This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume IX Author: John Lord Release Date: January 8, 2004 [eBook #10640] Language: English Character set encoding: iso-8859-1 ***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK BEACON LIGHTS OF HISTORY, VOLUME IX***
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.First act of the Revolution
POLITICAL MORALITY.Early life and education of Burke
THE FRENCH EMPIRE.Unanimity of mankind respecting the genius of Napoleon
CONSERVATISM.Europe in the Napoleonic Era
THE RESTORATION AND FALL OF THE BOURBONS.Restoration of the Bourbons
TORYISM.Condition of England in 1815
THE GREEK REVOLUTION.Universal weariness of war on the fall of Napoleon
THE CITIZEN KING.Elevation of Louis Philippe
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
VOLUME IX.Napoleon Insists that Pope Pius VII. Shall Crown Him After the painting by Jean Paul Laurens.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.
Three events of pre-eminent importance have occurred in our modern times; these are the Protestant Reformation, the American War of Independence, and the French Revolution.
The most complicated and varied of these great movements is the French Revolution, on which thousands of volumes have been written, so that it is impossible even to classify the leading events and the ever-changing features of that rapid and exciting movement. The first act of that great drama was the attempt of reformers and patriots to destroy feudalism,--with its privileges and distinctions and injustices,--by unscrupulous and wild legislation, and to give a new constitution to the State.
The best representative of this movement was Mirabeau, and I accordingly select him as the subject of this lecture. I cannot describe the violence and anarchy which succeeded the Reign of Terror, ending in a Directory, and the usurpation of Napoleon. The subject is so vast that I must confine myself to a single point, in which, however, I would unfold the principles of the reformers and the logical results to which their principles led.
The remote causes of the French Revolution I have already glanced at, in a previous lecture. The most obvious of these, doubtless, was the misgovernment which began with Louis XIV. and continued so disgracefully under Louis XV.; which destroyed all reverence for the throne, even loyalty itself, the chief support of the monarchy. The next most powerful influence that created revolution was feudalism, which ground down the people by unequal laws, and irritated them by the haughtiness, insolence, and heartlessness of the aristocracy, and thus destroyed all respect for them, ending in bitter animosities. Closely connected with these two gigantic evils was the excessive taxation, which oppressed the nation and made it discontented and rebellious. The fourth most prominent cause of agitation was the writings of infidel philosophers and economists, whose unsound and sophistical theories held out fallacious hopes, and undermined those sentiments by which all governments and institutions are preserved. These will be incidentally presented, as thereby we shall be able to trace the career of the remarkable man who controlled the National Assembly, and who applied the torch to the edifice whose horrid and fearful fires he would afterwards have suppressed. It is easy to destroy; it is difficult to reconstruct. Nor is there any human force which can arrest a national conflagration when once it is kindled: only on its ashes can a new structure arise, and this only after long and laborious efforts and humiliating disappointments.
It might have been possible for the Government to contend successfully with the various elements of discontent among the people, intoxicated with those abstract theories of rights which Rousseau had so eloquently defended, if it had possessed a strong head and the sinews of war. But Louis XVI., a modest, timid, temperate, moral young man of twenty-three, by the death of his father and elder brothers had succeeded to the throne of his dissolute grandfather at just the wrong time. He was a gentleman, but no ruler. He had no personal power, and the powers of his kingdom had been dissipated by his reckless predecessors. Not only was the army demoralized, and inclined to fraternize with the people, but there was no money to pay the troops or provide for the ordinary expenses of the Court. There was an alarming annual deficit, and the finances were utterly disordered. Successive ministers had exhausted all ordinary resources and the most ingenious forms of taxation. They made promises, and resorted to every kind of expediency, which had only a temporary effect. The primal evils remained. The national treasury was empty. Calonne and Necker pursued each a different policy, and with the same results. The extravagance of the one and the economy of the other were alike fatal. Nobody would make sacrifices in a great national exigency. The nobles and the clergy adhered tenaciously to their privileges, and the Court would curtail none of its unnecessary expenses. Things went on from bad to worse, and the financiers were filled with alarm. National bankruptcy stared everybody in the face.
If the King had been a Richelieu, he would have dealt summarily with the nobles and rebellious mobs. He would have called to his aid the talents of the nation, appealed to its patriotism, compelled the Court to make sacrifices, and prevented the printing and circulation of seditious pamphlets. The Government should have allied itself with the people, granted their requests, and marched to victory under the name of patriotism. But Louis XVI. was weak, irresolute, vacillating, and uncertain. He was a worthy sort of man, with good intentions, and without the vices of his predecessors. But he was surrounded with incompetent ministers and bad advisers, who distrusted the people and had no sympathy with their wrongs. He would have made concessions, if his ministers had advised him. He was not ambitious, nor unpatriotic; he simply did not know what to do.
In his perplexity, he called together the principal heads of the nobility,--some hundred and twenty great seigneurs, called the Notables; but this assembly was dissolved without accomplishing anything. It was full of jealousies, and evinced no patriotism. It would not part with its privileges or usurpations.
It was at this crisis that Mirabeau first appeared upon the stage, as a pamphleteer, writing bitter and envenomed attacks on the government, and exposing with scorching and unsparing sarcasms the evils of the day, especially in the department of finance. He laid bare to the eyes of the nation the sores of the body politic,--the accumulated evils of centuries. He exposed all the shams and lies to which ministers had resorted. He was terrible in the fierceness and eloquence of his assaults, and in the lucidity of his statements. Without being learned, he contrived to make use of the learning of others, and made it burn with the brilliancy of his powerful and original genius. Everybody read his various essays and tracts, and was filled with admiration. But his moral character was bad,--Was even execrable, and notoriously outrageous. He was kind-hearted and generous, made friends and used them. No woman, it is said, could resist his marvellous fascination,--all the more remarkable since his face was as ugly as that of Wilkes, and was marked by the small-pox. The excesses of his private life, and his ungovernable passions, made him distrusted by the Court and the Government. He was both hated and admired.
Mirabeau belonged to a noble family of very high rank in Provence, of Italian descent. His father, Marquis Mirabeau, was a man of liberal sentiments,--not unknown to literary fame by his treatises on political economy,'--but was eccentric and violent. Although his oldest son, Count Mirabeau, the subject of this lecture, was precocious intellectually, and very bright, so that the father was proud of him, he was yet so ungovernable and violent in his temper, and got into so many disgraceful scrapes, that the Marquis was compelled to discipline him severely,--all to no purpose, inasmuch as he was injudicious in his treatment, and ultimately cruel. He procured lettres de cachet from the King, and shut up his disobedient and debauched son in various state-prisons. But the Count generally contrived to escape, only to get into fresh difficulties; so that he became a wanderer and an exile, compelled to support himself by his pen.
Mirabeau was in Berlin, in a sort of semi-diplomatic position, when the Assembly of Notables was convened. His keen prescience and profound sagacity induced him to return to his distracted country, where he knew his services would soon be required. Though debauched, extravagant, and unscrupulous, he was not unpatriotic. He had an intense hatred of feudalism, and saw in its varied inequalities the chief source of the national calamities. His detestation of feudal injustices was intensified by his personal sufferings in the various castles where he had been confined by arbitrary power. At this period, the whole tendency of his writings was towards the destruction of the ancien régime, He breathed defiance, scorn, and hatred against the very class to which he belonged. He was a Catiline,--an aristocratic demagogue, revolutionary in his spirit and aims; so that he was mistrusted, feared, and detested by the ruling powers, and by the aristocracy generally, while he was admired and flattered by the people, who were tolerant of his vices and imperious temper.
On the wretched failure of the Assembly of the Notables, the prime minister, Necker, advised the King to assemble the States-General,--the three orders of the State: the nobles, the clergy, and a representation of the people. It seemed to the Government impossible to proceed longer, amid universal distress and hopeless financial embarrassment, without the aid and advice of this body, which had not been summoned for one hundred and fifty years.
It became, of course, an object of ambition to Count Mirabeau to have a seat in this illustrious assembly. To secure this, he renounced his rank, became a plebeian, solicited the votes of the people, and was elected a deputy both from Marseilles and Aix. He chose Aix, and his great career began with the meeting of the States-General at Versailles, the 5th of May, 1789. It was composed of three hundred nobles, three hundred priests, and six hundred deputies of the third estate,--twelve hundred in all. It is generally conceded that these representatives of the three orders were on the whole a very respectable body of men, patriotic and incorruptible, but utterly deficient in political experience and in powers of debate. The deputies were largely composed of country lawyers, honest, but as conceited as they were inexperienced. The vanity of Frenchmen is so inordinate that nearly every man in the assembly felt quite competent to govern the nation or frame a constitution. Enthusiasm and hope animated the whole assembly, and everybody saw in this States-General the inauguration of a glorious future.
One of the most brilliant and impressive chapters in Carlyle's "French Revolution"--that great prose poem--is devoted to the procession of the three orders from the church of St. Louis to the church of Notre Dame, to celebrate the Mass, parts of which I quote.
"Shouts rend the air; one shout, at which Grecian birds might drop dead. It is indeed a stately, solemn sight. The Elected of France and then the Court of France; they are marshalled, and march there, all in prescribed place and costume. Our Commons in plain black mantle and white cravat; Noblesse in gold-worked, bright-dyed cloaks of velvet, resplendent, rustling with laces, waving with plumes; the Clergy in rochet, alb, and other clerical insignia; lastly the King himself and household, in their brightest blaze of pomp,--their brightest and final one. Which of the six hundred individuals in plain white cravats that have come up to regenerate France might one guess would become their king? For a king or a leader they, as all bodies of men, must have. He with the thick locks, will it be? Through whose shaggy beetle-brows, and rough-hewn, seamed, carbuncled face, there look natural ugliness, small-pox, incontinence, bankruptcy,--and burning fire of genius? It is Gabriel Honoré Riquetti de Mirabeau; man-ruling deputy of Aix! Yes, that is the Type-Frenchman of this epoch; as Voltaire was of the last. He is French in his aspirations, acquisitions, in his virtues and vices. Mark him well. The National Assembly were all different without that one; nay, he might say with old Despot,--The National Assembly? I am that.
"Now, if Mirabeau is the greatest of these six hundred, who may be the meanest? Shall we say that anxious, slight, ineffectual-looking man, under thirty, in spectacles, his eyes troubled, careful; with upturned face, snuffing dimly the uncertain future time; complexion of a multiplex atrabilious color, the final shade of which may be pale sea-green? That greenish-colored individual is an advocate of Arras; his name is Maximilien Robespierre.
"Between which extremes of grandest and meanest, so many grand and mean, roll on towards their several destinies in that procession. There is experienced Mounier, whose presidential parliamentary experience the stream of things shall soon leave stranded. A Pétion has left his gown and briefs at Chartres for a stormier sort of pleading. A Protestant-clerical St. Etienne, a slender young eloquent and vehement Barnave, will help to regenerate France,
"And then there is worthy Doctor Guillotin, Bailly likewise, time-honored historian of astronomy, and the Abbé Sieyès, cold, but elastic, wiry, instinct with the pride of logic, passionless, or with but one passion, that of self-conceit. This is the Sieyès who shall be system-builder, constitutional-builder-general, and build constitutions which shall unfortunately fall before we get the scaffolding away.
"Among the nobles are Liancourt, and La Rochefoucauld, and pious Lally, and Lafayette, whom Mirabeau calls Grandison Cromwell, and the Viscount Mirabeau, called Barrel Mirabeau, on account of his rotundity, and the quantity of strong liquor he contains. Among the clergy is the Abbé Maury, who does not want for audacity, and the Curé Grégoire who shall be a bishop, and Talleyrand-Pericord, his reverence of Autun, with sardonic grimness, a man living in falsehood, and on falsehood, yet not wholly a false man.
"So, in stately procession, the elected of France pass on, some to honor, others to dishonor; not a few towards massacre, confusion, emigration, desperation."
For several weeks this famous States-General remain inactive, unable to agree whether they shall deliberate in a single hall or in three separate chambers. The deputies, of course, wish to deliberate in a single chamber, since they equal in number both the clergy and nobles, and some few nobles had joined them, and more than a hundred of the clergy. But a large majority of both the clergy and the noblesse insist with pertinacity on the three separate chambers, since, united, they would neutralize the third estate. If the deputies prevailed, they would inaugurate reforms to which the other orders would never consent.
Long did these different bodies of the States-General deliberate, and stormy were the debates. The nobles showed themselves haughty and dogmatical; the deputies showed themselves aggressive and revolutionary. The King and the ministers looked on with impatience and disgust, but were irresolute. Had the King been a Cromwell, or a Napoleon, he would have dissolved the assemblies; but he was timid and hesitating. Necker, the prime minister, was for compromise; he would accept reforms, but only in a constitutional way.
The knot was at last cut by the Abbé Sieyès, a political priest, and one of the deputies for Paris,--the finest intellect in the body, next to Mirabeau, and at first more influential than he, since the Count was generally distrusted on account of his vices. Nor had he as yet exhibited his great powers. Sieyès said, for the Deputies alone, "We represent ninety-six per cent of the whole nation. The people is sovereign; we, therefore, as its representatives, constitute ourselves a national assembly." His motion was passed by acclamation, on June 17, and the Third Estate assumed the right to act for France.
In a legal and constitutional point of view, this was a usurpation, if ever there was one. "It was," says Von Sybel, the able German historian of the French Revolution, "a declaration of open war between arbitrary principles and existing rights." It was as if the House of Representatives in the United States, or the House of Commons in England, should declare themselves the representatives of the nation, ignoring the Senate or the House of Lords. Its logical sequence was revolution.
The prodigious importance of this step cannot be overrated. It transferred the powers of the monarchy to the Third Estate. It would logically lead to other usurpations, the subversion of the throne, and the utter destruction of feudalism,--for this last was the aim of the reformers. Mirabeau himself at first shrank from this violent measure, but finally adopted it. He detested feudalism and the privileges of the clergy. He wanted radical reforms, but would have preferred to gain them in a constitutional way, like Pym, in the English Revolution. But if reforms could not be gained constitutionally, then he would accept revolution, as the lesser evil. Constitutionally, radical reforms were hopeless. The ministers and the King, doubtless, would have made some concessions, but not enough to satisfy the deputies. So these same deputies took the entire work of legislation into their own hands. They constituted themselves the sole representatives of the nation. The nobles and the clergy might indeed deliberate with them; they were not altogether ignored, but their interests and rights were to be disregarded. In that state of ferment and discontent which existed when the States-General was convened, the nobles and the clergy probably knew the spirit of the deputies, and therefore refused to sit with them. They knew, from the innumerable pamphlets and tracts which were issued from the press, that radical changes were desired, to which they themselves were opposed; and they had the moral support of the Government on their side.
The deputies of the Third Estate were bent on the destruction of feudalism, as the only way to remedy the national evils, which were so glaring and overwhelming. They probably knew that their proceedings were unconstitutional and illegal, but thought that their acts would be sanctioned by their patriotic intentions. They were resolved to secure what seemed to them rights, and thought little of duties. If these inestimable and vital rights should be granted without usurpation, they would be satisfied; if not, then they would resort to usurpation. To them their course seemed to be dictated by the "higher law." What to them were legalities that perpetuated wrongs? The constitution was made for man, not man for the constitution.
Had the three orders deliberated together in one hall, although against precedent and legality, the course of revolution might have been directed into a different channel; or if an able and resolute king had been on the throne, he might have united with the people against the nobles, and secured all the reforms that were imperative, without invoking revolution; or he might have dispersed the deputies at the point of the bayonet, and raised taxes by arbitrary imposition, as able despots have ever done. We cannot penetrate the secrets of Providence. It may have been ordered in divine justice and wisdom that the French people should work out their own deliverance in their own way, in mistakes, in suffering, and in violence, and point the eternal moral that inexperience, vanity, and ignorance are fatal to sound legislation, and sure to lead to errors which prove disastrous; that national progress is incompatible with crime; that evils can only gradually be removed; that wickedness ends in violence.
A majority of the deputies meant well. They were earnest, patriotic, and enthusiastic. But they knew nothing of the science of government or of constitution-making, which demand the highest maturity of experience and wisdom. As I have said, nearly four hundred of them were country lawyers, as conceited as they were inexperienced. Both Mirabeau and Sieyès had a supreme contempt for them as a whole. They wanted what they called rights, and were determined to get them any way they could, disregarding obstacles, disregarding forms and precedents. And they were backed up and urged forward by ignorant mobs, and wicked demagogues who hated the throne, the clergy, and the nobles. Hence the deputies made mistakes. They could see nothing better than unscrupulous destruction. And they did not know how to reconstruct. They were bewildered and embarrassed, and listened to the orators of the Palais Royal.
The first thing of note which occurred when they resolved to call themselves the National Assembly and not the Third Estate, which they were only, was done by Mirabeau. He ascended the tribune, when Brézé, the master of ceremonies, came with a message from the King for them to join the other orders, and said in his voice of melodious thunder, "We are here by the command of the people, and will only disperse by the force of bayonets." From that moment, till his death, he ruled the Assembly. The disconcerted messenger returned to his sovereign. What did the King say at this defiance of royal authority? Did he rise in wrath and indignation, and order his guards to disperse the rebels? No; the amiable King said meekly, "Well, let them remain there." What a king for such stormy times! O shade of Richelieu, thy work has perished! Rousseau, a greater genius than thou wert, hath undermined the institutions and the despotism of two hundred years.
Only two courses were now open to the King,--this weak and kind-hearted Louis XVI., heir of a hundred years' misrule,--if he would maintain his power. One was to join the reformers and co-operate in patriotic work, assisted by progressive ministers, whatever opposition might be raised by nobles and priests; and the second was to arm himself and put down the deputies. But how could this weak-minded sovereign co-operate with plebeians against the orders which sustained his throne? And if he used violence, he inaugurated civil war, which would destroy thousands where revolution destroyed hundreds. Moreover, the example of Charles I. was before him. He dared not run the risk. In such a torrent of revolutionary forces, when even regular troops fraternized with citizens, that experiment was dangerous. And then he was tender-hearted, and shrank from shedding innocent blood. His queen, Marie Antoinette, the intrepid daughter of Maria Theresa, with her Austrian proclivities, would have kept him firm and sustained him by her courageous counsels; but her influence was neutralized by popular ministers. Necker, the prosperous banker, the fortunate financier, advised half measures. Had he conciliated Mirabeau, who led the Assembly, then even the throne might have been saved. But he detested and mistrusted the mighty tribune of the people,--the aristocratic demagogue, who, in spite of his political rancor and incendiary tracts, was the only great statesman of the day. He refused the aid of the only man who could have staved off the violence of factions, and brought reason and talent to the support of reform and law.
At this period, after the triumph of the Third Estate,--now called the National Assembly,--and the paralysis of the Court, perplexed and uncertain whether or not to employ violence and disband the assembly by royal decree, a great agitation began among the people, not merely in Paris, but over the whole kingdom. There were meetings to promote insurrection, paid declaimers of human rights, speeches without end in the gardens of the Palais Royal, where Marat, Camille Desmoulins, and other popular orators harangued the excited crowds. There were insurrections at Versailles, which was filled with foreign soldiers. The French guards fraternized with the people whom they were to subdue. Necker in despair resigned, or was dismissed. None of the authorities could command obedience. The people were starving, and the bakers' shops were pillaged. The crowds broke open the prisons, and released many who had been summarily confined. Troops were poured into Paris, and the old Duke of Broglie, one of the heroes of the Seven Years' War, now war-minister, sought to overawe the city. The gun-shops were plundered, and the rabble armed themselves with whatever weapons they could lay their hands upon. The National Assembly decreed the formation of a national guard to quell disturbances, and placed Lafayette at the head of it. Besenval, who commanded the royal troops, was forced to withdraw from the capital. The city was completely in the hands of the insurgents, who were driven hither and thither by every passion which can sway the human soul. Patriotic zeal blended with envy, hatred, malice, revenge, and avarice. The mob at last attacked the Bastille, a formidable fortress where state-prisoners were arbitrarily confined. In spite of moats and walls and guns, this gloomy monument of royal tyranny was easily taken, for it was manned by only about one hundred and forty men, and had as provisions only two sacks of flour. No aid could possibly come to the rescue. Resistance was impossible, in its unprepared state for defence, although its guns, if properly manned, might have demolished the whole Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
The news of the fall of this fortress came like a thunder-clap over Europe. It announced the reign of anarchy in France, and the helplessness of the King. On hearing of the fall of the Bastille, the King is said to have exclaimed to his courtiers, "It is a revolt, then." "Nay, sire," said the Duke of Liancourt, "it is a revolution." It was evident that even then the King did not comprehend the situation. But how few could comprehend it! Only one man saw the full tendency of things, and shuddered at the consequences,--and this man was Mirabeau.
The King, at last aroused, appeared in person in the National Assembly, and announced the withdrawal of the troops from Paris and the recall of Necker. But general mistrust was alive in every bosom, and disorders still continued to a frightful extent, even in the provinces. "In Brittany the towns appointed new municipalities, and armed a civic guard from the royal magazines. In Caen the people stormed the citadel and killed the officers of the salt-tax. Nowhere were royal intendants seen. The custom-houses, at the gates of the provincial cities, were demolished. In Franche-Comté a noble castle was burned every day. All kinds of property were exposed to the most shameful robbery."
Then took place the emigration of the nobles, among whom were Condé, Polignac, Broglie, to organize resistance to the revolution which had already conquered the King.
Meanwhile, the triumphant Assembly, largely recruited by the liberal nobles and the clergy, continued its sessions, decreed its sittings permanent and its members inviolable. The sittings were stormy; for everybody made speeches, written or oral, yet few had any power of debate. Even Mirabeau himself, before whom all succumbed, was deficient in this talent. He could thunder; he could arouse or allay passions; he seemed able to grasp every subject, for he used other people's brains; he was an incarnation of eloquence,--but he could not reply to opponents with much effect, like Pitt, Webster, and Gladstone. He was still the leading man in the kingdom; all eyes were directed towards him; and no one could compete with him, not even Sieyès. The Assembly wasted days in foolish debates. It had begun its proceedings with the famous declaration of the rights of man,--an abstract question, first mooted by Rousseau, and re-echoed by Jefferson. Mirabeau was appointed with a committee of five to draft the declaration,--in one sense, a puerile fiction, since men are not "born free," but in a state of dependence and weakness; nor "equal," either in regard to fortune, or talents, or virtue, or rank: but in another sense a great truth, so far as men are entitled by nature to equal privileges, and freedom of the person, and unrestricted liberty to get a living according to their choice.
The Assembly at last set itself in earnest to the work of legislation. In one night, the ever memorable 4th of August, it decreed the total abolition of feudalism. In one night it abolished tithes to the church, provincial privileges, feudal rights, serfdom, the law of primogeniture, seigniorial dues, and the gabelle, or tax on salt. Mirabeau was not present, being absent on his pleasures. These, however, seldom interfered with his labors, which were herculean, from seven in the morning till eleven at night. He had two sides to his character,--one exciting abhorrence and disgust, for his pleasures were miscellaneous and coarse; a man truly abandoned to the most violent passions: the other side pleasing, exciting admiration; a man with an enormous power of work, affable, dignified, with courtly manners, and enchanting conversation, making friends with everybody, out of real kindness of heart, because he really loved the people, and sought their highest good; a truly patriotic man, and as wise as he was enthusiastic. This great orator and statesman was outraged and alarmed at the indecent haste of the Assembly, and stigmatized its proceedings as "nocturnal orgies." The Assembly on that memorable night swept away the whole feudal edifice, and in less time than the English Parliament would take to decide upon the first reading of any bill of importance.
The following day brought reflection and discontent. "That is just the character of our Frenchmen," exclaimed Mirabeau; "they are three months disputing about syllables, and in a single night they overturn the whole venerable edifice of the monarchy." Sieyès was equally disgusted, and made a speech of great force to show that to abolish tithes without an indemnity was spoliating the clergy to enrich the land-owners. He concluded, "You know how to be free; you do not know how to be just." But he was regarded as an ecclesiastic, unable to forego his personal interests. He gave vent to his irritated feelings in a conversation with Mirabeau, when the latter said, "My dear Abbé, you have let loose the bull, and you now complain that he gores you." It was this political priest who had made the first assault on the constitution, when he urged the Third Estate to decree itself the nation.
The National Assembly had destroyed feudal institutions; but it had not yet made a constitution, or restored order. Violence and anarchy still reigned. Then the clubs began to make themselves a power. "Come," said the lawyer Danton to a friend, in the district of the Cordéliers, "come and howl with us; you will earn much money, and you can still choose your party afterwards." But it was in the garden of the Palais Royal, and in the old church of the Jacobins that the most violent attacks were made on all existing institutions. "A Fourth Estate (of able editors) also springs up, increases, multiplies; irrepressible, incalculable." Then from the lowest quarters of Paris surge up an insurrection of women, who march to Versailles in disorder, penetrate the Assembly, and invade the palace. On the 5th of October a mob joins them, of the lowest rabble, and succeed in forcing their way into the precincts of the palace. "The King to Paris!" was now the general cry, and Louis XVI. appears upon the balcony and announces by gestures his subjection to their will. A few hours after, the King is on his way to Paris, under the protection of the National Guard, really a prisoner in the hands of the people. In fourteen days the National Assembly also follows, to be now dictated to by the clubs.
In this state of anarchy and incipient violence, Mirabeau, whose power in the Assembly was still unimpaired, wished to halt. He foresaw the future. No man in France had such clear insight and sagacity as he. He saw the State drifting into dissolution, and put forth his hand and raised his voice to arrest the catastrophe which he lamented. "The mob of Paris," said he, "will scourge the corpses of the King and Queen." It was then that he gave but feeble support to the "Rights of Man," and contended for the unlimited veto of the King on the proceedings of the Assembly. He also brought forward a motion to allow the King's ministers to take part in the debates. "On the 7th of October he exhorted the Count de Marck to tell the King that his throne and kingdom were lost, if he did not immediately quit Paris." And he did all he could to induce him, through the voice of his friends, to identify himself with the cause of reform, as the only means for the salvation of the throne. He warned him against fleeing to the frontier to join the emigrants, as the prelude of civil war. He advocated a new ministry, of more vigor and breadth. He wanted a government both popular and strong. He wished to retain the monarchy, but desired a constitutional monarchy like that of England. His hostility to all feudal institutions was intense, and he did not seek to have any of them restored. It was the abolition of feudal privileges which was really the permanent bequest of the French Revolution. They have never been revived. No succeeding government has even attempted to revive them.
On the removal of the National Assembly to Paris, Mirabeau took a large house and lived ostentatiously and at great expense until he died, from which it is supposed that he received pensions from England, Spain, and even the French Court. This is intimated by Dumont; and I think it probable. It will in part account for the conservative course he adopted to check the excesses of that revolution which he, more than any other man, invoked. He was doubtless patriotic, and uttered his warning protests with sincerity. Still it is easy to believe that so corrupt and extravagant a man in his private life was accessible to bribery. Such a man must have money, and he was willing to get it from any quarter. It is certain that he was regarded by the royal family, towards the close of his career, very differently from what they regarded him when the States-General was assembled. But if he was paid by different courts, it is true that he then gave his support to the cause of law and constitutional liberty, and doubtless loathed the excesses which took place in the name of liberty. He was the only man who could have saved the monarchy, if it were possible to save it; but no human force could probably have arrested the waves of revolutionary frenzy at this time.
On the removal of the Assembly to Paris, the all-absorbing questions related to finance. The State was bankrupt. It was difficult to raise money for the most pressing exigencies. Money must be had, or there would be universal anarchy and despair. How could it be raised? The credit of the country was gone, and all means of taxation were exhausted. No man in France had such a horror of bankruptcy as Mirabeau, and his eloquence was never more convincing and commanding than in his finance speeches. Nobody could reply to him. The Assembly was completely subjugated by his commanding talents. Nor was his influence ever greater than when he supported Necker's proposal for a patriotic loan, a sort of income-tax, in a masterly speech which excited universal admiration. "Ah, Monsieur le Comte," said a great actor to him on that occasion, "what a speech: and with what an accent did you deliver it! You have surely missed your vocation."
But the finances were in a hopeless state. With credit gone, taxation exhausted, and a continually increasing floating debt, the situation was truly appalling to any statesman. It was at this juncture that Talleyrand, a priest of noble birth, as able as he was unscrupulous, brought forth his famous measure for the spoliation of the Church, to which body he belonged, and to which he was a disgrace. Talleyrand, as Bishop of Autun, had been one of the original representatives of the clergy on the first convocation of the States-General; he had advocated combining with the Third Estate when they pronounced themselves the National Assembly, had himself joined the Assembly, attracted notice by his speeches, been appointed to draw up a constitution, taken active part in the declaration of Rights, and made himself generally conspicuous and efficient. At the present apparently hopeless financial crisis, Talleyrand uncovered a new source of revenue, claimed that the property of the Church belonged to the nation, and that as the nation was on the brink of financial ruin, this confiscation was a supreme necessity. The Church lands represented a value of two thousand millions of francs,--an immense sum, which, if sold, would relieve, it was supposed, the necessities of the State. Mirabeau, although he was no friend of the clergy, shrank from such a monstrous injustice, and said that such a wound as this would prove the most poisonous which the country had received. But such was the urgent need of money, that the Assembly on the 2d of November, 1789, decreed that the property of the Church should be put at the disposal of the State. On the 19th of December it was decreed that these lands should be sold. The clergy raised the most piteous cries of grief and indignation. Vainly did the bishops offer four hundred millions as a gift to the nation. It was like the offer of Darius to Alexander, of one hundred thousand talents. "Your whole property is mine," said the conqueror; "your kingdom is mine."
So the offer of the bishops was rejected, and their whole property was taken. And it was taken under the sophistical plea that it belonged to the nation. It was really the gift of various benefactors in different ages to the Church, for pious purposes, and had been universally recognized as sacred. It was as sacred as any other rights of property. The spoliation was infinitely worse than the suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII. He had some excuse, since they had become a scandal, had misused their wealth, and diverted it from the purposes originally intended. The only wholesale attack on property by the State which can be compared with it, was the abolition of slavery by a stroke of the pen in the American Rebellion. But this was a war measure, when the country was in most imminent peril; and it was also a moral measure in behalf of philanthropy. The spoliation of the clergy by the National Assembly was a great injustice, since it was not urged that the clergy had misused their wealth, or were neglectful of their duties, as the English monks were in the time of Henry VIII. This Church property had been held so sacred, that Louis XIV. in his greatest necessities never presumed to appropriate any part of it. The sophistry that it belonged to the nation, and therefore that the representatives of the nation had a right to take it, probably deceived nobody. It was necessary to give some excuse or reason for such a wholesale robbery, and this was the best which could be invented. The simple truth was that money at this juncture was a supreme necessity to the State, and this spoliation seemed the easiest way to meet the public wants. Like most of the legislation of the Assembly, it was defended on the Jesuit plea of expediency,--that the end justifies the means; the plea of unscrupulous and wicked politicians in all countries.
And this expediency, doubtless, relieved the government for a time, for the government was in the hands of the Assembly. Royal authority was a mere shadow. In reality, the King was a prisoner, guarded by Lafayette, in the palace of the Tuileries. And the Assembly itself was now in fear of the people as represented by the clubs. There were two hundred Jacobin clubs in Paris and other cities at this time, howling their vituperations not only on royalty but also on everything else which was not already destroyed.
The Assembly having provided for the wants of the government by the confiscation of two thousand millions,--which, however, when sold, did not realize half that sum,--issued their assignats, or bonds representing parcels of land assigned to redeem them. These were mostly 100-franc notes, though there were also issues of ten and even five francs. The national credit was thus patched up by legislators who took a constitution in hand,--to quote Burke--"as savages would a looking-glass." Then they proceeded to other reforms, and abolished the parliaments, and instituted the election of judges by the people, thus stripping the King of his few remaining powers.
In the mean time Mirabeau died, worn out with labors and passions, and some say by poison. Even this Hercules could not resist the consequences of violated natural law. The Assembly decreed a magnificent public funeral, and buried him with great pomp. He was the first to be interred in the Pantheon. For nearly two years he was the leading man in France, and he retained his influence in the Assembly to the end. Nor did he lose his popularity with the people. It is not probable that his intrigues to save the monarchy were known, except to a few confidential friends. He died at the right time for his fame, in April, 1791. Had he lived, he could not have arrested the tide of revolutionary excesses and the reign of demagogues, and probably would have been one of the victims of the guillotine.
As an author Mirabeau does not rank high. His fame rests on his speeches. His eloquence was transcendent, so far as it was rendered vivid by passion. He knew how to move men; he understood human nature. No orator ever did so much by a single word, by felicitous expressions. In the tribune he was immovable. His self-possession never left him in the greatest disorders. He was always master of himself. His voice was full, manly, and sonorous, and pleased the ear; always powerful, yet flexible, it could be as distinctly heard when he lowered it as when he raised it. His knowledge was not remarkable, but he had an almost miraculous faculty of appropriating whatever he heard. He paid the greatest attention to his dress, and wore an enormous quantity of hair dressed in the fashion of the day. "When I shake my terrible locks," said he, "no one dares interrupt me." Though he received pensions, he was too proud to be dishonest, in the ordinary sense. He received large sums, but died insolvent. He had, like most Frenchmen, an inordinate vanity, and loved incense from all ranks and conditions. Although he was the first to support the Assembly against the King, he was essentially in favor of monarchy, and maintained the necessity of the absolute veto. He would have given a constitution to his country as nearly resembling that of England as local circumstances would permit. Had he lived, the destinies of France might have been different.
But his death gave courage to all the factions, and violence and crime were consummated by the Reign of Terror. With the death of Mirabeau, closed the first epoch of the Revolution. Thus far it had been earnest, but unscrupulous in the violation of rights and in the destruction of ancient abuses. Yet if inexperienced and rash, it was not marked by deeds of blood. In this first form it was marked by enthusiasm and hope and patriotic zeal; not, as afterwards, by fears and cruelty and usurpations.
Henceforth, the Revolution took another turn. It was directed, not by men of genius, not by reformers seeking to rule by wisdom, but by demagogues and Jacobin clubs, and the mobs of the city of Paris. What was called the "Left," in the meetings of the Assembly,--made up of fanatics whom Mirabeau despised and detested,--gained a complete ascendency and adopted the extremest measures. Under their guidance, the destruction of the monarchy was complete. Feudalism and the Church property had been swept away, and the royal authority now received its final blow; nay, the King himself was slain, under the influence of fear, it is true, but accompanied by acts of cruelty and madness which shocked the whole civilized world and gave an eternal stain to the Revolution itself.
It was not now reform, but unscrupulous destruction and violence which marked the Assembly, controlled as it was by Jacobin orators and infidel demagogues. A frenzy seized the nation. It feared reactionary movements and the interference of foreign powers. When the Bastille had fallen, it was by the hands of half-starved people clamoring for bread; but when the monarchy was attacked, it was from sentiments of fear among those who had the direction of affairs. The King, at last, alarmed for his own safety, contrived to escape from the Tuileries, where he was virtually under arrest, for his power was gone; but he was recaptured, and brought back to Paris, a prisoner. Robespierre called upon the Assembly to bring the King and Queen to trial. Marat proposed a military dictatorship, to act more summarily, which proposal produced a temporary reaction in favor of royalty. Lafayette, as commander of the National Guard, declared, "If you kill the King to-day, I will place the Dauphin on the throne to-morrow." But the republican party, now in fear of a reaction, was increasing rapidly. Its leaders were at this time the Girondists, bent on the suppression of royalty, and headed by Brissot, who agitated France by his writings in favor of a republic, while Madame Roland opened her salons for intrigues and cabals,--a bright woman, "who dreamed of Spartan severity, Roman virtue, and Plutarch heroes."
The National Assembly dissolved itself in September, and appealed to the country for the election of a National Convention; for, the King having been formally suspended Aug. 10, there was no government. The first act of the Convention was to proclaim the Republic. Then occurred the more complete organization of the Jacobin club, to control the National Convention; and this was followed by the rapid depreciation of the assignats, bread-riots, and all sorts of disturbances. Added to these evils, foreign governments were arming to suppress the Revolution, and war had been declared by the Girondist ministry, of which Dumouriez was war-minister. At this crisis, Danton, of the club of the Cordéliers, who found the Jacobins too respectable, became a power,--a coarse, vulgar man, but of indefatigable energy and activity, who wished to do away with all order and responsibility. He attacked the Gironde as not sufficiently violent.
It was now war between the different sections of the revolutionists themselves. Lafayette resolved to suppress the dangerous radicals by force, but found it no easy thing, for the Convention was controlled by men of violence, who filled the country with alarm, not of their unscrupulous measures, but of the military and of foreign enemies. He even narrowly escaped impeachment at the hands of the National Convention.
The Convention is now overawed and controlled by the Commune and the clubs. Lafayette flies. The mob rules Paris. The revolutionary tribunal is decreed. Robespierre, Marat, and Danton form a triumvirate of power. The September massacres take place. The Girondists become conservative, and attempt to stay the progress of further excesses,--all to no purpose, for the King himself is now impeached, and the Jacobins control everything. The King is led to the bar of the Convention. He is condemned by a majority only of one, and immured in the Temple. On the 20th of January, 1793, he was condemned, and the next day he mounted the scaffold. "We have burned our ships," said Marat when the tragedy was consummated.
With the death of the King, I bring this lecture to a close. It would be interesting to speculate on what might have been averted, had Mirabeau lived. But probably nothing could have saved the monarchy except civil war, to which Louis XVI. was averse.
Nor can I dwell on the second part of the Revolution, when the government was in the hands of those fiends and fanatics who turned France into one vast slaughter-house of butchery and blood. I have only to say, that the same unseen hand which humiliated the nobles, impoverished the clergy, and destroyed the King, also visited with retribution those monsters who had a leading hand in the work of destruction. Marat, the infidel journalist, was stabbed by Charlotte Corday. Danton, the minister of justice and orator of the revolutionary clubs, was executed on the scaffold he had erected for so many innocent men. Robespierre, the sentimental murderer and arch-conspirator, also expiated his crimes on the scaffold; as did Saint-Just, Lebas, Couthon, Henriot, and other legalized assassins. As the Girondists sacrificed the royal family, so did the Jacobins sacrifice the Girondists; and the Convention, filled with consternation, again sacrificed the Jacobins.
After the work of destruction was consummated, and there was nothing more to destroy, and starvation was imminent at Paris, and general detestation began to prevail, in view of the atrocities committed in the name of liberty, the crushing fact became apparent that the nations of Europe were arming to put down the Revolution and restore the monarchy. In a generous paroxysm of patriotism, the whole nation armed to resist the invaders and defend the ideas of the Revolution. The Convention also perceived, too late, that anything was better than anarchy and license. It put down the clubs, restored religious worship, destroyed the busts of the monsters who had disgraced their cause and country, intrusted supreme power to five Directors, able and patriotic, and dissolved itself.
Under the Directory, the third act of the drama of revolution opened with the gallant resistance which France made to the invaders of her soil and the enemies of her liberties. This resistance brought out the marvellous military genius of Napoleon, who intoxicated the nation by his victories, and who, in reward of his extraordinary services, was made First Consul, with dictatorial powers. The abuse of these powers, his usurpation of imperial dignity, the wars into which he was drawn to maintain his ascendency, and his final defeat at Waterloo, constitute the most brilliant chapter in the history of modern times. The Revolution was succeeded by military despotism. Inexperience led to fatal mistakes, and these mistakes made the strong government of a single man a necessity. The Revolution began in noble aspirations, but for lack of political wisdom and sound principles in religion and government, it ended in anarchy and crime, and was again followed by the tyranny of a monarch. This is the sequence of all revolutions which defy eternal justice and human experience. There are few evils which are absolutely unendurable, and permanent reforms are only obtained by patience and wisdom. Violence is ever succeeded by usurpation. The terrible wars through which France passed, to aggrandize an ambitious and selfish egotist, were attended with far greater evils than those which the nation sought to abolish when the States-General first met at Versailles.
But the experiment of liberty, though it failed, was not altogether thrown away. Lessons of political wisdom were learned, which no nation will ever forget. Some great rights of immense value were secured, and many grievous privileges passed away forever. Neither Louis XVIII., nor Charles X., nor Louis Philippe, nor Louis Napoleon, ever attempted to restore feudalism, or unequal privileges, or arbitrary taxation. The legislative power never again completely succumbed to the decrees of royal and imperial tyrants. The sovereignty of the people was established as one of the fixed ideas of the nineteenth century, and the representatives of the people are now the supreme rulers of the land. A man can now rise in France above the condition in which he was born, and can aspire to any office and position which are bestowed on talents and genius. Bastilles and lettres de cachet have become an impossibility. Religious toleration is as free there as in England or the United States. Education is open to the poor, and is encouraged by the Government. Constitutional government seems to be established, under whatever name the executive may be called. France is again one of the most prosperous and contented countries of Europe; and the only great drawback to her national prosperity is that which also prevents other Continental powers from developing their resources,--the large standing army which she feels it imperative to sustain.
In view of the inexperience and fanaticism of the revolutionists, and the dreadful evils which took place after the fall of the monarchy, we should say that the Revolution was premature, and that substantial reforms might have been gained without violence. But this is a mere speculation. One thing we do know,--that the Revolution was a national uprising against injustice and oppression. When the torch is applied to a venerable edifice, we cannot determine the extent of the conflagration, or the course which it will take. The French Revolution was plainly one of the developments of a nation's progress. To conservative and reverential minds it was a horrid form for progress to take, since it was visionary and infidel. But all nations are in the hands of God, who is above all second causes. And I know of no modern movement to which the words of Carlyle, when he was an optimist, when he wrote the most original and profound of his works, the "Sartor Resartus," apply with more force: "When the Phoenix is fanning her funeral pyre, will there not be sparks flying? Alas! some millions of men have been sucked into that high eddying flame, and like moths consumed. In the burning of the world-Phoenix, destruction and creation proceed together; and as the ashes of the old are blown about do new forces mysteriously spin themselves, and melodious death-songs are succeeded by more melodious birth-songs."
Yet all progress is slow, especially in government and morals. And how forcibly are we impressed, in surveying the varied phases of the French Revolution, that nothing but justice and right should guide men in their reforms; that robbery and injustice in the name of liberty and progress are still robbery and injustice, to be visited with righteous retribution; and that those rulers and legislators who cannot make passions and interests subservient to reason, are not fit for the work assigned to them. It is miserable hypocrisy and cant to talk of a revolutionary necessity for violating the first principles of human society. Ah! it is Reason, Intelligence, and Duty, calm as the voices of angels, soothing as the "music of the spheres," which alone should guide nations, in all crises and difficulties, to the attainment of those rights and privileges on which all true progress is based.
