Page images
PDF
EPUB

FRANCE.

landing stone from which I first embarked for a country, where,

in the centre of proscriptions, instability and desolation, those

arts which are said to flourish only in the regions of repose,

have, by their vigour and unrivalled bloom, excited the wonder and admiration o'f surrounding nations; where Peace, by her

sudden and cherished reappearance, is calling forth all the

virtues from their hiding places, to aid in effacing the corroding

stains of a barbarous revolution, and in restoring the moral and

social character to its pristine polish, rank and estimation.

[ocr errors][merged small]

GENERAL REMARKS.

The fact seems at first singular. Two of the greatest nations under Heaven, whose shores almost touch, and, if ancient tales be true, were once unsevered, call the natives of each other foreigners.

Jealousy, competition, and consequent warfare, have, for ages, produced an artificial distance and separation, much wider, and more impassable, than nature ever intended, by the division which she has framed; hence, whilst the unassisted eye of the islander can, from his own shores, with "unwet feet," behold the natural barrier of his continental neighbour, he knows but little more of his real character and habits, than of those of beings, who are more distantly removed from him, by many degrees of the great circle.

The events which have happened in France for the last eleven years, have rendered this separation more severe, and during that long and gloomy interval, have wholly changed the national character. Those who once occupied the higher class in the ascending scale of society, and who have survived the revolution without leaving their country, are no longer able to display the taste and munificence which once distinguished them. In the capital, those who formerly were accustomed to have their court yards nightly filled with carriages, and their staircases lined with lacqueys, are now scarcely able to occupy one third of their noble abodes. They cannot even enjoy the common observances of friendship,

and GENERAL REMARKS.

and hospitality, without pausing, and resorting to calculation. A new race of beings called the "nouveaux enriches," whose services have been chiefly auxiliary to the war, at present absorb the visible wealth of the nation. Amongst them are many respectable persons. The lower orders of the people have been taught, by restless visionaries, to consider the destinations of Providence, which had before, by an imperceptible gradation of social colouring, united the russet brown to the magisterial purple, as usurpations over those natural rights which have been impicsaeJ without illustration, and magnified by a mischievous mystery. In the fierce pursuit of these imaginary immunities, which they had been taught to believe had been long withheld, they abruptly renounced all deference and decorum, as perilous indications of the fallacy of their indefinable pretensions, and were not a little encouraged by the disastrous desertion of their superiors, who fled at the first alarm. In short, the revolution has, in general, made the higher orders poor, and dispirited, and the lower barbarous, and insolent, whilst a third class has sprung up, with the silence and suddenness of an exhalation, higher than both, without participating in the original character of cither, in which the principles of computation, and the vanity of wealth, are at awkward variance.

Until lately, the ancient french and the modern french were antipodes, but they are now converging, under a government, which, in point of security, and even of mildness, has no resemblance, since the first departure from the ancient establishments. The french, like the libertine son, after having

plunged 25* GENERAL REMARKS.

plunged in riot and excesses, subdued by wretchedness, are returning to order and civilization. Unhappy people, their tears have almost washed away their offences—they have suffered to their heart's core. Who will not pity them to see their change, and hear their tales of misery f Yet, strange to relate, in the midst of their sighs and sufferings, they recount, with enthusiasm, the exploits of those very men, whose heroic ambition has trampled upon their best hopes, and proudest prosperity. Dazzled by the brilliancy of the spreading flame, they forget that their own abode is involved in its desolation, and augments the gloomy grandeur of the scene. To thiscause may, perhaps, be traced that singular union of grief and gayety, which affords rather an impressive contrast to the more solemn consistency of english sadness. The terrible experiment which they have tried, has, throughout, presented a ferocious contest for power, which has only served to deteriorate their condition, sap their vigour, and render them too feeble either to continue the contest, or to reach the frontier of their former character. In this condition they have been found by a man who, with the precedent of history in one hand, and the sabre in the other, has, unstained with the crimes of Cromwell, possessed himself of the sovereignty; and, like Augustus, without the propensities which shaded his early life, preserved the name of a republic, whilst he well knows that a decisive and irresistible authority can alone reunite a people so vast and distracted; who, in the pursuit of a fatal phantom, have been inured to change, and long alienated from subordination. I would not wish such a government to

be GENERAL REMARKS.

be perpetual, but if it be conducted with wisdom and justice, I will not hesitate to declare, that I think it will ultimately prove as favourable to the happiness, as it has been propitious to the glory of the french. A government which breathes a martial spirit under a thin appearance of civil polity, presents but a barren subject to the consideration of the inquirer. When the sabre is changed into the sceptre, the science of legislation is short, simple, and decisive. Its energies are neither entangled in abstract distinctions, nor much impeded by the accustomed delay* of deliberation.

From the magnitude of the present ruling establishment in France, and the judicious distribution of its powers, and confidence, the physical strength can scarcely be said to reside in the governed.

A great portion of the population participates in the character of the government. The bayonet is perpetually flashing before the eye. The remark may appear a little ludicrous, but in the capital almost every man who is not near sighted is a soldier, and every soldier of the republic considers himself as a subordinate minister of state. In short the whole political fabric is a refined system of knight's service. Seven centuries are rolled back, and from the gloom of time behold the crested spirit of the norman hero advance, "with "beaver up," and nod his sable plumes, in grim approval of the novel, gay, and gaudy feodality.

If such an expectation may be entertained, that time will replace the ancient family on the throne, I am far from believing that it can offer much consolation to the illustrious

wanderer,

255

« PreviousContinue »