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terror were infinitely more effectual and ex- was attached, from their fortune, their age, or peditious than persuasion and eloquence. The their official station ; if, in short, instead of people at large, who had no attachment to grasping presumptuously at the exclusive diany families or individuals among their dele- rection of the national councils, and arrogating gates, and who contented themselves with every thing on the credit of their zealous idolizing the assembly in general, so long as patriotism and inexperienced abilities, they it passed decrees to their liking, were passive had sought to strengthen themselves by an and indifferent spectators of the transference alliance with what was respectable in the of power which was effected by the pikes of existing establishments, and attached themthe Parisian multitude; and looked with equal selves at first as disciples to those whom they affection upon every successive junto which might fairly expect speedily to outgrow and assumed the management of its deliberations. eclipse. Having no natural representatives, they felt Upon a review of the whole matter, it themselves equally connected with all who seems impossible to acquit those of the revoexercised the legislative function; and, being lutionary patriots, whose intentions are addestitute of a real aristocracy, were without mitted to be pure, of great precipitation, prethe means of giving effectual support even to sumption, and imprudence. Apologies may those who might appear to deserve it. En be found for them, perhaps, in the inexpecouraged by this situation of affairs, the most rience which was incident to their situation; daring, unprincipled, and profligate, proceeded in their constant apprehension of being sepato seize upon the defenceless legislature, and; rated before their task was accomplished; in driving all their antagonists before them by the exasperation which was excited by the violence or intimidation, entered without op- insidious proceedings of the cabinet; and in position upon the supreme functions of gov- the intoxication which naturally resulted from ernment. They soon found, however, that the magnitude of their early triumph, and the the arms by which they had been victorious, noise and resounding of their popularity. But were capable of being turned against them- the errors into which they fell were inexselves; and those who were envious of their cusable, we think, in politicians of the eightsuccess, or ambitious of their distinction, easily eenth century; and while we pity their suffound means to excite discontent among the ferings, and admire their genius, we cannot multitude, now inured to insurrection, and to feel much respect for their wisdom, or any employ them in pulling down those very in- surprise at their miscarriage. dividuals whom they had so recently exalted. The preceding train of reflection was irreThe disposal of the legislature thus became a sistibly suggested to us by the title and the conprize to be fought for in the clubs and con- tents of the volumes now before us. Among spiracies and insurrections of a corrupted the virtuous members of the first Assembly, metropolis; and the institution of a national there was no one who stood higher than Bailly. representative had no other effect, than that As a scholar and a man of science, he had of laying the government open to lawless long stood in the very first rank of celebrity: force and fagitious audacity.
His private morals were not only irreproachIt is in this manner, it appears to us, that able, but exemplary; and his character and from the want of a natural and efficient aris- dispositions had always been remarkable for toeracy to exercise the functions of represent- gentleness, moderation, and philanthropy. ative legislators, the National Assembly of Drawn unconsciously, if we may believe his France was betrayed into extravagance, and own account, into public life, raiher than imfell a prey to faction; that the institution pelled into it by any movement of ambition, itself became a source of public misery and he participated in the enthusiasm, and in the disorder, and converted a civilized monarchy, imprudence, from which no one seemed at first into a sanguinary democracy, and then that time to be exempted; and in spite of an into a military despotism.
early retreat, speedily suffered that fate by It would be the excess of injustice, we which all the well meaning were then deshave already said, to impute those disastrous tined to expiate their errors. His popularity consequences to the moderate and virtuous was at one time equal to that of any of the individuals who sat in the Constituent As- idols of the day; and if it was gained by sembly: But if it be admitted that they might some degree of blameable indulgence and have been easily foreseen, it will not be easy unjustifiable zeal, it was forfeited at last (and to exculpate them from the charge of very along with his life) by a resolute opposition blameable imprudence. It would be difficult
, to disorder, and a meritorious perseverance indeed, to point out any course of conduct by in the discharge of his duty. which those dangers might have been entirely avoided : But they would undoubtedly have The sequel of this article, containing a full been less formidable, if the enlightened mem- abstract of the learned author's recollections bers of the Third Estate had endeavoured to of the first six months only of his mayoralty, form a party with the more liberal and popu- is now omitted; both as too minute to retain lar among the nobility; if they had associated any interest at this day, and as superseded to themselves a greater number of those to by the more comprehensive details which whose persons a certain degree of influence will be found in the succeeding article.
