Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

was imbecility, which in his eyes, was nearly allied to innocence. They knew that the preceding evening, and a few hours before the commencement of the scrutiny, Vergniaud, whilst at supper with a woman who had expressed compassion for the captives of the Temple, swore that he would save the life of the king. No one doubted the courage of the orator. Courage was written upon his calm brow, and in the stern compression of his lip. At the name of Vergniaud, conversation ceased, and the eyes of all were turned on him alone. He slowly mounted the steps of the tribune, collected himself for a moment, with bis eyelids lowered over bis eyes, like one who reflects before acting ;—then, in a hesitating voice, and as resisting in his soul the feeling of compassion rising up within him, he pronounced the word Death.

"Silence and astonishment repressed the murmurs, and even respiration in the hall. Robespierre smiled almost imperceptibly, where the eye might detect more contempt than joy. Danton shrugged his shoulders, and said in an undertone to BrissoL 'Boast then of your orators. Sublime words and cowardly acts. What are such men fit for? Speak no more to me of them; that party is undone.'" Tome 11, p. 19.

That smile of Robespierre was ominous, the words ot Danton were prophetic. The Girondins, in aiding to bring the king to the scaffold, hastened the erection of their own. Robespierre and the Jacobins, tired of the inaction of their rivals and their visionary projects of an imaginary republic, wanted to get rid of them to establish a government of their own choice ; and as soon as they could obtain the requisite majority in the convention, they ordered the arrest of twenty-two of the most distinguished members of the party of the Girondins. After a long captivity, they were brought before the revolutionary tribunal, charged with conspiracy against the unity and indivisibility of the republic. Their trial, which was a mere formality, ended in the sentence of death.

The last night of the Girondins, before their execution, has been preserved from oblivion; but it was not an edifying scene. One of their colleagues, who had been proscribed with them, but who had escaped from arrest, sent them a funeral repast, that was prepared without the walls of the prison, and served up in the large dungeon of the conciergerie. The Abbe Lambert, who was permitted to attend them in their last moments, was present at this last supper of the Girondins. The prison table was covered with 7 Vol. xvi.—No. 31.

rare dishes, costly wines, choice flowers and brilliant lights. The guests ate heartily and drank freely of the provisions before them. Their conversation was careless, noisy or grave, as the subjects which presented themselves. "What will we be doing to-morrow at this hour?" said Ducos, in a tone of indifference. "Sleeping," replied one of the company, "after the day's work is over." To a remark of Brissot, who exclaimed, "How much blood will be required to wash out ours!" Vergniaud uttered a deep truth, which, if he had thought of it when there was yet time, and boldly acted upon it, might have saved himself and his friends from the disgrace and pain of that hour. "My friends," he replied, "in grafting the tree, we have killed it: it was too old. Robespierre prunes it. Will he be more fortunate than we? No. This soil is too light to nourish the roots of civil liberty—this people is too puerile to administer their own laws without hurting themselves—it will return to its kings, as the child returns to its toys." In this manner the Girondins passed their last night. The next day they were driven in tumbrils to the place of execution, singing on their way a strophe of the Marseilles Hymn; and thus they went down to their deaths, like oxen driven to the shambles, believing nothing, hoping nothing and fearing nothing.

We cannot suppress a strong feeling of sympathy for the poor Girondins, although we feel that their unhappy fate was almost merited. They came into power at a juncture,. when the revolution might have been turned to profitable account for both king and people, but they had only the vis inertia, and all their designs proved abortive. Suffering themselves to be drawn along by the current of events, they made no successful attempt, to arrest, moderate or direct them. For all the evils which attended their administration, and for the greater woes that followed it, they are in a great measure responsible. They would have made but unskilful mariners in a time of repose and calm; how utterly incompetent in such a tempest, when the card and the compass were lost, and when the skill and daring of the coolest and most experienced navigator could hardly have saved the good ship. In seizing the helm of government which they did not know how to manage, they committed the folly of the vain and ambitious Phaeton, who attempted to drive the winged horses of the chariot of the sun. They met with his fate, and equally deserve his epitaph.

Hie situs est Phteton, currus, auriga paterni:
Quein si non tenuit, magnis tamen excidit ausis.

M. De Lamartine has presented us a readable and instructive book. He has grouped the incidents of a portion of the French Revolution. in a striking and forcible manner. His characters are drawn with the skill of the aitist and in this consists the chief merit of the work—but they owe not a little to the lively imagination and poetic fancy of the author. His style, though redundant, is pointed and elegant; his ideas and expressions most difficult to reproduce in an English dress. But save us from his political. moral and religious reflections. We can make nothing of the following section and we give it entire.

"The human thought, like God, made the world after its own image. *' Thought was renewed by an age of Philosophy. "It had to transform the social world.

