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to foresee. For while he looked only to the downfall of Christianity, Rousseau on his side predicted the speedy destruction of monarchy: the nation took their lessons from both, and overthrew monarchy as well as religion.
« The doctrines of Diderot and Holbach, although they were never adopted either by the nation or by any governing party, even in the maddest moments of the mad Revolution, contributed to shake the ancient fabric, increasing the tumult, distracting the attention, and promoting the general confusion.' pp. 266-269.
Pernicious, however, as was the influence of the infidel writers of France, we cannot regard it as, properly speaking, a direct cause of the Revolution, but only as a cause of its miscarriage and of the excesses which attended it. There is no reason to suppose that any degree of wisdom or virtue on the part of the French Encyclopedists, could have arrested the march of events, or have averted the social conflict. Had noć the clergy lost their hold upon the public mind by their secularity and their intolerance, the influence of the infidel writers would have been inconsiderable. The Church had herself created the moral darkness which emboldened the birds of night and the ravening wolves to come forth from their obscene holes and dens; for the foul fiend Infidelity always lurks in the dark shadow of Superstition. We may date from the repeal of the edict of Nantes, which extinguished Protestantism in France, the birth of that monster which was to avenge the crime. The last light glim
mered from the cells of Port Royal. To use the beautiful language of Mr. Hall, the Gallican Church, 'amidst the silence
and darkness she had created around her, drew the curtains and ' retired to rest. The accession of numbers she gained by suppressing her opponents, was like the small extension of length a body acquires by death: the feeble remains of life were ex
tinguished, and she lay a putrid corpse, a public nuisance, 'filling the air with pestilential exhalations.' * In those exhalations, the spawn of Atheism was gendered.
The Quarterly Reviewer talks of irreligion having become the fashion among men of talent in France, suppressing all reference to the causes which had brought up the fashion, as not suitable to his purpose. The Encyclopedists, adds the Tory Writer, had
discovered that important secret,-so well known to our own * revolutionary party at this time,' (here peeps out the sinister purpose of the article,) that one of the best quarters from . whence to assail and overthrow a State, is through its Church • establishment. If so, it must be because a Church establishment is the weakest part of a State. And if it is the weakest part, it must either be so through original defect of constitution,
* Works, Vol. IV. p. 72.
or must have been rendered so by corruption. When was ever an establishment overthrown, that had not first been moved from its only sure basis, the respect and homage of the people? The Church of the people is the bulwark and buttress of the State. Not so, the Feudal Church, when the reign of Feudalism is past. In France, the Establishment had crushed religion, before it became itself exposed to the dangers arising from an anti-Christian conspiracy.
· When Voltaire appeared,' says Lord John Russell, this religion (Christianity) was not, indeed, * the creed of the Regent and his mistresses, or of the Cardinal • Dubois and his followers; but it was the faith of all that was really worthy, high-minded, and respectable in France.' But that all’ was fast contracting itself within narrower dimensions. The religion of Fenelon had never been that of the French Church ; yet, a few such men might have been as the salt that should have stayed its corruption. No Fenelons, no Massillons, no Bourdaloues, however, were left to adorn and uphold that tottering fabric which the first storms of the Revolution overthrew. But then, says the Quarterly Reviewer, there was the • kind-hearted and only too liberal Bishop of Chartres ! We admit that liberality is the next best thing to piety; but it is a miserable substitute for it.
The only remaining 'efficient cause' mentioned by the Reviewer, is the example of the United States of America. And this had certainly a more direct influence in producing the revolution in France, than either of the other two. "The old * French Government,' it is remarked, “in assisting the North • American insurgents, imagined that they should strike a heavy ' blow against England. They did so, but it recoiled still more • heavily against themselves. A vague idea of republican equality spread among the French officers on that service. They were most of them young men, giddy, ignorant, and enthu
They did not consider the different situation of America . . . On returning to France, these new converts to • the democratical doctrine did not, at first, indeed, carry these • views beyond abstract speculation. But, by the long and per• severing exertions of the Philosophers, the ground had been
already prepared for the evil seed, and the progress of events ‘soon turned these theorists into conspirators.'*
* Quart. Rev. No. xcvii. p. 106. Lord John Russell, speaking of the state of literature and public opinion in the reigns of Louis XV. and George II., remarks, that the eighteenth century had no predominant interest to contend for. Whether Maria Theresa should have a province the less, or George II. a colony the more, was not a question to excite enthusiasm or absorb attention. Although this
Still, although the American Revolution, misunderstood, had doubtless a powerful influence in kindling an enthusiasm for liberty, and in creating the strong bias towards republican institutions, it was neither one of the first causes in order of time, nor one of the main springs of the revolutionary change in society that was already in progress, and of which itself was but an indication. Montesquieu and Voltaire had preceded Jefferson and Paine, and the influence of America upon France was a re-action. The Causes of the French Revolution illustrated in the present volume, are such as were in operation before the accession of Louis XVI. in 1774; (the very year in which the American revolution may be said to have commenced ;) the historical sketch being brought down no further than the death of his predecessor. On this account, the noble Author must stand excused for not having adverted to it among the causes of the republican movement in France; but his view of those causes, thus narrowed to an antecedent period, must of course be considered as imperfect and defective. Long before republicanism had been imported from America, however, it had found a champion and panegyrist in Montesquieu, whom Lord John characterizes as the writer who threw the first stone at the monarchy of France.' Anti-monarchical principles had also found a royal patron in Frederick II., in whose reign Berlin became to the literary men of France, what Versailles had been in the age of Louis Quartorze; and to his example and encouragement, the Quarterly Reviewer thinks, we may certainly ascribe no small share of the fatal success of the soi-disant philosophers. How ridiculous, then, is it to speak of a mere link in the chain of events, as originating all that ensued ! Europe had long exhibited at various points, indications of that moral commotion which was at work beneath the surface, and which modified, but not caused, by the different circumstances of the social system, was in America merely an earthquake, in France a volcano.
