페이지 이미지
[ocr errors]

into an orator, from an orator into a historian, and who sought to make the “ Ilistory of the Girondins” the programme of his new life, of his second political virility, owed to his subject more gravity, more logic, and more equity. A young enthusiast of the glories of 1793 remarked, one day, to M. Michaud —" Robespierre is not yet judged." “No! but, happily, he is executed," was the prompt reply. That lively repartee is at the same time a response to those tender-hearted royalists who, like M. Lamartine, have suddenly discovered the benevolence of Robespierre's character, and represent him as one of the benefactors of mankind. The man, whose death saved so many better lives, who ceased to kill only in dying himself, whose bloody acts retarded popular progress half a century, does not require to have the process of his condemnation revised. It is this peculiar view of the character of Robespierre, which affords the key to the paradoxes presented in these volumes, and lessens their value without diminishing their attraction.

One of the passionate admirers of Lamartine, and a critic of ability, has asserted, and with some reason, that his work is more of an epic poem than a history; and he has added with a shade of exaggeration which enthusiasm may excuse, “ That the French revolution has henceforth its Homer.” There is indeed a point of resemblance between Ilomer and the historian of the Girondins; and it is, thanks to the oversight of the singer of the Iliad, or perhaps rather to subsequent interpolations, that there have glided into the immortal poem numerous contradictions. Thus, as has been well remarked, there are heroes who re-appear in the last cantos after having been killed in the previous ones; and events which occupy an important place at the commencement of the narrative, are utterly lost sight of in its progress. There are certainly parallels in the “Girondins." not that any of the persons killed in the first chapters, re-appear in the last-the revolution did its work too surely for that. The difficulty is less with the facts than with the deductions and judgments which conflict with and falsify each other. A modern rhapsody sung in admirable language might more justly describe that lliad of brute force—that Odyssey of human reason.

Those contradictions and false deductions which disfigure the book, considered as a history, are perhaps intended to diminish the force of its democratic tendencies. It would seem to be the case that M. Lamartine at heart continued a royalist, and in wishing to preserve the integrity of a judge between parties, was betrayed into lenity where he should have been severe, and into injustice where he ought to have been considerate. But between his lenities and his severities, there betrays itself a permanent dislike to popular progress. He, in every case where dishonor and crime marked the course of the popular leaders, leaves the inference that dishonor and crime are the necessary consequence of republican movements. His work, therefore, holds that middle course which, while it excites admiration, still leaves a profound doubt upon the public mind, like " the Prince” of Machiavelli, as to whether the writer is a democrat describing the true policy of republicans, or a royalist seeking to bring them into disrepute. There are many who hold that Nachiavelli was a republican, exposing in the Prince" the necessary iniquity attending monarchies, and there are not a few of Lamartine's former co-absolutists who believe him to have served the principles he formerly professed by the publication of the “ Girondins."



Nevertheless, the book was extensively read, and exerted a great power on the eve of the final fall of the French throne. It more influenced the imagination than it affected the heart; it awakened the curiosity more than the sympathy. If in the minds of some of the royalist friends of the author it produced astonishment and sorrow, it also, by the gout with woich it dwells on the crimes of the revolutionists, and the mere recounting of which, renders republicanism odious, disappointed democrats. The conservatives, on the other hand, regarded the work as the vehicle of immense danger, through the possible reproduction of scenes which had been in those brilliant pages rendered so attractive to unprincipled imitators. Apart from social or political predilections, the work, as a history, was not sufficiently impartial; as a work of thought, not serious enough; as an artistical production, not enough perfect. In this effort, as in every other of M. Lamartine, whether in the journal, in the romance, or in the eloquence of the tribune, improvisation predominates. In each page and each line is recounted a trait of genius thoroughly heartless, but yielding to the impulse of the moment.

