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cannot disregard the light of all history, and we have little faith in its exercise by any but a young and pure people. We have little confidence in the attempts now making in that country, under the delusive forms of popular government, but with most of the appliances of the rudest despotism,"—and much less at a period when the evils of the iron age, described by Ovid, was about to be reproduced in France.
Protinus irrumpit venæ pejoris in aevum
The Legislative Assembly convened on the 1st day of October, 1791. It was wholly composed of new, and almost entirely of young men. Indeed, so youthful was the appearance of the body, that it led to the remark that France seemed to grow young in one night. With that representation, came the Girondins. The city of Bordeaux in the department of the Gironde, sent, in the persons of the twelve members which constituted the representation of that department in the Assembly, a bold, active and intelligent body of men, who were destined to neutralize the influence of the city of Paris, to govern France for a season and prepare the reign of terror. Young, intrepid and eloquent, they saw no difficulties which they could not surmount; full of hope, they imagined no state of society that could not easily be attained to, and they never doubted but that they could reproduce in France the brightest days of the Roman republic. In the saloons of Madame Roland, who was more frenzied than they, it seemed nothing difficult to still the voice of faction and the murmurs of discontent at home, to repel the foreign enemy, and, out of the elements of a broken down feudal monarchy, to erect a republic. To any man, or any body of men, such a work at that time would have been impossible—most of all to the poor Girondins. Merely talkers, they had neither experience in legislation nor capacity for public affairs. Competent only to accelerate the irresistible progress of the revolution, they could neither moderate its fury nor divert its course for an instant. They sapped the foundations of the political edifice that they thought needed repair, without making any attempt to prop up its walls, and they were crushed under the wreck. In the first sessions of the Legislative Assembly, the effect of Robespierre's “self-denying ordinance” was at once perceived. Probably none of the members of that Assembly had more experience in deliberative bodies than what they had acquired in the provincial Parliaments. Their first sessions were mere attempts at legislation, and the first experiment that was made was an attack upon the constitution, in their effort to humble the king and destroy forever in France the illusion which ten centuries of royal supremacy had cast around the throne. “I move,” said one of the deputies, “that the title of majesty be no longer used.” “I move,” said another, “that we repudiate the title of sire, which is an abbreviation of lord, and recognizes a sovereignty in him on whom it is conferred.” “I move,” said the deputy Bequet, “that we no longer act as automata, seated or standing as it pleases the king to sit or stand.” “There is no other majesty here,” said Couthon, “than that of the law and the people. Let us give no other title to the king than that of King of the French. Let us remove that scandalous chair, the gilded seat which was brought for him the last time he appeared in this hall.” Such questions engaged the attention of the rulers of France at that period. Great efforts had been made at the elections to procure men of extreme opinions, as representatives in the Assembly, when hostility to the throne was the surest passport to popular favor. The overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the republic, the Girondins believed to be the sole objects of their mission. The first they fully accomplished; the second was not, and probably never will be, destined to France. The first sessions of the Assembly were occupied in giving vent to long concealed dissatisfaction among the masses of French society against the monarchy, but graver questions, which had been bequeathed to them by the Constituant Assembly, soon engaged the attention of the democratic rulers of France. The clergy, emigration and foreign war agitated the public mind at that period, and were grave questions, which the dominant party pressed at once for decision upon the Legislative Assembly. The first which employed their labors was the question in relation to the clergy. By the constitution adopted by the Constituant Assembly, the clergy was despoiled of all property held in mortmain, of their abbeys, their benefices and their tithes, and they received in exchange a salary charged upon the treasury. In consideration of this endowment, they were required to take an oath to maintain the constitution. As that constitution contained provisions which were in direct opposition to the spiritual supremacy of the head of the Church, a large and influential portion of them refused to take the oath. The others, less scrupulous, or whose minds had been invaded by the political frenzy of the times, were unwilling, at least, to permit their temporal interests to be affected by any difficulties on the score of conscience, and gave the required sanction to the constitution. The flock generally followed the pastor. Hence ensued divisions in the temples, bitterness, discontent and strife. “The greater number of parishes had two ministers—one of them a constitutional priest, salaried and protected by the government; the other, refractory, refusing to take the oath, deprived of salary, chased out of the church, and raising up altar against altar, in some secret chapel or in the open field. These two ministers of a common worship excommunicated each other, one in the name of the constitution, the other in the name of the pope and the church.” Tom. i., p. 96. Our author plainly intimates his approval of the extreme measures that were used by the Assembly against the refractory clergy, in condemning the conduct of their predecessors in leaving the matter half done. “The Consti
* Under the republican administration of Louis Bonaparte, M. Duchene the proprietor of a Paris newspaper called Le Peuple, for an article entitled The Restoration of the Guillotine, has been sentenced to five years imprisonment and to pay a fine of 10,000 francs, and M. Delescluze, the proprietor of La Revolution Democratique ct Social, for an article entitled The Political Scaffold, has been mulcted in a similar fine and sentenced to three years imprisonment. Yet a restriction put upon the freedom of the press brought on “the days of July ’’ and overthrew the government of Charles X.
