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us — The pressure of the external atmos- without the assistance of this casual fit of phere overcomes that of the rarefied air in unaccountable insanity. the cylinder; this circumstance, without in speaking thus, we fully bear in mind doubt, contributes to the phenomenon ; but the wild and visionary speculations which its immediate cause is, that nature abhors a were so common in France at the time of vacuum ! If Mr. Alison means, by the the Revolution. But we cannot see the ne
spirit of innovation,' that natural wish for cessity of referring these delusions to in. redress which is the consequence of intol. scrutable causes. No one will deny that a erable suffering, then the sentence we have frantic spirit of innovation did exist in quoted, besides being a truism in itself, is France at that period ;—the question is, incorrect in its application ; for that spirit whether it originated in natural resentmust have been an intermediate, not a col. ment or spontaneous frenzy-whether, in lateral cause of the Revolution. But this short, the nation was driven mad, or went he does not mean ; for it would be absurd mad of its own accord. The latter, as we to call so rational a desire an inscrutable have seen, is Mr. Alison's opinion; and frenzy. It is therefore clear that he speaks this opinion induces him, as well it may, of 'a spirit of innovation,' wholly uncon- to fear that the feelings which convulsed nected with existing inconveniences—a France half a century since, may be awaspirit against which the wisest institutions kened in free and well governed councannot guard, and which is almost as like. tries by the progress of constitutional re. ly to break forth in a free, as in an oppress- form. To us nothing can seem more natued nation. We shall permit ourselves a ral than that men, who knew no more of few observations upon this theory; be- political liberty than a blind man knows of cause, briefly as it is here expressed, it ap- light, should form an extravagant notion of pears to be the text of most of his mourn. its blessings. All our ideas of human naful and discouraging speculations both up- ture would have been confounded, if we had on the future destiny of France, and the found the French Jacobins recommending progress of Reform throughout the world. the constitution of 1789 in the calm and
In the first place, the remark naturally rational language in which Hampden might occurs, that admitting the possibility of the have spoken for the abolition of the Starexplanation, we do not want its assistance. Chamber, or Lord Somers for the Bill of Mr. Alison has ably shown that the worst Rights. It is certain that nations, like in. follies and excesses of the Revolution may dividuals, are sometimes captivated by de. be fully accounted for by the ordinary moclusive theories. But we appeal to the comtives of human conduct. Why then have mon sense of our readers whether any rea. recourse to causes inscrutable to human sonable being ever abandoned substantial wisdom? Why call down a divinity, when comforts, or confronted real dangers, with the knot can be disentangled by mortal skill? no better motives. Can it be conceived Assume, if you will, that nations, like ele. that empty dreams about universal equality, phants, are subject to periodical accesses and an age of innocence, would have nerved of frenzy ; but why apply your theory to peaceable men to defy the cannon of the such a case where every provocation ex- Bastile? Would the mob bave massacred isted to justify an outbreak of natural re good and popular rulers for the sake of resentment? Nothing can, by Mr. Alison's sembling Brutus and Timoleon ? When an account, be more evident, than that the po-homme-de-lettres risked his life as a demalitical privileges of the noblesse, the oppres- gogue, was it to realize his fancies of re: sions of the feudal law, and the ruinous publics and democracies, or to escape from state of the finances, must have been in hopeless poverty and obscurity? When a 1789 sources of daily and hourly annoyance peasant set fire to the chateau of Mon. to the great majority of the French nation. seigneur, was it because he admired the Most of them, even in the plebeian class, eloquence of Danton or Desmoulins, or must, in the existing state of intelligence, because he found it easier to revolt at once, have felt that their property had been in than to stay at home and be ruined by corjured, and their prospects in life disap- vées and feudal services? pointed, by the accident of their birth. And At the conclusion of his first chapter, Mr. surely they must have been the meekest Alison has explained, with admirable sense race in existence, if the severity of their and moderation, the causes of the sansufferings, and the consciousness of their guinary violence which distinguished the strength, and the knowledge of the impo- French Revolution. We are not sure that tence of their oppressors, would all have his remarks upon the various crimes which been insufficient to urge them to violence, he has to relate, are always characterized by
