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its mischievous and demoralizing tendency. It represents revolutions, not as the sudden, terrible, and uncontrollable convulsions which they have been hitherto considered,—dealing out their blows on the wisest and the best, and, even when striking the guilty, always striking them in vengeance and not in punishment, --but rather as systematic and salutary movements, uniformly accomplishing the ends of justice with great fairness, though, perhaps, in a somewhat irregular manner, and meting out against oppressive rulers exactly that degree of retribution which their previous oppression deserved. It may teach the people no longer to dread their own excesses. It may teach them that revolutions may always be undertaken with alacrity, because, with the principle of equal reaction within them, they will always be bounded by justice. All history proclaims the very reverse to be the case.
The real causes of the French revolution seem to us very obvious. And first the feeble character of Louis XVI. In the opinion of M. Dumont this single cause would be sufficient to account for the whole of the revolution :
Suppose,' he says, 'a King of a firm and decisive character in the place of Louis the Sixteenth, and the revolution would not have taken place. His whole reign did nothing but produce it. Nay, more, there was no period, during the whole first assembly, when the king, if he could have changed his character, might not have re-established his authority, and formed a mixed constitution, more firm and solid than the old Monarchie Parlementaire et Nobiliaire of France. His indecision, his weakness, his half-measures, have ruined all. The inferior causes which contributed to this result are only the development of this great first cause. Where the monarch is feeble-minded, the courtiers are intriguing, the factions are loud, the populace is daring, good men become timid, the most zealous public servants become discouraged, the men of talent meet only with repulses, and the best counsels lead to no effect.'
Another very efficient cause was the example of the United States.* The old French government, in assisting the North American insurgents, imagined that they should strike a heavy blow against England. They did so,-but it recoiled still more heavily against themselves. A vague idea of republican equality spread amongst the French officers on that service. They were most of
* What, by the way, does Lord John Russell mean when he says,--The eighteenth century had no predominant interest to contend for: whether Maria Theresa should have a province the less, or George II. a colony the more, was not a question to excite enthusiasm or absorb attention'?--p. 139. The Hanoverian succession--the American War of Independence and the Revolution of France, on which the previous example of America had some influence, were at least the produce of the eighteenth century-and this from the philosophical historian of the French Revolution?
them young men, giddy, ignorant, and enthusiastic. They did not consider the different situation of America as a new and growing country, with none of those hereditary rights or hereditary attachments which give stability to institutions,—but, on the other hand, possessing, in its back settlements, a constant and easy outlet for that superabundance of population and of activity which, in old countries, seeks a veut upwards by pressing against the government and richer classes. Such points of total difference were overlooked by hare-brained creatures like La Fayette; and, on returning to France, these new converts to the democratical doctrine became its apostles. At first, indeed, they did not carry their views beyond abstract speculation. But by the long and persevering exertions of the Philosophers (as they falsely called themselves) the ground had been already prepared for the evil seed, and the progress of events soon turned these theorists into conspirators.
These previous exertions of the philosophers, carried on with the most persevering activity, and the most unscrupulous choice of means, and recorded in such a drivelling stream of petty details by Lord John Russell —we look upon as the third great cause of the French revolution. Literature had been favoured and pensioned by Louis XIV. It had been comparatively neglected by his grandson. In the former reign, therefore, literary men were generally courtiers—in the latter they affected to be frondeurs. Unprincipled men of talent, if they cannot rise to distinction through the institutions of a country, will always attempt to subvert those institutions. Diderot, D'Alembert, and all the rest of that crew, declared the court oppressive to the country, because they found it unfriendly to themselves. Irreligion, too, had become the fashion amongst them; and they had discovered that important secret
so well known to our own revolutionary party at this time,—that one of the best quarters from whence to assail and overthrow a state is through its church establishment. A sort of crusade was therefore preached against Christianity. Persecution and intolerance, which had gradually declined and died away amongst the priesthood, were revived amongst the philosophers. They were banded together by the association of the Encyclopedia, and still more by that strongest of all ties—a common hatred. Every man who ventured to dissent from them they hooted down as a fool, and marked out for a future victim. Thus they obtained a sort of monopoly of talent, and exerted it with the usual narrow spirit of monopolists. Thus it happened that every new work came to be considered dull and tasteless, unless seasoned with a touch either of democracy or unbelief, if possible of both. It became unfashionable to print a book avec privilège du Roi. Nor was it merely a choice be
tween a court and an opposition. Louis XV. indeed, was hostile, but another monarch took up the cause of anti-monarchical principles, and Berlin became to the literary men of France, in this age, what Versailles had been to them in the last. Frederick II. -that extraordinary man, who can scarcely be ranked too high as a general, or too low as an author, - that compound, as Voltaire used to say, of Julius Cæsar and of the Abbé Cottin —whose life teems with proofs of genius, and whose twenty volumes of works have not one single spark of it to enliven their dulness,-found means to combine the gratification of his vanity with the maintenance of his power, by inditing all his sarcasms against Christianity and social order, not in his own language, but in that of a foreign state. And thus, when after his death the principles he had assisted to rear and foster were convulsing that foreign state to its foundation, his own remained quiet and unshaken. To his example and encouragement, hardly alluded to by Lord John, we may certainiy ascribe no small share of the success of the philosophers, and to their success no small share of the bloodshed and havoc of the ensuing revolution. It may be said that they never advised such horrors, and agitated the people with only such fair words as toleration, liberty, and universal peace. But the truth is, that human passions, when once roused, pursue their fearful course with little reference to the cause which roused them. Declamations against religious persecution prepared the way for the fusillades of the non-conforming priests; and declamations against royal ambition for the attempted conquest of Europe, as much as formerly the Cbristian sermons of the Catholics had prepared the way for unChristian massacres of the Huguenots. In the sixteenth century it was not thought absurd by the people to shoot and drown with the crucifix in their hands. In the eighteeenth century, it seemed to them quite reasonable to shoot and drown with liberty and toleration on their lips. So little does a heated multitude understand its own cry!
