Page images

this critical moment I should place my views in opposition to his. However preferable I may think them, I know that it is in vain for me to pretend to his prodigious popularity, the reward of such distinguished services; to his long experience; to his reputation of the first financier in Europe; or to the singular and unprecedented good fortune, which has marked his career, more, perhaps, than that of any former statesman.

We must therefore come back to the plan of Mr. Necker. But, why adopt it without deliberation? Do you think, then, that we have time to examine it in detail, to discuss the principles, and go over all the calculations? No! no! a thousand times, no! We can only propose insignificant questions and superficial conjectures. What, then, shall we do by deliberating? Lose the decisive moment, involve ourselves in disputes about the details of a schene, which we really do not understand, diminish by our idle meddlings the minister's credit, which is and ought to be greater than our own.

Gentlemen, this course is very impolitic. Is there even common honesty in it? Gentlemen, if we had not proved our respect for the public faith, and our horror of bankruptcy by the most solemn declarations, I could almost venture to scrutinize the secret motives, secret perhaps even to themselves, of those who talk of deliberating upon this great sacrifice, when they must know, that unless made at once, it will be utterly ineffectual. And I would ask those, who seem to be accustoming themselves to the idea of bankruptcy, in preference to excessive taxes, whether a national bankruptcy is not itself the most cruel, the most unjust, the most ruinous of all possible taxes?


GENTLEMEN, one word more, a single word. Two centuries of misgovernment have opened a gulf of ruin which threatens immediate destruction to the monarchy. This gulf must be closed. Take, then, the list of the proprietors of the country; and select a certain number, whose property shall be sacrificed to pay the public debt. Choose

the richest, that as few citizens as possible may be ruined; but be sure to choose enough.

Come on, then; here are two thousand individuals, who have sufficient property among them to make up the deficit. Strike! exterminate the whole! plunge them into the abyss! It will then close; the finances will then be restored to order, and the kingdom to peace and prosperity.

You recoil with horror from this idea. And yet, inconsistent and pusillanimous souls that you are, you do not perceive, that in decreeing a national bankruptcy, or, what is still worse, in making it inevitable without decreeing it, you disgrace yourselves by an act a thousand times more criminal; and, incredible as it may seem, criminal to no purpose. The other sacrifice, however horrible, would at last relieve you from your embarrassments. · But do you think that when you have declared yourselves bankrupt, you shall thereby be clear of debt? Will the thousands and millions, who lose in one moment, by this terrible blow and its consequences, all the comforts, perhaps the necessaries of life, allow you to enjoy quietly the advantages of your crime?

Ye cool observers of the incalculable misery, that such a consummation would bring upon France; ye selfish souls, who imagine that such convulsions of despair would pass off like the rest, and be only the shorter for their violence, are you very sure, that so many millions of starving men will permit you to cover your tables with all the usual delicacies? No! you must perish; and when you have lighted up this tremendous conflagration, you will find that you have sacrificed all your personal enjoyments, as well as your honour. This then is the point to which we are advancing.


I HEAR much said of patriotism, appeals to patriotism, transports of patriotism. Gentlemen, why prostitute this noble word? Is it so very magnanimous to give up a part of your income, in order to save your whole property? This is very simple arithmetic; and he that hesitates, deserves contempt rather than indignation.'

Yes, gentlemen, it is to your immediate self-interest, to your most familiar notions of prudence and policy that I now appeal. I say not to you now, as heretofore, beware how you give the world the first example of an assembled nation untrue to the public faith. I ask you not, as heretofore, what right you have to freedom, or what means of maintaining it, if, at your first step in administration, you outdo in baseness all the old and corrupt governments.

I tell you, that unless you prevent this catastrophe, you will all be involved in the general ruin; and that you are yourselves the persons most deeply interested in making the sacrifice which the government demands of you.

