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those who took a more sober and practical view of the difficulties before them? Even if it were true, that, at the commencement of the Revolution, in the national assembly itself, there might have been found some individuals, republicans in principle (for this seems to have been the inexpiable offence) and willing to hazard, in France, the establishment of a republican government, yet, their numbers were so inconsiderable, both within and without the assembly, that they could not so much as avow their opinions. It was only when it became manifest that the higher orders of society, the nobility and the dignitaries of the church were almost unanimously hostile to the Revolution in all its objects and modifications, that this party increased in numbers, in importance, in confidence, and began openly to encourage the opinion that government might be conducted without the cooperation of those orders, who appeared so unwilling to unite in any liberal and mutually dependent system. It is unnecessary, almost idle to inquire, in such a convulsion, who gave the first provocation, or committed the first injury. In a mob, excited to action, it is always difficult to ascertain the first outrage, or in what gradation the passions of the people were worked up to violence and frenzy. So, in the French Revolution, it seems impossible to detail and establish, chronologically, the many incidents on each side which tended to create suspicion, to excite discord, to embitter personalanimosity, to generate, finally, open hostility. Errors, injuries, crimes, were coinmitted on all sides, but success gave to the most violent and most unprincipled party the power of trampling on all rights with impunity, and grievously, indeed, was this power abused. But it certainly is not to one party alone, nor to the Revolution itself, that all these offences can be justly imputed.
It is not uncommon to find authors, kindling with zeal, as they advance with their subject, and entering, at last, with so perfect a sympathy into the views and feelings of their heroes, as to become disposed to dwell only on the bright light of the picture, and to soften, if not to efface its shades. But we can truly say, that in the work before us, there is not, with regard either to Napoleon or to the French Revolution, any manifestation of this good natured propensity. The author catches no ardour from the lofty feelings which engendered and ushered in the Revolution; he is inspired with no enthusiasm by the magnanimous sacrifices which appeared to sanctify its principles.The liberal concessions, the voluntary offerings, the apparently unanimous resignation on the altar of their country of personal, local and feudal privileges are related with a sneer and a sarcasm. That day, distinguished by the abandonment of so many inju
rious claims, of rights which tended only to mortify the humble, without exalting the powerful, of laws and customs, obsolete and neglected, yet, prized like the ancient eschutcheons to which they were incidents, because it occasioned some unnecessary, perhaps unsolicited sacrifices, is designated as the “day of dupes.'
Of this day, so memorable in the early annals of this RevoJution, we will exhibit a brief picture, drawn by one of the first historians of these great events. The contrast of feeling may amuse some who have read the pages of Sir Walter Scott. The extract will, at least, shew what were the nature and object of those sacrifices, which became, afterwards, the subjects of calumny and reproach. We will merely premise that almost every speaker, on this memorable occasion, belonged to the highest order of the nobility.
“For several days the National Assembly solely occupied with the constitution, engaged with ardour in profound discussions on the rights of nature, and although carried away in the course of its debates by that generous warmth so natural to the French, its deliberations were characterized by that sage caution which was not expected from a nation, considered in Europe to be as imprudent and thoughtless, as it was amiable and brave. All at once the scene changes. This assembly so politic, so moral, so profoundly occupied with metaphysical questions, marches suddenly to the most decisive results. No sacrifice alarms, no difficulty arrests its progress; its patriotic enthusiasm surmounts all obstacles, its impetuous zeal breaks down all barriers; it destroys all privileges, tramples under foot the prerogatives of pride, changes the form of property, annibilates the feudal system, and in one night overturns that ancient oak whose branches covered the surface of the empire, whose roots had exhausted for so many ages, the nutritious juices of the earth, and stricken with sterility the happy soil of France. This, doubtless, was doing much. It effected still more-consecrating this act of vigour and of power, not by a simple law, but by an article of the constitution, it accomplished by one effort, the long and painful career which lay before it, and did more in a few hours for the happiness of the people, than they could have dared to hope from the improvements of a century.
“ It was evening when this ever memorable session commenced. It began by the reading of some project relative to the safety of the kingdom.
