Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

Part 7 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

about it, and that, so far from grudging them the liberty and
independence they are laboring to secure, we admire, on the contrary, the
grandeur and nobleness of their efforts, and that, having no interest in
injuring them, we should see with pleasure such a happy conjunction of
circumstances as would set them at liberty to frequent our ports; the
facilities they would find for their commerce would soon prove to them
all the esteem we feel for them."

Independence was not yet proclaimed, and already the committee charged by
Congress "to correspond with friends in England, Ireland, and other parts
of the world," had made inquiry of the French government, by roundabout
ways, as to what were its intentions regarding the American colonies, and
was soliciting the aid of France. On the 3d of March, 1776, an agent of
the committee, Mr. Silas Deane, started for France; he had orders to put
the same question point blank at Versailles and at Paris.

The ministry was divided on the subject of American affairs; M. Turgot
inclined towards neutrality. "Let us leave the insurgents," he said,
"at full liberty to make their purchases in our ports, and to provide
themselves by the way of trade with the munitions, and even the money,
of which they have need. A refusal to sell to them would be a departure
from neutrality. But it would be a departure likewise to furnish then
with secret aid in money, and this step, which it would be difficult to
conceal, would excite just complaints on the part of the English."

This was, however, the conduct adopted on the advice of M. de Vergennes;
he had been powerfully supported by the arguments presented in a
memorandum drawn up by M. de Rayneval, senior clerk in the foreign
office; he was himself urged and incited by the most intelligent, the
most restless, and the most passionate amongst the partisans of the
American rebellion--Beaumarchais.

Peter Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, born at Paris on the 24th of
January, 1732, son of a clockmaker, had already acquired a certain
celebrity by his lawsuit against Councillor Goezman before the parliament
of Paris. Accused of having defamed the wife of a judge, after having
fruitlessly attempted to seduce her, Beaumarchais succeeded, by dint of
courage, talent, and wit, in holding his own against the whole magistracy
leagued against him. He boldly appealed to public opinion. "I am a
citizen," he said; "that is to say, I am not a courtier, or an abbe, or a
nobleman, or a financier, or a favorite, nor anything connected with what
is called influence (_puissance_) nowadays. I am a citizen; that is to
say, something quite new, unknown, unheard of in France. I am a citizen;
that is to say, what you ought to have been for the last two hundred
years, what you will be, perhaps, in twenty!" All the spirit of the
French Revolution was here, in those most legitimate and at the same time
most daring aspirations of his.

French citizen as he proclaimed himself to be, Beaumarchais was quite
smitten with the American citizens; he had for a long while been pleading
their cause, sure, he said, of its ultimate triumph. On the 10th of
January, 1776, three weeks before the declaration of independence, M. de
Vergennes secretly remitted a million to M. de Beaumarchais; two months
later the same sum was intrusted to him in the name of the King of Spain.
Beaumarchais alone was to appear in the affair and to supply the
insurgent Americans with arms and ammunition. "You will found," he had
been told, "a great commercial house, and you will try to draw into it
the money of private individuals; the first outlay being now provided, we
shall have no further hand in it, the affair would compromise the
government too much in the eyes of the English." It was under the style
and title of Rodrigo Hortalez and Co. that the first instalment of
supplies, to the extent of more than three millions, was forwarded to the
Americans; and, notwithstanding the hesitation of the ministry and the
rage of the English, other instalments soon followed. Beaumarchais was
henceforth personally interested in the enterprise; he had commenced it
from zeal for the American cause, and from that yearning for activity and
initiative which characterized him even in old age. "I should never have
succeeded in fulfilling my mission here without the indefatigable,
intelligent, and generous efforts of M. de Beaumarchais," wrote Silas
Deane to the secret committee of Congress: "the United States are more
indebted to him, on every account, than to any other person on this side
of the ocean."

Negotiations were proceeding at Paris; Franklin had joined Silas Deane
there. His great scientific reputation, the diplomatic renown he had won
in England, his able and prudent devotion to the cause of his country,
had paved the way for the new negotiator's popularity in France: it was
immense. Born at Boston on the 17th of January, 1706, a printer before
he came out as a great physicist, Franklin was seventy years old when he
arrived in Paris. His sprightly good-nature, the bold subtilty of his
mind cloaked beneath external simplicity, his moderation in religion and
the breadth of his philosophical tolerance, won the world of fashion as
well as the great public, and were a great help to the success of his
diplomatic negotiations. Quartered at Passy, at Madame Helvetius', he
had frequent interviews with the ministers under a veil of secrecy and
precaution which was, before long, skilfully and discreetly removed; from
roundabout aid accorded to the Americans, at Beaumarchais' solicitations,
on pretext of commercial business, the French Government had come to
remitting money straight to the agents of the United States; everything
tended to recognition of the independence of the colonies. In England,
people were irritated and disturbed; Lord Chatham exclaimed with the
usual exaggeration of his powerful and impassioned genius "Yesterday
England could still stand against the world, today there is none so poor
as to do her reverence. I borrow the poet's words, my lords, but what
his verse expresses is no fiction. France has insulted you, she has
encouraged and supported America, and, be America right or wrong, the
dignity of this nation requires that we should thrust aside with contempt
the officious intervention of France; ministers and ambassadors from
those whom we call rebels and enemies are received at Paris, there they
treat of the mutual interests of France and America, their countrymen are
aided, provided with military resources, and our ministers suffer it,
they do not protest! Is this maintaining the honor of a great kingdom,
of that England which but lately gave laws to the House of Bourbon?"

The hereditary sentiments of Louis XVI. and his monarchical principles,
as well as the prudent moderation of M. Turgot, retarded at Paris the
negotiations which caused so much illhumor among the English; M. de
Vergennes still preserved, in all diplomatic relations, an apparent
neutrality. "It is my line (_metier_), you see, to be a royalist," the
Emperor Joseph II. had said during a visit he had just paid to Paris,
when he was pressed to declare in favor of the American insurgents. At
the bottom of his heart the King of France was of the same opinion; he
had refused the permission to serve in America which he had been asked
for by many gentlemen: some had set off without waiting for it; the most
important, as well as the most illustrious of them all, the Marquis of La
Fayette, was not twenty years old when he slipped away from Paris,
leaving behind his young wife close to her confinement, to go and embark
upon a vessel which he had bought, and which, laden with arms, awaited
him in a Spanish port; arrested by order of the court, he evaded the
vigilance of his guards; in, the month of July, 1777, he disembarked in

Washington did not like France; he did not share the hopes which some of
his fellow-countrymen founded upon her aid; he made no case of the young
volunteers who came to enroll themselves among the defenders of
independence, and whom Congress loaded with favors. "No bond but
interest attaches these men to America," he would say; "and, as for
France, she only lets us get our munitions from her, because of the
benefit her commerce derives from it." Prudent, reserved, and proud,
Washington looked for America's salvation to only America herself;
neither had he foreseen nor did he understand that enthusiasm, as
generous as it is unreflecting, which easily takes possession of the
French nation, and of which the United States were just then the object.
M. de La Fayette was the first who managed to win the general's affection
and esteem. A great yearning for excitement and renown, a great zeal for
new ideas and a certain political perspicacity, had impelled M. de La
Fayette to America; he showed himself courageous, devoted, more judicious
and more able than had been expected from his youth and character.
Washington came to love him as a son.

