ページの画像
PDF
ePub

re

While I am writing this, there is accidentally before me some proposals for a declaration of rights by the Marquis de la Fayette (I ask his pardon for using his former address, and do it only for distin&ion's sake) to the National Assembly on the 11th of July 1789, three days before the taking of the Bastille ; and I cannot but be struck how opposite the sources are from which that Gentleman and Mr. Burke draw their principles. Instead of referring to musty records and mouldy parchments to prove that the rights of the living are lost, “ nounced and abdicated for ever," by those who are now no more, as Mr. Burke has done, M. de la Fayette applies to the living world, and emphatically fays, “ Call to mind the sentiments which “ Nature has engraved in the heart of

every citizen, 66 and which take a new force when they are so“ lemnly recognized by all :--For a nation to love

liberty, it is sufficient that she knows it; and to “ be free, it is sufficient that she wills it." How dry, barren, and obscure, is the source from which Mr. Burke labours; and how ineffectual, though gay with flowers, are all his declamation and his argument, compared with these clear, concise, and soul-animating sentiments ! Few and short as they are, they lead on to a vast field of generous and manly thinking, and do not finish, like Mr. Burke's periods, with music in the ear, and nothing in the heart.

As I have introduced the mention of M. de la Fayette, I will take the liberty of a 'ding an anecdote respecting his farewel address to the Congress

of America in 1783, and which occurred fresh to my mind when I saw Mr. Burke's thundering attack on the French Revolution.—M. de la Fayette went to America at an early period of the war, and continued a volunteer in her service to the end. His conduct through the whole of that enterprise is one of the most extraordinary that is to be found in the history of a young man, scarcely then twenty years of age. Situated in a country that was like the lap of sensual pleasure, and with the means of . enjoying it, how sew are there to be found who would exchange such a scene for the woods and wilderness of America, and pass the flowery years of youth in unprofitable danger and hardship! but such is the fact. When the war ended, and he was on the point of taking his final departure, he

presented himself to Congress, and contemplating, in his affectionate farewel, the revolution he had seen, expressed himself in these words : “ May this great monument, raised to Liberty, serve as a lefon to " the oppressor, and an example to the oppressed!

-When this address came to the hands of Doctor Franklin, who was then in France, he applied to Count Vergennes to have it inserted in the French Gazette, but never could obtain his consent. The fact was, that Count Vergennes was an aristocratical despot at home, and dreaded the example of the American revolution in France, as certain other persons now dread the example of the French revolution in England; and Mr. Burke's tribute of fear (for in this light his book must be considered) runs parallel with Count Vergennes' refusal. But, to return more particularly to his work

[ocr errors]

" We

[ocr errors]

We have seen (says Mr. Burke) the French
“ rebel against a mild and lawful Monarch, with
“ more fury, outrage, and insult, than any people
“ has been known to rise against the most illegal
“ usurper, or the most sanguinary tyrant."—This
is one among a thousand other instances, in which
Mr. Burke shews that he is ignorant of the springs
and principles of the French revolution. .
: It was not against Louis the XVIth, but against
the despotic principles of the government, that the
nation, revolted. These principles had not their
origin in him, but in the original establishment,
many centuries back; and they were become too
deeply rooted to be removed, and the augean stable
of parasites and plunderers too abominably filthy
to be cleansed, by any thing short of a complete
and universal revolution. When it becomes neces-
sary to do a thing, the whole heart and soul should
go into the measure, or not attempt it. That crisis
was then arrived, and there remained no choice but
to act with determined vigour, or not to act at all.
The King was known to be the friend of the nation,
and this circumstance was favourable to the enter-
prise. Perhaps no man bred up in the stile of an
absolute King, ever possessed a heart so little dispos
fed to the exercise of that species of power as the
present King of France., But the principles of the
government itself still remained the same. The
Monarch and the Monarchy were distinct and sepa,
rate things; and it was against the established
despotism of the latter, and not against the per-
son or principles of the former, that the revolt

commenced,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

commenced, and the revolution

revolution has been carried.

Mr. Burke does not attend to the distinction between men and principles, and therefore he does not see that a revolt may take place against the despotism of the latter, while there lies no charge of despotism against the former.

The natural moderation of Louis XVI. contributed nothing to alter the hereditary despotism of the monarchy. All the tyrannies of former reigns, acted under that hereditary despotism, were still liable to be revived in the hands of a successor. It was not the respite of a reign that would satisfy France, enlightened as she was then become. A casual discontinuance of the practice of despotism, is not a discontinuance of its principles; the former depends on the virtue of the individual who is in immediate possession of the power; the latter, on the virtue and fortitude of the nation. In the case of Charles I. and James II. of England, the revolt was against the personal despotism of the men ; whereas in France, it was against the hereditary despotism of the established government. But men who can consign over the rights of posterity for ever on the authority of a mouldy parchment, like Mr. Burke, are not qualified to judge of this revolution. It takes in a field too vast for their views to explore, and proceeds with a mightiness of reason they cannot keep

pace with.

But there are many points of view in which this revolution may be considered. be considered. When despo

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

tism has established itself for ages in a country, as in France, it is not in the person of the King only that it resides. It has the appearance of being so in show, and in nominal authority; but it is not so in practice, and in fact. It has its standard every where. Every office and department has its despotism, founded upon custom and usage. Every place has its Bastille, and every Bastille its despot. The original hereditary despotism resident in the person of the King, divides and subdivides itself into a thousand shapes and forms, till at last the whole of it is acted by deputation. This was the case in France; and against this species of despotism, proceeding on through an endless labyrinth of office till the source of it is scarcely perceptible, there is no mode of redress. It strengthens itself by assuming the appearance of duty, and tyrannises under the pretence of obeying.

When a man reflects on the condition which France was in from the nature of her government, he will see other causes for revolt than those which immediately connect themselves with the person or character of Louis XVI. There were, if I may so express it, a thousand despotisms to be reformed in France, which had grown up under the hereditary despotism of the monarchy, and became so rooted as to be in a great measure independent of it. Between the monarchy, the parliament, and the church, there was a rivalship of despotism; besides the feudal despotism operating locally, and the ministerial despotism operating every-where. But Mr. Burke, by considering the

« 前へ次へ »