(September, 1818.) Considérations sur les Principaux Evènemens de la Révolution Françoise. Ouvrage Posthume
de Madame la Baronne de Staël. Publié par M. Le Duc de Broglie et M. le Baron A. DE STAËL. En trois tomes. 8vo. pp. 1285. Londres: 1818.
No book can possibly possess a higher|like this, we have not yet facts enough for so interest than this which is now before us. much philosophy; and must be contented, It is the last, dying bequest of the most bril- we fear, for a long time to come, to call many liant writer that has appeared in our days;- things accidental, which it would be more and it treats of a period of history which we satisfactory to refer to determinate causes. already know to be the most important that In her estimate of the happiness, and her has occurred for centuries; and which those notions of the wisdom of private life, we who look back on it, after other centuries think her both unfortunate and erroneous. have elapsed, will probably consider as still She makes passions and high sensibilities a more important.
great deal 100 indispensable; and vamishes We cannot stop now to say all that we think over all her pictures too uniformly with the of Madame de Staël :-and yet we must say, glare of an extravagant or affected enthuthat we think her the most powerful writer siasm. She represents men, in short, as a that her country has produced since the time great deal more unhappy, more depraved, of Voltaire and Rousseau—and the greatest and more energetic, ihan they are- - and writer, of a woman, that any time or any seems to respect them the more for it. In country has produced. Her taste, perhaps, her politics she is far more unexceptionable. is not quite pure; and her style is too irregu- She is everywhere the warm friend and ani. lar and ambitious. These faults may even mated advocate of liberty—and of liberal, go deeper. Her passion for effect, and the practical, and philanthropic principles. On tone of exaggeration which it naturally pro- ihose subjects we cannot blame her enthuduces, have probably interfered occasionally siasm, which has nothing in it vindictive or with the soundness of her judgment, and provoking; and are far more inclined to envy given a suspicious colouring to some of her than to reprove that sanguine and buoyant representations of fact. At all events, they temper of mind which, after all she has seen have rendered her impatient of the humbler and suffered, still leads her to overrate, in our task of completing her explanatory details, apprehension, both the merit of past attempts or stating in their order all the premises of at political amelioration, and the chances of her reasonings. She gives her history in their success hereafter. It is in that futurity, abstracts, and her theories in aphorisms :- we fear, and in the hopes that make it preand the greater part of her works, instead of sent, that the lovers of mankind must yet, presenting that systematic unity from which for a while, console themselves for the disapThe highest degrees of strength and beauty pointments which still seem to beset them. and clearness must ever be derived, may be if Madame de Staël, however, predicts with fairly described as a collection of striking too much confidence, it must be admitted fragments-in which a great deal of repe- that her labours have a powerful tendency to tition does by no means diminish the effect realize her predictions. Her writings are all of a good deal of inconsistency. In those full of the most animating views of the imsame works, however, whether we consider provement of our social condition, and the them as fragments or as systems, we do not means by which it may be effected the most hesitate to say that there are more original striking refulations of prevailing errors on and profound observations-more new images these great subjects—and the most persuasive -greater sagacity combined with higher im- expostulations with those who may ihink their agination and more of the true philosophy interest or their honour concerned in mainof the passions, the politics, and the literature taining them. Even they who are the least of her contemporaries—than in any other inclined to agree with her, must admit that author we can now remember. She has great there is much to be learned from her writings; eloquence on all subjects; and a singular and we can give them no higher praise than pathos in representing those bitterest agonies to say, that their tendency is not only to proof the spirit
, in which wretchedness is aggra- mote the interests of philanthropy and indevated by remorse, or by regrets that partake pendence, but to soften, rather than exasperate, of its character. Though it is difficult to re- ihe prejudices to which they are opposed. sist her when she is in earnest, we cannot say
of the work before us, we do not know that we agree in all her opinions, or approve very well what to say. It contains a multiof all her sentiments. She overrates the im- tude of admirable remarks—and a still greater portance of literature, either in determining number of curious details; for Madame de the character or affecting the happiness of Staël was not only a contemporary, but an eyemankind; and she theorises too confidently witness of much that she describes, and had on its past and its future bistory. On subjects the very best access to learn what did not fall under her immediate observation. Few per- giant outline which it traces on the sky. A sons certainly could be better qualified to ap- traveller who wanders through a rugged and preciate the relative importance of the sub- picturesque district, though struck with the jects that fell under her review; and no one, beauty of every new valley, or the grandeur we really think, so little likely to colour and of every cliff that he passes, has no notion at distort them, from any personal or party feel all of the general configuration