It was with the title of major-general that M. de La Fayette made his
first campaign; Congress had passed a decree conferring upon him this
grade, rather an excess of honor in Washington's opinion; the latter was
at that time covering Philadelphia, the point aimed at by the operations
of General Howe. Beaten at Brandywine and at Germantown, the Americans
were obliged to abandon the town to the enemy and fall back on Valley
Forge, where the general pitched his camp for wintering. The English had
been beaten on the frontiers of Canada by General Gates; General
Burgoyne, invested on all sides by the insurgents, had found himself
forced to capitulate at Saratoga. The humiliation and wrath of the
public in England were great, but the resolution of the politicians was
beginning to waver; on the 10th of February, 1778, Lord North had
presented two bills whereby England was to renounce the right of levying
taxes in the American colonies, and was to recognize the legal existence
of Congress. Three commissioners were to be sent to America to treat for
conditions of peace. After a hot discussion, the two bills had been

This was a small matter in view of the growing anxiety and the political
manoeuvrings of parties. On the 7th of April, 1778, the Duke of Richmond
proposed in the House of Lords the recall of all the forces, land and
sea, which were fighting in America. He relied upon the support of Lord
Chatham, who was now at death's door, but who had always expressed
himself forcibly against the conduct of the government towards the
colonists. The great orator entered the House, supported by two of his
friends, pale, wasted, swathed in flannel beneath his embroidered robe.
He with difficulty dragged himself to his place. The peers, overcome at
the sight of this supreme effort, waited in silence. Lord Chatham rose,
leaning on his crutch and still supported by his friends. He raised one
hand to heaven. "I thank God," he said, "that I have been enabled to
come hither to-day to fulfil a duty and say what has been weighing so
heavily on my heart. I have already one foot in the grave; I shall soon
descend into it; I have left my bed to sustain my country's cause in this
House, perhaps for the last time. I think myself happy, my lords, that
the grave has not yet closed over me, and that I am still alive to raise
my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and noble monarchy!
My lords, his Majesty succeeded to an empire as vast in extent as proud
in reputation. Shall we tarnish its lustre by a shameful abandonment of
its rights and of its fairest possessions? Shall this great kingdom,
which survived in its entirety the descents of the Danes, the incursions
of the Scots, the conquest of the Normans, which stood firm against the
threatened invasion of the Spanish Armada, now fall before the House of
Bourbon? Surely, my lords, we are not what we once were! . . . In
God's name, if it be absolutely necessary to choose between peace and
war, if peace cannot be preserved with honor, why not declare war without
hesitation? . . . My lords, anything is better than despair; let us
at least make an effort, and, if we must fail, let us fail like men!"

He dropped back into his seat, exhausted, gasping. Soon he strove to
rise and reply to the Duke of Richmond, but his strength was traitor to
his courage, he fainted; a few days later he was dead (May 11th, 1778);
the resolution' of the Duke of Richmond had been rejected.

When this news arrived in America, Washington was seriously uneasy.
He had to keep up an incessant struggle against the delays and the
jealousies of Congress; it was by dint of unheard-of efforts and of
unwavering perseverance that he succeeded in obtaining the necessary
supplies for his army. "To see men without clothes to cover their
nakedness," he exclaimed, "without blankets to lie upon, without victuals
and often without shoes (for you might follow their track by the blood
that trickled from their feet), advancing through ice and snow, and
taking up their winter-quarters, at Christmas, less than a day's march
from the enemy, in a place where they have not to shelter them either
houses or huts but such as they have thrown up themselves,--to see these
men doing all this without a murmur, is an exhibition of patience and
obedience such as the world has rarely seen."

As a set-off against the impassioned devotion of the patriots, Washington
knew that the loyalists were still numerous and powerful; the burden of
war was beginning to press heavily upon the whole country, he feared some
act of weakness. "Let us accept nothing short of Independence," he wrote
at once to his friends: "we can never forget the outrages to which Great
Britain has made us--submit; a peace on any other conditions would be a
source of perpetual disputes. If Great Britain, urged on by her love for
tyranny, were to seek once more to bend our necks beneath her iron yoke,
--and she would do so, you may be sure, for her pride and her ambition
are indomitable,--what nation would believe any more in our professions
of faith and would lend us its support? It is to be feared, however,
that the proposals of England will produce a great effect in this
country. Men are naturally friends of peace, and there is more than one
symptom to lead me to believe that the American people are generally
weary of war. If it be so, nothing can be more politic than to inspire
the country with confidence by putting the army on an imposing footing,
and by showing greater energy in our negotiations with European powers.
I think that by now France must have recognized our independence, and
that she will immediately declare war against Great Britain, when she
sees that we have made serious proposals of alliance to her. But if,
influenced by a false policy, or by an exaggerated opinion of our power,
she were to hesitate, we should either have to send able negotiators at
once, or give fresh instructions to our charges d'affaires to obtain a
definitive answer from her."

It is the property of great men, even when they share the prejudices of
their time and of their country, to know how to get free from them, and
how to rise superior to their natural habits of thought. It has been
said that, as a matter of taste, Washington did not like France and had
no confidence in her, but his great and strong common sense had
enlightened him as to the conditions of the contest he had entered upon.
He knew it was a desperate one, he foresaw that it would be a long one;
better than anybody he knew the weaknesses as well as the merits of the
instruments which he had at disposal; he had learned to desire the
alliance and the aid of France. She did not belie his hopes: at the very
moment when Congress was refusing to enter into negotiations with Great
Britain as long as a single English soldier remained on American soil,
rejoicings and thanksgivings were everywhere throughout the thirteen
colonies greeting the news of the recognition by France of the
Independence of the United States; the treaties of alliance, a triumph of
diplomatic ability on the part of Franklin, had been signed at Paris on
the 6th of February, 1778.

"Assure the English government of the king's pacific intentions," M. de
Vergennes had written to the Marquis of Noailles, then French ambassador
in England. George III. replied to these mocking assurances by recalling
his ambassador.

"Anticipate your enemies," Franklin had said to the ministers of Louis
XVI.;" act towards them as they did to you in 1755: let your ships put to
sea before any declaration of war, it will be time to speak when a French
squadron bars the passage of Admiral Howe who has ventured to ascend the
Delaware." The king's natural straightforwardness and timidity were
equally opposed to this bold project; he hesitated a long while; when
Count d'Estaing at last, on the 13th of April, went out of Toulon harbor
to sail for America with his squadron, it was too late, the English were
on their guard.

