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FROM 1789 to 1848.




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The French Revolution, which commenced under Louis XVI. in 1789, and which, under various modifications and phases, has been in operation ever since, is, of all others which have occurred in the history of the world, the event that has exercised the most important and decisive influence on the destinies of mankind. The lessons its extraordinary occurrences and stupendous consequences convey are invaluable, since they teach by the most emphatic testimonies those immutable laws of Providential guidance which sway the dispensations of good and evil, of rewards and retributions, in the affairs of men and nations; and they likewise teach to rulers and communities how best they may secure, by timely and prudent sacrifices, the blessings of good government, without passing through the fiery ordeal of a social convulsion. As was natural, such an event has been treated in every variety of temper and reflection, each writer, animated by the spirit of party, striving to enforce his own peculiar views, and often misrepresenting, always colouring, facts to support his predetermined conclusions. The time is now come, however, when it may be described with truth and impartiality; when the passions of the partisan may merge in the cooler deductions of reason; when it may be considered without any bias tending to obscure the judgment or vitiate the veritable development.

The French Revolution has brought to the test of proof every possible modification of government : in it every class of a large community has been tried in the exercise of power, and unhappily found wanting. Extreme democracy led to a military despotism; the turbulent empire of the sword collapsed into the feebleness of a decayed royalty; an effete branch of an old dynasty gave way to the hardier and more astute descendant of the common race, who in his turn has been hurled from his eminence by another outburst of those passions which seated him on a throne, and which he vainly thought to repress by artifice and the arms of soldiers. Such are the strange vicissitudes that mark the momentous era from 1789 to 1848, an interval of sixty years, pregnant with yet unseen consequences, but which has never yet been presented in one complete and homogeneous narrative, whereby, from the traced concatenation of causes and effects throughout its entire course, an accurate perception of the Revolution, or, more properly, series of Revolutions, may be formed.

In the present work this task has been attempted; and in its execution the author can with great sincerity affirm that he has studied to render it impartial, demonstrative, and exact, having with indefatigable care consulted all the best and original sources of information which lie scattered in voluminous collections; the most important of which, as to the earlier period of the Revolution, is found in the Mémoires de la Révolution Française, published at Paris in sixty-six volumes, and written for the most part by the actors in the scenes they describe. By a studious collation of these numerous authorities alone can the real character and details of events be learned, so conflicting are the accounts given of the same transactions by different authors, according to their respective biases and prejudices. Every incident, therefore, is presented in its true aspect, so far as research and deliberation render this possible amid the distortions and misstatements of prejudiced annalists.

Note, ETHNOGRAPHIC AND HistoRICAL.-Although the political and social condition of a people, and particularly the state of education among them, are the main elements out of which violent civil commotions producing revolutions arise, still, in forming a correct appreciation of the French Revolution, its events and consequences on the nations at large, it ought to be borne in mind that the original stock of the French people is Cellic, and that notwithstanding the admixture of numerous other races, they retain in a remarkable manner the peculiar characteristics of their first ancestors as pictured in the immortal narrative of Cæsar. With great aptitude for the highest intellectual efforts and the superior arts of civilisation, they combine all the impulsive tendencies and enthusiastic temperament which have always distinguished the Celtic race. Hence that thirst of novelty, that impatience of repose, in which they see only an inglorious oblivion of France, that ready credence to the wildest theories, that perversion of ideas leading them to confound the worst passions or blindest impulses with the opposite virtues, which they have displayed in so remarkable a manner throughout the history of the last half century.

Originally Celtic, Gaul was first overrun by the Romans, who, besides many interesting architectural remains, have left a more enduring evidence of their presence in the language of the country. The French are fond of tracing their descent from the Roman invaders; and to this predilection is probably to be ascribed their remarkable attachment to the titles, insignia, and usages of the ancient Romans. Whatever was the nature of the Roman dominion in Gaul, it was obliterated by the incursions of the Franks—a Gothic people, who finally, under Clovis, conquered the country towards the end of the fifth century, and have given to it a name. Clovis was crowned at Rheims in 496, and thus began the Merovingian dynasty, which lasted till the middle of the eighth century, when sinking into decay, it was dispossessed by the more energetic Carlovingian race. The usurper was Pepin the Short, son of Charles Martel, whose heroism prevented the conquest of France by the Saracens, 732. Pepin died in 768, and was succeeded by his son Charlemagne, a man of gigantic genius, who enlarged and strengthened the monarchy, and greatly promoted the rise of learning and refinement. Genius is not hereditary: at the death of Charlemagne in 814, he was succeeded by his two sons, under whom the monarchy was broken up; France falling to the share of Charles I., surnamed the Bald. The sovereignty of France now subsided into a species of feudal superiority over dukes and counts, who exercised unlimited sway in their respective pro vinces. On the death of Louis V. in 987, the Carlovingian race in the direct line became extinct. The throne, now vacant, was claimed by Charles, Duke of Lorraine, uncle to the deceased king; but the French nobility, supported by the Pope, favoured the pretensions of Hugh Capet, who accordingly became king; and thus, as far as legitimate or hereditary right was concerned, the crown was a second time usurped. Hugh Capet was the son of Hugh, Duke of the Isle of France, and Count of Paris and Orleans, who had exercised an unlimited power in the court of the deceased monarch.

Thus commenced in 987 a royal line, which, in its different branches, has given a hundred and twenty sovereigns to Europe. Under the Capetian line, the French monarchy was strengthened by a gradual absorption of the subordinate powers ; also by the better administration of justice enjoined by Louis IX., or the Saint, in 1270 ; and by the creation of a third estate (tiers état), consisting of deputies from the cities to the great assemblies of the nation. This latter event took place in the reign of Philip IV., or Le Bel, 1301.

The first branch of the Capet dynasty came to an end in the person of Charles IV., who died 1328 ; and now commenced the branch of

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