Dumont's Recollections of Mirabeau; Carlyle's French Revolution; Carlyle's article on Mirabeau in his Miscellanies; Von Sybel's French Revolution; Thiers' French Revolution; Mignet's French Revolution; Croker's Essays on the French Revolution; Life of Lafayette; Loustalot's Révolution de Paris; Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution; Carlyle's article on Danton; Mallet du Pau's Considérations sur la Révolution Française; Biographie Universelle; A. Lameth's Histoire de l'Assemblée Constituante; Alison's History of the French Revolution; Lamartine's History of the Girondists; Lacretelle's History of France; Montigny's Mémoires sur Mirabeau; Peuchet's Mémoires sur Mirabeau; Madame de Staël's Considérations sur la Révolution Française; Macaulay's Essay on Dumont's Recollections of Mirabeau.
A. D. 1729-1797.
It would be difficult to select an example of a more lofty and irreproachable character among the great statesmen of England than Edmund Burke. He is not a puzzle, like Oliver Cromwell, although there are inconsistencies in the opinions he advanced from time to time. He takes very much the same place in the parliamentary history of his country as Cicero took in the Roman senate. Like that greatest of Roman orators and statesmen, Burke was upright, conscientious, conservative, religious, and profound. Like him, he lifted up his earnest voice against corruption in the government, against great state criminals, against demagogues, against rash innovations. Whatever diverse opinions may exist as to his political philosophy, there is only one opinion as to his character, which commands universal respect. Although he was the most conservative of statesmen, clinging to the Constitution, and to consecrated traditions and associations both in Church and State, still his name is associated with the most important and salutary reforms which England made for half a century. He seems to have been sent to instruct and guide legislators in a venal and corrupt age. To my mind Burke looms up, after the lapse of a century, as a prodigy of thought and knowledge, devoted to the good of his country; an unselfish and disinterested patriot, as wise and sagacious as he was honest; a sage whose moral wisdom shines brighter and brighter, since it was based on the immutable principles of justice and morality. One can extract more profound and striking epigrams from his speeches and writings than from any prose writer that England has produced, if we except Francis Bacon. And these writings and speeches are still valued as among the most precious legacies of former generations; they form a thesaurus of political wisdom which statesmen can never exhaust. Burke has left an example which all statesmen will do well to follow. He was not a popular favorite, like Fox and Pitt; he was not born to greatness, like North and Newcastle; he was not liked by the king or the nobility; he was generally in the ranks of the opposition; he was a new man, like Cicero, in an aristocratic age,--yet he conquered by his genius the proudest prejudices; he fought his way upward, inch by inch; he was the founder of a new national policy, although it was bitterly opposed; and he died universally venerated for his integrity, wisdom, and foresight. He was the most remarkable man, on the whole, who has taken part in public affairs, from the Revolution to our times. Of course, the life and principles of so great a man are a study. If history has any interest or value, it is to show the influence of such a man on his own age and the ages which have succeeded,--to point out his contribution to civilization.
Edmund Burke was born, 1730, of respectable parents in Ireland. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he made a fair proficiency, but did not give promise of those rare powers which he afterwards exhibited. He was no prodigy, like Cicero, Pitt, and Macaulay. He early saw that his native country presented no adequate field for him, and turned his steps to London at the age of twenty, where he entered as a student of law in the Inner Temple,--since the Bar was then, what it was at Rome, what it still is in modern capitals, the usual resort of ambitious young men. But Burke did not like the law as a profession, and early dropped the study of it; not because he failed in industry, for he was the most plodding of students; not because he was deficient in the gift of speech, for he was a born orator; not because his mind repelled severe logical deductions, for he was the most philosophical of the great orators of his day,--not because the law was not a noble field for the exercise of the highest faculties of the mind, but probably because he was won by the superior fascinations of literature and philosophy. Bacon could unite the study of divine philosophy with professional labors as a lawyer, also with the duties of a legislator; but the instances are rare where men have united three distinct spheres, and gained equal distinction in all. Cicero did, and Bacon, and Lord Brougham; but not Erskine, nor Pitt, nor Canning. Even two spheres are as much as most distinguished men have filled,--the law with politics, like Thurlow and Webster; or politics with literature, like Gladstone and Disraeli. Dr. Johnson, Garrick, and Reynolds, the early friends of Burke, filled only one sphere.
The early literary life of Burke was signalized by his essay on "The Sublime and Beautiful," original in its design and execution, a model of philosophical criticism, extorting the highest praises from Dugald Stewart and the Abbé Raynal, and attracting so much attention that it speedily became a text-book in the universities. Fortunately he was able to pursue literature, with the aid of a small patrimony (about £300 a year), without being doomed to the hard privations of Johnson, or the humiliating shifts of Goldsmith. He lived independently of patronage from the great,--the bitterest trial of the literati of the eighteenth century, which drove Cowper mad, and sent Rousseau to attics and solitudes,--so that, in his humble but pleasant home, with his young wife, with whom he lived amicably, he could see his friends, the great men of the age, and bestow an unostentatious charity, and maintain his literary rank and social respectability.
I have sometimes wondered why Burke did not pursue this quiet and beautiful life,--free from the turmoils of public contest, with leisure, and friends, and Nature, and truth,--and prepare treatises which would have been immortal, for he was equal to anything he attempted. But such was not to be. He was needed in the House of Commons, then composed chiefly of fox-hunting squires and younger sons of nobles (a body as ignorant as it was aristocratic),--the representatives not of the people but of the landed proprietors, intent on aggrandizing their families at the expense of the nation,--and of fortunate merchants, manufacturers, and capitalists, in love with monopolies. Such an assembly needed at that day a schoolmaster, a teacher in the principles of political economy and political wisdom; a leader in reforming disgraceful abuses; a lecturer on public duties and public wrongs; a patriot who had other views than spoils and place; a man who saw the right, and was determined to uphold it whatever the number or power of his opponents. So Edmund Burke was sent among them,--ambitious doubtless, stern, intellectually proud, incorruptible, independent, not disdainful of honors and influence, but eager to render public services.
It has been the great ambition of Englishmen since the Revolution to enter Parliament, not merely for political influence, but also for social position. Only rich men, or members of great families, have found it easy to do so. To such men a pecuniary compensation is a small affair. Hence, members of Parliament have willingly served without pay, which custom has kept poor men of ability from aspiring to the position. It was not easy, even for such a man as Burke, to gain admission into this aristocratic assembly. He did not belong to a great family; he was only a man of genius, learning, and character. The squirearchy of that age cared no more for literary fame than the Roman aristocracy did for a poet or an actor. So Burke, ambitious and able as he was, must bide his time.
His first step in a political career was as private secretary to Gerard Hamilton, who was famous for having made but one speech, and who was chief secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Halifax. Burke soon resigned his situation in disgust, since he was not willing to be a mere political tool. But his singular abilities had attracted the attention of the prime minister, Lord Rockingham, who made him his private secretary, and secured his entrance into Parliament. Lord Verney, for a seat in the privy council, was induced to give him a "rotten borough."
Burke entered the House of Commons in 1765, at thirty-five years of age. He began his public life when the nation was ruled by the great Whig families, whose ancestors had fought the battles of reform in the times of Charles and James. This party had held power for seventy years, had forgotten the principles of the Revolution, and had become venal and selfish, dividing among its chiefs the spoils of office. It had become as absolute and unscrupulous as the old kings whom it had once dethroned. It was an oligarchy of a few powerful whig noblemen, whose rule was supreme in England. Burke joined this party, but afterwards deserted it, or rather broke it up, when he perceived its arbitrary character, and its disregard of the fundamental principles of the Constitution. He was able to do this after its unsuccessful attempt to coerce the American colonies.
American difficulties were the great issue of that day. The majority of the Parliament, both Lords and Commons,--sustained by King George III., one of the most narrow-minded, obstinate, and stupid princes who ever reigned in England; who believed in an absolute jurisdiction over the colonies as an integral part of the empire, and was bent not only in enforcing this jurisdiction, but also resorted to the most offensive and impolitic measures to accomplish it,--this omnipotent Parliament, fancying it had a right to tax America without her consent, without a representation even, was resolved to carry out the abstract rights of a supreme governing power, both in order to assert its prerogative and to please certain classes in England who wished relief from the burden of taxation. And because Parliament had this power, it would use it, against the dictates of expediency and the instincts of common-sense; yea, in defiance of the great elemental truth in government that even thrones rest on the affections of the people. Blinded and infatuated with notions of prerogative, it would not even learn lessons from that conquered country which for five hundred years it had vainly attempted to coerce, and which it could finally govern only by a recognition of its rights.
Now, the great career of Burke began by opposing the leading opinions of his day in reference to the coercion of the American colonies. He discarded all theories and abstract rights. He would not even discuss the subject whether Parliament had a right to tax the colonies. He took the side of expediency and common-sense. It was enough for him that it was foolish and irritating to attempt to exercise abstract powers which could not be carried out. He foresaw and he predicted the consequences of attempting to coerce such a people as the Americans with the forces which England could command. He pointed out the infatuation of the ministers of the crown, then led by Lord North. His speech against the Boston Port Bill was one of the most brilliant specimens of oratory ever displayed in the House of Commons. He did not encourage the colonies in rebellion, but pointed out the course they would surely pursue if the irritating measures of the Government were not withdrawn. He advocated conciliation, the withdrawal of theoretic rights, the repeal of obnoxious taxes, the removal of restrictions on American industry, the withdrawal of monopolies and of ungenerous distinctions. He would bind the two countries together by a cord of love. When some member remarked that it was horrible for children to rebel against their parents, Burke replied: "It is true the Americans are our children; but when children ask for bread, shall we give them a stone?" For ten years he labored with successive administrations to procure reconciliation. He spoke nearly every day. He appealed to reason, to justice, to common-sense. But every speech he made was a battle with ignorance and prejudice. "If you must employ your strength," said he indignantly, "employ it to uphold some honorable right. I do not enter upon metaphysical distinctions,--I hate the very name of them. Nobody can be argued into slavery. If you cannot reconcile your sovereignty with their freedom, the colonists will cast your sovereignty in your face. It is not enough that a statesman means well; duty demands that what is right should not only be made known, but be made prevalent,--that what is evil should not only be detected, but be defeated. Do not dream that your registers, your bonds, your affidavits, your instructions, are the things which hold together the great texture of the mysterious whole. These dead instruments do not make a government. It is the spirit that pervades and vivifies an empire which infuses that obedience without which your army would be a base rabble and your navy nothing but rotten timber." Such is a fair specimen of his eloquence,--earnest, practical, to the point, yet appealing to exalted sentiments, and pervaded with moral wisdom; the result of learning as well as the dictate of a generous and enlightened policy. When reason failed, he resorted to sarcasm and mockery. "Because," said he, "we have a right to tax America we must do it; risk everything, forfeit everything, take into consideration nothing but our right. O infatuated ministers! Like a silly man, full of his prerogative over the beasts of the field, who says, there is wool on the back of a wolf, and therefore he must be sheared. What! shear a wolf? Yes. But have you considered the trouble? Oh, I have considered nothing but my right. A wolf is an animal that has wool; all animals that have wool are to be sheared; and therefore I will shear the wolf."
But I need not enlarge on his noble efforts to prevent a war with the colonies. They were all in vain. You cannot reason with infatuation,--Quem deus vult perdere, prius dementat. The logic of events at last showed the wisdom of Burke and the folly of the king and his ministers, and of the nation at large. The disasters and the humiliation which attended the American war compelled the ministry to resign, and the Marquis of Rockingham became prime minister in 1782, and Burke, the acknowledged leader of his party, became paymaster of the forces,--an office at one time worth £25,000 a year, before the reform which Burke had instigated. But this great statesman was not admitted to the cabinet; George III. did not like him, and his connections were not sufficiently powerful to overcome the royal objection. In our times he would have been rewarded with a seat on the treasury bench; with less talents than he had, the commoners of our day become prime-ministers. But Burke did not long enjoy even the office of paymaster. On the death of Lord Rockingham, a few months after he had formed the ministry, Burke retired from the only office he ever held. And he retired to Beaconsfield,--an estate which he had purchased with the assistance of his friend Rockingham, where he lived when parliamentary duties permitted, in that state of blended elegance, leisure, and study which is to be found, in the greatest perfection, in England alone.
The political power of Burke culminated at the close of the war with America, but not his political influence: and there is a great difference between power and influence. Nor do we read that Burke, after this, headed the opposition. That position was shared by Charles James Fox, who ultimately supplanted his master as the leader of his party; not because Burke declined in wisdom or energy, but because Fox had more skill as a debater, more popular sympathies, and more influential friends. Burke, like Gladstone, was too stern, too irritable, too imperious, too intellectually proud, perhaps too unyielding, to control such an ignorant, prejudiced, and aristocratic body as the House of Commons, jealous of his ascendency and writhing under his rebukes. It must have been galling to the great philosopher to yield the palm to lesser men; but such has ever been the destiny of genius, except in crises of public danger. Of all things that politicians hate is the domination of a man who will not stoop to flatter, who cannot be bribed, and who will be certain to expose vices and wrongs. The world will not bear rebukes. The fate of prophets is to be stoned. A stern moral greatness is repulsive to the weak and wicked. Parties reward mediocre men, whom they can use or bend; and the greatest benefactors lose their popularity when they oppose the enthusiasm of new ideas, or become austere in their instructions. Thus the greatest statesman that this country has produced since Alexander Hamilton, lost his prestige when his conciliating policy became offensive to a rising party whose watchword was "the higher law," although, by his various conflicts with Southern leaders and his loyalty to the Constitution, he educated the people to sustain the very war which he foresaw and dreaded. And had that accomplished senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner, who succeeded to Webster's seat, and who in his personal appearance and advocacy for reform strikingly resembled Burke,--had he remained uninjured to our day, with increasing intellectual powers and profounder moral wisdom, I doubt whether even he would have had much influence with our present legislators; for he had all the intellectual defects of both Burke and Webster, and never was so popular as either of them at one period of their career, while he certainly was inferior to both in native force, experience, and attainments.
The chief labors of Burke for the first ten years of his parliamentary life had been mainly in connection with American affairs, and which the result proved he comprehended better than any man in England. Those of the next ten years were directed principally to Indian difficulties, in which he showed the same minuteness of knowledge, the same grasp of intellect, the same moral wisdom, the same good sense, and the same regard for justice, that he had shown concerning the colonies. But in discussing Indian affairs his eloquence takes a loftier flight; he is less conciliating, more in earnest, more concerned with the principles of immutable obligations. He abhors the cruelties and tyranny inflicted on India by Clive and Hastings. He could see no good from an aggrandizement purchased by injustice and wrong. If it was criminal for an individual to cheat and steal, it was equally atrocious for a nation to plunder and oppress another nation, infidel or pagan, white or black. A righteous anger burned in the breast of Burke as he reflected on the wrongs and miseries of the natives of India. Why should that ancient country be ruled for no other purpose than to enrich the younger sons of a grasping aristocracy and the servants of an insatiable and unscrupulous Company whose monopoly of spoils was the scandal of the age? If ever a reform was imperative in the government of a colony, it was surely in India, where the government was irresponsible. The English courts of justice there were more terrible to the natives than the very wrongs they pretended to redress. The customs and laws and moral ideas of the conquered country were spurned and ignored by the greedy scions of gentility who were sent to rule a population ten times larger than that between the Humber and the Thames.
So Burke, after the most careful study of the condition of India, lifted up his voice against the iniquities which were winked at by Parliament. But his fierce protest arrayed against him all the parties that indorsed these wrongs, or who were benefited by them. I need not dwell on his protracted labors for ten years in behalf of right, without the sympathies of those who had formerly supported him. No speeches were ever made in the English House of Commons which equalled, in eloquence and power, those he made on the Nabob of Arcot's debts and the impeachment of Warren Hastings. In these famous philippics, he fearlessly exposed the peculations, the misrule, the oppression, and the inhuman heartlessness of the Company's servants,--speeches which extorted admiration, while they humiliated and chastised. I need not describe the nine years' prosecution of a great criminal, and the escape of Hastings, more guilty and more fortunate than Verres, from the punishment he merited, through legal technicalities, the apathy of men in power, the private influence of the throne, and the sympathies which fashion excited in his behalf,--and, more than all, because of the undoubted service he had rendered to his country, if it was a service to extend her rule by questionable means to the farthermost limits of the globe. I need not speak of the obloquy which Burke incurred from the press, which teemed with pamphlets and books and articles to undermine his great authority, all in the interests of venal and powerful monopolists. Nor did he escape the wrath of the electors of Bristol,--a narrow-minded town of India traders and Negro dealers,--who withdrew from him their support. He had been solicited, in the midst of his former éclat, to represent this town, rather than the "rotten borough" of Wendover; and he proudly accepted the honor, and was the idol of his constituents until he presumed to disregard their instructions in matters of which he considered they were incompetent to judge. His famous letter to the electors, in which he refutes and ridicules their claim to instruct him, as the shoemakers of Lynn wished to instruct Daniel Webster, is a model of irony, as well as a dignified rebuke of all ignorant constituencies, and a lofty exposition of the duties of a statesman rather than of a politician.
He had also incurred the displeasure of the Bristol electors by his manly defence of the rights of the Irish Catholics, who since the conquest of William III. had been subjected to the most unjust and annoying treatment that ever disgraced a Protestant government. The injustices under which Ireland groaned were nearly as repulsive as the cruelties inflicted upon the Protestants of France during the reign of Louis XIV. "On the suppression of the rebellion under Tyrconnel," says Morley, "nearly the whole of the land was confiscated, the peasants were made beggars and outlaws, the Penal Laws against Catholics were enforced, and the peasants were prostrate in despair." Even in 1765 "the native Irish were regarded by their Protestant oppressors with exactly that combination of intense contempt and loathing, rage and terror, which his American counterpart would have divided between the Indian and the Negro." Not the least of the labors of Burke was to bring to the attention of the nation the wrongs inflicted on the Irish, and the impossibility of ruling a people who had such just grounds for discontent. "His letter upon the propriety of admitting the Catholics to the elective franchise is one of the wisest of all his productions,--so enlightened is its idea of toleration, so sagacious is its comprehension of political exigencies." He did not live to see his ideas carried out, but he was among the first to prepare the way for Catholic emancipation in later times.
But a greater subject than colonial rights, or Indian wrongs, or persecution of the Irish Catholics agitated the mind of Burke, to which he devoted the energies of his declining years; and this was, the agitation growing out of the French Revolution. When that "roaring conflagration of anarchies" broke out, he was in the full maturity of his power and his fame,--a wise old statesman, versed in the lessons of human experience, who detested sophistries and abstract theories and violent reforms; a man who while he loved liberty more than any political leader of his day, loathed the crimes committed in its name, and who was sceptical of any reforms which could not be carried on without a wanton destruction of the foundations of society itself. He was also a Christian who planted himself on the certitudes of religious faith, and was shocked by the flippant and shallow infidelity which passed current for progress and improvement. Next to the infidel spirit which would make Christianity and a corrupted church identical, as seen in the mockeries of Voltaire, and would destroy both under the guise of hatred of superstition, he despised those sentimentalities with which Rousseau and his admirers would veil their disgusting immoralities. To him hypocrisy and infidelity, under whatever name they were baptized by the new apostles of human rights, were mischievous and revolting. And as an experienced statesman he held in contempt the inexperience of the Revolutionary leaders, and the unscrupulous means they pursued to accomplish even desirable ends.
No man more than Burke admitted the necessity of even radical reforms, but he would have accomplished them without bloodshed and cruelties. He would not have removed undeniable evils by introducing still greater ones. He regarded the remedies proposed by the Revolutionary quacks as worse than the disease which they professed to cure. No man knew better than he the corruptions of the Catholic church in France, and the persecuting intolerance which that church had stimulated there ever since the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,--an intolerance so cruel that to be married unless in accordance with Catholic usage was to live in concubinage, and to be suspected of Calvinism was punishable by imprisonment or the galleys. But because the established church was corrupt and intolerant, he did not see the necessity for the entire and wholesale confiscation of its lands and possessions (which had not been given originally by the nation, but were the bequests of individuals), thereby giving a vital wound to all the rights of property which civilization in all countries has held sacred and inviolable. Burke knew that the Bourbon absolute monarchy was oppressive and tyrannical, extravagant and indifferent to the welfare of the people; but he would not get rid of it by cutting off the head of the king, especially when Louis was willing to make great concessions: he would have limited his power, or driven him into exile as the English punished James II. He knew that the nobles abused their privileges; he would have taken them away rather than attempt to annul their order, and decimate them by horrid butcheries. He did not deny the necessity of reforms so searching that they would be almost tantamount to revolution; but he would not violate both constitutional forms and usages, and every principle of justice and humanity, in order to effect them.
To Burke's mind, the measures of the revolutionists were all mixed up with impieties, sophistries, absurdities, and blasphemies, to say nothing of cruelties and murders. What good could grow out of such an evil tree? Could men who ignored all duties be the expounders of rights? What structure could last, when its foundation was laid on the sands of hypocrisy, injustice, ignorance, and inexperience? What sympathy could such a man as Burke have for atheistic theories, or a social progress which scorned the only conditions by which society can be kept together? The advanced men who inaugurated the Reign of Terror were to him either fools, or fanatics, or assassins. He did not object to the meeting of the States-General to examine into the intolerable grievances, and, if necessary, to strip the king of tyrannical powers, for such a thing the English parliament had done; but it was quite another thing for one branch of the States-General to constitute itself the nation, and usurp the powers and functions of the other two branches; to sweep away, almost in a single night, the constitution of the realm; to take away all the powers of the king, imprison him, mock him, insult him, and execute him, and then to cut off the heads of the nobles who supported him, and of all people who defended him, even women themselves, and convert the whole land into a Pandemonium! What contempt must he have had for legislators who killed their king, decimated their nobles, robbed their clergy, swept away all social distinctions, abolished the rites of religion,--all symbols, honors, and privileges; all that was ancient, all that was venerable, all that was poetic, even to abbey churches; yea, dug up the very bones of ancient monarchs from the consecrated vaults where they had reposed for centuries, and scattered them to the winds; and then amid the mad saturnalia of sacrilege, barbarity, and blasphemy to proclaim the reign of "Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality," with Marat for their leader, and Danton for their orator, and Robespierre for their high-priest; and, finally, to consummate the infamous farce of reform by openly setting up a wanton woman as the idol of their worship, under the name of the Goddess of Reason!
But while Burke saw only one side of these atrocities, he did not close his eyes to the necessity for reforms. Had he been a Frenchman, he would strenuously have lifted up his voice to secure them, but in a legal and constitutional manner,--not by violence, not by disregarding the principles of justice and morality to secure a desirable end. He was one of the few statesmen then living who would not do evil that good might come. He was no Jesuit. There is a class of politicians who would have acted differently; and this class, in his day, was made up of extreme and radical people, with infidel sympathies. With this class he was no favorite, and never can be. Conservative people judge him by a higher standard; they shared at the time in his sympathies and prejudices.
Even in America the excesses of the Revolution excited general abhorrence; much more so in England. And it was these excesses, this mode of securing reform, not reform itself, which excited Burke's detestation. Who can wonder at this? Those who accept crimes as a necessary outbreak of revolutionary passions adopt a philosophy which would veil the world with a funereal and diabolical gloom. Reformers must be taught that no reforms achieved by crime are worth the cost. Nor is it just to brand an illustrious man with indifference to great moral and social movements because he would wait, sooner than upturn the very principles on which society is based. And here is the great difficulty in estimating the character and labors of Burke. Because he denounced the French Revolution, some think he was inconsistent with his early principles. Not at all; it was the crimes and excesses of the Revolution he denounced, not the impulse of the French people to achieve their liberties. Those crimes and excesses he believed to be inconsistent with an enlightened desire for freedom; but freedom itself, to its utmost limit and application, consistent with law and order, he desired. Is it necessary for mankind to win its greatest boons by going through a sea of anarchies, madness, assassinations, and massacres? Those who take this view of revolution, it seems to me, are neither wise nor learned. If a king makes war on his subjects, they are warranted in taking up arms in their defence, even if the civil war is followed by enormities. Thus the American colonies took up arms against George III.; but they did not begin with crimes. Louis XVI. did not take up arms against his subjects, nor league against them, until they had crippled and imprisoned him. He made even great concessions; he was willing to make still greater to save his crown. But the leaders of the revolution were not content with these, not even with the abolition of feudal privileges; they wanted to subvert the monarchy itself, to abolish the order of nobility, to sweep away even the Church,--not the Catholic establishment only, but the Christian religion also, with all the institutions which time and poetry had consecrated. Their new heaven and new earth was not the reign of the saints, which the millenarians of Cromwell's time prayed for devoutly, but a sort of communistic equality, where every man could do precisely as he liked, take even his neighbor's property, and annihilate all distinctions of society, all inequalities of condition,--a miserable, fanatical dream, impossible to realize under any form of government which can be conceived. It was this spirit of reckless innovation, promulgated by atheists and drawn logically from some principles of the "Social Contract" of which Rousseau was the author, which excited the ire of Burke. It was license, and not liberty.
And while the bloody and irreligious excesses of the Revolution called out his detestation, the mistakes and incapacity of the new legislators excited his contempt. He condemned a compulsory paper currency,--not a paper currency, but a compulsory one,--and predicted bankruptcy. He ridiculed an army without a head,--not the instrument of the executive, but of a military democracy receiving orders from the clubs. He made sport of the legislature ruled by the commune, and made up not of men of experience, but of adventurers, stock-jobbers, directors of assignats, trustees for the sale of church-lands, who "took a constitution in hand as savages would a looking-glass,"--a body made up of those courtiers who wished to cut off the head of their king, of those priests who voted religion a nuisance, of those lawyers who called the laws a dead letter, of those philosophers who admitted no argument but the guillotine, of those sentimentalists who chanted the necessity of more blood, of butchers and bakers and brewers who would exterminate the very people who bought from them.
And the result of all this wickedness and folly on the mind of Burke was the most eloquent and masterly political treatise probably ever written,--a treatise in which there may be found much angry rhetoric and some unsound principles, but which blazes with genius on every page, which coruscates with wit, irony, and invective; scornful and sad doubtless, yet full of moral wisdom; a perfect thesaurus of political truths. I have no words with which to express my admiration for the wisdom and learning and literary excellence of the "Reflections on the French Revolution" as a whole,--so luminous in statement, so accurate in the exposure of sophistries, so full of inspired intuitions, so Christian in its tone. This celebrated work was enough to make any man immortal. It was written and rewritten with the most conscientious care. It appeared in 1790; and so great were its merits, so striking, and yet so profound, that thirty thousand copies were sold in a few weeks. It was soon translated into all the languages of Europe, and was in the hands of all thinking men. It was hailed with especial admiration by Christian and conservative classes, though bitterly denounced by many intelligent people as gloomy and hostile to progress. But whether liked or disliked, it made a great impression, and contributed to settle public opinion in reference to French affairs. What can be more just and enlightened than such sentiments as these, which represent the spirit of the treatise:--
"Because liberty is to be classed among the blessings of mankind, am I to felicitate a madman who has escaped from the restraints of his cell? There is no qualification for government but virtue and wisdom. Woe be to that country that would madly reject the service of talents and virtues. Nothing is an adequate representation of a State that does not represent its ability as well as property. Men have a right to justice, and the fruits of industry, and the acquisitions of their parents, and the improvement of their offspring,--to instruction in life and consolation in death; but they have no right to what is unreasonable, and what is not for their benefit. The new professors are so taken up with rights that they have totally forgotten duties; and without opening one new avenue to the understanding, they have succeeded in stopping those that lead to the heart. Those who attempt by outrage and violence to deprive men of any advantage which they hold under the laws, proclaim war against society. When, I ask, will such truths become obsolete among enlightened people; and when will they become stale?"
But with this fierce protest against the madness and violence of the French Revolution, the wisdom of Burke and of the English nation ended. The most experienced and sagacious man of his age, with all his wisdom and prescience, could see only one side of the awful political hurricane which he was so eloquent in denouncing. His passions and his prejudices so warped his magnificent intellect, that he could not see the good which was mingled with the evil; that the doctrine of equality, if false when applied to the actual condition of men at their birth, is yet a state to which the institutions of society tend, under the influence of education and religion; that the common brotherhood of man, mocked by the tyrants which feudalism produced, is yet to be drawn from the Sermon on the Mount; that the blood of a plebeian carpenter is as good as that of an aristocratic captain of artillery; that public burdens which bear heavily on the poor should also be shared equally by the rich; that all laws should be abolished which institute unequal privileges; that taxes should be paid by nobles as well as by peasants; that every man should be unfettered in the choice of his calling and profession; that there should be unbounded toleration of religious opinions; that no one should be arbitrarily arrested and confined without trial and proof of crime; that men and women, with due regard to the rights of others, should be permitted to marry whomsoever they please; that, in fact, a total change in the spirit of government, so imperatively needed in France, was necessary. These were among the great ideas which the reformers advocated, but which they did not know how practically to secure on those principles of justice which they abstractly invoked,--ideas never afterwards lost sight of, in all the changes of government. And it is remarkable that the flagrant evils which the Revolution so ruthlessly swept away have never since been revived, and never can be revived any more than the oracles of Dodona or the bulls of Mediaeval Rome; amid the storms and the whirlwinds and the fearful convulsions and horrid anarchies and wicked passions of a great catastrophe, the imperishable ideas of progress forced their way.
Nor could Burke foresee the ultimate results of the Revolution any more than he would admit the truths which were overshadowed by errors and crimes. Nor, inflamed with rage and scorn, was he wise in the remedies he proposed. Only God can overrule the wrath of man, and cause melodious birth-songs to succeed the agonies of dissolution. Burke saw the absurdity of sophistical theories and impractical equality,--liberty running into license, and license running into crime; he saw pretensions, quackeries, inexperience, folly, and cruelty, and he prophesied what their legitimate effect would be: but he did not see in the Revolution the pent-up indignation and despair of centuries, nor did he hear the voices of hungry and oppressed millions crying to heaven for vengeance. He did not recognize the chastening hand of God on tyrants and sensualists; he did not see the arm of retributive justice, more fearful than the daggers of Roman assassins, more stern than the overthrow of Persian hosts, more impressive than the handwriting on the wall of Belshazzar's palace; nor could he see how creation would succeed destruction amid the burnings of that vast funeral pyre. He foresaw, perhaps, that anarchy would be followed by military despotism; but he never anticipated a Napoleon Bonaparte, or the military greatness of a nation so recently ground down by Jacobin orators and sentimental executioners. He never dreamed that out of the depths and from the clouds and amid the conflagration there would come a deliverance, at least for a time, in the person of a detested conqueror; who would restore law, develop industry, secure order, and infuse enthusiasm into a country so nearly ruined, and make that country glorious beyond precedent, until his mad passion for unlimited dominion should arouse insulted nations to form a coalition which even he should not be powerful enough to resist, gradually hemming him round in a king-hunt, until they should at last confine him on a rock in the ocean, to meditate and to die.
Where Burke and the nation he aroused by his eloquence failed in wisdom, was in opposing this revolutionary storm with bayonets. Had he and the leaders of his day confined themselves to rhetoric and arguments, if ever so exaggerated and irritating; had they allowed the French people to develop their revolution in their own way, as they had the right to do,--then the most dreadful war of modern times, which lasted twenty years, would have been confined within smaller limits. Napoleon would have had no excuse for aggressive warfare; Pitt would not have died of a broken heart; large standing armies, the curse of Europe, would not have been deemed so necessary; the ancient limits of France might have been maintained; and a policy of development might have been inaugurated, rather than a policy which led to future wars and national humiliation. The gigantic struggles of Napoleon began when France was attacked by foreign nations, fighting for their royalties and feudalities, and aiming to suppress a domestic revolution which was none of their concern, and which they imperfectly understood.
But at this point we must stop, for I tread on ground where only speculation presumes to stand. The time has not come to solve such a mighty problem as the French Revolution, or even the career of Napoleon Bonaparte. We can pronounce on the logical effects of right and wrong,--that violence leads to anarchy, and anarchy to ruin; but we cannot tell what would have been the destiny of France if the Revolution had not produced Napoleon, nor what would have been the destiny of England if Napoleon had not been circumvented by the powers of Europe. On such questions we are children; the solution of them is hidden by the screens of destiny; we can only speculate. And since we short-sighted mortals cannot tell what will be the ultimate effect of the great agitations of society, whether begun in noble aspirations or in depraved passions, it is enough for us to settle down, with firm convictions, on what we can see,--that crimes, under whatever name they go, are eternally to be reprobated, whatever may be the course they are made to take by Him who rules the universe. It would be difficult to single out any memorable war in this world's history which has not been ultimately overruled for the good of the world, whatever its cause or character,--like the Crusades, the most unfortunate in their immediate effects of all the great wars which nations have madly waged. But this only proves that God is stronger than devils, and that he overrules the wrath of man. "It must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh." There is only one standard by which to judge the actions of men; there is only one rule whereby to guide nations or individuals,--and that is, to do right; to act on the principles of immutable justice.
Now, whatever were the defects in the character or philosophy of Burke, it cannot be denied that this was the law which he attempted to obey, the rule which he taught to his generation. In this light, his life and labors command our admiration, because he did uphold the right and condemn the wrong, and was sufficiently clear-headed to see the sophistries which concealed the right and upheld the wrong. That was his peculiar excellence. How loftily his majestic name towers above the other statesmen of his troubled age! Certainly no equal to him, in England, has since appeared, in those things which give permanent fame. The man who has most nearly approached him is Gladstone. If the character of our own Webster had been as reproachless as his intellect was luminous and comprehensive, he might be named in the same category of illustrious men. Like the odor of sanctity, which was once supposed to emanate from a Catholic saint, the halo of Burke's imperishable glory is shed around every consecrated retreat of that land which thus far has been the bulwark of European liberty. The English nation will not let him die; he cannot die in the hearts and memories of man any more than can Socrates or Washington. No nation will be long ungrateful for eminent public services, even if he who rendered them was stained by grave defects; for it is services which make men immortal. Much more will posterity reverence those benefactors whose private lives were in harmony with their principles,--the Hales, the L'Hôpitals, the Hampdens of the world. To this class Burke undeniably belonged. All writers agree as to his purity of morals, his generous charities, his high social qualities, his genial nature, his love of simple pleasures, his deep affections, his reverence, his Christian life. He was a man of sorrows, it is true, like most profound and contemplative natures, whose labors are not fully appreciated,--like Cicero, Dante, and Michael Angelo. He was doomed, too, like Galileo, to severe domestic misfortunes. He was greatly afflicted by the death of his only son, in whom his pride and hopes were bound up. "I am like one of those old oaks which the late hurricane has scattered about me," said he. "I am torn up by the roots; I lie prostrate on the earth." And when care and disease hastened his departure from a world he adorned, his body was followed to the grave by the most illustrious of the great men of the land, and the whole nation mourned as for a brother or a friend.
But it is for his writings and published speeches that he leaves the most enduring fame; and what is most valuable in his writings is his elucidation of fundamental principles in morals and philosophy. And here was his power,--not his originality, for which he was distinguished in an eminent degree; not learning, which amazed his auditors; not sarcasm, of which he was a master; not wit, with which he brought down the house; not passion, which overwhelmed even such a man as Hastings; not fluency, with every word in the language at his command; not criticism, so searching that no sophistry could escape him; not philosophy, musical as Apollo's lyre,--but insight into great principles, the moral force of truth clearly stated and fearlessly defended. This elevated him to a sphere which words and gestures, and the rich music and magnetism of voice and action can never reach, since it touched the heart and the reason and the conscience alike, and produced convictions that nothing can stifle. There were more famous and able men than he, in some respects, in Parliament at the time. Fox surpassed him in debate, Pitt in ready replies and adaptation to the genius of the house, Sheridan in wit, Townsend in parliamentary skill, Mansfield in legal acumen; but no one of these great men was so forcible as Burke in the statement of truths which future statesmen will value. And as he unfolded and applied the imperishable principles of right and wrong, he seemed like an ancient sage bringing down to earth the fire of the divinities he invoked and in which he believed, not to chastise and humiliate, but to guide and inspire.
In recapitulating the services by which Edmund Burke will ultimately be judged, I would say that he had a hand in almost every movement for which his generation is applauded. He gave an impulse to almost every political discussion which afterwards resulted in beneficent reform. Some call him a croaker, without sympathy for the ideas on which modern progress is based; but he was really one of the great reformers of his day. He lifted up his voice against the slave-trade; he encouraged and lauded the labors of Howard; he supported the just claims of the Catholics; he attempted, though a churchman, to remove the restrictions to which dissenters were subjected; he opposed the cruel laws against insolvent debtors; he sought to soften the asperities of the Penal Code; he labored to abolish the custom of enlisting soldiers for life; he attempted to subvert the dangerous powers exercised by judges in criminal prosecutions for libel; he sought financial reform in various departments of the State; he would have abolished many useless offices in the government; he fearlessly exposed the wrongs of the East India Company; he tried to bring to justice the greatest political criminal of the day; he took the right side of American difficulties, and advocated a policy which would have secured for half a century longer the allegiance of the American colonies, and prevented the division of the British empire; he advocated measures which saved England, possibly, from French subjugation; he threw the rays of his genius over all political discussions; and he left treatises which from his day to ours have proved a mine of political and moral wisdom, for all whose aim or business it has been to study the principles of law or government. These, truly, were services for which any country should be grateful, and which should justly place Edmund Burke on the list of great benefactors. These constitute a legacy of which all nations should be proud.
Works and Correspondence of Edmund Burke; Life and Times of Edmund Burke, by Macknight (the ablest and fullest yet written); An Historical Study, by Morley (very able); Lives of Burke by Croly, Prior, and Bisset; Grenville Papers; Parliamentary History; the Encyclopaedia Britannica has a full article on Burke; Massey's History of England; Chatham's Correspondence; Moore's Life of Sheridan; also the Lives of Pitt and Fox; Lord Brougham's Sketch of Burke; C.W. Dilke's Papers of a Critic; Boswell's Life of Johnson. The most brilliant of Burke's writings, "Reflections on the French Revolution," should be read by everybody.
THE FRENCH EMPIRE.
It is difficult to say anything new about Napoleon Bonaparte, either in reference to his genius, his character, or his deeds.
His genius is universally admitted, both as a general and an administrator. No general so great has appeared in our modern times. He ranks with Alexander and Caesar in ancient times, and he is superior to Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Condé, Marlborough, Frederic II., Wellington, or any of the warriors who have figured in the great wars of Europe, from Charlemagne to the battle of Waterloo. His military career was so brilliant that it dazzled contemporaries. Without the advantages of birth or early patronage, he rose to the highest pinnacle of human glory. His victories were prodigious and unexampled; and it took all Europe to resist him. He aimed at nothing less than universal sovereignty; and had he not, when intoxicated with his conquests, attempted impossibilities, his power would have been practically unlimited in France. He had all the qualities for success in war,--insight, fertility of resource, rapidity of movement, power of combination, coolness, intrepidity, audacity, boldness tempered by calculation, will, energy which was never relaxed, powers of endurance, and all the qualities which call out enthusiasm and attach soldiers and followers to personal interests. His victorious career was unchecked until all the nations of Europe, in fear and wrath, combined against him. He was a military prodigy, equally great in tactics and strategy,--a master of all the improvements which had been made in the art of war, from Epaminondas to Frederic II.
His genius for civil administration was equally remarkable, and is universally admitted. Even Metternich, who detested him, admits that "he was as great as a statesman as he was as a warrior, and as great as an administrator as he was as a statesman." He brought order out of confusion, developed the industry of his country, restored the finances, appropriated and rewarded all eminent talents, made the whole machinery of government subservient to his aims, and even seemed to animate it by his individual will. He ruled France as by the power of destiny. The genius of Richelieu, of Mazarin, and of Colbert pale before his enlightened mind, which comprehended equally the principles of political science and the vast details of a complicated government. For executive ability I know no monarch who has surpassed him.
We do not associate with military genius, as a general rule, marked intellectual qualities in other spheres. But Napoleon was an exception to this rule. He was tolerably well educated, and he possessed considerable critical powers in art, literature, and science. He penetrated through all shams and impostures. He was rarely deceived as to men or women. He could be eloquent and interesting in conversation. Some of his expressions pierced like lightning, and were exceedingly effective. His despatches were laconic and clear. He knew something about everybody of note, and if he had always been in a private station his intellectual force would have attracted attention in almost any vocation he might have selected. His natural vivacity, wit, and intensity would have secured friends and admirers in any sphere.
Nor are the judgments of mankind less unanimous in reference to his character than his intellect and genius. He stands out in history in a marked manner with two sides,--great and little, good and bad. None can deny him many good qualities. His industry was marvellous; he was temperate in eating and drinking; he wasted no precious time; he rewarded his friends, to whom he was true; he did not persecute his enemies unless they stood in his way, and unless he had a strong personal dislike for them, as he had for Madame de Staël; he could be magnanimous at times; he was indulgent to his family, and allowed his wife to buy as many India shawls and diamonds as she pleased; he was never parsimonious in his gifts, although personally inclined to economy; he generally ruled by the laws he had accepted or enacted; he despised formalities and etiquette; he sought knowledge from every quarter; he encouraged merit in all departments; he was not ruled by women, like most of the kings of France; he was not enslaved by prejudices, and was lenient when he could afford to be; and in the earlier part of his career he was doubtless patriotic in his devotion to the interests of his country.
Moreover, many of his faults were the result of circumstances, and of the unprecedented prosperity which he enjoyed. Pride, egotism, tyranny, and ostentation were to be expected of a man whose will was law. Nearly all men would have exhibited these traits, had they been seated on such a throne as his; and almost any man's temper would have occasionally given way under such burdens as he assumed, such hostilities as he encountered, and such treasons as he detected. Surrounded by spies and secret enemies, he was obliged to be reserved. With a world at his feet, it was natural that he should be arbitrary and impatient of contradiction. There have been successful railway magnates as imperious as he, and bank presidents as supercilious, and clerical dignitaries as haughty, in their smaller spheres. Pride, consciousness, and egotism are the natural result of power and flattery in all conditions of life; and when a single man controls the destinies of nations, he is an exception to the infirmities of human nature if he does not seek to bend everything before his haughty will. There have been many Richelieus, there has been but one Marcus Aurelius; many Hildebrands, only one Alfred; many Ahabs, only one David, one St. Louis, one Washington.
