« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
No sooner had a middle class arisen
the people, and begun to acquire some degree of TOWARDS the close of the fifth century, the
opulence and respectability, than Philip le Bel Franks, a nation the very name of which implies general councils; and that they might be more at
determined to introduce their deputies into the the free condition of the individuals who com
his devotion, these were chosen from the cities posed it, determined to leave their native forests,
and towns within his own domains. This memosituated in that part of Germany enclosed by the Rhine, the Elbe, and the sea. They accordingly fourteenth century, was productive of correspon
rable event, which occurred in the first year of the crossed the former of these rivers under Clovis, dent consequences; and the third state sat ever defeated their enemies in a pitched battle, after in the assembly of the nation called the acquired full possession of an extensive territory, states-general, which was convoked occasionally which some of their countrymen had before
during a period of three hundred and fifteen years. invaded, and imposed at once their dominión
The states-general were again convoked under and their name on Gaul.- Under the first, or
Charles V. in 1369, when they granted certain Merovingian, and the second, or Carlovingian race, the throne was elective; and the people not only his successor, thinking, no doubt, that an assembly
subsidies during the war only; and Charles VI. possessed the power of nominating, but according
of notables might prove moretractable, summoned to indisputable testimony,* they also exercised the right of deposing the sovereign if he proved
one accordingly in 1413. He appears to have
solicited and obtained the consent of the univerunworthy of his station. The great council of the nation was assem
sity and citizens of Paris to this measure, which
was rendered more agreeable by the plausible prebled every year in the field of Mars, so called
text of reforming the state: to keep up appearfrom the month in which they usually met. In
ances, commissioners were chosen from the three this assembly the king presided as chief, and
different orders of the notables, but nothing benedecided on all public affairs.
ficial appears to have been effected. In the year 987, on the demise of Louis V. a new dynasty, called the Capetian, succeeded to
But it was not until the reign of Charles VII.' the crown of Franco-Gallia, as it was then called,
that any thing resembling an uniform system of in the person of Hugh Capet, son to Hugh, Earl
tyranny was aimed at; and it is to the long and of Paris, to the prejudice of Charles, Duke of bloody contests with England, that we are to Lorraine, uncle to the deceased monarch, and
attribute that despotism which overwhelmed his heir by blood. This prince, after overcoming ing himself of the popularity he had acquired by
France for ages. The victorious monarch, availand imprisoning his less fortunate rival, associated his own son with him on the throne, and even
his success, retained a body of men at arms in his
pay, amounting to no more, however, than sevencontrived to get him declared his successor. The
teen hundred.t To this increase of power, crown having thus become vested in his family,
Charles added the influence of corruption; and in the course of the same reign, and in consequence of this very event, the dukedoms, earldoms, France, who, by his own royal edict, and with
by means of both, became the first King of and all the magistracies and honours of the kingdom, which before were temporary, now became hereditary also.
+ The French lawyers had by this time introduced the
maxim, “ Qui veut le roi, si veut la loi,”-the will of the * See Hottoman's Franco-Gallia, eap. VI.
king is the will of the law.
Sect. I. out the concurrence of the states-general of the and now more than seventy years of age, was kingdom, levied subsidies at his pleasure.
immediately elevated to the post of prime minister; Louis XI. who to the policy of our Henry, and to restore confidence to the nation, and secuVII. added a far more cruel and capricious rity to the state, Turgot was soon after placed at tyranny than Henry VIII. succeeded but too well the head of the finances, and exhibited a series in reducing the innovations of his predecessor to of talents and virtues which rendered his adminisa regular system. He also contrived to render his tration uncommonly brilliant :. but his severe own despotism more formidable by adding to the probity, and strict economy, accelerated his fall, military establishment of his father, and to lessen and the Queen, Marie ANTOINETTE, whose expenthe general odium, he had recourse occasionally sive habits began to give umbrage, solicited, and to the states-general, which he garbled at his at length obtained his disinission. pleasure, taking care that his own creatures only When the unhappy contest occurred between should be permitted to repair to the asseinbly, Great Britain and her colonies, France, though where no one was allowed to deliver sentiments already involved in a lahyrinth of debts and in opposition to the will of the monarch,
anticipations, took part in the war in favour of Richelieu, a great and fortunate minister, the Americans, and Louis XVI. the descendant of about the year 1614, undertook the management so many absolute monarchs, did not deem it either of public aflairs, and bereaved his country even of impolitic or unjust, to enter into a treaty with, the hope of regaining any portion of her liberties. and acknowledge the independence of a people During his administration, the catholic grandees struggling for liberty. At tlus period, M. de were kept in subjection, and the protestants, who Vergennes directed the deparțment for foreign always entertained liberal notions respecting affairs; W. de Sartine was at the head of the navy .. government, were completely humbled ; in short and M. Necker regulated the revenues as Comptu the crown was rendered independent both of the troller-general. 19 nobles and the people.
