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end to that gay and easy tone of communication which, in the days of Henri IV., had made the task of a courtier both less wearisome and less degrading. She has no partiality, indeed, for the memory of that buckram hero—and is very indignant at his being regarded as the patron of literature. Il persécuta • Port-Royal, dont Pascal étoit le chef; il fit mourir de chagrin • Racine; il exila Fénélon; il s'opposa constamment aux hon(neurs qu'on vouloit rendre à La Fontaine, et ne professa de • l'admiration que pour Boileau. La littérature, en l'exaltant
avec excès, a bien plus fait pour lui qu'il n'a fait pour elle.' (I. p. 36.) In his own person, indeed, he outlived his popularity, if not his fame. The brilliancy of his early successes was lost in his later reverses. The debts he had contracted lay like a load on the nation; and the rigour and gloominess of his devotion was one cause of the alacrity with which the nation plunged into all the excesses and profligacy of the regency and the succeeding reign.
That reign--the weaknesss of Louis XV.-the avowed and disgusting influence of his mistresses and all their relations, and the national disasters which they occasioned-together with the general spread of intelligence among the body of the people, and the bold and vigorous spirit displayed in the writings of Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau, created a general feeling of discontent and contempt for the government, and prepared the way for those more intrepid reformers who were so soon destined to succeed.
Louis XVI, says Mad. de S., would have been the mildest and most equitable of despots, and the most constitutional of constitutional kings-had he been born to administer either an established despotism, or a constitutional monarchy. But he was not fitted to fill the throne during the difficult. and trying crisis of a transition from the one state to the other. He was sincerely anxious for the happiness and even the rights of his people; but he had a hankering after the absolute power which seemed to be his lawful inheritance; and was too easily persuaded by those about him to cling to it too long for his own safety, or that of the country. The Queen, with the same amiable dispositions, had still more of those natural prejudices. M. de Maurepas, a minister of the old school, was compelled, by the growing disorder of the finances, to call to his aid the talents of Turgot and Necker about the year 1780. We hear enough, of course, in this book, of the latter : But though we can pardon the filial piety which has led the author to discuss, at so great length, the merit of his plans of finance and government, and to dwell on the prophetic spirit in which he foresaw and foretold all the consequences that have flowed
from rejecting them, we have too much regard for our readers to oppress them, at this time of day, with an analysis of the Compte Rendu, or the scheme for provincial assemblies. As an historical personage, he must have his due share of notice; and no fame can be purer than that to which he is entitled. His daughter, we think, has truly described the scope of his endeavours, in his first ministry, to have been, 'to persuade the King • to do of himself that justice to the people, to obtain which
they afterwards insisted for representatives.' Such a counsellor, of course, had no chance in 1780; and, the year after,
M. Necker was accordingly dismissed. The great objection to him was, that he proposed innovations et de toutes les in• novations, celle que les courtisans et les financiers detestent le • plus, c'est l'ECONOMIE.' Before going out, however, he did a great deal of good; and found means, while M. de Maurepas had a bad fit of gout, to get M. de Sartine removed from the ministry of Marine-a personage so extremely diligent in the studies belonging to his department, that when M. Necker went to see him soon after his appointment, he found him in a chamber all hung round with maps; and boasting, with much complacency, that he could already put his hand upon the largest
of them, and point, with his eyes shut, to the four quarters of o the world!
Calonne succeecied—a frivolous, presumptuous person,--and a financier, in so far as we can judge, after the fashion of our Poet-laureate; for he too, it seems, was used to call prodigality • a large economy;' and to assure the King, that the more lavish he and his court were in their expenses, so much the better would it fare with the country. The consequence was, that the disorder soon became irremediable; and this sprightly minister was forced at last to adopt Turgot's proposal of subjecting the privileged orders to their share of the burdensand finally to advise the convocation of the Notables, in 1787. The Notables, however, being all privileged persons, refused to give up any of their immunities and they and M. de Calonne were dismissed accordingly. Then came the wavering and undecided administration of M. de Brienne, which ended with the resolution to assemble the States-General ;-and this was the Revolution !