The impression produced by the “Girondins" upon the public mind, went far, in connection with the strange circumstances of the revolution of February, 1818, to give M. Lamartine a prominent part in the provisional government. But a very short time sufficed, however, to show how out of place was a lute which responded only in musical strains to the harsh discords of political storm. When the people of Paris, without a government, and agitated by conflicting currents, seeking a direction to their energies, hoisted the “red flag," an opportunity for display presented itself to the poet statesman, who, unmindful that, in the “Girondins," which was the basis of his political reputation, and which was fresh in the minds of those whom he addressed, he had described the red Aag as covering a prayer for mercy during the butcheries of the Champ de Mars, he now denounced it as having been " trained through torrents of the blood of the people.” His resounding faculties were used by other members of the government as the shield for transactions which would scarcely bear the light, and the minister of foreign affairs soon found his level as the apologist for his colleagues, the actual government, and he has since continued to present new phases, all of them brilliant, like the kaleidescope, turned in the popular hand. One of the most recent emanations of this poetic genius is “ Atheism among the People," wherein the former head of the socialist party and the materialist poet of 1834, thus warns his constituents :


* If you wish that this revolution should not have the same end, beware of abject materialism, degrading sensualism, gross socialism of besotted communism; of all these doctrines of flesh, and blood, of meat and drink, of hunger and thirst, of wages of traffic, which these corruptors of the soul of the people preach to you, exclusively, as the sole thought, the sole hope, as the only duty, and the only end of man! They will soon make you slaves of case, serfs of your desires."


may be the experience of the socialist leader, and one known as the most indolent, voluptuous, corrupt and heartless man of the world that even Paris could produce. This gifted genius is now flitting round the government of France, shirking responsibility, dodging votes, but resounding harmoniously as the political zephyrs sweep on the lyre.


HON. EDWARD S. DARGAN, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA. The subject of this sketch was born in the State of North Carolina--a state which has generally produced sound and sensible men, having given birth to but few of those men who of late years have been somewhat “ prevalent” in the South—who are more distinguished for gasconade and bravado than for thoughts and deeds.

Mr. Dargan is eminently a self-made man. In his early youth he came to Alabama, and tried his hand at that profession which is generally in this country made the first stepping-stone of those aspiring young men who have more brains than money--teaching; but having ascertained by experience that this was not his vocation, he put out his shingle as a lawyer, supporting himself by dealing out small doses of justice to the neighborhood in the character of justice of the peace, while waiting for the good time to come. We'll venture to assert, that while in that capacity he bore but little resemblance to

" the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut." His practice in a short time increased to such an extent that he removed to Montgomery, then a flourishing town, and affording an ampler field of practice.

He was formerly a candidate for the legislature in Montgomery county, a strong whig county, and was of course defeated. At the next session of the Legislature he was elected Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. From this time the tide of prosperity began to flow in his favor. He discharged the duties of judge of the circuit in a manner acceptable to all, and left an impression by the gentlemanly demeanor and legal knowledge which he exhibited on the bench, which told greatly in his favor after he resumed the practice of his profession. He resigned the judgeship after having held the office but little over a year, and resumed the practice of his profession in Mobile.

This was shortly after the failure of the United States Bank. Judge Dargan was employed by parties against the bank, and succeeded by his professional knowledge and skill in defeating some of the heaviest of the . fraudulent and usurious claims of the bank. About this time Mr. Dargan was employed, among other professional engagements, to defend the estate of one of our most worthy citizens—an estate valued at the time at a half million of dollars—against a claim hatched up by some designing men, which at the time attracted a good deal of notice. We mean the claim of Favres' Indian heirs. Mr. Dargan succeeded in defeating the suit in the United States Circuit Court. The case was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, but was afterwards compromised by a small sacrifice on the part of the owner of the property. Not even the shells of the oyster were thrown to the Indian heirs. The managers of

the affair pocketed the proceeds--with a "moral courage," for which the arch manager is proverbial. Mr. Dargan was afterwards employed by the United States Bank in their suit against the estate of Henry Hitchcock, for some eight hundred thousand dollars. The rights of the bank were established.

In 1844 Mr. Dargan was nominated by the Democratic Party as candidate for senator from Mobile county, in the state senate, and notwithstanding a majority of the voters in Mobile county are whigs, Mr. Dargan was triumphantly elected. During the one session that he served as senator, his course was distinguished by efforts to wind up the state bank.

At the next election in the Mobile district for Congress, and before his term as senator had expired, Mr. Dargan was nominated as the democratic candidate for Congress. This nomination was given him by the county against the first impression of the delegates from the city of Mobile, who were under the impression that Mr. Dargan would not accept the nomination.

