the pillar of a government, the bond of all social unity
and order. The investigation of it’s principles makes it a fountain of
light; from which issue the rays of reason, that gradually bring forward
the mental powers of the whole community. And whenever the wheels of
government, like the wheels of any other machine, are found clogged, or
do not move in a regular manner, they equally require alteration and
improvement: and these improvements will be proportionably perfect as
the people become enlightened.

The authority of the national assembly had been acknowledged nearly
three months previous to this epocha, without their having taken any
decided steps to secure these important ends. Indeed it does not appear
to have been their first object. They seem not to have known, or at
least not to have been apprehensive, that, in proportion to the length
of time that the people are without an established government,
anarchists gain an ascendancy over their minds; and it then becomes no
easy task to form a constitution adapted to their wayward tempers.

When a few fundamental principles are ascertained, and the state has
determined that they shall form the basis of it’s polity, it seems to be
no difficult matter to give motion to the new springs of government. It
is true, that many of the prejudices of frenchmen were still inveterate,
and in some measure influenced them; and it is also certain, that their
total ignorance of the operations of any rational system of government
was an impediment to this motion; but it is nevertheless to be presumed,
that, the liberty of frenchmen having been previously secured by the
establishment of the declaration of rights, if the assembly had formed
some kind of a constitution, and proposed it to the nation, and to the
king, if he were considered as forming a part of it, for their
acceptation, the dispute between the people and court would have been
brought to a speedy issue; and the public attention directed to a point
would have given dignity and respectability to their proceedings. If
such measures had been followed, and it appears a little strange they
were not, most probably the king and court, perceiving that their future
consequence wholly depended on their acquiescence with the state of
reason, and temper of the times, would have relinquished all those
absurd and dangerous projects for overturning the rising political
fabric of the nation, which anarchy fostered.

It is the pillars of a building, which indicate it’s durability, and not
the minor beams that are inserted through them, in order to rear the
structure. The natural, civil, and political rights of man are the main
pillars of all social happiness; and by the firm establishment of them,
the freedom of men will be eternally secured. The moment, therefore, a
state has gained those important and sacred privileges, it is clear,
that it ought to form some kind of government, grounded upon this firm
and broad basis, that being the only possible way to give them
permanency. But the constituent assembly, unmindful of the dreadful
effects beginning to flow from an unbounded licentiousness, continued to
pursue a romantic sublimity of character, dangerous to all sublunary
laws; whilst most interestedly attentive to things that should have been
subordinate to their first object, they were led into a procrastination,
which in it’s consequence has been fatal in the extreme.

The decree which made the king inviolable, passed on the 15th of
September, at the time the crown was declared hereditary, and the empire
indivisible, was the most idle, if not the most dangerous measure, both
for him and France, which could have been devised. The former life of
Louis had exhibited a series of follies, and displayed an insincerity
not to be tolerated, much less encouraged; and it was likely, if this
doctrine, a relict of the abasement of ignorance, that kings can do no
wrong, should be carried into a law, forming part of the constitution,
that he would avail himself of the decree of the assembly to cover his
contempt of the national sovereignty. When kings are considered by the
government of a country merely as ciphers, it is very just and proper,
that their ministers should be responsible for their political conduct:
but at the moment when a state is about to establish a constitution on
the basis of reason, to undermine that foundation by a master-piece of
absurdity, appears a solecism as glaring as the doctrine itself is
laughable, when applied to an enlightened policy. In fact, whilst
Mirabeau contended for the infallibility of the king, he seems to have
had no right from reason to deride those who respected that of the
church: for, if the government must necessarily be supported by a pious
fraud, one was as respectable as the other.

The bigotry of Louis was well known; nay, it was notorious, that he
employed his confessor to erase from his tender conscience the
remembrance of the vices he resolved to indulge, and to reconcile the
meanest dissimulation with a servile fear of the Being whose first
attribute is truth.—This man, whose bestiality had been carefully
pampered by the queen and count d’Artois, because in those moments of
revelry, prolonged to the most disgusting excess of gluttony and
intoxication, he would sanction all their demands, was made in his
person and conduct sacred and unimpeachable. This was the extreme folly
of weakness. But, when it is also kept in view, that, at the very period
when he was declared inviolable, he was suspected, in concert with the
court, to be actually meditating his flight, there seems to be a
pusillanimity in it as contemptible as the pretended dignity of the
assembly was ridiculous.

True firmness consists in doing whatever is just and reasonable,
uninfluenced by any other consideration. The defining the power of the
crown in the assembly to be subordinate to the authority of the people
must have appeared to the kings of Europe a dangerous encroachment on
their indefeasible rights:—a heresy tending to undermine their
privileges, should such audacity pass unchastized, and to destroy the
splendour of royalty by presuming to control it’s omnipotence. It was
then scarcely to be expected, that their resentment would be appeased by
shielding the person of Louis against the danger of intrigue and
violence. It was not, indeed, the preservation of the life of this
unfortunate man, that interested them so sensibly as to appall the
sycophants of Europe.—No; it was the attack made on despotism; and the
attempt to draw aside the splendid curtain which concealed it’s folly,
that threw them into a general ferment and agitation. This agitation
could not fail to inspire the court of Versailles with hope, and they
stood prepared to take advantage of the gathering storm, as eagerly as a
distressed mariner, who has long laid becalmed, perceiving at length a
gentle heaving of the sea, and feeling the undulating motion of his
bark, foresees the approaching breeze, and spreads his sails to catch
the first breath of wind. The effect of the feigned or real pity of many
of the admirers of the old system, who were deeply wounded by the wrong
done, as they insisted, to their king, was to be dreaded; for it was not
to be supposed, that the chivalrous spirit of France would be destroyed
in an instant, though _swords had ceased to leap out of their scabbards_
when beauty was not deified. It was then undoubtedly to be feared, that
they would risk their lives and fortunes to support the glory of their
master, and their own notions of honour: and the assembly, by making
Louis not accountable for any of his actions, however insincere, unjust,
or atrocious, was affording all his abettors a shelter, encouraging at
the same time his hypocrisy, and relaxing the little energy of
character, which his misfortune seemed to be calling into play.

Mistaken lenity in politics is not more dangerous than a false
magnanimity is palpable littleness in the eyes of a man of simple
integrity. Besides, had the representatives of the people considered
Louis merely as a man, it is probable he would have acted more like one.
Instead of palliating the matter, they should, on the contrary, have
proclaimed to all Europe, with a tone of dignified firmness, that the
french nation, willing for themselves, regardless of the rights and
privileges of others, though respecting their prejudices, finding that
no compromise could be formed between the court and people, whose
interest neither justice nor policy ever required should be distinct, do
not consider themselves accountable to any power or congress on earth,
for any measure they may choose to adopt in framing a constitution to
regulate their own internal polity. That treating their monarch like a
man, and not as a mere idol for state pageantry, they would wish, by
establishing the dignity of truth and justice, to give stability to the
freedom of frenchmen, and leave a monument in their institutions to
immortalize a sincere and acquiescing king. But that, though their ideas
might differ greatly from those of their neighbours, with whom they
desired to live on the most amicable terms, they would pursue the path
of eternal reason in consolidating the rights of man; and by a striking
example lay the foundation of the liberty of the whole globe, of that
liberty which had hitherto been confined to the small island of England,
and enjoyed imperfectly even there.

The house of Austria was at this period engaged in a war with the turks,
which obliged it to withdraw most of it’s troops from Flanders; and the
intelligence, that the flemings, highly discontented with the
innovations, which the vain weathercock Joseph the Second had made in
their form of worship, were on the eve of an insurrection, more against
the folly of the man than the despotism of his court, calmed the fears
of the french, as to the danger of being immediately attacked by
Germany. This security, for they had no dread of Sardinia, made them
consider the possibility of a counter-revolution being effected by
foreign enemies as far from alarming. It is true, there was not any just
cause of apprehension, unless they took into the calculation, that the
policy of Europe for ages past had been subject to sudden changes; a
state of profound tranquillity giving place to sanguinary scenes of
confusion, and inhuman butcheries—often about such trifling insults and
idle pretentions, as individuals would be ashamed to make a pretext for
quarrelling; and having reason to expect these changes as long as the
systems of courts preserve their existence, France could not reckon,
with any degree of certainty, on the continuation of peace.—Neither did
the national assembly appear to have calculated upon it; for they
undoubtedly betrayed symptoms of pusillanimity, when they suffered their
conduct to be in the smallest degree influenced by the apprehension of a
combination of the crowned heads of Europe to replace the royal diadem
of France, should the most brilliant of it’s jewels be touched by
profane hands.

These fears, perhaps, were the secret cause, combined with the old habit
of adoring the king, as a point of honour, and loving the court, as an
affair of taste, that induced them to preserve the shadow of monarchy in
the new order of things. It’s preservation might have been politically
necessary; because, before abolishing any ancient form, it is necessary
to secure whatever political good may have flowed from it, and guard
against being exhausted by cutting off an excrescence.—But, if the
continuance of a king in the new system were expedient to avert present
evil, they should have allowed him the power necessary to give energy to
the government; and making him responsible for the rectitude of his
actions, the man would have had a fair trial, and posterity, judging of
his conduct, would have been enabled to form a just estimate of a kingly

Machiavelian cunning, however, still directed the movements of all the
courts of Europe; and these political moles, too well perceiving the
timidity that was mixed with the blustering courage of the assembly,
only waited for a favourable season to overturn the rising edifice.
Their agents had private instructions to promote the escape of Louis, as
the surest mode of making a decided schism in the national politics; and
they firmly believed, that the affection still subsisting for his
christian majesty would facilitate the execution of their plan. The
court also presuming on the divisions and lenity of the assembly, took
the most indefatigable pains to foster in the mind of the public, nay,
in that of all Europe, pity for the degraded person of the king, and
detestation of the sacrilege, which had been committed on the dignity of
royalty. Their continual theme was the ignominious state to which the
most mild of the Bourbons was reduced, by men, who usurped the reins of
government, and trampled on the honours of that august and ancient
family. Restraining the authority of a throne, which supported the most
abominable tyranny, they were shaking the despotism, which held in
bondage nine-tenths of the inhabitants of the world. These were alarming
signals to a certain class of men, to the drones and myrmidons who live
on the spoil and blood of industry and innocence. The intrusion of
knowledge, which was sure to render them an useless set of beings in
society, was to be prevented by ingenious clamours, whilst a great
number of weak, well-meaning people, and still more knaves, enlisted
under their banner.

The universal damp, which the revolution had given to the courts of
Europe, producing among them a lively sympathy for the sombre atmosphere
of Versailles, a general sorrow was consequently expressed by all their
minions, and expressed with unfeigned concern; for the want of the usual
routine of amusements tended to make it real. Hope, indeed, began again
to animate them, when the king was prevailed on to concert his escape;
yet their eagerness to accelerate his departure for the frontiers, where
they purposed to erect the royal standard, to avail themselves of the
proximity of german connections, was in a great degree the cause of
defeating that ill-contrived design.

A design formed very early, and systematically pursued, was probably
rendered entirely abortive by the obstinacy of the court; who still
persisted to cherish the belief, that the public opinion was changed
only for the moment, and that their deeply rooted love of royalty would
bring them back to what they termed their duty, when the effervescence
excited by novelty had subsided. And thinking, that the cordial
reception given by the parisians to the soldiery had contributed to
estrange them, and effect the revolution, they determined to regain
their lost ground, and dazzle them by feasts, instead of stealing on
their affections by hospitality.—Still, bearing impatiently their
humiliating situation, the courtiers could not help vauntingly exposing
their project; and the babbling of joy showed the weakness of the heads,
that could so soon be intoxicated by hope.

A preparatory step was thought necessary to awaken a sense of allegiance
in the breasts of the people, and to promote a division amongst them, if
not their entire concurrence, after the cabinet should have securely in
their possession the person of the king; and this division would then
enable them to calculate their strength, and act accordingly. For this
purpose, in spite of the comments that had been made on the festivity at
Versailles, which seemed before to insult the misery of the people, and
greatly tended to provoke the exertions that overturned the Bastille and
changed the whole face of things, they projected another entertainment
to seduce the military, encouraged to throng round the court, whilst
famine was at the very gates of Paris. But previously the old french
guards, who had been incorporated with the _garde-bourgeoise_, began to
manifest some symptoms of discontent at not being allowed to guard the
person of the king. Whether they considered their honour as wounded, or
were spirited up to aspire at regaining this privilege, is not decided;
but it is clear, that the court, either to facilitate the entrance of
fresh troops, or from a real dislike to men, who had taken such an
active part in disconcerting their first plot, opposed their wish; and
even the municipality, as has been already noticed, was induced to
request, that a regiment of fresh troops might be called in to guard the
person of the king, and keep the peace, which this trifling dispute,
swelled into an insurrection in the report, threatened to disturb.

The king’s body-guards, whose time of service expired the first of
october, were still retained with those who came to replace them; and an
immense crowd of supernumeraries continued daily to increase this corps,
which had not yet sworn allegiance to the nation. The officers, in
particular, flocked to Versailles, amounting to between eleven or twelve
hundred, constantly parading together. The universal topic was
commiseration of the king’s fate, and insinuations respecting the
ambition of the assembly. Yet, even there the court party seemed to be
prevailing: a president attached to loyalty was elected; and Mirabeau’s
remonstrances, respecting the augmentation of the troops, were

Mean time, not only the officers of the new regiment, but those of the
national guards, were caressed by the court, whilst the citizens, with
more sagacity, were lavish of their attention to the soldiers. The
cabinet had not sufficient discernment to perceive, that the people were
now to be led, not driven; and the popular promoters of anarchy, to
serve their private interest, availed themselves, unfortunately, but too
well of this want of judgment.—Thus whilst one party, declaiming on the
necessity of order, seemed to be endeavouring to rivet on them the
chains of servitude, the other lifted them above the law with vain
glorious notions of their sovereignty.—And this sovereignty of the
people, the perfection of the science of government, only to be attained
when a nation is truly enlightened, consisted in making them tyrants;
nay the worst of tyrants, because the instruments of mischief of the
men, who pretended to be subordinate to their will, though acting the
very part of the ministers whom they execrated.

                              CHAPTER II.