the same rational calmness; but he has here In speaking of the Egyptian expedition, he at least recorded his deliberate opinion, that says— They' (the French soldiers) 'not the atrocities of the French populace were only considered the Christian faith as an the natural and inevitable fruit of the op- entire fabrication, but were for the most pression which they had suffered. We have part ignorant of its very elements. Lavalong ago expressed our belief, that the ex-lette has recorded that hardly one of them cesses of every popular convulsion will ge- had ever been in a church, and that in Paberally be proportioned to the misgovern-lestine they were ignorant even of the names ment which occasioned it. We are aware of the holiest places in sacred history. that this has been eagerly disputed; but iii. 419.) This was in 1799, only ten years without pausing to discuss particular ex. after the first symptoms of popular innovaamples, we submit that the general rule tion. Here, then, were 30,000 full-grown approaches very nearly to a truism. Will men, collected promiscuously from all parts not the violence of the popular party in a of France-many of them well educated, revolation be in proportion to their exaspe- and all of sound mind and body-who apration and their political ignorance? And pear to have felt about as much interest in will not their exasperation be in proportion the religion of their ancestors as in that of to their sufferings, and their political igno- Brahma or Confucius. And yet the great rance to their inexperience in the use of majority of this army must have been born political power ?
fifteen or twenty years before the first outOf course, no one will deny that the ex- I break of the Revolution; and the very actness of the proportion may be disturbed youngest of them must have passed their by various causes. The influence of acci- childhood entirely under the ancient régime. dental circumstances, the authority of par- There cannot, surely, be a stronger proof ticular classes, even the personal character that, long before the royal authority was of individuals, may have the greatest effect shaken, the great mass of the French nation in exciting or restraining popular revenge. had become such thorough infidels as to be We need not remind our readers of the va- almost ignorant of the very existence of rious unhappy coincidences which com- Christianity. bined to increase the natural resentment of Our limits will not permit us to discuss the French nation ;-of the foolish weak with Mr. Alison the great question, whether ness, and more foolish insolence of the the French Revolution was on the whole a court, the unprincipled character of the benefit, or a disaster to mankind. Though popular leaders, the want of moral and reli. some passages in the earlier part of his His. gious feeling among the lower classes. tory seem to bear a more hopeful interpreStill, we do not comprehend the argument tation, it is clear that upon the whole he which attributes the crimes and impieties of considers it as an event most fatal to France, that unhappy time to the demoralizing ef- and most menacing to the rest of Europe. fects of the Revolution itself. Sudden anar- The following are, in his opinion, its most chy may bring evil passions and infidel opi. pernicious consequences, as regards France nions to light; but we do not understand alone—The national morality has been dehow it can bring them into existence. Men stroyed in the citizens of towns, in whose do pot insult their religion and massacre hands alone political power is vested.their fellow-creatures, simply because it is There is no moral strength or political enin their power. The desire to do so must ergy in the country. ... France has previously exist, and in France we have fallen into a subjection to Paris, to which every proof that it did exist. We might there is nothing comparable in European give innumerable instances of the cruel and history. The Prætorian guards of the cavindictive temper displayed from the most pital rule the state. ... Commercial ancient times by the lower classes in France. Opulence and habits of sober judgment have In the Jacquerie, in the civil wars of the been destroyed, never to revive. A thirst Bourguignons and Armagnacs, and in the for excitement everywhere prevails, and seditions of the League and the Fronde, general selfishness disgraces the nation. they constantly displayed the ferocity na Religion has never resumed its sway over turally excited by slavery and oppression. the influential classes. ... And the Their scorn for Christianity, though more general depravily renders indispensable a recently acquired, had become, long before powerful centralized and military governthe Revolution of 1789, as inveterate as ment. In what respect,' he asks, does this their desire for revenge. We shall give, in state of things differ from the institutions Mr. Alison's own words, one very singular of China or the Byzantine empire ?'—(x. proof of the extent to which it prevailed. 