Page images
[ocr errors]

Convention, were sent to the scaffold as con-| fact, they are the mere dregs and rinsings of spirators. The day, he exclaims, was a day a bottle, of which even the first froth was but of mourning for France. It mutilated the of very questionable flavor. national representation ; it weakened the We will now try to present our readers sacred principle, that the delegates of the with a sketch of this man's life. We shall, people were inviolable. He protests that he of course, make very sparing use indeed of had no share in the guilt. 'I have had,' he bis own Memoirs; and never without dissays, “the patience to go through the Moni- trust, except where they are confirmed by teur, extracting all the charges brought other evidence. against deputies, and all the decrees for ar- Bertrand Barère was born in the year resting and impeaching deputies. Nowhere 1755, at Tarbes in Gascony. His father will you

find my name. I never brought a was the proprietor of a small estate at Vieucharge against any of my colleagues, or made zac, in the beautiful vale of Argelès. Bera report against any, or drew up an impeach-trand always loved to be called Barère de ment against any."

Vieuzac, and flattered himself with the hope Now, we affirm that this is a lie. We that, by the help of this feudal addition to affirm that Barère himself took the lead in his name, he might pass for a gentleman. the proceedings of the Convention against He was educated for the bar at Toulouse, the Girondists. We affirm that he, on the the seat of one of the most celebrated parliatwenty-eighth of July 1793, proposed a de- ments of the kingdom, practised as an advccree for bringing nine Girondist deputies to cate with considerable success, and wrote trial, and for putting to death sixteen other some small pieces, which he sent to the prinGirondist deputies without any trial at all. cipal literary societies in the south of France. We affirm that, when the accused deputies Among provincial towns, Toulouse seems to had been brought to trial, and when some have been remarkably rich in indifferent verapprehension arose that their eloquence sifiers and critics. It gloried especially in might produce an effect even on the Revolu- one venerable institution, called the Acadetionary Tribunal, Barère did, on the 8th of my of the Floral Games. This body held Brumaire, second a motion for a decree au-erery year a grand meeting, which was a thorizing the tribunal to decide without hear- subject of intense interest to the whole city, ing out the defence; and, for the truth of and at which flowers of gold and silver were every one of these things so affirmed by us, given as prizes for odes, for idyls, and for we appeal to that very Moniteur to which something that was called eloquence. These Barère has dared to appeal.f

bounties produced of course the ordinary What M. Hippolyte Carnot, knowing, as effect of bounties, and turned people who he must know, that this book contains such might have been thriving attorneys and use falsehoods as those which we have exposed, ful apothecaries into small wits and bad can have meant, when he described it as a poets. Barère does not appear to have been valuable addition to our stock of historical so lucky as to obtain any of these precious information, passes comprehension. flowers; but one of his performances was When a man is not ashamed to tell lies about mentioned with honor. At Montauban he events which took place before hundreds of was more fortunate. The Academy of that witnesses, and which are recorded in well-town bestowed on him several prizes, one for known and accessible books, what credit can a panegyric on Louis the Twelfth, in which we give to his acconnt of things done in cor- the blessings of monarchy and the loyalty of ners? No historian who does not wish to be the French nation were set forth; and anolaughed at will ever cite the unsupported au- ther for a panegyric on poor Franc de Pom:thority of Barère as sufficient to prove any pignan, in which, as may easily be supposed, fact whatever. The only thing, as far as we the philosophy of the eighteenth century was can see, on which these volumes throw any sharply assailed. Then Barère found an old Jight, is the exceeding baseness of the stone inscribed with three Latin words, and author.

wrote a dissertation upon it, which procured So much for the veracity of the Memoirs. him a seat in a learned Assembly, called the In a literary point of view, they are beneath Toulouse Academy of Sciences, Inscriptions, criticism. They are as shallow, flippant, and Polite Literature. At length the doors and affected, as Barère's oratory in the Con- of the Academy of the Floral Games were vention. They are also, what his oratory in opened to so much merit. Barère, in his the Convention was not, utterly insipid. ' In thirty-third year, took his seat as one of that * Vol. ii. 407.