When the French admiral arrived in America, hostilities had commenced
between France and England, without declaration of war, by the natural
pressure of circumstances and the state of feeling in the two countries.
England fired the first shot on the 17th of June, 1778. The frigate La
Belle Poule, commanded by M. Chaudeau de la Clochetterie, was cruising in
the Channel; she was surprised by the squadron of Admiral Keppel, issuing
from Portsmouth; the Frenchman saw the danger in time, he crowded sail;
but an English frigate, the Arethusa, had dashed forward in pursuit. La
Clochetterie waited for her and refused to make the visit demanded by the
English captain: a cannon-shot was the reply to this refusal. La Belle
Poule delivered her whole broadside. When the Arethusa rejoined Lord
Keppel's squadron, she was dismasted and had lost many men. A sudden
calm had prevented two English vessels from taking part in, the
engagement. La Clochetterie went on and landed a few leagues from Brest.
The fight had cost the lives of forty of his crew, fifty-seven had been
wounded. He was made postcaptain (_capitaine de vaisseau_). The glory
of this small affair appeared to be of good augury; the conscience of
Louis XVI. was soothed; he at last yielded to the passionate feeling
which was hurrying the nation into war, partly from sympathy towards the
Americans, partly from hatred and rancor towards England. The treaty of
1763 still lay heavy on the military honor of France.

From the day when the Duke of Choiseul had been forced to sign that
humiliating peace, he had never relaxed in his efforts to improve the
French navy. In the course of ministerial alternations, frequently
unfortunate for the work in hand, it had nevertheless been continued by
his successors. A numerous fleet was preparing at Brest; it left the
port on the 3d of July, under the orders of Count d'Orvilliers. It
numbered thirty-two men-of-war and some frigates. Admiral Keppel came
to the encounter with thirty ships, mostly superior in strength to the
French vessels. The engagement took place on the 27th, at thirty
leagues' distance from Wessant and about the same from the Sorlingues
Islands. The splendid order of the French astounded the enemy, who had
not forgotten the deplorable _Journee de M. de Conflans_. The sky was
murky, and the manoeuvres were interfered with from the difficulty of
making out the signals. Lord Keppel could not succeed in breaking the
enemy's line; Count d'Orvilliers failed in a like attempt. The English
admiral extinguished his fires and returned to Plymouth harbor, without
being forced to do so from any serious reverse; Count d'Orvilliers fell
back upon Brest under the same conditions. The English regarded this
retreat as a humiliation to which they were unaccustomed Lord Keppel had
to appear before a court-martial. In France, after the first burst of
enthusiasm, fault was found with the inactivity of the Duke of Chartres,
who commanded the rear-guard of the fleet, under the direction of M. de
La Motte-Piquet; the prince was before long obliged to leave the navy, he
became colonel-general of the hussars. A fresh sally on the part of the
fleet did not suffice to protect the merchant-navy, the losses of which
were considerable. The English vessels everywhere held the seas.

Count d'Estaing had at last arrived at the mouth of the Delaware on the
9th of July, 1778; Admiral Howe had not awaited him, he had sailed for
the anchorage of Sandy Hook. The heavy French ships could not cross the
bar; Philadelphia had been evacuated by the English as soon as the
approach of Count d'Estaing was signalled. "It is not General Howe who
has taken Philadelphia," said Franklin; "it is Philadelphia that has
taken General Howe." The English commander had foreseen the danger; on
falling back upon New York he had been hotly pursued by Washington, who
had, at Monmouth, gained a serious advantage over him. The victory of
the Americans would have been complete but for the jealous disobedience
of General Lee. Washington pitched his camp thirty miles from New York.
"After two years' marching and counter-marching," he wrote, "after
vicissitudes so strange that never perhaps did any other war exhibit the
like since the beginning of the world, what a subject of satisfaction and
astonishment for us to see the two armies back again at the point from
which they started, and the assailants reduced in self-defence to have
recourse to the shovel and the axe!"

The combined expedition of D'Estaing and General Sullivan against the
little English corps which occupied Rhode Island had just failed; the
fleet of Admiral Howe had suddenly appeared at the entrance of the roads,
the French squadron had gone out to meet it, an unexpected tempest
separated the combatants; Count d'Estaing, more concerned for the fate of
his vessels than with the clamors of the Americans, set sail for Boston
to repair damages. The campaign was lost; cries of treason were already
heard. A riot was the welcome which awaited the French admiral at
Boston. All Washington's personal efforts, seconded by the Marquis of La
Fayette, were scarcely sufficient to restore harmony. The English had
just made a descent upon the coasts of Georgia, and taken possession of
Savannah. They threatened Carolina, and even Virginia.

Scarcely were the French ships in trim to put to sea when Count d'Estaing
made sail for the Antilles. Zealous and brave, but headstrong and
passionate, like M. de Lally-Tollendal, under whom he had served in
India, the admiral could ill brook reverses, and ardently sought for an
occasion to repair them. The English had taken St. Pierre and Miquelon.
M. de Bouille, governor of Iles-du-Vent, had almost at the same time made
himself master of La Dominique. Four thousand English had just landed at
St. Lucie; M. d'Estaing, recently arrived at Martinique, headed thither
immediately with his squadron, without success, however: it was during
the absence of the English admiral, Byron, that the French seamen
succeeded in taking possession first of St. Vincent, and soon afterwards
of Grenada. The fort of this latter island was carried after a brilliant
assault. The admiral had divided his men into three bodies; he commanded
the first, the second marched under the orders of Viscount de Noailles,
and Arthur Dillon, at the head of the Irish in the service of France, led
the third. The cannon on the ramparts were soon directed against the
English, who thought to arrive in time to relieve Grenada.

Count d'Estaing went out of port to meet the English admiral; as he was
sailing towards the enemy, the admiral made out, under French colors, a
splendid ship of war, _Le Fier-Rodrigue,_ which belonged to Beaumarchais,
and was convoying ten merchant-men. "Seeing the wide berth kept by this
fine ship, which was going proudly before the wind," says the sprightly
and sagacious biographer of Beaumarchais, M. de Lomdnie, "Admiral
d'Estaing signalled to her to bear down; learning that she belonged to
his majesty Caron de Beaumarchais, he felt that it would be a pity not to
take advantage of it, and, seeing the exigency of the case, he appointed
her her place of battle without asking her proprietor's permission,
leaving to the mercy of the waves and of the English the unhappy
merchant-ships which the man-of-war was convoying. _Le Fier-Rodrique_
resigned herself bravely to her fate, took a glorious part in the battle
off Grenada, contributed in forcing Admiral Byron to retreat, but had her
captain killed, and was riddled with bullets." Admiral d'Estaing wrote
the same evening to Beaumarchais; his letter reached the scholar-merchant
through the medium of the minister of marine. To the latter Beaumarchais
at once replied: "Sir, I have to thank you for having forwarded to me the
letter from Count d'Estaing. It is very noble in him at the moment of
his triumph to have thought how very agreeable it would be to me to have
a word in his handwriting. I take the liberty of sending you a copy of
his short letter, by which I feel honored as the good Frenchman I am, and
at which I rejoice as a devoted adherent of my country against that proud
England. The brave Montault appears to have thought that he could not
better prove to me how worthy be was of the post with which he was
honored than by getting killed; whatever may be the result as regards my
own affairs, my poor friend Montault has died on the bed of honor, and I
feel a sort of childish joy in being certain that those English who have
cut me up so much in their papers for the last four years will read
therein that one of my ships has helped to take from them the most
fertile of their possessions. And as for the enemies of M. d'Estaing and
especially of yourself, sir, I see them biting their nails, and my heart
leaps for joy!"