548.) In what respect, we prefer to inquire, does it differ from the institutions of worst that ever occurred. Not only did France before the Revolution? We are no the popular movement result in atrocities, implicit admirers of the present French go- but the exhaustion which followed led to vernment; but we appeal to Mr. Alison's the usurpation of Napoleon and the wars own statements, whether it is not infinitely of the empire. Three millions and a half of preferable to that of Louis XVI.? Still less Frenchmen,* and a prodigious number of are we blind to the many and serious faults foreigners, perished, who but for the Revo. of the present generation of Frenchmen; slution and its consequences might have but we are at a loss to conceive how any ended their days in peace. Human ingereasonable being, who compares the second nuity, in short, can scarcely imagine means revolution with the first, can deny the supe- by which a greater amount of violence and riority of the Frenchman of 1830 to the bloodshed could have been crowded into a Frenchman of 1793—that is, to the French- quarter of a century. Still we are perman of the ancient régime, when seen in his suaded that an escape from this fiery trial true colors. But, without stopping to would have been dearly purchased by the argue so extensive a question in detail, we continuance of the ancient régime for anomust confess that we should be glad to hear ther century. The evils of violence and from Mr. Alison a distinct answer to a few bloodshed, dreadful as they are, cannot be such plain questions as the following: compared to those of oppressive institu. Would Louis-Philippe, though he were the tions. Violence and bloodshed are neces. most depraved and violent man in Europe, sarily partial, but oppressive institutions dare to imitate the orgies of the regency, are universal. It is impossible to guillotine or the tyranny of Louis XV.? Are life, a whole nation; it is impossible to enrol a property, and honor, less safe than in the whole nation as conscripts; but it is easy time of the Bastile, and the Parc aux Cerfs ? to make a whole nation miserable by disIs the present condition of the peasantry abilities and exactions. Even under the worse than it was under the feudal law? Reign of Terror, each individual citizen Have the middle classes less political power must have felt that there were many hun. than in 1742 ? Is France less prosperous dred chances to one in favor of his escape at home, or less respected abroad, than in from denunciation ; but no peasant had a
1763 or 1783? However common infidelity hope of escaping the tyranny of the feudal may unhappily be, is religion less respected customs. Violence and bloodshed are in than in the days of Voltaire ? However their nature transitory; but oppressive inlow the national standard of morality, was stitutions may be perpetual. Crimes which it higher when Madame de Parabére, or spring from passion soon exhaust them. Madame du Berri, was the virtual ruler of selves; but crimes which spring from habit France ? All the declamation in the world may continue for ever. The Reign of Ter. about Oriental tyrannies, and centralized ror was over in fourteen months; but the despotisms, will not get rid of these simple ancient régime might have subsisted until tests; and we are at a loss to imagine how its effects had reduced France to the deeven Mr. Alison could reply to one of them crepitude of China or Constantinople. Vioin the affirmative.
lence and bloodshed produce merely sufferIf we are right on this important point, ing; but oppressive institutions produce we shall not allow the crimes of the Revo degradation also. A French peasant might lution, or the sufferings which it caused, retain the pride and spirit of a free inan, to prevent us from considering it a beneficial though he knew that the next day he might change. In saying this we trust that we be dragged before a revolutionary tribunal, shall not be understood as wishing to pal- or hurried off to join the army in Spain or liate the excesses of the popular party, or Russia. But a French peasant who had to undervalue the evils inseparable from all been placed in the stocks for want of due popular convulsions. A revolution, at its servility to his seigneur, who had seen his best, is a painful and perilous remedy ; at son sent to the galleys for destroying a its worst, it is the severest trial which a partridge's eggs, who knew that the honor nation can undergo. If we are inclined, of his family had been outraged by some notwithstanding, to consider such trials as
* Mr. Alison enumerates the victims of the Rebenefits, it is because we believe that they volution, including those of the civil war in La seldom occur, except in cases where hope- Vendée, at 1.022,351 souls ; and the soldiers who less slavery and irreparable decay are the perished in the wars of the Empire, at 2.200,400.only alternatives. There is no doubt that (See vi. 410, ii. 400.) This does not include those
who fell at Waterloo, in the battles of the revolu. the French Revolution was an instance of con
tionary contest, and in the various naval actions of the worst kind ;—perhaps it was the very Ithe war.