Hitherto, says Mad. de S., the nation at large, and especially the lower orders, had taken no share in these discussions. The resistance to the Court-the complaints—the call for reformation, originated and was confined to the privileged orders -to the Parliaments—the Nobles and the Clergy. No revolution indeed can succeed in a civilised country, which does not begin at least with the higher orders. It was in the parliament of Paris, in which the peers of France bad seats, and which had always been most tenacious of the privileges of its members, that the suggestion was first made which set fire to the four quarters of the kingdom. In that kingdom, indeed, it could hardly fail, as it was made in the form of a pun or bon mot. They were clamouring against the ininister for not exhibiting his account of the public expenses, when the Abbé Sabatier said— Vous demandez, messieurs, les états de recette et
de depense-et, ce sont les Etats-Generaur qu'il nous faut. 'This was eagerly repeated in every order of society; addresses to that effect were poured in in daily heaps; and at last M. de Brienne was obliged to promise, in the King's name, that the States-General should assemble at the end of five years. This delay only inflamed the general impatience: and the Clergy having solemnly reclaimed against it, the King was at last obliged to announce that they should meet early in the following year. M. Necker at the same time was recalled to the ministry.
The States-General were demanded by the privileged orders; and, if they really expected to find them as they were in 1614, which was their last meeting, (though it is not very conceivable that they should have overlooked the difference of the times), we can understand that they might have urged this demand without any design of being very liberal to the other orders of the community. This is the edifying abstract which Mad. de S. has given of the proceedings of that venerable assembly.
"Le Clergé demanda qu'il lui fût permis de lever des dîmes sur toute espèce de fruits et de grains, et qu'on défendit de lui faire payer des droits à l'entrée des villes, ou de lui imposer sa part des contributions pour les chemins ; il réclama de nouvelles entraves à la liberté de la presse. La Noblesse demanda que les principaux emplois fussent tous donnés exclusivement aux gentilshommes, qu'on interdît aux roturiers les arquebuses, les pistolets, et l'usage des chiens, à moins qu'ils n'eussent les jarrets coupés. Elle demanda de plus que les roturiers payassent de nouveaux droits seigneuriaux aux gentilshommes possesseurs de fiefs ; que l'on supprimât toutes les pensions accordées aux membres du tiers état ; mais que les gentilshommes fussent exempts de la contrainte par corps, et de tout subside sur les denrées de leurs terres ; qu'ils pussent prendre du sel dans les greniers du roi au même prix que les marchands; enfin que le tiers état fût obligé de porter un habit différent de celui des gentilshommes.' I.
The States-General, however, were decreed ;-and, that the whole blame of innovation might still lie upon the higher orders, M. de Brienne, in the name of the King, invited all and sundry to make public their notions upon the manner in which that great body should be arranged.-By the old form, the Nobles, the Clergy, and the Commons, each'ueliberated apart-and each
had but one voice in the enactment of laws; so that the privileged orders were always two to one against the other-and the course of legislation had always been to extend the privileges of the one, and increase the burdens of the other. Accordingly, the tiers état had long been defined, « la gent corvéable et tail"lable à merci et à miséricorde ; '--and Mad. de S., in one of those passages that already begin to be valuable to the forgetful world, bears this striking testimony as to the effect on their actual condition..
. Les jeunes gens et les étrangers qui n'ont pas connu la France avant la révolution, et qui voient aujourd'hui le peuple enrichi par la division des propriétés et la suppression des dîmes et du régime féodal, ne peuvent avoir l'idée de la situation de ce pays, lorsque la nation portoit le poids de tous les priviléges. Les partisans de l'esclavage, dans les colonies, ont souvent dit qu'un paysan de France étoit plus malheureux qu'un nègre. C'étoit un argument pour soulager les blancs, mais non pour s'endurcir contre les noirs. La misère accroît l'ignorance, l'ignorance accroît la misère ; et, quand on se demande pourquoi le peuple françois a été si cruel dans la révolution, on ne peut en trouver la cause que dans l'absence de bonheur, qui conduit à l'absence de moralité.' 1. 79.
