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for his age:" this would imply that private character should be graduated by the scale of public morals ; but, let his detractors, if they will, add further evidence to what their very accusations frequently prove, that he was, by far, more virtuous than
Apart from the light which this piece of secret history sheds upon the events of the revolution of 1830, nothing can be gathered from the generally received accounts of those events, but that Lafayette, as during the former revolution, still saw the dangers besetting an attempt to establish a republic, and sacrificed his predilections to his caution. The English government was again taken as the model, and the structure raised after its likeness, though the work of haste, instead of the gradual growth of ages, as is the British constitution, bade fair to fulfil the noble purposes of its founders,—to redeem their countrymen from civil and political bondage. We shall not here stop to discuss the question, whether the French people are capable of enjoying, in peace and quiet, the advantages of a liberal form of government; or are only fitted, as some have contended, for a military despotism, or to be wheedled into absolute submission by the corrupting example of a profligate court. Certain it is that, after the solemn pledges given by Louis Philippe, as duke of Orleans, and his systematic violation of them all, as king of the French, the language in which Lafayette is said to have expressed his disappointment,-“Il est un fourbe, et nous sommes les victimes de sa fourberie," was strikingly expressive of the monarch's course, and of the subjects' condition.
We know, from various sources, that Lafayette's feelings in regard to Louis Philippe's government, were those of regret and reprobation. In the Chamber of Deputies, he constantly and strenuously opposed that course of subserviency to the royal will, which produced the law against associations, and other similar infringements of the rights of the people. He strove to maintain, in their full vigour, “ the republican institutions” by which the throne, when raised from the dust of the Bourbons discomfiture, was environed, but which have rapidly vanished at the touch of the “Citizen King."
We would not, however, dwell upon the evidence of this illustrious man's mental endowment, or of the consistency of his political career: a nobler praise may be awarded to his memory. Who can doubt the purity of his motives, his unchanging patriotism? Who that is conscious of his own moral rectitude; who that has not paid tribute, of his soul's best feelings, to the corroding rust of selfishness and base ambition, can see, in any act of Lafayette's public life, the workings of a spirit eager in the pursuit of personal interests, or of private fortune ? Did
he gain a post of honour and command ? He -exercised his temporary power for the general good; and, when the object to be attained was accomplished, or when he perceived that his influence could not secure the co-operation necessary to its accomplishment, he resigned his post and retired from the struggle, in which he could not hope to better the fortune of his countrymen. True to his principles, he renounced even the hereditary honours of his family. Had he sought for personal aggrandizement, by worshipping the rising star of Napoleon's fortune, he might have realized his most boundless desires. Had he accepted the presidentship of a republic, he might have assumed a dictatorship, and moved in the dazzling orbit of absolute command. If Lafayette ever, really, aspired to the highest office in the government, we cannot doubt, relying on the testimony of his whole public life, that his aspirations were consecrated by the purest and most patriotic motives.
As patriotism is but an enlarged friendship, so, on the other hand, it is but philanthropy acting in a confined sphere. What is patriotism, in a citizen of an individual state, becomes philanthropy in one who merits the more comprehensive title of a “ citizen of the world.” In the most extensive meaning of the term, Lafayette was a philanthropist. He had adopted principles which, he believed, would, when fully developed and applied, work the moral and political regeneration of the world; and the objects of his efforts were as diversified, as the application of his principles was universal. Struggling Greece, enslaved Poland, Spain and Portugal distracted and convulsed, as well as oppressed America, and his native land, participated in his sympathies, and engaged his exertions in the cause of liberty. Nor was his philanthropy bounded by the limits of Europe and the United States. To the emancipation of a people bound down under a worse than political bondage, his most strenuous endeavours were directed. In England, many powerful advocates of the cause of humanity had arisen to plead, with earnestness and effect, in behalf of the African slave. There and in France, vigorous efforts were simultaneously made, both prior to the French revolution and during its continuance, to abolish the slave trade, and to set at liberty its victims. While Wilberforce, Clarkson, Pitt, and Fox, urged forward these philanthropic schemes in Great Britain ; in France, Lafayette and Larochefoucault, united in their plans and efforts, were among the most active and untiring advocates of the same noble cause. Nor were they content with mere declamation and agitation, in regard to the wrongs of Africa. They were ready to sacrifice their private fortunes to the furtherance of these plans of benevolence. We cannot better convey an adequate idea of their exertions in this behalf, than by extracting a part of M.