“ M. de Noailles first arose to point out the only means of re-establisbing peace-and after some observations on the disorders existing in France, remarked, “To obtain this tranquillity so necessary to all, I propose, 1st. That taxes shall be paid by all individuals in the kingdom in proportion to their revenue. 2d. That all public burthens shall in future be borne equally by all. 3d. That the feudal rights be redeemable in money at a fair valuation. 4th. That the Seigneurial corveès, mortmains and personal services be suppressed.'
“M. d'Aiguillon seconded these motions, which were loudly ap. plauded, and added, these disturbances may find their excuse in the vexations of which the people are victims. The proprietors of fiefs, &c. are rarely guilty themselves of the excesses of which their vassals complain, but their agents are often cruel, and the peasant groans under the restrictions of which he is the victim. These rights, it cannot be disguised, are property, and all property is sacred. But they are burthensome to the people--and I cannot doubt that the proprietors who have already renounced so many privileges, will yield their feudal rights for a fair and equitable indemnity.'
“ These speeches excited the warmest emotions—many orators in succession, dwelt upon the happy effects which the renunciation of these rigorous claims would produce. M. Legrand analyzed in a luminous manner these different feudal rights, and their respective claims to indemnity. M. Guen recapitulated the inconveniences of the many rights (bannalités, corveès, gruiries, franc fiefs, and many others) which ruined the inhabitants of the country. He was interrupted by applauses when he enumerated those pretended rights, which exceeded all bounds and outraged humanity itself—and turned to those insolent caprices of feudal tyranny which required that men should be harnessed to carriages like beasts of burthen, or should pass the night beating ponds, lest the frogs should disturb the slumbers of their voluptuous lords.
“But when M. la Poule spoke of the rights of mortmain, real and personal, of the obligation imposed on vassals to feed the dogs of their liege lord; of that horrible right, which though obsolete still existed, by which the lord, in certain cantons, was authorised to embowel two of his vassals on his return from hunting, in order to refresh himself by by putting his feet in the bleeding bodies of these victims--a cry of indignation interrupted the frightful picture.
“ These lofty ideas having elevated all minds, numerous propositions, each more important than the other, immediately followed,
“ M. Foucault demanded that the first of all sacrifices should be supported by the great, by that portion of the nobility which, by inheritance rich, yet lived under the eyes of the Prince, and on his gifts and bounties. He noticed two kinds of places and pensions-one, granted to merit and services, which might sometimes with propriety be reduced, the other, to intrigue and favour, could not be too soon or too strictly suppressed. M. Châtelet proposed—that tithes in kind should all be redeemable at pleasure, and converted into an assessment in money.
“On the question being called for by M. Montmorency, the President observed, that the clergy had had no opportunity of expressing their sentiments. The Bishop of Nancy first arose, accustomed he said to see the wretchedness and degradation of the people, the clergy can form no wish more ardent than that of contributing to their relief. I move that if the redemption of seigneurial rights be decreed, the price shall not be granted to the ecclesiastical lord, but shall form a fund useful to the benefice itself, so that its administrators may distribute alms to the indigent more bountifully. The Bishop of Chartres proposed, after some eloquent remarks, that the game-laws should be in. cluded in these decrees. As he concluded all the nobility pressed
forward to complete this renunciation, with some modifications dictated by prudence to preserve the public tranquillity. There is but one wish on our part, cried M. de Mortemart, which is, not to retard the decree you wish to pass.
* All the clergy rose instantly to second this proposition, and there arose such united applauses, the communes made the hall resound with such exclamations of gratitude, that the deliberations were for some time suspended. M. de St. Fargeau proposed that the equalization of burthens should take place immediately, other proposals were made in a noble spirit of patriotism and generosity. The Archbishop of Aix, depicting with energy the evils of feudality, proved the necessity of prohibiting all attempts to revive this system, that the misery of the poor might lead them hereafter to suggest, or to submit to.
