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snares and pitfalls.* At the same time there is no character which may not conceal one of the civil propagandists of French despotism; no shape under which he may not lurk, whether that of a French royalist, an Irish or a Spanish patriot, a popular demagogue, an opera-dancer, or even a soi-disant British spy.
When I reflect on the genius and operation of the French police, and call to mind the zeal with which the present ruler of France has constantly laboured to corroborate and extend that system, I am forced to smile in bitterness, at the encomiums, which many well-meaning writers have passed upon him, for abolishing the Inquisition in Spain. The political tribunal which he proposed to introduce in its stead, would have soon caused the Spaniards to feel, that the bigots of the church were, when contrasted with the military legislators of the present day, but clumsy artificers of terror, and sluggish ministers of the demon of persecution. The domestic police of France as far surpasses the Spanish inquisition in cruelty and oppression, as her foreign police exceeds the celebrated plan of dominion imputed to the Jesuits, in extent and efficacy, in enmity and injury to the human race. Admitting all that has been said of the old bugbears of Europe to be just, they still are little more than mere phantoms, in comparison of the horrible engine of which I am speaking.
You may have observed, in reading the new criminal code of the French empire, that the penalty of being placed for a certain number of years under the immediate inspection of the higher police of the state, is attached to almost all cases of delinquency,
* We may appeal on this point to the open confessions of the French government. The following declaration in the shape of a note on a speech of Mr. Canning wherein this gentleman speaks of the secret correspondence of the British government with the continent,—is to be found in one of the Moniteurs of 1810.
"Mr. Canning has covered himself with ridicule by this assertion. If we could lay open the archives of the police, and make known the famous conspirators of whom Mr. Canning speaks, the world would see conspiracies and plots after the manner of Drake, to whom adventurers applied in order to filch his money, and learn from himself what he was about. The cunning gentry! they boast to having secret intelligence with France, and tin y art of vertheless surrounded by our spies. We looi into their cabinet, and were vie challenged to the trial, uic could bring to light the official correspondence of the minim is ters of England and their agents, -with those whom they call conspirators^ and thus render them the laughing stock of all Europe. We should add here, in order to calm the apprehensions of the inhabitants of the territory which Mr. Canning would subject to the severity of the laws, if what he says were true,—that the government has not had cause to complain of a single Frenchman. Communications tuith England have taien place, but they viere carried on by subaltern agents of our police, under the express authority of the French administration. Such are the spies of Mr. Canning."
and that the effect of this penalty is to give to the government, the right of requiring from the offender, a sufficient security for his good behaviour, and on failure of his giving such security, to place himjat its disposal, to be confined to any particular spot in the empire, it may think proper to select for his residence. Reflect now on the extent of jurisdiction and plenitude of power, which by this one provision, are allotted to the police! Byregulations of a similar tendency, all the operations of industry, all the products and efforts of intellect, all the relations, interests, and movements of society, all orders and descriptions of men, are brought within the sphere of the same hampering authority, and subjected to an inspection which no ingenuity can baffle, and which notlting, however minute, can possibly escape.* Thus it is that the literature, the commerce, the manufactures of the country, are entangled inextricably in the grasp of the government, to be moulded instantaneously into any shape, and contracted into any dimensions, that may be conformable to its views; or to be crushed and extinguished either in the whole or in part, whenever found obstructive of its purposes.
However useful may be the vigilance of the domestic police of France, in the prevention and detection of offences against the law, it is of a tendency eminently pernicious to public virtue and private morals. I need not dwell on the accuracy of this position. No one can fail to understand at once, the effects of a system, which binds the mind of every individual of the empire in the most oppressive of fetters; which leaves the imagination but one field of exercise,—the adulation of despotic power;—which extinguishes every sentiment of patriotism that springs from a nobler origin than national vanity; which converts one half of the community into base assassins of the peace of the other; which dissolves all social ties but those of sordid interest and idle amusement; which banishes mutual confidence even from the dome?tic circle, and makes every bosom the seat of perpetual suspicion and dread. Hence the pestiferous selfishness, and the audacious spirit of falsehood which have become almost the national characteristic, and which seem to have infected to a melancholy degree, the other countries of the European continent. These abominable vices the most fatal of all others to the cause of freedom, to the dignity and excellence of our nature,
* For the truth of what is here stated, we refer the reader to the several "Codes" promulgated since the accession of Bonaparte;—particularly to the Code de Police Cnrrfctionede, and to the files of the Mnniteur.
to social and domestic happiness, as they diffuse themselves more largely among the neighbours and allies of France, serve efficaciously to confirm the dominion she has already established, and to remove the obstacles to a further extension ot her power. They also co-operate with the sword of their parent, —for such may she be called,—by stifling) wherever they predominate, those sentiments and reasonings from which a successful resistance to her attempts, is principally to be expected.
We are sometimes told in our newspapers, that much freedom of speech is indulged throughout France, concerning the character of her government, and the sufferings of the people. This statement is certainly erroneous, if I may rely on my own observation, and the uniform tenor of the intelligence which I receive on this subject, from persons who have recently enjoyed the best opportunities, of knowing the real condition of things. In the Provinces, murmurs may now and then be publicly heard! disaffection and resentment against the military despotism, may be loosely or accidentally expressed; but these sallies of passion,—for they are seldom any thing more,—do not often pass with impunity* -When they do, it is chiefly because they are considered as harmless, and because, in such cases, the administration expects to reap some particular advantage, from assuming the mask of lenity.