illustrious brotherhood, and made an inaugu+ Moniteur, 31st of July 1793, and Nonidi, first ral oration which was greatly admired. He Decade of Brumaire, in the year 2.

apologizes for recounting these triumphs of


his youthful genius. We own that we can of the writer had not yet shown themselves ; not blame him for dwelling long on the least but the weakness which was the parent of disgraceful portion of his existence. To those vices appears in every line. Ilis levity, send in declamations for prizes offered by his inconsistency, bis servility, were already provincial academies, is indeed no very use what they were to the last. All his opinions, ful or dignified employment for a bearded all his feelings, spin round and round like a man; but it would have been well if Barère weathercock in a whirlwind. Nay, the very had always been so employed.

impressions which he receives through his In 1785 he married a young lady of con- senses are not the same two days together. siderable fortune. Whether she was in other He sees Louis the Sixteenth, and is so much respects qualified to make a home happy, is blinded by loyalty as to find his Majesty handa point respecting which we are imperfectly some. 'I fixed my eyes,' he says, 'with a informed. In a little work, entitled Melan- lively curiosity on his fine countenance, choly Pages, which was written in 1797, which I thought open and noble.' The Barère avers that his marriage was one of next time that the King appears, all is altered. mere convenience, that at the altar his heart His Majesty's eyes are without the smallest was heavy with sorrowful forebodings, that expression; he has a vulgar laugh which he turned pale as he pronounced the solemn seems like idiocy, an ignoble figure, an awk‘Yes,' that unbidden tears rolled down his ward gait, and the look of a big boy ill cheeks, that his mother shared his presenti- brought up. It is the same with more imment, and that the evil omen was accom- portant questions. Barère is for the parliaplished. ‘My marriage,' he says, 'was one ments on the Monday and against the parliaof the most unhappy of marriages.' So ro- ments on the Tuesday, for feudality in the mantic a tale, told by so noted a liar, did not morning and against feudality in the aftercommand our belief. We were, therefore, noon. One day he admires the English not much surprised to discover that, in his constitution ; then he shudders to think that, Memoirs, he calls his wife a most amiable in the struggles by which that constitution woman, and declares that, after he had been had been obtained, the barbarous islanders united to her six years, he found her as amia- had murdered a king, and gives the preferble as ever. He complains, indeed, that she ence to the constitution of Bearn. Bearn, was too much attached to royalty and to the he says, has a sublime constitution, a beautiold superstition; but he assures us that his ful constitution. There the nobility and respect for her virtues induced him to tole- clergy meet in one house and the Commons rate her prejudices. Now Barère, at the in another. If the houses differ, the King time of his marriage, was himself a Royalist has the casting vote.

A few weeks later we and a Catholic. He had gained one prize by find him raving against the principles of this flattering the Throne, and another by de- sublime and beautiful constitution. To adfending the Church. It is hardly possible, mit deputies of the nobility and clergy into therefore, that disputes about politics or re- the legislature is, he says, neither more nor ligion should have embittered his domestic less than to admit enemies of the nation into life till some time after he became a husband. the legislature. Our own guess is, that bis wife was, as he In this state of mind, without one settled says, a virtuous and amiable woman, and that purpose or opinion, the slave of the last she did her best to make him happy during word, royalist, aristocrat, democrat, accordsome years.

It seems clear that, when cir- ing to the prevailing sentiment of the coffeecumstances developed the latent atrocity of house or drawing-room into which he had bis character, she could no longer endure just looked, did Barère enter into public life. him, refused to see him, and sent back his The States-General had been summoned. letters unopened. Then it was, we imagine, Barère went down to his own province, was that he invented the fable about his distress there elected one of the representatives of on his wedding day.