But with all due allowance for the force of circumstances in the development of character, and for those imperial surroundings which blind the arbiters of nations, there were yet natural traits of character in Napoleon which call out the severest reprobation, and which make him an object of indignation and intense dislike among true-minded students of history. His egotism was almost superhuman, his selfishness was most unscrupulous, his ambition absolutely boundless. He claimed a monopoly in perfidy and lying; he had no idea of moral responsibility; he had no sympathy with misfortune, no conscience, no fear of God. He was cold, hard, ironical, and scornful. He was insolent in his treatment of women, brusque in manners, severe on all who thwarted or opposed him. He committed great crimes in his ascent to supreme dominion, and mocked the reason, the conscience, and the rights of mankind. He broke the most solemn treaties; he was faithless to his cause; he centred in himself the interests he was intrusted to guard; he recklessly insulted all the governments of Europe; he put himself above Providence; he disgracefully elevated his brothers; he sought to aggrandize himself at any cost, and ruthlessly grasped the sceptre of universal dominion as if he were an irresistible destiny whom it was folly to oppose, In all this he aimed to be greater than conscience.
Such was the character of a despot who arose upon the ruins of the old monarchy,--the product of a revolution, whose ideas he proposed to defend. Most historians, and all moralists, are on the whole unanimous in this verdict. As for his deeds, they rise up before our minds, compelling admiration and awe. He was the incarnation of force; he performed the most brilliant exploits of our modern times.
The question then arises, whether his marvellous gifts and transcendent opportunities were directed to the good of his country and the cause of civilization. In other words, did he render great services to France, which make us forget his faults? How will he be judged by enlightened posterity? May he be ranked among great benefactors, like Constantine. Charlemagne, Theodosius, Peter the Great, and Oliver Cromwell? It is the privilege of great sovereigns to be judged for their services rather than by their defects.
Let us summon, then, this great Emperor before the bar of universal reason. Let him make his own defence. Let us first hear what he has to say for himself, for he is the most distinguished culprit of modern times, and it may yet take three generations to place him in his true historical niche; and more, his fame, though immortal, may forever be in doubt, like that of Julius Caesar, whom we still discuss.
This great man may quietly yet haughtily say to us who seek to take his measure: "It is for my services to France that I claim to be judged. I do not claim perfection. I admit I made grand mistakes; I even committed acts which the world stigmatizes as crimes. I seized powers which did not belong to me; I overthrew constitutions; I made myself supreme; I mocked the old powers of earth; I repudiated the ideas in the name of which I climbed to a throne; I was harsh, insolent, and tyrannical; I divorced the wife who was the maker of my fortune; I caused the assassination of the Duc d'Enghien; I invaded Spain and Russia; and I wafted the names of my conquering generals to the ends of the earth in imprecations and curses. These were my mistakes,--crimes, if you please to call them; but it is not for these you must judge me. Did I not come to the rescue of law and order when France was torn with anarchies? Did I not deliver the constituted authorities from the mob? Did I not rescue France from foreign enemies when they sought to repress the Revolution and restore the Bourbons? Was I not the avenger of twenty-five hungry millions on those old tyrants who would have destroyed their nationality? Did I not break up those combinations which would have perpetuated the enslavement of Europe? Did I not seek to plant liberty in Italy and destroy the despotisms of German princes? Did I not give unity to great States and enlarge their civilization? Did I not rebuke and punish Austria, Prussia, Russia, and England for interfering with our Revolution and combining against the rights of a republic? Did I not elevate France, and give scope to its enterprise, and develop its resources, and inspire its citizens with an unknown enthusiasm, and make the country glorious, so that even my enemies came to my court to wonder and applaud? And did I not leave such an immortal prestige, even when I was disarmed and overthrown by the armies of combined Christendom, that my illustrious name, indelibly engraved in the hearts of my countrymen, was enough to seat my nephew on the throne from which I was torn, and give to his reign a glory scarcely inferior to my own? These were my services to France,--the return of centralized power amid anarchies and discontents and laws which successive revolutions have not destroyed, but which shall blaze in wisdom through successive generations."
Now, how far can these claims be substantiated? Was Napoleon, although a usurper, like Cromwell and Caesar, also a benefactor like them; and did his fabric of imperialism prove a blessing to civilization? What, in reality, were his services? Do they offset his aspirations and crimes? Is he worthy of the praises of mankind? Great deeds he performed, but did they ultimately tend to the welfare of France and of Europe?
It was a great service which Napoleon rendered to France, in the beginning of his career, at the siege of Toulon, when he was a lieutenant of artillery. He disobeyed, indeed, the orders of his superiors, but won success by the skill with which he planted his cannon, showing remarkable genius. This service to the Republic was not forgotten, although he remained long unemployed, living obscurely at Paris with straitened resources. By some means he caught the ear of Barras, the most able of the Directory, and was intrusted with the defence of the Convention in a great crisis, and saved it by his "whiff of grapeshot," as Carlyle calls his dispersion of the mob in the streets of Paris, from the steps of St. Roch. This, doubtless, was a service to the cause of law and order, since he acted under orders, and discharged his duty, like an obedient servant of the constituted authorities, without reluctance, and with great skill,--perhaps the only man of France, at that time, who could have done that important work so well, and with so little bloodshed. Had the sections prevailed,--and it was feared that they would,--the anarchy of the worst days of the Revolution would have resulted. But this decisive action of the young officer, intrusted with a great command, put an end for forty years to the assumption of unlawful weapons by the mob. There was no future insurrection of the people against government till Louis Philippe was placed upon the throne in 1830. Napoleon here vindicated not only the cause of law and order, but the Revolution itself; for in spite of its excesses and crimes, it had abolished feudalism, unequal privileges, the reign of priests and nobles, and a worn-out monarchy; it had proclaimed a constitutional government, in the face of all the European despotisms; it had asserted that self-government was a possibility, even in France; it had inspired the whole nation with enthusiasm, and proclaimed the Republic when hostile armies were ready to march upon the soil of France and restore the Bourbons. All the impulses of the Revolution were generous; all its struggles were heroic, although it was sullied with crimes, and was marked by inexperience and follies. The nation rallied around a great idea,--an idea which is imperishable, and destined to unbounded triumph. To this idea of liberty Napoleon was not then unfaithful, although some writers assert that he was ready to draw his sword in any cause which promised him promotion.
The National Convention, which he saved by military genius and supreme devotion to it, had immortalized itself by inspiring France with heroism; and after a struggle of three years with united Christendom, jealous of liberty, dissolved itself, and transferred the government to a Directory.
This Directory, in reward of the services which Napoleon had rendered, and in admiration of his genius, bestowed upon him the command of the army of Italy. Probably Josephine, whom he then married, had sufficient influence with Barras to secure the appointment. It was not popular with the generals, of course, to have a young man of twenty-six, without military prestige, put over their heads. But results soon justified the discernment of Barras.
At the head of only forty thousand men, poorly clad and equipped and imperfectly fed, Napoleon in four weeks defeated the Sardinians, and in less than two years, in eighteen pitched battles, he destroyed the Austrian armies which were about to invade France. That glorious campaign of 1796 is memorable for the conquest of Piedmont and Lombardy, and the establishment of French supremacy in Italy. Napoleon's career on the banks of the Po was so brilliant, unexpected, and startling, that his nation was filled with equal astonishment and admiration. Instead of predicted ruin, there was unexampled victory. The enthusiasm of the French was unbounded. Had Napoleon died at the Bridge of Lodi, he would have passed down in history as a Judas Maccabaeus. In this campaign he won the hearts of his soldiers, and secured the admiration of his generals. There was something new in his system of fighting, not seen at least in modern times,--a rapid massing of his troops, and a still more rapid concentration of them upon the weak points of the enemy's lines, coming down on them like a mountain torrent, and sweeping everything before him, in defiance of all rules and precedents. A new master in the art of war, greater than Condé, or Turenne, or Marlborough, or Frederic II., had suddenly arisen, with amazing audacity and faith in himself.
The deliverance of republican France from four great Austrian armies was a grand service; and Napoleon merited its gratitude and all the honors he received. He had violated no trust thus far. He was still Citizen Bonaparte, professing liberal principles, and fighting under the flag of liberty, to make the Republic respected, independent, and powerful. He robbed Italy, it is true, of some of her valuable pictures, and exacted heavy contributions; but this is war. He was still the faithful servant of France.
On his return to Paris as a conqueror, the people of course were enthusiastic in their praises, and the Government was jealous. It had lost the confidence of the nation. All eyes were turned upon the fortunate soldier who had shown so much ability, and who had given glory to the country. He may not yet have meditated usurpation, but he certainly had dreams of power. He was bent on rising to a greater height; but he could do nothing at present, nor did he feel safe in Paris amid so much envy, although he lived simply and shunned popular idolatry. But his restless nature craved activity; so he sought and obtained an army for the invasion of Egypt. He was inspired with a passion of conquest, and the Directory was glad to get rid of so formidable a rival.
He had plainly rendered to his country two great services, without tarnishing his own fame, or being false to his cause. But what excuse had he to give to the bar of enlightened posterity for the invasion of Egypt? The idea originated with himself. It was not a national necessity. It was simply an unwarrantable war: it was a crime; it was a dream of conquest, without anything more to justify it than Alexander's conquests in India, or any other conquest by ambitious and restless warriors. He hoped to play the part of Alexander,--to found a new empire in the East. It was his darling scheme. It would give him power, and perhaps sovereignty. Some patriotic notions may have blended with his visions. Perhaps he would make a new route to India; perhaps cut off the empire of the English in the East; perhaps plant colonies among worn-out races; perhaps destroy the horrid empire of the Turks; perhaps make Constantinople the seat of French influence and empire in the East. But what harm had Turkey or Syria or Egypt done to France? Did they menace the peace of Europe? Did even suffering Egyptians call upon him to free them from a Turkish yoke? No: it was a meditated conquest, on the same principles of ambition and aggrandizement which ever have animated unlawful conquests, and therefore a political crime; not to be excused because other nations have committed such crimes, ultimately overruled to the benefit of civilization, like the conquest of India by England, and Texas by the United States.
I will not dwell on this expedition, which failed through the watchfulness of the English, the naval victory of Nelson at the Nile, and the defence of Acre by Sir Sidney Smith. It was the dream of Napoleon at that time to found an empire in the East, of which he would be supreme; but he missed his destiny, and was obliged to return, foiled, baffled, and chagrined, to Paris;--his first great disappointment.
But he had lost no prestige, since he performed prodigies of valor, and covered up his disasters by lying bulletins. Here he first appeared as the arch-liar, which he was to the close of his career. In this expedition he rendered no services to his country or to civilization, except in the employment of scientific men to decipher the history of Egypt,--which showed that he had an enlightened mind.
During his absence disasters had overtaken France. Italy was torn from her grasp, her armies had been defeated, and Russia, Austria, and England were leagued for her overthrow. Insurrection was in the provinces, and dissensions raged in Paris. The Directory had utterly lost public confidence, and had shown no capacity to govern. All eyes were turned to the conqueror of Italy, and, as it was supposed, of Egypt also.
A coup d'état followed. Napoleon's soldiers drove the legislative body from the hall, and he assumed the supreme control, under the name of First Consul. Thus ended the Republic in November, 1799, after a brief existence of seven years. The usurpation of a soldier began, who trod the constitution and liberty under his iron feet. He did what Caesar and Cromwell had done, on the plea of revolutionary necessity. He put back the march of liberty for nearly half-a-century. His sole excuse was that his undeniable usurpation was ratified by the votes of the French people, intoxicated by his victories, and seeing no way to escape from the perils which surrounded them than under his supreme guidance. They parted with their liberties for safety. Had Napoleon been compelled to "wade through slaughter to his throne,"--as Caesar did, as Augustus did,--there would have been no excuse for his usurpation, except the plea of Caesar, that liberty was impossible, and the people needed the strong arm of despotism to sustain law and order. But Napoleon was more adroit; he appealed to the people themselves, recognizing them as the source of power, and they confirmed his usurpation by an overwhelming majority.
Since he was thus the people's choice, I will not dwell on the usurpation. He cheated them, however; for he invoked the principles of the Revolution, and they believed him,--as they afterwards did his nephew. They wanted a better executive government, and were willing to try him, since he had proved his abilities; but they did not anticipate the utter suppression of constitutional government,--they still had faith in the principles of their Revolution. They abhorred absolutism; they abhor it still; to destroy it they had risked their Revolution. To the principles of the Revolution the great body of French people have been true, when permitted to be, from the time when they hurled Louis XVI. from the throne. Absolutism with the consent of the French nation has passed away forever, and never can be revived, any more than the oracles of Dodona or the bulls of Mediaeval popes.
Now let us consider whether, as the executive of the French nation, he was true to the principles of the Revolution, which he invoked, and which that people have ever sought to establish.
In some respects, it must be confessed, he was, and in other respects he was not. He never sought to revive feudalism; all its abominations perished. He did not bring back the law of entail, nor unequal privileges, nor the régime of nobles. He ruled by the laws; rewarding merit, and encouraging what was obviously for the interests of the nation. The lives and property of the people were protected. The idea of liberty was never ignored. If liberty was suppressed to augment his power and cement his rule, it was in the name of public necessity, as an expression of the interests he professed to guard. When he incited his soldiers to battle, it was always under pretence of delivering enslaved nations and spreading the principles of the Revolution, whose product he was. And until he assumed the imperial title most of his acts were enlightened, and for the benefit of the people he ruled; there was no obvious oppression on the part of government, except to provide means to sustain the army, without which France must succumb to enemies. While he was First Consul, it would seem that the hostility of Europe was more directed towards France herself for having expelled the Bourbons, than against him as a dangerous man. Europe could not forgive France for her Revolution,--not even England; Napoleon was but the necessity which the political complications arising from the Revolution seemed to create. Hence, the wars which Napoleon conducted while he was First Consul were virtually defensive, since all Europe aimed to put down France,--such a nest of assassins and communists and theorists!--rather than to put down Napoleon; for, although usurper, he was, strange to say, the nation's choice as well as idol. He reigned by the will of the nation, and he could not have reigned without. The nation gave him his power, to be wielded to protect France, in imminent danger from foreign powers.
And wisely and grandly did he use it at first. He turned his attention to the internal state of a distracted country, and developed its resources and promoted tranquillity; he appointed the ablest men, without distinction of party, for his ministers and prefects; he restored the credit of the country; he put a stop to forced loans; he released priests from confinement; he rebuked the fanaticism of the ultra-revolutionists, he reorganized the public bodies; he created tribunals of appeal; he ceased to confiscate the property of emigrants, and opened a way for their return; he restored the right of disposing property by will; he instituted the Bank of France on sound financial principles; he checked all disorders; he brought to a close the desolating war of La Vendée; he retained what was of permanent value in the legislation of the Revolution; he made the distribution of the public burdens easy; he paid his army, and rewarded eminent men, whom he enlisted in his service. So stable was the government, and so wise were the laws, and so free were all channels of industry, that prosperity returned to the distracted country. The middle classes were particularly benefited,--the shopkeepers and mechanics,--and they acquiesced in a strong rule, since it seemed beneficent. The capital was enriched and adorned and improved. A treaty with the Pope was made, by which the clergy were restored to their parishes. A new code of laws was made by great jurists, on the principles of the Justinian Code. A magnificent road was constructed over the Alps. Colonial possessions were recovered. Navies were built, fortifications repaired, canals dug, and the beet-root and tobacco cultivated.
But these internal improvements, by which France recovered prosperity, paled before the services which Napoleon rendered as a defender of his country's nationality. He had proposed a peace-policy to England in an autograph letter to the King, which was treated as an insult, and answered by the British government by a declaration of war, to last till the Bourbons were restored,--perhaps what Napoleon wanted and expected; and war was renewed with Austria and England. The consulate was now marked by the brilliant Italian campaign,--the passage over the Alps; the battle of Marengo, gained by only thirty thousand men; the recovery of Italy, and renewed military éclat. The Peace of Amiens, October, 1801, placed Napoleon in the proudest position which any modern sovereign ever enjoyed. He was now thirty-three years of age,--supreme in France, and powerful throughout Europe. The French were proud of a man who was glorious both in peace and war; and his consulate had been sullied by only one crime,--the assassination of the heir of the house of Condé; a blunder, as Talleyrand said, rather than a crime, since it arrayed against him all the friends of Legitimacy in Europe.
Had Napoleon been contented with the power he then enjoyed as First Consul for life, and simply stood on the defensive, he could have made France invincible, and would have left a name comparatively reproachless. But we now see unmistakable evidence of boundless personal ambition, and a policy of unscrupulous aggrandizement. He assumes the imperial title,--greedy for the trappings as well as the reality of power; he openly founds a new dynasty of kings; he abolishes every trace of constitutional rule; he treads liberty under his feet, and mocks the very ideas by which he had inspired enthusiasm in his troops; his watchword is now not Liberty, but Glory; he centres in himself the interests of France; he surrounds himself, at the Tuileries, with the pomp and ceremonies of the ancient kings; and he even induces the Pope himself to crown him at Notre Dame. It was a proud day, December 2, 1804, when, surrounded by all that was brilliant and imposing in France, Napoleon proceeded in solemn procession to the ancient cathedral, where were assembled the magistrates, the bishops, and the titled dignitaries of the realm, and received, in his imperial robes, from the hands of the Pope, the consecrated sceptre and crown of empire, and heard from the lips of the supreme pontiff of Christendom those words which once greeted Charlemagne in the basilica of St. Peter when the Roman clergy proclaimed him Emperor of the West,--Vivat in oeternum semper Augustus. The venerable aisles and pillars and arches of the ancient cathedral resounded to the music of five hundred performers in a solemn Te Deum. The sixty prelates of France saluted the anointed soldier as their monarch, while the inspiring cry from the vast audience of Vive l'Empereur! announced Napoleon's entrance into the circle of European sovereigns.
But this fresh usurpation, although confirmed by a vote of the French people, was the signal for renewed hostilities. A coalition of all governments unfriendly to France was formed. Military preparations assumed a magnitude never seen before in the history of Europe, which now speedily became one vast camp. Napoleon quit his capital to assume the conduct of armies. He had threatened England with invasion, which he knew was impossible, for England then had nearly one thousand ships of war, manned by one hundred and twenty thousand men. But when Napoleon heard of the victories of Nelson, he suddenly and rapidly marched to the Rhine, and precipitated one hundred and eighty thousand troops upon Austria, who was obliged to open her capital. Then, reinforced by Russia, Austria met the invader at Austerlitz with equal forces; but only to suffer crushing defeat. Pitt died of a broken heart when he heard of this decisive French victory, followed shortly after by the disastrous overthrow of the Prussians at Jena, and that, again, by the victory of Eylau over the Russians, which secured the peace of Tilsit, 1807,--making Napoleon supreme on the continent of Europe at the age of thirty-nine. It was deemed idle to resist further this "man of destiny," who in twelve years, from the condition of an unemployed officer of artillery, without friends or family or influence, had subdued in turn all the monarchies of Europe, with the exception of England and Russia, and regulated at his pleasure the affairs of distant courts. To what an eminence had he climbed! Nothing in history or romance approaches the facts of his amazing career.
And even down to this time--to the peace of Tilsit--there are no grave charges against him which history will not extenuate, aside from the egotism of his character. He claims that he fought for French nationality, in danger from the united hostilities of Europe. Certainly his own glory was thus far identified with the glory of his country. He had rescued France by a series of victories more brilliant than had been achieved for centuries. He had won a fame second to that of no conqueror in the world's history.
But these astonishing successes seem to have turned his head. He is dazzled by his own greatness, and intoxicated by the plaudits of his idolaters. He proudly and coldly says that "it is a proof of the weakness of the human understanding for any one to dream of resisting him." He now aims at a universal military monarchy; he seeks to make the kings of the earth his vassals; he places the members of his family, whether worthy or unworthy, on ancient thrones; he would establish on the banks of the Seine that central authority which once emanated from Rome; he apes the imperial Caesars in the arrogance of his tone and the insolence of his demands; he looks upon Europe as belonging to himself; he becomes a tyrant of the race; he centres in the gratification of his passions the interests of humanity; he becomes the angry Nemesis of Europe, indifferent to the sufferings of mankind and the peace of the world.
After the peace of Tilsit his whole character seems to have changed, even in little things. No longer is he affable and courteous, but silent, reserved, and sullen. His temper becomes bad; his brow is usually clouded; his manners are brusque; his egotism is transcendent. "Your first duty," said he to his brother Louis, when he made him king of Holland, "is to me; your second, to France." He becomes intolerably haughty, even to the greatest personages. He insults the ladies of the court, and pinches their ears, so that they feel relieved when he has passed them by. He no longer flatters, but expects incense from everybody. In his bursts of anger he breaks china and throws his coat into the fire. He turns himself into a master of ceremonies; he cheats at cards; he persecutes literary men.
Napoleon's career of crime is now consummated. He divorces Josephine,--the greatest mistake of his life. He invades Spain and Russia, against the expostulations of his wisest counsellors, showing that he has lost his head, that reason has toppled on her throne,--for he fancies himself more powerful than the forces of Nature. All these crimes are utterly inexcusable, except on the plea of madness. Such gigantic crimes, such a recklessness of life, such uncontrollable ambition, such a defiance of justice, such an abrogation of treaties, such a disregard of the interests of humanity, to say nothing of the welfare of France, prostituted, enslaved, down-trodden,--and all to nurse his diabolical egotism,--astonished and shocked the whole civilized world. These things more than balanced all the services he ever rendered, since they directly led to the exhaustion of his country. They were so atrocious that they cried aloud to Heaven for vengeance.
And Heaven heard the agonizing shrieks of misery which ascended from the smoking ruins of Moscow, from the bloody battlefield of Borodino, from the river Berezina, from the homes of the murdered soldiers, from the widows and orphans of more than a million of brave men who had died to advance his glory, from the dismal abodes of twenty-five millions more whom he had cheated out of their liberties and mocked with his ironical proclamations; yea, from the millions in Prussia, Austria, and England who had been taxed to the uttermost to defeat him, and had died martyrs to the cause of nationalities, or what we call the Balance of Power, which European statesmen have ever found it necessary to maintain at any cost, since on this balance hang the interests of feeble and defenceless nations. Ay, Heaven heard,--the God whom he ignored,--and sent a retribution as signal and as prompt and as awful as his victories had been overwhelming.
I need not describe Napoleon's fall,--as clear a destiny as his rise; a lesson to all the future tyrants and conquerors of the world; a moral to be pondered as long as history shall be written. Hear, ye heavens! and give ear, O earth! to the voice of eternal justice, as it appealed to universal consciousness, and pronounced the doom of the greatest sinner of modern times,--to be defeated by the aroused and indignant nations, to lose his military prestige, to incur unexampled and bitter humiliation, to be repudiated by the country he had raised to such a pitch of greatness, to be dethroned, to be imprisoned at Elba, to be confined on the rock of St. Helena, to be at last forced to meditate, and to die with vultures at his heart,--a chained Prometheus, rebellious and defiant to the last, with a world exultant at his fall; a hopeless and impressive fall, since it broke for fifty years the charm of military glory, and showed that imperialism cannot be endured among nations craving for liberties and rights which are the birthright of our humanity.
Did Napoleon, then, live in vain? No great man lives in vain. He is ever, whether good or bad, the instrument of Divine Providence, Gustavus Adolphus was the instrument of God in giving religious liberty to Germany. William the Silent was His instrument in achieving the independence of Holland. Washington was His instrument in giving dignity and freedom to this American nation, this home of the oppressed, this glorious theatre for the expansion of unknown energies and the adoption of unknown experiments. Napoleon was His instrument in freeing France from external enemies, and for vindicating the substantial benefits of an honest but uncontrolled Revolution. He was His instrument in arousing Italy from the sleep of centuries, and taking the first step to secure a united nation and a constitutional government. He was His instrument in overthrowing despotism among the petty kings of Germany, and thus showing the necessity of a national unity,--at length realized by the genius of Bismarck. Even in his crimes Napoleon stands out on the sublime pages of history as the instrument of Providence, since his crimes were overruled in the hatred of despotism among his own subjects, and a still greater hatred of despotism as exercised by those kings who finally subdued him, and who vainly attempted to turn back the progress of liberal sentiments by their representatives at the Congress of Vienna.
The fall of Napoleon taught some awful and impressive lessons to humanity, which would have been unlearned had he continued to be successful to the end. It taught the utter vanity of military glory; that peace with neighbors is the greatest of national blessings, and war the greatest of evils; that no successes on the battlefield can compensate for the miseries of an unjust and unnecessary war; and that avenging justice will sooner or later overtake the wickedness of a heartless egotism. It taught the folly of worshipping mere outward strength, disconnected from goodness; and, finally, it taught that God will protect defenceless nations, and even guilty nations, when they shall have expiated their crimes and follies, and prove Himself the kind Father of all His children, even amid chastisements, gradually leading them, against their will, to that blessed condition when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and nations shall learn war no more.
What remains to-day of those grand Napoleonic ideas which intoxicated France for twenty years, and which, revived by Louis Napoleon, led to a brief glory and an infamous fall, and the humiliation and impoverishment of the most powerful state of Europe? They are synonymous with imperialism, personal government, the absolute reign of a single man, without constitutional checks,--a return to Caesarism, to the unenlightened and selfish despotism of Pagan Rome. And hence they are now repudiated by France herself,--as well as by England and America,--as false, as selfish, as fatal to all true national progress, as opposed to every sentiment which gives dignity to struggling States, as irreconcilably hostile to the civilization which binds nations together, and which slowly would establish liberty, and peace, and industry, and equal privileges, and law, and education, and material prosperity, upon this fallen world.
So much has been written on Napoleon, that I can only select some of the standard and accessible works. Bourrienne's Memoirs of Napoleon I.; L. P. Junot's Memoirs of Napoleon, Court, and Family; Las Casas' Napoleon at St. Helena; Thiers' History of the Consulate and the Empire; Memoirs of Prince Metternich; Segur's History of Expedition to Russia; Memoirs of Madame de Rémusat; Vieusseau's Napoleon, his Sayings and Deeds; Napoleon's Confidential Correspondence with Josephine and with his Brother Joseph; Alison's History of Europe; Lockhart's and Sir Walter Scott's Lives of Napoleon; Court and Camp of Napoleon, in Murray's Family Library; W. Forsyth's Captivity at St. Helena; Dr. Channing's Essay on Napoleon; Lord Brougham's Sketch of Napoleon; J. G. Wilson's Sketch of Napoleon; Life of Napoleon, by A. H. Jomini; Headley's Napoleon and his Marshals; Napier's Peninsular War; Wellington's Despatches; Gilford's Life of Pitt; Botta's History of Italy under Napoleon; Labaume's Russian Campaign; Berthier's Histoire de l'Expédition d'Egypte.
In the later years of Napoleon's rule, when he had reached the summit of power, and the various German States lay prostrate at his feet, there arose in Austria a great man, on whom the eyes of Europe were speedily fixed, and who gradually became the central figure of Continental politics. This remarkable man was Count Metternich, who more than any other man set in motion the secret springs which resulted in a general confederation to shake off the degrading fetters imposed by the French conqueror. In this matter he had a powerful ally in Baron von Stein, who reorganized Prussia, and prepared her for successful resistance, when the time came, against the common enemy. In another lecture I shall attempt to show the part taken by Von Stein in the regeneration of Germany; but it is my present purpose to confine attention to the Austrian chancellor and diplomatist, his various labors, and the services he rendered, not to the cause of Freedom and Progress, but to that of Absolutism, of which he was in his day the most noted champion.
Metternich, in his character as diplomatist, is to be contemplated in two aspects: first, as aiming to enlist the great powers in armed combination against Napoleon; and secondly, as attempting to unite them and all the German States to suppress revolutionary ideas and popular insurrections, and even constitutional government itself. Before presenting him in this double light, however, I will briefly sketch the events of his life until he stood out as the leading figure in European politics,--as great a figure as Bismarck later became.
Clemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Count von Metternich, was born at Coblentz, on the Rhine, May 15, 1773. His father was a nobleman of ancient family. I will not go into his pedigree, reaching far back in the Middle Ages,--a matter so important in the eyes of German and even English biographers, but to us in America of no more account than the genealogy of the Dukes of Edom. The count his father was probably of more ability than an ordinary nobleman in a country where nobles are so numerous, since he was then, or soon after, Austrian ambassador to the Netherlands. Young Metternich was first sent to the University of Strasburg, at the age of fifteen, about the time when Napoleon was completing his studies at a military academy. In 1790, a youth of seventeen, he took part in the ceremonies attending the coronation of Emperor Leopold at Frankfort, and made the acquaintance of the archduke, who two years later succeeded to the imperial dignity as Francis II. We next see him a student of law in the University of Mainz, spending his vacations at Brussels, in his father's house.
Even at that time Metternich attracted attention for his elegant manners and lively wit,--a born courtier, a favorite in high society, and so prominent for his intelligence and accomplishments that he was sent to London as an attaché to the Netherlands embassy, where it seems that he became acquainted with the leading statesmen of England. There must have been something remarkable about him to draw, at the age of twenty, the attention of such men as Burke, Pitt, Fox, and Sheridan. What interested him most in England were the sittings of the English Parliament and the trial of Warren Hastings. At the early age of twenty-one he was appointed minister to the Hague, but was prevented going to his post by the war, and retired to Vienna, which he now saw for the first time. Soon after, he married a daughter of Prince Kaunitz, eldest son of the great chancellor who under three reigns had controlled the foreign policy of the empire. He thus entered the circle of the highest nobility of Austria,--the proudest and most exclusive on the face of the whole earth.
At first the young count--living with his bride at the house of her father, and occupying the highest social position, with wealth and ease and every luxury at command, fond equally of books, of music, and of art, but still fonder of the distinguished society of Vienna, and above all, enamored of the charms of his beautiful and brilliant wife--wished to spend his life in elegant leisure. But his remarkable talents and accomplishments were already too well known for the emperor to allow him to remain in his splendid retirement, especially when the empire was beset with dangers of the most critical kind. His services were required by the State, and he was sent as ambassador to Dresden, after the peace of Luneville, 1801, when his diplomatic career in reality began.
Dresden, where were congregated at this time some of the ablest diplomatists of Europe, was not only an important post of observation for watching the movements of Napoleon, but it was itself a capital of great attractions, both for its works of art and for its society. Here Count Metternich resided for two years, learning much of politics, of art, and letters,--the most accomplished gentleman among all the distinguished people that he met; not as yet a man of power, but a man of influence, sending home to Count Stadion, minister of foreign affairs, reports and letters of great ability, displaying a sagacity and tact marvellous for a man of twenty-eight.
Napoleon was then engaged in making great preparations for a war with Austria, and it was important for Austria to secure the alliance of Prussia, her great rival, with whom she had never been on truly friendly terms, since both aimed at ascendency in Germany. Frederick William III. was then on the throne of Prussia, having two great men among his ministers,--Von Stein and Hardenberg; the former at the head of financial affairs, and the latter at the head of the foreign bureau. To the more important post of Berlin, Metternich was therefore sent. He found great difficulty in managing the Prussian king, whose jealousy of Austria balanced his hatred of Napoleon, and who therefore stood aloof and inactive, indisposed for war, in strict alliance with Russia, who also wanted peace.
The Czar Alexander I., who had just succeeded his murdered father Paul, was a great admirer of Napoleon. His empire was too remote to fear French encroachments or French ideas. Indeed, he started with many liberal sentiments. By nature he was kind and affectionate; he was simple in his tastes, truthful in his character, philanthropic in his views, enthusiastic in his friendships, and refined in his intercourse,--a broad and generous sovereign. And yet there was something wanting in Alexander which prevented him from being great. He was vacillating in his policy, and his judgment was easily warped by fanciful ideas. "His life was worn out between devotion to certain systems and disappointment as to their results. He was fitful, uncertain, and unpractical. Hence he made continual mistakes. He meant well, but did evil, and the discovery of his errors broke his heart. He died of weariness of life, deceived in all his calculations," in 1825.
Metternich spent four years in Berlin, ferreting out the schemes of Napoleon, and striving to make alliances against him; but he found his only sincere and efficient ally to be England, then governed by Pitt. The king of Prussia was timid, and leaned on Russia; he feared to offend his powerful neighbor on the north and east. Nor was Prussia then prepared for war. As for the South German States, they all had their various interests to defend, and had not yet grasped the idea of German unity. There was not a great statesman or a great general among them all. They had their petty dynastic prejudices and jealousies, and were absorbed in the routine of court etiquette and pleasures, stagnant and unenlightened. The only brilliant court life was at Weimar, where Goethe reigned in the circle of his idolaters. The great men of Germany at that time were in the universities, interested in politics, like the Humboldts at Berlin, but not taking a prominent part. Generals and diplomatists absorbed the active political field. As for orators, there were none; for there were no popular assemblies,--no scope for their abilities. The able men were in the service of their sovereigns as diplomatists in the various courts of Europe, and generally were nobles. Diplomacy, in fact, was the only field in which great talents were developed and rewarded outside the realm of literature.
In this field Metternich soon became pre-eminently distinguished. He was at once the prompting genius and the agent of an absolute sovereign who ruled over the most powerful State, next to France, on the continent of Europe, and the most august. The emperor of Austria was supposed to be the heir of the Caesars and of Charlemagne. His territories were more extensive than that of France, and his subjects more numerous than those of all the other German States combined, except Prussia. But the emperor himself was a feeble man, sickly in body, weak in mind, and governed by his ministers, the chief of whom was Count Stadion, minister of foreign affairs. In Austria the aristocracy was more powerful and wealthy than the nobility of any other European State. It was also the most exclusive. No one could rise by any talents into their favored circle. They were great feudal landlords; and their ranks were not recruited, as in England, by men of genius and wealth. Hence, they were narrow, bigoted, and arrogant; but they had polished and gracious manners, and shone in the stiff though elegant society of Vienna,--not brilliant as in Paris or London, but exceedingly attractive, and devoted to pleasure, to grand hunting-parties on princely estates, to operas and balls and theatres. Probably Vienna society was dull, if it was elegant, from the etiquette and ceremonies which marked German courts; for what was called society was not that of distinguished men in letters and art, but almost exclusively that of nobles. A learned professor or wealthy merchant could no more get access to it than he could climb to the moon. But as Vienna was a Catholic city, great ecclesiastical dignitaries, not always of noble birth, were on an equality with counts and barons. It was only in the Church that a man of plebeian origin could rise. Indeed, there was no field for genius at all. The musician Haydn was almost the only genius that Austria at that time possessed outside of diplomatic or military ranks.
Napoleon had now been crowned emperor, and his course had been from conquering to conquer. The great battles of Austerlitz and Jena had been fought, which placed Austria and Prussia at the mercy of the conqueror. It was necessary that some one should be sent to Paris capable of fathoming the schemes of the French emperor, and in 1806 Count Metternich was transferred from Berlin to the French capital. No abler diplomatist could be found in Europe. He was now thirty-three years of age, a nobleman of the highest rank, his father being a prince of the empire. He had a large private fortune, besides his salary as ambassador. His manners were perfect, and his accomplishments were great. He could speak French as well as his native tongue. His head was clear; his knowledge was accurate and varied. Calm, cold, astute, adroit, with infinite tact, he was now brought face to face with Talleyrand, Napoleon's minister of foreign affairs, his equal in astuteness and dissimulation, as well as in the charms of conversation and the graces of polished life. With this statesman Metternich had the pleasantest relations, both social and diplomatic. Yet there was a marked difference between them. Talleyrand had accepted the ideas of the Revolution, but had no sympathy with its passions and excesses. He was the friend of law and order, and in his heart favored constitutional government. On this ground he supported Napoleon as the defender of civilization, but afterward deserted him when he perceived that the Emperor was resolved to rule without constitutional checks. His nature was selfish, and he made no scruple of enriching himself, whatever master he served; but he was not indifferent to the welfare and glory of France. Metternich, on the other hand, abhorred the ideas of the Revolution as much as he did its passions. He saw in absolutism the only hope of stability, the only reign of law. He distrusted constitutional government as liable to changes, and as unduly affected by popular ideas and passions. He served faithfully and devotedly his emperor as a sacred personage, ruling by divine right, to whom were intrusted the interests of the nation. He was comparatively unselfish, and was prepared for any personal sacrifices for his country and his sovereign.
Metternich was treated with distinguished consideration at Paris, not only because he was the representative of the oldest and proudest sovereignty in Europe,--still powerful in the midst of disasters,--but also on account of his acknowledged abilities, independent attitude, and stainless private character. All the other ambassadors at Paris were directed to act in accordance with his advice. In 1807 he concluded the treaty of Fontainebleau, which was most favorable to Austrian interests. He was the only man at court whom Napoleon could not browbeat or intimidate in his affected bursts of anger. Personally, Napoleon liked him as an accomplished and agreeable gentleman; as a diplomatist and statesman the Emperor was afraid of him, knowing that the Austrian was at the bottom of all the intrigues and cabals against him. Yet he dared not give Metternich his passports, nor did he wish to quarrel with so powerful a man, who might defeat his schemes to marry the daughter of the Austrian emperor,--the light-headed and frivolous Marie Louise. So Metternich remained in honor at Paris for three years, studying the character and aims of Napoleon, watching his military preparations, and preparing his own imperial master for contingencies which would probably arise; for Napoleon was then meditating the conquest of Spain, as well as the invasion of Russia, and Metternich as well as Talleyrand knew that this would be a great political blunder, diverting his armies from the preservation of the conquests he had already made, and giving to the German States the hope of shaking off their fetters at the first misfortune which should overtake him. No man in Europe so completely fathomed the designs of Napoleon as Metternich, or so profoundly measured and accurately estimated his character. And I here cannot forbear to quote his own language, both to show his sagacity and to reproduce the portrait he drew of Napoleon.
"He became," says Metternich, "a great legislator and administrator, as he became a great soldier, by following out his instincts. The turn of his mind always led him toward the positive. He disliked vague ideas, and hated equally the dreams of visionaries and the abstractions of idealists. He treated as nonsense everything that was not clearly and practically presented to him. He valued only those sciences which can be verified by the senses, or which rest on experience and observation. He had the greatest contempt for the false philosophy and false philanthropy of the eighteenth century. Among its teachers, Voltaire was the special object of his aversion. As a Catholic, he recognized in religion alone the right to govern human societies. Personally indifferent to religious practices, he respected them too much to permit the slightest ridicule of those who followed them; and yet religion with him was the result of an enlightened policy rather than an affair of sentiment. He was persuaded that no man called to public life could be guided by any other motive than that of interest.
"He was gifted with a particular tact in recognizing those men who could be useful to him. He had a profound knowledge of the national character of the French. In history he guessed more than he knew. As he always made use of the same quotations, he must have drawn from a few books, especially abridgments. His heroes were Alexander, Caesar, and Charlemagne. He laid great stress on aristocratic birth and the antiquity of his own family. He had no other regard for men than a foreman in a manufactory feels for his work-people. In private, without being amiable, he was good-natured. His sisters got from him all they wanted. Simple and easy in private life, he showed himself to little advantage in the great world. Nothing could be more awkward than he in a drawing-room. He would have made great sacrifices to have added three inches to his height. He walked on tiptoe. His costumes were studied to form a contrast with the circle which surrounded him, by extreme simplicity or extreme elegance. Talma taught him attitudes.
"Having but one passion,--that of power,--he never lost either his time or his means in those objects which deviated from his aims. Master of himself, he soon became master of events. In whatever period he had appeared, he would have played a prominent part. His prodigious successes blinded him; but up to 1812 he never lost sight of the profound calculations by which he so often conquered. He never recoiled from fear of the wounds he might cause. As a war-chariot crushes everything it meets on its way, he thought of nothing but to advance. He could sympathize with family troubles; he was indifferent to political calamities.
"Disinterested generosity he had none; he only dispensed his favors in proportion to the value he put on the utility of those who received them. He was never influenced by affection or hatred in his public acts. He crushed his enemies without thinking of anything but the necessity of getting rid of them.
"In his political combinations he did not fail to reckon largely on the weakness or errors of his adversaries. The alliance of 1813 crushed him because he was not able to persuade himself that the members of the coalition could remain united, and persevere in a given course of action. The vast edifice he constructed was exclusively the work of his own hands, and he was the keystone of the arch; but the gigantic construction was essentially wanting in its foundations, the materials of which were nothing but the ruins of other buildings."
Such is the verdict of one of the acutest and most dispassionate men that ever lived. Napoleon is not painted as a monster, but as a supremely selfish man bent entirely on his own exaltation, making the welfare of France subservient to his own glory, and the interests of humanity itself secondary to his pride and fame. History can add but little to this graphic sketch, although indignant and passionate enemies may dilate on the Corsican's hard-heartedness, his duplicity, his treachery, his falsehood, his arrogance, and his diabolic egotism. On the other hand, weak and sentimental idolaters will dwell on his generosity, his courage, his superhuman intellect, and the love and devotion with which he inspired his soldiers,--all which in a sense is true. The philosophical historian will enumerate the services Napoleon rendered to his country, whatever were his virtues or faults; but of these services the last person to perceive the value was Metternich himself, even as he would be the last to acknowledge the greatness of those revolutionary ideas of which Napoleon was simply the product. It was the French Revolution which produced Napoleon, and it was the French Revolution which Metternich abhorred, in all its aspects, beyond any other event in the whole history of the world. But he was not a rhetorician, as Burke was, and hence confined himself to acts, and not to words. He was one of those cool men who could use decent and temperate language about the Devil himself and the Pandemonium in which he reigns.
On the breaking up of diplomatic relations between Austria and France in 1809, Metternich was recalled to Vienna to take the helm of state in the impending crisis. Count von Stadion, though an able man, was not great enough for the occasion. Only such a consummate statesman as Metternich was capable of taking the reins intrusted to him with unbounded confidence by his feeble master, whose general policy and views were similar to those of his trusted minister, but who had not the energy to carry them out. Metternich was now made a prince, with large gifts of land and money, and occupied a superb position,--similar to that which Bismarck occupied later on in Prussia, as chancellor of the empire. It was Metternich's policy to avert actual hostilities until Austria could recover from the crushing defeat at Austerlitz, and until Napoleon should make some great mistake. He succeeded in arranging another treaty with France within the year.
The object which Napoleon had in view at this time was his marriage with Marie Louise, from which he expected an heir to his vast dominions, and a more completely recognized position among the great monarchs of Europe. He accordingly divorced Josephine,--some historians say with her consent. Ten years earlier his offers would, of course, have been indignantly rejected, or three years later, after the disasters of the Russian campaign. But Napoleon was now at the summit of his power,--the arbiter of Europe, the greatest sovereign since Julius Caesar, with a halo of unprecedented glory, a prodigy of genius as well as a recognized monarch. Nothing was apparently beyond his aspirations, and he wanted the daughter of the successor of Charlemagne in marriage. And her father, the proud Austrian emperor, was willing to give her up to his conqueror from reasons of state, and from policy and expediency. To all appearance it was no sacrifice to Marie Louise to be transferred from the dull court of Vienna to the splendid apartments of the Tuileries, to be worshipped by the brilliant marshals and generals who had conquered Europe, and to be crowned as empress of the French by the Pope himself. Had she been a nobler woman, she might have hesitated and refused; but she was vain and frivolous, and was overwhelmed by the glory with which she was soon to be surrounded.