In general, throughout all parts of the empire, men are too deeply impressed with the dangers of their situation arising from the activity of the police, and the venality of those about them, to suffer themselves, under any circumstances, to be betrayed into sharp or direct censures either upon the management of affairs, or the character of a public functionary. There is no individual who values his life or his personal liberty, that does not practice the most guarded caution in this respect, and industriously suppress his feelings, however grievously they may be outraged. Even a jest, at the expense of the government, or any of its agents or measures, is, wherever uttered, regarded as a gross imprudence. The habit of inveighing against them,—were time to contract it, ever given by the police,—would be considered as a symptom of desperation, or a trick of espionage. If proof were wanting of the miserable prostration of the public spirit under the terrors of this institution, it is to be found in the complexion of the gazettes and publications of every kind, without any exception, which issue from the French press. In not one of these, does there ever appear a single phrase of dissatisfaction at the unparalleled crimes of the imperial cabinet, or the overwhelming wretchedness of the nation. On the contrary, all chaunt on these subjects, a chorus of turgid panegyric and extravagant exultation. The same fears actuate those who write and those who talk, and prompt them to employ habitually, the most outre hyperboles of admiration and delight, as a safeguard against suspicion, and a more impenetrable disguise for their real sentiments.
The depressing influence of the police, is no where so strikingly displayed, as in the metropolis. There it operates with the potency of a charm, and effects a complete transformation in the Gallic character. As to what concerns the affairs of state, or the public authorities, the Parisian is the most plodding and circumspect of dissemblers. With regard to these topics, the impetuous vivacity, the headlong ftourderie, the petulant boldness which heretofore entered into the genius of the nation, and which it was thought no force could subdue, are now not only paralized, but supplanted by the very opposite traits, so profoundly and constantly, is the imagination of every individual, impressed with the idea of the Temple, and the cells of the Prefecture. When the constitution and proceedings of the government become the theme of discourse in any situation, panegyric alone is hazarded, and this with some degree of uneasy caution by the speaker, lest his loyalty should appear to be studied or overstrained. In all public addresses and harangues, adulation is, indeed, poured forth without reserve or measure, because it is well known that the more gross and copious the incense thus offered, the more is the government gratified, and aided in its particular views.
There is one part of the domestic bondage of these " conquerors of the world," which seemed to me of a nature eminently galling, and worthy of commisseration, especially in the case of a people so fond of medisance, as were the French before their revolution. That the Emperor and his august family, even in its most remote collateral branches, should be sacred from slander, or sarcasm, or personal reproach however just, is but natural, and perhaps necessary, and might be esteemed no great hardship by the most splenetic malcontent, or mischievous wit of the empire. This immunity, however, extends to all the principal dignitaries, whether military or civil; to the governmental officers, and agents, and favourites of almost every grade. The poor Parisian particularly, stands as much in subjection and awe of a minister, a senator, a counsellor of state, a poet laureat, or even a subaltern of the police, as of the sovereign himself. He dares as little arraign
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their vices or foibles, as question the immaculate purity of the purple, or the efficacy of the unction administered at Rheims, in royalizing the whole blood of the Bonapartes. In the metropolis and throughout the provinces, there are many thousand majesties, whom it is alike treasonable to censure, and dangerous to offend. Thus is established a poly-despotism, if I may be allowed the term, of innumerable heads, each of which is a distinct scourge; a fruitful source of humiliation and injury. This plurality of tyrants serves in another way, to heighten the general servility and wretchedness, inasmuch as they are all, throughout the multifarious gradations of rank of which the subordination of office consists, mutually harassed by suspicions and fears, similar to those which they themselves inspire into the people at large.
For the cruel thraldom of which I have been speaking, the Parisians do not even enjoy a poor indemnity like that of the Romans, under the emperors, in their Saturnalia; or of their degenerate successors at Rome, in their carnival; or even of the Turks in their periodical emancipation. There is no number of days or of hours, as in these cases, annually set apart, on which the subjects of the "Son of Victory" are unmuzzled, and suffered to discharge with impunity the shafts of their wit or their malice, at the odious band of employSs. The Parisian carnival, of which I shall say more hereafter, brings with it no license of speech. It resembles the festivals I have just mentioned, only in the childish absurdity of the public antics, and the increased activity of licentious intrigue.
A trifling incident of which I was a witness, may serve to illustrate the difference between them. At the public masked ball given at the opera house in Paris, on the night of Shrove Tuesday—the last and the most tumultuous of the carnival, a person under the disguise of a drunkard, approached a "Domino," who was known to be Real, then a principal officer in the police department, and accosted him with some jocular, but at the same time rather pungent allusions, to the nature of his functions, and the versatility of his principlesReal soon began to show considerable uneasiness. His tormentor seemed, however, disposed to continue the attack, but was abruptly silenced by the interference of two gentlemenMouchards* in waiting, who conducted him without ceremony to the door of the opera, and thence, in all probability, to a place of confinement. There were, perhaps at this time, about five thousand persons in the house, of whom the agents of the
* Spies of the Police.