Cloquet's brief narrative of a single instance of their disinterested and unsparing labours.
"Lafayette and Larochefoucault were so united in sentiments, opinions and conduct, in the cause of negro emancipation, that it is impossible to separate one from the other. Both were so opposed in belief to the pretended property of slave owners, that during their whole life, they sustained, at their joint expense, before the French tribunals, all trials entered into by negroes, for the recovery of their freedom.
“After the decisive campaign against Lord Cornwallis in 1781, Lafayette, on receiving the thanks of the state of Virginia, which had particularly profited by his successes, replied by the expression of a wish, that liberty might be speedily extended to all men, without distinction. But he was not content with sterile wishes, and on his return to France, flattering himself, like Turgot and Poivre, that the gradual emancipation of the negroes might be conciliated with the personal interests of the colonists; he was desirous of establishing the fact by experience, and for that purpose he tried a special experiment, on a scale sufficiently large to put the question to the test. At that period, the intendant of Cayenne was a man of skill, probity and experience, named Lescalier, whose opinions on the subject coincided with those of Lafayette. Marshall de Castries, the minister of the marine, not only consented to the experiment, but determined to aid it by permitting Lescalier to try upon the king's negroes the new regime projected. Lafayette had at first devoted one hundred thousand francs to this object. He confided the management of a residence which he had purchased at Cayeune, to a man distinguished for philosophy and talent, named Richeprey ; who generously devoted himself to the direction of the experiment. The Seminarists established a colony, and, above all, the Abbé Farjon, the curate of it, applauded and encouraged the measure. It is but justice to the colonists of Cayenne to say, that the negroes had been treated with more humanity there than elsewhere. Richeprey's six months' stay there, and the example set by him before he fell a victim to the climate, contributed still further to improve their condition. Larochefoucault was to purchase another plantation as soon as Richeprey's establishment had met with some success, and a third would afterwards have been bought by Malesherbes, who took a cordial interest in the plan. The untimely death of Richeprey, the difficulty of replacing such a man, the departure of the intendant, and a change in the ministry, threw obstacles in the way of this poble undertaking.
"When Lafayette had been proscribed, in 1792, the National Convention confiscated all his property, and ordered his negroes to be sold at Cayenne, in spite of the remonstrances of Madame Lafayette, who protested against the sale, observing, that the negroes had been purchased, only to be restored to liberty after their instruction, and not to be again sold as objects of trade and speculation. At a later period, all the negroes of the French colonies were declared free, by a decree of the National Convention. It is, nevertheless, remarkable that some of Lafayette's plans, with regard to the slave emancipation, were realized. Cayenne, the only one of our colonies in which the example set by him of instructing the negroes had been followed, was also the only colony in which no disorders took place. Urged by gratitude, the negroes of his plantation declared to Richeprey's successor, that if Lafayette's property was confiscated, they would avail themselves of their liberty ; but that in the opposite case, they would remain and continue to cultivate his estate."— Vol. I. pp. 148–151.
