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terror were infinitely more effectual and ex- was attached, from their fortune, their age, or peditious than persuasion and eloquence. The their official station; if, in short, instead of people at large, who had no attachment to grasping presumptuously at the exclusive diany families or individuals among their dele-rection of the national councils, and arrogating every thing on the credit of their zealous patriotism and inexperienced abilities, they had sought to strengthen themselves by an alliance with what was respectable in the existing establishments, and attached themselves at first as disciples to those whom they might fairly expect speedily to outgrow and eclipse.
gates, and who contented themselves with idolizing the assembly in general, so long as it passed decrees to their liking, were passive and indifferent spectators of the transference of power which was effected by the pikes of the Parisian multitude; and looked with equal affection upon every successive junto which assumed the management of its deliberations. Having no natural representatives, they felt themselves equally connected with all who exercised the legislative function; and, being destitute of a real aristocracy, were without the means of giving effectual support even to those who might appear to deserve it. Encouraged by this situation of affairs, the most daring, unprincipled, and profligate, proceeded to seize upon the defenceless legislature, and, driving all their antagonists before them by violence or intimidation, entered without opposition upon the supreme functions of government. They soon found, however, that the arms by which they had been victorious, were capable of being turned against themselves; and those who were envious of their success, or ambitious of their distinction, easily found means to excite discontent among the multitude, now inured to insurrection, and to employ them in pulling down those very individuals whom they had so recently exalted. The disposal of the legislature thus became a prize to be fought for in the clubs and conspiracies and insurrections of a corrupted metropolis; and the institution of a national representative had no other effect, than that of laying the government open to lawless force and flagitious audacity.
It is in this manner, it appears to us, that from the want of a natural and efficient aristocracy to exercise the functions of representative legislators, the National Assembly of France was betrayed into extravagance, and fell a prey to faction; that the institution itself became a source of public misery and disorder, and converted a civilized monarchy, first into a sanguinary democracy, and then into a military despotism.
It would be the excess of injustice, we have already said, to impute those disastrous consequences to the moderate and virtuous individuals who sat in the Constituent Assembly: But if it be admitted that they might have been easily foreseen, it will not be easy to exculpate them from the charge of very blameable imprudence. It would be difficult, indeed, to point out any course of conduct by which those dangers might have been entirely avoided: But they would undoubtedly have been less formidable, if the enlightened members of the Third Estate had endeavoured to form a party with the more liberal and popular among the nobility; if they had associated to themselves a greater number of those to whose persons a certain degree of influence
Upon a review of the whole matter, it seems impossible to acquit those of the revolutionary patriots, whose intentions are admitted to be pure, of great precipitation, presumption, and imprudence. Apologies may be found for them, perhaps, in the inexperience which was incident to their situation; in their constant apprehension of being separated before their task was accomplished; in the exasperation which was excited by the insidious proceedings of the cabinet; and in the intoxication which naturally resulted from the magnitude of their early triumph, and the noise and resounding of their popularity. But the errors into which they fell were inexcusable, we think, in politicians of the eighteenth century; and while we pity their sufferings, and admire their genius, we cannot feel much respect for their wisdom, or any surprise at their miscarriage.
The preceding train of reflection was irresistibly suggested to us by the title and the contents of the volumes now before us. Among the virtuous members of the first Assembly, there was no one who stood higher than Bailly. As a scholar and a man of science, he had long stood in the very first rank of celebrity: His private morals were not only irreproachable, but exemplary; and his character and dispositions had always been remarkable for gentleness, moderation, and philanthropy. Drawn unconsciously, if we may believe his own account, into public life, rather than impelled into it by any movement of ambition, he participated in the enthusiasm, and in the imprudence, from which no one seemed at that time to be exempted; and in spite of an early retreat, speedily suffered that fate by which all the well meaning were then destined to expiate their errors. His popularity was at one time equal to that of any of the idols of the day; and if it was gained by some degree of blameable indulgence and unjustifiable zeal, it was forfeited at last (and along with his life) by a resolute opposition to disorder, and a meritorious perseverance in the discharge of his duty.
The sequel of this article, containing a full abstract of the learned author's recollections of the first six months only of his mayoralty, is now omitted; both as too minute to retain any interest at this day, and as superseded by the more comprehensive details which will be found in the succeeding article.