On the first of october, in consequence of these fresh machinations, a
magnificent entertainment was given in the name of the king’s
body-guards; but really by some of their principal officers, at the
opera-house of the castle. The affectation of excluding the dragoons,
distinguished for their attachment to liberty, seemed to show, but too
plainly, the end in view, rendered still more conspicuous by the unusual
familiarity of persons of the first rank with the lowest soldiers.

When their heads were heated by a sumptuous banquet, by the tumult of an
immense crowd, and the great profusion of delicious wines and
_liqueurs_, the conversation, purposely turned into one channel, became
unrestrained, and a chivalrous scene completed the folly. The queen, to
testify her satisfaction for the homage paid to her, and the wishes
expressed in her favour, exhibited herself to this half-drunken
multitude; carrying the dauphin in her arms, whom she regarded with a
mixture of sorrow and tenderness, and seeming to implore in his favour
the affection and zeal of the soldiers.

This acting, for it is clear that the whole was a preconcerted business,
was still more intoxicating than the wine.—The exclamation _vive le roi,
vive la reine_, resounded from all sides, and the royal healths were
drunk over drawn swords, whilst that of the nation was rejected with
contempt by the body-guards. The music, the choice could not have been
the effect of chance, played the well known air—O Richard! O my king!
the universe abandons thee[32]! and during this moment of fascination
some voices, perhaps bribed for the occasion, mingled execrations
against the assembly. A grenadier even darted from the midst of his
comrades, and accusing himself of having been unfaithful to his prince,
endeavoured, several times, to plunge his sword into his bosom. His held
arm was not indeed allowed to search for the disloyal heart; but some
blood was permitted to flow—and this theatrical display of sensibility,
carried to the highest pitch, produced emotions almost convulsive in the
whole circle, of which an english reader can scarcely form an idea. The
king, who is always represented as innocent, though always giving proofs
that he more than connived at the attempts to recover his power, was
likewise prevailed on to show himself at this entertainment. And some of
the same soldiery, who had refused to second the former project of the
cabal, were now induced to utter insults and menaces against the very
authority, they then supported. ‘The national cockade,’ exclaimed
Mirabeau, ‘that emblem of the defenders of liberty, has been torn in
pieces, and stamped under foot; and another ensign put in it’s
place.—Yes; even under the eye of the monarch, who allowed himself to be
styled—_Restorer of the rights of his people_, they have dared to hoist
a signal of faction.’

The same scene was renewed two days after, though with less parade; and
invitations for a similar treat were given for the following week.

The rumour respecting them, which reached Paris, contained many
exaggerated circumstances; and was regarded as the commencement of fresh
hostilities, on the part of the court. The cry now was, that the stunned
aristocracy had again reared it’s head; and that a number of old
officers, chevaliers of St. Louis, had signed a promise to join the
body-guards in a new attempt. This list was said to contain thirty
thousand signatures; and idle as the tale was, it seemed to be confirmed
by the appearance of white and black cockades, which inconsiderate
individuals displayed at the risk of their lives. These, said the
parisians, are the first indications of a projected civil war—the court
wish only to have the king safe to head them before they speak out:—he
ought, therefore, to be removed to Paris, inferred the politicians of
the palais royal. The exasperating of the people in this manner was
certainly the most absurd blundering folly that could have ruined a
party, who apparently saw the necessity of dividing the people in order
to conquer them. It was, in fact, a species of madness, and can be
accounted for only by recollecting the ineffable contempt really felt by
the court for the _canaille_, which made them still imagine the
revolution to be only a temporary convulsion, not believing it possible,
in spite of the daily events, that they could be crushed by the mass
they despised. Their presumption proceeded from their ignorance, and was

The queen was supposed to be at the head of this weak conspiracy, to
withdraw the soldiery from siding with the people. She had presented
colours to the national guards of Versailles, and when they waited on
her to express their thanks, she replied, with the most winning
affability, ‘the nation and the army ought to be as well affected to the
king as we ourselves are. I was quite charmed with what passed on
thursday.’ This was the day of the feast.

A scarcity of bread, the common grievance of the revolution, aggravated
the vague fears of the parisians, and made the people so desperate, that
it was not difficult to persuade them to undertake any enterprize; and
the torrent of resentment and enthusiasm required only to be directed to
a point to carry every thing before it. Liberty was the constant watch
word; though few knew in what it consisted.—It seems, indeed, to be
necessary, that every species of enthusiasm should be fermented by
ignorance to carry it to any height. Mystery alone gives full play to
the imagination, men pursuing with ardour objects indistinctly seen or
understood, because each man shapes them to his taste, and looks for
something beyond even his own conception, when he is unable to form a
just idea.

The parisians were now continually brooding over the wrongs they had
heretofore only enumerated in a song; and changing ridicule into
invective, all called for redress, looking for a degree of public
happiness immediately, which could not be attained, and ought not to
have been expected, before an alteration in the national character
seconded the new system of government.

From the enjoyment of more freedom than the women of other parts of the
world, those of France have acquired more independence of spirit than
any others; it has, therefore, been the scheme of designing men very
often since the revolution, to lurk behind them as a kind of safe-guard,
working them up to some desperate act, and then terming it a folly,
because merely the rage of women, who were supposed to be actuated only
by the emotions of the moment. Early then on the fifth of october a
multitude of women by some impulse were collected together; and
hastening to the _hôtel-de-ville_ obliged every female they met to
accompany them, even entering many houses to force others to follow in
their train.

The concourse, at first, consisted mostly of market women, and the
lowest refuse of the streets, women who had thrown off the virtues of
one sex without having power to assume more than the vices of the other.
A number of men also followed them, armed with pikes, bludgeons, and
hatchets; but they were strictly speaking a mob, affixing all the odium
to the appellation it can possibly import; and not to be confounded with
the honest multitude, who took the Bastille.—In fact, such a rabble has
seldom been gathered together; and they quickly showed, that their
movement was not the effect of public spirit.

They first talked of addressing the committee appointed by the
municipality to superintend the operations necessary to obtain provision
for the city, and to remonstrate respecting their inattention or
indifference to the public calamity. Mean time a new cord was fixed to
the notorious lamp-iron, where the amusement of death was first
tolerated. The national guards, forming a hedge of bayonets to prevent
the women from entering the hotel, kept them in suspense a few
moments.—When, uttering a loud and general cry, they hurled a volley of
stones at the soldiers, who, unwilling, or ashamed, to fire on women,
though with the appearance of furies, retreated into the hall, and left
the passage free. They then sought for arms; and breaking open the doors
of the magazines, soon procured fusils, cannons, and ammunition; and
even took advantage of the confusion to carry off money and notes
belonging to the public. In the interim some went to search for the
volunteers of the Bastille, and chose a commander from among them to
conduct the party to Versailles; whilst others tied cords to the
carriages of the cannons to drag them along.—But these, being mostly
marine artillery, did not follow with the alacrity necessary to accord
with their wishes; they, therefore, stopped several coaches, forcing the
men to get out and the ladies to join them; fastening the cannons
behind, on which a number of the most furious mounted, brandishing
whatever weapon they had found, or the matches of the cannons. Some
drove the horses, and others charged themselves with the care of the
powder and ball, falling into ranks to facilitate their march. They took
the road by the _Champs Elysées_ about noon, to the number of four
thousand, escorted by four or five hundred men, armed with every thing
on which they could lay their hands.

Mean time the _tocsin_ sounded from all parts; the french guards, still
urged on by wounded pride, loudly declared, that the king ought to be
brought to Paris; and many of the citizens, not on duty, concurred with
the rest of the national guards in the same opinion, particularly those
accustomed to attend the harangues at the Palais Royal. La Fayette,
refusing to accompany, endeavoured to calm them. But finding, that the
tumult increased, and that prayers were giving place to menaces, he
offered to make known to the king, at their head, the wishes of the
capital, if the municipality gave him orders to this effect. Their
council was now assembled; yet prolonging the deliberation till between
four and five o’clock in the afternoon, the people became so very
impatient, that it was thought prudent to allow them to set out: and the
exclamations of the populace proved how easy it was to govern, or lead
them astray, by every fresh hope.

Few events have happened at Paris, that have not been attributed by the
different parties to the machinations of the leaders on the other side;
to blacken whose characters, when they had the upper hand, the most
audacious falsehoods have been industriously circulated; the detection
of which has induced many calm observers to believe, that all the
accounts of plots and conspiracies were fabricated in the same manner;
not considering, that even the universality of these suspicions was a
proof of the intriguing character of the people, who from a knowledge of
themselves became thus mistrustful of others. It was currently reported,
that very considerable sums had been distributed amongst the mob, before
it marched to Versailles; and, though many fabulous stories of showers
of gold have since been retailed by the credulous, this seems, from
their subsequent conduct, to have had some foundation: for nothing like
the heroism, the disinterestedness, appeared, which, in most other
risings of the parisians, has formed a striking contrast with their
barbarity; sometimes sufficient to oblige us, lamenting the delusions of
ignorance, to give the soft name of enthusiasm to cruelty; respecting
the intention, though detesting the effects. Now, on the contrary,
acting like a gang of thieves, they gave colour to the report—that the
first instigators of the riot were hired assassins.—And hired by
whom?—The public voice repeats, on every side, the despicable duke of
Orleans, whose immense estate had given him an undue influence in the
bailliages, and who still exercised all the means that cunning could
devise, and wealth produce, to revenge himself on the royal family. He
was particularly incensed against the queen, who having treated him with
the contempt which he doubtless merited, and even influenced the king to
banish him to one of his country seats, when he uttered some popular
sentiments, he continued to nourish the most implacable hatred to her
person, whilst the changing sentiments of the nation respecting the
present branch of his family excited in him hopes, that would at once
have gratified both his revenge and his ambition.

There is no calculating the mischief which may be produced by a
revengeful cunning knave, possessing the forcible engine of gold to move
his projects, and acting by agency, which, like a subterraneous fire,
that for a long time has been putting the combustible matter into a
state of fusion, bursts out unexpectedly, and the sudden eruption
spreads around terrour and destruction.

The agents of despotism, and of vengeful ambition, employed the same
means to agitate the minds of the parisians; and covered as they now are
with foul stains, it is an acknowledgement due to their original good
disposition, to note, that at this period they were so orderly it
required considerable management to lead them into any gross
irregularity of conduct. It was, therefore, necessary for the duke’s
instruments to put in motion a body of the most desperate women; some of
whom were half famished for want of bread, which had purposely been
rendered scarce to facilitate the atrocious design of murdering both the
king and queen in a broil, that would appear to be produced solely by
the rage of famine.

The shameless manner in which the entertainment of the officers of the
body-guards had been conducted; the indiscreet visit of the queen to
interest the army in the cause of royalty, coming in artfully after the
rabble of soldiers had been allowed to enter; together with the
imprudent expressions of which she afterwards made use; served as
pretexts, nay, may have been some of the causes of these women
suspecting, that the dearth of bread in the capital was owing to the
contrivance of the court, who had so often produced the same effect to
promote their sinister purposes. They believed then, that the only sure
way to remedy such a grievous calamity, in future, would be to implore
the king to reside at Paris: and the national militia, composed of more
orderly citizens, who thought the report of a premeditated escape was
not without foundation, imagined, that they should nip a civil war in
the bud, by preventing the king’s departure, and separate him
effectually from the cabal, to whom they attributed all his misconduct.

Whilst the multitude were advancing, the assembly were considering the
king’s reply to their request to sanction the declaration of rights, and
the first articles of the constitution, before the supplies were
granted. The reply was couched in terms somewhat vague, yet it’s meaning
could not be misunderstood.—He observed, that the articles of the
constitution could be judged of only in their connection with the whole;
nevertheless he thought it natural, that at the moment the nation was
called upon to assist the government by a signal act of confidence and
patriotism, they should expect to be re-assured respecting their
principal interest.—‘Accordingly,’ he continues, ‘taking it for granted,
that the first articles of the constitution, which you have presented to
me, united to the completion of your labours, will satisfy the wishes of
my people, and secure the happiness and prosperity of the kingdom,
conformably to your desire I accept them; but with one positive
condition, from which I will never depart; namely, that from the general
result of your deliberations the executive power shall have it’s entire
effect in the hands of the monarch. Still it remains for me to assure
you with frankness, that, if I give my sanction of acceptance to the
several articles, which you have laid before me, it is not because they
indiscriminately give me an idea of perfection; but I believe it
laudable in me to pay this respect to the wishes of the deputies of the
nation, and to the alarming circumstances, which so earnestly press us
to desire above all things the prompt re-establishment of peace, order,
and confidence.

‘I shall not deliver my sentiments respecting your declaration of the
rights of man and of citizens. It contains excellent maxims proper to
direct your deliberations; but principles susceptible of application,
and even of different interpretations, cannot be justly appreciated, and
have only need of being so when their true sense is determined by the
laws, to which they ought to be the basis.’

In the subterfuge employed in this answer, the profound dissimulation of
the king appears; and that ‘pitiful respect for false honour,’ which
makes a man boggle at a naked untruth, even when uttering a number of
contemptible prevarications. Thus did he at first struggle against every
concession, against granting any real freedom to the people; yet
afterwards unable to maintain his ground, he impotently gave way before
the storm he had raised, every time losing a part of the authority which
depended on opinion.

The assembly manifested an universal discontent. One of the members
remarked, that the king withheld his acceptance of the declaration of
rights; and only yielded to circumstances in accepting the
constitutional articles: he, therefore, moved, that no taxes should be
levied, before the declaration of rights and the constitution should be
accepted, without any reservation.—Another asserted, that the king’s
reply ought to have been counter-signed by one of the ministers. What an
absurdity! yet the inviolability of the king standing in their way, it
seemed to be necessary to secure ministerial responsibility, to render
it null; not only to prevent the ministers from finding shelter behind
it, but to make it utterly useless to the king, who was thus, literally
speaking, reduced to a cipher. Mirabeau, however, after alluding with
energy to the entertainment, which, out of derision, had been termed
patriotic, made three or four motions. One was, ‘that no act emanating
from the king should be declared without the signature of a secretary of
state.’—So inconsistent was the man, who argued with such eloquence for
the absolute _veto_:—Another was, ‘that his majesty would please to be
explicit; and not by a conditional consent, extorted by circumstances,
leave any doubt of his sincere concurrence in the mind of the people.’
It was also noticed, to corroborate the inference, that the king was
only yielding, for the moment, to opinions which he hoped to see
exploded, that the decree for the circulation of grain had been altered
before the publication, and the usual preamble, _for such is our
pleasure_, formed a strange contrast with an acknowledgement of the
legislative rights of the nation. Robespierre, particularly, maintained,
that the nation had not any need of the assistance of the monarch to
constitute itself—that the king’s reply was not an acceptance, but a
censure; and, consequently, an attack on the rights of the people.