the Third Estate, and returned to Paris in In 1788 Barere paid his first visit to Paris, May 1789. attended reviews, heard Laharpe at the Ly- A great crisis, often predicted, had at last cæum, and Condorcet at the Academy of arrived. In no country, we conceive, have Sciences, stared at the envoys of Tippoo intellectual freedom and political servitude Saib, saw the Royal Family dine at Ver- existed together so long as in France, during sailles, and kept a journal in which he noted the seventy or eighty years which preceded down adventures and speculations. Some the last convocation of the Orders. Ancient parts of this journal are printed in the first abuses and new theories flourished in equal volume of the work before us, and are cer- vigor side by side. The people, having no tainly most characteristic. The worst vices constitutional means of checking even the

most flagitious misgovernment, were indem-His style was thought very bad; and very nified for oppression by being suffered to lux- bad, if a foreigner may venture to judge, it uriate in anarchical speculation, and to deny continued to the last. It would, however, or ridicule every principle on which the be unjust to deny that he had some talents institutions of the state reposed. Neither for speaking and writing. His rhetoric, those who attribute the downfall of the old though deformed by every imaginable fault French institutions to the public grievances, of taste, from bombast down to buffoonery, nor those who attribute it to the doctrines of was not wholly without force and vivacity. the philosophers, appear to us to have taken He had also one quality which, in active life, into their view more than one half of the sub- often gives fourth-rate men an advantage ject. Grievances as heavy have often been over first-rate men. Whatever he could do, endured without producing a revolution; he could do without effort, at any modoctrines as bold have often been propound- ment, in any abundance, and on any side of ed without producing a revolution. The any question. There was, indeed, a perfect question, whether the French nation was harmony between his moral character and alienated from its old polity by the follies his intellectual character. His temper was and vices of the Viziers and Sultanas who that of a slave; his abilities were exactly pillaged and disgraced it, or by the writings those which qualified him to be a useful slave. of Voltaire and Rousseau, seems to us as Of thinking to purpose, he was utterly inidle as the question whether it was fire or capable; but he had wonderful readiness in gunpowder that blew up the mills at Houns- arranging and expressing thoughts furnished low. Neither cause would have sufficed by others. alone. Tyranny may last through ages In the National Assembly he had no opporwhere discussion is suppressed. Discussion tunity of displaying the full extent either of may safely be left free by rulers who act on his talents or of his vices. He was indeed popular principles. But combine a press like eclipsed by much abler men.

He went, as that of London, with a government like that was his habit, with the stream, spoke occaof St. Petersburg, and the inevitable effect sionally with some success, and edited a jourwill be an explosion that will shake the world. nal called the Point du Jour, in which the So it was in France. Despotisrn and Li-debates of the Assembly were reported. cense, mingling in unblessed union, engen- He at first ranked by no means among the dered that mighty Revolution in which the violent reformers. He was not friendly to lineaments of both parents were strangely that new division of the French territory blended. The long gestation was accom- which was among the most important changes plished; and Europe saw, with mixed hope introduced by the Revolution, and was espeand terror, that agonizing travail and that cially unwilling to see his native province portentous birth.

dismembered. He was entrusted with the Among the crowd of legislators which at task of framing Reports on the Woods and this conjuncture poured from all the prov- Forests. Louis was exceedingly anxious inces of France into Paris, Barère made no about this matter; for his majesty was contemptible figure. The opinions which keen sportsman, and would much rather have he for the moment professed were popular, gone without the Veto, or the prerogative of yet not extreme. His character was fair; making peace and war, than without his his personal advantages are said to have been hunting and shooting. Gentlemen of the considerable; and, from the portrait whichroyal household were sent to Barère, in is prefixed to these Memoirs, and which re- order to intercede for the deer and pheasants. presents him as he appeared in the Conven-Nor was this intercession unsuccessful. The tion, we should judge that his features must reports were so drawn, that Barère was afterhave been strikingly handsome, though we wards accused of having dishonestly sacrithink that we can read in them cowardice and ficed the interests of the public to the tastes meanness very legibly written by the hand of the court. To one of these reports he of God. His conversation was lively and had the inconceivable folly and bad taste to easy; his manners remarkably good for a prefix a punning motto from Virgil, fit only country lawyer. Women of rank and wit for such essays as he had been in the habit said that he was the only man who, on his of composing for the Floral Gamesfirst arrival from a remote province, had that

“Si canimus sylvas, sylvæ sint Consule dignæ." indescribable air which it was supposed that Paris alone could give. His eloquence, in- This literary foppery was one of the few deed, was by no means so much admired in things in which he was consistent. Royalist the capital as it had been by the ingenious or Girondist, Jacobin or Imperialist, he was academicians of Montauban and Toulouse. always a Trissotin.


