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"M. d'Aiguillon seconded these motions, which were loudly applauded, 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.'
6. 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 (bannalitès, 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 yassals 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 included 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 as.sembly 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 had made in favour of the inhabitants of the country, and the glorious triumph which the public welfare had gained in this memorable night over all personal interests. Repeated acclamations expressed the feelings of the National Assembly. It determined to irr a 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. ii. 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 had 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 nécessary 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
wicked and impolitic. If the language of reproof is more frequent, more pointed, more unsparing, if a scrutiny more strict, a judgment more severe is applied to the transgressions of France than to those of her opponents, still the latter are neither forgotten nor justified, excepting only when Great Britain happens to be the offending party. Then, indeed, the eye becomes dim, the ear deaf, and the voice of reproach is hushed into silence.
It seems remarkable, when so much is said in the volumes before us, of the disregard of neutral privileges, of the encroachment on neutral rights, of the violence by which pacific nations have been compelled to depart openly from their neutrality, or adopt systems which must lead inevitably to reprisals and war, that no notice is taken of many minor occurrences that belong to the history of that period. For instance, of the memorials of Lord Auckland to their high mightinesses the States General of the United Provinces, in which, after stating at one time as a matter of information that some unfortunate individuals (meaning, we presume, the members of the national assembly) assuming to themselves the name of philosophers, bad had the presumption to think themselves capable of establishing a new system of civil society.” (Memor. 25th January, 1793.) He afterwards on the 5th of April, in conjunction with the Austrian Minister Count Stahremberg, after Dumourier had delivered to the Allies some of the commissioners of the national convention, adds in another memorial, “this event (the execution of the unfortunate Louis) which was foreseen with horror, has taken place, and the divine vengeance seems not to have been tardy. Some of these detestable regicides are already in such a situation that they may be subjected to the sword of the law.” They then recommend to their high mightinesses “to prohibit from entering your states in Europe, or your colonies, all those members of the self-titled national convention, or of the pretended executive council who have directly or indirectly participated in the said crime; and if they should be discovered and arrested, to deliver them up to justice, that they may serve as a lesson and an example to mankind.” And it ought to be remembered that the worst atrocities of the Revolution were not committed, even its revolutionary tribunal was not organized until its leaders were thus publicly proscribed as enemies of the human race.
Neither is any notice taken of the correspondence of Mr. Hailes, with the Minister of Denmark ;* nor of the memorial of Lord Hervey to the Minister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in which the Grand Duke was ordered “to send away, in twelve hours, the French Ambassador and his suite, or else the squadron under Lord Hood will act offensively against the port and city of Leghorn.” “The sole way to prevent offensive operations against the city and port of Leghorn is to acquiesce in the demands now made.” Nor of the note of Lord Robert Fitzgerald to the Swiss Cantons, in which it is declared, “that neutrality itself will not authorise any correspondence directly or indirectly with the factious or their agents." “ That the present war being carried on against usurpers, any correspondence with them by a neutral state would be an acknowledgment of their authority, and consequently an act prejudicial to the allied powers." It was thus that wherever their influence could reach or their power control, the monarchs of Europe, with Great Britain at their head, employed every means, even force itself to arm all nations against the French people; to cut of all the relations of social life, to interdict in the language of Mr. Burke, all" adulterous intercourse with the prostitute outcasts of mankind,”. and yet their apologists continue to express astonishment that these people should turn with vindictive feelings on those whom they considered as traitors to their cause and to their country, whom they found acting in concert and combination with their foreign oppressors.
* The correspondence between Mr. Hailes and the Court of Denmark, merits particular notice. In his replies to the memorials of the British and Prussian Ministers, Count Bernstorff notices the new doctrine “that two powers shall make re: gulations at the expense of a third power, or that belligerent states shall ease the burthen inseparable from war, by throwing it upon their innocent neighbours ” He afterwards adds, that his government “cannot conceive how his majesty the King of Great Britain could, without the consent of his Danish Majesty, g.ve fresh instructions to the commanders of the British ships of war which are absolutely contrary to the former instructions and to his treaties with Denmark”-and in the counter declaration of the Court of Denmark, when speaking of the efforts of GreatBritain in 1793 to starve France by interdicting to neutrals the transportation of provisions, it is remarked that in the early part of the last century, when Frederick İV. King of Denmark, on account of his war with Sweden, which required almost constantly importation from abroad like France, could believe that he might adopt the principle, that exportation can be lawfully prevented if one has hopes to conquer an enemy by so doing, and he intended to apply with regard to a whole country, this principle, which is only considered as valid with regard to blockaded ports; all the powers remonstrated, especially Great Britain, and unanimously declared this as new and inadmissible.” Thus political justice can change its hue and features according to circumstances, and the doctrines which were totally inadmissible by Great Britain when a neutral, become quite palatable to her as a belligerent-and the arguments of Denmark were remembered and replied to in 1799 and 1807.
Even if we look back to the earliest periods of the Revolution when the French had committed no other offence than that of undertaking to reform their government, and read the revilings and bitter denunciations of many, particularly of Mr. Burke, for which he was afterwards pensioned, prophetic denunciations which often lead to their own fulfilinent (for vindictive and un