Considérations sur les Principaux Evènemens de la Révolution Françoise. Ouvrage Posthume de Madame la Baronne de Staël. Publié par M. LE DUC DE BROGLIE et M. LE Baron A. DE STAËL. En trois tomes. 8vo. pp. 1285. Londres: 1818.
No book can possibly possess a higher interest than this which is now before us. It is the last, dying bequest of the most brilliant writer that has appeared in our days; and it treats of a period of history which we already know to be the most important that has occurred for centuries; and which those who look back on it, after other centuries have elapsed, will probably consider as still more important.
We cannot stop now to say all that we think of Madame de Staël:-and yet we must say, that we think her the most powerful writer that her country has produced since the time of Voltaire and Rousseau-and the greatest writer, of a woman, that any time or any country has produced. Her taste, perhaps, is not quite pure; and her style is too irregular and ambitious. These faults may even go deeper. Her passion for effect, and the tone of exaggeration which it naturally produces, have probably interfered occasionally with the soundness of her judgment, and given a suspicious colouring to some of her representations of fact. At all events, they have rendered her impatient of the humbler task of completing her explanatory details, or stating in their order all the premises of her reasonings. She gives her history in abstracts, and her theories in aphorisms:and the greater part of her works, instead of presenting that systematic unity from which the highest degrees of strength and beauty and clearness must ever be derived, may be fairly described as a collection of striking fragments-in which a great deal of repetition does by no means diminish the effect of a good deal of inconsistency. In those same works, however, whether we consider them as fragments or as systems, we do not hesitate to say that there are more original and profound observations-more new images -greater sagacity combined with higher imagination and more of the true philosophy of the passions, the politics, and the literature of her contemporaries-than in any other author we can now remember. She has great eloquence on all subjects; and a singular pathos in representing those bitterest agonies of the spirit, in which wretchedness is aggravated by remorse, or by regrets that partake of its character. Though it is difficult to resist her when she is in earnest, we cannot say that we agree in all her opinions, or approve of all her sentiments. She overrates the importance of literature, either in determining the character or affecting the happiness of mankind; and she theorises too confidently on its past and its future history. On subjects
like this, we have not yet facts enough for so much philosophy; and must be contented, we fear, for a long time to come, to call many things accidental, which it would be more satisfactory to refer to determinate causes. In her estimate of the happiness, and her notions of the wisdom of private life, we think her both unfortunate and erroneous. She makes passions and high sensibilities a great deal too indispensable; and varnishes over all her pictures too uniformly with the glare of an extravagant or affected enthusiasm. She represents men, in short, as a great deal more unhappy, more depraved, and more energetic, than they are-and seems to respect them the more for it. In her politics she is far more unexceptionable. She is everywhere the warm friend and animated advocate of liberty-and of liberal, practical, and philanthropic principles. On those subjects we cannot blame her enthu siasm, which has nothing in it vindictive or provoking; and are far more inclined to envy than to reprove that sanguine and buoyant temper of mind which, after all she has seen and suffered, still leads her to overrate, in our apprehension, both the merit of past attempts at political amelioration, and the chances of their success hereafter. It is in that futurity, we fear, and in the hopes that make it present, that the lovers of mankind must yet, for a while, console themselves for the disappointments which still seem to beset them. If Madame de Staël, however, predicts with too much confidence, it must be admitted that her labours have a powerful tendency to realize her predictions. Her writings are all full of the most animating views of the improvement of our social condition, and the means by which it may be effected-the most striking refutations of prevailing errors on these great subjects-and the most persuasive expostulations with those who may think their interest or their honour concerned in maintaining them. Even they who are the least inclined to agree with her, must admit that there is much to be learned from her writings; and we can give them no higher praise than to say, that their tendency is not only to promote the interests of philanthropy and independence, but to soften, rather than exasperate, the prejudices to which they are opposed.