" It seemed as if the extensive subject of reform had been entirely exhausted, when sacrifices of another order awakened the attention and directed to higher objects, the sensibility of the assembly. Joy, admiration, enthusiasm had no bounds when they saw the deputies of the privileged provinces, lay down at the feet of the assembly, their immunities, their franchises, their charters, their capitulations, to unite in the new system which the justice of the king and the wisdom of the assembly were preparing for France
“ Dauphine which had had the glory of giving to the nation such brilliant examples in other matters, had the honor also of opening this grand and majestic scene. M. de Blacons recalling the resolution which his province had adopted at Vizille, to renounce its particular privileges, expressed a wish that all the provinces should imitate this resolution, and declare themselves satisfied with the glorious name and the rights of French citizens.
“He had not finished speaking, when the representatives of the people of Britany, pressed around the chair, to give in as an offering on the altars of their country, their formal consent to the measure. M. le Chapelier, the president of the assembly, stated from his seat, the motives which had induced some of the divisions of that province to impose partial restraints on their representatives, until this day of happiness and of security succeeding to days of anxiety and hope, should authorise them to confound the ancient and revered rights of Britany, with the more solid and still more sacred rights of the whole French empire.
"Scarcely could the impatience of the deputies of Provence and Forcalquier permit them to wait until the deputies of Britany had finished their patriotic declaration. They advanced together into the middle of the assembly, and although bound like the greater part of the Bretons by imperative instructions, they reposed like them, with a noble confidence, on the patriotism of their constituents, and did not hesitate to complete the sacrifice. The deputation from Burgundy expressed the same desire; that of Languedoc manifested the same ardour. Then the representatives of cities and of provinces, the barons of Languedoc, the gentlemen of Artois, officers of justice, deputies from Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, &c. transported by a generous emuVOL. II.-NO. 3.
lation, were seen to approach in crowds the tribune, and to lay down with alacrity, the privileges of their cities, the privileges of their offices, the privileges of their territories, the prerogatives of their dignities, and declare, that there should hereafter be in France but one law, one. people, one family, and one title of honor, that of a French citizen.
“M. de Liancourt proposed, that a medal should be struck to consecrate this scene of patriotism, unique in the annals of history ; and the archbishop of Paris recommended to have a solemn Te Deum, to return thanks for the generous sacrifices which the representatives of the nation bad made in favour of the inbabitants of the country, and the glorious triumph which the public welfare had gained in this memorable night over all personal interests. Repeated acclamations espressed the feelings of the National Assembly. It determined to go in à body in procession to the king, to bear to him the homage and the title of restorer of the liberty of France, and to intreat him to assist personally in the solemn Te Deum.”—Hist. de la Revol. de France, par deux amis de la libertè. Vol. i. pp. 200–225.
There may have been dupery in these sacrifices, but it was the dupery of honest and enlightened minds; there may have been delusion, but it was the delusion of lofty feelings and of noble principles, the spontaneous and enthusiastic impulses of public spirit. How much is it to be lamented, that the people should so soon have bad occasion to consider these professions as insincere, this magnanimous self-devotion as the forerunner of a speedy repentance. How unfortunate that the bright side of this picture should be so often disguised by those who wish to misrepresent and to vilify the French Revolution, and who choose to represent all the subsequent evils as necessary consequences of an unprincipled ambition in a base and vulgar democracy.
We fear there is too much of this feeling in the work before us. The aspirations of unblemished virtue, the sublime emotions of patriotism, the triumphs of national honor, are all passed over; but the cloud of strife and desolation, the shower of blood, the dismay, and havoc, and ruin that marked one period of its progress are never forgotten.
It is impossible not to admire the high-toned morality, the stern maxims of justice which so eminently distinguish a great portion of this work. The violation of neutral rights, the invasion of neutral territory, the confiscation of public and of private property by the rulers of the French nation, republican or imperial; the appeal to the people of foreign nations, so frequent in the distempered state of the Revolution, all meet with merited condemnation. The iniquitous partition of Poland by Austria, Russia and Prussia, is neither overlooked nor palliated. The invasion of Bavaria by Austria in 1805, is represented as both