These causes-which our limits allow us but briefly to glance over-appear to us the mainsprings of the French revolution. There were, no doubt, other less yet concurring causes. There was, more especially, the disorder in the finances, to which almost every popular convulsion may, in some degree, be traced. Dans tout pays, says Rousseau, le peuple ne s'aperçoit qu'on attente à sa liberté que lorsqu'on attente à sa bourse. But this can only be looked upon as the spark which fired the train. The more closely we examine the historical records of those times, the more evident it becomes to us that the French Revolution was mainly owing, not to the distress suffered by the people, but to the false doctrines
spread amongst them. And this opinion is greatly confirmed by observing the last revolution in 1830. At the tinie of the first, our intidels and democrats at home, when taunted with the terrible results to which their doctrine was leading in France, were accustomed to charge these on the frivolous and thoughtless or cruel and bloodthirsty character which they imputed to the French people. It is not our doctrine, said they, but their own disposition which makes them what you see them—Septembriseurs and Terroristes. But if the French people in a second great convulsion-when royalty, though from other causes, again lay prostrate at their feet, and when the paving-stone had become for the time as a sceptre in their hands-displayed no such disposition,—to what can we ascribe their former ferocity, unless to the doctrines which at the former period, but not at the latter, cried down all religion as a mummery and all royalty as an usurpation?
We are persuaded, with M. Dumont, that Louis the Sixteenth might, if a firmer man, have stayed the revolution in its course. We believe, in fact, that there never was a revolution which might not have been arrested by a proper policy on the part of the government,-by a sufficiently steady resistance or sufficiently liberal concession. The misfortune is, that weak monarchs or weak ministers are bold when they should be cautious, or shrink when they ought to strike. We think, also, we can observe that in two countries like France and England, so intent upon each other's political movements, and so much affected by them,--the false system which leads to a revolution is always the opposite to that which produced the last in either country. If the last has been produced by too easy concession, the next is produced by too obstinate resistance; if the last had its Turgot, the next has its Polignac. Thus, the proximate cause of our great civil war was undoubtedly the attempt of Charles I. to seize the five members. His own friends were the first to condemn that most rash and illegal measure. Hyde, Falkland, and other leading royalists in the House of Commons were so angry and ashamed, that for some time they suspended their resistance to the revolutionary party. The King himself was not long in discerning his fault, and, in the words of Clarendon, showed that trouble and agony which usually attends generous and magnanimous minds upon their having committed errors. There were many previous provocations on both sides. But this ill-fated attempt of Charles was the signal and occasion for that strife which did not end until his head rolled upon the block, and his sceptre passed into the hands of an usurper. The son of that usurper, a few
afterwards, inherited the station but not the genius of his father. In this position Richard Cromwell looked to the fate of the unhappy Charles as a warning, and resolving not to cling to his prerogatives too firmly, he held them, on the contrary, with so loose a grasp, and showed such readiness to yield, as first to excite contempt, then to invite attack, and, at last, to show how short is the interval between public contempt and dethronement.
Again, James II. was mindful of the feebleness and degradation of Richard Cromwell. He thought that power was to be maintained only by its despotic exercise. His whole reign was a warfare against the constitutional liberties and the established religion of his subjects. No prince ever showed less respect for law; no prince ever afforded more justification for resistance. And thus was produced that revolution, which we must always consider, not only one of the most happy, but one of the most glorious events recorded in our annals. On this point we are sorry to find ourselves again so completely at issue with Mr. Macaulay. It was,' he says, ' a happy revolution and a useful revolution, but it was not, what it has often been called, a glorious revolution. The transaction was in almost every part discreditable to England.' Can it really be, that public opinion has so far degenerated as to sanction this un-English doctrine ? Can) it be, that the electors of Leeds approve of such sentiments, and have come to think so ill of the great work of deliverance which their own forefathers wrought?
A century after the expulsion of Jamies, Louis XVI. was anxious to draw wisdom from the fate of the Stuarts. He was continually reading over the lives of Charles I. and James II., and even, it is said, added comments with his own hand on the margin. Determined to avoid their erring policy, he, as we have already seen, temporized and yielded on every possible occasion. What was the result? His death was produced by his concessions, as much as the death of Charles or the dethronement of James had been produced by the opposite cause.
Charles X., on coming to the throne, was perpetually reminded of the weakness of his brother. He was told, and truly told, that this weakness had brought the kingdom to anarchy, and the King himself to the scaffold; he therefore resolved to avoid this error.
But he avoided it, as all weak men avoid an errorby running into the opposite extreme. His desperate rashness in issuing the Ordonnances of July was precisely the converse to the indecision and timidity of Louis XVI.
His order to stop the insurrection of Paris by force of arms, stands in most direct contrast with the unwillingness of Louis to defend his own apartments when attacked in the Tuileries, or pursue his progress when arrested at Varennes. Their policy was opposite, but their failure was the same; and from the example of Charles X., and the • Three Glorious Days,' and according to the theory we have