Of the work before us, we do not know very well what to say. It contains a multitude of admirable remarks-and a still greater number of curious details; for Madame de Staël was not only a contemporary, but an eyewitness of much that she describes, and had the very best access to learn what did not fall
under her immediate observation. Few persons certainly could be better qualified to appreciate the relative importance of the subjects that fell under her review; and no one, we really think, so little likely to colour and distort them, from any personal or party feelings. With all those rare qualifications, however, and inestimable advantages for performing the task of an historian, we cannot say that she has made a good history. It is too much broken into fragments. The narrative is too much interrupted by reflections: and the reflections too much subdivided, to suit the subdivisions of the narrative. There are too many events omitted, or but cursorily noticed, to give the work the interest of a full and flowing history; and a great deal too many detailed and analyzed, to let it pass for an essay on the philosophy, or greater results of these memorable transactions. We are the most struck with this last fault-which perhaps is inseparable from the condition of a contemporary writer;-for, though the observation may sound at first like a paradox, we are rather inclined to think that the best historical compositions-not only the most pleasing to read, but the most just and instructive in themselves-must be written at a very considerable distance from the times to which they relate. When we read an eloquent and judicious account of great events transacted in other ages, our first sentiment is that of regret at not being able to learn more of them. We wish anxiously for a fuller detail of particulars-we envy those who had the good fortune to live in the time of such interesting occurrences, and blame them for having left us so brief and imperfect a memorial of them. But the truth is, if we may judge from our own experience, that the greater part of those who were present to those mighty operations, were but very imperfectly aware of their importance, and conjectured but little of the influence they were to exert on future generations. Their attention was successively engaged by each separate act of the great drama that was passing before them; but did not extend to the connected effect of the whole, in which alone posterity was to find the grandeur and interest of the scene. The connection indeed of those different acts is very often not then discernible. The series often stretches on, beyond the reach of the generation which witnessed its beginning, and makes it impossible for them to integrate what had not yet attained its completion; while, from similar the great and wise men who brought about causes, many of the terms that at first ap- the Reformation, as much aware of its impeared most important are unavoidably dis-portance as the whole world is at present? or carded, to bring the problem within a manage- does any one imagine, that, even in the later able compass. Time, in short, performs the and more domestic events of the establishsame services to events, which distance does ment of the English Commonwealth in 1648,
giant outline which it traces on the sky. A traveller who wanders through a rugged and picturesque district, though struck with the beauty of every new valley, or the grandeur of every cliff that he passes, has no notion at all of the general configuration of the country, or even of the relative situation of the objects he has been admiring; and will understand all those things, and his own route among them, a thousand times better, from a small map on a scale of half an inch to a mile, which represents neither thickets or hamlets, than from the most painful efforts to combine the indications of the strongest memory. The case is the same with those who live through periods of great historical interest. They are too near the scene-too much interested in each successive event-and too much agitated with their rapid succession, to form any just estimate of the character or result of the whole. They are like private soldiers in the middle of a great battle, or rather of a busy and complicated campaign-hardly knowing whether they have lost or won, and having but the most obscure and imperfect conception of the general movements in which their own fate has been involved. The foreigner who reads of them in the Gazette, or the peasant who sees them from the top of a distant hill or a steeple, has in fact a far better idea of them.
Of the thousand or fifteen hundred names that have been connected in contemporary fame with the great events of the last twentyfive years, how many will go down to posterity? In all probability not more than twenty: And who shall yet venture to say which twenty it will be? But it is the same with the events as with the actors. How often, during that period, have we mourned or exulted, with exaggerated emotions, over occurrences that we already discover to have been of no permanent importance !-how certain is it, that the far greater proportion of those to which we still attach an interest, will be viewed with the same indifference by the very next generation!-and how probable, that the whole train and tissue of the history will appear, to a remoter posterity, under a totally different character and colour from any that the most penetrating observer of the present day has thought of ascribing to it! Was there any contemporary, do we think, of Mahomet, of Gregory VII., of Faust, or Columbus, who formed the same estimate of their achievements that we do at this day? Were
to visible objects. It obscures and gradually or the English Revolution in 1688, the large annihilates the small, but renders those that and energetic spirits by whom those great are very great much more distinct and con- events were conducted were fully sensible of ceivable. If we would know the true form their true character and bearings, or at all and bearings of an Alpine ridge, we must not foresaw the mighty consequences of which grovel among the irregularities of its surface, they have since been prolific? but observe, from the distance of leagues, the direction of its ranges and peaks, and the