I exhort you, then, most earnestly, to vote these extraordinary supplies; and God grant they may prove sufficient. Vote them, I beseech you; for, even if you doubt the expediency of the means, you know perfectly well that the supplies are necessary, and that you are incapable of raising them in any other way. Vote them at once; for the crisis does not admit of delay; and if it occurs, we must be responsible for the consequences.

Beware of asking for time. While you are lingering, the evil day will come upon you. Why, gentlemen, it is but a few days since, that upon occasion of some foolish bustle in the Palais Royal, some ridiculous insurrection that existed nowhere but in the heads of a few weak or designing indiyiduals, we were told with emphasis, Catiline is at the gates of Rome, and yet we deliberate. We know, gentlemen, that this was all imagination. We are far from being at Rome; nor is there any Catiline at the gates of Paris. But now we are threatened with a real danger; bankruptcy, national bankruptcy is before you; it thr jatens to swallow up your persons, your property, your honour,-and yet you deliberate.


My lords, this ruinous and ignominious situation, where we cannot act with success, nor suffer with honour, calls upon us to remonstrate in the strongest and loudest language of truth, to rescue the ear of majesty from the delusions which surround it. The desperate state of our army abroad is in part known: no man thinks more highly of it than I do. I love and honour the English troops. I know their virtues and their valour. I know they can achieve anything except impossibilities; and I know that the conquest of English America is an impossibility. You cannot, I venture to say it, you cannot conquer America.

Your armies last war effected every thing that could be effected; and what was it? It cost a numerous army, under the command of a most able general, now a noble lord in this house, a long and laborious campaign, to expel five thousand Frenchmen from French America. My lords, you cannot conquer America. What is your present situation there? We do not know the worst; but we know, that in three campaigns we have done nothing and suffered much. Beside the sufferings, perhaps total loss, of the northern force; the best appointed army that ever took the field, commanded by Sir William Howe, has retired from the American lines. He was obliged to relinquish his attempt, and, with great delay and danger, to adopt a new and distant plan of operations.

We shall soon know, and in any event have reason to lament, what may have happened since. As to conquest, therefore, my lords, I repeat, it is impossible. You may swell every expense, and every effort, still more extravagantly; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow; traffic and barter with every little pitiful German prince, that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreign despot; your efforts are forever vain and impotent: doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely. For it irritates, to an incurable resentment, the minds of your enemies—to overrun them with the mercenary sons of rapine and plunder; devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty!—If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms-nevernever-never.


SPIRIT OF FREEDOM! who thy home hast made In wilds and wastes, where wealth has never trod Nor bowed her coward head before her god, The sordid deity of fraudful trade; Where power has never reared his iron brow, And glared his glance of terror, nor has blown The maddening trump of battle, nor has flown His blood-thirst eagles; where no flatterers bow, And kiss the foot that spurns them; where no throne, Bright with the spoils from nations wrested, towers, The idol of a slavish mob, who herd, Where largess feeds their sloth with golden showers, And thousands hang upon one tyrant's word

SPIRIT OF FREEDOM! thou, who dwell'st alone, Unblenched, unyielding, on the storm-beat shore, And findest a stirring music in its roar, And lookest abroad on earth and sea, thy own Far from the city's noxious hold, thy foot Fleet as the wild deer bounds, as if its breath Were but the rankest, foulest steam of death; Its soil were but the dunghill, where the root Of every poisonous weed and baleful tree Grew vigorously and deeply, till their shade Had choked and killed each wholesome plant, and laid In rottenness the flower of LIBERTYThou flyest to the desert, and its sands Become thy welcome shelter, where the pure Wind gives its freshness to thy roving bands, And languid weakness finds its only cure; Where few their wants, and bounded their desires, And life all spring and action, they display Man's boldest flights, and highest, warmest fires, And beauty wears her loveliest array

SPIRIT OF FREEDOM! I would with thee dwell,
Whether on Afric's sand, or Norway's crags,
Or Kansa's prairies, for thou lovest them well,
And there thy boldest daring never flags;

« PreviousContinue »