This seemed virtually the opinion of the assembly, though Mirabeau’s
soft style of expressing their will was adopted. It was particularly in
this decision, that the deputies displayed a great degree of the
weakness, which mistakes temerity for courage, and the shadow of justice
for verity.—And affecting to say, to reconcile a contradiction, that the
authority of kings is suspended as often as the sovereign is occupied in
framing the elements of the constitution, or altering fundamental laws,
they demonstrated the inconsistency of their own system, and
acknowledged it’s absurdity; which is still more flagrantly shown in
Mirabeau’s irrational declaration, that, ‘by a pious fiction of the law,
the king cannot himself deceive; but the grievances of the people
demanding victims, these victims are the ministers.’

At this juncture of the debate the tumultuous concourse of women arrived
at Versailles: but it must not be unnoticed, that there was a number of
men with them, disguised in women’s clothes; which proves, that this was
not, as has been asserted, a sudden impulse of necessity, There were
besides men in their own garb armed like ruffians, with countenances
answerable, who, swearing vengeance against the queen and the
body-guards, seemed to be preparing to put their threats in execution.
Some barbarians, volunteers in guilt, might perhaps have joined, spurred
on solely by the hope of plunder, and a love of tumult; but it is clear,
that the principal movers played a surer game.

The women had taken two routes; and one party, without arms, presented
themselves at the gate of the assembly, whilst the other clustered round
the palace waiting for them. The avenues were already filled with
body-guards, the flanders regiment was drawn up in ranks; in short, the
soldiers were gathered together quickly in one quarter, though the
people of Versailles were exceedingly alarmed, and particularly by the
appearance of the vagabonds, who followed the female mob.

With some difficulty the women were prevailed on to allow a few to enter
orderly into the assembly, with a spokesman to make known their demand;
whilst crowds, taking refuge in the galleries from the rain, presented
there the strange sight of pikes, fusils, and tremendous sticks bound
with iron. Their orator represented the grievances of the people, and
the necessity of continually providing for their subsistence: he
expressed the concern of the parisians on account of the slow formation
of the constitution, and attributed this delay to the opposition of the
clergy. A bishop then presided in the absence of Mounier, the president,
who had been dispatched by the assembly with their expostulatory
petition to the king. A deputy, to spare him the embarrassment of a
reply to the insinuation against his order, reprimanded the petitioner
for calumniating that respectable body. He accordingly made an apology,
yet justified himself by declaring, that he only reported the purport of
the discontentment of Paris. They were informed, in reply, by the
vice-president, that a deputation was already sent to the king,
requesting his sanction of a decree to facilitate the interiour
circulation of grain and flour: and finding, that it was impossible to
attend to the business of the day, he adjourned the assembly, without
waiting for the return of the president.

The women about the palace entered into conversation with the soldiers,
some of whom said, ‘that were the king to recover all his authority, the
people would never want bread!’ This indiscreet insinuation exasperated
them; and they replied in the language, that is proverbial for being the
most abusive. A fray also ensuing, brought on by a dispute relative to
the affair of the cockades, one of the body-guards drew his sword, which
provoked a national guard of Versailles to give him a blow with his
musket, that broke his arm.

The national troops were eager to convince the mob, that they were
equally offended at the disrespect paid to the emblem of liberty; and
the flemish regiment, though they were in battle array, made the women
let their rings drop into their guns, to be convinced that they were not
charged: saying, ‘It was true, they had drunk the wine of the body
guards; but what did that engage them to do? They had also cried, _vive
le roi_, as the people themselves did every day; and it was their
intention to serve him faithfully, but not against the nation!’—with
other speeches to the same effect;—adding, ‘that one of their officers
had ordered a thousand cockades; and they knew not why they were not
distributed!’ Enraged by the tenour of this discourse, a body-guard’s
man struck one of the soldiers talking thus, who, in return, fired on
him, and fractured his arm. All was now confusion; and every thing
tended to render the body-guards more odious to the populace.

The king arrived in the midst of it from hunting, and admitted at the
same time the deputation from the national assembly, and an address from
the women. He received the latter with great affability, testified his
sorrow on account of the scarcity of bread at Paris, and immediately
sanctioned the decree, relative to the free circulation of grain, which
he had just received from the assembly. The woman who spoke, attempting
to kiss his hand, he embraced her with politeness, and dismissed them in
the most gentleman-like manner. They immediately rejoined their
companions, charmed by the reception they had met with; and the king
sent orders to the guards not to make use of their arms. The count
d’Estaing, the commander in chief, announced likewise to the militia of
Versailles, that the body-guards would the next day take the oath of
allegiance to the nation, and put on the patriotic cockade. ‘They are
not worthy,’ was the indignant growl of the multitude.

Some women now returning to Paris, to report the gracious behaviour of
the king, were unfortunately maltreated by a detachment of body-guards,
commanded by a nobleman; and the volunteers of the Bastille coming to
their assistance, two men, and three horses, were killed on the spot.
These same irritated women meeting, likewise, the parisian militia, on
their way to Versailles, gave them an exaggerated description of the
conduct of the guards.

The court now taking the alarm, fearing that their plan would be
defeated, by the king’s being obliged to go to Paris, urged him
immediately to get out for Metz, and the carriages were actually
prepared. It is scarcely credible that they would have gone so far
without his concurrence.

One loaded coach had been permitted to go out of the gate; but the
national troops beginning to suspect what was going forward, obliged it
to re-enter. The king then, with his usual address, finding his escape
at that time impracticable, and not wishing to shed blood in forcing his
way, made a merit of necessity, and declared he would rather perish than
see the blood of frenchmen streaming in his quarrel! So easy is it for a
man, versed in the language of duplicity, to impose on the credulous;
and to impress on candid minds a belief of an opinion that they would
gladly receive without any doubting allay, did not other circumstances
more strongly contradict the persuasion. This declaration, however,
which was re-echoed with great eagerness, was considered as a manifest
proof of the purity of his intentions, and a mark of his fixed adherence
to the cause which he affected to espouse. Yet, to prove the contrary,
it is only necessary to observe, that he put off the acceptance of the
declaration of rights, and the first articles of the constitution, till
after the attempt to escape was frustrated: for it was near eleven
o’clock when he sent for the president, to put into his hands a simple
acceptation, and to request him to convoke the assembly immediately,
that he might avail himself of their counsel at this crisis; alarmed by
the mob without, who, exposed to all the inclemency of the weather, it
being a very wet and stormy night, were uttering the most horrid
imprecations against the queen and the body-guards.

A drum instantly summoned the assembly; and La Fayette arriving with his
army in less than an hour after, the president was again called for, who
returned to the assembly with the king’s assurance, that he had not even
thought of leaving them, nor would he ever separate himself from the
representatives of the people.

La Fayette had previously assured the king of the fidelity of the
metropolis, and that he had been expressly sent by the municipality of
Paris to guard his august person. A rumour had prevailed, ever since the
arrival of the women, that the parisian militia were coming to second
them; but as the _commune_ of Paris had not determined till late in the
afternoon, the messenger from La Fayette to the palace could not have
reached Versailles long before him: but the court supposing that they
would come, and having heard of the wish of the parisians to bring the
king to Paris, where they had always spies to give them the earliest
notice of what was going forward, pressed him to set out without loss of
time; still they were actuated solely by the desire of getting him away,
and not from any apprehension that his life was in danger.

After tranquilizing the king, La Fayette joined the parisian militia in
the avenue, to inform them, that the king had sanctioned the decree of
the assembly for expediting the more speedy circulation of provisions;
that he accepted, without any reservation, of the declaration of rights,
with the first articles of the constitution, declaring at the same time
his unshaken resolution to remain among his people; and that he
consented also to have a detachment of the national troops of Paris to
contribute to guard his person.

Joy now took place of dread at Versailles; and the citizens distributed
their addresses amongst the soldiers, offering them lodgings; they
having been previously requested, by the beating of a drum, to receive
as many of the parisian militia as they possibly could. The rest, after
passing several hours in arms round the palace, sought for shelter, as
the morning began to dawn, in the churches. Every thing appearing quiet,
the harassed king and queen were prevailed on to seek the repose they
needed; and La Fayette, about five in the morning, retired to his
chamber, to write to the municipality an account of his proceedings,
before he likewise endeavoured to snatch a little rest.

Scarcely an hour after, the restless mob, great part of which had taken
refuge in the hall and galleries of the assembly, began to prowl about.
The most decent of the women, who had been pressed into the service,
stole away during the night. The rest, with the whole gang of ruffians,
rushed towards the palace, and finding its avenues unguarded, entered
like a torrent; and some among them, most probably, conceived, that this
was the moment to perpetrate the crime for which they had been drawn
from their lurking-holes in Paris.

Insulting one of the body-guards who opposed their entrance, he fired,
and killed a man. This was a fresh pretext for entering to search for
the murderer, as he was termed by these rioters; and driving the guards
before them up the grand stair-case, they began to break into the
different apartments, vowing vengeance against the body-guards, in which
were mingled the bitterest curses, all levelled at the queen.

Catching one unfortunate guard by himself, he was dragged down the
stairs; and his head, instantly severed from his body, was mounted on a
pike, which rather served to irritate than glut the fury of the
monsters, who were still hunting after blood or plunder.

The most desperate found their way to the queen’s chamber, and left for
dead the man who courageously disputed their entrance. But she had been
alarmed by the tumult, though the miscreants were not long in making
their way good, and, throwing a wrapping-gown around her, ran, by a
private passage, to the king’s apartment, where she found the dauphin;
but the king was gone in quest of her: he, however, quickly returning,
they waited together in a horrid state of suspense. Several of the
guards, who endeavoured to keep back the mob, were wounded; yet all this
happened in a very short space of time.

The promptitude and rapidity of this movement, taking every circumstance
into consideration, affords additional arguments in support of the
opinion, that there had been a premeditated design to murder the royal
family. The king had granted all they asked the evening before; sending
away great part of the multitude delighted with his condescension; and
they had received no fresh provocation to excite this outrage. The
audacity of the most desperate mob has never led them, in the presence
of a superiour force, to attempt to chastise their governors; and it is
not even probable that banditti, who had been moved by the common causes
of such insurrections, should have thought of murdering their sovereign,
who, in the eyes of the greater number of frenchmen, was still shrouded
by that divinity, tacitly allowed to hover round kings, much less have
dared to attempt it.

La Fayette was quickly roused; and, sending his _aides-de-camp_ to
assemble the national guards, he followed the ruffians with equal
celerity. They had actually forced the king’s apartment at the moment he
arrived; and the royal family were listening to the increasing tumult as
the harbinger of death,—when all was hushed,—and the door opening a
moment after, the national guards entered respectfully, saying they came
to save the king;—‘and we will save you too, gentlemen,’ added they,
addressing the body-guards, who were in the chamber.

The vagabonds were now pursued in their turn, and driven from room to
room, in the midst of their pillage, for they had already begun to
ransack that sumptuously furnished palace. From the palace they repaired
to the stables, still intent on plunder, and carried away some horses,
which were as quickly retaken. Every where they pursued the body-guards,
and every where the generous parisian troops, forgetting their piqued
pride and personal animosity, hazarded their lives to save them.—Till,
at length, order was perfectly established.

Such was the termination of this most mysterious affair; one of the
blackest of the machinations that have since the revolution disgraced
the dignity of man, and sullied the annals of humanity. Disappointed in
their main object, these wretches beheaded two of the guards, who fell
into their hands; and hurried away towards the metropolis, with the
_insignia_ of their atrocity on the points of the barbarous instruments
of vengeance—showing in every instance, by the difference of their
conduct, that they were a set of monsters, distinct from the people.

Whilst nature shudders at imputing to any one a plan so inhuman, the
general character and life of the duke of Orleans warrant the belief,
that he was the author of this tumult. And when we compare the
singularly ferocious appearance of the mob, with the brutal violation of
the apartment of the queen, there remains little doubt, but that a
design was on foot against the lives of both her and the king.—Yet in
this, and most other instances, the man has wanted courage to consummate
his villany, when the plot he had been following up was ripe.

It is, perhaps, not the least noble faculty of the mind, to question the
motives of action, which are repugnant to the feelings of nature,
outraging the most sacred feelings of the human soul. But it is the
developement of a character, that enables us to estimate it’s depravity;
and had the conduct of that wretch ever varied, the veil of mystery
might still have remained unrent, and posterity, hearing of the judgment
of the châtelet, would have believed _Egalité_ innocent. The court had
become highly obnoxious to the nation, and with it the king was
implicated, in spite of the efforts of Mirabeau, and some other
favourites of the people, to render him respectable; so that there
wanted not a plausible: reason for suspecting, that the duke might
aspire at obtaining the regency, though Louis was neither massacred, nor
allowed to escape. But the present scheme being disconcerted, fear, for
a while, damped his ambition: and La Fayette, finding that these
suspicions still formed a pretext to excite commotions, with a view to
quiet the minds of the parisians, seconded the importunities of the
duke, who wished to visit England, till the affair blew over. The king,
therefore, was prevailed on to give him a nominal commission, to be made
use of as a plea to obtain liberty of absence from the assembly, of
which he was a member.

He was certainly very apprehensive of an investigation of the business;
and revenge and ambition equally giving way to personal fear, he left
his colleagues to finish the constitution, and his agents to recover his
fame, by representing the story as a calumny of the royalists, against
whom the public were sufficiently enraged to credit any aspersion.

The bold tone he assumed the july following was far from being a proof
of his innocence; because it was not very probable, that a cunning man
should take his measures in such a critical affair without due
precaution.—On the contrary, he would labour to sink so entirely into
the back-ground of the plot, as to render it difficult, if not
impossible, for him to be perceived. And this was practicable to a man,
who was willing, in the promotion of his purpose, to dissipate the most
splendid fortune.