But though it may thus require the lapse of ages to develope the true character of a
great transaction, and though its history may | ages, true at least to the general features of therefore be written with most advantage such periods, we have nothing but a tranvery long after its occurrence, it does not fol- script of the author's own most recent fantalow that such a history will not be deficient sies and follies, ill disguised under the in many qualities which it would be desira-masquerade character of a few traditional ble for it to possess. All we say is, that they names.-It is only necessary to call to mind are qualities which will generally be found such books as Zouche's Life of Sir Philip incompatible with those larger and sounder Sydney, or Godwin's Life of Chaucer, to feel views, which can hardly be matured while this much more strongly than we can now the subjects of them are recent. That this is express it. These, no doubt, are extreme an imperfection in our histories and histori- cases;-but we suspect that our impressions ans, is sufficiently obvious; but it is an im- of almost all remote characters and events, perfection to which we must patiently resign and the general notions we have of the times ourselves, if it appear to be an unavoidable or societies which produced them, are much consequence of the limitation of our faculties. more dependent on the peculiar temper and We cannot both enjoy the sublime effect of a habits of the popular writers in whom the vast and various landscape, and at the same memory of them is chiefly preserved, than it time discern the form of every leaf in the for- is very pleasant to think of. If we ever take est, or the movements of every living crea- the trouble of looking for ourselves into the ture that breathes within its expanse. Beings documents and materials out of which those of a higher order may be capable of this;-histories are made, we feel at once how much room there is for a very different representation of all those things from that which is current in the world: And accordingly we occasionally have very opposite representations. Compare Bossuet's Universal History with Voltaire's-Rollin with Mitford-Hume or Clarendon with Ralph or Mrs. M'Aulay; and it will be difficult to believe that these different writers are speaking of the same persons and things.
The work before us, we have already said, It is needless to apply this to the case of is singularly free from faults of this descriphistory; in which, when it records events of tion. It is written, we do think, in the true permanent interest, it is equally impossible to spirit and temper of historical impartiality. retain those particular details which engrossed But it has faults of a different character; and, the attention of contemporaries—both because with many of the merits, combines some of the memory of them is necessarily lost in the the appropriate defects, both of a contempocourse of that period which must elapse be-rary and philosophical history. Its details are fore the just value of the whole can be too few and too succinct for the former-they known-and because, even if it were other- are too numerous and too rashly selected for wise, no human memory could retain, or the latter;-while the reasonings and specuhuman judgment discriminate, the infinite lations in which perhaps its chief value connumber of particulars which must have been sists, seem already to be too often thrown presented in such an interval. We shall only away upon matters that cannot long be had observe, further, that though that which is in remembrance. We must take care not to preserved is generally the most material and get entangled too far among the anecdotestruly important part of the story, it not un- but the general reasoning cannot detain us frequently happens, that too little is pre- very long. served to afford materials for a satisfactory narrative, or to justify any general conclusion; and that, in such cases, the historian often yields to the temptation of connecting the scanty materials that have reached him by a sort of general and theoretical reasoning, which naturally takes its colour from the prevailing views and opinions of the individual writer, or of the age to which he belongs. If an author of consummate judgment, and with a thorough knowledge of the unchangeable principles of human nature, undertake this task, it is wonderful indeed to see how much he may make of a subject that appears so unpromising-and it is almost certain that the view he will give to his readers, of such an obscure period, will, at all events, be at least as instructive and interesting as if he had had its entire annals before him. In other hands, however, the result is very different; and, intead of a masterly picture of rude or remote
It is the scope of the book to show that France must have a free government—a limited monarchy-in express words, a constitution like that of England. This, Madame de Staël says, was all that the body of the nation aimed at in 1789-and this she says the great majority of the nation are resolved to have still-undeterred by the fatal miscarriage of the last experiment, and undisgusted by the revival of ancient pretensions which has signalised its close. Still, though she maintains this to be the prevailing sentiment of the French people, she thinks it not altogether unnecessary to combat this discouragement and this disgust;-and the great object of all that is argumentative in her book, is to show that there is nothing in the character or condition, or late or early history of her countrymen, to render this regulated freedom unattainable by them, or to disqualify them from the enjoyment of a repre
and it would be very desirable to be so: But, constituted as we are, it is impossible; and, in our delineation of such a scene, all that is minute and detached, however interesting or important to those who are at hand, must therefore be omitted-while the general effect is entrusted to masses in which nothing but the great outlines of great objects are preserved, and the details left to be inferred from the character of their results, or the larger features of their usual accompaniments.
sentative government, or the functions of free consummation-and that every thing is now citizens. in the fairest train to secure it, without any great effort or hazard of disturbance.
