صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

leaving the way open to a new assembly still more inexperienced than the previous one, and still wilder and more unsettled in its principles. Of the departed assembly Mr. Morris makes this pointed remark to his correspondent Washington.

“ You doubtless recollect that the now expiring assembly was convened to arrange the finances, and you will perhaps be surprised to learn, that after consuming church property to the amount of one hundred millions sterling, they leave this department much worse than they found it. Such however is the fact, and the chance now is, in my opinion, rather for than against a bankruptcy."-vol. ii. p. 143.

The king was discharged from arrest in September; early in October we learn that he had already become a favourite once more, and that the Assembly, afterwards called the Legislative, had become an object of contempt.

“My dear Friend,—The people of this city are become wonderfully fond of the king, and bave a thorough contempt for the assembly, who are, in general, what used to be called in Philadelphia, the blue stockings. There is, however, this difference between the two capitals, that with you virtuous poverty is respected, but here splendour is indispensable. Judge the consequence, and to enlighten that judgment, know that at this moment they stand on the brink of bankruptcy, which can only be avoided by increasing the vigour of the executive magistrate. This becomes daily more and more apparent; and Paris exists, as it were, on the interest of the national debt."-vol. ii. p. 147.

It is impossible for us to trace with Mr. Morris the history of parties in the Legislative Assembly, or even indicate the successive steps, which, according to him, led to the despotism of the populace, as established by what is called the second revolution, when the Tuileries were attacked, and the king became a prisoner of state. There is one letter, however, of so masterly a description, and which, at the same time, in a brief compass, gives so luminous a view of this great second act in the revolution, that we should do wrong not to transfer it to our pages in part at least.

“ The late revolution has for its remote cause that excess in the human temper, which drives men always to extremes, if not checked and controlled. For its proximate cause, it has the vices and defects of the late constitution, and particularly that an executive without powers was rendered responsible for events, and that a legislature composed of a single chamber of representatives was secured by every precaution, and under no control, except some paper maxims and popular opinion. That the people, or rather the populace, a thing which thank God is unknown in America, flattered with the idea that they are omnipotent, and disappointed from necessity in the golden prospects originally held out to them, were under no restraint, except such as might be imposed by magistrates of their own choice. It resulted inevitably, that the executive

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

must be in the power of the legislative, and this last at the mercy of such men as could influence the mob.

“By reducing the royal authority below all reasonable measure, the constitution-makers had created a moral impossibility that the people should believe the king sincere in his acceptance, even if it bad been possible that he should without regret have beheld himself reduced fro the first place allotted to man, to a state so low as to be exposed to insult from the lowest. It was evident then, that the constitution could not last, and in the overturn tbree things might bappen, viz. tbe establishment of despotism, the establishment of a good constitution, or the institution of a democracy. The first under an able and ambitious prince was inevitable. The second was extremely difficult, not in itself, but because the chiefs of different parties all found themselves committed to different points and opinions. The last was only a natural continuation of the progress of men's minds, in a necessary succession of ideas from the bill of rights. The advocates for republican government therefore had an easy task, although both to themselves and others it appeared difficult.

“From the moment that the second assembly met, a plan was formed among several of the members and others, to overturn the constitution, which they had just sworn to observe, and establish a republic. This arose in part from the desire of placing themselves better than they could otherwise do, and in part from a conviction that the system could not last, and that they would have no share in the administration under such a pure monarchy. As they had a strong hold upon the lowest class of people, as the aristocratic and constitutional parties were at open war, as these last avowed openly their wish to amend, in other words, to change the constitution, which at the same time they assumed to venerate, it was not a difficult matter to assault a monarch, who adbered to that form which he could not be supposed to approve, and whose faults became daily more and more apparent.