And yet the marriage was a delicate affair, and difficult to be managed. It required all the tact of an arch-diplomatist. So Prince Metternich was sent to Paris to bring it about. In fact, it was he more than any one else who for political reasons favored this marriage. Napoleon was exceedingly gracious, while Metternich had his eyes and ears open. He even dared to tell the Emperor many unpleasant truths. The affair, however, was concluded; and after Napoleon's divorce from Josephine, in 1810, the Austrian princess became empress of the French.
One thing was impressed on the mind of Metternich during the festivities of this second visit to Paris; and that was that during the year 1811 the peace of Europe would not be disturbed. Napoleon was absorbed with the preparations for the invasion of Russia,--the only power he had not subdued, except England, and a power in secret coalition with both Prussia and Austria. His acquisitions would not be secure unless the Colossus of the North was hopelessly crippled. Metternich saw that the campaign could not begin till 1812, and that the Emperor had need of all the assistance he could get from conquered allies. He saw also the mistakes of Napoleon, and meant to profit by them. He anticipated for that daring soldier nothing but disaster in attempting to battle the powers of Nature at such a distance from his capital. He perceived that Napoleon was alienating, in his vast schemes of aggrandizement, even his own ministers, like Talleyrand and Fouché, who would leave him the moment they dared, although his marshals and generals might remain true to him because of the enormous rewards which he had lavished upon them for their military services. He knew the discontent of Italy and Poland because of unfulfilled promises. He knew the intense hatred of Prussia because of the humiliations and injuries Napoleon had inflicted on her. Metternich was equally aware of the hostility of England, although Pitt had passed away; and he despised the arrogance of a man who looked upon himself as greater than destiny. "It is an evidence of the weakness of the human understanding," said the infatuated conqueror, "for any one to dream of resisting me."
So Metternich, after the marriage ceremony and its attendant festivities, foreseeing the fall of the conqueror, retired to his post at Vienna to complete his negotiations, and make his preparations for the renewal of the conflict, which he now saw was inevitable. His work was to persuade Prussia, Russia, and the lesser Powers, of the absolute necessity of a sincere and cordial alliance to make preparations for the conflict to put down, or at least successfully to resist, the common enemy,--the ruthless and unscrupulous disturber of the peace of Europe; not to make war, but to prepare for war in view of contingencies; and this not merely to preserve the peace of Europe, but to save themselves from ruin. All his confidential letters to his sovereign indicate his conviction that the throne of Austria was in extreme danger of being subverted. All his despatches to ambassadors show that affairs were extremely critical. His policy, in general terms, was pacific; he longed for peace on a settled basis. But his policy in the great crisis of 1811 and 1812 was warlike,--not for immediate hostilities, but for war as soon as it would be safe to declare it. It was his profound conviction that a lasting peace was utterly impossible so long as Napoleon reigned; and this was the conviction also of Pitt and Castlereagh of England and of the Prussian Hardenberg.
The main trouble was with Prussia. Frederick William III. was timid, and considering the intense humiliation of his subjects and the overpowering ascendency of Napoleon, saw no hope but in submission. He was afraid to make a move, even when urged by his ministers. Indeed, he had in 1808 exiled the greatest of them, Stein, at the imperious demand of the French emperor,--sending him to a Rhenish city, whence he was soon after compelled to lead a fugitive life as an outlaw. It is true the king did not like Stein, and saw him go without regret. He could not endure the overshadowing influence of that great man, and was offended by his brusque manners and his plain speech. But Stein saw things as Metternich saw them, and had when prime minister devoted himself to administrative and political reforms. Prince Hardenberg, the successor of Stein, was easily convinced of Metternich's wisdom; for he was a patriot and an honest man, though loose in his private morals in some respects. Metternich had an ally, too, in Schornhurst, who was remodelling the whole military system of Prussia.
The king, however, persisted in his timid policy until the Russian campaign,--a course which, singularly enough, proved the wisest in his circumstances. When at last the king yielded, all Prussia arose with unbounded enthusiasm to engage in the war of liberation; Prussia needed no urging when actually invaded; Austria openly threw off her conservative appearance of armed neutrality: and the coalition for which Metternich had long been laboring, and of which he was the life and brain, became a reality. The battle of Leipsic settled the fate of Napoleon.
Even before that fatal battle was fought, however, Napoleon, had he been wise, might have saved himself. If he had been content in 1812 to spend the winter in Smolensk, instead of hurrying on to Moscow, the enterprise might not have been disastrous; but after his retreat from Russia, with the loss of the finest army that Europe ever saw, he was doomed. Yet he could not brook further humiliation. He resolved still to struggle. "It may cost me my throne," said he, "but I will bury the world beneath its ruins." He marched into Germany, in the spring of 1813, with a fresh army of three hundred and fifty thousand men, replacing the half million he had squandered in Russia. Metternich shrank from further bloodshed, but clearly saw the issue. "You may still have peace," said he in an audience with Napoleon. "Peace or war lie in your own hands; but you must reduce your power, or you will fail in the contest." "Never!" replied Napoleon; "I shall know how to die, but I will not yield a handbreadth of soil." "You are lost, then," said the Austrian chancellor, and withdrew. "It is all over with the man," said Metternich to Berthier, Napoleon's chief of staff; and he turned to marshal the forces of his empire. A short time was given Napoleon to reconsider, but without effect. At twelve o'clock, Aug. 10, 1813, negotiations ceased; the beacon fires were lighted, and hostilities recommenced. During the preparations for the Russian campaign, Austria had been neutral and the rest of Germany submissive; but now Russia, Prussia, and Austria were allied, by solemn compact, to fight to the bitter end,--not to ruin France, but to dethrone Napoleon.
The allied monarchs then met at Toplitz, with their ministers, to arrange the plan of the campaign,--the Austrian armies being commanded by Prince Schwartzenberg, and the Prussians by Blücher. Then followed the battle of Leipsic, on the 16th to the 18th of October, 1813,--"the battle of the nations," it has been called,--and Napoleon's power was broken. Again the monarchs, with their ministers, met at Basle to consult, and were there joined by Lord Castlereagh, who represented England, the allied forces still pursuing the remnants of the French army into France. From Basle the conference was removed to the heights of the Vosges, which overlooked the plains of France. On the 1st of April, 1814, the allied sovereigns took up their residence in the Parisian palaces; and on April 4 Napoleon abdicated, and was sent to Elba. He still had twelve thousand or fifteen thousand troops at Fontainebleau; but his marshals would have shot him had he made further resistance. On the 4th of May Louis XVIII. was seated on the throne of his ancestors, and Europe was supposed to be delivered.
Considering the evils and miseries which Napoleon had inflicted on the conquered nations, the allies were magnanimous in their terms. No war indemnity was even asked, and Napoleon in Elba was allowed an income of six million francs, to be paid by France.
After the leaders of the allies had settled affairs at Paris, they reassembled at Vienna,--ostensibly to reconstruct the political system of Europe and secure a lasting peace; in reality, to divide among the conquerors the spoils taken from the vanquished. The Congress of Vienna,--in session from November, 1814, to June, 1815,--of which Prince Metternich was chosen president by common consent, was one of the grandest gatherings of princes and statesmen seen since the Diet of Worms. There were present at its deliberations the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Austria, the kings of Prussia, Denmark, Bavaria, and Würtemberg, and nearly every statesman of commanding eminence in Europe. Lord Castlereagh represented England; Talleyrand represented the Bourbons of France; and Hardenberg, Prussia. Von Stein was also present, but without official place. Besides these was a crowd of petty princes, each with attachés. Metternich entertained the visitors in the most lavish and magnificent manner. The government, though embarrassed and straitened by the expense of the late wars, allowed £10,000 a day, equal perhaps in that country and at that time to £50,000 to-day in London. Nothing was seen but the most brilliant festivities, incessant balls, fêtes, and banquets. The greatest actors, the greatest singers, and the greatest dancers were allured to the giddy capital, never so gay before or since. Beethoven was also there, at the height of his fame, and the great assembly rooms were placed at his disposal.
The sittings of the Congress, in view of the complicated questions which had to be settled, did not regularly begin till November. The meetings at first were harmonious; but ere long they became acrimonious, as the views of the representatives of the four great powers--Russia, Austria, England, and Prussia--were brought to light. They all, except England, claimed enormous territories as a compensation for the sacrifices they had made. Talleyrand at first was excluded from the conferences; but his wonderful skill as a diplomatist soon made his power felt. He was the soul of intrigue and insincerity. All the diplomatists were at first wary and prudent, then greedy and unscrupulous. Violent disputes arose. The Emperor Alexander openly quarrelled with Metternich, and refused to be present at his parties, although they had been on the most friendly terms.
In the division of the spoils, the Czar claimed the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, to be nominally under the rule of a sovereign, but really to be incorporated with his vast empire. Metternich resisted this claim with all the ability he had, as bringing Russia too dangerously near the frontiers of Austria; but Alexander had laid Prussia under such immense obligations that Frederick William supported his claims,--with the mutual understanding, however, that Prussia should annex the kingdom of Saxony, since Saxony had supported Napoleon. The plenipotentiaries were in such awe of the vast armies of the Czar, that they were obliged to yield to this wicked annexation; and Poland--once the most powerful of the mediaeval kingdoms of Europe--was wiped out of the map of independent nations. This acquisition by far outbalanced all the expenses which Alexander had incurred during the war of liberation. It made Russia the most powerful military empire in the world.
Although Prussia and Austria had been, since the times of Frederic the Great, in perpetual rivalry, the greatness of the common danger from such a warlike neighbor now induced Metternich to make every overture to Prussia to prevent a possible calamity to Germany; but Frederick William was obstinate, and his league with Alexander could not be broken. It appears, from the memoirs of Metternich, that it had been for a long time his desire to unite Prussia and Austria in a firm alliance, in order to protect Germany in case of future wars. That was undoubtedly his true policy. It was the policy fifty years later of Bismarck, although he was obliged to fight and humble Austria before he could consummate it. With Russia on one side and France on the other, the only hope of Germany is in union. But this aim of the great Austrian statesman was defeated by the stupidity and greed of the Prussian king, and by his interested friendship with "the autocrat of all the Russias." Alexander got Poland, with an addition of about four million subjects to his empire.
A greater resistance was made to the outrageous claims of Prussia. She wanted to annex the whole of Saxony and important provinces on the Rhine, which would have made her more powerful than Austria. Neither Metternich nor Talleyrand nor Castlereagh would hear of this crime; and so angry and threatening were the disputes in the Congress that a treaty was signed by England, France, and Austria for an offensive and defensive alliance against Prussia and Russia, in case the claims of Prussia were persisted in. After the combination of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and England against Napoleon, there was imminent danger of war breaking out between these great Powers in the matter of a division of spoils. In rapacity and greed they showed themselves as bad as Napoleon himself.
Prussia, however, was the most greedy and insatiable of all the contracting parties. She always has been so since she was erected into a kingdom. The cruel terms exacted by Bismarck and Moltke in their late contest with France indicate the real animus of Prussia. The conquerors would have exacted ten milliards instead of five, as a war indemnity, if they had thought that France could pay it. They did not dare to carry away the pictures of the Louvre, nor perhaps did those iron warriors care much for them; but they did want money and territory, and were determined to get all they could. Prussia was a poor country, and must be enriched any way by the unexpected spoils which the fortune of war threw into her hands.
This same rapacity was seen at the Congress of Vienna; but the opposition to it was too great to risk another war, and Prussia, at the entreaty of Alexander, abated some of her demands, as did also Russia her own. The result was that only half of Saxony was ceded to Prussia, raising the subjects of Prussia to ten millions. The tact and firmness of Talleyrand and Castlereagh had prevented the utter absorption of Saxony in the new military monarchy. Talleyrand, whose designs could never be fathomed by the most astute of diplomatists, had succeeded also in isolating Russia and Prussia from the rest of Europe, and raising France into a great power, although her territories were now confined to the limits which had existed in 1792. He had succeeded in detaching Austria and the southern States of Germany from Prussia. He had split Germany into two rival powers, just what Louis Napoleon afterwards aspired to do, hoping to derive from their mutual jealousies some great advantage to France in case of war. Neither of them, however, realized the intense common love of both Austria and Prussia, and indeed of all the German States at heart, for "Fatherland," needing only the genius of a very great man finally to unite them together in one great nation, impossible to be hereafter vanquished by any single power.
Austria retained for her share Lombardy, Venice, Parma, Placentia,--the finest part of Italy, that which was known in the time of Julius Caesar as Cisalpine Gaul. She did not care for the Low Countries, which formed a part of the old empire of Charles V., since to keep that territory would cost more than it would pay. She also received from Bavaria the Tyrol. As further results of the Congress of Vienna, the Netherlands and Holland were united in one kingdom, under a prince of the house of Nassau; Naples returned to the rule of the Bourbons; Genoa became a part of Piedmont. The petty independent States of Germany (some three hundred) were united into a confederation of thirty-seven, called the German Confederacy, to afford mutual support in time of war, and to be directed by a Diet, in which Austria and Prussia were to have two votes each, while Bavaria, Würtemberg, and Hanover were to have one vote each. Thus, Prussia and Austria had four votes out of seven; which practically gave to these two powers, if they chose to unite, the control of all external relations. As to internal affairs, the legislative power was vested in representatives from all the States, both small and great. It will be seen that the higher interests of Germany were not considered in this Congress at all, attention being directed solely to a division of spoils.
But while the Congress was dividing between the princes who composed it its acquisition of territory by conquest, and quarrelling about their respective shares like the members of a family that had come into a large fortune, news arrived of the escape of Napoleon from Elba, after a brief ten months' detention, the adherence to him of the French army, and the consequent dethronement of Louis XVIII. The Congress at once dispersed, forgetting all its differences, while the great monarchs united once more in pouring such an avalanche of troops into France and Belgium that Napoleon stood no chance of retaining his throne, whatever military genius he might display. After his defeat at Waterloo the allies occupied Paris, and this time exacted a large war indemnity of £40,000,000, and left an army of occupation of one hundred and fifty thousand men in France until the money should be paid. They also returned to their owners the pictures of the Louvre which Napoleon had taken in his various conquests.
It was while the allies were in Paris settling the terms of the second peace, that what is called the "Holy Alliance" was formed between Alexander, Frederick William, and Francis (to whom were afterward added the kings of France, Naples, and Spain), which had for its object the suppression of liberal ideas throughout the Continent, in the name of religion. Some of these monarchs were religious men in their way,--especially the Czar, who had been much interested in the spread of Christianity, and the king of Prussia; but even these men thought more of putting down revolutionary ideas than they did of the triumphs of religion.
We must, however, turn our attention to Metternich as the administrator of a large empire, rather than as a diplomatist, although for thirty years after this his hand was felt, if not seen, in all the political affairs of Europe. He was now forty-four years of age, in the prime of his strength and the fulness of his fame,--a prince of the empire, chancellor and prime minister to the Emperor Francis. On his shoulders were imposed the burdens of the State. He ruled with delegated powers indeed, but absolutely. The master whom he served was weak, but was completely in accord with Metternich on all political questions. He of course submitted all important documents to the emperor, and requested instructions; but all this was a matter of form. He was allowed to do as he pleased. He was always exceedingly deferential, and never made himself disagreeable to his sovereign, who could not do without him. From first to last they were on the most friendly terms with each other, and there was no jealousy of his power on the part of the emperor. The chancellor was a gentleman, and had extraordinary tact. But his labors were prodigious, and gave him no time for pleasure, or even social intercourse, which finally became irksome to him. He was too busy with public affairs to be a great scholar, and was not called upon to make speeches, as there was no deliberative assembly to address. Nor was he a national idol. He lived retired in his office, among ministers and secretaries, and appeared in public as little as possible.
After the final dethronement of Napoleon, the policy of Metternich with reference to foreign powers was pacific. He had seen enough of war, and it had no charm for him. War had brought Germany to the verge of political ruin. All his efforts as chancellor were directed to the preservation of peace and the balance of power among all nations. At the close of the great European struggle the finances of all the German States were alike disordered, and their industries paralyzed. Compared with France and England Germany was poor, and wages for all kinds of labor were small. It became Metternich's aim to develop the material resources of the empire, which could be best done in time of peace. Austria, accordingly, took part in no international contest for fifty years, except to preserve her own territories. Metternich did not seem to be ambitious of further territorial aggrandizement for his country; it required all his talents to preserve what she had. Indeed, the preservation of the status quo everywhere was his desire, without change, and without progress. He was a conservative, like the English Lord Eldon, who supported established institutions because they were established; and any movement or any ideas which interrupted the order of things were hateful to him, especially agitations for greater political liberty. A constitutional government was his abhorrence.
Hence, the policy of Metternich's home rule was fatal to all expansion, to all emancipating movements, to all progress, to everything which looked like popular liberty. Men might smoke, drink beer, attend concerts and theatres, amuse themselves in any way they pleased, but they should not congregate together to discuss political questions; they should not form clubs or societies with political intent of any kind; they should not even read agitating tracts and books. He could not help their thinking, but they should not criticise his government. They should be taught in schools directed by Roman Catholic priests, who were good classical scholars, good mathematicians, but who knew but little and cared less about theories of political economy, or even history unless modified to suit religious bigots of the Mediaeval type. He maintained that men should be contented with the sphere in which they were born; that discontent was no better than rebellion against Providence; that any change would be for the worse. He had no liking for universities, in which were fomented liberal ideas; and those professors who sought to disturb the order of things, or teach new ideas,--anything to make young scholars think upon anything but ordinary duties,--were silenced or discharged or banished. The word "rights" was an abomination to him; men, he thought, had no rights,--only duties. He disliked the Press more than he did the universities. It was his impression that it was antagonistic to all existing governments; hence he fettered the Press with restrictions, and confined it to details of little importance. He would allow no comments which unsettled the minds of readers. In no country was the censorship of the Press more inexorable than in Austria and its dependent States. All that spies and a secret police and priests could do to ferret out associations which had in view a greater liberty, was done; all that soldiers could do to suppress popular insurrection was effected,--and all in the name of religion, since he looked upon free inquiry as logically leading to scepticism, and scepticism to infidelity, and infidelity to revolution.
In the Catholic sense Metternich was a religious man, since he recognized in the Roman Catholic Church the conservation of all that is valuable in society, in government, and even in civilization. He brought Catholics to his aid in cementing political despotism, for "Absolutism and Catholicism," as Sir James Stephen so well said, "are but convertible terms." Accordingly, he brought back the Jesuits, and restored them to their ancient power and wealth. He formed the strictest union with the Pope. He rewarded ecclesiastics, and honored the great dignitaries of the established church as his most efficient and trusted lieutenants in the war he waged on human liberty.
But I must allude to some of the things which gave this great man trouble. Of course nothing worried him so much as popular insurrections, since they endangered the throne, and opposed the cherished ends of his life. As early as 1817, what he called "sects" disturbed central Europe. These were a class of people who resembled the Methodists of England, and the followers of Madam von Krüdener in Russia,--generally mystics in religion, who practised the greatest self-denial in this world to make sure of the promises of the next. The Kingdom of Würtemberg, the Grand Duchy of Baden, and Suabia were filled with these people,--perfectly harmless politically, yet with views which Metternich considered an innovation, to be stifled in the beginning. So of Bible societies; he was opposed to these as furnishing a class of subjects for discussion which brought up to his mind the old dissertations on "the rights of man." "The Catholic Church," he writes to Count Nesselrode, the Russian minister, "does not encourage the universal reading of the Bible, which should be confined to persons who are calm and enlightened." But he goes on to say that he himself at forty-five reads daily one or two chapters, and finds new beauties in them, while at the age of twenty he was a sceptic, and found it difficult not to think that the family of Lot was unworthy to be saved, Noah unworthy to have lived, Saul a great criminal, and David a terrible man; that he had tried to understand everything, but that now he accepts everything without cavil or criticism. Truly, a Catholic might say, "See the glorious peace and repose which our faith brings to the most intellectual of men!"
In 1819 an event occurred, of no great importance in itself, but which was made the excuse for increased stringency in the suppression of liberal sentiments throughout Germany. This was the assassination of Von Kotzebue, the dramatic author, at Manheim, at the hands of a fanatic by the name of Sand. Kotzebue had some employment under the Russian government, and was supposed to be a propagandist of the views of the Czar, who had lately become exceedingly hostile to all emancipating movements. In the early part of his reign Alexander was called a Jacobin by Metternich, who despised his philanthropical and sentimental theories, and his energetic labors in behalf of literature, educational institutions, freer political conditions, etc.; but when Napoleon was sent to St. Helena, the Russian ruler, wearied with great events and dreading revolutionary tendencies, changed his opinions, and was now leagued with the King of Prussia and the Emperor of Austria in supporting the most stringent measures against all reformers. Sand was a theological student in the University of Jena, who thought he was doing God's service by removing from the earth with his assassin's dagger a vile wretch employed by the Russian tyrant to propagate views which mocked the loftiest aspirations of mankind. The murder of Kotzebue created an immense sensation throughout Europe, and was followed by increased rigor on the part of all despotic governments in muzzling the press, in the suppression of public meetings of every sort, and especially in expelling from the universities both students and professors who were known or even supposed to entertain liberal ideas. Metternich went so far as to write a letter to the King of Prussia urging him to disband the gymnasia, as hotbeds of mischief. His influence on this monarch was still further seen in dissuading him to withhold the constitution promised his subjects during the war of liberation. He regarded the meeting of a general representation of the nation as scarcely less evil than democratic violence, and his hatred of constitutional checks on a king was as great as of intellectual independence in a professor at a gymnasium. Universities and constituent assemblies, to him, were equally fatal to undisturbed peace and stability in government.
In the midst of these efforts to suppress throughout Germany all agitating political ideas and movements, the news arrived of the revolution in Naples, July, 1820, effected by the Carbonari, by which the king was compelled to restore the constitution of 1813, or abdicate. Metternich lost no time in assembling the monarchs of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, with their principal ministers, to a conference or congress at Troppau, with a view of putting down the insurrection by armed intervention. The result is well known. The armies of Austria and Russia--170,000 men--restored the Neapolitan tyrant to his throne; while he, on his part, revoked the constitution he had sworn to defend, and affairs at Naples became worse than they were before. In no country in the world was there a more execrable despotism than that exercised by the Bourbon Ferdinand. The prisons were filled with political prisoners; and these prisons were filthy, without ventilation, so noisome and pestilential that even physicians dared not enter them; while the wretched prisoners, mostly men of culture, chained to the most abandoned and desperate murderers and thieves, dragged out their weary lives without trial and without hope. And this was what the king, supported and endorsed by Metternich, considered good government to be.
The following year saw an insurrection in Piedmont, when the patriotic party hoped to throw all Northern Italy upon the rear of the Austrians, but which resulted, as will be treated elsewhere, in a sad collapse. The victory of absolutism in Italy was complete, and all people seeking their liberties became the object of attack from the three great Powers, who obeyed the suggestions of the Austrian chancellor,--now unquestionably the most prominent figure in European politics. He had not only suppressed liberty in the country which he directly governed, but he had united Austria, Prussia, and Russia in a war against the liberties of Europe, and this under the guise of religion itself.
Metternich now thought he had earned a vacation, and in the fall of 1821 he made a visit to Hanover. He had previously visited Italy with the usual experience of cultivated Germans,--unbounded admiration for its works of art and sunny skies and historical monuments. He was as enthusiastic as Madame de Staël over St. Peter's and the Pantheon. In his private letters to his wife and children, so simple, so frank, so childlike in his enjoyment, no one would suppose he was the arch and cruel enemy of all progress, with monarchs for his lieutenants, and governors for his slaves. His journey to Hanover was a triumphant procession. The King George IV. embraced him with that tenderness which is usual with monarchs when they meet one another, and in the fulsomeness of his praises compared him to all the great men of antiquity and of modern times,--Caesar, Cato, Gustavus Adolphus, Marlborough, Pitt, Wellington, and the whole catalogue of heroes. On his return journey to Vienna, Metternich stopped to rest himself a while at Johannisberg, the magnificent estate on the Rhine which the emperor had given him, near where he was born, and where he had stored away forty huge casks of his own vintage, worth six hundred ducats a cask, for the use of monarchs and great nobles alone. From thence he proceeded to Frankfort, a beautiful but to him a horrible town, I suppose, because it was partially free; and while there he took occasion to visit five universities, at all of which he was received as a sort of deity,--the students following his carriage with uncovered heads, and with cheers and shouts, curious to see what sort of a man it was who had so easily suppressed revolution in Italy, and who ruled Germany with such an iron hand.
And yet while Metternich so completely extinguished the fires of liberty in the countries which he governed, he was doomed to see how hopeless it was to do the same in other lands by mere diplomatic intrigues. In 1822 the Spanish revolution broke out; and a year after came the Greek revolution, with all its complications, ending in a war between Russia and Turkey. From this he stood aloof, since if he helped the Turks to put down insurrection he would offend the Emperor Alexander, thus far his best ally, and commit Austria to a war from which he shrank. It was his policy to preserve his country from entangling wars. It was as much as he could do to preserve order and law in the various States of Germany, at the cost of all intellectual progress. But he watched the developments of liberty in other parts of Europe with the keenest interest, and his correspondence with the different potentates--whether monarchs or their ministers--is very voluminous, and was directed to the support of absolutism, in which alone he saw hope for Europe. The liberal views of the English Canning gave Metternich both solicitude and disgust; and he did all he could to undermine the influence of Capo D'Istrias, the Greek diplomatist, with his imperial master the Czar. He hated any man who was politically enlightened, and destroyed him if he could. The event in his long reign which most perplexed him and gave him the greatest solicitude was the revolution in France in 1830, which unseated the Bourbons, and established the constitutional government of Louis Philippe; and this was followed by the insurrection of the Netherlands, revolts in the German States, and the Polish revolution. With the year 1830 began a new era in European politics,--a period of reform, not always successful, but enough to show that the spirit of innovation could no longer be suppressed; that the subterranean fires of liberty would burst forth when least expected, and overthrow the strongest thrones.
But amid all the reforms which took place in England, in France, in Belgium, in Piedmont, Austria remained stationary, so cemented was the power of Metternich, so overwhelming was his influence,--the one central figure in Germany for eighteen years longer. In 1835 the Emperor Francis died, recommending to his son and successor Ferdinand to lean on the powerful arm of the chancellor, and continue him in great offices. Nor was it until the outbreak in Vienna in 1848, when emperor and minister alike fled from the capital, that the official career of Metternich closed, and he finally retired to his estates at Johannisberg to spend his few declining years in leisure and peace.
For forty years Metternich had borne the chief burdens of the State. For forty years his word was the law of Germany. For forty years all the cabinets of continental Europe were guided more or less by his advice; and his advice, from first to last, was uniform,--to put down popular movements and uphold absolutism at any cost, and severely punish all people, of whatever rank or character, who tempted the oppressed to shake off their fetters, or who dared to give expression to emancipating ideas, even in the halls of universities.
In view of the execrable tyranny, both political and religious, which Metternich succeeded in establishing for thirty years, it is natural for an ordinary person to look upon him as a monster,--hard, cruel, unscrupulous, haughty, gloomy; a sort of Wallenstein or Strafford, to be held in abhorrence; a man to be assassinated as the enemy of mankind.
But Metternich was nothing of the sort. As a man, in all his private relations he was amiable, gentle, and kind to everybody, and greatly revered by domestic servants and public functionaries. By his imperial master he was treated as a brother or friend, rather than as a minister; while on his part he never presumed on any liberties, and seemed simply to obey the orders of his sovereign,--orders which he himself suggested, with infinite tact and politeness; unlike Stein and Bismarck, who were overbearing and rude even in the presence of the sovereign and court. Metternich had better manners and more self-control. Indeed, he was the model of a gentleman wherever he went. He was the hardest worked man in the empire; and he worked from the stimulus of what he conceived to be his duty, and for the welfare of the country, as he understood it. Though one of the richest men in Austria, and of the highest social rank, he lived in frugal simplicity, despising pomp and extravagance alike. His highest enjoyment, outside the society of his family, was music. The whole realm of art was his delight; but he loved Nature more even than art. He enjoyed greatly the repose of his own library,--an apartment eighteen feet high, and containing fifteen thousand volumes. The only unamiable thing about Metternich was his fear of being bored. He maintained that it was impossible to find over six interesting men in any company whatever. With people whom he trusted he was unusually frank and free-spoken. With diplomatists he wore a mask, and made it a point to conceal his thoughts. He deceived even Napoleon. No one could penetrate his intentions. Under a smooth and placid countenance, unruffled and calm on all occasions, he practised when he pleased the profoundest dissimulation; and he dissimulated by telling the truth oftener than by concealing it. He knew what the ars celare artem meant. When he could find leisure he was fond of travelling, especially in Italy; but he hated and avoided the discomforts of travel. If he made distant journeys he travelled luxuriously, and wherever he went he was received with the greatest honors. At Rome the Pope treated him as a sovereign. The Czar Alexander commanded his magnates to give to him the same deference that they gave to himself.
While the world regarded Metternich as the most fortunate of men, he yet had many sorrows and afflictions, which saddened his life. He lost two wives and three of his children, to all of whom he was devotedly attached, yet bore the loss with Christian resignation. He found relief in work, and in his duties. There were no scandals in his private life. He professed and seemed to feel the greatest reverence for religion, in the form which had been taught him. He detested vulgarity in every shape, as he did all ordinary vices, from which he was free. He was self-conscious, and loved attention and honors, but was not a slave to them, like most German officials. Nothing could be more tender and affectionate than his letters to his mother, to his wife, and to his daughters. His father he treated with supreme reverence. No public man ever gave more dignity to domestic pleasures. "The truest friends of my life," said he, "are my family and my master;" and to each he was equally devoted. On the death of his second wife, in 1829, he writes,--
"I feel this misfortune most deeply. I have lost everything for the remainder of my days. The other world is daily more and more peopled with beings to whom I am united by the closest ties of affection. I too shall take my place there, and I shall disengage myself from this life with all the less regret. My only relief is in work. I am at my desk by nine in the morning. I leave it at five, and return to it at half-past six, and work till half-past ten, when I receive visitors till midnight."
Time, however, brought its relief, and in 1831 he married the Princess Melanie, and his third marriage was as happy as the others appear to have been. In the diary of this wife, December 31, I read:--
"We supped at midnight, and exchanged good wishes for the new year. May God long preserve to me my good, kind Clement, and illuminate him with His divine light. It touches me to see the pleasure it gives him to talk with me on business, and read to me what he writes."
Such was the great Austrian statesman in his private life,--a dutiful son, a loving and devoted husband, an affectionate father, a faithful servant to his emperor, a kind master to his dependants, a courteous companion, a sincere believer in the doctrines of his church, a man conscientious in the discharge of duties, and having at heart the welfare of his country as he understood it, amid innumerable perils from foreign and domestic foes. As a statesman he was vigilant, sagacious, experienced, and devoted to the interests of his imperial master.
But what were Metternich's services, by which great men claim to be judged? He could say that he was the promoter of law and order; that he kept the nation from entangling alliances with foreign powers; that he was the friend of peace, and detested war except upon necessity; that he developed industrial resources and wisely regulated finances; that he secured national prosperity for forty years after desolating wars; that he never disturbed the ordinary vocations of the people, or inflicted unnecessary punishments; and that he secured to Austria a proud pre-eminence among the nations of Europe.
But this was all. Metternich did nothing for the higher interests of Germany. He kept it stagnant for forty years. He neither advanced education, nor philanthropy, nor political economy. He was the unrelenting foe of all political reforms, and of all liberal ideas. What we call civilization, beyond amusements and pleasures and the ordinary routine of business, owes to him nothing,--not even codes of law, or enlightened principles of government. Judged by his services to humanity, Metternich was not a great man. His highest claims to greatness were in a vigorous administration of public affairs and diplomatic ability in his treatment of foreign powers, but not in far-reaching views or aims. As a ruler he ranks no higher than Mazarin or Walpole or Castlereagh, and far below Canning, Peel, Pitt, or Thiers. Indeed, Metternich takes his place with the tyrants of mankind, yet showing how benignant, how courteous, how interesting, and even religious and beloved, a tyrant can be; which is more than can be said of Richelieu or Bismarck, the only two statesmen with whom he can be compared,--all three ruling with absolute power delegated by irresponsible and imperial masters, like Mordecai behind the throne of Xerxes, or Maecenas at the court of Augustus.
The greatest authority is the Autobiography of Metternich; but Alison's History, though dull and heavy, and marked by Tory prejudices, is reliable. Fyffe may be read with profit in his recent history of Modern Europe; also Müller's Political History of Recent Times. The Annual Register is often quoted by Alison. Schlosser's History of Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is a good authority.
THE RESTORATION AND FALL OF THE BOURBONS.
In this lecture I wish to treat of the restoration of the Bourbons, and of the counter-revolution in France.
On the fall of Napoleon, the Prussian king and the Austrian emperor, under the predominating influence of Metternich, in restoring the Bourbons were averse to constitutional checks. They wanted nothing less than absolute monarchy, such as existed before the Revolution. On the other hand, the Czar Alexander, generous and inclined then to liberal ideas, was willing to concede something to the Revolution; while the government of England, mindful of the liberty which had made that country so glorious and so prosperous, also favored a constitutional government in the person of the legitimate heir of the French monarchy. Such was also the wish of the French nation, so far as it could be expressed; for the French people, under whatever form of government they may have lived, have never forgotten or repudiated the ideas and bequests of the greatest movement in modern times.
Prussia and Austria, therefore, were obliged to yield to Russia and England, supported by the will of the French nation itself. Russia had no jealousy of French ideas; and England certainly could not, consistently with her struggles and her traditions, oppose what the English nation resolutely clung to, and of which it was so proud. Prussia and Austria, undisturbed by revolutions, wished simply the restoration of the status quo, which with them meant absolute monarchy; but which in France was not really the status quo, since the Revolution had effected great and permanent changes even under the régime of Bonaparte. Russia and England, in conceding something to liberty, were yet as earnest and sincere advocates of legitimacy as Prussia and Austria; for constitutional rights may exist under a monarchy as well as under a republic. Moreover, it was felt by enlightened statesmen of all parties that no government could be stable and permanent in France which ignored the bequests of the Revolution, which even Napoleon professed to respect.
Accordingly it was settled that Louis XVIII.,--the younger brother of Louis XVI., who had fled from France in 1792,--should be recalled from exile, and restored to the throne of his ancestors, since he agreed to accept checks to his authority, and swore to defend the new constitution, although he insisted upon reigning "by the grace of God,"--not as a monarch who received his crown from the people, or as a gift from other monarchs, but by divine right. To this all parties consented. He maintained the dignity of the royal prerogative at the same time that he recognized the essential liberties of the nation. They were not so full and complete as those in England; but the king guaranteed to secure the rights both of public and private property, to respect the freedom of the Press, to grant liberty of worship, to maintain the national obligations, to make the judicial power independent and irremovable, and to admit all Frenchmen to civil and military employment, without restrictions in matters of religion. These in substance constituted the charter which he granted on condition of reigning,--an immense gain to France and the cause of civilization, if honestly maintained.
Louis XVIII. was neither a great king nor a great man; but his long exile of twenty years, his travels and residences in various countries in Europe, his misfortunes and his studies, had liberalized his mind without embittering his heart. He never lost his dignity or his hopes in his sad reverses; and when he was thus recalled to France to mount the throne of his murdered brother, he was a very respectable man, both from natural intelligence and extensive attainments. He possessed great social and conversational powers, was moderate in his views of Catholicism, virtuous in his private character, affectionate with his friends and the members of his family, prudent in the exercise of power, and disposed to reign according to the constitution which he honestly had accepted; but socially he restored the ancient order of things, surrounded himself with a splendid court, lived in great pomp and ceremony, and appointed the ancient nobles to the higher offices of state. According to French writers, he was the equal in conversation of any of the great men with whom he was brought in contact, without being great himself, thereby resembling Louis XIV. He had handsome features, a musical voice, pleasing manners, and singular urbanity, without being condescending. He was infirm in his legs, which prevented him from taking exercise, except in his long daily drives, drawn in his magnificent carriage by eight horses, with outriders and guards.
The king delegated his powers to no single statesman, but held the reins in his own hand. His ability as a ruler consisted in his tact and moderation in managing the conflicting parties, and in his honest abstention from encroaching on the liberties of the people in rare emergencies; so that his reign was peaceable and tolerably successful. It required no inconsiderable ability to preserve the throne to his successor amid such a war of factions, and such a disposition for encroachments on the part of the royal family. In contrast with the splendid achievements and immense personality of Napoleon, Louis XVIII. is not a great figure in history; but had there been no Revolution and no Napoleon, he would have left the fame of a wise and benevolent sovereign. His only striking weakness was in submitting to the influence of either a favorite or a woman, like all the Bourbons from Henry IV. downward,--except perhaps Louis XVI., who would have been more fortunate had he yielded implicitly to the overpowering ascendency of such a woman as Madame de Maintenon, or such a minister as Richelieu.
The reign of Louis XVIII. is not marked by great events or great passions, except the unrelenting and bitter animosity of the Royalists to everything which characterized the Revolution or the military ascendency of Napoleon. By their incessant intrigues and unbounded hatreds and intolerant bigotry, they kept the kingdom in constant turmoils, even to the verge of revolution, gradually pushing the king into impolitic measures, against his will and his better judgment, and creating a reaction to all liberal movements. These turmoils, which are uninteresting to us, formed no inconsiderable part of the history of the times. The only great event of the reign was the war in Spain to suppress revolutionary ideas in that miserable country, ground down by priests and royal despotism, and a prey to every conceivable faction.
The ministry which the king appointed on his accession was composed of able, moderate, and honest men, but without any ascendant genius, except Talleyrand; who selected his colleagues, and retained for himself the portfolio of foreign affairs and the presidency of the Council, giving to Fouché the management of internal affairs. Loth was the king to accept the services of either,--the one a regicide, and the other a traitor. The whole royal family set up a howl of indignation at the appointment of Fouché; but it was deemed necessary to secure his services in order to maintain law and order, and the king remained firm against the earnest expostulations of his brother the Comte d'Artois, his niece the Duchesse d'Angoulême, and all the Royalists who had influence with him. But he despised and hated in his soul Fouché,--that minion of Napoleon, that product of blood and treason,--and waited only for a convenient time to banish him from the councils and the realm. Nor did he like Talleyrand (at that time the greatest man in France), but made use of his magnificent talents only until he could do without him. When the king felt established on his throne, he sent Talleyrand away; indeed, there was great pressure brought to bear for the dismissal by those who found the minister too moderate in his views. The king did not punish him, but kept him in a subordinate office, leaving him to enjoy his dignities and the immense fortune he had accumulated.
Talleyrand was born in 1754, and belonged to one of the most illustrious families in France. He was destined to the Church against his will, being from the start worldly, ambitious, and scandalously immoral; but he accepted his destiny, and soon distinguished himself at the Sorbonne for his literary attainments, for his wit and his social qualities. At twenty, as the young Abbé de Périgord, he was received into the highest society of Paris; his noble birth, his aristocratic and courtly manners, his convivial qualities, and his irrepressible wit made him a favorite in the gay circles which marked the early part of the reign of Louis XVI., while his extraordinary abilities and consummate tact naturally secured early promotion. In 1780 he was appointed to the office of general agent for the clergy of France, which brought him before the public. Eight years after, at the early age of thirty-four, he was made Bishop of Autun. In May, 1789, he became a member of the States-General, and with his fascinating eloquence tried to induce the clergy to surrender their tithes and church lands to the nation,--a result which was brought about soon after, nolens volens, by the genius of Mirabeau. Talleyrand hated the Church and despised the people, but, like Mirabeau, was in favor of a constitution like that of England, In all his changes he remained an aristocrat from his tastes, his education, and his rank, but veiled his views, whatever they were, with profound dissimulation, of which he was a consummate master. The laxity of his morals, the secret hatred of his order, and his infidel sentiments led to his excommunication, which troubled him but little. Out of the pale of the Church, he turned his thoughts to diplomacy, and was sent to London as an ambassador,--without, however, the official title and insignia of that high office,--where he fascinated the highest circles by the splendor of his conversation and the causticity of his wit. On his return to Paris he was distrusted by the Jacobins, and with difficulty made his escape to England; but the English government also distrusted a man of such boundless intrigue, and ordered him to quit the country within twenty-four hours. He fled to America at the age of forty, with straitened means, but after the close of the Reign of Terror returned to Paris, and six months later was made foreign minister under the Directory. This office he did not long retain, failing to secure the confidence of the government. The austere Carnot said of him:--
"That man brings with him all the vices of the old régime, without being able to acquire a single virtue of the new one. He possesses no fixed principles, but changes them as he does his linen, adopting them according to the fashion of the day. He was a philosopher when philosophy was in vogue; a republican now, because it is necessary at present to be so in order to become anything; to-morrow he would proclaim and uphold tyranny, if he could thereby serve his own interests. I will not have him at any price; and so long as I am at the helm of State he shall be nothing."
When Bonaparte returned from Egypt, Citizen Talleyrand had been six months out of office, and he saw that it would be for his interest to put himself in intimate connection with the most powerful man in France. Besides, as a diplomatist, he saw that only in a monarchical government could he have employment. Napoleon, who seldom made a mistake in his estimate of character, perceived that Talleyrand was just the man for his purpose,--talented, dexterous, unscrupulous, and sagacious,--and made him his minister of foreign affairs, utterly indifferent as to his private character. Nor could he politically have made a wiser choice; for it was Talleyrand who made the Concordat with the Pope, the Treaty of Luneville, and the Peace of Amiens. Napoleon wanted a practical man in the diplomatic post,--neither a pedant nor an idealist; and that was just what Talleyrand was,--a man to meet emergencies, a man to build up a throne. But even Napoleon got tired of him at last, and Talleyrand retired with the dignity of vice-grand elector of the empire, grand chamberlain, and Prince of Benevento, together with a fortune, it is said, of thirty million francs.
"How did you acquire your riches?" blandly asked the Emperor one day. "In the simplest way in the world," replied the ex-minister. "I bought stock the day before the 18th Brumaire [when Napoleon overthrew the Directory], and sold it again the day after."