Among the concurring causes of the Revolution, the Quarterly Reviewer admits, was 'the disorder in the finances, to which • almost every popular convulsion may in some degree be traced.' The keen remark is cited from Rousseau, that the people are
never alive to any attempt upon their liberty, except when it is ' an attempt upon their pockets.' * But this,' adds the Writer,
can only be looked upon as the spark which fired the train.
sentence so obviously limits the Author's remark to the first half of the century, the Quarterly Reviewer sneers at the philosophical historian,' for forgetting that the American war of independence and the Revolution of France, were the produce of that century. A fine specimen this of critical fairness and acumen.
* Dans tout pays, le peuple ne s'apercoit qu'on attente à sa libertè, que lorsqu'on attente à sa bourse.'
* The more closely we examine the historical records of those "times, the more evident it becomes to us, that the French 'Revolution was mainly owing, not to the distress suffered by
the people, but to the false doctrines spread among them. But what occasioned the success of those doctrines ? Strange, that the immediate cause of an explosion should be regarded as only a concurring cause! The disorder in the finances unquestionably broke down the power of the monarchy; but the popular distress, which was a terrible element of the general confusion, was aggravated by other circumstances. The continued scarcity of bread amid an abundance of corn, in the capital, during the first months of the Revolution, is ascribed by Jefferson, who was then residing at Paris, to the mismanagement of the municipality; and this undoubtedly was a powerful cause of discontent. In describing the four distinct parties which divided the Assembly, the American minister characterizes the faction of Orleans as composed of only the Catilines of the Assembly and some of the lowest descriptions of the mob, and that mob as 'a class which must
accept its bread from him who will give it.'* M. Mignet, in his spirited “ History of the French Revolution," + describes the events connected with the storming of the Bastille in July 1789, as the insurrection of the middle class of society against the privileged orders; while the assault of the Tuileries, with the massacre of the Swiss on the 10th of August, 1792, he considers as the insurgency of the multitude against the middle class. The Revolution was, in fact, a series of convulsions, produced by agencies coming into successive operation, and crossing the original movement, which had not been calculated upon by the primary actors. Could those agencies have been excluded, all might have been well. The movement, violent as it was, would not have been anarchical, had the machinery of the state maintained its integrity ;-had the monarchy, by which the whole cohered, been preserved. But when this controlling principle was abstracted, the whole machine ran down with accelerating violence, and those who in vain attempted to arrest the unexpected consequences of their rashness, were entangled in the wheels.
The Causes of the French Revolution, then, were, first, those antecedent circumstances which rendered some reformation not only necessary, but inevitable; secondly, those which supplied the immediate impetus, and occasioned the activity of those predisposing causes; and thirdly, those which governed the movement, and determined the character and issue of the awful and abortive political experiment.
* Jefferson's Memoirs, Vol. III. p:
With regard to the predisposing causes, if they have been correctly defined as the conflict of the new opinions with the old, we must carry back our inquiry higher than the days of Montesquieu, in order to obtain a just view of the rise and progress of that conflict, which had been going forward ever since the Reformation. In reference to this point, we are tempted to introduce the sagacious remarks of a French writer of distinguished ability, M. Aug. le Comte, which, though somewhat disfigured and obscured by a technical phraseology, contain much that is deserving of attention.
• The numerous and prolonged efforts made by nations and by monarchs, to re-organize society, prove that the need of this re-organization is universally felt. But it has been only attempted, on either
, (national or popular and monarchical,) though opposed, are usually prejudicial in their different bearings. They hitherto never have had, and they never can have, any truly constructive result (résultat organique). Far from tending to terminate the crisis, they only contribute to prolong it. Such is the true cause which, in spite of so many efforts, while it retains society in the critical direction (direction critique), leaves it a prey to revolution. To establish this fundamental assertion, it will be sufficient to cast a general glance over the attempts at re-organization which have been made by kings and by nations.
· The error committed by monarchs is the most easy of detection. Their idea of re-organization is, the pure and simple re-establishment the feudal and hierarchal system (i. e. Church and State system) in its full power. There is not, in their opinion, any other way to subdue the anarchy which results from the downfall of this system. There would be little philosophy in considering this opinion as principally dictated by the private interests of Governors. However chimerical, it is one which naturally presents itself to minds which sincerely seek a remedy for the actual crisis, and feel in all its extent the need of a re-organization, but which have not considered the general march of civilization, and, viewing the present state of affairs under only one aspect, have not perceived the tendency of society towards the 'establishment of a new system, more perfect and not less consistent than the old one.
In a word, it is natural that this should be the view of things taken by rulers; for, from the position which they occupy, they must necessarily see more clearly the anarchical state of society, and, in consequence, be more forcibly impressed with the necessity of its being remedied.
• This is not the place to insist on the manifest absurdity of such an opinion: it is now universally recognized by the mass of enlightened
Monarchs, without doubt, in seeking to restore the ancient system, do not comprehend the nature of the actual crisis, and are far from having estimated the whole extent of their enterprise. The fall of the feudal and sacerdotal system is not, as they imagine, owing to recent causes, which are isolated and in some measure