As the monarchical party became weaker sons possessing in an equal degree the qualiand weaker, Barère gradually estranged him- ties necessary for the judicious direction of self more and more from it, and drew closer public affairs; and, just at this moment, and closer to the republicans. It would these legislators, misled by a childish wish to seem that, during this transition, he was for display their own disinterestedness, deserted a time closely connected with the family of the duties which they had half learned, and Orleans. It is certain that he was entrusted which nobody else had learned at all, and with the guardianship of the celebrated Pa- left their hall to a second crowd of novices, mela, afterwards Lady Edward Fitzgerald; who had still to master the first rudiments of and it was asserted that he received during political business. When Barère wrote his some years a pension of twelve thousand Memoirs, the absurdity of this Self-denying francs from the Palais Royal.

Ordinance had been proved by events, and At the end of September 1791, the labors was, we believe, acknowledged by all parties. of the National Assembly terminated, and He accordingly, with his usual mendacity, those of the first and last Legislative Assem- speaks of it in terms implying that he had bly commenced.

opposed it. There was, he tells us, no good It had been enacted that no member of citizen who did not regret this fatal vote. the National Assembly should sit in the Legis- Nay, all wise men, he says, wished the Nalative Assembly; a preposterous and mis- tional Assembly to continue its sittings as the chievous regulation, to which the disasters first Legislative Assembly. But no attention which followed must in part be ascribed. In was paid to the wishes of the enlightened England, what would be thought of a parlia- friends of liberty; and the generous but fatal ment which did not contain one single per- suicide was perpetrated. Now the fact is, son who had ever sat in parliament before? that Barère, far from opposing this ill-advised Yet it may safely be affirmed, that the num- measure, was one of those who most eagerly ber of Englishmen who, never having taken supported it; that he described it from the any share in public affairs, are yet well quali- tribune as wise and magnanimous; and that fied, by knowledge and observation, to be he assigned, as his reasons for taking this members of the legislature, is at least a hun- view, some of those phrases in which orators dred times as great as the number of French- of his class delight, and which, on all men men who were so qualified in 1791. How, who have the smallest insight into politics, indeed, should it have been otherwise? In produce an effect very similar to that of England, centuries of representative govern- ipecacuanha. “Those,' he said, who have ment have made all educated people in some framed a constitution for their country, are, measure statesmen. In France, the National so to speak, out of the pale of that social Assembly had probably been composed of as state of which they are the authors; for creagood materials as were then to be found. It tive power is not in the same sphere with had undoubtedly removed a vast mass of that which it has created.' abuses; some of its members had read and

M. Hippolyte Carnot has noticed this unthought much about theories of government; truth, and attributes it to mere forgetfulness. and others had shown great oratorical talents. We leave it to hiin to reconcile his very But that kind of skill which is required for charitable supposition with what he elsethe constructing, launching, and steering of a where says of the remarkable excellence of polity, was lamentably wanting; for it is a Barère's memory. kind of skill to which practice contributes Many members of the National Assembly more than books. Books are indeed useful were indemnified for the sacrifice of legislato the politician, as they are useful to the tive power, by appointments in various denavigator and to the surgeon. But the real partments of the public service. Of these navigator is formed on the waves; the real fortunate persons Barère was one. A high surgeon is formed at bedsides; and the Court of Appeal had just been instituted. conflicts of free states are the real school of This court was to sit at Paris ; but its jurisconstitutional statesmen. The National As- diction was to extend over the whole realm, sembly had, however, now served an appren- and the departments were to choose the ticeship of two laborious and eventful years. judges. Barère was nominated by the deIt had, indeed, by no means finished its edu- (partment of the Upper Pyrenees, and took cation ; but it was no longer, as on the day his seat in the Palace of Justice. He asserts, when it met, altogether rude to political func- and our readers may, if they choose, believe, tions. Its later proceedings contain abun- that it was about this time in contemplation dant proof that the members had profited by to make him Minister of the Interior, and their experience. Beyond all doubt, there that, in order to avoid so grave a responsiwas not in France any equal number of per-bility, he obtained permission to pay a visit to his native place. It is certain that he left It seems to us clear that the war with the Paris early in the year 1792, and passed Continental coalition was, on the side of some months in the south of France. France, at first a defensive war, and there