M. Odillon Barrot, the present head of the French cabinet, lately proposed to the National Assembly the adoption of a law to close the clubs and put a stop to the free discussion of political questions in France... We cite the projet de loi textually. “Les clubs sont interdits. Sera considérée comme club, toute réunion publique, qui se tiendrait périodiquement on a des intervalles régulieres pour la discussion des matieres politiques.” . M. Odillon Barrot, now the responsible head of a republican administration, would strangle the clubs. he same Odillon Barrot, a little more than twelve months ago, on the question of the political banquets, aided in overturning the government of Louis Philippe.
tuant Assembly,” he observes, “committed a great fault in stopping half way in the reformation of the clergy in France. In the place of an emancipation they made a treaty with the power of the clergy, with the formidable influence of the court of Rome and the inveterate habits of the people. They contented themselves with unloosing the bond which enchained the State to the Church; it was their duty to break it.” It was a most difficult question to legislate upon, and the error of the Constituant Assembly was in evoking such a difficulty without well considering how it was to be met. The legislator who unsettles the religious observances and faith of a nation should have something to substitute in its place. Martin Luther attempted it, but he had a substitute prepared. The Puritans attempted it, and they did it with fasting and prayer. They, also, had a substitute. But the legislators of France had no substitute. Isnard, one of the Girondin deputies, in his speech on this question, impiously exclaimed, “The law is my God—I have no other—the public weal my only worship.” They broke down the altar of the true God, and what did they erect in its place? One to the Goddess of Reason It would be to attach more importance to the counsels of the Girondins than they deserve, were we to seek for any far-sighted or statesmanlike views in their deliberations. Louis was still a king and a catholic. The throne was the perpetual phantom that haunted their imaginations. By overturning the altar, they would be aided in breaking down the throne. They knew the strength of Louis’ religious convictions. They rightly conjectured that he would interpose his veto to shield the non-conforming clergy, and they could easily estimate the influence of that element of dissatisfaction in the minds of the people, in adding to the growing unpopularity of the king. By the success of that measure against the clergy, the Girondins accomplished an important step in advancing the progress of the revolution. They thereby dissolved the connection, which is always an intimate one, between the throne and the altar, and thus rendered counter-revolution more difficult. The Girondins, having disposed of the question of the clergy, took up the question of Emigration. It must have been an affecting spectacle to have seen such a large and vol. xvi.-No. 31.
influential body of men persecuted for their opinions, driven from their homes, abandoning their country and their king and seeking refuge in a foreign land, from the blind fury of the new political doctrines. It would be harsh to censure or charge them with political cowardice, yet if they had remained and boldly grappled with the excited revolutionary spirit before it had attained its height, might it not be conjectured that they could have given a different direction to affairs, or saved, at least, the general overturn?
It was not the object of the dominant party in the Assembly to recall the emigrant nobility, clergy and gentry. They possessed property that was worth plundering, they could exercise an influence over both king and people that was prejudicial to the revolutionary movement. Besides, the decree against the emigrants was intended as another stumbling-block in the way of the king. It would lead, as was justly supposed, to the renewed exercise of the veto, which could be turned to his prejudice. Louis, whatever may have been his real intentions, appears to have been governed by a sincere desire to recall his expatriated subjects. By his orders, Bertrand de Molleville, the Minister of the Marine, wrote a letter to the commandants of the ports, which was signed by the king, wherein he conjures the officers of the navy, by every obligation of honor and patriotism, not to abandon the kingdom. “Tell them,” such is the language of this circular, “they ought to remain where the country calls them. The strict execution of the constitution is now the surest means of appreciating its advantages and of ascertaining whatever may be wanting to its perfection. It is your king who asks you to remain at your posts, as he remains at his. You would have regarded it as a crime to have resisted his orders; you should not refuse to yield to his prayers.” He wrote to the general officers and the commanders of the troops, and used, among other strong expressions, the following language: “I cannot regard, as sincerely attached to my person, those who abandon their country at the moment when it stands in the greatest need of their services.” And, in a proclamation, addressed through the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the emigrants themselves, he tells them, “My true friends are those who unite with me in executing the laws and in establishing peace and order in the kingdom. When I accepted the constitution I desired to