licentious noble, such a man could not but | Fox was originally wrong in his opinion of feel himself a debased and unhappy slave. the French Revolution, because he lived to The sufferings of the Revolution, in short, see its benefits destroyed for a time by the unwere to the sufferings of the ancient régime expected interference of a powerful usurper. as the plague of London to the malaria of a We are at a loss to comprehend the pretropical climate. The one was a temporary cise moral lesson which Mr. Alison would though overwhelming blow, the other a lead his readers to draw from the French wasting pestilence-the perpetual source Revolution. Nor, to say truth, is it easy to of terror and misery to every successive conceive how he can find any instruction at generation existing within its influence. all in an event which he believes to have
Mr. Alison's opinions upon the French originated in mysterious insanity, and to Revolution induce him to speak with trium- have terminated in hopeless slavery. It is phant admiration of the foresight shown by true that we find in his work plenty of soMr. Pitt and Mr. Burke upon that subject, norous declamation about the fatal career and with condescending compassion of the of guilt, the short-lived triumphs of wicked. blindness of Mr. Fox. Posterity,' he as-ness, and the inevitable laws of retribution. sures us, 'will not search the speeches of But we know nothing more annoying to the Mr. Fox for historic truth, nor pronounce reader than this sort of rhetorical amplificahim gifted with any extraordinary political tion, upon subjects which require to be dispenetration. On the contrary, it must re-cussed with the most rigid precision of cord with regret that the light which broke which language is capable. No doubt Roupon Mr. Burke at the outset of the Revo- bespierre was a wicked man, and was as lation, and on Mr. Pitt before its principal miserable as wicked men generally are. atrocities began, only shone on his fervent No doubt Napoleon was rash and ambitious, mind when descending to the grave.'—(v. and owed his downfall to his own pride and 720.) That, we presume, will depend upon recklessness. No doubt the French poputhe view taken by posterity of the events in lace were madmen and ruffians, and made question. It is impossible to deny that Mr. themselves as wretched by their crimes as Burke appreciated the character of the then they deserved to be. But all this is not existing generation of Frenchmen more the sort of instruction which we expect traly tban Mr. Fox. But if future ages see from an elaborate history of the Revolution. in the French Revolution a shock which, We have searched Mr. Alison's work for a dreadful as it was, saved France from hope.calin dispassionate discussion of the means less and lingering decay, they will scarcely by which the evils of the ancient governdeny their admiration to the statesman who ment might have been removed, and yet discerned its true character ; merely be the excesses of the Revolution prevented; cause his sanguine and generous nature led and we have found ourselves again and him to think too favorably of the indivi. again baffled and bewildered by a mazy duals who conducted it. The physical evils tissue of words. No reasonable being who inflicted by the French Revolution are alreads Mr Alison's narrative requires to ready almost effaced, and their last traces be lectured about the horrors of anarchy. will vanish with the present generation. Every body knows that anarchy is a treBut its moral consequences may endure for mendous evil; but was it an avoidable evil? ages, and it is by their ultimate character was it a greater evil than continued subthat the comparative wisdom of the rivaljection ? was there no middle course by statesmen must be tried.