The joy of Beaumarchais, as well as that of France, was a little
excessive, and smacked of unfamiliarity with the pleasure of victory.
M. d'Estaing had just been recalled to France; before he left, he would
fain have rendered to the Americans a service pressingly demanded of him.
General Lincoln was about to besiege Savannah; the English general, Sir
Henry Clinton, a more able man than his predecessor, had managed to
profit by the internal disputes of the Union, he had rallied around him
the loyalists in Georgia and the Carolinas, civil war prevailed there
with all its horrors; D'Estaing bore down with his squadron for Savannah.
Lincoln was already on the coast ready to facilitate his landing; the
French admiral was under pressure of the orders from Paris, he had no
time for a regular siege. The trenches had already been opened twenty
days, and the bombardment, terrible as it was for the American town, had
not yet damaged the works of the English. On the 9th of October,
D'Estaing determined to deliver the assault. Americans and French vied
with each other in courage. For a moment the flag of the Union floated
upon the ramparts, some grenadiers made their way into the place, the
admiral was wounded; meanwhile, the losses were great, and perseverance
was evidently useless. The assault was repulsed. Count D'Estaing still
remained nine days before the place, in hopes of finding a favorable
opportunity; he was obliged to make sail for France, and the fleet
withdrew, leaving Savannah in the hands of the English. The only
advantage from the admiral's expedition was the deliverance of Rhode
Island, abandoned by General Clinton, who, fearing an attack from the
French, recalled the garrison to New York. Washington had lately made
himself master of the fort at Stony Point, which had up to that time
enabled the English to command the navigation of the Hudson.

In England the commotion was great: France and America in arms against
her had just been joined by Spain. A government essentially monarchical,
faithful to ancient traditions, the Spaniards had for a long while
resisted the entreaties of M. de Vergennes, who availed himself of the
stipulations of the Family pact. Charles III. felt no sort of sympathy
for a nascent republic; he feared the contagion of the example it showed
to the Spanish colonies; he hesitated to plunge into the expenses of a
war. His hereditary hatred against England prevailed at last over the
dictates of prudence. He was promised, moreover, the assistance of
France to reconquer Gibraltar and Minorca. The King of Spain consented
to take part in the war, without however recognizing the independence of
the United States, or entering into alliance with them.

The situation of England was becoming serious, she believed herself to be
threatened with a terrible invasion. As in the days of the Great Armada,
"orders were given to all functionaries, civil and military, in case of a
descent of the enemy, to see to the transportation into the interior and
into a place of safety of all horses, cattle, and flocks that might
happen to be on the coasts." "Sixty-six allied ships of the line
ploughed the Channel, fifty thousand men, mustered in Normandy, were
preparing to burst upon the southern counties. A simple American
corsair, Paul Jones, ravaged with impunity the coasts of Scotland. The
powers of the North, united with Russia and Holland, threatened to
maintain, with arms in hand, the rights of neutrals, ignored by the
English admiralty courts. Ireland awaited only the signal to revolt;
religious quarrels were distracting Scotland and England; the authority
of Lord North's cabinet was shaken in Parliament as well as throughout
the country; the passions of the mob held sway in London, and among the
sights that might have been witnessed was that of this great city given
up for nearly a week to the populace, without anything that could stay
its excesses save its own lassitude and its own feeling of shame " [M.
Cornelis de Witt, _Histoire de Washington_].

So many and such imposing preparations were destined to produce but
little fruit. The two fleets, the French and the Spanish, had effected
their junction off Corunna, under the orders of Count d'Orvilliers; they
slowly entered the Channel on the 31st of August, near the Sorlingues
(Scilly) Islands; they sighted the English fleet, with a strength of only
thirty, seven vessels. Count de Guichen, who commanded the vanguard, was
already manoeuvring to cut off the enemy's retreat; Admiral Hardy had the
speed of him, and sought refuge in Plymouth Sound. Some engagements
which took place between frigates were of little importance, but glorious
for both sides. On the 6th of October, the _Surveillante,_ commanded by
Chevalier du Couedic, had a tussle with the _Quebec;_ the broadsides were
incessant, a hail of lead fell upon both ships, the majority of the
officers of the _Surveillante_ were killed or wounded. Du Couedic had
been struck twice on the head. A fresh wound took him in the stomach;
streaming with blood, he remained at his post and directed the fight.
The three masts of the _Surveillante_ had just fallen, knocked to pieces
by balls, the whole rigging of the _Quebec_ at the same moment came down
with a run. The two ships could no longer manoeuvre, the decimated crews
were preparing to board, when a thick smoke shot up all at once from the
between-decks of the _Quebec;_ the fire spread with unheard of rapidity;
the _Surveillante,_ already hooked on to her enemy's side, was on the
point of becoming, like her, a prey to the flames, but her commander,
gasping as he was and scarcely alive, got her loose by a miracle of
ability. The _Quebec_ had hardly blown up when the crew of the
_Surveillante_ set to work picking up the glorious wreck of their
adversaries; a few prisoners were brought into Brest on the victorious
vessel, which was so blackened by the smoke and damaged by the fight that
tugs had to be sent to her assistance. A few months afterwards Du
Couedic died of his wounds, carrying to the grave the supreme honor of
having been the only one to render his name illustrious in the great
display of the maritime forces of France and Spain. Count d'Orvilliers
made no attempt; the inhabitants upon the English coasts ceased to
tremble; sickness committed ravages amongst the crews. After a hundred
and four days' useless cruising in the Channel, the huge fleet returned
sorrowfully to Brest; Admiral d'Orvilliers had lost his son in a partial
engagement; he left the navy and retired ere long to a convent. Count de
Guichen sailed for the Antilles with a portion of the French fleet, and
maintained with glory the honor of his flag in a series of frequently
successful affairs against Admiral Rodney. At the beginning of the war,
the latter, a great scapegrace and overwhelmed with debt, happened to be
at Paris, detained by the state of his finances. "If I were free," said
he one day in the presence of Marshal Biron, "I would soon destroy all
the Spanish and French fleets." The marshal at once paid his debts.
"Go, sir," said he, with a flourish of generosity to which the eighteenth
century was a little prone, "the French have no desire to gain advantages
over their enemies save by their bravery." Rodney's first exploit was to
revictual Gibraltar, which the Spanish and French armaments had invested
by land and sea.

Everywhere the strength of the belligerents was being exhausted without
substantial result and without honor; for more than four years now
America had been keeping up the war, and her Southern provinces had been
everywhere laid waste by the enemy; in spite of the heroism which was
displayed by the patriots, and of which the women themselves set the
example, General Lincoln had just been forced to capitulate at
Charleston. Washington, still encamped before New York, saw his army
decimated by hunger and cold, deprived of all resources, and reduced to
subsist at the expense of the people in the neighborhood. All eyes were
turned towards France; the Marquis of La Fayette had succeeded in
obtaining from the king and the French ministry the formation of an
auxiliary corps; the troops were already on their way under the orders of
Count de Rochambeau.