“. Add to this, that the court was involved in a spirit of little paltry intrigue, unworthy of any thing above the rank of footmen and chambermaids. Every one had his or her little project, and every little project had some abettors. Strong manly councils frightened the weak, alarmed the envious, and wounded the enervate minds of the lazy and luxurious. Such councils, therefore, if perchance any such appeared, were approved, but not adopted, certainly not followed. The palace was always filled with people whose language, whose conduct, whose manner were so diametrically opposite to everything like liberty, that it was easy to persuade the people that the court meant to destroy the con. stitution, by observing strictly the constitution. Some persons avowed the tactics, which from the moment of such arowal were no longer worth a doit. The king, whose integrity would never listen to anything Jike the violation of his oath, had nevertheless the weakness to permit those, who openly avowed unconstitutional sentiments, to approach bis person, and enjoy his intimacy. The queen was still more imprudent. The republicans (who had also their plan to destroy the constitution by the constitution) founded on the king's personal integrity, their operation

cha tori



Mr. the

1211 shop ber Mo


[ocr errors]

to destroy his reputation for integrity, and hold him out to the world as a traitor to the nation which he was sworn to protect.

They in consequence seized every occasion to pass popular decrees, in which were unconstitutional. If the king exercised his veto, he was

accused of wishing a counter-revolution. If he sanctioned the decree, he was so far lost with those who were injured by the decree, and of

course became daily more and more unprotected. The success of his El enemies was beyond their own expectation. His palace was assaulted. 1 He took refuge with the assembly, and is now a prisoner of state with bis family.

“ But now the ideas of revolt, wbich bad been fostered for his overthrow, are grown very troublesome to those who bave possessed themselves of the authority. It is not possible to say either to the people or to the sea, so far shalt thou go and no farther; and we shall bave, I think, some sbarp struggles which will make many men repent of what they have done, when they find with Macbeth, that they have but taught bloody instructions, which return to plague the inventor."- vol. ii. pp. 240-243.

The mystery of the revolution was now over; it became an anarchy and reigned for a while. The authority of an unorganized populace sooner or later centres in an individual—one who leads, or one who defeats them—the way may be shorter or longer, bloody and dangerous, turbulent but not sanguinary, as suits the character of the country; but the end is certain-a dictator's throne is the altar on which men wearied of contention, disgusted with dangerous power, and longing for the blessings of security, offer up their liberty as the price of peace.

The only foreign minister who continued to reside through the revolution was the Ambassador from the United States. It was a task of the utmost difficulty to remain without a compromise of national honour; and the personal safety of the ambassador was not unfrequently insecure. Nevertheless, a sense of national utility and a very sincere love of France seem to have supported Mr. Morris under all his trials, and he remained until recalled at the request of the Comité du Salut Public, a recall which he, naturally enough, considered an honour. His successor arrived shortly after the death of Robespierre. In the mouth of December, 1794, long before Bonaparte was even thought of, Mr. Morris thus writes, on quitting his functions.

“In France, they have been lured by one idle hope after another, until they are plunged in the depth of misery and servitude ; servitude so much the more degrading, as they cannot but despise their masters. I have long, you know, predicted a single despotism, and you have seen how near they have been to that catastrophe. Chance, or rather the want of metal in the usurper, has alone saved them to the present moment; but I am still convinced, that they must end their voyage in that port, and they would probably reach it, should they make peace with

[ocr errors]

all their foreign enemies, through the channels of a civil war."- vol. ä.

p. 459.

On leaving France, Mr. Morris travelled over a great part of Europe, partly with mercantile views, and partly under the interest he took in political affairs, then becoming more and more eventful, and also with a view of cultivating the very distinguished connexions he had formed while at Paris. Many generous efforts were bestowed on an attempt to procure the liberation of La Fayette from his dungeon at Olmutz. Mr. Morris had likewise to surrender a sum of money to the Princess of France, as she was called, and which had been deposited with him by her unfortunate father. He had likewise the opportunity of greatly assisting the present King of France, some of whose letters are inserted in this biography, and which either apply for, or acknowledge to a considerable extent, the receipt of money, which at that time there could be little probability of ever being repaid.