To a disposition for low intrigue was added also a decided preference of
the grossest libertinism, seasoned with vulgarity, highly congenial with
the manners of the heroines, who composed the singular army of the

Having taken up his abode in the centre of the palais royal, a very
superb square, yet the last in which a person of any delicacy, not to
mention decorum, or morality, would choose to reside; because, excepting
the people in trade, who found it convenient, it was entirely occupied
by the most shameless girls of the town, their hectoring protectors,
gamesters, and sharpers of every denomination. In short, by the vilest
of women; by wretches, who lived in houses from which the stript bodies,
often found in the Seine, were supposed to be thrown[33]—and he was
considered as the grand sultan of this den of iniquity. Living thus in
the lap of crime, his heart was as tainted as the foul atmosphere he
breathed.—Incapable of affection, his amours were the jaundiced caprices
of satiety; and having proved in the affair of Keppel and d’Orvilliers,
that he wanted the courage of a man, he appears to have been as fit for
dark under-hand assassinations as he was unequal to any attempt flowing
from virtuous ambition.

That a body of women should put themselves in motion to demand relief of
the king, or to remonstrate with the assembly respecting their tardy
manner of forming the constitution, is scarcely probable; and that they
should have undertaken the business, without being instigated by
designing persons, when all Paris was dissatisfied with the conduct and
the procrastination of the assembly, is a belief which the most
credulous will hardly swallow, unless they take into their view, that
the want of bread was the bye word used by those, who in a great measure
produced it; for perceiving the turn the public mind was taking, they
drove the mob on to perpetrate the mischief long designed, under the
sanction of national indignation.

It is evident, that the court was not concerned, however desirous the
cabinet might have been to render the people discontented with the new
order of things; for they seem to have been entirely occupied with the
scheme, on which they built the most sanguine expectation, of prevailing
on the king to retire to Metz. Besides, the course the project took is a
circumstantial evidence, that, designed against Versailles, it was not
meditated there.

That the Châtelet should not have been able to substantiate any proof of
his guilt, is not in the least extraordinary.—It is only necessary to be
acquainted with the general propensity of the french to intrigue, to
know, that there is no service, however dangerous, or purpose, however
black, for which gold will not find a man. There were wretches, who
would have considered exile as an escape from the continual dread of
menaced detection, could they carry with them a sum to commence anew
their fraudulent practices in another country; and money the duke did
not spare to gratify his passions, though sordidly mean when they were
out of the question.

His remaining also in England for such a length of time, merely to avoid
disturbing the tranquillity of the state, when it was possible, that by
it’s disorder and agitation he might gain a sceptre, cannot be credited;
because it is well known, that he never sacrificed any selfish
consideration to the general good. Such examples of self-denial and true
patriotism are uncommon, even from the most virtuous men; and it is idle
to imagine, that a man, whom all the world allowed to be vicious, should
risk the popularity, which he had been at such pains to acquire, unless
it were to guard his life.

On his return, nevertheless, finding that all was safe, he appeared in
the assembly, provoking the inquiry from which he had before skulked;
and braving detection, when the danger was passed, he had the address to
persuade the public of his innocence. Nay, the mock patriots of the day,
pretending to despise princes, were glad to have a prince on their side.

The report, that Mirabeau, always an avowed advocate for a limited
monarchy, was concerned in the plot, was certainly a calumny; because it
is notorious, that he had an habitual contempt for the duke, which had
even produced a decided coolness some time before. And, if any
collateral proof of his innocence were necessary, it would be sufficient
to add, that the abbé Maury, his competitor in eloquence, and opponent
in opinion, declared there was no ground for his impeachment.

It is unfortunate, indeed, that some of the villains employed were not
immediately interrogated. The soldiery, in chasing them from one quarter
to another, gave proofs not only of their intrepidity, but attachment to
the new government; and the only reprehensible part of their conduct was
suffering the murderers to escape, instead of apprehending as many as
they could, and bringing them to condign punishment. Such an omission,
it was to be feared, would produce the most fatal consequences, because
impunity never fails to stimulate the wretches, who have arrived at such
a pitch of wickedness, to commit fresh, and, if possible, still more
atrocious crimes; and it is by suspending the decrees of justice, that
hardened miscreants, made so by oppression, give full scope to all the
brutality of their sanguinary dispositions.

This neglect, in their turn, was not the least reprehensible or fatal
errour, produced by the factions of the assembly. The crisis demanded
vigour and boldness.—The laws had been trampled on by a gang of banditti
the most desperate—The altar of humanity had been profaned—The dignity
of freedom had been tarnished—The sanctuary of repose, the asylum of
care and fatigue, the chaste temple of a woman, I consider the queen
only as one, the apartment where she consigns her senses to the bosom of
sleep, folded in it’s arms forgetful of the world, was violated with
murderous fury—The life of the king was assailed, when he had acceded to
all their demands—And, when their plunder was snatched from them, they
massacred the guards, who were doing their duty.—Yet these brutes were
permitted triumphantly to escape—and dignified with the appellation of
the people, their outrage was in a great measure attempted to be excused
by those deputies, who sometimes endeavoured to gain an undue influence
through the interposition of the mob.

At this moment the assembly ought to have known, that the future
respectability of their laws must greatly depend on the conduct they
pursued on the present occasion; and it was time to show the parisians,
that, giving freedom to the nation, they meant to guard it by a strict
adherence to the laws, that naturally issue from the simple principles
of equal justice they were adopting; punishing with just severity all
such as should offer to violate, or treat them with contempt. Wisdom,
precision, and courage, are the permanent supports of authority—the
durable pillars of every just government, and they only require to be,
as it were, the porticos of the structure, to obtain for it, at once,
both the admiration and obedience of the people. To maintain
subordination in a state by any other means is not merely difficult,
but, for any length of time, impossible.

They ought to have stood up as one man in support of insulted justice;
and by directing the arm of the law, have smothered in embryo that
spirit of rebellion and licentiousness, which, beginning to appear in
the metropolis, it was to be feared would attain herculean strength by
impunity, and ultimately overturn, with wanton thoughtlessness, or
headstrong zeal, all their labours. Yet, so contrary was their conduct
to the dictates of common sense, and the common firmness of rectitude of
intention, that they not only permitted that gang of assassins to regain
their dens; but instantly submitted to the demand of the soldiery, and
the peremptory wish of the parisians—that the king should reside within
the walls of Paris.

The firmness of conduct, which the representatives of a people should
always maintain, had been wanting in the assembly from the moment their
power had been acknowledged; for instead of being directed by any
regular plan of proceeding, a line equally marked out by integrity and
political prudence, they were hurried along by a giddy zeal, and by a
burlesque affectation of magnanimity; as puerile as the greater part of
their debates were frivolous. Whilst their vanity was gratified by the
lively applauses lavished on their inflated and popular declamation,
they set fire to the foibles of the multitude, teaching their desperate
demagogues to become their rivals in this species of eloquence, till the
plans of the leaders of clubs, and popular societies, were generally
admired and pursued.

The will of the people being supreme, it is not only the duty of their
representatives to respect it, but their political existence ought to
depend on their acting conformably to the will of their constituents.
Their voice, in enlightened countries, is always the voice of reason.
But in the infancy of society, and during the advancement of the science
of political liberty, it is highly necessary for the governing authority
to be guided by the progress of that science; and to prevent, by
judicious measures, any check being given to it’s advancement, whilst
equal care is taken not to produce the miseries of anarchy by
encouraging licentious freedom. The national assembly, however,
delighted with their blooming honours, suffered themselves to be hurried
forward by a multitude, on whom political light had too suddenly
flashed, and seemed to have no apprehension of the danger, which has so
fatally resulted from their tame acquiescence.

The people of Paris, who have more than their portion of the national
vanity, believed that they had produced the revolution; and thinking
themselves both the father and mother of all the great events, which had
happened since it’s commencement, and that the national assembly, whose
conduct indeed betrayed symptoms of an understanding not adult, ought to
be directed by their leading-strings, frequently declared, that liberty
would not be secured, until the court and the assembly were brought
within the walls of the capital. This was the subject of club debates,
decided with legislative pomposity, on the rumour of the intended
evasion of the king; and the insult offered to the national cockade, the
first of october, brought them to the determination—that it was proper
he should be there.—Such was their will, the capital of the nation—now
sovereign. Foreseeing also, as they had already dreaded, that the only
security for infant freedom would be to guard the court, and place in
the centre of information their infant representatives; whom they
alternately idolized and suspected.

The decorum of manners in a people, long subordinate to the authority of
their magistrates, had on several occasions, and even on the fifth of
october, controlled the impetuous populace, who had undertaken, or
joined in the enterprize; and considering the manner in which they were
pushed on, it is extraordinary, that they did not commit greater
depredations. For with all their brutality, and eagerness to plunder the
palace, they did not attempt to pillage Versailles, though half

The army of La Fayette indeed, principally composed of citizens, behaved
not only in an irreproachable manner; but the celerity of their
movements, their obedience to the discipline which they had so promptly
acquired, joined to the clemency and moderation they displayed, excited
the gratitude and respect of all parties.—Still, trembling for the
rights that had been so gloriously snatched out of the clinched hand of
despotism—it was the wish of all the leaders to have the king at Paris.
It was in fact the general sentiment at Paris, and of the greater part
of the nation.

That city, which had contributed so essentially in effecting the
revolution, viewed with anxiety the influence of a party spirit in the
assembly, though themselves split into several political sects, who
almost execrated each other. And finding, that the indecision of the
members had given fresh hopes to the court, which at last might render
their emancipation merely a dazzling meteor, they were restlessly bent
on having the king and assembly more immediately in their power. The
report, likewise, of Louis’s intended escape; which had he effected, it
was probable, that he would have been in the next place prevailed on to
join the discontented princes and nobles, thus producing a schism in the
kingdom, that must infallibly have brought on not only a cruel civil
war, but have embroiled them with all the different powers of Europe;
was a still more urgent motive: for whilst they were constantly
affecting to believe in the goodness of his heart, they never showed by
their conduct, that they had any confidence in his sincerity.—Their
opinion of the assembly was equally unfixed.—One day a deputy was
extolled as the hero of liberty, and the next denounced as a traitorous
pensioner of despotism.

These sentiments were dangerous to the authority of the new government;
but they were sentiments which never would have been promulged, even had
they existed, had the assembly acted with integrity and magnanimity.
Because, though the people do not always reason in the most logical or
rhetorical style, yet they generally perceive in what consists the
defects of their legislators. And in every free government, when the
deputies of the state, convened to form laws, do not act with precision
and judgment, they will be sure to lose their respectability; and the
consequence will be a dissolution of all authority.

It appears to amount to a certainty, that the assembly did not at that
time possess the implicit confidence of the people, by their demanding,
that the king should be obliged to reside within the barriers of the
capital.—It was surely as possible to guard him at Versailles as at
Paris; and if it were necessary, that he should be kept as a prisoner of
state, or hostage, the government was the proper authority to determine
how, and where:—and in giving up this necessary privilege of authority,
they surrendered their power to the multitude of Paris.

Or rather a minority of the assembly, who wished to be removed to the
capital, by exciting and humouring the people, directed the majority;
and in the same manner has the dignity of the representative body ever
since been trampled under foot by selfishness, or the blind zeal of
vanity.—It is in reality from this epocha, not forgetting such a leading
circumstance, that the commencement of the reign of anarchy may be
fairly dated. For, though a tolerable degree of order was preserved a
considerable time after, because a multitude long accustomed to
servitude do not immediately feel their own strength; yet they soon
began to tyrannize over one part of their representatives, stimulated by
the other. They, however, continued to respect the decrees of the
national assembly especially as there were rarely any passed on which
the public opinion had not been previously consulted, directed as it was
by the popular members, who gained their constant suffrage by the stale
trick of crying out for more freedom. It was the indispensable duty of
the deputies to respect the dignity of their body—Instead of which, for
sinister purposes, many of them instructed the people how to tyrannize
over the assembly; thus deserting the main principle of representation,
the respect due to the majority. This first grand desertion of the
principles, which they affected to adopt in all their purity, led to
public misery; involving these short-sighted men in the very ruin they
had themselves produced by their mean intrigues.

The authoritative demand of the parisians was striking so directly at
the freedom of the assembly, that they must either have been conscious
of wanting power, or they had no conception of dignity of action,
otherwise they would not have suffered the requisition of the people to
have been complied with. Yet they seem to have considered it, if it be
not paradoxical to assert it, as an advancement of their independence;
or, perhaps, as giving security to their authority, childishly proud of
regulating the business of the nation, though under the influence of the
parisian despotism.

It is true, such things are the natural consequence of weakness, the
effects of inexperience, and the more fatal errours of cowardice. And
such will always be the effects of timid, injudicious measures. Men who
have violated the sacred feelings of eternal justice, except they are
hardened in vice, are never afterwards able to look honest men in the
face; and a legislature, watched by an intelligent public, a public that
claims the right of thinking for itself, will never after go beyond it,
or pass one decree which is not likely to be popular.

To consult the public mind in a perfect state of civilization, will not
only be necessary, but it will be productive of the happiest
consequences, generating a government emanating from the sense of the
nation, for which alone it can legally exist. The progress of reason
being gradual, it is the wisdom of the legislature to advance the
simplification of it’s political system, in a manner best adapted to the
state of improvement of the understanding of the nation. The sudden
change which had happened in France, from the most fettering tyranny to
an unbridled liberty, made it scarcely to be expected, that any thing
should be managed with the wisdom of experience: it was morally
impossible. But it is nevertheless a deplorable reflection, that such
evils must follow every revolution, when a change of politics equally
material is required.—Thus it becomes more peculiarly the duty of the
historian to record truth; and comment with freedom.

Every nation, deprived by the progress of it’s civilization of strength
of character, in changing it’s government from absolute despotism to
enlightened freedom, will, most probably, be plunged into anarchy, and
have to struggle with various species of tyranny before it is able to
consolidate it’s liberty; and that, perhaps, cannot be done, until the
manners and amusements of the people are completely changed.