Misfortune and disappointments are great destroyers of some barriers,
prudent tact can overthrow others. Washington and the American army
would but lately have seen with suspicion the arrival of foreign
auxiliaries; in 1780, transports of joy greeted the news of their
approach. M. de La Fayette, moreover, had been careful to spare the
American general all painful friction. Count de Rochambeau and the
French officers were placed under the orders of Washington, and the
auxiliary corps entirely at his disposal. The delicate generosity and
the disinterestedness of the French government had sometimes had the
effect of making it neglect the national interests in its relations with
the revolted colonies; but it had derived therefrom a spirit of conduct
invariably calculated to triumph over the prejudices as well as the
jealous pride of the Americans.

"The history of the War of Independence is a history of hopes deceived,"
said Washington. He had conceived the idea of making himself master of
New York with the aid of the French. The transport of the troops had
been badly calculated; Rochambeau brought to Rhode Island only the first
division of his army, about five thousand men; and Count de Guichen,
whose squadron had been relied upon, had just been recalled to France.
Washington was condemned to inaction. "Our position is not sufficiently
brilliant," he wrote to M. de La Fayette, "to justify our putting
pressure upon Count de Rochambeau; I shall continue our arrangements,
however, in the hope of more fortunate circumstances." The American army
was slow in getting organized, obliged as it had been to fight
incessantly and make head against constantly recurring difficulties; it
was getting organized, however; the example of the French, the discipline
which prevailed in the auxiliary corps, the good understanding
thenceforth established among the officers, helped Washington in his
difficult task. From the first the superiority of the general was
admitted by the French as well as by the Americans; naturally, and by the
mere fact of the gifts he had received from God, Washington was always
and everywhere chief of the men placed within his range and under his

This natural ascendency, which usually triumphed over the base jealousies
and criminal manoeuvres into which the rivals of General Washington had
sometimes allowed themselves to be drawn, had completely failed in the
case of one of his most brilliant lieutenants; in spite of his inveterate
and well-known vices, Benedict Arnold had covered himself with glory by
daring deeds and striking bravery exhibited in a score of fights, from
the day when, putting himself at the head of the first bands raised in
Massachusetts, he had won the grade of general during his expedition to
Canada. Accused of malversation, and lately condemned by a court-martial
to be reprimanded by the general-in-chief, Arnold, through an excess of
confidence on Washington's part, still held the command of the important
fort of West Point: he abused the trust. Washington, on returning from
an interview with Count de Rochambeau, went out of his way to visit the
garrison of West Point: the commandant was absent. Surprised and
displeased, the general was impatiently waiting for his return, when his
aide-de-camp and faithful friend, Colonel Hamilton, brought him important
despatches. Washington's face remained impassible; but throughout the
garrison and among the general's staff there had already spread a whisper
of Arnold's treachery: he had promised, it was said, to deliver West
Point to the enemy. An English officer, acting as a spy, had actually
been arrested within the American lines.

It was true; and General Arnold, turning traitor to his country from
jealousy, vengeance, and the shameful necessities entailed by a
disorderly life, had sought refuge at New York with Sir Henry Clinton.
Major Andre was in the hands of the Americans. Young, honorable, brave,
endowed with talents, and of elegant and cultivated tastes, the English
officer, brought up with a view to a different career, but driven into
the army from a disappointment in love, had accepted the dangerous
mission of bearing to the perfidious commandant of West Point the English
general's latest instructions. Sir Henry Clinton had recommended him not
to quit his uniform; but, yielding to the insinuating Arnold, the unhappy
young man had put on a disguise; he had been made prisoner. Recognized
and treated as a spy, he was to die on the gallows. It was the ignominy
alone of this punishment which perturbed his spirit. "Sir," he wrote to
Washington, "sustained against fear of death by the reflection that no
unworthy action has sullied a life devoted to honor, I feel confident
that in this my extremity, your Excellency will not be deaf to a prayer
the granting of which will soothe my last moments. Out of sympathy for a
soldier, your Excellency will, I am sure, consent to adapt the form of my
punishment to the feelings of a man of honor. Permit me to hope that, if
my character have inspired you with any respect, if I am in your eyes
sacrificed to policy and not to vengeance, I shall have proof that those
sentiments prevail in your heart by learning that I am not to die on the

With a harshness of which there is no other example in his life, and of
which he appeared to always preserve a painful recollection, Washington
remained deaf to his prisoner's noble appeal: Major Andre underwent the
fate of a spy. "You are a witness that I die like a man of honor," he
said to an American officer whose duty it was to see the orders carried
out. The general did him justice. "Andre," he said, "paid his penalty
with the spirit to be expected from a man of such merit and so brave an
officer. As to Arnold, he has no heart. . . . Everybody is surprised
to see that he is not yet swinging on a gibbet." The passionate
endeavors of the Americans to inflict upon the traitor the chastisement
he deserved remained without effect. Constantly engaged, as an English
general, in the war, with all the violence bred of uneasy hate, Arnold
managed to escape the just vengeance of his countrymen; he died twenty
years later, in the English possessions, rich and despised. "What would
you have done if you had succeeded in catching me?" he asked an American
prisoner one day. "We would have severed from your body the leg that had
been wounded in the service of the country, and would have hanged the
rest on a gibbet," answered the militiaman quietly.

The excitement caused by the treachery of Arnold had not yet
subsided, when a fresh cup of bitterness was put to the lips of
the general-in-chief, and disturbed the hopes he had placed on the
reorganization of his army. Successive revolts among the troops of
Pennsylvania, which threatened to spread to those of New Jersey, had
convinced him that America had come to the end of her sacrifices. "The
country's own powers are exhausted," he wrote to Colonel Lawrence in a
letter intended to be communicated to Louis XVI.; "single-handed we
cannot restore public credit and supply the funds necessary for
continuing the war. The patience of the army is at an end, the people
are discontented; without money, we shall make but a feeble effort, and
probably the last."

The insufficiency of the military results obtained by land and sea, in
comparison with the expenses and the exhibition of force, and the
slowness and bad management of the operations, had been attributed, in
France as well as in America, to the incapacity of the ministers of war
and marine, the Prince of Montbarrey and M. de Sartines. The finances
had up to that time sufficed for the enormous charges which weighed upon
the treasury; credit for the fact was most justly given to the consummate
ability and inexhaustible resources of M. Necker, who was, first of all,
made director of the treasury on October 22, 1776, and then
director-general of finance on June 29, 1777, By his advice, backed by
the favor of the queen, the two ministers were superseded by M. de Segur
and the Marquis of Castries. A new and more energetic impulse before
long restored the hopes of the Americans. On the 21st of March, 1780,
a fleet left under the orders of Count de Grasse; after its arrival at
Martinique, on the 28th of April, in spite of Admiral Hood's attempts to
block his passage, Count de Grasse took from the English the Island of
Tobago, on the 1st of June; on the 3d of September, he brought Washington
a reinforcement of three thousand five hundred men, and twelve hundred
thousand livres in specie. In a few months King Louis XVI. had lent to
the United States or procured for them on his security sums exceeding
sixteen million livres. It was to Washington personally that the French
government confided its troops as well as its subsidies. "The king's
soldiers are to be placed exclusively under the orders of the
general-in-chief," M. Girard, the French minister in America, had said,
on the arrival of the auxiliary corps.