When Napoleon meditated the conquest of Spain, Talleyrand, like Metternich, saw that it would be a blunder, and frankly told the Emperor his opinion,--a thing greatly to his credit. But his advice enraged Napoleon, who could brook no opposition or dissent, and he was turned out of his office as chamberlain. Talleyrand avenged himself by plotting against his sovereign, foreseeing his fall, and by betraying him to the Bourbons. He gave his support to Louis XVIII., because he saw that the only government then possible for France was one combining legitimacy with constitutional checks; for Talleyrand, with all his changes and treasons, liked neither an unfettered despotism nor democratic rule. As one of those who acted with the revolutionists, he was liberal in his ideas; but as the servant of royalty he wished to see a firmly established government, which to his mind was impossible with the reign of demagogues. When the Congress of Vienna assembled, he was sent to it as the French plenipotentiary. And he did good work at the Congress for his sovereign, whose representative he was, and for his country by contriving with his adroit manipulations to alienate the northern from the southern States of Germany, making the latter allies of France and the former allies of Russia,--in other words, practically dividing Germany, which it was the work of Bismarck afterward to unite. A united Germany Talleyrand regarded as threatening to the interests of France; and he contrived to bring France back again into political importance,-- to restore her rank among the great Powers. He did not bargain for spoils, like the other plenipotentiaries; he only strove to preserve the nationality of France, and to secure her ancient limits, which Prussia in her greed and hatred would have destroyed or impaired but for the magnanimity of the Czar Alexander and the firmness of Lord Castlereagh.
On his return from the Congress of Vienna, the reign of Talleyrand as prime minister was short; and as his power was comparatively small under both Louis XVIII. and his successor Charles X., and as he was not the representative of reactionary ideas or movements, but only of a firm government, I do not give to him the leadership of the counter-revolution. He was unquestionably the greatest statesman at that time in France, though indolent, careless, and without power as an orator.
Who was then the great exponent of reaction, and of antagonism to liberal and progressive opinions, during the reigns of the restored Bourbons? It was not the king himself, Louis XVIII.; for he did all he could to repress the fanatical zeal of his family and of the royalist party. He despised the feeble mind of his brother, the Comte d'Artois, his narrow intolerance, and his court of priests and bigots, and was in perpetual conflict with him as a politician, while at the same time he clung to him with the ties of natural affection.
Was it the Duc de Richelieu, grand-nephew of the great cardinal, whom the king selected for his prime minister on the retirement of Talleyrand? He hardly represents the return to absolutism, since he was moderate, conciliatory, and disposed to unite all parties under a constitutional government. No man in France was more respected than he,--adored by his family, modest, virtuous, disinterested, and patriotic. As an administrator in the service of Russia during the ascendency of Napoleon, he had greatly distinguished himself. He was a favorite of Alexander, and through his influence with the Czar France was in no slight degree indebted for the favorable terms which she received on the restoration of the monarchy, when Prussia exacted a cruel indemnity. He wished to unite all parties in loyal submission to the constitution, rather than secure the ascendency of any. While able and highly respected, Richelieu was not pre-eminently great. Nor was Villèle, who succeeded him as prime minister, and who retained his power for six or eight years, nearly to the close of the reign of Charles X., a great historical figure.
The man under the restored monarchy who represented with the most ability reactionary movements of all kinds, and devotion to the cause of absolute monarchy, I think was Francois Auguste, Vicomte de Chateaubriand. Certainly he was the most illustrious character of that period. Poet, orator, diplomatist, minister, he was a man of genius, who stands out as a great figure in history; not so great as Talleyrand in the single department of diplomacy, but an infinitely more respectable and many-sided man. He had an immense éclat in the early part of this century as writer and poet, although his literary fame has now greatly declined. Lamartine, in his sentimental and rhetorical exaggeration, speaks of him as "the Ossian of France,--an aeolian harp, producing sounds which ravish the ear and agitate the heart, but which the mind cannot define; the poet of instincts rather than of ideas, who gained an immortal empire, not over the reason but over the imagination of the age."
Chateaubriand was born in Brittany, of a noble but not illustrious family, in 1769, entered the army in 1786, and during the Reign of Terror emigrated to America. He returned to France in 1799, after the 18th Brumaire, and became a contributor to the "Mercure de France." In 1802 he published the "Génie du Christianisme," which made him enthusiastically admired as a literary man,--the only man of the time who could compete with the fame of Madame de Staël. This book astonished a country that had been led astray by an infidel philosophy, and converted it back to Christianity, not by force of arguments, but by an appeal to the heart and the imagination. The clergy, the aristocracy, women, and youth were alike enchanted. The author was sent to Rome by Napoleon as secretary of his embassy; but on the murder of the Due d'Enghien (1804), Chateaubriand left the imperial service, and lived in retirement, travelling to the Holy Land and throughout the Orient and Southern Europe, and writing his books of travels. He took no interest in political affairs until the time of the Restoration, when he again appeared. A brilliant and effective pamphlet, "De Bonaparte et des Bourbons," published by him in 1814, was said by Louis XVIII. to be worth an army of a hundred thousand men to the cause of the Bourbons; and upon their re-establishment Chateaubriand was immediately in high favor, and was made a member of the Chamber of Peers.
The Chamber of Peers was substituted for the Senate of Napoleon, and was elected by the king. It had cognizance of the crime of high treason, and of all attempts against the safety of the State. It was composed of the most distinguished nobles, the bishops, and marshals of France, presided over by the chancellor. To this chamber the ministers were admitted, as well as to the Chamber of Deputies, the members of which were elected by about one hundred thousand voters out of thirty millions of people. They were all men of property, and as aristocratic as the peers themselves. They began their sessions by granting prodigal compensations, indemnities, and endowments to the crown and to the princes. They appropriated thirty-three millions of francs annually for the maintenance of the king, besides voting thirty millions more for the payment of his debts; they passed a law restoring to the former proprietors the lands alienated to the State, and still unsold. They brought to punishment the generals who had deserted to Napoleon during the one hundred days of his renewed reign; they manifested the most intense hostility to the régime which he had established. Indeed, all classes joined in the chorus against the fallen Emperor, and attributed to him alone the misfortunes of France. Vengeance, not now directed against Royalists but against Republicans, was the universal cry; the people demanded the heads of those who had been their idols. Everything like admiration for Napoleon seemed to have passed away forever. The violence of the Royalists for speedy vengeance on their old foes surpassed the cries of the revolutionists in the Reign of Terror. France was again convulsed with passions, which especially raged in the bosoms of the Royalists. They shot Marshal Ney, the bravest of the brave, and Colonel Labedoyèn; they established courts-martial for political offences; they passed a law against seditious cries and individual liberty. There were massacres at Marseilles, and atrocities at Nismes; the Catholics of the South persecuted the Protestants. The king himself was almost the only man among his party that was inclined to moderation, and he found a bitter opposition from the members of his own family. Added to these discords, the finances were found to be in a most disordered state, and the annual deficit was fifty or sixty millions.
All this was taking place while one hundred and fifty thousand foreign soldiers were quartered in the towns and garrisons at the expense of the government. The return of Napoleon had cost the lives of sixty thousand Frenchmen and a thousand millions of francs, besides the indemnities, which amounted to fifteen hundred millions more. No language of denunciation could be stronger than that which went forth from the mouth of the whole nation in view of Napoleon's selfishness and ambition. But one voice was listened to, and that was the cry for vengeance; prudence, moderation, and justice were alike disregarded. All attempts to stem the tide of ultra-royalist violence were in vain. The king was obliged to dismiss Talleyrand because he was not violent enough in his measures; at the same time he was glad to get rid of his sagacious minister, being jealous of his ascendency.
So the throne of Louis XVIII. was anything but a bed of roses, amid the war of parties and the perils which surrounded it. All his tact was required to steer the ship of state amidst the rocks and breakers. Most of the troubles were centred in the mutual hostilities, jealousies, and hatreds of the Royalists themselves, at the head of whom were the king's brother the Comte d'Artois, and the Vicomte de Chateaubriand. So vehement were the passions of the deputies, nearly all Royalists, that the president of the Chamber, the excellent and talented Lainé, was publicly insulted in his chair by a violent member of the extreme Right; and even Chateaubriand the king was obliged to deprive of his office on account of the violence of his opinions in behalf of absolutism,--a greater royalist than the king himself! The terrible reaction was forced by the nation upon the sovereign, who was more liberal and humane than the people.
Of course, in the embittered quarrels between the Royalists themselves, nothing was done during the reign of Louis XVIII. toward useful and needed reforms. The orators in the chambers did not discuss great ideas of any kind, and inaugurated no grand movements, not even internal improvements. The only subjects which occupied the chambers were proscriptions, confiscations, grants to the royal family, the restoration of the clergy to their old possessions, salaries to high officials, the trials of State prisoners, conspiracies and crimes against the government,--all of no sort of interest to us, and of no historical importance.
In the meantime there assembled at Verona a Congress composed of nearly all the sovereigns of Europe, with their representatives,--as brilliant an assemblage as that at Vienna a few years before. It met not to put down a great conqueror, but to suppress revolutionary ideas and movements, which were beginning to break out in various countries in Europe, especially in Italy and Spain. To this Congress was sent, as one of the representatives of France, Chateaubriand, who on its assembling was ambassador at London. He was, however, weary of English life and society; he did not like the climate with its interminable fogs; he was not received by the higher aristocracy with the cordiality he expected, and seemed to be intimate with no one but Canning, whose conversion to liberal views had not then taken place.
In France, the ministry of the Duc de Richelieu had been succeeded by that of Villèle as president of the Council, in which M. Matthieu de Montmorency was minister of foreign affairs,--member of a most illustrious house, and one of the finest characters that ever adorned an exalted station. Between Montmorency and Chateaubriand there existed the most intimate and affectionate friendship, and it was at the urgent solicitation of the former that Chateaubriand was recalled from London and sent with Montmorency to Verona, where he had a wider scope for his ambition.
Chateaubriand was most graciously received by the Czar Alexander and by Metternich, the latter at that time in the height of his power and glory. Alexander flattered Chateaubriand as a hero of humanity and a religious philosopher; while Metternich received him as the apostle of conservatism.
The particular subject which occupied the attention of the Congress was, whether the great Powers should intervene in the internal affairs of Spain, then agitated by revolution. King Ferdinand, who was restored to his throne after the forced abdication of Joseph Bonaparte, had broken the Constitution of 1812, which he had sworn to defend, and outraged his subjects by cruelties equalled only by those of that other Bourbon who reigned at Naples. In consequence, his subjects had rebelled, and sought to secure their liberties. This rebellion disturbed all Europe, and the great Powers, with the exception of England,--ruled virtually by Canning, the foreign minister,--resolved on an armed intervention to suppress the popular revolution. Chateaubriand used all his influence in favor of intervention; and so did Montmorency. They even exceeded the instructions of the king and Villèle the prime minister, who wished to avoid a war with Spain; they acted as the representatives of the Holy Alliance rather than as ambassadors of France. The Congress committed Russia, Austria, and Prussia to hostile interference, in case the king of France should be driven into war,--a course which Wellington disapproved, and which he urged Louis XVIII. to refrain from. In consequence, the French king temporized, dreading either to resist or to submit to the ascendency of Russia, and dissatisfied with the course his negotiators had taken at the Congress, especially his minister of foreign affairs, on whom the responsibility lay. Montmorency accordingly resigned, and Chateaubriand took his place; in consequence of which a coolness sprung up between the two friends, who at the Congress had equally advocated the same policy.
The discussions which ensued in the chambers whether or not France should embark in a war with Spain,--in other words, whether she should interfere with the domestic affairs of a foreign and independent nation,--were the occasion of the first serious split among the statesmen of France at this time. There was a party for war and a party against it; at the head of the latter were men who afterward became distinguished. There were bitter denunciations of the ministers; but the war party headed by Chateaubriand prevailed, and the French ambassador was recalled from Madrid, although war was not yet formally declared. In the Chamber of Peers Talleyrand used his influence against the invasion of Spain, foretelling the evils which would ultimately result, even as he had cautioned Napoleon against the same thing. He told the chamber that although the proposed invasion would be probably successful, it would be a great mistake.
M. Molé, afterward so eminent as an orator, took the side of Talleyrand. "Where are we going?" said he. "We are going to Madrid. Alas, we have been there already! Will a revolution cease when the independence of the people who are suffering from it is threatened? Have we not the example of the French Revolution, which was invincible when its cause became identical with that of our independence?" "This man," exclaimed the king, "confirms me in the system of M. de Villèle,--to temporize, and avoid the war if it be possible."
Chateaubriand replied in an elaborate speech in favor of the war. From his standpoint, his speech was masterly and unanswerable. It was a grand consecutive argument, solid logic without sentimentalism. While he admitted that, according to the principles laid down by the great writers on international war, intervention could not generally be defended, he yet maintained that there were exceptions to the rule, and this was one of them; that the national safety was jeopardized by the Spanish revolution; that England herself had intervened in the French Revolution; that all the interests of France were compromised by the successes of the Spanish revolutionists; that a moral contagion was spreading even among the troops themselves; in fact, that there was no security for the throne, or for the cause of religion and of public order, unless the armies of France should restore Ferdinand, then a virtual prisoner in his own palace, to the government he had inherited.
The war was decided upon, and the Duke of Angoulême, nephew of the king, was sent across the Pyrenees with one hundred thousand troops to put down the innumerable factions, and reseat Ferdinand. The Duke was assisted, of course, by all the royalists of Spain, by all the clergy, and by all conservative parties; and the conquest of the kingdom was comparatively easy. The republican chiefs were taken and hanged, including Diego, the ablest of them all. Ferdinand, delivered by foreign armies, remounted his throne, forgot all his pledges, and reigned on the most despotic principles, committing the most atrocious cruelties. The successful general returned to France with great éclat, while the government was pushed every day by the triumphant Royalists into increased severity,--into measures which logically led, under Charles X., to his expulsion from the throne, and the final defeat of the principle of legitimacy itself,--another great step toward republican institutions, which were finally destined to triumph.
Among the extreme measures was the Septennial Bill, which passed both houses against the protest of liberal members, some of whom afterward became famous,--such as General Foy, General Sebastiani, Dupont (de l'Eure), Casimir Périer, Lafitte, Lanjuinais. This law was a coup d'état against electoral opinions and representative government. It gave the king and his government the advantage of fixing for seven years longer the majority which was secured by the elections of 1822, and of closing the Chamber against a modification of public opinions. Villèle and Chateaubriand were the authors of this act.
Another bill was proposed by Villèle, not so objectionable, which was to reduce the interest on the loans contracted by the State; in other words, to borrow money at less interest and pay off the old debts,--a salutary financial measure adopted in England, and later by the United States after the Civil War. But this measure was bitterly opposed by the clergy, who looked upon it as a reduction of their incomes. Here Chateaubriand virtually abandoned the government, in his uniform support of the temporalities of the Church; and the measure failed; which so deeply exasperated both the king and the prime minister that Chateaubriand was dismissed from his office as minister of foreign affairs.
The fallen minister angrily resented his disgrace, and thenceforward secretly took part against the government, embarrassing it by his articles in the journals of the day. He did not renounce his conservative opinions; but he became the personal enemy of Villèle. Chateaubriand had no magnanimity. He retired to nurse his resentments in the society of Madame Récamier, with whom he had formed a friendship difficult to be distinguished from love. He had been always her devoted admirer when she reigned a queen of society in the fashionable salons of Paris, and continued his intimacy with her until his death. Daily did he, when a broken old man, make his accustomed visit to her modest apartments in the Convent of St. Joseph, and give vent to his melancholy and morbid feelings. He regarded himself as the most injured man in France. He became discontented with the Crown, and even with the aristocracy. On the day of his retirement from the ministry the intelligence of the Royalist party followed him in opposition to the government, whose faults he had encouraged and shared. The "Journal des Débats," the most influential newspaper in France, deserted Villèle; and from this defection may be dated, says Lamartine, "all those enmities against the government of the Restoration which collected in one work of aggression the most contradictory ideas, which alienated public opinion, which exasperated the government and pushed it on from excesses to insanity, irritated the tribune, blindfolded the elections, and finished by changing, five years afterward, the opposition of nineteen votes hostile to the Bourbons into a heterogeneous but formidable majority, in presence of which the monarchy had only the choice left between a humiliating resignation and a mortal coup d'état."
Chateaubriand now disappears from the field of history as one of its great figures. He lived henceforth in retirement, but bitter in his opposition to the government of which he had been the virtual head, contributing largely to the "Journal des Débats," of which he was the life, and by which he was supported. In the next reign he refused the office of Minister of Public Instruction as derogatory to his dignity, but accepted the post of ambassador to Rome,--a sort of honorable exile. But he was an unhappy and disappointed man; he had taken the wrong side in politics, and probably saw his errors. His genius, if it had been directed to secure constitutional liberty, would have made him a national idol, for he lived to see the dethronement of Louis Philippe in 1848; but like Castlereagh in England, he threw his superb talents in with the sinking cause of absolutism, and was after all a political failure. He lives only as a literary man,--one of the most eloquent poets of his day, one of the lights of that splendid constellation of literary geniuses that arose on the fall of Napoleon.
Soon after the retirement of Chateaubriand, Louis XVIII. himself died, at an advanced age, having contrived to preserve his throne by moderation and honesty. In his latter days he was exceedingly infirm in body, but preserved his intellectual faculties to the last. He was a lonely old man, even while surrounded by a splendid court. He wanted somebody to love, at least to cheer him in his isolation; for he had no peace in his family, deeply as he was attached to its members. He himself had discovered the virtues and disinterestedness of his minister Décazes, and when his family and ministers drove away this favorite, the king was devoted to him even in disgrace, and made him his companion. Still later he found a substitute in Madame du Caylus,--one of those interesting and accomplished women peculiar to France. She was not ambitious of ruling the king, as her aunt, Madame de Maintenon, was of governing Louis XIV., and her virtue was unimpeachable. She wrote to the king letters twice a day, but visited him only once a week. She was the tool of a cabal, rather than the leader of a court; but her influence was healthy, ennobling, and religious. Louis XVIII. was not what would be called a religious man; he performed his religious duties regularly, but in a perfunctory manner. He was not, however, a hypocrite or a pharisee, but was simply indifferent to religious dogmas, and secretly averse to the society of priests. When he was dying, it was with great difficulty that he could be made to receive extreme unction. He died without pain, recommending to his brother, who was to succeed him, to observe the charter of French liberties, yet fearing that his blind bigotry would be the ruin of the family and the throne, as events proved. The last things to which the dying king clung were pomps and ceremonies, concealing even from courtiers his failing strength, and going through the mockery of dress and court etiquette to almost the very day of his death, in 1824.
The Comte d'Artois, now Charles X., ascended the throne, with the usual promises to respect the liberties of the nation, which his brother had conscientiously maintained. Unfortunately Charles's intellect was weak and his conscience perverted; he was a narrow-minded, bigoted sovereign, ruled by priests and ultra-royalists, who magnified his prerogatives, appealed to his prejudices, and flattered his vanity. He was not cruel and blood-thirsty,--he was even kind and amiable; but he was a fool, who could not comprehend the conditions by which only he could reign in safety; who could not understand the spirit of the times, or appreciate the difficulties with which he had to contend.
What was to be expected of such a monarch but continual blunders, encroachments, and follies verging upon crimes? The nation cared nothing for his hunting-parties, his pleasures, and his attachment to mediaeval ceremonies; but it did care for its own rights and liberties, purchased so dearly and guarded so zealously; and when these were gradually attacked by a man who felt himself to be delegated from God with unlimited powers to rule, not according to laws but according to his caprices and royal will, then the ferment began,--first in the legislative assemblies, then extending to journalists, who controlled public opinion, and finally to the discontented, enraged, and disappointed people. The throne was undermined, and there was no power in France to prevent the inevitable catastrophe. In Russia, Prussia, and Austria an overwhelming army, bound together by the mechanism which absolutism for centuries had perfected, could repress disorder; but in a country where the army was comparatively small, enlightened by the ideas of the Revolution and fraternizing with the people, this was not possible. A Napoleon, with devoted and disciplined troops, might have crushed his foes and reigned supreme; but a weak and foolish monarch, with a disaffected and scattered army, with ministers who provoked all the hatreds and violent passions of legislators, editors, and people alike, was powerless to resist or overcome.
The short reign of Charles X. was not marked by a single event of historical importance, except the conquest of Algiers; and that was undertaken by the government to gain military éclat,--in other words, popularity,--and this at the very time it was imposing restrictions on the Press. There were during this reign no reforms, no public improvements, no measures of relief for the poor, no stimulus to new industries, no public encouragement of art or literature, no triumphs of architectural skill; nothing to record but the strife of political parties, and a systematic encroachment by the government on electoral rights, on legislative freedom, on the liberty of the Press. There was a senseless return to mediaeval superstitions and cruelties, all to please the most narrow and intolerant class of men who ever traded on the exploded traditions of the past. The Jesuits returned to promulgate their sophistries and to impose their despotic yoke; the halls of justice were presided over by the tools of arbitrary power; great offices were given to the most obsequious slaves of royalty, without regard to abilities or fitness. There was not indeed the tyranny of Spain or Naples or Austria; but everything indicated a movement toward it. Those six years which comprised the reign of Charles X. were a period of reaction,--a return to the Middle Ages in both State and Church, a withering blast on all noble aspirations. Even the prime minister Villèle, a legitimatist and an ultra-royalist, was too liberal for the king; and he was dismissed to make room for Martignac, and he again for Polignac, who had neither foresight nor prudence nor ability. The generals of the republic and of the empire were removed from active service. An indemnity of a thousand millions was given by an obsequious legislature to the men who had emigrated during the Revolution,--a generous thing to do, but a premium on cowardice and want of patriotism. A base concession was made to the sacerdotal party, by making it a capital offence to profane the sacred vessels of the churches or the consecrated wafer; thus putting the power of life and death into the hands of the clergy, not for crimes against society but for an insult to the religion of the Middle Ages.
But the laws passed against the Press were the most irritating of all. The Press had become a power which it was dangerous to trifle with,--the one thing in modern times which affords the greatest protection to liberty, which is most hated by despots and valued by enlightened minds. A universal clamor was raised against this return to barbarism, this extinction of light in favor of darkness, this discarding of the national reason. Royalists and liberals alike denounced this culminating act of high treason against the majesty of the human mind, this death-blow to civilization. Chateaubriand, Royer-Collard, Dupont (de l'Eure), even Labourdonnais, predicted its fatal consequences; and their impassioned eloquence from the tribune became in a few days the public opinion of the nation, and the king in his infatuation saw no remedy for his increasing unpopularity but in dissolving the Chamber of Deputies and ordering a new election,--the blindest thing he could possibly do. It was now seen that he was determined to rule in utter defiance of the charter he had sworn to defend, and on the principles of undisguised absolutism. All parties now coalesced against the king and his ministers. The king then began to tamper with the military in order to establish by violence the old régime. It was found difficult to fill ministerial appointments, as everybody felt that the ship of State was drifting upon the rocks. The king even determined to dissolve the new Chamber of Deputies before it met, the elections having pronounced emphatically against his government.
At last the passions of the people became excited, and daily increased in violence. Then came resistance to the officers of the law; then riots, then barricades, then the occupation of the Tuileries, then ineffectual attempts of the military to preserve order and restrain the violence of the people. Marshal Marmont, with only twelve thousand troops, was powerless against a great city in arms. The king thinking it was only an émeute, to be easily put down, withdrew to St. Cloud; and there he spent his time in playing whist, as Nero fiddled over burning Rome, until at last aroused by the vengeance of the whole nation, he made his escape to England, to rust in the old palace of the kings of Scotland, and to meditate over his kingly follies, as Napoleon meditated over his mistakes in the island of St. Helena.
Thus closed the third act in the mighty drama which France played for one hundred years: the first act revealing the passions of the Revolution; the second, the abominations of military despotism; the third, the reaction toward the absolutism of the old régime and its final downfall. Two more acts are to be presented,--the perfidy and selfishness of Louis Philippe, and the usurpation of Louis Napoleon; but these must be deferred until in our course of lectures we have considered the reaction of liberal sentiments in England during the ministries of Castlereagh, Canning, and Lord Liverpool, when the Tories resigned, as Metternich did in Vienna.
Yet the reign of the Bourbons, while undistinguished by great events, was not fruitless in great men. On the fall of Napoleon, a crowd of authors, editors, orators, and statesmen issued from their retreats, and attracted notice by the brilliancy of their writings and speeches. Crushed or banished by the iron despotism of Napoleon, who hated literary genius, they now became a new power in France,--not to propagate infidel sentiments and revolutionary theories, but to awaken the nation to a sense of intellectual dignity and to maturer views of government; to give a new impulse to literature, art, and science, and to show how impossible it is to extinguish the fires of liberty when once kindled in the breasts of patriots, or to put a stop to the progress of the human mind among an excitable, intelligent, though fickle people, craving with passionate earnestness both popular rights and constitutional government in accordance with those laws of progress which form the basis of true civilization.
There was Count Joseph de Maistre,--a royalist indeed, but who propounded great truths mixed with great paradoxes; believing all he said, seeking to restore the authority of divine revelation in a world distracted by scepticism, grand and eloquent in style, and astonishing the infidels as much as he charmed the religious.
Associated with him in friendship and in letters was the Abbé de Lamennais, a young priest of Brittany, brought up amid its wilds in silent reverence and awe, yet with the passions of a revolutionary orator, logical as Bossuet, invoking young men, not to the worship of mediaeval dogmas, but to the shrine of reason allied with faith.
Of another school was Cousin, the modern Plato, combating the materialism of the eighteenth century with mystic eloquence, and drawing around him, in his chair of philosophy at the Sorbonne, a crowd of enthusiastic young men, which reminded one of Abélard among his pupils in the infant university of Paris. Cousin elevated the soul while he intoxicated the mind, and created a spirit of inquiry which was felt wherever philosophy was recognized as one of the most ennobling studies that can dignify the human intellect.
In history, both Guizot and Thiers had already become distinguished before they were engrossed in politics. Augustin Thierry described, with romantic fascination, the exploits of the Normans; Michaud brought out his Crusades, Barante his Chronicles, Sismondi his Italian Republics, Michelet his lively conception of France in the Middle Ages, Capefigue the Life of Louis XIV., and Lamartine his poetical paintings of the Girondists. All these masterpieces gave a new interest to historical studies, infusing into history life and originality,--not as a barren collection of annals and names, in which pedantry passes for learning, and uninteresting details for accuracy and scholarship. In that inglorious period more first-class histories were produced in France than have appeared in England during the long reign of Queen Victoria, where only three or four historians have reached the level of any one of those I have mentioned, in genius or eloquence.
Another set of men created journalism as the expression of public opinion, and as a lever to overturn an obstinate despotism built up on the superstitions and dogmas of the Middle Ages. A few young men, almost unknown to fame, with remorseless logic and fiery eloquence overturned a throne, and established the Press as a power that proved irresistible, driving the priests of absolutism back into the shadows of eternal night, and making reason the guide and glory of mankind. Among these were the disappointed and embittered Chateaubriand, who almost redeemed his devotion to the royal cause by those elegant essays which recalled the eloquence of his early life. Villemain wrote for the "Moniteur," Royer--Collard and Guizot for the "Courier," with all the haughtiness and disdain which marked the Doctrinaire or Constitutional school; Etienne and Pagès for the "Constitutionel," ridiculing the excesses of the ultra-royalists, the pretensions of the clergy, and the follies of the court; De Genoude for the "Gazette de France," and Thiers for the "National."
In the realm of science Arago explored the wonders of the heavens, and Cuvier penetrated the secrets of the earth. In poetry only two names are prominent,--Delille and Béranger; but the French are not a poetical nation. Most of the great writers of France wrote in prose, and for style they have never been surpassed. If the poets were few after the Restoration, the novelists were many, with transcendent excellences and transcendent faults, reaching the heart by their pathos, insulting the reason by their exaggerations, captivating the imagination while shocking the moral sense; painting manners and dissecting passions with powerful, acute, and vivid touch. Such were Victor Hugo, Eugene Sue, and Alexandre Dumas, whose creations interested all classes alike, not merely in France, but throughout the world.
The dignity of intellect amid political degradation was never more strikingly displayed than by those orators who arose during the reign of the Bourbons. The intrepid Manuel uttering his protests against royal encroachments, in a chamber of Royalists all heated by passions and prejudices; Lainé and De Serres, pathetic and patriotic; Guizot, De Broglie, and De St. Aulaire, learned and profound; Royer-Collard, religious, disdainful, majestic; General Foy, disinterested and incorruptible; Lafitte, the banker; Benjamin Constant, the philosopher; Berryer, the lawyer; Chateaubriand, the poet, most eloquent of all,--these and a host of others (some liberal, some conservative, all able) showed that genius was not extinguished amid all the attempts of absolutism to suppress it. It is true that none of these orators arose to supreme power, and that they were not equal to Mirabeau and other great lights in the Revolutionary period. They were comparatively inexperienced in parliamentary business, and were watched and fettered by a hostile government, and could not give full scope to their indignant eloquence without personal peril. Nor did momentous questions of reform come before them for debate, as was the case in England during the agitation on the Reform Bill. They did little more than show the spirit that was in them, which under more favorable circumstances would arouse the nation.
There was one more power which should be mentioned in connection with that period of torpor and reaction, and that was the influence of the salons. To these all the bright intellects of Paris resorted, and gave full vent to their opinions,--artists, scholars, statesmen, journalists, men of science, and brilliant women, in short, whoever was distinguished in any particular sphere; and these composed what is called society, a tremendous lever in fashionable life. In the salons of Madame de Staël, of the Duchesse de Duras, of the Duchesse de Broglie, of Madame de St. Aulaire, and of Madame de Montcalm, all parties were represented, and all subjects were freely discussed. Here Sainte-Beuve discoursed with those whom he was afterward to criticise; here Talleyrand uttered his concise and emphatic sentences; here Lafayette won hearts by his courteous manners and amiable disposition; here Guizot prepared himself for the tribune and the Press; here Villemain, with proud indifference, broached his careless scepticism; here Montlosier blended aristocratical paradoxes with democratic theories. All these great men, and a host of others,--Béranger, Constant, Etienne, Lamartine, Pasquier, Mounier, Molé, De Neuville, Lainé, Barante, Cousin, Sismondi,--freely exchanged opinions, and rested from their labors; a group of geniuses worth more than armies in the great contests between Liberty and Absolutism.
And here it may be said that these kings and queens of society represented not material interests,--not commerce, not manufactures, not stocks, not capital, not railways, not trade, not industrial exhibitions, not armies and navies, but ideas, those invisible agencies which shake thrones and make revolutions, and lift the soul above that which is transient to that which is permanent,--to religion, to philosophy, to art, to poetry, to the glories of home, to the certitudes of friendship, to the benedictions of heaven; which may exist in all their benign beauty and power whatever be the form of government or the inequality of condition, in cottage or palace, in plenty or in want, among foes or friends,--creating that sublime rest where men may prepare themselves for a future and imperishable existence.
Such was the other side of France during the reign of the Bourbons,--the lights which burst through the gloomy shades of tyranny and superstition, to alleviate sorrows and disappointed hopes,--the resurrection of intellect from the grave of despair.
The History of the Restoration by Lamartine is the most interesting work I have read on the subject; but he is not regarded as a high authority. Talleyrand's Memoirs, Mémoires de Chateaubriand; Lacretelle, Capefigue, Alison; Biographie Universelle, Mémoires de Louis XVIII., Fyffe, Mackenzie's History of the Nineteenth Century,--all are interesting, and worthy of perusal.
Where an intelligent and cultivated though superficial traveller to recount his impressions of England in 1815, when the Prince of Wales was regent of the kingdom and Lord Liverpool was prime minister, he probably would note his having been struck with the splendid life of the nobility (all great landed proprietors) in their palaces at London, and in their still more magnificent residences on their principal estates. He would have seen a lavish if not an unbounded expenditure, emblazoned and costly equipages, liveried servants without number, and all that wealth could purchase in the adornment of their homes. He would have seen a perpetual round of banquets, balls, concerts, receptions, and garden parties, to which only the élite of society were invited, all dressed in the extreme of fashion, blazing with jewels, and radiant with the smiles of prosperity. Among the lions of this gorgeous society he would have seen the most distinguished statesmen of the day, chiefly peers of the realm, with the blue ribbon across their shoulders, the diamond garter below their knees, and the heraldic star upon their breasts. Perhaps he might have met some rising orator, like Canning or Perceval, whose speeches were in every mouth,--men destined to the highest political honors, pets of highborn ladies for the brilliancy of their genius, the silvery tones of their voices, and the courtly elegance of their manners; Tories in their politics, and aristocrats in their sympathies.
The traveller, if admitted as a stranger to these grand assemblages, would have seen but few lawyers, except of the very highest distinction, perhaps here and there a bishop or a dean with the paraphernalia of clerical rank, but no physician, no artist, no man of science, no millionaire banker, no poet, no scholar, unless his fame had gone out to all the world. The brilliancy of the spectacle would have dazzled him, and he would unhesitatingly have pronounced those titled men and women to be the most fortunate, the most favored, and perhaps the most happy of all people on the face of the globe, since, added to the distinctions of rank and the pride of power, they had the means of purchasing all the pleasures known to civilization, and--more than all--held a secure social position, which no slander could reach and no hatred could affect.
Or if he followed these magnates to their country estates after the "season" had closed and Parliament was prorogued, he would have seen the palaces of these lordly proprietors of innumerable acres filled with a retinue of servants that would have called out the admiration of Cicero or Crassus,--all in imposing liveries, but with cringing manners,--and a crowd of aristocratic visitors, filling perhaps a hundred apartments, spending their time according to their individual inclinations; some in the magnificent library of the palace, some riding in the park, others fox-hunting with the hounds or shooting hares and partridges, others again flirting with ennuied ladies in the walks or boudoirs or gilded drawing-rooms,--but all meeting at dinner, in full dress, in the carved and decorated banqueting-hall, the sideboards of which groaned under the load of gold and silver plate of the rarest patterns and most expensive workmanship. Everywhere the eye would have rested on priceless pictures, rare tapestries, bronze and marble ornaments, sumptuous sofas and lounges, mirrors of Venetian glass, chandeliers, antique vases, bric-à-brac of every description brought from every corner of the world. The conversation of these titled aristocrats,--most of them educated at Oxford and Cambridge, cultivated by foreign travel, and versed in the literature of the day,--though full of prejudices, was generally interesting; while their manners, though cold and haughty, were easy, polished, courteous, and dignified. It is true, most of them would swear, and get drunk at their banquets; but their profanity was conventional rather than blasphemous, and they seldom got drunk till late in the evening, and then on wines older than their children, from the most famous vineyards of Europe. During the day they were able to attend to business, if they had any, and seldom drank anything stronger than ale and beer. Their breakfasts were light and their lunches simple. Living much in the open air, and fond of the pleasures of the chase, they were generally healthy and robust. The prevailing disease which crippled them was gout; but this was owing to champagne and burgundy rather than to brandy and turtle-soups, for at that time no Englishman of rank dreamed that he could dine without wine. William Pitt, it is said, found less than three bottles insufficient for his dinner, when he had been working hard.
Among them all there was great outward reverence for the Church, and few missed its services on Sundays, or failed to attend family prayers in their private chapels as conducted by their chaplains, among whom probably not a Dissenter could be found in the whole realm. Both Catholics and Dissenters were alike held in scornful contempt or indifference, and had inferior social rank. On the whole, these aristocrats were a decorous class of men, though narrow, bigoted, reserved, and proud, devoted to pleasure, idle, extravagant, and callous to the wrongs and miseries of the poor. They did not insult the people by arrogance or contumely, like the old Roman nobles; but they were not united to them by any other ties than such as a master would feel for his slaves; and as slaves are obsequious to their masters, and sometimes loyal, so the humbler classes (especially in the country) worshipped the ground on which these magnates walked. "How courteous the nobles are!" said a wealthy plebeian manufacturer to me once, at Manchester. "I was to show my mill to Lord Ducie, and as my carriage drove up I was about to mount the box with the coachman, but my lord most kindly told me to jump in."
So much for the highest class of all in England, about the year 1815. Suppose the attention of the traveller were now turned to the legislative halls, in which public affairs were discussed, particularly to the House of Commons, supposed to represent the nation. He would have seen five or six hundred men, in plain attire, with their hats on, listless and inattentive, except when one of their leaders was making a telling speech against some measure proposed by the opposite party,--and nearly all measures were party measures. Who were these favored representatives? Nearly all of them were the sons or brothers or cousins or political friends of the class to which I have just alluded, with here and there a baronet or powerful county squire or eminent lawyer or wealthy manufacturer or princely banker, but all with aristocratic sympathies,--nearly all conservative, with a preponderance of Tories; scarcely a man without independent means, indifferent to all questions except such as affected party interests, and generally opposed to all movements which had in view the welfare of the middle classes, to which they could not be said to belong. They did not represent manufacturing towns nor the shopkeepers, still less the people in their rugged toils,--ignorant even when they could read and write. They represented the great landed interests of the country for the most part, and legislated for the interests of landlords and the gentry, the Established Church and the aristocratic universities,--indeed, for the wealthy and the great, not for the nation as a whole, except when great public dangers were imminent.
At that time, however, the traveller would have heard the most magnificent bursts of eloquence ever heard in Parliament,--speeches which are immortal, classical, beautiful, and electrifying. On the front benches was Canning, scarcely inferior to Pitt or Fox as an orator; stately, sarcastic, witty, rhetorical, musical, as full of genius as an egg is full of meat. There was Castlereagh,--not eloquent, but gifted, the honored plenipotentiary and negotiator at the Congress of Vienna; the friend of Metternich and the Czar Alexander; at that time perhaps the most influential of the ministers of state, the incarnation of aristocratic manners and ultra conservative principles. There was Peel, just rising to fame and power; wealthy, proud, and aristocratic, as conservative as Wellington himself, a Tory of the Tories. There were Perceval, the future prime minister, great both as lawyer and statesman; and Lord Palmerston, secretary of state for war. On the opposite benches sat Lord John Russell, timidly maturing schemes for parliamentary reform, lucid of thought, and in utterance clear as a bell. There, too, sat Henry Brougham, not yet famous, but a giant in debate, and overwhelming in his impetuous invectives. There were Romilly, the law reformer, and Tierney, Plunkett, and Huskisson (all great orators), and other eminent men whose names were on every tongue. The traveller, entranced by the power and eloquence of these leaders, could scarcely have failed to feel that the House of Commons was the most glorious assembly on earth, the incarnation of the highest political wisdom, the theatre and school of the noblest energies, worthy to instruct and guide the English nation, or any other nation in the world.
From the legislature we follow our traveller to the Church,--the Established Church of course, for non-conformist ministers, whatever their learning and oratorical gifts, ranked scarcely above shopkeepers and farmers, and were viewed by the aristocracy as leaders of sedition rather than preachers of righteousness. The higher dignitaries of the only church recognized by fashion and rank were peers of the realm, presidents of colleges, dons in the universities, bishops with an income of £10,000 a year or more, deans of cathedrals, prebendaries and archdeacons, who wore a distinctive dress from the other clergy. I need not say that they were the most aristocratic, cynical, bigoted, and intolerant of all the upper ranks in the social scale, though it must be confessed that they were generally men of learning and respectability, more versed, however, in the classics of Greece and Rome than in Saint Paul's epistles, and with greater sympathy for the rich than for the poor, to whom the gospel was originally preached. The untitled clergy of the Church in their rural homes,--for the country and not the city was the paradise of rectors and curates, as of squires and men of leisure,--were also for the most part classical scholars and gentlemen, though some thought more of hunting and fishing than of the sermons they were to preach on Sundays. Nothing to the eye of a cultivated traveller was more fascinating than the homes of these country clergymen, rectories and parsonages as they were called,--concealed amid shrubberies, groves, and gardens, where flowers bloomed by the side of the ivy and myrtle, ever green and flourishing. They were not large but comfortable, abodes of plenty if not of luxury, freeholds which could not be taken away, suggestive of rest and repose; for the favored occupant of such a holding, supported by tithes, could neither be ejected nor turned out of his "living," which he held for life, whether he preached well or poorly, whether he visited his flock or buried himself amid his books, whether he dined out with the squire or went up to town for amusement, whether he played lawn tennis in the afternoon with aristocratic ladies, or cards in the evening with gentlemen none too sober. He had an average stipend of £200 a year, equal to £400 in these times,--moderate, but sufficient for his own wants, if not for those of his wife and daughters, who pined of course for a more exciting life, and for richer dresses than he could afford to give them. His sermons, it must be confessed, were not very instructive, suggestive, or eloquent,--were, in fact, without point, delivered in a drawling monotone; but then his hearers were not used to oratorical displays or learned treatises in the pulpit, and were quite satisfied with the glorious liturgy, if well intoned, and pious chants from surpliced boys, if it happened to be a church rich and venerable in which they worshipped.
Not less imposing and impressive than the Church would the traveller have found the courts of law. The House of Lords was indeed, in a general sense, a legislative assembly, where the peers deliberated on the same subjects that occupied the attention of the Commons; but it was also the supreme judicial tribunal of the realm,--a great court of appeals of which only the law lords, ex-chancellors and judges, who were peers, were the real members, presided over by the lord chancellor, who also held court alone for the final decision of important equity questions. The other courts of justice were held by twenty-four judges, in different departments of the law, who presided in their scarlet robes in Westminster Hall, and who also held assizes in the different counties for the trial of criminals,--all men of great learning and personal dignity, who were held in awe, since they were the representatives of the king himself to decree judgments and punish offenders against the law. Even those barristers who pleaded at these tribunals quailed before the searching glance of these judges, who were the picked men of their great profession, whom no sophistry could deceive and no rhetoric could win,--men held in supreme honor for their exalted station as well as for their force of character and acknowledged abilities. In no other country were judges so well paid, so independent, so much feared, and so deserving of honors and dignities. And in no other country were judges armed with more power, nor were they more bland and courteous in their manners and more just in their decisions. It was something to be a judge in England.
Turning now from peers, legislators, judges, and bishops,--the men who composed the governing class,--all equally aristocratic and exclusive, let us with our traveller survey the middle class, who were neither rich nor poor, living by trade, chiefly shopkeepers, with a sprinkling of dissenting ministers, solicitors, surgeons, and manufacturers. Among these, the observer is captivated by the richness and splendor of their shops, over which were dark and dingy chambers used as residences by their plebeian occupants, except such as were rented as lodgings to visitors and men of means. These people of business were rarely ambitious of social distinction, for that was beyond their reach; but they lived comfortably, dined on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on Sunday, with tolerable sherry or port to wash it down, went to church or chapel regularly in silk or broadcloth, were good citizens, had a horror of bailiffs, could converse on what was going on in trade and even in politics to a limited extent, and generally advocated progressive and liberal sentiments,--unless some of their relatives were employed in some way or other in noble houses, in which case their loyalty to the crown and admiration of rank were excessive and amusing. They read good books when they read at all, educated their children, some of whom became governesses, travelled a little in the summer, were hospitable to their limited circle of friends, were kind and obliging, put on no airs, and were on the whole useful and worthy people, if we can not call them "respectable members of society." They were, perhaps, the happiest and most contented of all the various classes, since they were virtuous, frugal, industrious, and thought more of duties than they did of pleasures. These were the people who were soon to discuss rights rather than duties, and whom the reform movement was to turn into political enthusiasts.
