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learned, more virtuous, and more powerful than themselves ? Or were they not notoriously more silly and abandoned ; and their power, did it not arise from their connexion with a moparchy which was tottering to its fall ? Among the nobility attached to the court where could the king find an able and virtuous minister? Was it in Calonne, whose ability exhaled in fine phrases; who, borne down by the weight of an office he was incapable of sustaining, threw open the doors of the treasury to the insatiable courtiers; who endeavoured to trick the notables by false statements; and who was eventually dismissed from a station he disgraced, to the great joy of all France? Was it in Fourqueux, his feeble successor, the mere locum tenens of de Brienne, the Archbishop of Toulouse? Or was it the last named dignitary who, as confident as he was impotent, soon gave the coup de grace to the finances which he had undertaken to revive; and was shortly compelled, in spite of his intrigues, to yield up his place to the bourgeois Neckar? Well might the poor king exclaim, when the queen pressed him to dismiss the archbishop, “and who shall I take? I see none about you and me but rascals or fools; let them no more propose to me a fine speaker or a gentleman; I want some one who understands his trade."
The derangement of the finances, as we have said, created the necessity for the call of the Parliament: the Parliament declared that the power to raise money was solely vested in the States-General, and the assembly of this body in its turn gave the wished for opportunity to those who were anxious for relief, and were ready for revolution: the people, indeed, had been prepared for it long before, as we have said, by the weight of taxation, by personal oppression, by contumelious treatment, by the dissemination of infidel and licentious writings, by contrasting their rights with those of Englishmen, and by the example of the United States, where the new theory of the rights of man had been successfully reduced into practice. They were eager to seize upon the occasion which the exhausted treasury afforded to accomplish their purposes, without considering that human wisdom could not prescribe limits to a people drunk with power, and without knowing or dreaming how utterly unfit they were to enjoy the blessings they coveted. They were unprepared for self-government; they are so to this day; and they will always be so, until the blessings of a liberal education are aniversally spread over the land. But let us recur to the cause of this financial distress. Our author says it will be found principally in the profusion of the royal family. No doubt this increased it prior to the reign of Louis XVI;
for it is well known that his personal expenditures had been reduced even to a state of meanness; it was not so easy, however to lessen the demands of the others; but the public debt had been a burthen to France long before the revolutionary period. Her wars had created it; and its interest like that of the debt of Great-Britain, swelled up the taxes which were raised with difficulty. The government was near bankruptcy for above half a century before, if a constantly accumulating debt and diminishing means of payment, are evidences of that situation. It is admitted, on all hands, that Louis was honest and virtuous, though weak; he was desirous of doing good to his people to the very last, but never knew how; his family could lend him no assistance: his eldest brother, it is more than suspected, intrigued against him: the rest, as well as himself, had given their confidence to courtiers destitute of merit or virtue; to men and women who only lived to pillage France. To the Queen he was ruinously attached; he was, in fact, led by her, for she made and dismissed even his ministers at pleasure. She acted ignorantly, but not wickedly; and was governed by the ladies of her court, and the Abbè de Vermont, who attended her from Austria, and was sincerely attached to her. He was an honest servant, but an alien to the feelings of Frenchmen, and ignorant of politics; he was independent in his circumstances, and strange to tell, he wanted no more; and by his disinterestedness and devotion to his mistress, he gained her confidence, and led her undesignedły, step by step, to her ruin. She entirely misunderstood the character of the people; and though, as desirous, as so frivolous a woman could be, to cultivate their affections, the course she was led to adopt produced the opposite effect. She became at length the subject of their undisguised hate; and when, too late, she discovered it, she was shocked and distressed; she implored the members of the family to try and recover their lost popularity, observing that “she would never be content to be the Queen of France if she could not at the same time be Queen of the French.” After the solemn, and to them, sad procession of the States-General, which was joined by the king, queen and all the court, where the sole cry of the people was vivent les etats-generaux:” “ vive le duc d'Orleans ;" where no whisper was heard of “ vive le Roi'—or 6 vive la Reine,"
“ The king re-entered fatigued with his painful march, and moreover very sad: the queen more excited, with difficulty contained her chagrin: she had witnessed with a fatal presentiment the joy of the Duke of Orleans; she pretended even that the virtuous wife of that prince had a triumphant mien, and that she had badly disguised the pleasure with which the disposition of the people had inspired her.Mad. de Polignac had the temerity to advise her to exile the Duke and Duchess of Orleans. "That would be inconsistent ;' answered the queen; 'ought I to punish those who know how to make themselves beloved ? Ah! if I had only been taught that great art, they would not on this occasion have obtained this proof of the love of Frenchmen.'
“ This remark made with profound sensibility touched the heart of Mad. de Polignac; it seemed to her an indirect reproach, and she burst into tears. Maria Antoinette observing her grief and its cause, flew to her and embraced her tenderly, saying, “It is not you, my dear friend, I accuse ; you, like myself, are only a woman: but I complain of those who, having more experience than myself, have conducted me by a wrong road.'”– Vol. i. p.
371. Had this unfortunate queen permitted the affairs of state to be conducted by her husband and his ministers, without her interference in politics, with which she was as profoundly ignorant, as most women are, it would, perhaps, have been better for them all. At any rate she would not have been the victim of the hatred of the people. Her pernicious influence over the fate of ministers, and the extravagance of the princes, are thus pourtrayed by our author.