The refinement of the senses, by producing a susceptibility of temper,
which from it’s capriciousness leaves no time for reflection, interdicts
the exercise of the judgment. The lively effusions of mind,
characteristically peculiar to the french, are as violent as the
impressions are transitory: and their benevolence evaporating in sudden
gusts of sympathy, they become cold in the same proportion as their
emotions are quick, and the combinations of their fancy brilliant.
People who are carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment, are most
frequently betrayed by their imagination, and commit some errour, the
conviction of which not only damps their heroism, but relaxes the nerve
of common exertions. Freedom is a solid good, that requires to be
treated with reverence and respect.—But, whilst an effeminate race of
heroes are contending for her smiles, with all the blandishments of
gallantry, it is to their more vigorous and natural posterity, that she
will consign herself with all the mild effulgence of artless charms.

                              CHAPTER III.

After the wild tumult, on the morning of the 6th of october, abated, the
king showed himself to the people, in the balcony, and the queen
followed with the dauphin in her arms. At first, he vainly attempted to
speak; but La Fayette informed the people, that his majesty came forward
to assure them, that it should be the business of his life to contribute
to the happiness of his people. _The king at Paris_, exclaimed a voice,
which was quickly re-echoed by the crowd. ‘My children,’ replied the
king, ‘you wish me to be at Paris, and I will go; but it is on the
condition, that my wife and family accompany me.’ A loud shout of _vive
le roi_ testified the extacy of the moment. The king made a sign to
demand silence; and then, with tears in his eyes addressed them
again.—‘Ah! my children, run to the relief of my guards.’ Immediately
two or three appeared in the balcony with the national cockade in their
hats, or the cap of liberty on their heads. The king threw his arms
round one of them, and the people following his example embraced those
whom they had taken prisoners in the court. One sentiment of gladness
seemed to animate the whole concourse of people; and their sensibility
produced as mad demonstrations of joy as lately had been displayed of
ferocity. The soldiery all mingled together, exchanging swords, hats, or
shoulder belts—exhibiting in the most striking manner the prominent
features of the french character.

Meanwhile the assembly, instead of instantly examining into the
particulars of that alarming convulsion, and exerting themselves to
cause a proper respect to be paid to the sovereignty of the law,
childishly gave way to the universal transport: instead of considering
the peremptory wish of the people to remove the king to Paris as a
distrust of their wisdom, as well as of the veracity of the court, which
was in some measure the case, they unanimously agreed to the motion of
Mirabeau, seconded by Barnave, ‘that the king and assembly should not be
separated during the present sessions.’ Mirabeau, and other popular
members, were probably glad to have the person of the king secured,
without being obliged to appear, in an ostensible manner, in the affair;
because they always endeavoured to keep a little hold on the court,
whilst they led the people. Such are the pitiful shifts of men, who are
not guided by the compass of moral principles, which alone render the
character dignified or consistent. Readily then acquiescing in a measure
the most fatal and contemptible, they decreed, that the assembly was
inseparable from the person of the king, and sent a deputation to inform
him of this resolve, previous to his departure.

That Louis, finding all his projects for the present defeated, and after
such a narrow escape for his life, should readily have acceded to the
demand of the multitude, is not in the least extraordinary.—But, that
the representatives of the nation should, without resistance or
remonstrance, have surrendered their authority, and thrown themselves
head-long into the heart of a city, which could be suddenly agitated,
and put into the most disorderly and dangerous commotion, by the
intrigues or folly of any desperate or factious leader of the
multitude—suffering themselves to be environed by it’s wall, shut in by
it’s barriers—in a word—choosing to live in a capacious prison; for men
forced, or drawn into any such situation, are in reality slaves or
prisoners,—almost surpasses belief. This absurd conduct, in fact, can be
accounted for only by considering the national character, and the
different though equally interested views, of the court and popular
parties, in the assembly.

Independent of the additional incense of praise, with which Mirabeau
wished to be continually regaled, in the metropolis, he had a decided
preference for it, frequently asserting, that it was the only place
where society was truly desirable; the people and place, in spite of
their vices and follies, equally attaching the taste they cultivated.

Exclaiming against capitals, the impartial observer must acknowledge,
that much has been done to render this a superb monument of human

The entrance into Paris, by the Thuilleries, is certainly very
magnificent. The roads have an expansion that agrees with the idea of a
large luxurious city, and with the beauty of the buildings in the noble
square, that first attracts the travellers eye. The lofty trees on each
side of the road, forming charming alleys, in which the people walk and
lounge with an easy gaiety peculiar to the nation, seem calculated
equally to secure their health and promote their pleasure. The barriers,
likewise, are stately edifices, that tower with grandeur, rendering the
view, as the city is approached, truly picturesque.

But—these very barriers, built by Calonne, who liked to have Paris
compared with Athens, excite the most melancholy reflections.—They were
first erected by despotism to secure the payment of an oppressive tax,
and since have fatally assisted to render anarchy more violent by
concentration, cutting off the possibility of innocent victims escaping
from the fury, or the mistake, of the moment.—Thus miscreants have had
sufficient influence to guard these barriers, and caging the objects of
their fear or vengeance, have slaughtered them; or, violating the purity
of justice, have coolly wrested laws hastily formed to serve sinister
designs—changing it’s sacred sword into a dagger, and terming the
assassin’s stab the stroke of justice, because given with the mock
ceremonials of equity, which only rendered the crime more atrocious. The
tyrant, who, bounding over all restraint, braves the eternal law he
tramples on, is not half so detestable as the reptile who crawls under
the shelter of the principles he violates. Such has been the effect of
the enclosure of Paris: and the reflections of wounded humanity
disenchanting the senses, the elegant structures, which served as gates
to this great prison, no longer appear magnificent porticos.

Still the eye of taste rests with pleasure on its buildings and
decorations: proportion and harmony gratify the sight, whilst airy
ornaments seem to toss a simple, playful elegance around. The heavens
too smile, diffusing fragrance: and as the inhabitants trip along the
charming boulevard, the genial atmosphere seems instantaneously to
inspire the animal spirits, which give birth to the varied graces that
glide around. Clustering flowers, with luxuriant pomp, lend their
sweets, giving a freshness to the fairy scene—nature and art combining
with great felicity to charm the senses, and touch the heart, alive to
the social feelings, and to the beauties most dear to fancy.

Why starts the tear of anguish to mingle with recollections that
sentiment fosters—even in obedience to reason?—For it is wise to be
happy!—and nature and virtue will always open inlets of joy to the
heart. But how quickly vanishes this prospect of delights! of delights
such as man ought to taste!—The cavalcade of death moves along, shedding
mildew over all the beauties of the scene, and blasting every joy! The
elegance of the palaces and buildings is revolting, when they are viewed
as prisons, and the sprightliness of the people disgusting, when they
are hastening to view the operations of the guillotine, or carelessly
passing over the earth stained with blood. Exasperated humanity then,
with bitterness of soul, devotes the city to destruction; whilst turning
from such a nest of crimes, it seeks for consolation only in the
conviction, that, as the world is growing wiser, it must become happier;
and that, as the cultivation of the soil meliorates a climate, the
improvement of the understanding will prevent those baneful excesses of
passion which poison the heart.

A deputation of the national assembly accompanied the royal family to
Paris, as well as the parisian militia. A number of the women preceded
them, mounted on the carriages which they had taken in their way to
Versailles, and on the cannons, covered with national cockades, and
dragging in the dirt those that were considered as symbols of
aristocracy. Soon after they set out, either by chance, or, which is
more probable, pursuant to a plan contrived by some person in power,
forty or fifty loads of wheat and flour fell into the procession, just
before the king, giving weight to the exclamation of the populace, that
they had brought the baker and his family to town.

The assembly continued to sit at Versailles till the nineteenth; and
several interesting debates were entered upon, particularly one brought
forward by the bishop of Autun, respecting the appropriation of the
estates of the clergy to supply the exigences of the government. The
abolition of _lettres de cachet_ was considered, and a fresh
organization of the municipalities proposed; but as none of these
motions were carried before they were more fully discussed at Paris, it
seems best to bring the different arguments on those important subjects
under one point of view.

Settling the articles of the constitution, however, which previously
occupied them, several frivolous discussions, respecting the style of
expression to be adopted to signify the king’s acceptance of their
decrees, were lengthened out with warmth, and puerile objections made to
ancient forms—that were merely forms. After some disputation, the title
of the monarch was changed from king of France, with the rest of the
formule, for that of king of the French; because Rousseau had remarked,
perhaps fastidiously, that the title ought to express rather the chief
of the people, than the master of the soil.

The intended removal of the assembly to Paris also produced several warm
debates. This resolution, indeed, excited, not without reason,
apprehensions in the breasts of some of the deputies, relative to their
personal safety, should they, in future, venture to oppose any of the
motions of the popular party, which that party instructed the mob of
Paris to support.

The president, Mounier, pleading his bad state of health, begged to be
dismissed; and Lally-Tolendal, thinking that he could not stem the
torrent, retired from public business at the same time. A great many of
the members hinting their fears, that the assembly would not be free at
Paris, on various pretexts demanded such a number of passports, as to
make the president express some apprehension lest the assembly should
thus indirectly dissolve itself; whilst other deputies uttered a
profusion of indecent sarcasms on a conduct, which the behaviour of the
populace, and even of these very orators, seemed to justify. Mirabeau,
who so earnestly desired to be at Paris, ridiculed with unbecoming
bitterness every opposition made to the removal of the assembly; yet,
listening to the representation, that the allowing so many malecontents
to retire into the provinces might produce dangerous fermentations, he
proposed that no passport should be granted, till the deputy who
demanded it had made known his reason for so doing to the assembly. A
letter from the king, notifying his intention of residing most part of
his time at Paris, and expressing his assurance, that they did not mean
to separate themselves from him, now requested them to send
commissioners to Paris, to search for a proper place, where they might
in future hold their sessions. They accordingly determined to go
thither, conformably to the decree of the sixth of october, when a
convenient situation should be found.

After this determination, several members gave an account of the gross
insults they had received at Paris. One in particular, who was not
obnoxious to the public, narrowly escaped with life, only because he was
mistaken for a deputy against whom the mob had vowed vengeance. Another,
who had also been insulted, with proper spirit moved, that a decree
respecting libels should instantly be passed. ‘Are we,’ he asked, ‘to be
led to liberty only by licentiousness? No; the people, deceived and
intoxicated, are rendered furious. How many times (he added) have I
lamented the impetuosity of this assembly, who have accustomed the
public, seated in our galleries, to praise, to blame, to deride our
opinions, without understanding them.—And who has inspired them with
this audacity?’—He was interrupted by signs of disapprobation; and
personalities now disgraced the debate, in which Mirabeau mingled
satirical observations and retorts, that did more credit to his
abilities than to his heart. But, a day or two after, recollecting
himself, he presented the plan of a decree to prevent riots, which he
introduced, by saying, that it was an imitation, though not a copy, of
the English riot act.

The evening before the departure of the assembly for Paris, passports
being still demanded with earnestness, a decree was made, ‘that
passports should be granted only for a short and determinate time, on
account of urgent business; and that unlimited passports, in cases of
ill health, should not be granted before the deputies were replaced by
their substitutes;’ and further, cutting a knot that might have revived
old claims and animosities, had it been brought forward alone, they
decreed, ‘that in future the substitutes should be nominated by the
citizens at large; and that, eight days after the first session at
Paris, there should be a call of the house; suspending till then the
consideration of the propriety of printing and sending to the provinces
the list of the absent deputies.’

The constraining so many members to remain at their posts, and
condemning a man to a state of ignominious servitude, whilst they were
talking of nothing but liberty, was as contemptibly little, as the
policy was injudicious. For if the king pretended to acquiesce in their
measures the better to disguise his real intention, which doubtless was
to fly as soon as he could find an opportunity, or was at liberty, what
did they gain? For as they must have known, that his emancipation would
be the consequence of his acceptance of the constitution, his
imprisonment could only tend to retard their operations: yet they had
neither the magnanimity to allow him to depart with an handsome stipend,
if such were his wish; nor to grant him such a portion of power, in the
new constitution, as would, by rendering him respectable in his own
eyes, have reconciled him to the deprivation of the rest. But, as things
were settled, it was morally certain, that, whenever his friends were
ready, a blow would be directed against them, which they were then as
well prepared to meet as they could be at a subsequent period.

Under the influence of fixed systems, certain moral effects are as
infallible as physical.—That every insidious attempt would be made by
the courts of Europe, to overturn the new government of France, was
therefore certain; and, unless they had all been overturned at the same
time, was as much to be expected as any effect from a natural cause. The
most likely mean then to have parried the evil would have been a decided
firmness of conduct, which, flowing from a real love of justice,
produces true magnanimity; and not a parading affectation of the virtues
of romans, with the degenerate minds of their posterity.

Precision, wisdom, and courage, never fail to secure the admiration and
respect of all descriptions of people; and every government thus
directed will keep in awe it’s licentious neighbours. But fear and
timidity betray symptoms of weakness, that, creating contempt and
disrespect, encourage the attempts of ambitious despots; so that the
noblest causes are sometimes ruined or vilified by the folly or
indiscretion of their directors. All Europe saw, and all good men saw
with dread, that the french had undertaken to support a cause, which
they had neither sufficient purity of heart, nor maturity of judgment,
to conduct with moderation and prudence; whilst malevolence has been
gratified by the errours they have committed, attributing that
imperfection to the theory they adopted, which was applicable only to
the folly of their practice.

However, frenchmen have reason to rejoice, and posterity will be
grateful, for what was done by the assembly.

The economy of government had been so ably treated by the writers of the
present age, that it was impossible for them, acting on the great scale
of public good, not to lay the foundations of many useful plans, as they
reformed many grievous and grinding abuses.—Accordingly we find, though
they had not sufficient penetration to foresee the dreadful consequences
of years of anarchy, the probable result of their manner of proceeding,
still by following, in some degree, the instructions of their
constituents, who had digested, from the bright lines of philosophical
truths, the prominent rules of political science, they, in laying the
main pillars of the constitution, established beyond a possibility of
obliteration, the great principles of liberty and equality.

It is allowed by all parties, that civilization is a blessing, so far as
it gives security to person and property, and the milder graces of taste
to society and manners. If, therefore, the polishing of man, and the
improvement of his intellect, become necessary to secure these
advantages, it follows, of course, that the more general such
improvement grows, the greater the extension of human happiness.

