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of forgetting himself in the safety and glory of his country : we should hardly think the virtue possible, if the records of antiquity did not prove it, and if some neighbouring nations did not afford an eminent example of its influence.
In England, every private fortune is linked to the public welfare. Each subject exerts himself to maintain it apparently unshaken, and therefore, the great majority of the nation always sides with the government, and the opposition must always be inconsiderable : its only use is to keep minds in exercise, to animate and strengthen discussion. Thus may we account for the public spirit of Englishmen.
In France it is not so well : private fortunes, being portions of the soil, are more detached from each other, more independent of the general direction of affairs, which may be disordered to a certain degree, without injury to the landed principal, the basis of public wealth. For this reason, there is more self-concentration in France, less connection with the public, little or nothing of national spirit.—And yet it should exist; for great uations are only formed by great passions. One nation indulges the passion for liberty; another follows that of conquest; a third is goaded on by fanaticism; and we ourselves should cling to the love of our dative soil.
In respect to the national spirit, France and England must be differently governed. England, entirely commercial, should be guided by calculation, and the love of enterprising adventure. France should be swayed by the love of her own territory. England regards it as her principal honor, to be the radiatiug centre of those naval excursions which extend to all countries ; France should bend all her efforts to cherish the prodigal bounties of her native climate. We should take pride in our own resources, nurse them with fondness, devote ourselves to their improvement, and circulation by means of interior channels, without pretending to rival our neighbours on an element of which, by their situation and the regulated equilibrium of European policy, they seem destined to assert the dominion. We should confine ourselves to the augmentation and culture of our own products, rather than abandon ourselves to a foreign commerce, which we can never superintend but on casual and secondary terms, under the good will and pleasure of England, who will always endeavour to obstruct us as much as possible.
Such should be the character of national spirit with respect to France: an attachment to the collective landed property, to its integrity, its perfect adaptation, its political independence, involves a regard to all private interests; the bent of our passions will carry us all to this common object. On their own ground, the French have always been most powerful; it must be as dangerous a post for foreigners, as it is difficult for the French to establish themselves beyond their own land.
If we once adopt this principle to direct our policy, we shall have applied a drastic remedy to that restlessness, which proceeds rather from local circumstances, than from the fickle character ascribed to the French. The French are not more inconstant than the natives of other countries, and the revolution has manifested, that they are capable of great constancy and determination, when they pursue an object worthy their ambition. They only waste themselves on petty passions, because they are not exposed to the operation of a greater, which may collect their scattered energies, and concentrate them into firmness.
Since national spirit is no fleeting and ideal spectre, but a real power, the government should strive to evoke it: Its elements should be fixed and combined. The first elements of national spirit, are honor, feeling, the urbanity which we seem to inhale with the air of our climate, and all those natural qualities which discriminate the character of nations. To combine these elements requires a legislature, education, and institutions adapted to the end we seek.
It is above my powers, to treat definitively on these subjects. I shall now limit myself to the principal-honor—which is, properly speaking, the great lever of all national conduct, and especially of the French.
Perhaps all our calamities may be imputed to a misapprehension, an abuse of terms, which blends honor with distinction; and yet, what have they in common?
Man is the principle of every great action; distinction is but the sign of favor, and it is not so often the proof of real merit, as of intrigue and debasing compliances. Honour kindles a generous competition : distinction, a mean jealousy: it estranges the heart from the common welfare, and points out the favored party as an alien. On the contrary, the honor of an individual citizen is but an effluence, an emanation, from the national honor.
The greatest praise we can bestow on distinction, is, that it may not be absolutely revolting to true honor; but a man, spiritless, faded, blasted in character, may yet be loaden with all titles, dignities, decorations, orders; whilst another man, unassuming, replete with integrity, virtue, talent, and in fact with real honor, may not possess a shadow of the distinction of favoritism. Honor, when once acquired, is intrinsic and indefeasible; the other may be laid aside with our clothes.
But, unfortunately, in the vulgar estimate, distinction is frequently a substitute for honor, of which it is viewed as the emblem : it is a forged coin, which has often been more highly prized than that of the genuine metal and stamp. Thus is fraud encouraged; realities are exchanged for their semblance; and honest men are sure to lose by the bargain.
Undoubtedly it is a great advantage for a nation to requite the most valuable services by a branch of oak or laurel, by crosses or ribands ; but if these distinctions are conferred on cabal, secret subornation, or services yet more infamous, will the nation long think them desirable ? Who will dedicate himself to the most arduous labors, the severest privations, for rewards like these? Who will toil for them in camps, if he can gather them to satiety in an antichamber?