Mr. Dargan was elected to Congress by nearly three hundred majority, in a district strongly whig, which a long time previously and since, has elected whig representatives by an average majority of five hundred, There was a new issue introduced into this canvass, which was the principal topic discussed ; the admission of Texas to the Union. Mr. Dargan took strong ground in favor of the admission of Texas to the Union, and advocated it with a power which carried conviction to his hearers. The welfare of the South required an extension of her territory, not only to keep up the equilibrium in the Federal Councils, but to prevent the crowding together of our servile population, which history shows in all countries and all ages, like all elements of power, to be dangerous when compressed into too small a space.

In 1847, Mr. Dargan declined to be a candidate for re-election to Congress, and in a farewell speech to his constituents, he opposed the annexation of conquered territory from Mexico, on the ground that it would endanger the perpetuity of the Union, and encourage a grasping spirit incompatible with the welfare of republics. Even then he could see the shadows of coming events.

At the next session of the Legislature in December, 1847, Mr. Dargan was unanimously, and without opposition, elected Judge of the Supreme Court of Alabama, and became Chief Justice of the state upon the nomination of Judge Collier, in July, 1849, as a candidate for governor.

Of course, it is out of our power, in a sketch like this, to speak of more than one or two of the principal events in the life of a man, who, like Judge Dargan, has received from his country such varied honors. The short time that he served his country in Congress, has left an impression which cannot be effaced. Since he left the house he has been quoted upon the floor of Congress as the exponent of Southern democracy. Let us give honor to whom honor is due. In February, 1846, Mr. Dargan made a speech upon the Oregon question, in the House of Representatives, which, in its printed form, is contained in three pamphlet pages. He was always concise. This speech received marked attention both in this country and abroad. Its effects upon the settlement of the controversy can be best seen by quotations from some of the foreign reviews.

The London Quarterly Review, which is thought to speak by authority, in the March number, 1846, after commenting upon the remark of Coleridge, “the possible destiny of the United States of America, as a nation of a hundred million of freemen, stretching from the Atlantic to the Paci

a fic, living under the laws of Alfred, and speaking the language of Shakspeare and Milton, is an august conception," and after expressing an earnest desire for a solution of the difficulty consistent with the original claims, and consequently with the interest and honor of both parties, proceeds

to say :

“By a singular coincidence, and one we hope of happy omen, after we had written the greater part of this article, and in this place explained our proposition, we received. (28th of February,) through the American journals, the account of a motion proposed in Congress by Mr. Dargan, of Alabama, which so nearly approaches to what we had proposed, that we gladly adopt it as expressing with a more weighty authority our own preconceived opinions.

" The differences existing between the governmunt of the United States and the government of Great Britain, in relation to the Oregon treaty, are still the subject of honorable negotiation and compromise, and should be so adjusted,

" That the line separatiog the British provinces of Canada from the United States, should be extended due west to the coast south of Frazer's River, and thence through the centre of the Straits of Fuca, to the Pacific Ocean, giving to the United States that portion of the territory south, and to the government of Great Britain that portion of the territory north of said line.

* This proposition narrows the question to its true issue; and on it, or something like the case, as we shall show, inust be ultimately, and may be honorably decided. All that has hitherto passed is really, and for any practical purpose, obsolete, and the whole Oregoniad is in this nutshell."

The reviewer then proceeds to investigate the title of the United States to the territory of Oregon under three heads.

1. The rights of Spain acquired to the United States by the Florida treaty.

2. The right of France acquired by the purchase of Louisiana.

3. The right of the United States themselves by the discovery and settlement of the Columbia River.

And proceeds to show (though before and afterwards expressing a willingness to meet Mr. Dargan's proposition, and make that the basis of a treaty) that if Messrs. Lewis and Clark, the well known explorers appointed by Mr. Jefferson, " had been authorized to take possession of all they saw, and had done so, they would not have touched our (the British) original claim to the whole right bank, and still less Mr. Dargan's proposition; for so far from reaching 490, the most northern point reached by the travelers was 41° 48," which position cannot be denied.

The reviewer then proceeds to make a statement which, when we reflect that the London Quarterly was considered the organ of the government, shows conclusively that Mr. Dargan struck out the only course by which the contest could be settled peaceably and honorably to both gov. ernments—that to him belongs of right the credit of having settled an impending controversy between these two great governments, which, if not prevented, would have brought upon both nations all the horrors and ravages of war.

** There have been heretofore occasions not a few on which we have been able to advise our readers upon authority higher than that of mere literary

« 이전계속 »