In a savage state man is distinguished only by superiority of genius,
prowess, and eloquence. I say eloquence, for I believe, that in this
stage of society he is most eloquent, because most natural. For it is
only in the progress of governments, that hereditary distinctions,
cruelly abridging rational liberty, have prevented man from rising to
his just point of elevation, by the exercise of his improveable

That there is a superiority of natural genius among men does not admit
of dispute; and that in countries the most free there will always be
distinctions proceeding from superiority of judgment, and the power of
acquiring more delicacy of taste, which may be the effect of the
peculiar organization, or whatever cause produces it, is an
incontestible truth. But it is a palpable errour to suppose, that men of
every class are not equally susceptible of common improvement: if
therefore it be the contrivance of any government, to preclude from a
chance of improvement the greater part of the citizens of the state, it
can be considered in no other light than as a monstrous tyranny, a
barbarous oppression, equally injurious to the two parties, though in
different ways. For all the advantages of civilization cannot be felt,
unless it pervades the whole mass, humanizing every description of
men—and then it is the first of blessings, the true perfection of man.

The melioration of the old government of France arose entirely from a
degree of urbanity acquired by the higher class, which insensibly
produced, by a kind of natural courtesy, a small portion of civil
liberty. But, as for political liberty, there was not the shadow of it;
or could it ever have been generated under such a system: because,
whilst men were prevented not only from arriving at public offices, or
voting for the nomination of others to fill them, but even from
attaining any distinct idea of what was meant by liberty in a practical
sense, the great bulk of the people were worse than savages; retaining
much of the ignorance of barbarians, after having poisoned the noble
qualities of nature by imbibing some of the habits of degenerate
refinement. To the national assembly it is, that France is indebted for
having prepared a simple code of instruction, containing all the truths
necessary to give a comprehensive perception of political science; which
will enable the ignorant to climb the mount of knowledge, whence they
may view the ruins of the ingenious fabric of despotism, that had so
long disgraced the dignity of man by it’s odious and debasing claims.

The declaration of rights contains an aggregate of principles the most
beneficial; yet so simple, that the most ordinary capacity cannot fail
to comprehend their import. It begins by asserting, that the rights of
men are equal, and that no distinctions can exist in a wholesome
government, but what are founded on public utility. Then showing, that
political associations are intended only for the preservation of the
natural and imprescriptible rights of man, which are his liberty,
security of property, and resistance against oppression; and asserting
also, that the nation is the source of all sovereignty; it delineates,
in a plain and perspicuous manner, in what these rights, and this
sovereignty, consist. In this delineation men may learn, that, in the
exercise of their natural rights, they have the power of doing whatever
does not injure another; and that this power has no limits, which are
not determined by law—the laws being at the same time an expression of
the will of the community, because all the citizens of the state, either
personally, or by their representatives, have a right to concur in the

Thus, having taught the citizens the fundamental principles of a
legitimate government, it proceeds to show how the opinion of each may
be ascertained; which he has a right to give personally, or by his
representatives, to determine the necessity of public contributions,
their appropriation, mode of assessment, and duration.

The simplicity of these principles, promulged by the men of genius of
the last and present ages, and their justness, acknowledged by every
description of unprejudiced men, had not been recognised by any senate
or government in Europe; and it was an honour worthy to be reserved for
the representatives of twenty-five millions of men, rising to the sense
and feeling of rational beings, to be the first to dare to ratify such
sacred and beneficial truths—truths, the existence of which had been
eternal; and which required only to be made known, to be generally
acknowledged—truths, which have been fostered by the genius of
philosophy, whilst hereditary wealth and the bayonet of despotism have
continually been opposed to their establishment.

The publicity of a government acting conformably to the principles of
reason, in contradistinction to the maxims of oppression, affords the
people an opportunity, or at least a chance, of judging of the wisdom
and moderation of their ministers; and the eye of discernment, when
permitted to make known it’s observations, will always prove a check on
the profligacy or dangerous ambition of aspiring men.—So that in
contemplating the extension of representative systems of polity, we have
solid ground on which to rest the expectation—that wars and their
calamitous effects will become less frequent, in proportion as the
people, who are obliged to support them with their sweat and blood, are
consulted respecting their necessity and consequences.

Such consultations can take place under representative systems of
government only—under systems which demand the responsibility of their
ministers, and secure the publicity of their political conduct. The
mysteries of courts, and the intrigues of their parasites, have
continually deluged Europe with the blood of it’s most worthy and heroic
citizens, and there is no specific cure for such evils, but by enabling
the people to form an opinion respecting the subject of dispute.

The court of Versailles, with powers the most ample, was the most busy
and insidious of any in Europe; and the horrours which she has
occasioned, at different periods, were as incalculable, as her ambition
was unbounded, and her councils base, unprincipled, and dishonourable.
If, then, it were only for abolishing her sway, Europe ought to be
thankful for a change, that, by altering the political systems of the
most improved quarter of the globe, must ultimately lead to universal
freedom, virtue, and happiness.

But it is to be presumed, when the effervescence, which now agitates the
prejudices of the whole continent, subsides, the justness of the
principles brought forward in the declaration of the rights of men and
citizens will be generally granted; and that governments, in future,
acquiring reason and dignity, feeling for the sufferings of the people,
whilst reprobating the sacrilege of tyranny, will make it their
principal object, to counteract it’s baneful tendency, by restraining
within just bounds the ambition of individuals.

                              CHAPTER IV.

People thinking for themselves have more energy in their voice, than any
government, which it is possible for human wisdom to invent; and every
government not aware of this sacred truth will, at some period, be
suddenly overturned. Whilst men in a savage state preserve their
independence, they adopt no regular system of policy, nor ever attempt
to digest their rude code of laws into a constitution, to ensure
political liberty. Consequently we find in every country, after it’s
civilization has arrived at a certain height, that the people, the
moment they are displeased with their rulers, begin to clamour against
them; and, finally rejecting all authority but their own will, in
breaking the shackles of folly or tyranny, they glut their resentment by
the mischievous destruction of the works of ages, only considering them
as the moments of their servitude.

From the social disposition of man, in proportion as he becomes
civilized, he will mingle more and more with society. The first interest
he takes in the business of his fellow-men is in that of his neighbour;
next he contemplates the comfort, misery, and happiness of the nation to
which he belongs, investigates the degree of wisdom and justice in the
political system, under which he lives, and, striding into the regions
of science, his researches embrace all human kind. Thus he is enabled to
estimate the portion of evil or good which the government of his country
produces, compared with that of others; and the comparison, granting him
superiour powers of mind, leads him to conceive a model of a more
perfect form.

This spirit of inquiry first manifests itself in hamlets; when his views
of improvement are confined to local advantages: but the approximation
of different districts leading to further intercourse, roads of
communication are opened, until a central or favourite spot becomes the
vortex of men and things. Then the rising spires, pompous domes, and
majestic monuments, point out the capital; the focus of information, the
reservoir of genius, the school of arts, the seat of voluptuous
gratification, and the hot-bed of vice and immorality.

The centrifugal rays of knowledge and science now stealing through the
empire, the whole intellectual faculties of man partake of their
influence, and one general sentiment governs the civil and political
body. In the progress of these improvements the state undergoing a
variety of changes, the happiness or misery produced occasions a
diversity of opinions; and to prevent confusion, absolute governments
have been tolerated by the most enlightened part of the people. But,
probably, this toleration was merely the effect of the strong social
feelings of men; who preferred tranquillity, and the prosperity of their
country, to a resistance, which, judging from the ignorance of their
fellow citizens, they believed would bring more harm than good in it’s
train. In short, however long a combination of tyranny has retarded the
progress, it has been one of the advantages of the large cities of
Europe] to light up the sparks of reason, and to extend the principles
of truth.

Such is the good and evil flowing from the capitals of states, that
during the infancy of governments, though they tend to corrupt and
enervate the mind, they accelerate the introduction of science, and give
the tone to the national sentiments and taste.

But this influence is extremely gradual; and it requires a great length
of time, for the remote corners of the empire to experience either the
one, or the other of these effects. Hence we have seen the inhabitants
of a metropolis feeble and vitiated, and those of the provinces robust
and virtuous. Hence we have seen oppositions in a city (riots as they
are called) to illegal governments instantly defeated, and their leaders
hanged or tortured; because the judgment of the state was not
sufficiently matured to support the struggle of the unhappy victims in a
righteous cause. And hence it has happened, that the despots of the
world have found it necessary to maintain large standing armies, in
order to counteract the effects of truth and reason.

The continuation of the feudal system, however, for a great length of
time, by giving an overgrown influence to the nobility of France, had
contributed, in no small degree, to counteract the despotism of her
kings. Thus it was not until after the arbitrary administration of
Richelieu, who had terrified the whole order by a tyranny peculiar to
himself, that the insidious Mazarine broke the independent spirit of the
nation by introducing the sale of honours; and that Louis XIV, by the
magnificence of his follies, and the meretricious decorations of stars,
crosses, and other marks of distinction, or badges of slavery, drew the
nobles from their castles; and, by concentrating the pleasures and
wealth of the kingdom in Paris, the luxury of the court became
commensurate to the product of the nation. Besides, the encouragement
given to enervating pleasures, and the venality of titles, purchased
either with money, or ignoble services, soon rendered the nobility as
notorious for effeminacy as they had been illustrious for heroism in the
days of the gallant Henry.

The arts had already formed a school, and men of science and literature
were hurrying from every part of the kingdom to the metropolis, in
search of employment and of honour; and whilst it was giving it’s tone
to the empire, the parisian taste was pervading Europe.

The vanity of leading the fashions, in the higher orders of society, is
not the smallest weakness produced by the sluggishness into which people
of quality naturally fall. The depravity of manners, and the sameness of
pleasure, which compose a life of idleness, are sure to produce an
insupportable _ennui_; and, in proportion to the stupidity of the man,
or as his sensibility becomes deadened, he has recourse to variety,
finding a zest only from a new creation of charms; and commonly the most
unnatural are necessary to rouse sickly, fastidious senses. Still in the
same degree as the refinement of sentiment, and the improvement of taste
advance, the company of celebrated literary characters is sought after
with avidity; and from the prevalence of fashion, the empire of wit
succeeds the reign of formal insipidity, after the squeamish palate has
been rendered delicate even by the nauseous banquets of voluptuousness.

This is the natural consequence of the improvement of manners, the
harbinger of reason; and from the ratio of it’s advancement throughout
society, we are enabled to estimate the progress of political science.
For no sooner had the disquisition of philosophical subjects become
general in the select parties of amusement, extending by degrees to
every class of society, than the rigour of the ancient government of
France began to soften; till it’s mildness became so considerable, that
superficial observers have attributed the exercise of lenity in the
administration to the wisdom and excellence of the system itself.

A confederacy of philosophers, whose opinions furnished the food of
colloquial entertainment, gave a turn for instructive and useful reading
to the leaders of circles, and drew the attention of the nation to the
principles of political and civil government. Whilst by the compilation
of the Encyclopedia, the repository of their thoughts, as an abstract
work, they eluded the dangerous vigilance of absolute ministers; thus in
a body disseminating those truths in the economy of finance, which,
perhaps, they would not have had sufficient courage separately to have
produced in individual publications; or, if they had, they would most
probably have been suppressed.

This is one of the few instances of an association of men becoming
useful, instead of being cramped by joint exertions. And the cause is
clear:—the work did not require a little party spirit; but each had a
distinct subject of investigation to pursue with solitary energy. His
destination was traced upon a calm sea, which could not expose him to
the Scylla or Charybdis of vanity or interest.

The economists, carrying away the palm, from their opponents, showed
that the prosperity of a state depends on the freedom of industry; that
talents should be permitted to find their level; that the unshackling of
commerce is the only secret to render it flourishing, and answer more
effectually the ends for which it is politically necessary; and that the
imposts should be laid upon the surplus remaining, after the husbandman
has been reimbursed for his labour and expences.

Ideas so new, and yet so just and simple, could not fail to produce a
great effect on the minds of frenchmen; who, constitutionally attached
to novelty and ingenious speculations, were sure to be enamoured with a
prospect of consolidating the great advantages of such a novel and
enlightened system; and without calculating the danger of attacking old
prejudices; nay, without ever considering, that it was a much easier
task to pull down than to build up, they gave themselves little trouble
to examine the gradual steps by which other countries have attained
their degree of political improvement.

The many vexatious taxes, which under the french government not only
enervated the exertions of unprivileged persons, stagnating the live
stream of trade, but were extremely teasing inconveniences to every
private man, who could not travel from one place to another without
being stopped at barriers, and searched by officers of different
descriptions, were almost insuperable impediments in the way of the
improvements of industry: and the abridgment of liberty was not more
grievous in it’s pecuniary consequences, than in the personal
mortification of being compelled to observe regulations as troublesome
as they were at variance with sound policy.

Irritations of the temper produce more poignant sensations of disgust
than serious injuries. Frenchmen, indeed, had been so long accustomed to
these vexatious forms, that, like the ox who is daily yoked, they were
no longer galled in spirit, or exhaled their angry ebullitions in a
song. Still it might have been supposed, that after reflecting little,
and talking much, about the sublimity and superiour excellence of the
plans of _french_ writers above those of other nations, they would
become as passionate for liberty, as a man restrained by some idle
religious vow is to possess a mistress, to whose charms the imagination
has lent all it’s own world of graces.

Besides, the very manner of living in France gives a lively turn to the
character of the people; for by the destruction of the animal juices, in
dressing their food, they are subject to none of that dulness, the
effect of more nutritive diet in other countries; and this gaiety is
increased by the moderate quantity of weak wine, which they drink at
their meats, bidding defiance to phlegm. The people also living entirely
in villages and towns are more social; so that the tone of the capital,
the instant it had a note distinct from that of the court, became the
key of the nation; though the inhabitants of the provinces polished
their manners with less danger to their morals, or natural simplicity of
character. But this mode of peopling the country tended more to civilize
the inhabitants, than to change the face of the soil, or lead to
agricultural improvements. For it is by residing in the midst of their
land, that farmers make the most of it, in every sense of the word—so
that the rude state of husbandry, and the awkwardness of the implements
used by these ingenious people, may be imputed solely to this cause.