Ultimately, Mr. Morris returned to his native country, retired to his estate of Morrisania, and professed his intention “ to lead a private life, not meaning to embark again on the stormy ocean of politics.” He was, however, elected to a seat in the Senate, and does not appear to have hesitated to serve his country in that honourable post. As might have been expected, he soon distinguished himself as a zealous Federalist, and stoutly adhered to opinions that have long been declining in popularity in America, where popularity is the rule of right and wrong. His opposition, though termed ultra, was never factious; though results might be come to which he could not approve of, or the consequences of which he feared, he never failed to terminate his resistance at the point marked by the constitution. We shall not venture to pronounce on the correctness of his principles, as applied to the constitutional government of the States; though we cannot help observing that the statesmen of that country would have done well to listen to Mr. Morris's opinions on the important questions of finance and commercial revenue that were agitated in his time, and respecting which, the public opinion of North America remains as yet unenlightened.

The later years of Mr. Morris's life were spent in retirement, if that may be so called which was occupied with correspondence with the most celebrated persons of both hemispheres, in the publication of his opinions on great questions, and during the last six years of his life in incessantly labouring in his character of commissioner, in execution of his great project of tapping Lake Erie.

Mr. Morris retained his health and vigour to within a short period of his death, assailed only by occasional attacks of his

early and tenacious enemy, the gout. He died on the sixth of November 1910, in the sixty-fifth year of his life.

We wish that our limits would permit us to insert a character of Mr. Morris, drawn by Madame de Damas, a French lady, who was intimately acquainted with him during his residence in France. It is perhaps somewhat too eulogistic, but still so eloquently discriminative as to convey to the reader of the entire work the exact echo of his own sentiments. We must make room for the commencing paragraph.

5. I attempt to delineate the character of a man,' says Madame de Damas, 'who so little resembles other men, that one should hardly say anything of him which has already been said of them. Like others however, he has virtues, defects, and talents; but their nature, their use, mixture, and results, form a whole entirely different from anything I have seen. Were I called upon to distinguish him by a single trait, I should say he is good. They, who do not well understand the meaning of these words, may not be satisfied; but as for me, who include much in the term goodness, and who have seen the exercise of this virtue in every action of Mr. Morris's life, I repeat, that it is this which gives him the first place in all honest hearts, and entitles him to their lasting admiration and gratitude. The love of order is his strongest passion, the rule of all his acts, the aim of all he utters. A true philanthopist by the natural impulse of his soul, he considers every object under the possibility of its becoming useful. His penetrating, elevated, quick, and luminous mind is never idle, and he constantly employs his numerous and diversified attainments, either in doing good, or inspiring in others the love of goodness. I have never known a person to approach Mr. Morris, whatever might be his intentions, circumstances, or situation, who did not on leaving him find himself enriched by his gifts, or enlightened by his counsels; who did not feel grateful for some soothing consolations, a profitable hint, or a kind reception.

“ . He is charged with some faults by his friends. So much enlargement of soul may not be compatible with a quick sensibility, yet one cannot help regretting, that reason and wisdom should assume a control so powerful over his feelings. Brought up with the almost rustic freedom of a republican country, he is remarkable for great simplicity of manners, sustained by a nobleness, which has its seat in his soul, but tinged with a slight shade of self-complacency. If I eulogize him, it is only because I attempt to draw his true portrait, and I seek not to weaken defects, which, after all, may be no other than qualities little in fashion with us. We call him self-complacent, because it is our custom to expect, that every one will abase himself to procure elevation, and that merit shall wait for its place to be assigned, instead of taking it. Mr. Morris knows his proper station, and assumes it; sacrificing no person to himself in secret design, and in reality sacrificing himself to no other ; thus inattentive to the petty tokens of complaisance, which self-love dictates in our social intercourse, he

« السابقةمتابعة »