After so many and such painful efforts, the day of triumph was at last
dawning upon General Washington and his country. Alternations of success
and reverse had signalized the commencement of the campaign of 1781.
Lord Cornwallis, who commanded the English armies in the South, was
occupying Virginia with a considerable force, when Washington, who had
managed to conceal his designs from Sir Henry Clinton, shut up in New
York, crossed Philadelphia on the 4th of September, and advanced by
forced marches against the enemy. The latter had been for some time past
harassed by the little army of M. de La Fayette. The fleet of Admiral de
Grasse cut off the retreat of the English. Lord Cornwallis threw himself
into Yorktown; on the 30th of September the place was invested.

It was but slightly and badly fortified; the English troops were fatigued
by a hard campaign; the besiegers were animated by a zeal further
stimulated by emulation; French and Americans vied with one another in
ardor. Batteries sprang up rapidly, the soldiers refused to take any
rest, the trenches were opened by the 6th of October. On the 10th, the
cannon began to batter the town; on the 14th an American column,
commanded by M. de La Fayette, Colonel Hamilton and Colonel Lawrence,
attacked one of the redoubts which protected the approaches to the town,
whilst the French dashed forward on their side to attack the second
redoubt, under the orders of Baron de Viomenil, Viscount de Noailles, and
Marquis de St. Simon, who, ill as he was, had insisted on being carried
at the head of his regiment. The flag of the Union floated above both
works at almost the same instant; when the attacking columns joined again
on the other side of the outwork they had attacked, the French had made
five hundred prisoners. All defence became impossible. Lord Cornwallis
in vain attempted to escape; he was reduced, on the 17th of October, to
signing a capitulation more humiliating than that of Saratoga: eight
thousand men laid down their arms, the vessels which happened to be lying
at Yorktown and Gloucester were given up to the victors. Lord Cornwallis
was ill of grief and fatigue. General O'Hara, who took his place,
tendered his sword to Count de Rochambeau; the latter stepped back, and,
pointing to General Washington, said aloud, "I am only an auxiliary." In
receiving the English general's sword, Washington was receiving the
pledge of his country's independence.

England felt this. "Lord North received the news of the capitulation
like a bullet in his breast," said Lord George Germaine, secretary of
state for the colonies; he threw up his arms without being able to utter
a word beyond 'My God, all's lost!'" To this growing conviction on the
part of his ministers, as well as of the nation, George III. opposed an
unwavering persistency. "None of the members of my cabinet," he wrote
immediately, "will suppose, I am quite sure, that this event can in any
way modify the principles which have guided me hitherto and which will
continue to regulate my conduct during the rest of this struggle."

Whilst the United States were celebrating their victory with
thanksgivings and public festivities, their allies were triumphing at all
the different points, simultaneously, at which hostilities had been
entered upon. Becoming embroiled with Holland, where the republican
party had prevailed against the stadtholder, who was devoted to them, the
English had waged war upon the Dutch colonies. Admiral Rodney had taken
St. Eustache, the centre of an immense trade; he had pillaged the
warehouses and laden his vessels with an enormous mass of merchandise;
the convoy which was conveying a part of the spoil to England was
captured by Admiral La Motte-Piquet; M. Bouille surprised the English
garrison remaining at St. Eustache and recovered possession of the
island, which was restored to the Dutch. They had just maintained
gloriously, at Dogger Bank, their old maritime renown. "Officers and
men all fought like lions," said Admiral Zouttman. The firing had not
commenced until the two fleets were within pistol-shot. The ships on
both sides were dismasted, scarcely in a condition to keep afloat; the
glory and the losses were equal; but the English admiral, Hyde Parker,
was irritated and displeased. George III. went to see him on board his
vessel. "I wish your Majesty younger seamen and better ships," said the
old sailor, and he insisted on resigning. This was the only action
fought by the Dutch during the war; they left to Admiral de Kersaint the
job of recovering from the English their colonies of Demerara, Essequibo,
and Berbice, on the coasts of Guiana.

A small Franco-Spanish army was at the same time besieging Minorca.
The fleet was considerable, the English were ill-prepared; they were soon
obliged to shut themselves up in Fort St. Philip. The ramparts were as
solid, the position was as impregnable, as in the time of Marshal
Richelieu. The admirals were tardy in bringing up the fleet; their
irresolution caused the failure of operations that had been ill-combined;
the squadrons entered port again. The Duke of Crillon, who commanded the
besieging force, weary of investing the fortress, made a proposal to the
commandant to give the place up to him: the offers were magnificent, but
Colonel Murray answered indignantly: "Sir, when the king his master
ordered your brave ancestor to assassinate the Duke of Guise, he replied
to Henry III., Honor forbids! You ought to have made the same answer to
the king of Spain when he ordered you to assassinate the honor of a man
as well born as the Duke of Guise or yourself. I desire to have no
communication with you but by way of arms." And he kept up the defence
of his fortress, continually battered by the besiegers' cannonballs.
Assault succeeded assault: the Duke of Crillon himself escaladed the
ramparts to capture the English flag which floated on the top of a tower:
he was slightly wounded. "How long have generals done grenadiers' work?"
said the officers to one another. The general heard them. "I wanted to
make my Spaniards thorough French," he said, "that nobody might any
longer perceive that there are two nationalities here." Murray at last
capitulated on the 4th of February, 1782: the fortress contained but a
handful of soldiers exhausted with fatigue and privation.

Great was the joy at Madrid as well as in France, and deep the dismay in
London: the ministry of Lord North could not stand against this last
blow. So many efforts and so many sacrifices ending in so many disasters
were irritating and wearing out the nation. "Great God!" exclaimed
Burke, "is it still a time to talk to us of the rights we are upholding
in this war! Oh! excellent rights! Precious they should be, for they
have cost us dear. Oh! precious rights, which have cost Great Britain
thirteen provinces, four islands, a hundred thousand men, and more than
ten millions sterling! Oh! wonderful rights, which have cost Great
Britain her empire upon the ocean and that boasted superiority which made
all nations bend before her! Oh! inestimable rights, which have taken
from us our rank amongst the nations, our importance abroad and our
happiness at home, which have destroyed our commerce and our
manufactures, which have reduced us from the most flourishing empire in
the world to a kingdom circumscribed and grandeur-less! Precious rights,
which will, no doubt, cost us all that we have left!" The debate was
growing more and more bitter. Lord North entered the House with his
usual serenity. "This discussion is a loss of valuable time to the
House," said he: "His Majesty has just accepted the resignation of his
ministers." The Whigs came into power; Lord Rockingham, the Duke of
Richmond, Mr. Fox; the era of concessions was at hand. An unsuccessful
battle delivered against Hood and Rodney by Admiral de Grasse restored
for a while the pride of the English. A good sailor, brave and for a
long time successful in war, Count de Grasse had many a time been
out-manoeuvred by the English. He had suffered himself to be enticed
away from St. Christopher, which he was besieging, and which the Marquis
of Bouille took a few days later; embarrassed by two damaged vessels,
he would not abandon them to the English, and retarded his movements to
protect them. The English fleet was superior to the French in vessels
and weight of metal; the fight lasted ten hours; the French squadron was
broken, disorder ensued in the manoeuvres; the captains got killed one
after another, nailing their colors to the mast or letting their vessels
sink rather than strike; the flag-ship, the Ville de Paris, was attacked
by seven of the enemy's ships at once, her consorts could not get at her;
Count de Grasse, maddened with grief and rage, saw all his crew falling
around him. "The admiral is six foot every day," said the sailors, "on a
fighting day he is six foot one." So much courage and desperation could
not save the fleet, the count was forced to strike; his ship had received
such damage that it sank before its arrival in England; the admiral was
received in London with great honors against which his vanity was not
proof, to the loss of his personal dignity and his reputation in Europe.
A national subscription in France reinforced the fleet with new vessels:
a squadron, commanded by M. de Suffren, had just carried into the East
Indies the French flag, which had so long been humiliated, and which his
victorious hands were destined to hoist aloft again for a moment.