The situation of France was likewise very favourable for collecting the
information, acquired in other parts of the world. Paris, having been
made a thoroughfare to all the kingdoms on the continent, received in
it’s bosom strangers from every quarter; and itself resembling a full
hive, the very drones buzzed into every corner all the sentiments of
liberty, which it is possible for a people to possess, who have never
been enlightened by the broad sunshine of freedom; yet more romantically
enthusiastic, probably, for that very reason. Paris, therefore, having
not only disseminated information, but presented herself as a bulwark to
oppose the despotism of the court, standing the brunt of the fray, seems
with some reason, to pride herself on being the author of the

Though the liberty of the press had not existed in any part of the
world, England and America excepted, still the disquisition of political
questions had long occupied the intelligent parts of Europe; and in
France, more than in any other country, books written with licentious
freedom were handed from house to house, with the circumspection that
irritates curiosity. Not to lay great stress on the universality of the
language, which made one general opinion on the benefits arising from
the advancement of science and reason pervade the neighbouring states,
particularly Germany; where original compositions began to take place of
that laborious erudition, which being employed only in the elucidation
of ancient writers, the judgment lies dormant, or is merely called into
action to weigh the import of words rather than to estimate the value of
things. In Paris, likewise, a knot of ingenious, if not profound
writers, twinkled their light into every circle; for being caressed by
the great, they did not inhabit the homely recesses of indigence,
rusticating their manners as they cultivated their understandings; on
the contrary, the finesse required to convey their free sentiments in
their books, broken into the small shot of innuendoes, gave an oiliness
to their conversation, and enabled them to take the lead at tables, the
voluptuousness of which was grateful to philosophers, rather of the
epicurean than the stoic sect.

It had long been the fashion to talk of liberty, and to dispute on
hypothetical and logical points of political economy; and these
disputations disseminated gleams of truth, and generated more demagogues
than had ever appeared in any modern city.—The number exceeded, perhaps,
any comparison with that of Athens itself.

The habit also of passing a part of most of their evenings at some
theatre gave them an ear for harmony of language, and a fastidious taste
for sheer declamation, in which a sentimental jargon extinguishes all
the simplicity and fire of passion: the great number of play-houses[34],
and the moderate prices of the pit and different ranges of boxes,
bringing it within the compass of every citizen to frequent the
amusement so much beloved by the french.

The arrangement of sounds, and the adjustment of masculine and feminine
rhymes, being the secrets of their poetry, the pomp of diction gives a
semblance of grandeur to common observations and hackneyed sentiments;
because the french language, though copious in the phrases that give
each shade of sentiment, has not, like the italian, the english, the
german, a phraseology peculiar to poetry; yet it’s happy turns,
equivocal, nay even concise expressions, and numerous epithets, which,
when ingeniously applied, convey a sentence, or afford matter for half a
dozen, make it better adapted to oratorical flourishes than that of any
other nation. The french therefore are all rhetoricians, and they have a
singular fund of superficial knowledge, caught in the tumult of pleasure
from the shallow stream of conversation; so that if they have not the
depth of thought which is obtained only by contemplation, they have all
the shrewdness of sharpened wit; and their acquirements are so near
their tongue’s end, that they never miss an opportunity of saying a
pertinent thing, or tripping up, by a smart retort, the arguments with
which they have not strength fairly to wrestle.

Every political good carried to the extreme must be productive of evil;
yet every poison has it’s antidote; and there is a pitch of luxury and
refinement, which, when reached, will overturn all the absolute
governments in the world. The ascertainment of these antidotes is a task
the most difficult; and whilst it remains imperfect, a number of men
will continue to be the victims of mistaken applications. Like the
empirics, who bled a patient to death to prevent a mortification from
becoming fatal, the tyrants of the earth have had recourse to cutting
off the heads, or torturing the bodies, of those persons who have
attempted to check their sway, or doubt their omnipotence. But, though
thousands have perished the victims of empirics, and of despots, yet the
improvements made both in medicine and moral philosophy have kept a
sure, though gradual pace.—And, if men have not clearly discovered a
specific remedy for every evil, physical, moral, and political, it is to
be presumed, that the accumulation of experimental facts will greatly
tend to lessen them in future.

Whilst, therefore, the sumptuous galas of the court of France were the
grand source of the refinement of the arts, taste became the antidote to
_ennui_; and when sentiment had taken place of chivalrous and gothic
tournaments, the reign of philosophy succeeded that of the imagination.
And though the government, enveloped in precedents, adjusted still the
idle ceremonials, which were no longer imposing, blind to the
imperceptible change of things and opinions, as if their faculties were
bound by an eternal frost, the progress was invariable; till, reaching a
certain point, Paris, which from the particular formation of the empire
had been such an useful head to it, began to be the cause of dreadful
calamities, extending from individuals to the nation, and from the
nation to Europe. Thus it is, that we are led to blame those, who
insist, that, because a state of things has been productive of good, it
is always respectable; when, on the contrary, the endeavouring to keep
alive any hoary establishment, beyond it’s natural date, is often
pernicious and always useless.

In the infancy of governments, or rather of civilization, courts seem to
be necessary to accelerate the improvement of arts and manners, to lead
to that of science and morals. Large capitals are the obvious
consequences of the riches and luxury of courts; but as, after they have
arrived at a certain magnitude and degree of refinement, they become
dangerous to the freedom of the people, and incompatible with the safety
of a republican government, it may be questioned whether Paris will not
occasion more disturbance in settling the new order of things, than is
equivalent to the good she produced by accelerating the epocha of the

However, it appears very certain, that should a republican government be
consolidated, Paris must rapidly crumble into decay. It’s rise and
splendour were owing chiefly, if not entirely, to the old system of
government; and since the foundation of it’s luxury has been shaken, and
it is not likely that the disparting structure will ever again rest
securely on it’s basis, we may fairly infer, that, in proportion as the
charms of solitary reflection and agricultural recreations are felt, the
people, by leaving the villages and cities, will give a new complexion
to the face of the country—and we may then look for a turn of mind more
solid, principles more fixed, and a conduct more consistent and

The occupations and habits of life have a wonderful influence on the
forming mind; so great, that the superinductions of art stop the growth
of the spontaneous shoots of nature, till it is difficult to distinguish
natural from factitious morals and feelings; and as the energy of
thinking will always proceed, in a great measure, either from our
education or manner of living, the frivolity of the french character may
be accounted for, without taking refuge in the old hiding place of
ignorance—occult causes.

When it is the object of education to prepare the pupil to please every
body, and of course to deceive, accomplishments are the one thing
needful; and the desire to be admired ever being uppermost, the passions
are subjugated, or all drawn into the whirlpool of egotism[35]. This
gives to each person, however different the temper, a tincture of
vanity, and that weak vacillation of opinion, which is incompatible with
what we term character.

Thus a frenchman, like most women, may be said to have no character
distinguishable from that of the nation; unless little shades, and
casual lights, be allowed to constitute an essential characteristic.
What then could have been expected, when their ambition was mostly
confined to dancing gracefully, entering a room with easy assurance, and
smiling on and complimenting the very persons whom they meant to
ridicule at the next fashionable assembly? The learning to fence with
skill, it is true, was useful to a people, whose false notions of honour
required that at least a drop of blood should atone for the shadow of an
affront. The knack also of uttering sprightly repartees became a
necessary art, to supply the place of that real interest only to be
nourished in the affectionate intercourse of domestic intimacy, where
confidence enlarges the heart it opens. Besides, the desire of eating of
every dish at table, no matter if there were fifty, and the custom of
separating immediately after the repast, destroy the social affections,
reminding a stranger of the vulgar saying—‘every man for himself, and
God for us all.’ After these cursory observations, it is not going too
far to advance, that the french were in some respects the most
unqualified of any people in Europe to undertake the important work in
which they are embarked.

Whilst pleasure was the sole object of living among the higher orders of
society, it was the business of the lower to give life to their joys,
and convenience to their luxury. This cast-like division, by destroying
all strength of character in the former, and debasing the latter to
machines, taught frenchmen to be more ingenious in their contrivances
for pleasure and show, than the men of any other country; whilst, with
respect to the abridgment of labour in the mechanic arts, or to promote
the comfort of common life, they were far behind. They had never, in
fact, acquired an idea of that independent, comfortable situation, in
which contentment is sought rather than happiness; because the slaves of
pleasure or power can be roused only by lively emotions and extravagant
hopes. Indeed they have no word in their vocabulary to express
_comfort_—that state of existence, in which reason renders serene and
useful the days, which passion would only cheat with flying dreams of

A change of character cannot be so sudden as some sanguine calculators
expect: yet by the destruction of the rights of primogeniture, a greater
degree of equality of property is sure to follow; and as Paris cannot
maintain it’s splendour, but by the trade of luxury, which can never be
carried to the same height it was formerly, the opulent having strong
motives to induce them to live more in the country, they must acquire
new inclinations and opinions.—As a change also of the system of
education and domestic manners will be a natural consequence of the
revolution, the french will insensibly rise to a dignity of character
far above that of the present race; and then the fruit of their liberty,
ripening gradually, will have a relish not to be expected during it’s
crude and forced state.

The late arrangement of things seems to have been the common effect of
an absolute government, a domineering priesthood, and a great inequality
of fortune; and whilst it completely destroyed the most important end of
society, the comfort and independence of the people, it generated the
most shameful depravity and weakness of intellect; so that we have seen
the french engaged in a business the most sacred to mankind, giving, by
their enthusiasm, splendid examples of their fortitude at one moment,
and at another, by their want of firmness and deficiency of judgment,
affording the most glaring and fatal proofs of the just estimate, which
all nations have formed of their character.

Men so thoroughly sophisticated, it was to be supposed, would never
conduct any business with steadiness and moderation: but it required a
knowledge of the nation and their manners, to form a distinct idea of
their disgusting conceit and wretched egotism; so far surpassing all the
calculations of reason, that, perhaps, should not a faithful picture be
now sketched, posterity would be at loss to account for their folly; and
attribute to madness, what arose from imbecility.

The natural feelings of man seldom become so contaminated and debased as
not sometimes to let escape a gleam of the generous fire, an ethereal
spark of the soul; and it is these glowing emotions, in the inmost
recesses of the heart, which have continued to feed feelings, that on
sudden occasions manifest themselves with all their pristine purity and
vigour. But, by the habitual slothfulness of rusty intellects, or the
depravity of the heart, lulled into hardness on the lascivious couch of
pleasure, those heavenly beams are obscured, and man appears either an
hideous monster, a devouring beast; or a spiritless reptile, without
dignity or humanity.

Those miserable wretches who crawl under the feet of others are seldom
to be found among savages, where men accustomed to exercise and
temperance are, in general, brave, hospitable, and magnanimous; and it
is only as they surrender their rights, that they lose those noble
qualities of the heart. The ferocity of the savage is of a distinct
nature from that of the degenerate slaves of tyrants. One murders from
mistaken notions of courage; yet he respects his enemy in proportion to
his fortitude, and contempt of death: the other assassinates without
remorse, whilst his trembling nerves betray the weakness of his
affrighted soul at every appearance of danger. Among the former, men are
respected according to their abilities; consequently idle drones are
driven out of this society; but among the latter, men are raised to
honours and employments in proportion as a talent for intrigue, the sure
proof of littleness of mind, has rendered them servile. The most
melancholy reflections are produced by a retrospective glance over the
rise and progress of the governments of different countries, when we are
compelled to remark, that flagrant follies and atrocious crimes have
been more common under the governments of modern Europe, than in any of
the ancient nations, if we except the jews. Sanguinary tortures,
insidious poisonings, and dark assassinations, have alternately
exhibited a race of monsters in human shape, the contemplation of whose
ferocity chills the blood, and darkens every enlivening expectation of
humanity: but we ought to observe, to reanimate the hopes of
benevolence, that the perpetration of these horrid deeds has arisen from
a despotism in the government, which reason is teaching us to remedy.
Sometimes, it is true, restrained by an iron police, the people appear
peaceable, when they are Only stunned; so that we find, whenever the mob
has broken loose, the fury of the populace has been shocking and
calamitous. These considerations account for the contradictions in the
french character, which must strike a stranger: for robberies are very
rare in France, where daily frauds and sly pilfering, prove, that the
lower class have as little honesty as sincerity. Besides murder and
cruelty almost always show the dastardly ferocity of fear in France;
whilst in England, where the spirit of liberty has prevailed, it is
usual for an highwayman, demanding your money, not only to avoid
barbarity, but to behave with humanity, and even complaisance.

Degeneracy of morals, with polished manners, produces the worst of
passions, which floating through the social body, the genial current of
natural feelings has been poisoned; and, committing crimes with
trembling inquietude, the culprits have not only drawn on themselves the
vengeance of the law, but thrown an odium on their nature, that has
blackened the face of humanity. And whilst it’s temple has been
sacrilegiously profaned by the drops of blood, which have issued from
the very hearts of the sad victims of their folly; a hardness of temper,
under the veil of sentiment, calling it vice, has prevented our sympathy
from leading us to examine into the sources of the atrocity of our
species, and obscured the true cause of disgraceful and vicious habits.

Since the existence of courts, whose aggrandisement has been conspicuous
in the same degree as the miseries of the debased people have
accumulated, the convenience and comfort of men have been sacrificed to
the ostentatious display of pomp and ridiculous pageantry. For every
order of men, from the beggar to the king, has tended to introduce that
extravagance into society, which equally blasts domestic virtue and
happiness. The prevailing custom of living beyond their income has had
the most baneful effect on the independence of individuals of every
class in England, as well as in France; so that whilst they have lived
in habits of idleness, they have been drawn into excesses, which,
proving ruinous, produced consequences equally pernicious to the
community, and degrading to the private character. Extravagance forces
the peer to prostitute his talents and influence for a place, to repair
his broken fortune; and the country gentleman, becomes venal in the
senate, to enable himself to live on a par with him, or reimburse
himself for the expences of electioneering, into which he was led by
sheer vanity. The professions, on the same account, become equally
unprincipled. The one, whose characteristic ought to be integrity,
descends to chicanery; whilst another trifles with the health, of which
it knows all the importance. The merchant likewise enters into
speculations so closely bordering on fraudulency, that common straight
forward minds can scarcely distinguish the devious art of selling any
thing for a price far beyond that necessary to ensure a just profit,
from sheer dishonesty, aggravated by hard-heartedness, when it is to
take advantage of the necessities of the indigent.