Such was the bright side of the picture which a favored traveller would have seen at the close of the Napoleonic wars,--on the whole, one of external prosperity and grandeur, compared with most Continental countries; an envied civilization, the boast of liberty, for there was no regal despotism. The monarch could send no one to jail, or exile him, or cut off his head, except in accordance with law; and the laws could deprive no one of personal liberty without sufficient cause, determined by judicial tribunals.
And yet this splendid exterior was deceptive. The traveller saw only the rich or favored or well-to-do classes; there were toiling and suffering millions whom he did not see. Although the laws were made to favor the agricultural interests, yet there was distress among agricultural laborers; and the dearer the price of corn,--that is, the worse the harvests,--the more the landlords were enriched, and the more wretched were those who raised the crops. In times of scarcity, when harvests were poor, the quartern loaf sold sometimes for two shillings, when the laborer could earn on an average only six or seven shillings a week. Think of a family compelled to live on seven shillings a week, with what the wife and children could additionally earn! There was rent to pay, and coals and clothing to buy, to say nothing of a proper and varied food supply; yet all that the family could possibly earn would not pay for bread alone. And the condition of the laboring classes in the mines and the mills was still worse; for not half of them could get work at all, even at a shilling a day. The disbanding of half a million of soldiers, without any settled occupation, filled every village and hamlet with vagrants and vagabonds demoralized by war. During the war with France there had been a demand for every sort of manufactures; but the peace cut off this demand, and the factories were either closed or were running on half-time. Then there was the dreadful burden of taxation, direct and indirect, to pay the interest of a national debt swelled to the enormous amount of £800,000,000, and to meet the current expenses of the government, which were excessive and frequently unnecessary,--such as sinecures, pensions, and grants to the royal family. This debt pressed upon all classes alike, and prevented the use of all those luxuries which we now regard as necessities,--like sugar, tea, coffee, and even meat. There were import duties, almost prohibitory, on many articles which few could do without, and worst of all, on corn and all cereals. Without these it was possible for the laboring class to live, even when they earned only a shilling a day; but when these were retained to swell the income of that upper class whose glories and luxuries I have already mentioned, there was inevitable starvation.
To any kind of popular sorrow and misery, however, the government seemed indifferent; and this was followed of course by discontent and crime, riots and incendiary conflagrations, murders and highway robberies,--an incipient pandemonium, disgusting to see and horrible to think of. At the best, what dens of misery and filth and disease were the quarters of the poor, in city and country alike, especially in the coal districts and in manufacturing towns. And when these pallid, half-starved miners and operatives, begrimed with smoke and dirt, issued from their infernal hovels and gathered in crowds, threatening all sorts of violence, and dispersed only at the point of the bayonet, there was something to call out fear as well as compassion from those who lived upon their toils.
At last, good men became aroused at the injustice and wretchedness which filled every corner of the land, and sent up their petitions to Parliament for reform,--not for the mere alleviation of miseries, but for a reform in representation, so that men might be sent as legislators who would take some interest in the condition of the poor and oppressed. Yet even to these petitions the aristocratic Commons paid but little heed. The sigh of the mourner was unheard, and the tear of anguish was unnoticed by those who lived in their lordly palaces. What was desperate suffering and agitation for relief they called agrarian discontent and revolutionary excess, to be put down by the most vigorous measures the government could devise. O tempora! O mores! the Roman orator exclaimed in view of social evils which would bear no comparison with those that afflicted a large majority of the human beings who struggled for a miserable existence in the most lauded country in Europe. In their despair, well might they exclaim, "Who shall deliver us from the body of this death?"
I often wonder that the people of England were as patient and orderly as they were, under such aggravated misfortunes. In France the oppressed would probably have arisen in a burst of frenzy and wrath, and perhaps have unseated the monarch on his throne. But the English mobs erected no barricades, and used no other weapons than groans and expostulations. They did not demand rights, but bread; they were not agitators, but sufferers. Promises of relief disarmed them, and they sadly returned to their wretched homes to see no radical improvement in their condition. Their only remedy was patience, and patience without much hope. Nothing could really relieve them but returning prosperity, and that depended more on events which could not be foreseen than on legislation itself.
Such was the condition, in general terms, of high and low, rich and poor, in England in the year 1815, and I have now to show what occupied the attention of the government for the next fifteen years, during the reign of George IV. as regent and as king. But first let us take a brief review of the men prominent in the government.
Lord Liverpool was the prime minister of England for fifteen years, from 1812 (succeeding to Perceval upon the latter's assassination) to 1827. He was a man of moderate abilities, but honest and patriotic; this chief merit was in the tact by which he kept together a cabinet of conflicting political sentiments; but he lived in comparatively quiet times, when everybody wanted rest and repose, and when he had only to combat domestic evils. The lord chancellor, Lord Eldon, had been seated on the woolsack from nearly the beginning of the century, and was the "keeper of the king's conscience" for twenty-five years, enjoying his great office for a longer period than any other lord chancellor in English history. He was doubtless a very great lawyer and a man of remarkable sagacity and insight, but the narrowest and most bigoted of all the great men who controlled the destinies of the nation. He absolutely abhorred any change whatever and any kind of reform. He adhered to what was already established, and because it was established; therefore he was a good churchman and a most reliable Tory.
The most powerful man in the cabinet at this time, holding the second office in the government, that of foreign secretary, was Lord Castlereagh,--no very great scholar or orator or man of business, but an inveterate Tory, who played into the hands of all the despots of Europe, and who made captive more powerful minds than his own by the elegance of his manners, the charm of his conversation, and the intensity of his convictions. William Pitt never showed greater sagacity than when he bought the services of this gifted aristocrat (for he was then a Whig), and introduced him into Parliament. He was the most prominent minister of the crown until he died, directing foreign affairs with ability, but in the wrong direction,--the friend and ally of Metternich, Chateaubriand, Hardenberg, and the monarchs whom they represented.
But foremost in genius among the great statesmen of the day was George Canning, who, however, did not reach the summit of his ambition until the latter part of the reign of George IV. But after the death of Castlereagh in 1822, he was the leading spirit of the cabinet, holding the great office of foreign secretary, second in rank and power only to that of the premier. Although a Tory,--the follower and disciple of Pitt,--it was Canning who gave the first great blow to the narrow and selfish conservatism which marked the government of his day, and entered the first wedge which was to split the Tory ranks and inaugurate reform. For this he acquired the greatest popularity that any statesman in England ever enjoyed, if we except Fox and Pitt, and at the same time incurred the bitterest wrath which the Metternichs of the world have ever cherished toward the benefactors of mankind.
Canning was born in London, in the year 1770, in comparatively humble life,--his father being a dissipated and broken-down barrister, and his mother compelled by poverty to go upon the stage. But he had a wealthy relative who took the care of his education. In 1788 he entered Christ Church College, where he won the prize for the best Latin poem that Oxford had ever produced. After he had graduated with distinguished honors, he entered as a law student at Lincoln's Inn; but before he wore the gown of a barrister Pitt had sought him out, as he had Castlereagh, having heard of his talents in debating societies. Pitt secured him a seat in Parliament, and Canning made his first speech on the 31st of January, 1794. The aid which he brought to the ministry secured his rapid advancement. In a year after his maiden speech he was made under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, at the age of twenty-five. On the death of Pitt, in 1806, when the Whigs for a short period came into power, Canning was the recognized leader of the opposition; and in 1807, when the Tories returned to power, he became foreign secretary in the ministry of the Duke of Portland, of which Mr. Perceval was the leading member. It was then that Canning seized the Danish fleet at Copenhagen, giving as his excuse for this bold and high-handed measure that Napoleon would have taken it if he had not. It was through his influence and that of Lord Castlereagh that Sir Arthur Wellesley, afterward the Duke of Wellington, was sent to Spain to conduct the Peninsular War.
On the retirement of the Duke of Portland as head of the government in 1809, Mr. Perceval became minister,--an event soon followed by the insanity of George III. and the entrance of Robert Peel into the House of Commons. In 1812 Mr. Perceval was assassinated, and the long ministry of Lord Liverpool began, supported by all the eloquence and influence of Canning, between whom and his chief a close friendship had existed since their college days. The foreign secretaryship was offered to Canning; but he, being comparatively poor, preferred the Lisbon embassy, on the large salary of £14,000. In 1814 he became president of the Board of Control, and remained in that office until he was appointed governor-general of India. On the death of Castlereagh (1822) by his own hand, Canning resumed the post of foreign secretary, and from that time was the master spirit of the government, leader of the House of Commons, the most powerful orator of his day, and the most popular man in England. He had now become more liberal, showing a sympathy with reform, acknowledging the independence of the South American colonies, and virtually breaking up the Holy Alliance by his disapprobation of the policy of the Congress of Vienna, which aimed at the total overthrow of liberty in Europe, and which (under the guidance of Metternich and with the support of Castlereagh) had already given Norway to Sweden, the duchy of Genoa to Sardinia, restored to the Pope his ancient possessions, and made Italy what it was before the French Revolution. The most mischievous thing which the Holy Alliance had in view was interference in the internal affairs of all the Continental States, under the guise of religion. England, under the leadership of Castlereagh, would have upheld this foreign interference of Russia, Prussia, and Austria; but Canning withdrew England from this intervention,--a great service to his country and to civilization. In fact, the great principle of his political life was non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations. Hence he refused to join the great Powers in re-seating the king of Spain on his throne, from which that monarch had been temporarily ejected by a popular insurrection. But for him, the great Powers might have united with Spain to recover her lost possessions in South America. To him the peace of the world at that critical period was mainly owing. In one of his most famous speeches he closed with the oft-quoted sentence, "I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old."
Canning, like Peel,--and like Gladstone in our own time,--grew more and more liberal as he advanced in years, in experience, and in power, although he never left the Tory ranks. His commercial policy was identical with that of his friend Huskisson, which was that commerce flourished best when wholly unfettered by restrictions. He held that protection, in the abstract, was unsound and unjust; and thus he opened the way for free-trade,--the great boon which Sir Robert Peel gave to the nation under the teachings of Cobden. He also was in favor of Catholic emancipation and the repeal of the Test Act, which the Duke of Wellington was compelled against his will ultimately to give to the nation.
At the head of all this array of brilliant statesmen stood the king, or in this case the regent, who was a man of very different character from most of the ministers who served him.
It was in January, 1811, that the Prince of Wales became regent in consequence of the insanity of his father, George III.; it was during the Peninsular War, when Wellington, then Sir Arthur Wellesley, was wearing out the French in Spain. But the reign of this prince as regent is barren of great political movements. There is scarcely anything to record but riots and discontent among the lower classes, and the incendiary speeches and writings of demagogues. Measures of relief were proposed in Parliament, also for parliamentary reform and the removal of Catholic disabilities; but they were all alike opposed by the Tory government, and came to nothing. Four years after the beginning of the regency saw the overthrow of Napoleon, and the nation was so wearied of war and all great political excitement that it had sunk to inglorious repose. It was the period of reaction, of ultra conservatism, and hatred of progressive and revolutionary ideas, when such men as Cobbett and Hunt (Henry) were persecuted, fined, and imprisoned for their ideas. Cobbett, the most popular writer of the day, was forced to fly to America. Government was utterly intolerant of all political agitation, which was chiefly confined to men without social position.
But of all the magnates who were opposed to reform, the prince regent was the most obstinate. He was wholly devoted to pleasure. His court at the Carleton palace was famous for the assemblage of wits and beauties and dandies, reminding us of the epicureanism which marked Versailles during the reign of Louis XV. It was the most scandalous period in England since the times of Charles II. The life of the regent was a perpetual scandal, especially in his heartless treatment of women, and the disgraceful revels in which he indulged.
The companions of the prince were mostly dissipated and ennuied courtiers, as impersonated in that incarnation of dandyism who went by the name of Beau Brummell,--a contemptible character, who yet, it seems, was the leader of fashion, especially in dress, of which the prince himself was inordinately fond. This boon companion of royalty required two different artists to make his gloves, and he went home after the opera to change his cravat for succeeding parties. His impertinence and audacity exceeded anything ever recorded of men of fashion,--as when he requested his royal master to ring the bell. Nothing is more pitiable than his miserable end, deserted by all his friends, a helpless idiot in a lunatic asylum, having exhausted all his means. Lord Yarmouth, afterward the Marquis of Hertford, infamous for his debaucheries and extravagance, was another of the prince's companions in folly and drunkenness. So was Lord Fife, who expended £80,000 on a dancer; and a host of others, who had, however, that kind of wit which would "set the table on a roar,"--but all gamblers, drunkards, and sensualists, who gloried in the ruin of those women whom they had made victims of their pleasures.
But I pass by the revelries and follies of "the first gentleman" in the realm, as he was called, to allude to one event which has historical importance, and which occupied the attention of the whole country,--and that was the persecution of his wife, who was also his cousin, Caroline Amelia Elizabeth, daughter of the Duke of Brunswick. He drove her from the nuptial bed, and from his palace. He sought also to get a divorce, which failed by reason of the transcendent talents and eloquence of Brougham and Denman, eminent lawyers whom she employed in her defence, and which brought them out prominently before the eyes of the nation,--for the great career of Brougham, especially, began with the trial of Caroline of Brunswick, the unhappy woman whom the Prince of Wales married to get relief from his pecuniary necessities, and whom he insulted as soon as he saw her, although she was a princess of considerable accomplishments, and as amiable as she was beneficent. The only palliation of his infamous treatment of this woman was that he never loved her, and was even disgusted with her. No sooner was the marriage solemnized, than she was treated on every occasion with studied contumely, and scarcely had she recovered from illness incident to the birth of the Princess Charlotte, when the "first gentleman of the age" was pleased to intimate that it suited his disposition that they should hereafter live apart. Never allowed to be crowned as queen, driven from the shelter of her husband's roof, surrounded with spies, accused of crimes of which there was no proof, even excluded from the public prayers, and finally forced into exile, she sank under her accumulated wrongs, and was carried off by a fatal illness at the age of fifty-three.
On the death of the old king in 1820, the Prince of Wales became George IV., after having been regent for nine years. As he was inflexibly opposed to all reforms, no great measures had been carried through Parliament except from urgent necessity and fear of revolution. But the State was being prepared for reforms in the next reign. In 1820 the agitation, which finally ended in the Reform Bill, set in with great earnestness. Henry Brougham had become a great power in the House of Commons, and poured out the vials of his wrath on the Tory government. Lord John Russell busily employed himself in forging the weapons by which he, more than any other man, afterward broke the power of the Tories. The voice of Wilberforce was also heard in demanding the abolition of negro slavery. Romilly was advocating a reform in criminal law. Macaulay was making those brilliant speeches which would have elevated him to the highest rank among debaters had he not cherished other ambitions.
The only things which stand out as memorable and of political importance in this reign were a change in the foreign policy of England, the discontents and agitations of the people, the removal of Catholic disabilities, and the repeal of the Test Acts.
On the first I shall not dwell, since I have already alluded to it as the great work of Canning. As foreign minister he divorced England from the Holy Alliance, and insisted on maintaining non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, and a peace policy which raised his country to the highest pinnacle of power she ever attained, and brought about a development of wealth and industry entirely unprecedented. Had he lived he would have carried out those reforms that later were the glory of Lord John Russell and Sir Robert Peel, for he was emancipated from the ideas which made the Tories obnoxious. His spirit was liberal and progressive, and hence he incurred bitter hostilities. The government, however, could not be carried on without him, and the king was forced unwillingly to accept him as minister. His magnificent services as foreign secretary had mollified the hostilities of George IV., who became anxious to retain him in power at the head of the foreign department, after the retirement of Lord Liverpool. But Canning felt that the premiership was his due, and would accept nothing short of it, and the king was forced to give it to him in spite of the howl of the Tory leaders. He enjoyed that dignity, however, but two months, being worn out with labors, and embittered by the hostilities of his political enemies, who hounded him to death with the most cruel and unrelenting hatred. His sensitive and proud nature could not stand before such unjust attacks and savage calumnies. He rapidly sank, in the prime of his life and in the height of his fame. Canning's death in 1827 was a marked event in the reign of George IV.; it filled England with mourning, and never was grief for a departed statesman more sincere and profound. He was buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey. The sculptor Chantry was intrusted with the execution of his statue,--a memorial which he did not need, for his fame is imperishable. The day after the funeral his wife was made a peeress, an annuity was granted to his sons, and every honor that it was possible for a grateful nation to bestow was lavished on his memory.
Canning left only £20,000,--a less sum than he had received from his wife upon his marriage. His domestic life was singularly happy. He was also happy in the brilliant promises of his sons, one of whom became governor-general of India, and was created a peer for his services. His only daughter married the Marquis of Clanricarde. His children thus entered the ranks of the nobility,--a distinction which he himself did not covet. It was his chief ambition to rule the nation through the House of Commons.
Some authorities have regarded Canning as the greatest of English parliamentary orators; but his speeches to me are disappointing, although elaborate, argumentative, logical, and full of fancy and wit. They were too rhetorical to suit the taste of Lord Brougham. Rhetorical exhibitions, however brilliant, are not those which posterity most highly value, and lose their charm when the occasions which produced them have passed away. Canning's presence was commanding and dignified, his articulation delicate and precise, his voice clear and musical; while the curl of his lip and the glance of his eye would silence almost any antagonist. In cabinet meetings he was habitually silent, having already made up his mind. He could not gracefully bear contradiction, and made many enemies by his pride and sarcasm. In private life he was courteous and gentlemanly, fond of society, but fonder of domestic life, pure in his moral character, devoted to his family,--especially to his mother, whom he treated with extraordinary deference and affection.
The next subject of historical importance in the reign of George IV. was the perpetual agitation among the people growing out of their misery and discontent. There were no great insurrections to overturn the throne, as in Spain and Italy and France; but there was a fierce demand for the removal of evils which were intolerable; and this was manifested in monster petitions to Parliament, in incendiary speeches like those made by "Orator Hunt" and other agitators, in such political tracts as Cobbett wrote and circulated in every corner of the land, in occasional uprisings among agricultural laborers and factory operatives, in angry mobs destroying private property,--all impelled by hunger and despair. To these discontents and angry uprisings the government was haughty and cold, looking upon them as revolutionary and dangerous, and putting them down by sheriffs and soldiers, by coercion bills and the suspension of the Act of habeas corpus. Some speeches were made in Parliament in favor of education, and some efforts in behalf of law reforms,--especially the removal of the death penalty for small offences, more than two hundred of which were punishable with death. Numerous were the instances where men and boys were condemned to the gallows for stealing a coat or shooting a hare; but the sentences of judges were often not enforced when unusually severe or unjust. Moreover, large charities were voted for the poor, but without materially relieving the general distress.
On the whole, however, the country increased in wealth and prosperity in consequence of the long and uninterrupted peace; and the only great drawback was the mercantile crisis of 1825, resulting from the mania of speculation, and followed by the contraction of the currency,--the effect of which was the failure of banks and the ruin of thousands who had calculated on being suddenly enriched. Alison estimates the shrinkage of property in Great Britain alone as at least £100,000,000. Men worth £100,000 could not at one time raise £100. The banks were utterly drained of gold and silver. Nothing prevented universal bankruptcy but the issue of small bills by the Bank of England. There was a lull of political excitement after the trial of Queen Caroline, and Parliament confined itself chiefly to legal, economical, and commercial questions; although occasionally there were grand debates on the foreign policy, on Catholic emancipation, and on the disfranchisement of corrupt boroughs. Ireland obtained considerable parliamentary attention, owing to the failure of the potato crop and its attendant agricultural distress, which produced a state bordering on rebellion, and to the formation of the Catholic Association.
But the great event in the political history of England during the reign of George IV. was unquestionably the removal of Catholic disabilities,--ranking next in importance and interest with the Reform Bill and the repeal of the Corn Laws. Catholic disability had existed ever since the reign of Elizabeth, and was the standing injustice under which Ireland labored. Catholic peers were not admitted to the House of Lords, nor Catholics to a seat in the House of Commons,--which was a condition of extremely unequal representation. In reality, only the Protestants were represented in Parliament, and they composed only about one tenth of the whole population.
In addition to this injustice, the Irish, who were mostly Roman Catholics, were ground down by such oppressive laws that they were really serfs to those landlords who owned the soil on which they toiled for a mere pittance,--about fourpence a day,--resulting in a general poverty such as has never before been seen in any European country, with its attendant misery and crime. The miserable Irish peasantry lived in mud huts or cabins, covered partially with thatch, but not enough to keep out the rain. No furniture and no comforts were to be seen in these huts. There were no chairs or tables, only a sort of dresser for laying a plate upon; no cooking utensils but a cast-metal pot to boil potatoes,--almost the only food. There were no bedsteads, and but few blankets. The people slept in their clothes, the whole family generally in one room,--the only room in the cabin. For fuel they burned peat. In order to pay their rent, they sold their pigs. Beggars infested every road and filled every village. No one was certain of employment, even at twopence a day. Everybody was controlled by the priests, whose power rested on their ability to stimulate religious fears, and who were supported by such contributions as they were able to extort from the superstitious and ignorant people,--by nature brave and generous and joyous, but improvident and reckless. It was the wonder of O'Connell how they could remain cheerful amid such privations and such wrongs, with the government seemingly indifferent, with none to pity and few to help. Nor could they vote for the candidates for any office whatever unless they had freeholds, or life-rent possessions, for which they paid a rent of forty shillings. The landlords of this wretched tenantry, unable to face the misery they saw and which they could not relieve, or fearful of assassination, left the country to spend their incomes in the great cities of Europe, not being united with their people by any ties, social or religious.
What wonder that such a wretched people, urged by the priests, should form associations for their own relief, especially when famine pressed and landlords exacted the uttermost farthing,--when the crimes to which they were impelled by starvation were punished with the most inexorable severity by Protestant magistrates in whose appointment they had no hand!
The result was the rise of the Catholic Association, the declared object of which was to forward petitions to Parliament, to support an independent Press, to aid emigration to America,--all worthy, and unobjectionable on the surface, but with the real intent (as affirmed by the Tories and believed by a large majority of the nation) of securing the control of elections, of bringing about the repeal of the Union with England (which, enacted in 1801, had done away with the separate Irish parliament), the resumption of the Church property by the Catholic clergy, and the restoration of the Catholic faith as the dominant religion of the land. Such an Association, embracing most of the Roman Catholic population, was regarded with great alarm by the government; and they determined to put it down as seditious and dangerous, against the expostulation of such men as Brougham, Mackintosh, and Sir Henry Parnell. Then arose the great figure of O'Connell in the history of Ireland (whose eloquence, tact, and ability have no parallel in that country of orators), defending the cause of his countrymen with masterly power, leading them like a second Moses according to his will,--in fact, uniting them in a movement which it was hopeless to oppose except with an army bent on the depopulation of the country; so that George IV. is reported to have said, with considerable bitterness, "Canning is king of England, O'Connell is king of Ireland, and I am Dean of Windsor."
Such, however, was the hostility of Parliament to the Irish Catholics that a bill was carried by a great majority in both Houses to suppress the Association, supported powerfully by the Duke of York as well as by the ministers of the crown, even by Canning himself and Sir Robert Peel.
Then followed renewed disturbances, riots, and murders; for the condition of the Roman Catholics in Ireland was desperate as well as gloomy. The Association was dissolved, for O'Connell would do nothing unlawful; but a new one took its place, which preached peace and unity, but which meant the repeal of the Union,--the grand object that from first to last O'Connell had at heart. Of course, this scheme was utterly impracticable without a revolution that would shake England to its centre; but it was followed by an immense emigration to America,--so great that the population of Ireland declined from eight and a half to four and a half millions. The Irish Catholics, however, were comparatively quiet during the administration of Mr. Canning, whose liberal tendencies had given them hope; but on his death they became more restive. The coalition ministry under Lord Goderich was much embarrassed how to act, or was too feeble to act with vigor,--not for want of individual abilities, but by reason of dissensions among the ministers. It lasted only a short time, and was succeeded by that of the Duke of Wellington, with Sir Robert Peel for his lieutenant; both of whom had shown an intense prejudice and dislike of the Irish Catholics, and had voted uniformly for their repression. On the return of the Tories to power, the Irish disturbances were renewed and increased. Hitherto the landlords had directed the votes of their tenantry,--the forty-shilling freeholders; but now the elections were determined by the direction of the Catholic Association, which was controlled by the priests, and by O'Connell and his associates. In addition, O'Connell himself was elected to represent in the English Parliament the County of Clare, against the whole weight of the government,--which was a bitter pill for the Tories to swallow, especially as the great agitator declared his intention to take his seat without submitting to the customary oath. It was in reality a defiance of the government, backed by the whole Irish nation. The Catholics became so threatening, they came together so often and in such enormous masses, that the nation was thoroughly alarmed. The king and a majority of his ministers urged the most violent coercive measures, even to the suspension of habeas corpus.
O'Connell was not admitted to Parliament; but his case precipitated an intense turmoil, which settled the question forever; for then the great general who had defeated Napoleon, and was the idol of the nation, seeing the difficulties of coercion as no other statesman did, and influenced by Sir Robert Peel (for whom he had unbounded respect), made one of his masterly retreats, by which he averted revolution and bloodshed. Wellington hated the Catholics, and was a most loyal member of the Church of England; moreover, he was a Tory and an ultra-conservative. But at last even his eyes were opened, not to the injustices and wrongs which ground Ireland to the dust, but to the necessity of conciliation. Like Peel, he could face facts; and when his path was clear he would walk therein, whatever kings or ministers or peers or people might think or say. He resolved to emancipate the Catholics, as Sir Robert Peel afterward repealed the Corn Laws, against all his antecedents and affiliations and sympathies, and more than all against the declared wishes and resolutions of the monarch whom he nominally served, yet whom he controlled by his iron will. Sir Robert Peel, as obstinate a Tory as his chief, had been for some time convinced of the necessity of conciliation, and at once resigned his seat as the representative of Oxford University, which he felt he could no longer honorably hold. In March, 1829, he brought forward his bill for the removal of Catholic disabilities, which was read the third time, and passed the Commons by a majority of 178. In the House of Peers, it was carried by a majority of 104,--so great was the influence of Wellington and Peel, so impressed at last were both Houses of the necessity for the measure.
The difficulty now was to obtain the signature of the king, although he had promised it as the probable alternative of revolution,--a great State necessity, which his ministers had made him at last perceive, but to which he reluctantly yielded. He was somewhat in the position of Pope Clement XIV. when obliged, against his will and against the interests of the Catholic Church, to sign the bull for the revocation of the charter of the Jesuits. Compulsus feci! compulsus feci! he exclaimed, with mental agony. George IV. could have said the same. He procrastinated; he lay all day in bed to avoid seeing his ministers; he talked of his feelings; he threatened to abdicate, and go to Hanover; he would not violate his conscience; he would be faithful to the traditions of his house and the memory of his father,--and so on, until the patience of Wellington and Peel was exhausted, and they told him he must sign the bill at once, or they would immediately resign. "The king could no longer wriggle off the hook," and surrendered. O'Connell was instantly re-elected, and took his seat in Parliament,--a position which he occupied for the rest of his life. George IV. was the last of the monarchs of England who attempted to rule by personal government. Henceforward the monarch's duty was simply to register the decrees of Parliament.
But the admission of Catholics to Parliament did not heal the disorders of Ireland as had been hoped. The Irish clamored for still greater privileges. The cry for repeal of the Union succeeded that for the removal of disabilities. Their poverty and miseries remained, while their monster meetings continued to shake the kingdom to its centre.
The historical importance of Catholic emancipation consists in this,--that it was the first great victory over the aristocratic powers of the empire, and was an entrance wedge to the reform of Parliament effected in the next reign. It threw forty or fifty members of the House of Commons into the ranks of opposition to the Tory side, which with a few brief intervals had governed England for a century. "The reform movement was the child of Catholic agitation; the anti-corn law league that of the triumph of reform." Brougham was the legitimate successor of O'Connell. A foresight of such consequences was the real cause of the movement being so bitterly opposed by the king and Lord Eldon. It was not jealousy of the Catholics that moved them,--that was only the pretence; it was really fear of the blow aimed against Toryism. They had sagacity enough to see the inevitable result,--the advancing power of the Liberal party, and the impossibility of longer ruling the country without ceding privileges to the people. The repeal of the Test Act by the previous administration, which removed the disabilities of Dissenters from the Established Church to hold public office, was only another act in the great drama of national development which was to give ascendency to the middle class in matters of legislation, rather than to the favored classes who had hitherto ruled. The movement was political and not religious, whatever might be the hatred of the Tories for both Catholics and Dissenters.
Nothing further of political importance marked the administration of the Duke of Wellington except the increasing agitations for parliamentary reform, which will be hereafter considered. Wellington was elevated to his exalted post from the influence and popularity which followed his military achievements. His fame, like that of General Grant, rests on his military and not on his civil services, although his great experience as a diplomatist and general made him far from contemptible as a statesman. It was his misfortune to hold the helm of state in stormy times, amid riots, agitations, insurrections, and party dissensions, amid famines and public distresses of every kind; when England was going through a transition state, when there was every shade of opinion among political leaders. The duke, like Canning before him, was isolated, and felt the need of a friend. He was not like a commander-in-chief surrounded with a band of devoted generals, but with ministers held together by a rope of sand. He had no real colleagues in his cabinet, and no party in the House of Commons. The chief troubles in England were financial rather than political, and he had no head for finance like Huskisson and Sir Robert Peel.
In the midst of the difficulties with which the great duke had to contend, George IV. died, June 26, 1830. He was in his latter days a great sufferer from the gout and other diseases brought about by the debaucheries of his earlier days; and he was a disenchanted man, living long enough to see how frail were the supports on which he had leaned,--friends, pleasures, and exalted rank.
All authorities are agreed as to the character of George IV., though some in their immeasurable contempt have painted him worse than he really was, like Brougham and Thackeray. All are agreed that he was selfish and pleasure-seeking in his ordinary life, though courteous in his manners and kind to those who shared his revels. As dissipated habits obtained the mastery over him, and the unbounded flattery of his boon companions stultified his conscience, he became heartless and even brutal. He was proud and overbearing; was fond of pomp and ceremony, and ultra-conservative in all his political views. He was outrageously extravagant and reckless in his expenditures, and then appealed to Parliament to pay his debts. He liked to visit his favorites, and received visits from them in return so long as his physical forces remained; but when these were hopelessly undermined by self-indulgence, he buried himself in his palaces, and rarely appeared in public. Indeed, in his latter days he shunned the sight of the people altogether. His character appears better in his letters than in the verdicts of historians. Those written to his Chancellor Eldon, to the Duke of Wellington, to Lord Liverpool, to Sir William Knighton, keeper of the privy purse, and others, show great cordiality, frankness, and the utter absence of the stiffness and pride incident to his high rank. They abound in expressions of kindness and even affection, whether sincere or not. They are all well written, and would do credit, from a literary point of view, to any private person. His talents and conversation, his wit and repartee, and his felicitous description of character are undeniable. He is said to have had the talent of telling stories to perfection. His powers of mimicry were remarkable, and he was fond of singing songs at his banquets. Had he been simply a private person or an ordinary nobleman, he would have been far from contemptible.
The latter days of George IV. were sad, and for a king he was left comparatively alone. He had neither wife nor children to lean upon and to cheer him,--only mercenary courtiers and physicians. His tastes were refined, his manners affable, and his conversation interesting. He was intelligent, sagacious, and well-informed; yet no English monarch was ever more cordially despised. The governing principle of his life was a love of ease and pleasure, which made him negligent of his duties; and there never yet lived a man, however exalted his sphere, who had not imperative duties to perform, without the performance of which his life was a failure and a reproach. So it was with this unhappy king, who died like Louis XV. without any one to mourn his departure; and a new king reigned in his stead.
And yet the reign of the fourth George as king was marked by returning national prosperity,--owing not to the efforts of statesmen and legislators, but to the marvellous spread of commerce and manufactures, resulting from the establishment of peace, thus opening a market for British goods in all parts of the world.
This period of the fourth George's rule, as regent and king, was also remarkable for the appearance of men of genius in all departments of human thought and action. As the lights of a former generation sank beneath the horizon, other stars arose of increased brilliancy. In poetry alone, Byron, Scott, Rogers, Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, Moore, Campbell, Keats, would have made the age illustrious,--a constellation such as has not since appeared. In fiction, Sir Walter Scott introduced a new era, soon followed by Bulwer, Dickens, and Thackeray. In the law there were Brougham, Eldon, Lyndhurst, Ellenborough, Denman, Plunkett, Erskine, Wetherell,--all men of the first class. In medicine and surgery were Abernethy, Cooper, Holland. In the Church were Parr, Clarke, Hampden, Scott, Sumner, Hall, Arnold, Irving, Chalmers, Heber, Whately, Newman. Sir Humphry Davy was presiding at the Royal Society, and Sir Thomas Lawrence at the Royal Academy. Herschel was discovering planets. Bell was lecturing at the new London University, and Dugald Stewart in the University of Edinburgh. Captain Ross was exploring the Northern Seas, and Lander the wilds of Africa. Lancaster was founding a new system of education; Bentham and Ricardo were unravelling the tangled web of political economy; Hallam, Lingard, Mitford, Mills, were writing history; Macaulay, Carlyle, Smith, Lockhart, Jeffrey, Hazlitt, were giving a new stimulus to periodical literature; while Miss Edgeworth, Jane Porter, Mrs. Hemans, were entering the field of literature as critics, poets, and novelists, instead of putting their inspired thoughts into letters, as bright women did one hundred years before. Into everything there were found some to cast their searching glances, creating an intellectual activity without previous precedent, if we except the great theological discussions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Even shopkeepers began to read and think, and in their dingy quarters were stirred to discuss their rights; while William Cobbett aroused a still lower class to political activity by his matchless style. All philanthropic, educational, and religious movements received a wonderful stimulus; while improvements in the use of steam, mechanical inventions, chemical developments and scientific discoveries, were rapidly changing the whole material condition of mankind.
In 1820, when the regent became George IV., a new era opened in English history, most observable in those popular agitations which ushered in reforms under his successor William IV. These it will be my object to present in another volume.
Croly's Life of George IV.; Thackeray's Four Georges; Annual Register; Life of the Duke of Wellington; Life of Canning; Life of Lord Liverpool; Life of Lord Brougham; Miss Martineau's History of England; Life of Mackintosh; Life of Sir Robert Peel; Alison's History of Europe; Life of Lord Eldon; Life of O'Connell; Molesworth's History of England.
When Napoleon was sent to St. Helena, the European nations breathed more freely, and it was the general expectation and desire that there would be no more wars. The civilized world was weary of strife and battlefields, and in the reaction which followed the general peace of 1815, the various States settled down into a state of dreamy repose. Not only were they weary of war, but they hated the agitation of those ideas which led to discontent and revolution. The policy of the governments of England, France, Germany, and Russia was pacific and conservative. There was a universal desire to recover wasted energies and develop national resources. Visions of military glory passed away for a time with the enjoyment of peace. Nations reflected on their follies, and resolved to beat their swords into ploughshares.
Then began a period of philanthropy as well as of rest and reaction. Societies were organized, especially in England, to spread the Bible in all lands, to send missionaries to the heathen, and proclaim peace and good-will to all mankind, A new era seemed to dawn upon the world, marked by a desire to cultivate the arts, sciences, and literature; to develop industries, and improve social conditions. War was seen to be barbaric, demoralizing, and exhausting. Peace was hailed with an enthusiasm scarcely less than that which for twenty years had created military heroes. The Holy Alliance was not hypocritical. Although a political compact made under a religious pretext, it was formed by monarchs deeply impressed by the horrors of war, and by the necessity of establishing a new basis for the happiness of mankind on the principles of Christianity, when peace should be the law of nations; at the same time it was formed no less to suppress those ideas which it was supposed led logically to rebellions and revolutions, and to disturb the reign of law, the security of established institutions, and the peaceful pursuit of ordinary avocations. This was the view taken by the Czar Alexander, by Frederick William of Prussia, by Francis I. of Austria, by Louis XVIII. of France, as well as by leading statesmen like Talleyrand, Nesselrode, Hardenberg, Chateaubriand, Metternich, Wellington, and Castlereagh.
But these views were delusive. The world was simply weary of fighting; it was not impressed with a sense of the wickedness, but only of the inexpediency of war, except in case of great national dangers, or to gain what is dearest to enlightened people,--personal liberty and constitutional government.
Consequently, scarcely five years passed away after the fall of Napoleon before Europe was again disturbed by revolutionary passions. There were no international wars. On the whole, England, France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria put aside ambitious designs of further aggrandizement, and were disposed to keep peace with one another; and this desire lasted for a whole generation. But there were other countries in which the flames of insurrection broke out. The Spanish colonies of South America were impatient of the yoke of the mother country, and sought national independence, which they gained after a severe struggle. The disaffection in view of royal despotism reached Spain itself, and a revolution in that country dethroned the Bourbon king, and was suppressed only by the aid of France. All Italy was convulsed by revolutionary ideas and passions growing out of the cruel despotism exercised by the various potentates who ruled that fair but unhappy country. Insurrections were violent in Naples, in Piedmont, and in the papal territories, and were put down not by Italian princes, but by Austrian bayonets. As it is my design to present these in another lecture, I simply allude to them in this connection.
But the most important revolution which occurred at this period, taking into view its ultimate consequences and its various complications, was that of Greece. It was different from those of Spain and Italy in this respect, that it was a struggle not to gain political rights from oppressive rulers, but to secure national independence. As such, it is invested with great interest. Moreover, it was glorious, since it was ultimately successful, after a dreadful contest with Turkey for seven years, during which half of the population was swept away. Greece probably would have succumbed to a powerful empire but for the aid tardily rendered her by foreign Powers,--united in this instance, not to suppress rebellion, but to rescue a noble and gallant people from a cruel despotism.
Had the armed intervention of Russia, England, and France taken place at an earlier period, much suffering and bloodshed might have been averted. But Russia was fettered by the Holy Alliance to suppress all insurrection and attempts at constitutional liberty wherever they might take place, and could not, consistently with the promises given to Austria and Prussia, join in an armed intervention, even in a matter dear to the heart of Alexander, whose religion was that of Greece. The Czar was placed in an awkward position. If he gave assistance to the Greeks, whose religious faith was the same as his own and whose foe was also the traditionary enemy of Russia, he would violate his promises, which he always held sacred, and give umbrage to Austria. The intolerant hatred of Alexander for all insurrections whatever induced him to stand aloof from a contest which jeoparded the stability of thrones, and with which in a political view, as an absolute sovereign, he had no sympathy. On the other hand, if Alexander remained neutral, his faith would be trodden under foot, and that by a power which he detested both politically and religiously,--a power, too, with which Russia had often been at war. If Turkey triumphed in the contest, rebels against a long-constituted authority might indeed be put down; but a hostile power would be strengthened, dangerous to all schemes of Russian aggrandizement. Consequently Alexander was undecided in his policy; yet his indecision tore his mind with anguish, and probably shortened his days. He was, on the whole, a good man; but he was a despot, and did not really know what to do. England and France, again, were weakened by the long wars of Napoleon, and wanted repose. Their sympathies were with the Greeks; but they shielded themselves behind the principles of non-intervention, which were the public law of Europe.
So the poor Greeks were left for six years to struggle alone and unaided against the whole force of the Turkish empire before relief came, when they were on the verge of annihilation. It was the struggle of a little country about half the size of Scotland against an empire four times as large as Great Britain and France combined; of a population less than a million against twenty-five millions. It was more than this: it was, in many important respects, a war between Asia and Europe, kindred in spirit with the old Crusades. It was a war of races and religions, rather than of political principles; and hence it was marked by inhuman atrocities on both sides, reminding us of the old wars between Jews and Syrians. It was a tragedy at which the whole civilized world gazed with blended interest and horror. It was infinitely more fierce than any contest which has taken place in Europe for three hundred years. To the Greeks themselves it was, after the first successes, the most discouraging contest that I know of in human history; and yet it had all those elements of heroism which marked the insurrection of the Hollanders under William the Silent against the combined forces of Austria and Spain. It was grand in its ideas, like our own Revolutionary War; and the liberty which was finally gained was purchased by greater sacrifices than any recorded in any war, either ancient or modern. The war of Italian independence was a mere holiday demonstration in comparison with it. Even the Polish wars against Russia were nothing to it, in the sufferings which were endured and the gallant feats which were performed.
But as Greece was a small and distant country, its memorable contest was not invested with the interest felt for battles on a larger scale, and which more directly affected the interests of other nations. It was not till its complications involved Turkey and Russia in war, and affected the whole "Eastern Question," that its historical importance was seen. It was perhaps only the beginning of a series of wars which may drive the Ottoman Turks out of Europe, and make Constantinople a great prize for future conquerors.
That is unquestionably what Russia wants and covets to-day, and what the other great Powers are determined she shall not have. Possibly Greece may yet be the renewed seat of a Greek empire, under the protection of the Western nations, as a barrier to Russian encroachments around the Black Sea. There is sympathy for the Greeks; none for the Turks. England, France, and Austria can form no lasting alliance with Mohammedans, who may be driven back into Asia,--not by Russians, but by a coalition of the Latin and Gothic races.
It is useless, however, to speculate on the future wars of the world. We only know that offences must needs come so long as nations and rulers are governed more by interests and passions than by reason or philanthropy. When will passions and interests cease to be dominant or disturbing forces? To these most of the wars which history records are to be traced. And yet, whatever may be the origin or character of wars, those who stimulate or engage in them find plausible excuses,--necessity, patriotism, expediency, self-defence, even religion and liberty. So long then as men are blinded by their passions and interests, and palliate or justify their wars by either truth or sophistry, there is but little hope that they will cease, even with the advance of civilization. When has there been a long period unmarked by war? When have wars been more destructive and terrible than within the memory of this generation? It would indeed seem that when nations shall learn that their real interests are not antagonistic, that they cannot afford to go to war with one another, peace would then prevail as a policy not less than as a principle. This is the hopeful view to take; but unfortunately it is not the lesson taught by history, nor by that philosophy which has been generally accepted by Christendom for eighteen hundred years,--which is that men will not be governed by the loftiest principles until the religion of Jesus shall have conquered and changed the heart of the world, or at least of those who rule the world.