In the mean time, it became clear that the fore a just war. It was not a war for small constitution of 1791 would not work. It objects, or against despicable enemies. On was, indeed, not to be expected, that a con- the event were staked all the dearest interests stitution new both in its principles and its of the French people. Foremost among the details would at first work easily. Ilad the threatening powers appeared two great and chief magistrate enjoyed the entire confi- martial monarchies, either of which, situated dence of the people, had he performed his as France then was, might be regarded as a part with the utmost zeal, fidelity, and ability, formidable assailant. It is evident that, unhad the representative body included all the der such circumstances, the French could not, wisest statesmen of France, the difficulties without extreme imprudence, entrust the sumight still have been found insuperable. preme administration of their affairs to any But, in fact, the experiment was made under person whose attachment to the national every disadvantage. The King, very natu- cause admitted of doubt. Now, it is no rerally, hated the constitution. In the Legis- proach to the memory of Louis to say, that lative Assembly were men of genius and men he was not attached to the national cause. of good intentions, but not a single ma of Had he been so, he would have been someexperience. Nevertheless, if France bad thing more than man. He had held absolute been suffered to settle her own affairs with power, not by usurpation, but by the accident out foreign interference, it is possible that of birth and by the ancient polity of the kingthe calamities which followed might have dom. That power he had, on the whole, been averted. The King who, with many used with lenity. He had meant well by his good qualities, was sluggish and sensual, people. He had been willing to make to might have found compensation for his lost them, of his own mere motion, concessions prerogatives in his immense civil list, in his such as scarcely any other sovereign has ever palaces and hunting grounds, in soups, Peri- made except under duress. He had paid the gord pies, and Champagne. The people, penalty of faults not his own, of the haughtifinding themselves secure in the enjoyment ness and ambition of some of his predecesof the valuable reforms which the National sors, of the dissoluteness and baseness of Assembly had, in the midst of all its errors, others. He had been vanquished, taken capeffected, would not have been easily excited tive, Jed in triumph, put in ward. He had by demagogues to acts of atrocity; or, if acts escaped; he had been caught; he had been of atrocity had been committed, those acts dragged back like a runaway galley-slave to would probably have produced a speedy and the oar. He was still a state prisoner. His violent reaction. Had tolerable quiet been quiet was broken by daily affronts and lampreserved during a few years, the constitu- poons. Accustomed from the cradle to be tion of 1791 might perhaps have taken root, treated with profound reverence, he was now might have gradually acquired the strength forced to command his feelings, while men which time alone can give, and might, with who, a few months before, had been hackney some modifications which were undoubtedly writers or country attorneys, sat in bis presneeded, bave lasted down to the present time.ence with covered heads, and addressed him The European coalition against the Revolu- in the easy tone of equality. Conscious of tion extinguished all hope of such a result. fair intentions, sensible of hard

he The deposition of Louis was, in our opinion, doubtless detested the Revolution; and, while the necessary consequence of that coalition charged with the conduct of the war against The question was now no longer, whether the confederates, pined in secret for the sight the King should have an absolute Veto or of the German eagles and the sound of the a suspensive Veto, whether there should be German drums. We do not blame him for one chamber or two chambers, whether the this. But can we blame those who, being remembers of the representative body should solved to defend the work of the National Asbe re-eligible or not; but whether France sembly against the interference of strangers, should belong to the French. The indepen- were not disposed to have him at their head dence of the nation, the integrity of the terri- in the fearful struggle which was approachtory were at stake; and we must say plainly, ing? We have nothing to say in desence or that we cordially approve of the conduct of extenuation of the insolence, injustice, and those Frenchmen who, at that conjuncture, cruelty, with which, after the victory of the resolved, like our own Blake, to play the republicans, he and his family were treated. men for their country, under whatever form But this we say, that the French had only of government their country might fall. one alternative, to deprive him of the powers


« PreviousContinue »