As early as 1778, even before the maritime war had burst out in Europe,
France had lost all that remained of her possessions on the Coromandel
coast. Pondicherry, scarcely risen from its ruins, was besieged by the
English, and had capitulated on the 17th of October, after an heroic
resistance of forty days' open trenches. Since that day a Mussulman,
Hyder Ali, conqueror of the Carnatic, had struggled alone in India
against the power of England: it was around him that a group had been
formed by the old soldiers of Bussy and by the French who had escaped
from the disaster of Pondicherry. It was with their aid that the able
robber-chief, the crafty politician, had defended and consolidated the
empire he had founded against that foreign dominion which threatened the
independence of his country. He had just suffered a series of reverses,
and he was on the point of being forced to evacuate the Carnatic and take
refuge in his kingdom of Mysore, when he heard, in the month of July,
1782, of the arrival of a French fleet commanded by M. de Suffren. Hyder
Ali had already been many times disappointed. The preceding year Admiral
d'Orves had appeared on the Coromandel coast with a squadron; the Sultan
had sent to meet him, urging him to land and attack Madras, left
defenceless; the admiral refused to risk a single vessel or land a single
man, and he returned without striking a blow to Ile-de-France. Ever
indomitable and enterprising, Hyder Ali hoped better things of the
new-comers; he was not deceived.

Born at St. Cannat in Provence, on the 13th of July, 1726, of an old and
a notable family amongst the noblesse of his province, Peter Andrew de
Suffren, admitted before he was seventeen into the marine guards, had
procured his reception into the order of Malta; he had already
distinguished himself in many engagements, when M. de Castries gave him
the command of the squadron commissioned to convey to the Cape of Good
Hope a French garrison promised to the Dutch, whose colony was
threatened. The English had seized Negapatam and Trincomalee; they hoped
to follow up this conquest by the capture of Batavia and Ceylon. Suffren
had accomplished his mission, not without a brush with the English
squadron commanded by Commodore Johnston. Leaving the Cape free from
attack, he had joined, off Ile-de-France, Admiral d'Orves, who was ill
and at death's door. The vessels of the commander (of the Maltese order)
were in a bad state, the crews were weak, the provisions were deficient;
the inexhaustible zeal and the energetic ardor of the chief sufficed to
animate both non-combatants and combatants. When he put to sea on the
7th of December, Count d'Orves still commanded the squadron; on the 9th
of February he expired out at sea, having handed over his command to M.
de Suffren. All feebleness and all hesitation disappeared from that
moment in the management of the expedition. When the nabob sent a French
officer in his service to compliment M. de Suffren and proffer alliance,
the commander interrupted the envoy: "We will begin," said he, "by
settling the conditions of this alliance;" and not a soldier set foot on
land before the independent position of the French force, the number of
its auxiliaries, and the payment for its services had been settled by a

Hyder Ali consented to everything. M. de Suffren set sail to go in
search of the English.

[Illustration: Suffren----413]

He sought them for three months without any decisive result; it was only
on the 4th of July in the morning, at the moment when Hyder Ali was to
attack Negapatam, that a serious engagement began between the hostile
fleets. The two squadrons had already suffered severely; a change of
wind had caused disorder in the lines: the English had several vessels
dismantled; one single French vessel, the _Severe,_ had received serious
damage; her captain, with cowardly want of spirit, ordered the flag to be
hauled down. His lieutenants protested; the volunteers to whom he had
appealed refused to execute his orders. By this time the report was
spreading among the batteries that the captain, was giving the order to
cease firing; the sailors were as indignant as the officers: a cry arose,
"The flag is down!" A complaisant subaltern had at last obeyed the
captain's repeated orders. The officers jumped upon the quarter-deck.
"You are master of your flag," fiercely cried an officer of the blue,
Lieutenant Dien, "but we are masters as to fighting, and the ship shall
not surrender!" By this time a boat from the English ship, the _Sultan,_
had put off to board the Severe, which was supposed to have struck, when
a fearful broadside from all the ship's port-holes struck the _Sultan,_
which found herself obliged to sheer off. Night came; without waiting
for the admiral's orders, the English went and cast anchor under

M. de Suffren supposed that hostilities would be resumed; but, when the
English did not appear, he at last prepared to set sail for Gondelour to
refit his vessels, when a small boat of the enemy's hove in sight: it
bore a flag of truce. Admiral Hughes claimed the _Severe,_ which had for
an instant hauled down her flag. M. de Suffren had not heard anything
about her captain's poltroonery; the flag had been immediately replaced;
he answered that none of the French vessels had surrendered. "However,"
he added with a smile, "as this vessel belongs to Sir Edward Hughes, beg
him from me to come for it himself." Suffren arrived without hinderance
at Gondelour (_Kaddalore_).

Scarcely was he there, when Hyder Ali expressed a desire to see him, and
set out for that purpose without waiting for his answer. On the 26th of
July, M. de Suffren landed with certain officers of his squadron; an
escort of cavalry was in waiting to conduct him to the camp of the nabob,
who came out to meet him. "Heretofore I thought myself a great man and a
great general," said Hyder Ali to the admiral; "but now I know that you
alone are a great man." Suffren informed the nabob that M. de Bussy-
Castelnau, but lately the faithful lieutenant of Dupleix and the
continuer of his victories, had just been sent to India with the title of
commander-in-chief; he was already at Ile de France, and was bringing
some troops. "Provided that you remain with us, all will go well," said
the nabob, detaching from his turban an aigrette of diamonds which he
placed on M. de Suffren's hat. The nabob's tent was reached; Suffren was
fat, he had great difficulty in sitting upon the carpets; Hyder Ali
perceived this and ordered cushions to be brought. "Sit as you please,"
said he to the commander, "etiquette was not made for such as you." Next
day, under the nabob's tent, all the courses of the banquet offered to M.
de Suffren were prepared in European style. The admiral proposed that
Hyder Ali should go to the coast and see all the fleet dressed, but, "I
put myself out to see you only," said the nabob, "I will not go any
farther." The two great warriors were never to meet again.