It is an almost universal characteristic of weak minds, to be carried away to the farthest extremes of fanatical zeal, whenever any subject of interest has engaged their attention, and called forth their efforts. Especially would the history of the plans and operations of modern philanthropists substantiate this observation. But Lafayette never suffered feeling to get the better of reason. The helm which guided his course never became useless from the fury of the winds which urged him onward. Though he regarded the enslaved negro as a man, nay, more, as a fellow man, an equal in respect of natural endowments, yet he did not from these truths draw the absurd conclusion, which many, by their practice at least, recognize as correct, that the negroes were, in spite of their degraded condition, and entire destitution of all moral and religious, not to say intellectual culture, perfectly prepared to become good citizens, or to assume the prerogative of self-government. “Fiat justitia, ruat cælum,"--a very good motto, too often misapplied ; for where would be the justice or humanity of restoring to liberty the captive eagle, whose wings had lost their flexibility by confinement, either to grovel and to die upon the earth, or to beat itself to death in vain attempts at flight? "Lafayette was desirous of emancipating the negroes, only by degrees, and in proportion as their moral and intellectual education rendered them worthy of freedom.” Here we have the principle which guided his efforts; and, though events beyond control prevented the full success of these wise schemes, yet, their obvious tendency, and their actual effects, as developed on the occasion of the subsequent temporary emancipation of all the negroes belonging to the French colonies, by a decree of the National Convention, proved, beyond controversy, the maturity of judgment that had planned them, and, so far, guided their execution.
We must here conclude our survey of Lafayette's character. Though we have endeavoured to compress our remarks, under this head, into as small a compass as possible, little space is left for other topics. After the view which we have thus taken, the question naturally suggests itself, how were such talents, and such a life, estimated and rewarded by the French people? We need say nothing of the feelings which American patriots entertain toward him who was unanimously greeted as our “ Nation's Guest," a title only second to that of the Father of his people.” But France owed a greater debt, a debt of paternal love, to a son whose proudest boast, whose predominating excitement to action, was a pure filial affection. And Lafayette's reward, though embittered by the untoward issue of his labours, was, emphatically, the reward of the patriot. The French people were bound to the gorgeous throne of Louis XIV. by
hereditary feelings of chivalric loyalty, nurtured by religion, and by the dazzling splendour of his reign. The same people followed the flag of Napoleon, and gazed, in awe and admiration, upon its proud bearing, from a constitutional passion for military glory, even without solid acquisition, and at an incalculable expense of blood and treasure. But Lafayette was loved by his countrymen : their affection was personal, and unadulterated by any spurious admixture. The great body, even of his political enemies, respected his character, while they opposed his principles and measures. But a short time before his death, the chamber of deputies, though ruled by a party decidedly hostile to liberal sentiments, by a mark of public sympathy, perhaps never before paid to a private citizen, directed their president to address a note to Mr. G. W. Lafayette, enquiring after the health of his venerable parent.
The vast majority of the French people were, on every possible occasion, instant in demonstrating their affection and reverence for the general. No other evidence of the prevalent feeling is necessary, than that afforded by the reception which greeted his return, after his last visit to America, and the honours which strewed his path, through whatever part of the kingdom he journeyed. From his landing at Havre, till his arrival at his residence at Lagrange, it was one triumphal march. The government strove, in vain, to check the universal flow of feeling—to stifle the loud accents of joy. It feared to employ force against the object of the people's veneration, and did not think it politic to use open measures to repress even the public rejoicings. It was left to subordinate officersto the municipal authorities of the towns through which he passed-to act in this matter, as if of themselves, without any reference to the sanction of a higher authority. Thus, at Havre, at Rouen, and at Lagrange, endeavours were made to repress all manifestations of the popular feelings: but such measures were entirely fruitless. In this, if in nothing else, the people were determined to govern. The general's reception at Lagrange is thus described by a writer of the times :-“In their rejoicings, the populace of the neighbouring villages united, to the number of six thousand, and filled the air with cries of 'Long live Lafayette-Long live the friend of the people.? Addresses, expressive of the most ardent affection and admiration, were presented ; and, according to the French custom of manifesting great joy, the dancing continued throughout the night."
From this tirne until the revolution of 1830, during all the struggles between the king and people ; while the power of the former was daily diminishing, and the latter becoming more confident in their strength, the popularity of Lafayette increased