The destructive influence of commerce, it is true, carried on by men who
are eager by overgrown riches to partake of the respect paid to
nobility, is felt in a variety of ways. The most pernicious, perhaps, is
it’s producing an aristocracy of wealth, which degrades mankind, by
making them only exchange savageness for tame servility, instead of
acquiring the urbanity of improved reason. Commerce also, overstocking a
country with people, obliges the majority to become manufacturers rather
than husbandmen; and then the division of labour, solely to enrich the
proprietor, renders the mind entirely inactive. The time which, a
celebrated writer says, is sauntered away, in going from one part of an
employment to another, is the very time that preserves the man from
degenerating into a brute; for every one must have observed how much
more intelligent are the blacksmiths, carpenters, and masons in the
country, than the journeymen in great towns; and, respecting morals,
there is no making a comparison. The very gait of the man, who is his
own master, is so much more steady than the slouching step of the
servant of a servant, that it is unnecessary to ask which proves by his
actions he has the most independence of character.

The acquiring of a fortune is likewise the least arduous road to
pre-eminence, and the most sure; thus are whole knots of men turned into
machines, to enable a keen speculator to become wealthy; and every noble
principle of nature is eradicated by making a man passes his life in
stretching wire, pointing a pin, heading a nail, or spreading a sheet of
paper on a plain surface. Besides, it is allowed, that all associations
of men render them sensual, and consequently selfish; and whilst lazy
friars are driven out of their cells as stagnate bodies that corrupt
society, it may admit of a doubt whether large work-shops do not contain
men equally tending to impede that gradual progress of improvement,
which leads to the perfection of reason, and the establishment of
rational equality.

The deprivation of natural, equal, civil and political rights, reduced
the most cunning of the lower orders to practise fraud, and the rest to
habits of stealing, audacious robberies, and murders. And why? because
the rich and poor were separated into bands of tyrants and slaves, and
the retaliation of slaves is always terrible. In short, every sacred
feeling, moral and divine, has been obliterated, and the dignity of man
sullied, by a system of policy and jurisprudence as repugnant to reason,
as at variance with humanity.

The only excuse that can be made for the ferocity of the parisians is
then simply to observe, that they had not any confidence in the laws,
which they had always found to be merely cobwebs to catch small flies.
Accustomed to be punished themselves for every trifle, and often for
only being in the way of the rich, or their parasites; when, in fact,
had the parisians seen the execution of a noble, or priest, though
convicted of crimes beyond the daring of vulgar minds?—When justice, or
the law, is so partial, the day of retribution will come with the red
sky of vengeance, to confound the innocent with the guilty. The mob were
barbarous beyond the tiger’s cruelty: for how could they trust a court
that had so often deceived them, or expect to see it’s agents punished,
when the same measures were pursuing?

Let us cast our eyes over the history of man, and we shall scarcely find
a page that is not tarnished by some foul deed, or bloody transaction.
Let us examine the catalogue of the vices of men in a savage state, and
contrast them with those of men civilized; we shall find, that a
barbarian, considered as a moral being, is an angel, compared with the
refined villain of artificial life. Let us investigate the causes which
have produced this degeneracy, and we shall discover, that they are
those unjust plans of government, which have been formed by peculiar
circumstances in every part of the globe.—Then let us coolly and
impartially contemplate the improvements, which are gaining ground in
the formation of principles of policy; and I flatter myself it will be
allowed by every humane and considerate being, that a political system
more simple than has hitherto existed would effectually check those
aspiring follies, which, by imitation, leading to vice, have banished
from governments the very shadow of justice and magnanimity.

Thus had France grown up, and sickened on the corruption of a state
diseased. But, as in medicine there is a species of complaint in the
bowels which works it’s own cure, and, leaving the body healthy, gives
an invigorated tone to the system, so there is in politics: and whilst
the agitation of it’s regeneration continues, the excrementitious
humours exuding from the contaminated body will excite a general dislike
and contempt for the nation; and it is only the philosophical eye, which
looks into the nature and weighs the consequences of human actions, that
will be able to discern the cause, which has produced so many dreadful

                        END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.


Footnote 1:

  What else could be expected from the courtier, who could write in
  these terms to madame de Maintenon: _God has been so gracious to me,
  madam, that, in whatever company I find myself, I never have occasion
  to blush for the gospel or the king_.

Footnote 2:

  For example, the reception of a portuguese adventurer, under the
  character of a persian ambassador. A farce made by the court to rouse
  the blunted senses of the king.

Footnote 3:

  Memoires du marechal de Richelieu.

Footnote 4:

  In this reply will be found many of the reasons, that have been lately
  repeated; and some (a proof of the progress of reason), which no one
  had the audacity to repeat, when standing up in defence of privileges.

Footnote 5:

  It is well known, that for a long time he wished to convoke the
  states-general; and it was not without difficulty, that Dubois made
  him abandon this design. During the year 1789, a curious memorial has
  been reprinted, which he wrote on this occasion; and it is, like the
  author, a model of impudence.

Footnote 6:

  Since the constituent assembly equalized the impost, Calonne has
  boasted, that he proposed a mode of levying equal taxes; but that the
  nobility would not listen to any such motion, tenaciously maintaining
  their privileges. This blind obstinacy of opposing all reform, that
  touched their exemptions, may be reckoned among the foremost causes,
  which, in hurrying the removal of old abuses, tended to introduce
  violence and disorder.—And if it be kept in remembrance, that a
  conduct equally illiberal and disingenuous warped all their political
  sentiments, it must be clear, that the people, from whom they
  considered themselves as separated by immutable laws, had cogent
  grounds to conclude, that it would be next to impossible to effect a
  reform of the greater part of those perplexing exemptions and
  arbitrary customs, the weight of which made the peculiar urgency, and
  called with the most forcible energy for the revolution. Surely all
  the folly of the people taken together was less reprehensible, than
  this total want of discernment, this adherence to a prejudice, the
  jaundiced perception of contumelious ignorance, in a class of men, who
  from the opportunity they had of acquiring knowledge, ought to have
  acted with more judgment. For they were goaded into action by inhuman
  provocations, by acts of the most flagrant injustice, when they had
  neither rule nor experience to direct them, and after their temperance
  had been destroyed by years of sufferings, and an endless catalogue of
  reiterated and contemptuous privations.

Footnote 7:

  Importance of religious opinions.

Footnote 8:

  ‘The code of étiquette’, says Mirabeau, ‘has been hitherto the sacred
  fire of the court and privileged orders.’

Footnote 9:

  Under the reign of Louis XV two hundred and thirty thousand _lettres
  de cachet_ had been issued; and after this, who will assert, that this
  was not an inveterate evil, which ought to be eradicated; for it is an
  insult to human reason, to talk of the modification of such abuses, as
  seem to be experiments to try how far human patience can be stretched.

Footnote 10:

  Count Lally-Tolendal.

Footnote 11:

  This was written some months before the death of the queen.

Footnote 12:

  Such is ever the conduct of _soi-disant_ patriots.

Footnote 13:

  This is an event much more important at Paris, than it would be in

Footnote 14:

  The mayor.

Footnote 15:

  This man, the abbé Lefebure, remained all night, and the greater part
  of the next day, standing over a barrel of gun-powder, persisting to
  keep off the people, with undaunted courage, though several of them,
  to torment him, brought pipes to smoke near it; and one actually fired
  a pistol close by, that set fire to his hair.

Footnote 16:

  Lally-Tolendal said of La Fayette, at this time, that ‘he spoke of
  liberty as he had defended it.’

Footnote 17:

  The supplying of Paris with provision always depended on a nice
  arrangement of circumstances, capable of being controlled by the
  government of the state. It is not like London, and other great
  cities, the local position of which was previously pointed out by
  nature, and of which the welfare depends on the great and perpetual
  movements of commerce, which they themselves regulate. To cut off the
  provision from London, you must block up the port, and interdict in an
  open manner an intercourse, on which the wealth of the nation in a
  great measure depends. Paris, on the contrary, might be famished in a
  few days by a secret order of the court. All the people of the place
  would feel the effect, and no person be able to ascertain the cause.
  These considerations render it easy to account for the continued
  scarcity of provision in Paris during the summer of 1789. No person
  can doubt, but the court viewed the revolution with horrour; and that,
  among the measures which they took to prevent it, they would not
  overlook so obvious an expedient, as that of cutting off the supplies
  from the capital; as they supposed the people would lay the blame on
  the new order of things, and thus be disgusted with the revolution.

Footnote 18:

  The lamp-posts, which are only to be found in squares, and places
  where there are not two rows of houses, are much more substantial than
  in England.

Footnote 19:

  ‘In August 1778,’ says Lally-Tolendal, ‘the laws were overturned; and
  twenty-five millions of men without justice or judges;—the public
  treasury without funds, and without resource;—the sovereign authority
  was usurped by the ministers;—and the people without any other hope
  than the states-general;—yet without confidence in the promise of the

  And, Mounier also gives a similar sketch. ‘We have not a fixed or
  complete form of government—we have not a constitution, because all
  the powers are confounded—because no boundary is traced out.—The
  judicial power is not even separated from the legislative.—Authority
  is dispersed; it’s various parts are always in opposition; and amidst
  their perpetual shocks the rights of the lower class of citizens are
  betrayed.—The laws are openly despised, or rather we are not agreed
  what ought to be called laws.’

Footnote 20:

  In the Bastille, it is true, were found but seven prisoners.—Yet, it
  ought to be remarked, that three of them had lost their reason—that,
  when the secrets of the prison-house were laid open, men started with
  horrour from the inspection of instruments of torture, that appeared
  to be almost worn out by the exercise of tyranny—and that citizens
  were afraid even for a moment to enter the noisome dungeons, in which
  their fellow creatures had been confined for years.

Footnote 21:

  The cruelties of the half civilized romans, combined with their
  unnatural vices, even when literature and the arts were most
  cultivated, prove, that humanity is the offspring of the
  understanding, and that the progress of the sciences alone can make
  men wiser and happier.

Footnote 22:

  Mirabeau appears to have been continually hurt by the want of dignity
  in the assembly.—By the inconsistency, which made them stalk as heroes
  one moment, with a true theatrical stride, and the next cringe with
  the flexible backs of habitual slaves.

Footnote 23:

  ‘Let us compare,’ he further adds, ‘the number of innocents sacrificed
  by mistake, by the sanguinary maxims of the courts of criminal
  judicature, and the ministerial vengeance exercised secretly in the
  dungeons of Vincennes, and in the cells of the Bastille, with the
  sudden and impetuous vengeance of the multitude, and then decide on
  which side barbarity appears. At the moment when the hell created by
  tyranny for the torment of it’s victims opens itself to the public
  eye; at the moment when all the citizens have been permitted to
  descend into those gloomy caves, to poize the chains of their friends,
  of their defenders; at the moment when the registers of those
  iniquitous archives are fallen into all hands; it is necessary, that
  the people should be essentially good, or this manifestation of the
  atrocities of ministers would have rendered them as cruel as

Footnote 24:

  These members seem to have formed a just estimate of the french

Footnote 25:

  Some french wags have laid a great stress on these decrees passing
  after dinner.

Footnote 26:

  Lally-Tolendal, in particular; for giving his opinion on the subject
  of two chambers, he said:—‘It is not doubtful at present, and for this
  first assembly, that a single chamber is preferable, and perhaps
  necessary—There are so many difficulties to be surmounted, so many
  prejudices to be conquered, so many sacrifices to be made, such old
  habits to root out, so great a power to control; in a word so much to
  destroy, and almost all to create anew. This moment, gentlemen, which
  we are so happy as to have seen, of which it is impossible a
  description can be given—when private characters, orders of men, and
  provinces, are vying with each other, who will make the greatest
  sacrifices to the public good—when all press together at the tribune,
  to renounce voluntarily, not only odious privileges, but even those
  just rights, which appear to you an obstacle to the fraternity and
  equality of all the citizens. This moment, gentlemen, this noble and
  rich enthusiasm which hurries you along, this new order of things
  which you have begun—all this—most assuredly, could never have been
  produced but from the union of all persons, of all opinions, and of
  all hearts.’—

Footnote 27:

  ‘It is worthy of remark, that the _divine right_ of tithes was never
  insisted on,’ says a french writer, ‘even by the clergy, during this
  debate. Yet the year before, when the same question was brought
  forward in the irish house of parliament, great stress was laid on
  this gothic idea of their origin.’

Footnote 28:

  It is observable, that the satisfaction of the people was by no means
  equal to the discontent manifested by the privileged orders.

Footnote 29:

  See the article 10. ‘No man ought to be molested on account of his
  opinions, not even on account of his religious opinions, provided his
  avowal of them does not disturb the public order established by law.’

Footnote 30:


Footnote 31:

  In Holland almost all the taxes are collected in the shape of excise.

  In France, formerly, the taxes were generally internal; but, since the
  mode established of making a revenue of 300,000,000 _l._ by the land
  and house tax part of the 580,000,000 _l._ estimated to be the peace
  establishment, it appears, that this was too great a proportion to be
  obtained in that way. Hence the revenue of France has lately failed in
  a great degree.

  In America the taxes of the federal government have been lately
  established solely on the customs, that is to say, on goods imported.
  These operate two ways; encouraging home manufactures, and
  discouraging the manufactures of other countries.

  Great Britain has levied her revenue on customs both inwards and
  outwards; on excise, principally internal; on stamps, which operate
  both internally and externally; and on fixed objects, as well as
  internal consumption, (as salt).

Footnote 32:

                         ‘O Richard, O mon roi,
                         L’univers t’abandonne!’

Footnote 33:

  They used to lie to be owned in a conspicuous part of the city.

Footnote 34:

  There are upwards of thirty scattered throughout the city.

Footnote 35:

  I use this word according to the french acceptation, because we have
  not one to express so forcibly the same signification.


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                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. Silently corrected obvious typographical errors and variations in
 2. Retained archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as printed.
 3. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.

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