The chapter I am about to present is one of war,--cruel, merciless, relentless war; therefore repulsive, and only interesting from the magnitude of the issues, fought out, indeed, on a narrow strip of territory. What matter, whether the battlefield is large or small? There was as much heroism in the struggles of the Dutch republic as in the wars of Napoleon; as much in our warfare for independence as in the suppression of the Southern rebellion; as much among Cromwell's soldiers as in the Crimean war; as much at Thermopylae as at Plataea. It is the greatness of a cause which gives to war its only justification. A cause is sacred from the dignity of its principles. Men are nothing; principles are everything. Men must die. It is of comparatively little moment whether they fall like autumn leaves or perish in a storm,--they are alike forgotten; but their ideas and virtues are imperishable, --eternal lessons for successive generations. History is a record not merely of human sufferings,--these are inevitable,--but also of the stepping-stones of progress, which indicate both the permanent welfare of men and the Divine hand which mysteriously but really guides and governs.
When the Greek revolution broke out, in 1820, there were about seven hundred thousand people inhabiting a little over twenty-one thousand square miles of territory, with a revenue of about fifteen millions of dollars,--large for such a country of mountains and valleys. But the soil is fertile and the climate propitious, favorable for grapes, olives, and maize. It is a country easily defended, with its steep mountains, its deep ravines, and rugged cliffs, and when as at that time roads were almost impassable for carriages and artillery. Its people have always been celebrated for bravery, industry, and frugality (like the Swiss), but prone to jealousies and party feuds. It had in 1820 no central government, no great capital, and no regular army. It owed allegiance to the Sultan at Constantinople, the Turks having conquered Greece soon after that city was taken by them in 1453.
Amid all the severities of Turkish rule for four centuries the Greeks maintained their religion, their language, and distinctive manners. In some places they were highly prosperous from commerce, which they engrossed along the whole coast of the Levant and among the islands of the Archipelago. They had six hundred vessels, bearing six thousand guns, and manned by eighteen thousand seamen. In their beautiful islands,--"Where burning Sappho loved and sung,"--
abodes of industry and freedom, the Turkish pashas never set their foot, satisfied with the tribute which was punctually paid to the Sultan. Moreover, these islands were nurseries of seamen for the Turkish navy; and as these seamen were indispensable to the Sultan, the country that produced them was kindly treated. The Turks were indifferent to commerce, and allowed the Greek merchants to get rich, provided they paid their tribute. The Turks cared only for war and pleasure, and spent their time in alternate excitement and lazy repose. They disdained labor, which they bought with tribute-money or secured from slaves taken in war. Like the Romans, they were warriors and conquerors, but became enervated by luxury. They were hard masters, but their conquered subjects throve by commerce and industry.
The Greeks, as to character, were not religious like the Turks, but quicker witted. What religion they had was made up of the ceremonies and pomps of a corrupted Christianity, but kept alive by traditions. Their patriarch was a great personage,--practically appointed, however, by the Sultan, and resident in Constantinople. Their clergy were married, and were more humane and liberal than the Roman Catholic priests of Italy, and about on a par with them in morals and influence. The Greeks were always inquisitive and fond of knowledge, but their love of liberty has been one of their strongest peculiarities, kept alive amid all the oppressions to which they have been subjected. Nevertheless, unarmed, at least on the mainland, and without fortresses, few in numbers, with overwhelming foes, they had not, up to 1820, dared to risk a general rebellion, for fear that they should be mercilessly slaughtered. So long as they remained at peace their condition as a conquered people was not so bad as it might have been, although the oppressions of tax-gatherers and the brutality of Turkish officials had been growing more and more intolerable. In 1770 and 1790 there had been local and unsuccessful attempts at revolt, but nothing of importance.
Amid the political agitations which threw Spain and Italy into revolution, however, the spirit of liberty revived among the hardy Greek mountaineers of the mainland. Secret societies were formed, with a view of shaking off the Turkish yoke. The aspiring and the discontented naturally cast their eyes to Russia for aid, since there was a religious bond between the Russians and the Greeks, and since the Russians and Turks were mortal enemies, and since, moreover, they were encouraged to hope for such aid by a great Russian nobleman, by birth a Greek, who was private secretary and minister, as well as an intimate, of the Emperor Alexander,--Count Capo d'Istrias. They were also exasperated by the cession of Parga (a town on the mainland opposite the Ionian Islands) to the Turks, by the treaty of 1815, which the allies carelessly overlooked.
The flame of insurrection in 1820 did not, however, first break out in the territory of Greece, but in Wallachia,--a Turkish province on the north of the Danube, governed by a Greek hospodar, the capital of which was Bucharest. This was followed by the revolt of another Turkish province, Moldavia, bordering on Russia, from which it was separated by the River Pruth. At Jassy, the capital, Prince Ypsilanti, a distinguished Russian general descended from an illustrious Greek family, raised the standard of insurrection, to which flocked the whole Christian population of the province, who fell upon the Turkish soldiers and massacred them. Ypsilanti had twenty thousand soldiers under his command, against which the six hundred armed Turks could make but feeble resistance. This apparently successful revolt produced an immense enthusiasm throughout Greece, the inhabitants of which now eagerly took up arms. The Greeks had been assured of the aid of Russia by Ypsilanti, who counted without his host, however; for the Czar, then at the Congress of Laibach, convened to put down revolutionary ideas, was extremely angry at the conduct of Ypsilanti, and, against all expectation, stood aloof. This was the time for him to attack Turkey, then weakened and dilapidated; but he was tired of war. Among the Greeks the wildest enthusiasm prevailed, especially throughout the Morea, the ancient Peloponnesus. The peasants everywhere gathered around their chieftains, and drove away the Turkish soldiers, inflicting on them the grossest barbarities. In a few days the Turks possessed nothing in the Morea but their fortresses. The Turkish garrison of Athens shut itself up in the Acropolis. Most of the islands of the Archipelago hoisted the standard of the Cross; and the strongest of them armed and sent out cruisers to prey on the commerce of the enemy.
At Constantinople the news of the insurrection excited both consternation and rage. Instant death to the Christians was the universal cry. The Mussulmans seized the Greek patriarch, an old man of eighty, while he was performing a religious service on Easter Sunday, hanged him, and delivered his body to the Jews. The Sultan Mahmoud was intensely exasperated, and ordered a levy of troops throughout his empire to suppress the insurrection and to punish the Christians. The atrocities which the Turks now inflicted have scarcely ever been equalled in horror. The Christian churches were entered and sacked. At Adrianople the Patriarch was beheaded, with eight other ecclesiastical dignitaries. In ten days thousands of Christians in that city were butchered, and their wives and daughters sold into slavery; while five archbishops and three bishops were hanged in the streets, without trial. There was scarcely a town in the empire where atrocities of the most repulsive kind were not perpetrated on innocent and helpless people. In Asia Minor the fanatical spirit raged with more ferocity than in European Turkey. At Smyrna a general massacre of the Christians took place under circumstances of peculiar atrocity, and fifteen thousand were obliged to flee to the islands of the Archipelago to save their lives. The Island of Cyprus, which once had a population of more than a million, reduced at the breaking out of the insurrection to seventy thousand, was nearly depopulated; the archbishop and five other bishops were ruthlessly murdered. The whole island, one hundred and forty-six miles long and sixty-three wide, was converted into a theatre of rapine, violation, and bloodshed.
All now saw that no hope remained for Greece but in the most determined resistance, which was nobly made. Six thousand men were soon in arms in Thessaly. The mountaineers of Macedonia gathered into armed bands. Thirty thousand rose in the peninsula of Cassandra and laid siege to Salonica, a city of eighty thousand inhabitants, but were repulsed, and fled to the mountains,--not, however, until thousands of Mussulmans were slain. It had become "war to the knife, and the knife to the hilt." No quarter was asked or given.
All Greece was now aroused to what was universally felt to be a death struggle. The people eagerly responded to all patriotic influences, and especially to war songs, some of which had been sung for more than two thousand years. Certain of these were reproduced by the English poet Byron, who, leaving his native land, entered heart and soul into the desperate contest, and urged the Greeks to heroic action in memory of their fathers."Then manfully despising
Success now seemed to mark the uprising in Southern Greece; but in the Danubian provinces, without the expected aid of Russia, it was far otherwise. Prince Ypsilanti, who had taken an active part in the insurrection, was dismissed from the Russian service and summoned back to Russia; but he was not discouraged, and advanced to Bucharest with ten thousand men. In the mean time ten thousand Turks entered the Principalities and regained Moldavia. Ypsilanti fled before the conquering enemy, abandoned Bucharest, and was totally defeated at Dragaschan, with the loss of all his baggage and ammunition. Only twenty-five of his hastily collected band escaped into Transylvania.
The intelligence of this disaster would have disheartened the Greeks but for their naval successes among the islands of the Archipelago. Hydra, Ipsara, and Samos equipped a flotilla which drove the Turkish fleet back to the Dardanelles with immense losses. The Greeks having now the command of the sea, made successful incursions, and hoisted their flag at Missolonghi, which they easily fortified, it being situated in the midst of lagoons, like Venice, which large ships could not penetrate. But on the mainland they suffered severe reverses. Fifteen thousand Greeks perished at Patras; but the patriots were successful at Valtezza, where five thousand men repulsed fifteen thousand Turks, and drove them to seek shelter in the strong fortress of Tripolitza. The Greeks avoiding action in the open field, succeeded in taking Navarino and Napoli di Malvasia, and rivalled their enemies in the atrocities they committed. They lost Athens, whose citadel they had besieged, but defeated the Turks in Thermopylae with great slaughter, which enabled them to reoccupy Athens and blockade the Acropolis.
Then followed the siege of Tripolitza, in the centre of the Morea, the seat of the Pasha, where the Turks were strongly intrenched. It was soon taken by Kolokotronis, who commanded the Greeks. The fall of this fortress was followed by the usual massacre, in which neither age nor sex was spared. The Greek chiefs attempted to suppress the fury and cruelty of their followers; but their efforts were in vain, and their cause was stained with blood needlessly shed. Yet when one remembers the centuries during which the Turks had been slaying the men, carrying off the women to their harems, and making slaves of the children of the Greeks, there is less to wonder at in such an access of blind fury and vengeance. Nine thousand Turks were massacred, or slain in the attack. The capture of this important fortress was of immense advantage to the Greeks, who obtained great treasures and a large amount of ammunition, with a valuable train of artillery.
But this great success was balanced by the failure of the Greeks, under Ypsilanti, to capture Napoli di Romania,--another strong fortress, defended by eight hundred guns, regarded as nearly impregnable, situated, like Gibraltar, on a great rock eight hundred feet high, the base of which was washed by the sea. It was a rash enterprise, but came near being successful on account of the negligence of the garrison, which numbered only fifteen hundred men. An escalade was attempted by Mavrokordatos, one of the heroic chieftains of the Greeks; but it was successfully repulsed, and the attacking generals with difficulty escaped to Argos. The Greeks also met with a reverse on the peninsula of Cassandra, near Salonica, which proved another massacre. Three thousand perished from Turkish scimitars, and ten thousand women and children were sold into slavery.
Thus ended the campaign of 1821, with mutual successes and losses, disgraced on both sides by treachery and massacres; but the Greeks were sufficiently emboldened to declare their independence, and form a constitution under Prince Mavrokordatos as president,--a Chian by birth, who had been physician to the Sultan. The seat of government was fixed at Corinth, whose fortress had been recovered from the Turks. Seven hundred thousand people threw down the gauntlet to twenty-five millions, and defied their power.
The following year the Greek cause indirectly suffered a great blow by the capture and death of Ali Pasha. This ambitious and daring rebel, from humble origin, had arisen, by energy, ability, and fraud, to a high command under the Sultan. He became pasha of Thessaly; and having accumulated great riches by extortion and oppression, he bought the pashalic of Jannina, in one of the richest and most beautiful valleys of Epirus. In the centre of a lake he built an impregnable fortress, collected a large body of Albanian troops, and soon became master of the whole province. He preserved an apparent neutrality between the Sultan and the rebellious Greeks, whom, however, he secretly encouraged. In his castle at Jannina he meditated extensive conquests and independence of the Porte. At one time he had eighty thousand half-disciplined Albanians under his command. The Sultan, at last suspecting his treachery, summoned him to Constantinople, and on his refusal to appear, denounced him as a rebel, and sent Chourchid Pasha, one of his ablest generals, with forty thousand troops, to subdue him. This was no easy task; and for two years, before the Greek revolution broke out, Ali had maintained his independence. At last he found himself besieged in his island castle, impregnable against assault, but short of provisions. From this retreat he was decoyed by consummate art to the mainland, to meet the Turkish general, who promised an important command and a high rank in the Turkish service. In the power now of the Turks, he was at once beheaded, and his head sent to Constantinople.
Ali's death set free the large army of Chourchid Pasha to be employed against the Greeks. Aided too by the enthusiasm which the suppression of a dangerous enemy created, the Sultan made great preparations for a renewed attack on the Morea. The contest now assumed greater proportions, and the reconquest of Greece seemed extremely probable. Sixty thousand Turks, under the command of the ablest general of the Sultan, prepared to invade the Morea. In addition, a powerful squadron, with eight thousand troops, sailed from the Dardanelles to reinforce the Turkish fortresses and furnish provisions. In the meantime the insurrection extended to Chios, or Scio, an opulent and fertile island opposite Smyrna. It had eighty thousand inhabitants, who drove the Turks to their citadel. The Sultan, enraged at the loss of this prosperous island, sent thirty thousand fanatical Asiatic Mussulmans, and a fleet consisting of six ships-of-the-line, ten frigates, and twelve brigs, to reconquer what was regarded as the garden of the Archipelago. Resistance was impossible against such an overwhelming array of forces, who massacred nearly the whole of the male population, and sold their wives and children as slaves. The consuls of France and Austria remonstrated against this unheard-of cruelty; but nothing could appease the fanatical fury of the conquerors. The massacre has no parallel in history since the storming of Syracuse or the sack of Bagdad, Not only were the inhabitants swept away, but the churches, the fine villas, the scattered houses, and the villages were burned to the ground. When the slaughter ceased, it was found that twenty-five thousand men had been slain, and forty-five thousand women and children had become slaves to glut the markets of Constantinople and Egypt, while fifteen thousand had fled to the mainland.
This great calamity, however, was partially avenged by the sailors and chiefs of Hydra, a neighboring island, under the command of one of the greatest heroes that the war produced,--the intrepid and fearless Andreas Miaulis, who with fire-ships destroyed nearly the whole of the Turkish fleet. He was aided by Constantine Canaris and George Pepinis, equal to him in courage, who succeeded in grappling the ships of the enemy and setting them on fire. The Turks, with the remnant of their magnificent fleet, took refuge in the harbor of Mitylene, while the victors returned in triumph to Ipsara, and became the masters of the Archipelago.
The Greek operations were not so fortunate at first on the land as they were on the sea. Mavrokordatos led in person an expedition into Epirus; but he was no general, and failed disastrously. Even the brave Marco Bozzaris was unable to cut his way to the relief of his countrymen, shut up in their fortresses without an adequate supply of provisions; and all that the Greeks could do in their great discouragement was to supply Missolonghi with provisions and a few defenders, in anticipation of a siege.
Epirus was now fallen, and nothing remained but a guerilla warfare. Indeed, a striking feature of the whole revolution was "the absence of any one great leader to concentrate the Greek forces and utilize the splendid heroism of people and chieftains in permanent strategic successes. The war was a succession of sporadic fights,--successes and failures,--with small apparent mutual relations and effects." In Macedonia, which had joined the insurrection, there were six thousand brave mountaineers in arms; but they had to contend with fifteen thousand regular troops under the command of the pashas of Salonica and Thessaly, who forced the passes of the Vale of Tempe, and slew all before them. Chourchid Pasha, having his rear provided for, with thirty thousand men now passed through the defile of Thermopylae, appeared before Corinth, took its citadel, advanced to Argos, dispersed the government which had established itself there, and then pursued his victorious career to Napoli di Romania, whose garrison he reinforced. But the summer sun dried up the surrounding plains; there was nothing left on which his cavalry could feed, or his men either, and he found himself in a perilous position in the midst of victory.
The defeated Greeks now rallied under Ypsilanti and Kolokotronis, who raised the siege of Corinth, and advanced against their foes with twelve thousand men. The Turkish army, decimated and in fear of starvation, resolved to cut their way through the guarded defiles, and succeeded only by the loss of seven thousand men, with all their baggage and military stores. The Morea was delivered from the oppressor, and the Turkish army of thirty thousand was destroyed. Chourchid Pasha was soon after seized with dysentery, brought about by fatigue and anxiety, to which he succumbed; and the ablest general yet sent against the Greeks failed disastrously, to the joy of the nation.
This great success was followed by others. The Acropolis of Athens capitulated to the victorious Greeks, not without the usual atrocities, and Attica, was recovered. But the mountains of Epirus were still filled with Turkish troops, who advanced to lay siege to Missolonghi, defended by a small garrison of four hundred men under Marco Bozzaris. Mavrokordatos contrived to come to his relief, and the town soon had three thousand defenders. Six times did the Turks attempt an assault under Omar Vrione; but each time they were repulsed with great slaughter, and compelled to retreat. The Turkish general lost three quarters of his army, and with difficulty escaped himself in an open boat. Altogether twelve thousand Turks perished in this disastrous siege, with the loss of their artillery.
As the insurrection had now assumed formidable proportions in Cyprus and Candia, a general appeal was made to Mussulmans of those islands, whose numbers greatly exceeded the rebels. Twenty-five thousand men rallied around the standards of the Moslems; but they were driven into their fortresses, leaving both plains and mountains in the hands of the Greeks.
These brave insurgents gained still another great success in this memorable campaign. They carried the important fortress of Napoli di Romania by escalade December 12, under Kolokotronis, with ten thousand men, and the garrison, weakened by famine, capitulated. Four hundred pieces of cannon, with large stores of ammunition, were the reward of the victors. This conquest was the more remarkable since a large Turkish fleet was sent to the relief of the fortress; but fearing the fire-ships of the Greeks, the Turkish admiral sailed away without doing anything, and cast anchor in the bay of Tenedos. Here he was attacked by the Greek fire-ships, commanded by Canaris, and his fleet were obliged to cut their cables and sail back to the Dardanelles, with the loss of their largest ships. The conqueror was crowned with laurel at Ipsara by his grateful countrymen, and the campaign of 1822 closed, leaving the Greeks masters of the sea and of nearly the whole of their territory.
This campaign, considering the inequality of forces, is regarded by Alison as one of the most glorious in the annals of war. A population of seven hundred thousand souls had confronted and beaten the splendid strength of the Ottoman Empire, with twenty-five millions of Mussulmans. They had destroyed four-fifths of an army of fifty thousand men, and made themselves masters of their principal strongholds. Twice had they driven the Turkish fleets from the Aegean Sea with the loss of their finest ships. But Greece, during the two years' warfare, had lost two hundred thousand inhabitants,--not slain in battle, but massacred, and killed by various inhumanities. It was clear that the country could not much longer bear such a strain, unless the great Powers of Europe came to its relief.
But no relief came. Canning, who ruled England, sympathized with the Greeks, but would not depart from his policy of non-intervention, fearing to embroil all Europe in war. It was the same with Louis XVIII., who feared the stability of his throne and dared not offend Austria, who looked on the contest with indifference as a rebellious insurrection. Prussia took the same ground; and even Russia stood aloof, unprepared for war with the Turks, which would have immediately resulted if the Czar had rendered assistance to the Greeks. Never was a nation in greater danger of annihilation, in spite of its glorious resistance, than was Greece at that time, for what could the remaining five hundred thousand people do against twenty-five millions inspired with fanatical hatred, but to sell their lives as dearly as they might? The contest was like that of the Maccabees against the overwhelming armies of Syria.
As was to be expected, the disgraceful defeat of his fleets and armies filled the Sultan with rage and renewed resolution. The whole power of his empire was now called out to suppress the rebellion. He had long meditated the destruction of that famous military corps in the Turkish service known as the Janizaries, who were not Turks, but recruited from the youth of the Greeks and other subject races captured in war. They had all become Mussulmans, and were superb fighters; but their insults and insolence, engendered by their traditional pride in the prestige of the corps and the favor shown them by successive Sultans, filled Mahmoud with wrath. The Sultan dissembled his resentment, however, in order to bring all the soldiers he could command to the utter destruction of his rebellious subjects. He deposed his grand vizier, and sent orders to all the pashas in his dominions for a general levy of all Mussulmans between fifteen and fifty, to assemble in Thessaly in May, 1823. He also made the utmost efforts to repair the disasters of his fleet.
The Greeks, too, made corresponding exertions to maintain their armies. Though weakened, they were not despondent. Their successes had filled them with new hopes and energies. Their independence seemed to them to be established. They even began to despise their foes. But as soon as success seemed to have crowned their efforts they were subject to a new danger. There were divisions, strifes, and jealousies between the chieftains. Unity, so essential in war, was seriously jeoparded. Had they remained united, and buried their resentments and jealousies in the cause of patriotism, their independence possibly might have been acknowledged. But in the absence of a central power the various generals wished to fight on their own account, like guerilla chiefs. They would not even submit to the National Assembly. The leaders were so full of discords and personal ambition that they would not unite on anything. Mavrokordatos and Ypsilanti were not on speaking terms. One is naturally astonished at such suicidal courses, but he forgets what a powerful passion jealousy is in the human soul. It was not absent from our own war of Independence, in which at one time rival generals would have supplanted, if possible, even Washington himself; indeed, it is present everywhere, not in war alone, but among all influential and ambitious people,--women of society, legislators, artists, physicians, singers, actors, even clergymen, authors, and professors in colleges. This unfortunate passion can be kept down only by the overpowering dominancy of transcendent ability, which everybody must concede, when envy is turned into admiration,--as in the case of Napoleon. There was no one chieftain among the Greeks who called out universal homage any more than there was in the camp of Agamemnon before the walls of Troy. There were men of ability and patriotism and virtue; but, as already noted, no one of them was great enough to exact universal and willing obedience. And this fact was well understood in all the cabinets of Europe, as well as in the camps of their enemies. The disunions and dissensions of the rival Greek generals were of more advantage to the Turks than a force of fifty thousand men.
These jealous chieftains, however, had reason to be startled in the spring of 1823, when they heard that eighty thousand Mussulmans were to be sent to attack the Isthmus of Corinth; that forty thousand more were to undertake the siege of Missolonghi; that fifty thousand in addition were to co-operate in Thessaly and Attica; while a grand fleet of one hundred and twenty sail was to sweep the Aegean and reduce the revolted islands. It was, however, the very magnitude of the hostile forces which saved the Greeks from impending ruin; for these forces had to be fed in dried-up and devastated plains, under scorching suns, in the defiles of mountains, where artillery was of no use, and where hardy mountaineers, behind rocks and precipices, could fire upon them unseen and without danger. There was more loss from famine and pestilence than from foes,--a lesson repeatedly taught for three thousand years, but one which governments have ever been slow to learn. Alexander the Great had learned it when he invaded Persia with a small army of veterans, rather than with a mob of undisciplined allies. Huge armies are not to be relied on, except when they form a vast mechanism directed by a master hand, when they are sure of their supplies, and when they operate in a wholesome country, with nothing to fear from malaria or inclemency of weather. Then they can crush all before them like some terrible and irresistible machine; but only then. This the old crusaders learned to their cost, as well as the invading armies of Napoleon amid the snows of Russia, and even the disciplined troops of France and England when they marched to the siege of Sebastopol.
Hence, in spite of the divisions of the Greeks, which paralyzed their best efforts, the Turkish armies effected but little, great as were their numbers, in the campaign of 1823. The intrepid Marco Bozzaris, with only five thousand men, kept the Turks at bay in Epirus, and chased a large body of Albanians to the sea; while Odysseus defended the pass of Thermopylae, and prevented the advance of the Turks into Southern Greece. The grand army destined for the invasion of the Morea gradually melted away in attacking fortresses, and under the desultory actions of guerilla bands amidst rocks and thickets. Bozzaris surprised a Turkish army near Missolonghi by a nocturnal attack, and although he himself bravely perished, the attack was successful. The Turks in renewed numbers, however, advanced to the siege of Missolonghi; but they were again repulsed with great slaughter.
The naval campaign from which so much was expected by the Sultan also proved a failure. As usual the Greeks resorted to their fire-ships, not being able openly to contend with superior forces, and drove the fleet back again to the Dardanelles. When the sea was clear, they were able to reinforce Missolonghi with three thousand men and a large supply of provisions; for it was foreseen that the siege would be renewed.
It was at this time, when the Greek cause was imperilled by the dissensions of the leading chieftains; when Greece indeed was threatened by civil war, in addition to its contest with the Turks; when the whole country was impoverished and devastated; when the population was melting away, and no revenue could be raised to pay the half-starved and half-naked troops,--that Lord Byron arrived at Missolonghi to share his fortune with the defenders of an uncertain cause. Like most scholars and poets, he had a sentimental attachment for the classic land,--the teacher of the ancient world; and in common with his countrymen he admired the noble struggles and sacrifices, worthy of ancient heroes, which the Greeks, though divided and demoralized, had put forth to recover their liberties. His money contributions were valuable; but it was his moral support which accomplished the most for Grecian independence. Though unpopular and maligned at this time in England for his immoralities and haughty disdain, he was still the greatest poet of his age, a peer, and a man of transcendent genius of whom any country would be proud. That such a man, embittered and in broken health, should throw his whole soul into the contest, with a disinterestedness which was never questioned, shows not only that he had many noble traits, but that his example would have great weight with enlightened nations, and open their eyes to the necessity of rallying to the cause of liberty. The faults of the Greeks were many; but these faults were such as would naturally be produced by four hundred years of oppression and scorn, of craft, treachery, and insensibility to suffering. As for their jealousies and quarrels, when was there ever a time, even in periods of their highest glory, when these were not their national characteristics?
Interest in the affairs of Greece now began to be awakened, especially among the English; and the result was a loan of £800,000 raised in London for the Greek government, at the rate of £59 for £100. Greece really obtained only £280,000, while it contracted a debt of £800,000. Yet this disadvantageous loan was of great service to an utterly impoverished government, about to contend with the large armies of the Turks. The Sultan had made immense preparations for the campaign of 1824, and had obtained the assistance of the celebrated Ibrahim Pasha, adopted son of Mohammed Ali, Pasha of Egypt, who with his Egyptian troops had nearly subdued Crete. Over one hundred thousand men were now directed, by sea and land, to western Greece and Missolonghi, of which twenty thousand were disciplined Egyptian troops. With this great force the Mussulmans assumed the offensive, and the condition of Greece was never more critical.
First, the islands of Spezzia and Ipsara were attacked,--the latter being little more than a barren rock, but the abode of liberty. It was poorly defended, and was unable to cope with the Turkish armada, having on board fifteen thousand disciplined troops. Canaris advised a combat on the sea, but was overruled; and the consequences were fatal. The island was taken and sacked, and all the inhabitants were put to the sword. In addition to this great calamity, the spoil made by the victors was immense, including two hundred pieces of artillery and ninety vessels. Canaris, however, contrived to escape in a boat, to pursue a victorious career with his fire-ships. The Turkish and Egyptian fleets had effected a junction, consisting of one ship-of-the-line, twenty-five frigates, twenty-five corvettes, fifty brigs and schooners, and two hundred and forty transports, carrying eighty thousand soldiers and sailors and twenty-five hundred cannon. To oppose this great armament, the Greek admiral Miaulis had only seventy sail, manned by five thousand sailors and carrying eight hundred guns. In spite however of this disproportion of forces he advanced to meet the enemy, and dispersed it with a great Turkish loss of fifteen thousand men. All that the Turks had gained was a barren island.
On the land the Turks had more successes; but these were so indecisive that they did not attempt to renew the siege of Missolonghi, and the campaign of 1824 closed with a great loss to the Mussulmans. The little army and fleet of the Greeks had repelled one hundred and twenty thousand soldiers confident of success; but the population was now reduced to less than five hundred thousand, becoming feebler every day, and the national treasury was empty, while the whole country was a scene of desolation and misery. And yet, strange to say, the Greeks continued their dissensions while on the very brink of ruin. Stranger still, their courage was unabated.
The year 1825 opened with brighter prospects. The rival chieftains, in view of the desperate state of affairs, at last united, and seemingly buried their jealousies. A new loan was contracted in London of £2,000,000, and the naval forces were increased.
But the Turks also made their preparations for a renewed conflict, and Ibrahim Pasha felt himself strong enough to undertake the siege of Navarino, which fell into his hands after a brave resistance. Tripolitza also capitulated to the Egyptian, and the Morea was occupied by his troops after several engagements. After this the Greeks never ventured to fight in the open field, but only in guerilla bands, in mountain passes, and behind fortifications.
Then began the memorable siege of Missolonghi under Reschid Pasha. It was probably the strongest town in Greece,--by reason not of its fortifications but of the surrounding marshes and lagoons which made it inaccessible. Into this town the armed peasantry threw themselves, with five thousand troops under Niketas, while Miaulis with his fleet raised the blockade by sea and supplied the town with provisions. Reschid Pasha determined on an assault, but was driven back. Thrice he advanced with his troops, only to be repulsed. His forces at the end of October were reduced to three thousand men. The Sultan, irritated by successive disasters, brought the whole disposable force of his empire to bear on the doomed city. Ibrahim, powerfully reinforced with twenty-five thousand men, by sea and land stormed battery after battery; yet the Greeks held out, contending with famine and pestilence, as well as with troops ten times their number.
At last they were unable to offer further resistance, and they resolved on a general sortie to break through the enemy's line to a place of safety. The women of the town put on male attire, and armed themselves with pistols and daggers. The whole population,--men, women, and children,--on the night of the 22d of April, 1826, issued from their defences, crossed the moat in silence, passed the ditches and trenches, and made their way through an opening of the besiegers' lines. For a while the sortie seemed to be successful; but mistakes were made, a panic ensued, and most of the flying crowd retreated back to the deserted town, only to be massacred by Turkish scimitars. Some made their escape. A column of nearly two thousand, after incredible hardships, succeeded in reaching Salonica in safety; but Missolonghi fell, with the loss of nearly ten thousand, killed, wounded, and prisoners.
It was a great disaster, but proved in the end the foundation of Greek independence, by creating a general burst of blended enthusiasm and indignation throughout Europe. The heroic defence of this stronghold against such overwhelming forces opened the eyes of European statesmen. Public sentiment in England in favor of the struggling nation could no longer be disregarded. Mr. Canning took up the cause, both from enthusiasm and policy. The English ambassador at Constantinople had a secret interview with Mavrokordatos on an island near Hydra, and promised him the intervention of England. The death of the Czar Alexander gave a new aspect to affairs; for his successor, Nicholas, made up his mind to raise his standard in Turkey. The national voice of Russia was now for war. The Duke of Wellington was sent to St. Petersburg, nominally to congratulate the Czar on his accession, but really to arrange for an armed intervention for the protection of Greece. The Hellenic government ordered a general conscription; for Ibrahim Pasha was organizing new forces for the subjection of the Morea and the reduction of Napoli di Romania and Hydra, while a powerful fleet put to sea from Alexandria. No sooner did this fleet appear, however, than Canaris and Miaulis attacked it with their dreaded fire-ships, and the forty ships of Egypt fled from fourteen small Greek vessels, and re-entered the Dardanelles. But the Turks, always more fortunate on land than by sea, pressed now the siege of the Acropolis, and Athens fell into their hands early in 1827.
For six or seven years the Greeks had struggled heroically; but relief was now at hand. Russia and England signed a protocol on the 6th of July, and France soon after joined, to put an end to the sanguinary contest. The terms proposed to the Sultan by the three great Powers were moderate,--that he should still retain a nominal sovereignty over the revolted provinces and receive an annual tribute; but the haughty and exasperated Sultan indignantly rejected them, and made renewed preparations to continue the contest. Ibrahim landed his forces on the Morea and renewed his depredations. Once more the ambassadors of the allied Powers presented their final note to the Turkish government, and again it was insultingly disregarded. The allied admirals then entered the port of Navarino, where the Turkish and Egyptian fleets were at anchor, with ten ships-of-the-line, ten frigates, with other vessels, altogether carrying thirteen hundred and twenty-four guns. The Ottoman force consisted of seventy-nine vessels, armed with twenty-two hundred and forty guns. Strict orders were given not to fire while negotiations were going on; but an accidental shot from a Turkish vessel brought on a general action, and the combined Turkish and Egyptian fleet was literally annihilated Oct. 20, 1827. This was the greatest disaster which the Ottoman Turks had yet experienced; indeed, it practically ended the whole contest. Christendom at last had come to the rescue, when Greece unaided was incapable of further resistance.
The battle of Navarino excited, of course, the wildest enthusiasm throughout Greece, and a corresponding joy throughout Europe. Never since the battle of Lepanto was there such a general exultation among Christian nations. This single battle decided the fate of Greece. The admirals of the allied fleet were doubtless "the aggressors in the battle; but the Turks were the aggressors in the war."
Canning of England did not live to enjoy the triumph of the cause which he had come to have so much at heart. He was the inspiring genius who induced both Russia and France (now under Charles X.) to intervene. Chateaubriand, the minister of Charles X., was in perfect accord with Canning from poetical and sentimental reasons. Politically his policy was that of Metternich, who could see no distinction between the insurrection of Naples and that of Greece. In the great Austrian's eyes, all people alike who aspired to gain popular liberty or constitutional government were rebels to be crushed. Canning, however, sympathized in his latter days with all people striving for independence, whether in South America or Greece. But his opinion was not shared by English statesmen of the Tory school, and he had the greatest difficulty in bringing his colleagues over to his views. When he died, England again relapsed into neutrality and inaction, under the government of Wellington. Charles X. in France had no natural liking for the Greek cause, and wanted only to be undisturbed in his schemes of despotism. Russia, under Nicholas, determined to fight Turkey, unfettered by allies. She sought but a pretext for a declaration of war. Turkey furnished to Russia that pretext, right in the stress of her own military weakness, when she was exhausted by a war of seven years, and by the destruction of the Janizaries,--which the Sultan had long meditated, and concealed in his own bosom with the craft which formed one of the peculiarities of this cruel yet able sovereign, but which he finally executed with characteristic savagery. Concerning this Russian war we shall speak presently.
The battle of Navarino, although it made the restoration of the Turkish power impossible in Greece, still left Ibrahim master of the fortresses, and it was two years before the Turkish troops were finally expelled. But independence was now assured, and the Greeks set about establishing their government with some permanency. Before the end of that year Capo d'Istrias was elected president for seven years, and in January, 1828, he entered upon his office. His ideas of government were arbitrary, for he had been the minister and favorite of Alexander. He wished to rule like an absolute sovereign. His short reign was a sort of dictatorship. His council was composed entirely of his creatures, and he sought at once to destroy provincial and municipal authority. He limited the freedom of the Press and violated the secrecy of the mails. "In Plato's home, Plato's Gorgias could not be read because it spoke too strongly against tyrants."
Capo d'Istrias found it hard to organize and govern amid the hostilities of rival chieftains and the general anarchy which prevailed. Local self-government lay at the root of Greek nationality; but this he ignored, and set himself to organize an administrative system modelled after that of France during the reign of Napoleon. Intellectually he stood at the head of the nation, and was a man of great integrity of character, as austere and upright as Guizot, having no toleration for freebooters and peculators. He became unpopular among the sailors and merchants, who had been so effective in the warfare with the Turks. "A dark shadow fell over his government" as it became more harsh and intolerant, and he was assassinated the 9th of October, 1831.
The allied sovereigns who had taken the Greeks under their protection now felt the need of a stronger and more stable government for them than a republic, and determined to establish an hereditary but constitutional monarchy. The crown was offered to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who at first accepted it; but when that prince began to look into the real state of the country,--curtailed in its limits by the jealousies of the English government, rent with anarchy and dissension, containing a people so long enslaved that they could not make orderly use of freedom,--he declined the proffered crown. It was then (1832) offered to and accepted by Prince Otho of Bavaria, a minor; and thirty-five hundred Bavarian soldiers maintained order during the three years of the regency, which, though it developed great activity, was divided in itself, and conspiracies took place to overthrow it. The year 1835 saw the majority of the king, who then assumed the government. In the same year the capital was transferred to Athens, which was nothing but a heap of rubbish; but the city soon after had a university, and also became an important port. In 1843, after a military revolution against the German elements of Otho's government, which had increased from year to year, the Greeks obtained from the king a representative constitution, to which he took an oath in 1844.
But the limits of the kingdom were small, and neither Crete, Thessaly, Epirus, nor the Ionian Islands were included in it. In 1846 these islands were ceded by Great Britain to Greece, which was also strengthened by the annexation of Thessaly. Since then the progress of the country in material wealth and in education has been rapid. Otho reigned till 1862, although amid occasional outbreaks of impatience and revolt against the reactionary tendencies of his rule. In that year he fled with his queen from a formidable uprising; and in 1863 Prince William, son of Christian IX. King of Denmark, was elected monarch, under the title of George I. King of the Hellenes.
The resurrection of Greece was thus finally effected. It was added to the European kingdoms, and now bids fair to be prosperous and happy. "Thus did the Old Hellas rise from the grave of nations. Scorched by fire, riddled by shot, baptized by blood, she emerged victorious from the conflict. She achieved her independence because she proved herself worthy of it; she was trained to manhood in the only school of real improvement,--the school of suffering."
The Greek revolution has another aspect than battles on the Morea, massacres on the islands of the Archipelago, naval enterprises under heroic seamen, guerilla conflicts amid the defiles of mountains, brave defences of fortresses, dissensions and jealousies between chieftains, treacheries and cruelties equalling those of the Turks,--another aspect than the recovery of national independence even. It is memorable for the complications which grew out of it, especially for the war between Turkey and Russia, when the Emperor Nicholas, feeling that Turkey was weakened and exhausted, sought to grasp the prize which he had long coveted, even the possessions of the "sick man." Nicholas was the opposite of his brother Alexander, having neither his gentleness, his impulsiveness, his generosity, nor his indecision. He was a hard despot of the "blood-and-iron" stamp, ambitious for aggrandizement, indifferent to the sufferings of others, and withal a religious bigot. The Greek rebellion, as we have seen, gave him the occasion to pick a quarrel with the Sultan. The Danubian principalities were dearer to him than remote possessions on the Mediterranean.
So on the 7th of May, 1828, the Russians crossed the Pruth and invaded Moldavia and Wallachia,--provinces which had long belonged to Turkey by right of conquest, though governed by Greek hospodars. The Danube was crossed on the 7th of June. The Turks were in no condition to contend in the open field with seventy thousand Russians, and they retreated to their fortresses,--to Ibraila and Silistria on the Danube, to Varna and Shumla in the vicinity of the Balkans. The first few weeks of the war were marked by Russian successes. Ibraila capitulated on the 18th of June, and the military posts on the Dobrudscha fell rapidly one after another. But it was at Shumla that the strongest part of the Turkish army was concentrated, under Omar Brionis, bent on defensive operations; and thither the Czar directed his main attack. Before this stronghold his army wasted away by sickness in the malarial month of September. The Turks were reinforced, and moved to the relief of Varna, also invested by Russian troops. But the season was now too far advanced for military operations, and the Russians, after enormous losses, withdrew to the Danube to resume the offensive the following spring. The winter was spent in bringing up reserves. The Czar finding that he had no aptitude as a general withdrew to his capital, intrusting the direction of the following campaign to Diebitsch, a Prussian general, famous for his successes and his cruelties.
In the spring of 1829 the first movement was made to seize Silistria, toward which a great Turkish force was advancing, under Reschid Pasha, the grand vizier. His forces experienced a great defeat; and two weeks after, in the latter part of June, Silistria surrendered. Resistance to the Russians was now difficult. The passes of the Balkans were left undefended, and the invading force easily penetrated them and advanced to Adrianople, which surrendered in a great panic. The Russians could have been defeated had not the Turks lost their senses, for the troops under Diebitsch were reduced to twenty thousand men. But this fact was unknown to the Turks, who magnified the Russian forces to one hundred thousand at least. The result was the treaty of Adrianople, on the 14th of September,--apparently generous to the Turks, but really of great advantage to the Russians. Russia restored to Turkey all her conquests in Europe and Asia, except a few commercial centres on the Black Sea, while the treaty gave to the Czar the protectorate over the Danubian principalities, the exclusion of Turks from fortified posts on the left bank of the Danube, free passage through the Dardanelles to the merchant vessels of all nations at peace with the Sultan, and the free navigation of the Black Sea.
But Constantinople still remained the capital of Turkey. The "sick man" would not die. From jealousy of Russia the western Powers continued to nurse him. Without their aid he was not long to live; but his existence was deemed necessary to maintain the "balance of power," and they came to his assistance in the Crimean War, twenty-six years later, and gave him a new lease of life.
This is the "Eastern Question,"--How long before the Turks will be driven out of Europe, and who shall possess Constantinople? That is a question upon which it would be idle for me to offer speculations. Another aspect of the question is, How far shall Russia be permitted to make conquests in the East? This is equally insoluble.
Finlay's Greece under Ottoman Domination; Leake's Travels in Northern Greece; Gordon's Greek Revolution; Metternich's Memoirs; Howe's Greek Revolution; Mendelssohn's Graf Capo d'Istrias; Ann. Hist. Valentini; Alison's Europe; Fyffe's History of Modern Europe; Müller's Political History of Recent Times.
THE CITIZEN KING.
A new phase in the development of French revolutionary history took place on the accession of Louis Philippe to the throne. He became King of the French instead of King of France.
Louis XVIII., upon his coming to the throne at Napoleon's downfall, would not consent to reign except by divine right, on principles of legitimacy, as the brother of Louis XVI. He felt that the throne was his by all the laws of succession. He would not, therefore, accept it as the gift of the French nation, or of foreign Powers. He consented to be fettered by a Constitution, as his brother had done; but that any power could legally give to him what he deemed was already his own, was in his eyes an absurdity.
This was not the case with Louis Philippe, for he was not the legitimate heir. He belonged to a younger branch of the Bourbons, and could not be the legitimate king until all the male heirs of the elder branch were extinct; and yet both branches of the royal family were the lineal descendants of Henry IV. This circumstance pointed him out as the proper person to ascend the throne on the expulsion of the elder branch; but he was virtually an elective sovereign, chosen by the will of the nation. So he became king, not "by divine right," but by receiving the throne as the gift of the people.
There were other reasons why Louis Philippe was raised to the throne. He was Duke of Orléans,--the richest man in France, son of that Égalité who took part in the revolution, avowing all its principles; therefore he was supposed to be liberal in his sentiments. The popular leaders who expelled Charles X., among the rest Lafayette,--that idol of the United States, that "Grandison Cromwell," as Carlyle called him,--viewed the Duke of Orléans as the most available person to preserve order and law, to gain the confidence of the country, and to preserve the Constitution,--which guaranteed personal liberty, the freedom of the Press, the inviolability of the judiciary, and the rights of electors to the Chamber of Deputies, in which was vested the power of granting supplies to the executive government. Times were not ripe for a republic, and only a few radicals wanted it. The nation desired a settled government, yet one ruling by the laws which the nation had decreed through its representatives. Louis Philippe swore to everything that was demanded of him, and was in all respects a constitutional monarch, under whom the French expected all the rights and liberties that England enjoyed. All this was a step in advance of the monarchy of Louis XVIII. Louis Philippe was rightly named "the citizen king."