But what made the injustice of this strange system of laying the heaviest pecuniary burdens on the poorest, a thousand times more oppressive, and ten thousand times more provoking, was, that the invidious right of exemption came at last to be claimed, not by the true ancient noblesse of France, which, Mad. de S. says, did not consist of 200 families, but by hundreds of thousands of persons of all descriptions, who had bought patents of nobility for the very purpose of obtaining this exemption.
There was nothing in the structure of French society that was more revolting, or called more loudly for reformation, than the multitude and the pretensions of this anomalous race. They were most jealously distinguished from the true original noblesse; which guarded its purity indeed with such extreme rigour, that no person was allowed to enter any of the royal carriages whose patent of nobility was not certified by the Court heralds to bear date prior to the year 1400; and yet they not only assumed the name and title of nobles, but were admitted into a full participation of all their most offensive privileges. It is with justice, therefore, that Mad. de S. reckons as one great cause of the Revolution,
'cette foule de gentilshommes du second ordre anoblis de la veille, soit par les lettres de noblesse que les rois donnoient comme faisant suite à l'affranchissement des Gaulois, soit par les charges vénales de secrétaire du roi, etc., qui associoient de nouveaux individus aux droits et aux priviléges des anciens gentilshommes. La nation se seroit soumise volontiers à la prééminence des familles historiques, et
je n'exagère pas en affirmant qu'il n'y en a pas plus de deux cents en France. Mais les cent mille nobles et les cent mille prêtres qui vouloient avoir des priviléges, à l'égal de ceux de MM. de Montmorenci, de Grammont, de Crillon, etc., révoltoient généralement; car des négocians, des hommes de lettres, des propriétaires, des capitalistes, ne pouvoient comprendre la supériorité qu'on vouloit accorder à cette noblesse acquise à prix de révérences ou d'argent, et à laquelle vingt-cinq ans de date suffisoient pour siéger dans la chambre des nobles, et pour jouir des priviléges dont les plus honorables membres du tiers état se voyoient privés.
La chambre des pairs en Angleterre est une magistrature patricienne, fondée sans doute sur les anciens souvenirs de la chevalerie, mais tout-à-fait associée à des institutions d'une nature très différente. Un mérite distingué dans le commerce, et surtout dans la jurisprudence, en ouvre journellement l'entrée, et les droits représentatifs que les pairs exercent dans l'état, attestent a la nation que c'est pour le bien public que leurs rangs sont institués. Mais quel avantage les François pouvoient-ils trouver dans ces vicomtes de la Garonne, ou dans ces marquis de la Loire, qui ne payoient pas seulement leur part des impôts de l'état, et que le roi lui-même ne recevoit pas à sa cour, puisqu'il falloit faire des preuves de plus de quatre siècles pour y être admis, et qu'ils étoient à peine anoblis depuis cinquante ans ? La vanité des gens de cette classe ne pouvoit s'exercer que sur leurs inférieurs, et ces inférieurs, c'étoient vingt-quatre millions d'hommes.' I. 166-168.
Strange as it may appear, there was no law or usage fixing the number of the deputies who might be returned ; and though, by the usage of 1614, and some former assemblies, the three orders were allowed each but one voice in the legislature, there were earlier examples of the whole meeting and voting as individuals in the same assembly. M. de Brienne, as we have seen, took the sapient course of calling all the pamphleteers of the kingdom into council upon this emergency. It was fixed at last, though not without difficulty, that the deputies of the people should be equal in number to those of the other two classes together; and it is a trait worth mentioning, that the only committee of Nobles who voted for this concession, was that over which the present king of France presided. If it meant any thing, however, this concession implied that the whole body was to deliberate in common, and to vote individually; and yet, incredible as it now appears, the fact is, that the King and his ministers allowed the deputies to be elected, and actually to assemlile, without having settled that great question, or even made any approach to its settlement! Of all the particular blunders that ensured or accelerated what was probably inevitable, this has always appeared to us to be one of the most inconceivable. The point, however, though