This was the first conflict with the same His successor, Mazarine, imposed a series enemy, during some centuries, that did not proxe of enormous taxes during the minority of Louis inglorious to France; for although England diss. XIV. The long and extensive hostilities carried" played her ancient valour, and superiority au the on by that monarch, after he had attained man- occasion, yet she failed in the object of the com hood, contributed also to subdue the spirit of the test; while the alliance of the American states, nation. The wars and dissipation of Louis XV. the temporary humiliation of an ancient cival, tended equally to harrass the public; arbitrary and the triumph ever attendant ou success, graarrests by means of lettres de cachet, rendered tified in no small degree the national vanity of the personal liberty insecure; and had it not been French people. that the parliaments, from time to time, exhibited
5: This triumph was hut of short duration, for a noble spirit of resistance, every notion of pub- it was soon discovered that the profusion, of a lic liberty would have been extinguished, and the race of weak and profligate princes, added to the government of France must have speedily ap- expences of the war, and aggravated by the proximated to an oriental despotism.*
extravagance, of an intriguing and luxurious Having thus briefly exhibited the means by court, had plunged the finances into a state of which France lost her liberties, it now remains to extreme embarrassment, and Necker was exiled enumerate the events, în consequence of which, to make way for De Calonne, his enemy and power of the monarch was overthrown. rival. Calonne, ever, fertile in expedients, re
solved to have recourse to a measure, which had. szoond SECTION II. .
often been resorted to in former reigns. This
was the convocation of the notables, a body AFTER the demise of Louis XV. who, like nominated by the prince, but yet bearing some Francis II. fell a martyr to his debaucheries, the resemblance to the states-general. This assemcares of government were destined to be endured, bly accordingly met, on the 22d of February, 1787, rather than sustained, by his grandson, a prince and was dissolved on the 25th of May following, only twenty years of age. 'The young king without having coutributed in any degree tohad, however, conducted himself with great pro wards removing the public difficulties. The dispriety while dauphin, and it was fondly hoped by grace of Calonne followed close upon the dissothe French, that they had at length found a good lution of the conyocation of notables, and that and virtuous sovereign.
minister was in his turn succeeded by Cardinal, Louis XVI. finding himself in want of a Leomine de Brienne. Mentor to superintend his conduct and regulate Recourse was now had to the odious measure, his judgment, selected the Count de Maurepas, of raising money by the king's edict alone; and and that nobleman, formerly banished from court, the doubling of the land-tax, the re-establish. Curabines, 7.
Dient of the third-twenticth, and a stamp duty,
were immediately proposed. But to render these the most spirited remonstrances on the part of Srer. Il. effective, it was absolutely necessary that they : the parliament. In one of these, po less celeshould be registered by an august tribunal, that brated on account of its eloquence than its boldhad of late acquired the confidence of the people, ness, they claimed not the favour of the and by its sacrifices during the last reign, had monarch, but his justice, which was subject, merited their esteem. The parliament of Paris, they said, to regulations independent of the on whose deliberations the eyes of the whole will of man ; they maintained that kings them- : kingdom were now turned, instead of a ready· selves were bound to obey it, and that his gloricompliance as was expected, exhibited a steady ous ancestor, Henry IV. acknowledged that he opposition, and even insisted, that a true account had two sovereigns, “God and the laws." The of the state of the finances, and of the purposes reply of the king, " that they should not demand to which the sums in question were to be applied, from his justice, what solely depended upon should be previously laid before it.