This monarch was also a wise, popular, and talented man. He had passed through great vicissitudes of fortune. At one time he taught a school in Switzerland. He was an exile and a wanderer from country to country. He had learned much from his misfortunes; he had had great experiences, and was well read in the history of thrones and empires. He was affable in his manners, and interesting in conversation; a polished gentleman, with considerable native ability,--the intellectual equal of the statesmen who surrounded him. His morals were unstained, and his tastes were domestic. His happiest hours were spent in the bosom of his family; and his family was harmonious and respectable. He was the idol of the middle class; bankers, merchants, lawyers, and wealthy shopkeepers were his strongest supporters. All classes acquiesced in the rule of a worthy man, as he seemed to all,--moderate, peace-loving, benignant, good-natured. They did not see that he was selfish, crafty, money-loving, bound up in family interests. This plain-looking, respectable, middle-aged man, as he walked under the colonnade of the Rue de Rivoli, with an umbrella under his arm, looked more like a plain citizen than a king. The leading journals were all won over to his side. The Chamber of Deputies by a large majority voted for him, and the eighty-three Departments, representing thirty-five millions of people, by a still larger majority elected him king. The two Chambers prepared a Constitution, which he unhesitatingly accepted and swore to maintain. He was not chosen by universal suffrage, but by one hundred and fifty thousand voters. The Republicans were not satisfied, but submitted; so also did the ultra-Royalists. It was at first feared that the allied Powers, under the influence of Metternich, would be unfriendly; yet one after another recognized the new government, feeling that it was the best, under the circumstances, that could be established.
The man who had the most to do with the elevation of Louis Philippe was the Marquis de Lafayette, who as far back as the first revolution was the commander of the National Guards; and they, as the representatives of the middle classes, sustained the throne during this reign. Lafayette had won a great reputation for his magnanimous and chivalrous assistance to the United States, when, at twenty years of age, he escaped from official hindrances at home and tendered his unpaid voluntary services to Washington. This was in the darkest period of the American Revolution, when Washington had a pitifully small army, and when the American treasury was empty. Lafayette was the friend and admirer of Washington, whose whole confidence he possessed; and he not only performed distinguished military duty, but within a year returned to France and secured a French fleet, land forces, clothing and ammunition for the struggling patriots, as the result of French recognition of American independence, and of a treaty of alliance with the new American nation,--both largely due to his efforts and influence.
When Lafayette departed, on his return to France, he was laden with honors and with the lasting gratitude of the American people. He returned burning with enthusiasm for liberty, and for American institutions; and this passion for liberty was never quenched, under whatever form of government existed in France. He was from first to last the consistent friend of struggling patriots,--sincere, honest, incorruptible, with horror of revolutionary excesses, as sentimental as Lamartine, yet as firm as Carnot.
Lafayette took an active part in the popular movements in 1787, and in 1789 formed the National Guard and gave it the tricolor badge. But he was too consistent and steady-minded for the times. He was not liked by extreme Royalists or by extreme Republicans. He was denounced by both parties, and had to flee the country to save his life. Driven from Paris by the excesses of the Reign of Terror, which he abhorred, he fell into the hands of the Prussians, who delivered him to the Austrians, and by them he was immured in a dungeon at Olmutz for three and a half years, being finally released only by the influence of Napoleon. So rigorous was his captivity that none of his family or friends knew for two years where he was confined. On his return from Austria, he lived in comparative retirement at La Grange, his country-seat, and took no part in the government of Napoleon, whom he regarded as a traitor to the cause of liberty. Nor did he enter the service of the Bourbons, knowing their settled hostility to free institutions. History says but little about him during this time, except that from 1818 to 1824 he was a member of the Chamber of Deputies, and in 1825 to 1830 was again prominent in the legislative opposition to the royal government. In 1830 again, as an old man, he reappeared as commander-in-chief of the National Guards, when Charles X. was forced to abdicate. Lafayette now became the most popular man in France, and from him largely emanated the influences which replaced Charles X. with Louis Philippe. He was not a man of great abilities, but was generally respected as an honest man. He was most marked for practical sagacity and love of constitutional liberty. The phrase, "a monarchical government surrounded with republican institutions," is ascribed to him,--an illogical expression, which called out the sneers of Carlyle, whose sympathies were with strong governments and with the men who can rule, and who therefore, as he thought, ought to rule.
Lafayette was doubtless played with and used by Louis Philippe, the most astute and crafty of monarchs. Professing the greatest love and esteem for the general who had elevated him, the king was glad to get rid of him; so, too, were the Chambers,--the former from jealousy of his popularity, and the latter from dislike of his independence and integrity. Under Louis Philippe he held no higher position than as a member of the Chamber of Deputies. As deputy he had always been and continued to be fearless, patriotic, and sometimes eloquent. His speeches were clear, unimpassioned, sensible, and he was always listened to with respect. He took great interest in the wrongs of all oppressed people; and exiles from Poland, from Spain, and from Italy found in him a generous protector. His house was famous for its unpretending hospitalities, especially to American travellers. He lived long enough to see the complete triumph of American institutions. In 1824, upon a formal invitation by Congress, he revisited the United States as the guest of the nation, and received unprecedented ovations wherever he went,--a tribute of the heart, such as only great benefactors enjoy, when envy gives place to gratitude and admiration. A great man he was not, in the ordinary sense of greatness; yet few men will live as long as he in the national hearts of two nations, for character if not for genius, for services if not for brilliant achievements.
The first business of the new monarch in 1830 was to choose his ministers, and he selected as premier Lafitte the banker, a prominent member of the Chamber of Deputies, who had had great influence in calling him to the throne. Lafitte belonged to the liberal party, and was next to Lafayette the most popular man in France, but superior to that statesman in intellect and executive ability. He lived in grand style, and his palace, with its courts and gardens, was the resort of the most distinguished men in France,--the Duke of Choiseul, Dupin, Béranger, Casimir Périer, Montalivet, the two Aragos, Guizot, Odillon Barrot, Villemain,--politicians, artists, and men of letters. His ministry, however, lasted less than a year. The vast increase in the public expenditure aroused a storm of popular indignation. The increase of taxation is always resented by the middle classes, and by this measure Lafitte lost his popularity. Moreover, the public disorders lessened the authority of the government. In March, 1831, the king found it expedient to dismiss Lafitte, and to appoint Casimir Périer, an abler man, to succeed him. Lafitte was not great enough for the exigencies of the times. His business was to make money, and it was his pleasure to spend it; but he was unable to repress the discontents of Paris, or to control the French revolutionary ideas, which were spreading over the whole Continent, especially in Belgium, in which a revolution took place, accompanied by a separation from Holland. Belgium was erected into an independent kingdom, under a constitutional government. Prince Leopold, of Saxe Coburg, having refused the crown of Greece, was elected king, and shortly after married a daughter of Louis Philippe; which marriage, of course, led to a close union between France and Belgium. In this marriage the dynastic ambition of Louis Philippe, which was one of the main causes of his subsequent downfall in 1848, became obvious. But he had craft enough to hide his ambition under the guise of zeal for constitutional liberty.
Casimir Périer was a man of great energy, and liberal in his political antecedents, a banker of immense wealth and great force of character, reproachless in his integrity. He had scarcely assumed office when he was called upon to enforce a very rigorous policy. France was in a distracted state, not so much from political agitation as from the discontent engendered by poverty, and by the difficulty of finding work for operatives,--a state not unlike that of England before the passage of the Reform Bill. According to Louis Blanc the public distress was appalling, united with disgusting immorality among the laboring classes in country districts and in great manufacturing centres. In consequence there were alarming riots at Lyons and other cities. The people were literally starving, and it required great resolution and firmness on the part of government to quiet the disorders. Lyons was in the hands of a mob, and Marshal Soult was promptly sent with forty thousand regular troops to restore order. And this public distress,--when laborers earned less than a shilling a day, and when the unemployed exceeded in number those who found work on a wretched pittance,--was at its height when the Chamber of Deputies decreed a civil list for the king to the amount of nearly nineteen millions of francs, thirty-seven times greater than that given to Napoleon as First Consul; and this, too, when the king's private income was six millions of francs a year.
Such was the disordered state of the country that the prime minister, whose general policy was that of peace, sent a military expedition to Ancona, in the Papal territories, merely to divert the public mind from the disorders which reigned throughout the land. Indeed, the earlier years of the reign of Louis Philippe were so beset with difficulties that it required extraordinary tact, prudence, and energy to govern at all. But the king was equal to the emergency. He showed courage and good sense, and preserved his throne. At the same time, while he suppressed disorders by vigorous measures, he took care to strengthen his power. He was in harmony with the Chamber of Deputies, composed almost entirely of rich men. The liberal party demanded an extension of the suffrage, to which he gracefully yielded; and the number of electors was raised to one hundred and eighty thousand, but extended only to those who paid a direct tax of two hundred francs. A bill was also passed in the Chamber of Deputies abolishing hereditary peerage, though opposed by Guizot, Thiers, and Berryer. Of course the opposition in the upper house was great, and thirty-six new peers were created to carry the measure.
The year 1832 was marked by the ravages of the cholera, which swept away twenty thousand people in Paris alone, and among them Casimir Périer, and Cuvier the pride of the scientific world.
But Louis Philippe was not yet firmly established on his throne. His ministers had suppressed disorders, seized two hundred journals, abolished hereditary peerage, extended the electoral suffrage, while he had married his daughter to the King of Belgium. He now began to consolidate his power by increasing the army, seeking alliances with the different powers of Europe, bribing the Press, and enriching his subordinates. Taxation was necessarily increased; yet renewed prosperity from the increase of industries removed discontents, which arise not from the excess of burdens, but from a sense of injustice. Now began the millennium of shopkeepers and bankers, all of whom supported the throne. The Chamber of Deputies granted the government all the money it wanted, which was lavishly spent in every form of corruption, and luxury again set in. Never were the shops more brilliant, or equipages more gorgeous. The king on his accession had removed from the palace which Cardinal Mazarin had bequeathed to Louis XIV., and took up his residence at the Tuileries; and though his own manners were plain, he surrounded himself with all the pomp of royalty, but not with the old courtiers of Charles X. Marshal Soult greatly distinguished himself in suppressing disorders, especially a second riot in Lyons. To add to the public disorders, the Duchess of Berri made a hostile descent on France with the vain hope of restoring the elder branch of the Bourbons. This unsuccessful movement was easily put down, and the discredited princess was arrested and imprisoned. Meanwhile the popular discontents continued, and a fresh insurrection broke out in Paris, headed by Republican chieftains. The Republicans were disappointed, and disliked the vigor of the government, which gave indications of a sterner rule than that of Charles X. Moreover, the laboring classes found themselves unemployed. The government of Louis Philippe was not for them, but for the bourgeois party, shop-keepers, bankers, and merchants. The funeral of General Lamarque, a popular favorite, was made the occasion of fresh disturbances, which at one time were quite serious. The old cry of Vive la Republique began to be heard from thousands of voices in the scenes of former insurrections. Revolt assumed form. A mysterious meeting was held at Lafitte's, when the dethronement of the king was discussed. The mob was already in possession of one of the principal quarters of the city. The authorities were greatly alarmed, but they had taken vigorous measures. There were eighteen thousand regular troops under arms with eighty pieces of cannon, and thirty thousand more in the environs, besides the National Guards. What could the students of the Polytechnic School and an undisciplined mob do against these armed troops? In vain their cries of Vive la Liberté; à bas Louis Philippe! The military school was closed, and the leading journals of the Republican party were seized. Marshal Soult found himself on the 7th of June, 1832, at the head of sixty thousand regular troops and twenty thousand National Guards. The insurgents, who had erected barricades, were driven back after a fierce fight at the Cloister of St. Méri. This bloody triumph closed the insurrection. The throne of the citizen king was saved by the courage and discipline of the regular troops under a consummate general. The throne of Charles X. could not have stood a day in face of such an insurrection.
The next day after the defeat of the insurgents Paris was proclaimed in a state of siege, in spite of the remonstrances of all parties against it as an unnecessary act; but the king was firm and indignant, and ordered the arrest of both Democrats and Legitimists, including Garnier-Pagès and Chateaubriand himself. He made war on the Press. During his reign of two years two hundred and eighty-one journals were seized, and fines imposed to nearly the amount of four hundred thousand francs.
The suppression of revolts in both Paris and Lyons did much to strengthen the government, and the result was an increase of public prosperity. Capital reappeared from its hiding-places, and industry renewed its labors. The public funds rose six per cent. The first dawn of the welfare of the laboring classes rose on their defeat.
For his great services in establishing a firm government Marshal Soult was made prime minister, with De Broglie, Guizot, and Thiers among his associates. The chief event which marked his administration was a war with Holland, followed by the celebrated siege of Antwerp, which the Hollanders occupied with a large body of troops. England joined with France in this contest, which threatened to bring on a general European war; but the successful capture of the citadel of Antwerp, after a gallant defence, prevented that catastrophe. This successful siege vastly increased the military prestige of France, and brought Belgium completely under French influence.
The remaining events which marked the ministry of Marshal Soult were the project of fortifying Paris by a series of detached forts of great strength, entirely surrounding the city, the liberal expenditure of money for public improvements, and the maintenance of the colony of Algeria. The first measure was postponed on account of the violent opposition of the Republicans, and the second was carried out with popular favor through the influence of Thiers. The Arc de l'Étoile was finished at an expense of two million francs; the Church of the Madeleine, at a cost of nearly three millions; the Panthéon, of 1,400,000; the Museum of Natural History, for which 2,400,000 francs were appropriated; the Church of St. Denis, 1,350,000; the École des Beaux Arts, 1,900,000; the Hotel du Quay d'Orsay, 3,450,000; besides other improvements, the chief of which was in canals, for which forty-four millions of francs were appropriated,--altogether nearly one hundred millions of francs, which of course furnished employment for discontented laborers. The retention of the Colony of Algeria resulted in improving the military strength of France, especially by the institution of the corps of Zouaves, which afterward furnished effective soldiers. It was in Africa that the ablest generals of Louis Napoleon were trained for the Crimean War.
In 1834 Marshal Soult retired from the ministry, and a series of prime ministers rapidly succeeded one another, some of whom were able and of high character, but no one of whom made any great historical mark, until Thiers took the helm of government in 1836,--not like a modern English prime minister, who is supreme so long as he is supported by Parliament, but rather as the servant of the king, like the ministers of George III.
Thiers was forty years of age when he became prime minister, although for years he had been a conspicuous and influential member of the Chamber of Deputies. Like Guizot he sprang from the people, his father being an obscure locksmith in Marseilles. Like Guizot, he first became distinguished as a writer for the "Constitutional," and afterward as its editor. He was a brilliant and fluent speaker, at home on all questions of the day, always equal to the occasion, yet without striking originality or profundity of views. Like most men who have been the architects of their own fortunes, he was vain and consequential. He was liberal in his views, a friend of order and law, with aristocratic tendencies. He was more warlike in his policy than suited either the king or his rival Guizot, who had entered the cabinet with him on the death of Casimir Périer. Nor was he a favorite with Louis Philippe, who was always afraid that he would embroil the kingdom in war. Thiers' political opinions were very much like those of Canning in later days. His genius was versatile,--he wrote history in the midst of his oratorical triumphs. His History of the French Revolution was by far the ablest and most trustworthy that had yet appeared. The same may be said of his History of the Consulate and of the Empire. He was a great admirer of Napoleon, and did more than any other to perpetuate the Emperor's fame. His labors were prodigious; he rose at four in the morning, and wrote thirty or forty letters before breakfast. He was equally remarkable as an administrator and as a statesman, examining all the details of government, and leaving nothing to chance. No man in France knew the condition of the country so well as Thiers, from both a civil and a military point of view. He was overbearing in the Chamber of Deputies, and hence was not popular with the members. He was prime minister several times, but rarely for more than a few months at a time. The king always got rid of him as soon as he could, and much preferred Guizot, the high-priest of the Doctrinaires, whose policy was like that of Lord Aberdeen in England,--peace at any price.
Nothing memorable happened during this short administration of Thiers except the agitation produced by secret societies in Switzerland, composed of refugees from all nations, who kept Europe in constant alarm. There were the "Young Italy" Society, and the societies of "Young Poland," "Young Germany," "Young France," and "Young Switzerland." The cabinets of Europe took alarm, and Thiers brought matters to a crisis by causing the French minister at Berne to intimate to the Swiss government that unless these societies were suppressed all diplomatic intercourse would cease between France and Switzerland,--which meant an armed intervention. This question of the expulsion of political refugees drew Metternich and Thiers into close connection. But a still more important question, as to intervention in Spanish matters, brought about a difference between the king and his minister, in consequence of which the latter resigned.
Count Molé now took the premiership, retaining it for two years. He was a grave, laborious, and thoughtful man, but without the genius, eloquence, and versatility of Thiers. Molé belonged to an ancient and noble family, and his splendid chateau was filled with historical monuments. He had all the affability of manners which marked the man of high birth, without their frivolity. One of the first acts of his administration was the liberation of political prisoners, among whom was the famous Prince Polignac, the prime minister of Charles X. The old king himself died, about the same time, an exile in a foreign land. The year 1836 was also signalized by the foolish and unsuccessful attempt of Louis Napoleon, at Strasburg, to overthrow the government; but he was humanely and leniently dealt with, suffering no greater punishment than banishment to the United States for ten years. In the following year occurred the marriage of the Duke of Orléans, heir to the throne, with a German princess of the Lutheran faith, followed by magnificent festivities. Soon after took place the inauguration of the palace of Versailles as a museum of fine arts, which, as such, has remained to this day; nor did Louis Napoleon in the height of his power venture to use this ancient and magnificent residence of the kings of France for any other purpose.
But the most important event in the administration of Count Molé was the extension of the Algerian colony to the limits of the ancient Libya,--so long the granary of imperial Rome, and which once could boast of twenty millions of people. This occupation of African territory led to the war in which the celebrated Arab chieftain, Abd-el-Kader, was the hero. He was both priest and warrior, enjoying the unlimited confidence of his countrymen; and by his cunning and knowledge of the country he succeeded in maintaining himself for several years against the French generals. His stronghold was Constantine, which was taken by storm in October, 1837, by General Vallée. Still, the Arab chieftain found means to defy his enemies; and it was not till 1841 that he was forced to flee and seek protection from the Emperor of Morocco. The storming of Constantine was a notable military exploit, and gave great prestige to the government.
Louis Philippe was now firmly established on his throne, yet he had narrowly escaped assassination four or five times. This taught him to be cautious, and to realize the fact that no monarch can be safe amid the plots of fanatics. He no longer walked the streets of Paris with an umbrella under his arm, but enshrouded himself in the Tuileries with the usual guards of Continental kings. His favorite residence was at St. Cloud, at that time one of the most beautiful of the royal palaces of Europe.
At this time the railway mania raged in France, as it did in England. Foremost among those who undertook to manage the great corporations which had established district railways, was Arago the astronomer, who, although a zealous Republican, was ever listened to with respect in the Chamber of Deputies. These railways indicated great material prosperity in the nation at large, and the golden age of speculators and capitalists set in,--all averse to war, all worshippers of money, all for peace at any price. Morning, noon, and night the offices of bankers and stock-jobbers were besieged by files of carriages and clamorous crowds, even by ladies of rank, to purchase shares in companies which were to make everybody's fortune, and which at one time had risen fifteen hundred per cent, giving opportunities for boundless frauds. Military glory for a time ceased to be a passion among the most excitable and warlike people of Europe, and gave way to the more absorbing passion for gain, and for the pleasures which money purchases. Nor was it difficult, in this universal pursuit of sudden wealth, to govern a nation whose rulers had the appointment of one hundred and forty thousand civil officers and an army of four hundred thousand men. Bribery and corruption kept pace with material prosperity. Never before had officials been so generally and easily bribed. Indeed, the government was built up on this miserable foundation. With bribery, corruption, and sudden wealth, the most shameful immorality existed everywhere. Out of every one thousand births, one third were illegitimate. The theatres were disgraced by the most indecent plays. Money and pleasure had become the gods of France, and Paris more than ever before was the centre of luxury and social vice.
It was at this period of peace and tranquillity that Talleyrand died, on the 17th of May, 1838, at eighty-two, after serving in his advanced age Louis Philippe as ambassador at London. The Abbé Dupanloup, afterward bishop of Orléans, administered the last services of his church to the dying statesman. Talleyrand had, however, outlived his reputation, which was at its height when he went to the Congress of Vienna in 1814. Though he rendered great services to the different sovereigns whom he served, he was too selfish and immoral to obtain a place in the hearts of the nation. A man who had sworn fidelity to thirteen constitutions and betrayed them all, could not be much mourned or regretted at his death. His fame was built on witty sayings, elegant manners, and adroit adaptation to changing circumstances, rather than on those solid merits winch alone extort the respect of posterity.
The ministry of Count Molé was not eventful. It was marked chiefly for the dissensions of political parties, troubles in Belgium, and threatened insurrections, which alarmed the bourgeoisie. The king, feeling the necessity for a still stronger government, recalled old Marshal Soult to the head of affairs. Neither Thiers nor Guizot formed part of Soult's cabinet, on account of their mutual jealousies and undisguised ambition,--both aspiring to lead, and unwilling to accept any office short of the premiership.
Another great man now came into public notice. This was Villemain, who was made Minister of Public Instruction, a post which Guizot had previously filled. Villemain was a peer of France, an aristocrat from his connections with high society, but a liberal from his love of popularity. He was one of the greatest writers of this period, both in history and philosophy, and an advocate of Polish independence. Thiers at this time was the recognized leader of the Left and Left Centre in the Deputies, while his rival, Guizot, was the leader of the Conservatives. Eastern affairs now assumed great prominence in the Chamber of Deputies. Turkey was reduced to the last straits in consequence of the victories of Ibrahim Pasha in Asia Minor; France and England adhered to the policy of non-intervention, and the Sultan in his despair was obliged to invoke the aid of his most dangerous ally, Russia, who extorted as the price of his assistance the famous treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi, which excluded all ships-of-war, except those of Russia and Turkey, from the Black Sea, the effect of which was to make it a Muscovite lake. England and France did not fully perceive their mistake in thus throwing Turkey into the arms of Russia, by their eagerness to maintain the status quo,--the policy of Austria. There were, however, a few statesmen in the French Chamber of Deputies who deplored the inaction of government. Among these was Lamartine, who made a brilliant and powerful speech against an inglorious peace. This orator was now in the height of his fame, and but for his excessive vanity and sentimentalism might have reached the foremost rank in the national councils. He was distinguished not only for eloquence, but for his historical compositions, which are brilliant and suggestive, but rather prolix and discursive.
Sir Archibald Alison seems to think that Lamartine cannot be numbered among the great historians, since, like the classic historians of Greece and Rome, he has not given authorities for his statements, and, unlike German writers, disdains foot-notes as pedantic. But I observe that in his "History of Europe" Alison quotes Lamartine oftener than any other French writer, and evidently admires his genius, and throws no doubt on the general fidelity of his works. A partisan historian full of prejudices, like Macaulay, with all his prodigality of references, is apt to be in reality more untruthful than a dispassionate writer without any show of learning at all. The learning of an advocate may hide and obscure truth as well as illustrate it. It is doubtless the custom of historical writers generally to enrich, or burden, their works with all the references they can find, to the delight of critics who glory in dulness; but this, after all, may be a mere scholastic fashion. Lamartine probably preferred to embody his learning in the text than display it in foot-notes. Moreover, he did not write for critics, but for the people; not for the few, but for the many. As a popular writer his histories, like those of Voltaire, had an enormous sale. If he were less rhetorical and discursive, his books, perhaps, would have more merit. He fatigues by the redundancy of his richness and the length of his sentences; and yet he is as candid and judicial as Hallam, and would have had the credit of being so, had he only taken more pains to prove his points by stating his authorities.
Next to the insolvable difficulties which attended the discussion of the Eastern question,--whether Turkey should be suffered to crumble away without the assistance of the Western Powers; whether Russia should be driven back from the Black Sea or not,--the affairs of Africa excited great interest in the Chambers. Algiers had been taken by French armies under the Bourbons, and a colony had been founded in countries of great natural fertility. It was now a question how far the French armies should pursue their conquests in Africa, involving an immense expenditure of men and money, in order to found a great colonial empire, and gain military éclat, so necessary in France to give strength to any government. But a new insurrection and confederation of the defeated Arab tribes, marked by all the fanaticism of Moslem warriors, made it necessary for the French to follow up their successes with all the vigor possible. In consequence, an army of forty thousand infantry and twelve thousand cavalry and artillery drove the Arabs, in 1840, to their remotest fastnesses. The ablest advocate for war measures was Thiers; and so formidable were his eloquence and influence in the Chambers, that he was again called to the head of affairs, and his second administration took place.
The rivalry and jealousy between this great statesman and Guizot would not permit the latter to take a subordinate position, but he was mollified by the appointment of ambassador to London. The prime minister had a great majority to back him, and such was his ascendency that he had all things his own way for a time, in spite of the king, whose position was wittily set forth in a famous expression of Thiers, Le Roi règne, et ne gouverne pas. Still, in spite of the liberal and progressive views of Thiers, very little was done toward the amelioration of the sufferings of the people, for whom, personally, he cared but little. True, a bill was introduced into the Chambers which reduced the hours of labor in the manufactories from twelve to eight hours, and from sixteen hours to twelve, while it forbade the employment of children under eight years of age in the mills; but this beneficent measure, though carried in the Chamber of Peers, was defeated in the lower house, made up of capitalists and parsimonious money-worshippers.
What excited the most interest in the short administration of Thiers, was the removal of the bones of Napoleon from St. Helena to the banks of the Seine, which he loved so well, and their deposition under the dome of the Invalides,--the proudest monument of Louis Quatorze. Louis Philippe sent his son the Prince de Joinville to superintend this removal,--an act of magnanimity hard to be reconciled with his usual astuteness and selfishness. He probably thought that his throne was so firmly established that he could afford to please the enemies of his house, and perhaps would gain popularity. But such a measure doubtless kept alive the memory of the deeds of the great conqueror, and renewed sentiments in the nation which in less than ten years afterward facilitated the usurpation of his nephew. In fact, the bones of Napoleon were scarcely removed to their present resting-place before Louis Napoleon embarked upon his rash expedition at Boulogne, was taken prisoner, and immured in the fortress of Ham, where he spent six years in strict seclusion, conversing only with books, until he contrived to escape to England.
The Eastern question again, under Thiers' administration, became the great topic of conversation and public interest, and his military policy came near embroiling France in war. So great was the public alarm that the army was raised to four hundred thousand men, and measures were taken to adopt a great system of fortifications around Paris. It was far, however, from the wishes and policy of the king to be dragged into war by an ambitious and restless minister. He accordingly summoned Guizot from London to meet him privately at the Château d'Eu, in Normandy, where the statesman fully expounded his conservative and pacific policy. The result of this interview was the withdrawal of the French forces in the Levant and the dismissal of Thiers, who had brought the nation to the edge of war. His place was taken by Guizot, who henceforth, with brief intervals, was the ruling spirit in the councils of the king.
Guizot, on the whole, was the greatest name connected with the reign of Louis Philippe, although his elevation to the premiership was long delayed. In solid learning, political ability, and parliamentary eloquence he had no equal, unless it were Thiers. He was a native of Switzerland, and a Protestant; but all his tendencies were conservative. He was cold and austere in manners and character. He had acquired distinction in the two preceding reigns, both as a political writer for the journals and as a historian. The extreme Left and the extreme Right called him a "Doctrinaire," and he was never popular with either of these parties. He greatly admired the English constitution and attempted to steer a middle course, being the advocate of constitutional monarchy surrounded with liberal institutions. Amid the fierce conflict of parties which marked the reign of Louis Philippe, Guizot gradually became more and more conservative, verging on absolutism. Hence he broke with Lafayette, who was always ready to upset the throne when it encroached on the liberties of the people. His policy was pacific, while Thiers was always involving the nation in military schemes. In the latter part of the reign of Louis Philippe, Guizot's views were not dissimilar to those of the English Tories. His studies led him to detest war as much as did Lord Aberdeen, and he was the invariable advocate of peace. He was, like Thiers, an aristocrat at heart, although sprung from the middle classes. He was simple in his habits and style of life, and was greater as a philosopher than as a practical statesman amid popular discontents.
Guizot was the father of what is called philosophical history, and all his historical writings show great research, accuracy, and breadth of views. His temperament made him calm and unimpassioned, and his knowledge made him profound. He was a great historical authority, like Ranke, but was more admired fifty years ago than he is at the present day, when dramatic writings like those of Motley and Froude have spoiled ordinary readers for profundity allied with dulness. He resembles Hallam more than Macaulay. But it is life rather than learning which gives immortality to historians. It is the life and the individuality of Gibbon which preserve his fame and popularity rather than his marvellous learning. Voltaire lives for his style alone, the greatest of modern historical artists. Better it is for the fame of a writer to have a thousand faults with the single excellence of living power, than to have no faults and no remarkable excellences. Guizot is deficient in life, but is wonderful for research and philosophical deductions, and hence is to be read by students rather than by the people. As a popular historian he is inferior to Thiers, but superior to him in general learning.
Guizot became the favorite minister of Louis Philippe for his conservative policy and his love of peace rather than for his personal attractions. He was less independent than Thiers, and equally ambitious of ruling, and was also more subservient to the king, supporting him in measures which finally undermined his throne; but the purity of Guizot's private life, in an age of corruption, secured for him more respect than popularity, Mr. Fyffe in his late scholarly history sneers at him as a sanctimonious old Puritan,--almost a hypocrite.
Guizot died before Thiers had won his greatest fame as the restorer of law and order after the communistic riots which followed the siege of Paris in 1871, when, as President of the Republic, he rendered inestimable services to France. The great personal defect of Thiers was vanity; that of Guizot was austerity: but both were men of transcendent ability and unimpeached patriotism. With these two men began the mighty power of the French Press in the formation of public opinion. With them the reign of Louis Philippe was identified as much as that of Queen Victoria for twenty years has been with Gladstone and Disraeli. Between them the king "reigned" rather than "governed." This was the period when statesmen began to monopolize the power of kings in Prussia and Austria as well as in France and England. Russia alone of the great Powers was ruled by the will of a royal autocrat. In constitutional monarchies ministers enjoy the powers which were once given to the favorites of royalty; they rise and fall with majorities in legislative assemblies. In such a country as America the President is king, but only for a limited period. He descends from a position of transcendent dignity to the obscurity of private life. His ministers are his secretaries, without influence, comparatively, in the halls of Congress,--neither made nor unmade by the legislature, although dependent on the Senate for confirmation, but once appointed, independent of both houses, and responsible only to the irremovable Executive, who can defy even public opinion, unless he aims at re-election, a unique government in the political history of the world.
The year 1841 opened auspiciously for Louis Philippe. He was at the summit of his power, and his throne seemed to be solidly cemented. All the insurrections which had given him so much trouble were suppressed, and the country was unusually prosperous. The enormous sum of £85,000,000 had been expended in six years on railways, one quarter more than England had spent. Population had increased over a million in ten years, and the exports were £7,000,000 more than they were in 1830. Paris was a city of shops and attractive boulevards.
The fortification of the capital continued to be an engrossing matter with the ministry and legislature, and it was a question whether there should be built a wall around the city, or a series of strong detached forts. The latter found the most favor with military men, but the Press denounced it as nothing less than a series of Bastiles to overawe the city. The result was the adoption of both systems,--detached forts, each capable of sustaining a siege and preventing an enemy from effectually bombarding the city; and the enceinte continuée, which proved an expensive muraille d'octroi. Had it not been for the detached forts, with their two thousand pieces of cannon, Paris would have been unable to sustain a siege in the Franco-Prussian war. The city must have surrendered immediately when once invested, or have been destroyed; but the distant forts prevented the Prussians from advancing near enough to bombard the centre of the city.
The war in Algeria was also continued with great vigor by the government of Guizot. It required sixty thousand troops to carry on the war, bring the Arabs to terms, and capture their cunning and heroic chieftain Abd-el-Kader, which was done at last, after a vast expenditure of money and men. Among the commanders who conducted this African war were Marshals Valée, Changarnier, Cavaignac, Canrobert, Bugeaud, St. Arnaud, and Generals Lamoricière, Bosquet, Pelissier. Of these Changarnier was the most distinguished, although, from political reasons, he took no part in the Crimean War. The result of the long contest, in which were developed the talents of the generals who afterward gained under Napoleon III. so much distinction, was the possession of a country twelve hundred miles in length and three hundred in breadth, many parts of which are exceedingly fertile, and capable of sustaining a large population. As a colony, however, Algeria has not been a profitable investment. It took eighteen years to subdue it, at a cost of one billion francs, and the annual expense of maintaining it exceeds one hundred million francs. The condition of colonists there has generally been miserable; and while the imports in 1845 were one hundred million francs, the exports were only about ten millions. The great importance of the colony is as a school for war; it has no great material or political value. The English never had over fifty thousand European troops, aside from the native auxiliary army, to hold India in subjection, with a population of nearly three hundred millions, whereas it takes nearly one hundred thousand men to hold possession of a country of less than two million natives. This fact, however, suggests the immeasurable superiority of the Arabs over the inhabitants of India from a military point of view.
The accidental death, in 1842, of the Due d'Orléans, heir to the throne, was attended with important political consequences. He was a favorite of the nation, and was both gifted and virtuous. His death left a frail infant, the Comte de Paris, as heir to the throne, and led to great disputes in the Chambers as to whom the regency should be intrusted in case of the death of the king. Indeed, this sad calamity, as it was felt by the nation, did much to shake the throne of Louis Philippe.
The most important event during the ministry of Guizot, in view of its consequences on the fortunes of Louis Philippe, was the Spanish marriages. The Salic law prohibited the succession of females to the throne of France, but the old laws of Spain permitted females as well as males to reign. In consequence, it was always a matter of dynastic ambition for the monarchs of Europe to marry their sons to those Spanish princesses who possibly might become sovereign of Spain. But as such marriages might result in the consolidation of powerful States, and thus disturb the balance of power, they were generally opposed by other countries, especially England. Indeed, the long and bloody war called the War of Spanish Succession, in which Marlborough and Eugene were the heroes, was waged with Louis XIV. to prevent the union of France and Spain, as seemed probable when the bequest of the Spanish throne was made to the Duc d'Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV., who had married a Spanish princess. The victories of Marlborough and Eugene prevented this union of the two most powerful monarchies of Europe at that time, and the treaty of Utrecht permanently guarded against it. The title of the Duc d'Anjou to the Spanish throne was recognized, but only on the condition that he renounced for himself and his descendants all claim to the French crown,--while the French monarch renounced on his part for his descendants all claim to the Spanish throne, which was to descend, against ancient usages, to the male heirs alone. The Spanish Cortes and the Parliament of Paris ratified this treaty, and it became incorporated with the public law of Europe.
Up to this time the relations between England and France had been most friendly. Louis Philippe had visited Queen Victoria at Windsor, and the Queen of England had returned the visit to the French king with great pomp at his chateau d'Eu, in Normandy, where magnificent fêtes followed. Guizot and Lord Aberdeen, the English foreign minister, were also in accord, both statesmen adopting a peace policy. This entente cordiale between England and France had greatly strengthened the throne of Louis Philippe, who thus had the moral support of England.
But this moral support was withdrawn when the king, in 1846, yielding to ambition and dynastic interests, violated in substance the treaty of Utrecht by marrying his son, the Duc de Montpensier, to the Infanta, daughter of Christina the Queen of Spain, and second wife of Ferdinand VII., the last of the Bourbon kings of Spain. Ferdinand left two daughters by Queen Christina, but no son. By the Salic law his younger brother Don Carlos was the legitimate heir to the throne; but his ambitious wife, who controlled him, influenced him to alter the law of succession, by which his eldest daughter became the heir. This bred a civil war; but as Don Carlos was a bigot and tyrant, like all his family, the liberal party in France and England brought all their influence to secure the acknowledgment of the claims of Isabella, now queen, under the regency of her mother Christina. But her younger sister, the Infanta, was also a great matrimonial prize, since on the failure of issue in case the young queen married, the Infanta would be the heir to the crown. By the intrigues of Louis Philippe, aided by his astute, able, but subservient minister Guizot, it was contrived to marry the young queen to the Duke of Cadiz, one of the degenerate descendants of Philip V., since no issue from the marriage was expected, in which case the heir of the Infanta Donna Fernanda, married to the Duc de Montpensier, would some day ascend the throne of Spain. The English government, especially Lord Palmerston, who had succeeded Lord Aberdeen as foreign secretary, was exceedingly indignant at this royal trick; for Louis Philippe had distinctly promised Queen Victoria, when he entertained her at his royal chateau in Normandy, that this marriage of the Duc de Montpensier should not take place until Queen Isabella was married and had children. Guizot also came in for a share of the obloquy, and made a miserable defence. The result of the whole matter was that the entente cordiale between the governments of France and England was broken,--a great misfortune to Louis Philippe; and the English government was not only indignant in view of this insincerity, treachery, and ambition on the part of the French king, but was disappointed in not securing the hand of Queen Isabella for Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.
Meanwhile corruption became year by year more disgracefully flagrant. It entered into every department of the government, and only by evident corruption did the king retain his power. The eyes of the whole nation were opened to his selfishness and grasping ambition to increase the power and wealth of his family. In seven years a thousand million francs had been added to the national debt. The government works being completed, there was great distress among the laboring classes, and government made no effort to relieve it. Consequently, there was an increasing disaffection among the people, restrained from open violence by a government becoming every day more despotic. Even the army was alienated, having reaped nothing but barren laurels in Algeria. Socialistic theories were openly discussed, and so able an historian as Louis Blanc fanned the discontent. The Press grew more and more hostile, seeing that the nation had been duped and mocked. But the most marked feature of the times was excessive venality. "Talents, energy, and eloquence," says Louis Blanc, "were alike devoted to making money. Even literature and science were venal. All elevated sentiments were forgotten in the brutal materialism which followed the thirst for gold." The foundations of society were rapidly being undermined by dangerous theories, and by general selfishness and luxury among the middle classes. No reforms of importance took place. Even Guizot was as much opposed to electoral extension as the Duke of Wellington. The king in his old age became obstinate and callous, and would not listen to advisers. The Prince de Joinville himself complained to his brother of the inflexibility of his father. "His own will," said he, "must prevail over everything. There are no longer any ministers. Everything rests with the king."
Added to these evils, there was a failure of the potato crop and a monetary crisis. The annual deficit was alarming. Loans were raised with difficulty. No one came to the support of a throne which was felt to be tottering. The liberal Press made the most of the difficulties to fan the general discontent. It saw no remedy for increasing evils but in parliamentary reform, and this, of course, was opposed by government. The Chamber of Deputies, composed of rich men, had lost the confidence of the nation. The clergy were irrevocably hostile to the government. "Yes," said Lamartine, "a revolution is approaching; and it is a revolution of contempt." The most alarming evil was the financial state of the country. The expenses for the year 1847 were over fourteen hundred millions, nearly four hundred millions above the receipts. Such a state of things made loans necessary, which impaired the national credit.
The universal discontent sought a vent in reform banquets, where inflammatory speeches were made and reported. These banquets extended over France, attended by a coalition of hostile parties, the chiefs of which were Thiers, Odillon Barrot, De Tocqueville, Garnier-Pagès, Lamartine, and Ledru-Rollin, who pointed out the evils of the times. At last, in 1848, the opposition resolved on a great banquet in Paris, to defy the government. The radicals sounded the alarm in the newspapers. Terror seized all classes, and public business was suspended, for revolution was in the air Men said to one another, "They will be fighting in the streets soon."
The place selected for the banquet was in one of the retired streets leading out of the Champs Elysées,--a large open space enclosed by walls capable of seating six thousand people at table. The proposed banquet, however, was changed to a procession, extending from the Place of the Bastille to the Madeleine. The National Guard were invited to attend without their arms, but in uniform. The government was justly alarmed, for no one could tell what would come of it, although the liberal chiefs declared that nothing hostile was meant. Louis Blanc, however,--socialist, historian, journalist, agitator, leader among the working classes,--meant blood. The more moderate now began to fear that a collision would take place between the people and the military, and that they would all be put down or massacred. They were not prepared for an issue which would be the logical effect of the procession, and at the eleventh hour concluded to abandon it. The government, thinking that the crisis was passed, settled into an unaccountable repose. There were only twenty thousand regular troops in the city. There ought to have been eighty thousand; but Guizot was not the man for the occasion.
Meanwhile the National Guard began to fraternize with the people. The popular agitation increased every hour. Soon matters again became serious. Barricades were erected. There was consternation at the Tuileries. A cabinet council was hastily called, with the view of a change of ministers, and Guizot retired from the helm. The crowd thickened in the streets, with hostile intent, and an accidental shot precipitated the battle between the military and the mob. Thiers was hastily sent for at the palace, and arrived at midnight. He refused office unless joined by the man the king most detested, Odillon Barrot. Loath was Louis Philippe to accept this great opposition chief as minister of the interior, but there was no alternative between him and war. The command of the army was taken from Generals Sébastiani and Jacqueminot, and given to Marshal Bugeaud, while General Lamoricière took the command of the National Guard.
The insurgents were not intimidated. They seized the churches, rang the bells, sacked the gunsmith shops, and erected barricades. The old marshal was now hampered by the Executive. He should have been made dictator; but subordinate to the civil power, which was timid and vacillating, he could not act with proper energy. Indeed, he had orders not to fire, and his troops were too few and scattered to oppose the surging mass. The Palais Royal was the first important place to be abandoned, and its pictures and statues were scattered by the triumphant mob. Then followed the attack on the Louvre and the Tuileries; then the abdication of the king; and then his inglorious flight. The monarchy had fallen.
Had Louis Philippe shown the courage and decision of his earlier years, he might have preserved his throne. But he was now a timid old man, and perhaps did not care to prolong his reign by massacre of his people. He preferred dethronement and exile rather than see his capital deluged in blood. Nor did he know whom to trust. Treachery and treason finished what selfishness and hypocrisy had begun. Still, it is wonderful that he preserved his power for eighteen years. He must have had great tact and ability to have reigned so long amid the factions which divided France, and which made a throne surrounded with republican institutions at that time absurd and impossible.
Louis Blanc's Six Ans de Louis Philippe; Lamartine; Capefigue's L'Histoire de Louis Philippe; Lives of Thiers and Guizot; Fyffe's Modern Europe; Life of Lafayette; Annual Register; Mackenzie's Nineteenth Century; Conversations with Thiers and Guizot.
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