of the country, ings. With all those rare qualifications, how- or even of the relative situation of the objects ever, and inestimable advantages for perform- he has been admiring; and will understand ing the task of an historian, we cannot say all those things, and his own route among that she has made a good history. It is too them, a thousand times better, from a small much broken into fragments. The narrative map on a scale of half an inch to a mile, is too much interrupted by reflections: and which represents neither thickets or hamlets, the reflections too much subdivided, to suit than from the most painful efforts to combiné the subdivisions of the narrative. There are the indications of the strongest memory. The too many events omitted, or but cursorily case is the same with those who live through noticed, to give the work the interest of a full periods of great historical interest. They are and flowing history; and a great deal too too near the scene—too much interested in many detailed and analyzed, to let it pass for each successive event—and too much agian essay on the philosophy, or greater results tated with their rapid succession, to form any of these memorable transactions. We are just estimate of the character or result of the the most struck with this last fault-which whole. They are like private soldiers in the perhaps is inseparable from the condition of middle of a great battle, or rather of a busy a contemporary writer ;-for, though the ob- and complicated campaign-hardly knowing servation may sound at first like a paradox, whether they have lost or won, and having we are rather inclined to think that the best but the most obscure and imperfect concephistorical compositions—not only the most tion of the general movements in which their pleasing to read, but the most just and in- own fate has been involved. The foreigner structive in themselves—must be written at who reads of them in the Gazette, or the a very considerable distance from the times peasant who sees them from the top of a disto which they relate. When we read an elo- tant hill or a steeple, has in fact a far better quent and judicious account of great events idea of them. transacted in other ages, our first sentiment Of the thousand or fifteen hundred names is that of regret at not being able to learn that have been connected in contemporary more of them. We wish anxiously for a fuller fame with the great events of the last twentydetail of particulars—we envy those who had five years, how many will go down to posthe good fortune to live in the time of such terity ? In all probability not more than interesting occurrences, and blame them for twenty: And who shall yet venture to say having left us so brief and imperfect a me- which twenty it will be ? But it is the same morial of them. But the truth is, if we may with the events as with the actors. How judge from our own experience, that the often, during that period, have we mourned greater part of those who were present to or exulted, with exaggerated emotions, over those mighty operations, were but very im- occurrences that we already discover to have perfectly aware of their importance, and con- been of no permanent importance !-how cerjectured but little of the influence they were tain is it, that the far greater proportion of to exert on future generations. Their atten- those to which we still attach an interest, will tion was successively engaged by each sepa- be viewed with the same indifference by the rate act of the great drama that was passing very next generation !—and how probable, before them; but did not extend to the con- that the whole train and tissue of the history nected effect of the whole, in which alone will appear, to a remoter posterity, under a posterity was to find the grandeur and inter- totally different character and colour from any est of the scene. The connection indeed of that the most penetrating observer of the prethose different acts is very often not then sent day has thought of ascribing to it! Was discernible. The series often stretches on, there any contemporary, do we think, of Mabeyond the reach of the generation which homet, of Gregory VII., of Faust, or Columwitnessed its beginning, and makes it impos- bus, who formed the same estimate of their sible for them to integrate what had not yet achievements that we do at this day? Were attained its completion; while, from similar the great and wise men who brought about causes, many of the terms that at first ap- the Reformation, as much aware of its impeared most important are unavoidably dis- portance as the whole world is at present? or carded, to bring the problem within a manage- does any one imagine, that, even in the later able
compass. Time, in short, performs the and more domestic events of the establishsame services to events, which distance does ment of the English Commonwealth in 1648, to visible objects. It obscures and gradually or the English Revolution in 1688, the large annihilates the small, but renders those that and energetic spirits by whom those great are very great much more distinct and con- events were conducted were fully sensible of ceivable. If we would know the true form their true character and bearings, or at all and bearings of an Alpine ridge, we must not foresaw the mighty consequences of which grovel among the irregularities of its surface, they have since been prolific ? but observe, from the distance of leagues, the But though it may thus require the lapse direction of its ranges and peaks, and the of ages to develope the true character of a 28