which the dangers of both might have been It may be true that Mr. Fox was induced, avoided ? These are questions which we late and reluctantly, to despair of French cannot discover any direct attempt to reliberty. But it was not the turbulence of solve. If Mr. Alison were to see a drover the Revolution which changed his opinions. trampled to death by an ox, would not his It was the forcible interruption, not the first reflection naturally be upon the danger natural tendency, of its progress, which of over-driving oxen, and the best means of caused his despondency. He had foreseen keeping them in order? And would he not that the excesses of the French people were think that the bystanders had lost their incapable of being a permanent evil; but senses if they began to dilate upon the no human skill could enable him to foresee shocking nature of the accident, as a proof the downfall of Napoleon. It would be un- that it is the duty of over-driven oxen to fair to blame a physician for ignorance in keep their temper? recommending sea-bathing, because his pa. Men are wisely forbidden to do evil that tient happened to be carried off by a shark; good may ensue; but they are not forbidand it is equally unjust to assert that Mr. den to admire the merciful arrangements of Providence, by which the sin and folly of the happiest effects. Every concession individuals are so often made the source of which is calculated to increase this species blessings to mankind. We feel as much of liberty, is comparatively safe in all ages aversion as Mr. Alison for the cruelty and and in all places. But there is another injustice of the French Revolutionists; but principle, strong at all times, but especially we do not pronounce, as he does, that their to be dreaded in moments of excitement. crimes must bring ruin upon their innocent This is the principle of democratic ambiposterity. We see neither sense, nor justion ;-the desire of exercising the powers tice, nor Christian principle, in his theory of sovereignty, and of sharing in the gorof a law of retribution not confined to the ernment of the state. This is the dangerguilty parties. Let Mr. Alison, if he will, ons principle ;-the desire, not of exercising regard the French Revolution as the second industry without molestation, but of exertrevolt of Lucifer, the prince of the morning power without control.'-(i. 174.) The ing:'-(x. 18.) We prefer to recognize in principles may certainly be said to be disits vicissitudes the same severe but merci tinet ; but they are so closely connected ful hand which employs earthquakes and that we scarcely see how one can exist tornadoes to dispel the pestilential stagna- without the other. They are equally natution of the physical atmosphere.
ral, and in themselves equally harmless. However vague Mr. Alison's digressions. The one is the wish for present relief-the may occasionally appear, there is one feel. other the desire of future security. The ing, in the expression of which he is uni- former, we suppose, is felt by every human formly clear and consistent. This is his being; the latter by every human being dread and detestation of democratic insti- possessed of the commonest sense and tutions. So fur as these sentiments are foresight. What security, we would ask called forth by the facts of his narrative, Mr. Alison, can a man have that he will we admit them to be perfectly reasonable. continue to exercise industry without moWhatever benefits we may hope from the lestation, except the possession, by the consequences of the French Revolution, we class to which he belongs, of a share in acknowledge that the democracy which it the government of the state? The present established was in itself the worst of all existence of just and equal laws is not such possible governments. What we doubt is a security. Who is to guard our guardians ? the intrinsic evil of a democracy in a com- Who is to assure us that those laws will munity prepared for its reception. Still, as not be repealed, if our rulers can repeal We admit that no such community now ex-them at any moment without our consent? ists, or is likely to exist for many ages, it Suppose that they enact a new law to-mormay be thought that the subject of our dis- row, declaring us all slaves and bondmen, sent from Mr. Alison's opinion is merely what resource have we against it but civil theoretical, and therefore scarcely worth war? discussion. But this is far from being the This, it is true, is an extreme case. case. If Mr. Alison is right, every political When the subjects are men of spirit, and innovation, in every country, is necessarily the rulers men of sense, there is no fear of absurd and mischievous in proportion as it such open tyranny as this. But there is increases the influence of the lower classes. fear of insensible encroachment on the naIf we are right, such innovations are only tional liberties—of that encroachment which daugerous when they give influence to a has sapped the constitution and undermined class unfit to exercise it. The question the national spirit of so many continental therefore is, whether the great body of a nations-of that encroachment whose pronation is necessarily and intrinsically unfit gress in England, two centuries ago, was to exercise political power.
only arrested by seven years of desperate Mr. Alison's first argument, if we rightly war. Even when the popular rights are so understand it, is the ulter inutility of such clearly defined as to make this impracticaan experiment, whether successful or not. ble, there is fear that the class which is pasHe draws, or attempts to draw, a distinction sive in the administration of affairs will between social freedom and political power, suffer much unnecessary bardship. There and contends that the one may exist in per- is scarcely any conceivable political mea. fect security without the protection of the sure, which is not certain, sooner or later, other. There is, in the first place,' he directly or indirectly, more or less, to affect says, 'the love of freedom; that is, immu- the personal happiness of the poorest citinity from personal restriction, oppression, zen of the commonwealth. And it is in or injury. This principle is perfectly inno- vain to hope that the best absolute governo cent, and never exists without producing ment will consult ile happiness of such a