his will," tended only to irritate the members; No sooner did the king learn that the parlia- who, recurring to the ancient principles of the ment had refused to register the edict, than he constitution, at length declared " that it was had recourse to a bed of justice ; at the best an neither in their power, in that of the crown, nor equivocal, and at present, a very unpopular of both united, to grant or to levy any new taxes
This assembly met on the bih of upon the people !" August, 1787, and registered the edict; but the This appeal to the paramount authority of next day the parliament entered a formal protest, the states-general, rendered the parliament of against the registration of the edict, declaring it Paris the idol of the people; but the ministers to be “ prepared against its approbation and were at that moment secretly meditating its consent," adding," that the edict neither ought humiliation; and M. de Brienne, the prime nor should have any force," and that “ the jirst minister, aiined a deadly blow at the power of person who presumeil to carry it into execution the assembly, lay the project of a cour* pleniére, should be adjudged a traitor, and condemned to composed of princes, peers, magistrates, and the gallies!'
military men, devoted to the court, by which the un & fem days after this spirited and formi royal edicts were henceforward to be registered. dable protest, the king ordered the hall to be This produced a fresh, remonstrance, containing surrounded by a body of troops, and banished an attack on tie ministers, a protest against the the men bers to Proyes, in Champagne, but not plans in agitation, and a declaration, that before they had drawn up a reinonstrance, iu « France is a kingdom governed by a king, acwhich they displayed equal energy and eloqnence. cording to the laws; and that the right of raising They were, however, recalled soon after, in con subsidies is in the nation, represented by the sequence of a compromise, which was considered states -general duly convened." in some degree, to bave tarnished the glory tliey On this, the palace in which the parliament brad acquired.
assembled was once more encircled by troops, While the public mind was thus agitated by and some of its inombers seized and confined; successive hopes and fears, the ministry persuaded the king also held a bed of justice, on the 8th of the king to take a novel and extraordinary May, 1788, in which he presented a number of, step. Accordingly, at nine o'clock in the morn edicts to be registered'; among these was one ing of the 14th of November, he visited the par for the establishment of the cour pleniére, and liament of Paris, and produced two édicts, another for the diminution of the members of the which were required to be enforced, one of parliament of Paris, from one hundred and which indicated a new loan to the amount of 450 twenty, to sixty-seven, as had been done by. millions of livres, about 19,000,0001. sterling. Louis XI. A discussion continued for nine hours, when his The magistrates having entered a solemn. Majesty suddenly arose, and commanded the protest, his majesty, was advised to shut up the edicts to be instantly registered. This being place of their deliberations by means of an armed considered as a direct violation of all the forms of force; he at the same time suspended all the this august Assembly, the. Duke of Orleans, with parliaments throughout the kingdom ;-a measure equal firmness and respect, protested against the which was opposed by an address, signed by proceedings, which, he said, had been rendered forty-seven peers and bishops, “in behalf of: null and void by the unprecedented conduct of themselves and the nation.” the sovereign.
Commotions of an alarming nature now The king, in return, immediately sent the ensued." In Britanny, the nobles and the people Duke of Orleans into exile, and issued lettres seemed to suspend their disputes on purpose to de cachet against two other meinbers. Such investigate public grievances; the intermediate arbitrary procecdings on the part of a monarch, commission of the states exhibited great firmness kitherto - respected for his kumanity, produced, on this
ou this occasion ; Rennes, the capital of the
Sect. II. province, experienced an unusual degree of agi- offered up vows for the success of their endea
tation. Of the members constitating the parlia vours to reform, and regenerate the state. The ments of Toulouse and Grenoble, part were in splendour and variety of the robes of two of the exile, and part in prison ; and the inhabitants orders, added greatly to the brilliancy of the specWere so irritated, that they had driven the governor tacle ; for the dignified clergy were dressed in a of Languedoc out of his capital ; while the troops, style of grandeursuitable to their respective ranks, hitherto the firm supporters of arbitrary power being adorned with scarfs, crosses, and crosiers, in every monarehy, and particularly in France, while the nobility were decorated as in the days of refused to fire upon the populace. At Grenoble chivalry, with flowing mantles covered with lace; in Dauphiny; the peasants collected in large plumes of feathers waving in the air, stars and bodies from the neighbouring country, to assist ribbons, calculated to produce a theatrical effect, the townismen if necessary, against the soldiery : and swords glittering, with gold and diamonds. and terror and indignation, rage and dismay, The third estate, on which the people chiefly reprevailed every where by turns..