For this purpose she takes a rapid and masterly view of the progress of the different European kingdoms, from their primitive condition of feudal aristocracies, to their present state of monarchies limited by law, or mitigated by the force of public opinion; and endeavours to show, that the course has been the same in all; and that its unavoidable termination is in a balanced constitution like that of England. The first change was the reduction of the Nobles,-chiefly by the aid which the Commons, then first pretending to wealth or intelligence, afforded to the Crown-and, on this basis, some small states, in Italy and Germany especially, erected a permanent system of freedom. But the necessities of war, and the substitution of hired forces for the feudal militia, led much more generally to the establishment of an arbitrary or des potical authority; which was accomplished in France, Spain, and England, under Louis XI., Philip II., and Henry VIII. Then came the age of commerce, luxury, and taxes,-which necessarily ripened into the age of general intelligence, individual wealth, and a sense both of right and of power in the people; and those led irresistibly to a limitation on the powers of the Crown, by a representative assembly.
That these views are supported with infinite talent, spirit, and eloquence, no one who has read the book will probably dispute; and we should be sorry indeed to think that they were not substantially just. Yet we are not, we confess, quite so sanguine as the distinguished writer before us; and though we do not doubt either that her principles are true, or that her predictions will be ultimately accomplished, we fear that the period of their triumph is not yet at hand; and that it is far more doubtful than she will allow it to be, whether that triumph will be easy, peaceful, and secure. The example of England is her great, indeed her only authority; but we are afraid that she has run the parallel with more boldness than circumspection, and overlooked a variety of particulars in our case, to which she could not easily find any thing equivalent in that of her country. It might be invidious to dwell much on the opposite character and temper of the two nations; though it is no answer to say, that this character is the work of the government. But can Madame de Staël have forgotten, that England had a parliament and a representative legislature for five hundred years before 1648; and that it was by that organ, and the widely spread and deeply founded machinery of the elections on which it rested, that the struggle was made, and the victory won, which ultimately secured to us the blessings of political freedom? The least reflection upon the nature of government, and the true foundations of all liberty, will show what an immense advantage this was in the contest; and with what formidable obstacles those must have to struggle, who are obliged to engage in a similar conflict without it.
All political power, even the most despotic, rests at last, as was profoundly observed by Hume, upon Opinion. A government is Just, or otherwise, according as it promotes, more or less, the true interests of the people who live under it. But it is Stable and secure, exactly as it is directed by the opinion of those who really possess, and know that they possess, the power of enforcing it, and upon whose opinion, therefore, it constantly depends;that is, in a military despotism, on the opinion of the soldiery-in all rude and ignorant communities, on the opinion of those who monopolise the intelligence, the wealth, or the discipline which constitute power-the priesthood-the landed proprietors-the armed and inured to war;-and, in civilised societies, on the opinion of that larger proportion of the people who can bring their joint talents, wealth, and strength, to act in concert when occasion requires. A government may indeed subsist for a time, although opposed to the opinion of those classes of persons; but its existence must always be precarious, and it probably will not subsist long. The natural and appropriate Constitution, therefore, is, in every case, that which enables those who actually administer the government, to ascertain and conform themselves in time to the opinion of those who have the power to overturn it;
England having less occasion for a land army-and having been the first in the career of commercial prosperity, led the way in this great amelioration. But the same general principles have been operating in all the Continental kingdoms, and must ultimately produce the same effects. The peculiar advantages which she enjoyed did not prevent England from being enslaved by the tyranny of Henry VIII., and Mary;-and she also experienced the hazards, and paid the penalties which are perhaps inseparable from the assertion of popular rights. She also overthrew the monarchy, and sacrificed the monarch in her first attempt to set limits to his power. The English Commonwealth of 1648, originated in as wild speculations as the French of 1792-and ended, like it, in the establishment of a military tyranny, and a restoration which seemed to confound all the asserters of liberty in the general guilt of rebellion Yet all the world is now agreed that this was but the first explosion of a flame that could neither be extinguished nor permanently repressed; and that what took place in 1688, was but the sequel and necessary consummation of what had been begun forty years before-and which might and would have been accomplished without even the slightest shock and disturbance that was then experienced, if the Court had profited as much as the leaders of the people by the lessons of that first experience. Such too, Madame de Staël asis the unalterable destiny of France; and it is the great purpose of her book to show, that but for circumstances which cannot recur-mistakes that cannot be repeated, and accidents which never happened twice, even the last attempt would have led to that blessed