“Neckar, if he could have been heard, might perhaps have succeeded in retarding the fall of the monarchy; but Neckar was odious at court; he was a bourgeois, a merchant, a banker, a man of no consequence; certainly a very ridiculous one, for he had no mistresses, and he was not disposed to pay the debts of all those who wished it done at the expense of the treasury
Nothing is more amusing than the anger you may trace in the memoirs and writings of the courtiers on the insolence of Neckar: had he not dared to ask of the king as a proof of confidence an entré to the council and an honourable recompence? Was not this assurance deserving of punishment; should it not be curbed ? The queen spoke against him and he was dismissed. Calonne was put in his place, and he did not hesitate to open the public coffers to all who wished to draw on them. One single prince in a few years drew out for his share forty millions ; so did others: but the moment came when there was no longer any money to satisfy such avidity, when that arrived, they were compelled to have recourse to extraordinary measures.”Vol i.
235. The object, our author says, for which the court caused the notables to be called together was well understood by the lowest of the people. He overheard the following dialogue between two women of that class. " Que va faire le roi,” disait l'une d'elles ? “Il va se procurer les moyens de prendre notre argent dans nos poches sans trop nous faire crier-Ah! j'entend, reprit la premiere, la reine et le comte d'Artois en manquent ? Eh bien ! est-ce à de leur en fournir ?" But this was not the object. The people were already taxed to the extent of their ability, but the noblesse were exempt, and the notables were called to correct the partiality and arrest the prodigality of the courtiers. This they failed to do, though La Fayette made a vigorous and bold push to unravel the mysteries of their horrible peculation, and expose the frauds practised on the treasury-but all he gained was their immortal hate which to this day he enjoys. Indeed it was expecting too much of these men to suppose that they could voluntarily be induced from just or patriotic motives to disgorge their spoils, or relinquish their opportunities of future gain, and it was positively absurd to calculate on their taxing themselves. To the mortification of all France the session closed and nothing was accomplished of any moment. It then became evident that the remedy was to be found only in the States-General, where the tiers-etat would bave a voice in opposition to the noblesse; and to increase its effect, Neckar suggested that it should be allowed a double representation. As soon as they assembled in this increased strength, they took steps to monopolize all the power of the States-General in their own hands by a series of skilful manæuvres, in which a ininority of the noblesse and clergy joined them, and which eventuated in having but one room in which to assemble all the three orders, whereby they became amalgamated into one body, governed by the majority; and as the votes of the tiers-etat, with the revolutionary nobility and clergy, outnumbered the others, the government became at once revolutionized.
We must leave this matter here, being fully satisfied that a revolution, to the extent of procuring permanent relief, and some security against a recurrence of similar evils, was absolutely necessary. The troubles which were immediately drawn down upon the heads of the people, cannot impugn the patriotism of the founders of the revolution. It was scarcely within the ken of human foresight, to discern the probable madness of the nation, when once made drunk with blood. Anarchy had not resulted from the recent American revolution, nor could they well foresee the establishment of a military despotism, any more than they could the subsequent restoration of the ancient state of things—but here we are wrong, no such restoration has taken place. Though France has again her Bourbons, she is comparatively free; and the steady progress of liberal principles is every moment producing advantages. Her scheme of self-government has, it is true, failed; but, perhaps, it may hereafter be resumed under more favourable auspices. The revolution is not yet over; its excesses only are passed, never it is hoped to be again revived ; but the day must arrive when the blessed fruit of so much suffering will be enjoyed in peace : and it will have arrived, when every Frenchman, let the form of government be what it may, shall be protected by fundamental laws in his person and estate, and have a voice in the selection of his lawgivers.
It would be interesting to trace the means by which the tiersetat, step by step, obtained the sole power of the government, but our limits will not permit it. We must refer to the book itself where they are distinctly marked out. We must content ourselves with turning the remainder of our attention to our author's portraits of individuals, and from which too we regret, that from the same cause, we can make but very few selections. But before we do this we wish to say a word on the pernicious influence exerted by the ladies on the affairs of state. We have said that most women are profoundly ignorant of politics. In France this was quite as much the case as every where else, and yet they took a decided part in every importaột crisis, and most mischievously influenced the conduct of the government and noblesse. , France had deeply to deplore the effects of the queen's interference in state concerns, but she was not alone, for Madame Adelaide, the king's aunt, thought herself qualified to direct his conduct. When the notables first met in royal session, she endeavoured to impress upon him the impropriety of his presiding over them or approaching them at all. He resisted-he told her it was “his duty to take part in every thing which could enlighten him on the state of the nation.”_" Be it so," said this meddling woman, “but wait till the next royal session, then appear; the business will be by that time better arranged, and you will be able to foresee what will be the result.” He weakly yielded to her foolish entreaties, as she was seconded by the queen, and consented that Monsieur should fill his place, by which he lost the ancient power to adjourn them at his pleasure. This manœuvre, it is said, was one of Calonne's, who was afraid that something to his disadvantage might take place in the assembly that he did not wish the king to know of.
When the tiers-etat insisted on their right to a seat in the same hall with the other two orders, the ladies of the court with Madame Polignac at their head, resolving to oppose them, spared no pains to inflame such as were peaceably inclined to yield, and to sustain the opposition of the adversaries to the measure.
Our author says: “ Des femmes jeunes et jolies ne craignaient pas, dans l'interêt de leur caste, d'employer des seductions qui exposaient leur honneur, pour VOL. VI.-N(), 11.