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was a perfect man just because he, more than any other, placed himself amid the currents of his time, and because he, more than any other, possessed the essential peculiarity of the Roman nation--practical aptitude as a citizen-in perfection; for his Hellenism, in fact, was only the Hellenism which had been long intimately blended with the Italian nationality. But in this very circumstance lies the difficulty, we may perhaps say the impossibility, of depicting Cæsar to the life. As the artist can paint everything save only consummate beauty, so the historian, when once in a thousand years he encounters the perfect, can only be silent regarding it. For normality admits, doubtless, of being expressed, but it gives us only the negative notion of the absence of defect; the secret of nature, whereby in her most finished manifestations normality and individuality are combined, is beyond expression. Nothing is left for us but to deem those fortunate who beheld this perfection, and to gain some faint conception of it from the reflected luster which rests im

perishably on the works that were the creation of this 21 great nature. These, also, it is true, bear the stamp of

the time. The Roman hero himself stood by the side of his youthful Greek predecessor not merely as an equal, but as a superior; but the world had meanwhile become old, and its youthful luster had faded. The action of Cæsar was no longer, like that of Alexander, a joyous marching onward toward a goal indefinitely remote; he built on, and out of, ruins, and was content to establish himself as tolerably and as securely as possible within the ample but yet definite bounds once assigned to him. With reason, therefore, the delicate poetic tact of the nations has not troubled itself about the unpoetical Roman, and has invested the son of Philip alone with all the golden luster of poetry, with all the rainbow hues of

legend. But with equal reason the political life of na-
tions has, during thousands of years, again and again re-
verted to the lines which Cæsar drew; and the fact that
the peoples to whom the world belongs still at the pres-
ent day designate the highest of their monarchs by his

name, conveys a warning deeply significant, and, unhap-
MIGNET'S "HISTORY OF THE FRENCH
historians, is an enumeration of the causes that prepared the way

This extract from Mignet, one of the best contemporary French
for the French Revolution. The results of this Revolution were
most important, and have largely affected the character of all sub-
sequent European history. The government of France, for a long
that has been exhibited in modern times, of oppression reduced to
period before the Revolution, was an example, the most perfect
XVI and Marie Antoinette, the career of Robespierre,
cesses of the Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the murder of Louis
the most fearful outbursts of depravity that the world has ever seen.
poleon Bonaparte, who first rises to fame by his skillful conduct of
The Revolution was instrumental in bringing into prominence Na-
the artillery at the siege of Toulon. In due time the despotism of
the Bourbons was successed by the empire of Napoleon. Mignet,
Thiers, and Carlyle may all be read with advantage

I Am about to take a rapid review of the French Revolution, which began the the era of new governments. This Revolution not only cieties in Europe, as the English Revolution had begun

the history of L era of new 80

CAUSES OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.

a science, and administered with mechanical exactness. The ex

modified the political power, but it entirely changed the

HISTORICAL READINGS.

321

pily, fraught with shame.

REVOLUTION.'

are among

tory of the French Revolution.

upon

the his

internal existence of the nation. The forms of the society of the Middle Ages still remained. The land was divided into hostile provinces, the population into rival classes. The nobility had lost all their powers, but still retained all their distinctions; the people had no rights, royalty no limits; France was in an utter confusion of

arbitrary administration, of class legislation and special 2 privileges to special bodies. For these abuses the Revo

lution substituted a system more conformable with justice, and better suited to our times. It substituted law in the place of arbitrary will, equality in that of privilege; delivered men from the distinctions of classes, the land from the barriers of provinces, trade from the shackles of corporations and fellowships, agriculture from feudal subjection and the oppression of titles, property from the impediment of entails, and brought everything to the condition of one state, one system of law, one people. 3 In order to effect such mighty reformation as this, the

Revolution had many obstacles to overcome, involving transient excesses with durable benefits. The privileged sought to prevent it; Europe to subject it; and thus forced into a struggle, it could not set bounds to its efforts, or moderate its victory. Resistance from within brought about the sovereignty of the multitude, and aggression from without, military domination. Yet the end was attained, in spite of anarchy and in spite of despotism ; the old society was destroyed during the Revolution, and

the new one became established under the empire. 4 When a reform has become necessary, and the moment for accomplishing it has arrived, nothing can prevent it; everything furthers it. Happy were it for men could they then come to an understanding; would the rich resign their superfluity, and the poor content themselves

with achieving what they really needed, revolutions would
then be quietly effected, and the historian would have no
excesses, no calamities to record; he would merely have
to display the transition of humanity to a wiser, freer,
and happier condition. But the annals of nations have 5
not as yet presented any instance of such prudent sacri-
fices; those who should have made them have refused to
do so; those who required them have forcibly compelled
them; and good has been brought about, like evil, by
the medium and with all the violence of usurpation. As
yet there has been no sovereign but force.

In reviewing the history of the important period ex- 6
tending from the opening of the states-general to 1814,
I propose to explain the various crises of the Revolution,
while I describe their progress.

It will thus be seen through whose fault, after commencing under such happy auspices, it so fearfully degenerated ; in what changed France into a republic, and how upon the ruins of the republic it raised the empire. These various phases were almost inevitable, so irresistible was the power of the events which produced them.

It would, perhaps, be rash to affirm that, by no possibility, could the face of things have been otherwise ; but it is certain that the Revolution, taking its rise from such causes, and employing and arousing such passions, naturally took that course, and ended in that result. Before we enter upon 7 its history, let us see what led to the convocation of the states-general

, which themselves brought on all that followed. In retracing the preliminary causes of the Revo, lution, I hope to show that it was as impossible to avoid as to guide it.

From its establishment the French monarchy had had no settled form, no fixed and recognized public right. Under the first races the crown was elective, the nation

way

it

22

In a

sovereign, and the king a mere military chief, depending on the common voice for all decisions to be made, and all the enterprises to be undertaken. The nation elected its chief, exercised the legislative power in the Champs de Mars under the presidentship of the king, and the judicial power in the courts under the direction of one 8 of his officers. Under the feudal régime, this royal democracy gave way to a royal aristocracy. Absolute power ascended higher, the nobles stripped the people of it, as the prince afterward despoiled the nobles. At this period the monarch had become hereditary; not as king, but as individually possessor of a fief; the legislative authority over their vast territories belonged to the seigneurs, or in the baron's parliaments; and the judicial authority to the vassals in the manorial courts. word, power had become more and more concentrated,

and, as it had passed from the many to the few, it came 9 at last from the few to be invested in one alone. During

centuries of continuous efforts, the kings of France were battering down the feudal edifice, and at length they established themselves on its ruins, having, step by step, usurped the fiefs, subdued the vassals, suppressed the parliaments of barons, annulled or subjected the manorial courts, assumed the legislative power, and effected that judicial authority should be exercised, in their name and

on their behalf, in parliaments of legists. 10 The states-general, which they convoked on pressing

occasions, for the purpose of obtaining subsidies, and which were composed of the three orders of the nationthe clergy, the nobility, and the third estate or commons -had no regular existence. Originated while the royal prerogative was in progress, they were at first controlled, and finally suppressed by it. The strongest and most determined opposition the kings had to encounter in their

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