And yet, when these distinctions are become so trite and vulgar, that even the common people do not regard their possession as a positive honor, but their privation as a negative disgrace, those who most despise them are often compelled to intrigue and solicit for them ; and thus adventitious honors in the end destroy real honor, and generate immorality and debasement, when they should rather exalt and purify the spirit: patriotism must yield precedence to paltry trinkets, dignity is displaced by vanity, emulation languishes, and ages elapse without a vestige or a record that they produced men.
But how shall we reinstate true honor in her throne, and reduce so many parasitic distinctions to their actual value ? Nothing is wanting, but a free access to Truth. Then, in despite of that mass of falsehoods, fabricated by those whose interest gives them currency as the price of the favors which they court, we shall know
the real foundation of facts : enlightened by the power of discussing and disproving them, they will be no longer disguised or varnished; and baffled Imposture will fail of those rewards which belong only to Merit. Then will triumphant Justice draw forth the neglected claims of Virtue; and her appeals being no longer overwhelmed by presumption and influence, each person will endeavour to gain the esteem of his countrymen, without apprehension of sustaining a repulse from impudent intrigue : his faculties will expand with the hope of popular regard, and he will struggle with enthusiasm towards that goal of national happiness, which every citizen holds in prospect.
We have seen that the spread of intelligence is a mean for tracing the paths that lead to this object : and thus the liberty of thought and communication will be doubly serviceable ; to suppress error and intrigue, and to indicate the value of men and things. Such would be the natural effect of the liberty of the press; and if it be fettered, the reverse will be equally certain.
We need a division of powers, which, instead of perpetually contending, shall unite for the same end. These powers must be those of opinion, and those of action. The first seeks for the avenues of prosperity; the other pursues the track, with the aggregate resources committed to its direction. What matters a slight shock, which ensues from the search of utility? No shock is so dangerous as that of conflicting factions ; and how can faction exist, if each man is animated with the same spirit, if distinction is no longer the gift of caprice, but the tribute of sound judgment, enlightened by inquiry; if each subject acknowleges the necessity of a controlling power, and a partial sacrifice of individual liberty ? But we are enough matured by experience, to be intimately conscious of these truths; and if there are yet some persons, who are bigoted to old prejudices, or doat on their own extravagancies, their voice will be so lost in the multitude of those who are weary of revolutions, that they will soon be ashamed of their absurdity. Nothing is requisite but the will of the prince : this is like the queen bee of the hive: all must follow when he gives the signal, if he be considered as the patron of public happiness, without private partiality ; though I know that these principles are far. remote from the gloomy precept, Divide to govern. May my fel
low-citizens then accept of these hasty effusions, as a proof of my sincere wish to quell the re-action of appeased tumults : to inspire that magnanimity, that general benevolence, which would not exact more from others than itself, perhaps, could accomplish ! May they feel the necessity of sacrificing the individual pride which insulates the heart, to the national honor which binds all hearts into union ; of esteeming themselves superior to others, not by natural right, but by their place in the system of society; of acknowleging, that the real duty of government is to preserve cordiality among all classes : that needless distinctions are always hateful or ludicrous, and injurious to emulation : that all individual exertions should aim at the common benefit; that this latter will admit of numberless modifications, partaking of advantages and defects; that all these forms of government require the exertion of power, and therefore a partial sacrifice of liberty. Lastly, may they feel that it is better to bear with some inconveniences, than to impose a perfection, chimerical iu practice, and fantastic in theory; that contentedness with our lot is the best gift of morality, and that all-bounteous nature has established an equilibrium among mankind, which almost always makes the superiority of worldiy station more specious than desirable. · And you, Ministers, who possess the confidence of His Majesty, you doubtless deserve it by your talents, and your regard for his sacred person ; but you know not how to gain him friends--you labor unceasingly to revolt those whom you should try to conciliate--you are continually irritating men whose first wish is for unanimity. You do not inform your prince that the interest of the general family should supersede all private attachments in a monarch's heart. Have you already forgotten that Napoleon only sunk from his elevation, because he would never hear truth himself, or permit the French nation to hear it? Does it beseem the royal dignity to quibble on some obscurities in the Constitutional Charter, as if the King already regretted his assent to it? And if a doubt exist, should not his own words be always construed in the most liberal sense ? Should not a king rather exceed than fall short of his promises? And should you not constantly remind him of that sublime passage in the proclamation of his ancestor Henry IV. while only King of Navarre :“Who can tell the King of Navarre that he ever forfeited his word ?”