lied, on the other hand, seemed to affect simAt length the court, seriously alarmed by the plieity, the members appearing in plain clothes, agitation in the provitices, dismissed the ministers, surmounted by short woollen.cloaks, as in the and such was the deplorable state of the finances, time of Philip la Bed; but they were hailed by the that only part of the demands on the treasury was surrounding multitude as the hope of their country, paid in cash"; the remainder being liquidated by while a solemn and inauspicious silence prevailed means of bills, due at the end of the year, and during the procession of the rest of the assembly. the appearance of a partial bankruptcy was only After a long and tedious ceremonial, the king, atoided by a royal edict; enjoining all bankers, and who was seated in a magnificent alcove, with the others, to receive the paper of the caisse d'escompte queen on his left hand, and the princes and as money. In addition to this, a scareity was princesses of the blood around him, delivered a threatened, and many of the people were aetually discourse to the assembly, in which he expressed perishing for want of bread : the notion therefore his hope, that the convocation of the statesbecame prevalent, that the states-general alone general would communicate new vigour to the could rescue the nation from misery and despair. nation, re-establish public credit, and open ad
At the earnest entreaty of M.Necker, who ditional sources of happiness. The speech of his had been recalled to the office of Minister of Fi Majesty was listened to with profound attention, mance, his Majesty consented to the convocation and hailed with repeated bursts of applause. The of the states-general, and much debate took place keeper of the seals followed, and enlarged on the relative to the mode of forming that assembly; advantages of a limited gorernment, equally rebut an order of council was at length procured mote from absolute monarchy on the one hand, on the 27th of December, declaring that the and anarchy and republicanism on the other. deputies to the states-general should at least M. Necker succeeded the keeper of the seals, in a amount to one thousand that the number sent by speech of great length, in which he wished to each bailiwick should be in a ratio compounded direct the attention of the assembly principally to of its population and taxes"; and lastly, that the the state of the finances, which he allowed to be members of the third should be equal to the joint deranged, but stated the actual deficit not to examount of the other two estates,
ceed fifty-six millions of French livres. • The meeting of this celebrated assembly being -- Subsequent to this sitting, some disputes at length fixed for the first of May, 1789, the arose between the respective orders. The third Whole nation appeared to be electrified. The city estate (the commons) to the number of 583, of Paris was divided into districts for the elections, declared themselves the representatives of the and the bailiwicks began to draw up their instruc nation ; and their first act was to declare all the tions to the deputies, for the reformation of a imposts illegal, because they had not been conmultitude of abuses that had prevailed for ages. sented to by the nation. They however, re-enacted
them instantly in the name of their constituents, SECTION III.
