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projects of aggrandizement proceeded much less from these assemblies, which they authorized or annulled at pleasure, than from the nobles vindicating against them, first their sovereignty, and then their political importance. From Philip Augustus to Louis XI, the object of all their efforts was to preserve their own power; from Louis XI to Louis XIV, to become the ministers of that of royalty. The Froude was the last campaign of the aristocracy. Under Louis XIV, absolute monarchy definitively established itself, and dominated without dispute. The government of France, from Louis XIV to the 11 Revolution, was still more arbitrary than despotic; for the monarchs had much more power than they exercised. The barriers that opposed the encroachments of this immense authority were exceedingly feeble. The crown disposed of persons by lettres de cachet, of property by confiscation, of the public revenue by imposts. Certain bodies, it is true, possessed means of defense, which were termed privileges, but these privileges were rarely respected. The parliament had that of ratifying or of refusing an impost, but the king could compel its assent, by a lit de justice, and punish its members by exile. The nobility were exempt from taxation; the clergy were entitled to the privilege of taxing themselves, in the form of free gifts; some provinces enjoyed the right of compounding the taxes, and others made the assessment themselves. Such were the trifling liberties of France, and even these all turned to the benefit of the privileged classes, and to the detriment of the people. And this France, so enslaved, was, moreover, miserably 12
organized; the excesses of power were still less endurable than their unjust distribution. The nation, divided into three orders, which subdivided themselves into several classes, was a prey to all the attacks of despotism and all
the evils of inequality. The nobility were subdivided: into courtiers, living on the favors of the prince—that is to say, on the labor of the people, and whose aim was governorships of provinces, or elevated ranks in the army; ennobled parvenus, who conducted the interior administration, and whose object was to obtain comptrollerships, and to make the most of their place while they held it, by jobbing of every description; legists, who administered justice, and were alone competent to perform its functions; and landed proprietors, who oppressed the country by the exercise of those feudal rights which still survived. 13 The clergy were divided into two classes: the one destined for the bishoprics and abbeys, and their rich revenues; the other for the apostolic function and its poverty. The third estate, ground down by the court, humiliated by the nobility, was itself divided into corporations, which, in their turn, exercised upon each other the evil and the contempt they received from the higher classes. It possessed scarcely a third part of the land, and this was burthened with the feudal rents due to the lords of the manor, tithes to the clergy, and taxes to the king. In compensation for all these sacrifices, it enjoyed no political right, had no share in the administration, and was admitted to no public employment. 14 Louis XIV wore out the mainspring of absolute monarchy by too protracted tension and too violent use. Fond of sway, rendered irritable by the vexations of his youth, he quelled all resistance, forbade every kind of opposition—that of the aristocracy which manifested itself in revolt—that of the parliaments displayed by remonstrance—that of the Protestants, whose form was a liberty of conscience which the Church deemed heretical, and royalty factious. Louis XIV subdued the nobles by sum. moning them to his court, where favors and pleasures were the compensation for their dependence. Parliament, till then the instrument of the crown, attempted to become its counterbalance, and the prince haughtily imposed upon it a silence and submission of sixty years' du-15 ration. At length the revocation of the edict of Nantes completed this work of despotism. An arbitrary government not only will not endure resistance, but it demands that its subjects shall approve and imitate it. After having subjected the actions of men, it persecutes conscience; needing to be ever in motion, it seeks victims when they do not fall in its way. The immense power of Louis XIV was exercised, internally, against the heretics; externally, against all Europe. Oppression found ambitious men to counsel it, dragoons to serve, and success to encourage it; the wounds of France were hidden by laurels, her groans were drowned in songs of victory. But at 16 last the men of genius died, the victories ceased, industry emigrated, money disappeared, and the fact became evident that the very successes of despotism exhaust its resources, and consume its future ere that future has arrived. The death of Louis XIV was the signal for a reaction; there was a sudden transition from intolerance to incredulity, from the spirit of obedience to that of discussion. Under the regency, the third estate acquired in importance, by their increasing wealth and intelligence, all that the nobility lost in consideration, and the clergy in influence. Under Louis XV, the court prosecuted ruinous wars attended with little glory, and engaged in a silent struggle with opinion, in an open one with the parliament. Anarchy crept into its bosom, the government fell into the hands of royal mistresses, power was completely on the decline, and the opposition daily made fresh progress.
NAPOLEON'S FIRST OVERTHROW. — REFLECTIONS UPON HIS GENIUS, AND THE INFLUENCE OF HIS CAREER UPON EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION.
MIGNET's “HISTORY of THE FRENCB REvolution.”
This extract from Mignet’s “History of the French Revolution ” is in great measure an account of Napoleon's campaigns just before his first overthrow in 1814. After his disastrous Russian campaign, nearly all the powers of Europe combined against him, and France was invaded in every direction. Notwithstanding the desperate situation in which he was placed, Napoleon's genius never shone with brighter luster, and he appears greater in misfortune than at the climax of success. Mignet closes his admirable history with some reflections upon the character of Napoleon and the influence of his career upon the progress of European civilization. We are, perhaps, too prone to regard Napoleon as a military commander alone, and it is pleasant to reflect that his reign, though marked by supreme selfishness, was not entirely unproductive of salutary results.
1 THE empire was invaded in all directions. The Austrians entered Italy; the English, having made themselves
masters of the Peninsula during the last two years, had
passed the Bidassoa under General Wellington, and appeared on the Pyrenees. Three armies pressed on France to the east and north. The great allied army, amounting to a hundred and fifty thousand men, under Schwartzenberg, advanced by Switzerland; the army of Silesia, of a hundred and thirty thousand, under Blucher, by Frankfort; and that of the north, of a hundred thousand men, under Bernadotte, had seized on Holland and entered Belgium. The enemies, in their turn, neglected the fortified places, and, taking a lesson from the conqueror, 2 advanced on the capital. When Napoleon left Paris, the two armies of Schwartzenberg and Blucher were on the point of effecting a junction in Champaigne. Deprived of the support of the people, who were only lookers on, Napoleon was left alone against the whole world with a handful of veterans and his genius, which had lost nothing of its daring and vigor. At this moment he stands out nobly, no longer an oppressor; no longer a conqueror; defending, inch by inch, with new victories, the soil of his country, and, at the same time, his empire and renown.
He marched into Champaigne against the two great 3 hostile armies. General Maison was charged to intercept Bernadotte in Belgium; Augereau, the Austrians, at Lyons; Soult, the English, on the Spanish frontier. Prince Eugene was to defend Italy; and the empire, though penetrated to the very center, still stretched its vast arms into the depths of Germany by its garrisons beyond the Rhine. Napoleon did not despair of driving these swarms of foes from the territory of France by means of a powerful military reaction, and again planting his standards in the countries of the enemy. He 4 placed himself skillfully between Blucher, who was descending the Marne, and Schwartzenberg, who descended the Seine; he hastened from one of these armies to the other, and defeated them alternately; Blucher was overpowered at Champ-Aubert, Montdarim, Chateau-Thierry, and Wauchamps; and when his army was destroyed, Napoleon returned to the Seine, defeated the Austrians at Montereau, and drove them before him. His combinations were so strong, his activity so great, his measures so sure, that he seemed on the point of entirely disorganizing these two formidable armies, and with them annihilating the coalition.
But, if he conquered wherever he came, the foe tri-5
umphed wherever he was not. The English had entered Bourdeaux, where a party had declared for the Bourbon