great transaction, and though its history may sages, true at least to the general features of Therefore be written with most advantage such periods, we have nothing but a tranvery long after its occurrence, it does not fol- script of the author's own most recent fantalow that such a history will not be deficient sies and follies, ill disguised under the in many qualities which it would be desira- masquerade character of a few traditional ble for it io possess. All we say is, that they names. It is only necessary to call to mind are qualities which will generally be found such books as Zouche's Life of Sir Philip incompatible with those larger and sounder Sydney, or Godwin's Life of Chaucer, to feel views, which can hardly be matured while this much more strongly than we can now the subjects of them are recent. That this is express it. These, no doubt, are extreme an imperfection in our histories and histori- cases ;-but we suspect that our impressions ans, is sufficiently obvious; but it is an im- of almost all remote characters and events, perfection to which we must patiently resign and the general notions we have of the times ourselves, if it appear to be an unavoidable or societies which produced them, are much consequence of the limitation of our faculties. more dependent on the peculiar temper and We cannot both enjoy the sublime effect of a habits of the popular writers in whom the vast and various landscape, and at the same memory of them is chiefly preserved, than it time discern the form of every leaf in the for- is very pleasant to think of. If we ever take est, or the movements of every living crea- the trouble of looking for ourselves into the ture that breathes within its expanse. Beings documents and materials out of which those of a higher order may be capable of this;- histories are made, we feel at once how much and it would be ery desirable to be so: room there is for a very different representaBut, constituted as we are, it is impossible ; tion of all those things from that which is and, in our delineation of such a scene, all current in the world. And accordingly we that is minute and detached, however inter- occasionally have very opposite representaesting or important to those who are at hand, tions. Compare Bossuet's Universal History must therefore be omitted—while the general with Voltaire's—Rollin with Mitford-Hume effect is entrusted to masses in which nothing or Clarendon with Ralph or Mrs. M'Aulay; but the great outlines of great objects are pre- and it will be difficult to believe that these served, and the details left to be inferred from different writers are speaking of the same the character of their results, or the larger persons and things. features of their usual accompaniments. The work before us, we have already said,
It is needless to apply this to the case of is singularly free from faults of this descriphistory; in which, when it records events of tion. It is written, we do think, in the true permanent interest, it is equally impossible to spirit and temper of historical impartiality. retain those particular details which engrossed But it has faults of a different character; and, the attention of contemporaries—both because with many of the merits, combines some of the memory of them is necessarily lost in the the appropriate defects, both of a contempocourse of that period which must elapse be- rary and philosophical history. Its details are fore the just value of the whole can be too few and too succinct for ihe former-they known—and because, even if it were other are too numerous and too rashly selected for wise, no human memory could retain, or the latter ;-while the reasonings and specuhuman judgment discriminate, the infinite lations in which perhaps its chief value connumber of particulars which must have been sists, seem already to be too often thrown presented in such an interval. We shall only away upon matters that cannot long be had observe, further, that though that which is in remembrance. We must take care not to preserved is generally the most material and get entangled too far among the anecdotestruly important part of the story, it not un- but the general reasoning cannot detain us frequently happens, that too little is pre- very long. served to afford materials for a satisfactory It is the scope of the book to show that narrative, or to justify any general conclu- France must have a free government-a sion; and that, in such cases, the historian limited monarchy—in express words, a conoften yields to the temptation of connecting stitution like that of England. This, Madame the scanty materials that have reached him de Staël says, was all that the body of the by a sort of general and theoretical reasoning, nation aimed at in 1789—and this she says which naturally takes its colour from the pre- the great majority of the nation are resolved vailing views and opinions of the individual to have still—undeterred by the fatal miscarwriter, or of the age to which he belongs. If riage of the last experiment, and undisgusted an author of consummate judgment, and with by the revival of ancient pretensions which a thorough knowledge of the unchangeable has signalised its close. Still, though she principles of human nature, undertake this maintains this to be the prevailing sentiment task, it is wonderful indeed to see how much of the French people, she thinks it not altohe may make of a subject that appears so un- gether unnecessary to combat this discourpromising--and it is almost certain that the agement and this disgust;—and the great view he will give to his readers, of such an object of all that is argumentative in her obscure period, will, at all events, be at least book, is to show that there is nothing in the as instructive and interesting as if he had had character or condition, or late or early history its entire annals before him. In other hands, of her countrymen, to render this regulated however, the result is very different; and, in- freedom unattainable by them, or io disnad of a masterly picture of rude or remote qualify them from the enjoyment of a representative government, or the functions of free consummation—and that every thing is now citizens.