declaring, that they ceased on the very day on
which the present assembly should be dissolved. At length the states-general, which had All future proceedings were prevented in consebeen by turns, promised; delayed, and precipi quence of an extraordinary step on the part of the tated, after a lapse of one hundred and twenty king, who on the 20th of June, declared by a five years, assembled at Versailles, on the 5th of herald at arms, that the debates of the assembly May, 1789. The ceremony commenced with an were suspended, and that it was his Majesty's act of devotion ; the representatives of the nation, intention to hold a Royal Session on the 22d. preceded by the ministers of the altar, and fol This assumption of power, wholly unprecedented lowed by the king, repaired to the temple in the history of the states-general, led to the most of the Deity, amidst an immense crowd, who disastrous consequences. The members of the
assembly, finding themselves excluded from the now agitated to an extraordinary degree. The Sect. IY. national hall, by a guard of soldiers, assembled people assembled in prodigious multitudes in the in the Tennis-court at Versailles, and the people, gardens of the Palais Royal, and dividing into electrified by the conduct of their deputies, in groapes, were addressed by certain persons, their turn excited new zeal by their plaudits; some whom they styled “ orators," with a degree of of the soldiery, partaking of the general enthusi- eloquence that did not fail to please, and even to asm, formed a guard of honour at the entrance*, fascivate. ) while one of the members, who had been contined A large body of the soldiery, having become to his bed, caused himself to be carried into the a part of the people, in consequence of their long Hall. And as if actuated by one general impulse, residence in, and conneetion with the capital, all the deputies rose and took an oath never to began to make a common cause with its inhabiseparate until the constitution should be formed, 'tants, and to discriminate between the rights of and the regeneration of France completed. men aud the duties of soldiers. Nor were other
On the 23d of June, the three orders were means of seduction wanting; they were loaded assembled by the king's command, in Royal Ses- with presents and caresses; they were feasted sion. The speech which the king was advised to for wbole days and nights in the Palais Royal, deliver on this occasion, was not in the least cal the residence of the Duke of Orleans; and to the culated to give satisfaction to the nation. After delights of wine, were added the fascinations lamenting the disputes that had taken place, his of gold, and the blandishments of women., majesty insisted on maintaining the distinction of On the 12th of July, Neeker, the only minisorders, and annulled the celebrated decree, by ter on whom either the nation or its representawhich the commons had declared themselves the tives hrad any reliance, being suddenly deprived national assembly. He, at the same time, alluded of his office, was sent once inore into exile, and to the benefits which Ire was preparing to confer the new administration was said to consist of De op his people; but nothing positive was said rela Breteuil, Foulon, La Galesiére, La Porte, and tive to the liberty of the press, or the participation the Marshal de Broglio; all of whom were conof the states-general in the enaction of laws; on sidered as the decided advocates of the ancient the other haud, he hinted at the retention of the despotism. 1. most vopopular of all the prerogatives claimed by The period -of the reyolution was now the crown that of lettres de cachet, subjeet, bow advancing with rapid strides; and here it may eyer, to certain restrictions; and the continurance be proper shortly to advert to the numerous of the tyrannical privileges arisiug out of the causes which conspired to shake the foundations feudal incident's, the most cruel of all the re of a throne, upheld by the veneration of fourteen straints to which any nation can be subjeetedi centuries, and to facilitate the downfall of a
The sittings of the assembly having been prince, the successor of sixty-eight kings. tontinued, an union of the orders took place, and on the 27th, 47 of the nobles, headed by the Diike
SECTION IV. of Orleans, first prince of the blood, repaired to } the hall of the states, and the minority of the clergy
THE еanses of that tremendous event, and the majority of the nobles, at the express re which was in its consequences to shake not only "commendation of the king, followed their example. the monarchy of France, but all the kingdoms of
In the mean tine, notwithstanding these ap Europe to their foundations, are various and pearances of cordiality, orders had been for some palpable. Among these may be ranked the protime issued by the court to collect a large bodygressive improvement of the human mind : and of troops ; and as the French soldiery could not the extension of letters and philosoplay, as exhinow be depended on, foreigners were preferred to bited in the writings of Montesquieu, Raynal, the national regiments. Thirty-five thousandmen Roussealt, Voltaire, Bailly, Buffon, Condorcet, were already cantoned in the neighbourhood of Diderot, d'Alembert, &e. The age of Louis the capital; twenty thousand more were expected ; XIV. when writers of this description began first a formidable train of artillery was provided at a to flourish, and enjoy the fostering smiles of the prodigious expence ; camps began to be traced
great and powerful, has been considered as the out; the commanding eminences were crowded Augustan epoch of French bistory; and it was with batteries; the roads and bridges occupied then, that under the shelter of royal despotism, by military posts ; and the Marshal de Broglio those weapons were forged which were afterwards was nominated to the chief command.
destined to break its chains. Another of the The capital, ever jealous of the court, and causes of the revolation may be traced to the alarmed at these formidable preparations, was extreme embarrassment of the national finances,
and to the writings of the rival financiers, Necker, * Précis de la Révolution Fran, par "Ralaut de Saint
and Calonne, which disclosed secrets that proved Etienne.
niinous to the credit of the monarchy; and