"The French Revolution was then, in the main, a sublime and passionate enthusiasm. It had a divine, a universal ideal. Observe why it was coveted beyond the frontiers of France. They who confine, mutilate it. It was the accession of three moral sovereignties:

"The sovereignty of right over force;

"The sovereignty of intellect over prejudices;

"The sovereignty of the people over governments.

"A revolution in rights: Equality.

"A revolution in ideas: reason substituted for authority.

"A revolution in facts: the reign of the people.

"A gospel of social rights: A gospel of duties. A charter of humanity.

"France declared herself the apostle of it . In this combat of ideas, France had allies every where, and even upon thrones." Tome 1, liv. prom. sec. vii., p. 9.

Our author devotes a long chapter to the character of Charlotte Corday, who seems an especial favorite with him; and he is left in doubt, as he says every one else is, whether morality should reprove an act of private murder, when it claims to be committed for the public good. "For our part," he concludes, if we had to find for that sublime avenger of her country, for that generous murderess of tyranny, a name which would include, at the same time, the enthusiasm of our feelings for her, and the severity of our judgment upon her deed, we would coin a word which unites the two extremes of admiration and horror in the language of men, and would call her "The Angel of Assassination." He indulges pretty freely, throughout the whole work, his own notions of liberty, equality and fraternity* and he has had some opportunity to try them since, in practice, as a member of the late Provisional Government. The "15th of May" and the "days of June" have shown the vast difference between political theories and their practical operation. If General Cavaignac had not come to his aid, and pressed down insurrection into the kennels, his " realized ideas" would probably have produced a reign as terrible* as that which resulted from the transcendental republicanism of Vergniaud, Madam Roland and Brissot de Warville. J.

i

Art. IV.— QZuvres de Spinoza. Traduites par Emile Saisset, Professeur de Philosophic au College Royal de Henri IV.; avec une Introduction du Traducteur. Paris: Charpentier, Libraire-editeur, 29 Rue de Seine. 1824. (2 vol. l2mo.)

M. Saisset has given us, in these volumes, an able translation of the works of one of those great thinkers whose influence, perhaps unsuspected, survives even the study of their speculations. Many are the arguments and opinions advanced in certain quarters, where they are not known to have been originally derived from Spinoza; and more consciously have modern Germans built upon the speculative foundation which he laid. "The God of Spinoza," says M. Saisset, "whom the 17th century had broken as an idol, becomes the God of Lessing, of Gothe, of Novalis."

* A Frenchman, who had been at first somewhat affected with the new doctrines, lately coming out from one of the Socialist clubs in Paris, dryly observed," lis m'onl lelkmcnt rassasie tie leur mot de Fbaternite, que si j'avais un J.ire,je crois queje Ciippelterais Mon Cocsin."

Schliermacher pronounced him a man "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost;" Novalis characterized him as "the God-intoxicated" man; Jacobi found in his system the ultimate result of philosophy, and Schelling, the anticipation of the true philosophy. But, for Malebranch, he was "un miserable" his system a "frightful chimera;" even Bayle could find him no better than an " athee de systeme;" for Graevius he was "vne peste" and "his book a sinister gift of hell;" Musaeus regarded him as "a paid ambassador of Satan," and Kortholt transformed his name of Benedictus Spinoza into maledictus and spinosus. The mere fact of the illustrious Boerhaave having propounded to a zealous declaimer against Spinozism the simple question, "Have you read Spinoza?" was enough to awaken the wrath of the catechized at the bare imputation of such impiety, and to fill Leyden with the report that the great physician was himself a disciple of the Atheist.

In view of the history of philosophy, and especially the progress of some of the German schools, M. Saisset's labor is by no means superfluous. As to any charge of desiring to revive Spinozism, he truly says that it would be a senseless undertaking—for that "nothing in philosophy becomes resuscitated. Great as was the genius of Spinoza, he was unable to impart to his philosophy that power and durability which appertain only to the truth."

The translator has prefixed to the work an extended introduction of scarcely less than 200 pages, which is a clear and admirable critical exposition of the Philosophy of Spinoza. A sequel, embracing the history and refutation of the system, which he announces, we have not seen. His introduction is followed by a bibliographical sketch of the works of Spinoza, and the life of the philosopher, by Colerus. Besides the marginal notes of Spinoza to his treatise,

translation, which appears to be every way complete; and, as to the mechanical execution, it is a beautiful specimen of typography.

To pretend to give even the most meagre account of this system, in a mere notice like the present, would be preposterous, and especially since the lucid and able analysis of it in Mr. Morrell's History of Modern Philosophy is in the hands of every literary man. It is a system which is at once a vast monument of human intellect and of human

[graphic]
« ElőzőTovább »