in the fairest train to secure it, without any For this purpose she takes a rapid and mas- great effort or hazard of disturbance. terly view of the progress of the different That these views are supported with infinite European kingdoms from their primitive con- talent, spirit, and eloquence, no one who has dition of feudal aristocracies, to their present read the book will probably dispute; and we state of monarchies limited by law, or miti- should be sorry indeed to think that they were gated by the force of public opinion; and en- ! not substantially just. Yet we are not, we deavours to show, that the course has been confess, quite so sanguine as the distinguished the same in all; and that its unavoidable ter-writer before us; aud though we do not doubt mination is in a balanced constitution like that either that her principles are true, or that her of England. The first change was the reduc- predictions will be ultimately accomplished, we tion of the Nobles,-chiefly by the aid which fear that the period of their triumph is not yet the Commons, then first pretending to wealth at hand; and that it is far more doubtful than or intelligence, afforded to the Crown-and, she will allow it to be, whether that triumph on this basis, some small states, in Italy and will be easy, peaceful, and secure.
The exGermany especially, erected a permanent ample of England is her great, indeed her only system of freedom. But the necessities of authority; but we are afraid that she has run war, and the substitution of hired forces for the parallel with more boldness than circumthe feudal militia, led much more generally spection, and overlooked a variety of particulars to the establishment of an arbitrary or des- in our case, to which she could not easily find potical authority; which was accomplished in any thing equivalent in that of her country. It France, Spain, and England, under Louis XI., might be invidious to dwell much on the oppoPhilip II., and Henry VIII. Then came the site character and temper of the two nations; age of commerce, luxury, and taxes,—which though it is no answer to say,
that this character necessarily ripened into the age of general is the work of the government. But can Maintelligence, individual wealth, and a sense dame de Staël have forgotten, that England had both of right and of power in the people ;- a parliament and a representative legislature and those led irresistibly to a limitation on for five hundred years before 1648; and that it the powers of the Crown, by a representative was by that organ, and the widely spread and assembly,
deeply founded machinery of the elections on England having less occasion for a land which it rested, that the struggle was made, and army—and having been the first in the career the victory won, which ultimately secured to us of commercial prosperity, led the way in this the blessings of political freedom? The least great amelioration. But the same general reflection upon the nature of government, and principles have been operating in all the Con- the true foundations of all liberty, will show tinental kingdoms, and must ultimately pro- what an immense advantage this was in the duce the same effects. The peculiar advan- contest; and with what formidable obstacles tages which she enjoyed did not prevent those must have to struggle, who are obliged England from being enslaved by the tyranny to engage in a similar conflict without it. of Henry VII., and Mary ;-and she also ex- All political power, even the most despotic, perienced the hazards, and paid the penalties rests at last, as was profoundly observed by which are perhaps inseparable from the as- Hume, upon Opinion. A government is Just, sertion of popular rights. -She also overthrew or otherwise, according as it promotes, more the monarchy, and sacrificed the monarch in or less, the irue interests of the people who her first attempt to set limits to his power. live under it. But it is Stable and secure, exThe English Commonwealth of 1648, origi- actly as it is directed by the opinion of those nated in as wild speculations as the French who really possess, and know that they posof 1792—and ended, like in the establish- sess, the power of enforcing it, and upon whose ment of a military tyranny, and a restoration opinion, therefore, it constantly depends ;which seemed to confound all the asserters that is, in a military despotism, on the opinion of liberty in the general guilt of rebellion :- of the soldiery ;-in all rude and ignorant Yet all the world is now agreed that this was communities, on the opinion of those who but the first explosion of a flame that could monopolise the intelligence, the wealth, or the neither be extinguished nor permanently re- discipline which constitute power—the priest. pressed; and that what took place in 1688, hood—the landed proprietors—the armed and was but the sequel and necessary consumma- inured to war;-and, in civilised societies, on tion of what had been begin forty years be- the opinion of that larger proportion of the fore-and which might and would have been people who can bring their joint talents, accomplished without even the slightest shock wealth, and strength, to act in concert when and disturbance that was then experienced, occasion requires. A government may indeed if the Court had profited as much as the subsist for a time, although opposed to the leaders of the people by the lessons of that first opinion of those classes of persons; but its experience. Such too, Madame de Staël as- existence must always be precarious, and it sures us, is the unalterable destiny of France; probably will not subsist long. The natural -and it is the great purpose of her book tó | and appropriate Constitution, therefore, is, in show, that but for circumstances which cannot every case, that which enables those who acrecur-mistakes that cannot be repeated, and tually administer the government, to ascertain accidents which never happened twice, even and conform themselves in time to the opinion the last attempt would have led to that blessed of those who have the power to overturn it;