The French vessels were ready; the commander had more than once put his
own hand to the work in order to encourage the workmen's zeal.
Carpentry-wood was wanted; he had ransacked Gondelour (_Kaddalore_) for
it, sometimes pulling down a house to get hold of a beam that suited him.
His officers urged him to go to Bourbon or Ile-de-France for the
necessary supplies and for a good port to shelter his damaged ships.
"Until I have conquered one in India, I will have no port but the sea,"
answered Suffren. He had re-taken Trincomalee before the English could
come to its defence. The battle began. As had already happened more
than once, a part of the French force showed weakness in the thick of the
action either from cowardice or treason; a cabal had formed against the
commander; he was fighting single-handed against five or six assailants:
the main-mast and the flag of the _Heros,_ which he was on, fell beneath
the enemy's cannon-balls. Suffren, standing on the quarter-deck, shouted
beside himself "Flags! Set white flags all round the Heros!" The
vessel, all bristling with flags, replied so valiantly to the English
attacks, that the rest of the squadron had time to re-form around it; the
English went and anchored before Madras.

Bussy had arrived, but aged, a victim to gout, quite a stranger amid
those Indian intrigues with which he had but lately been so well
acquainted. Hyder Ali had just died on the 7th of December, 1782,
leaving to his son Tippoo Sahib affairs embroiled and allies enfeebled.
At this news the Mahrattas, in revolt against England, hastened to make
peace; and Tippoo Sahib, who had just seized Tanjore, was obliged to
abandon his conquest and go to the protection of Malabar. Ten thousand
men only remained in the Carnatic to back the little corps of French.
Bussy allowed himself to be driven to bay by General Stuart beneath the
walls of Gondelour; he had even been forced to shut himself up in the
town. M. de Suffren went to his release. The action was hotly
contested; when the victor landed, M. de Bussy was awaiting him on the
shore. "Here is our savior," said the general to his troops, and the
soldiers taking up in their arms M. de Suffren, who had been lately
promoted by the grand master of the order of Malta to the rank of grand-
cross (_bailli_), carried him in triumph into the town. "He pressed
M. de Bussy every day to attack us," says Sir Thomas Munro, "offering to
land the greater part of his crews and to lead them himself to deliver
the assault upon our camp." Bussy had, in fact, resumed the offensive,
and was preparing to make fresh sallies, when it was known at Calcutta
that the preliminaries of peace had been signed at Paris on the 9th of
February. The English immediately proposed an armistice. The
_Surveillante_ shortly afterwards brought the same news, with orders for
Suffren to return to France. India was definitively given up to the
English, who restored to the French Pondicherry, Chandernuggur, Mahe, and
Karikal, the last strips remaining of that French dominion which had for
a while been triumphant throughout the peninsula. The feebleness and the
vices of Louis XV.'s government weighed heavily upon the government of
Louis XVI. in India as well as in France, and at Paris itself.

It is to the honor of mankind and their consolation under great reverses
that political checks and the inutility of their efforts do not obscure
the glory of great men. M. de Suffren had just arrived at Paris, he was
in low spirits; M. de Castries took him to Versailles. There was a
numerous and brilliant court. On entering the guards' hall, "Gentlemen,"
said the minister to the officers on duty, "this is M. de Suffren."
Everybody rose, and the body-guards, forming an escort for the admiral,
accompanied him to the king's chamber. His career was over; the last of
the great sailors of the old regimen died on the 8th of December, 1788.

Whilst Hyder Ali and M. de Suffren were still disputing India with
England, that power had just gained in Europe an important advantage in
the eyes of public opinion as well as in respect of her supremacy at sea.

For close upon three years past a Spanish army had been investing by land
the town and fortress of Gibraltar; a strong squadron was cruising out of
cannon-shot of the place, incessantly engaged in barring the passage
against the English vessels. Twice already, in 1780 by Admiral Rodney,
and in 1781 by Admiral Darby, the vigilance of the cruisers had been
eluded and reinforcements of troops, provisions, and ammunition had been
thrown into Gibraltar. In 1782 the town had been half destroyed by an
incessantly renewed bombardment, the fortifications had not been touched.
Every morning, when he awoke, Charles III. would ask anxiously, "Have we
got Gibraltar?" and when "No" was answered, "We soon shall," the monarch
would rejoin imperturbably. The capture of Fort Philip had confirmed him
in his hopes; he considered his object gained, when the Duke of Crillon
with a corps of French troops came and joined the besiegers; the Count of
Artois, brother to the king, as well as the Duke of Bourbon, had come
with him. The camp of St. Roch was the scene of continual festivities,
sometimes interrupted by the sallies of the besieged. The fights did not
interfere with mutual good offices: in his proud distress, General Eliot
still kept up an interchange of refreshments with the French princes and
the Duke of Crillon; the Count of Artois had handed over to the English
garrison the letters and correspondence which had been captured on the
enemy's ships, and which he had found addressed to them on his way
through Madrid.

Preparations were being made for a grand assault. A French engineer,
Chevalier d'Arcon, had invented some enormous floating batteries,
fire-proof, as he believed; a hundred and fifty pieces of cannon were to
batter the place all at once, near enough to facilitate the assault. On
the 13th of September, at 9 A. M., the Spaniards opened fire: all the
artillery in the fort replied at once; the surrounding mountains repeated
the cannonade; the whole army covered the shore awaiting with anxiety the
result of the enterprise. Already the fortifications seemed to be
beginning to totter; the batteries had been firing for five hours; all at
once the Prince of Nassau, who commanded a detachment, thought he
perceived flames mastering his heavy vessel; the fire spread rapidly; one
after another, the floating batteries found themselves disarmed. "At
seven o'clock we had lost all hope," said an Italian officer who had
taken part in the assault; "we fired no more, and our signals of distress
remained unnoticed. The red-hot shot of the besieged rained down upon
us; the crews were threatened from every point." Timidly and by weak
detachments, the boats of the two fleets crept up under cover of the
batteries in hopes of saving some of the poor creatures that were like to
perish; the flames which burst out on board the doomed ships served to
guide the fire of the English as surely as in broad daylight. At the
head of a small squadron of gunboats Captain Curtis barred the passage of
the salvors; the conflagration became general, only the discharges from
the fort replied to the hissing of the flames and to the Spaniard's cries
of despair. The fire at last slackened; the English gunboats changed
their part; at the peril of their lives the brave seamen on board of them
approached the burning ships, trying to save the unfortunate crews; four
hundred men owed their preservation to those efforts. A month after this
disastrous affair, Lord Howe, favored by the accidents of wind and
weather, revictualled for the third time, and almost without any
fighting, the fortress and the town under the very eyes of the allied
fleets. Gibraltar remained impregnable.

Peace was at hand, however: all the belligerents were tired of the
strife; the Marquis of Rockingham was dead; his ministry, after being
broken up, had re-formed with less lustre under the leadership of Lord
Shelburne. William Pitt, Lord Chatham's second son, at that time
twenty-two years of age, had a seat in the cabinet. Already negotiations
for a general peace had begun at Paris; but Washington, who eagerly
desired the end of the war, did not yet feel any confidence. "The old
infatuation, the political duplicity and perfidy of England, render me, I
confess, very suspicious, very doubtful," he wrote; "and her position
seems to me to be perfectly summed up in the laconic saying of Dr.
Franklin 'They are incapable of continuing the war and too proud to make
peace.' The pacific overtures made to the different belligerent nations
have probably no other design than to detach some one of them from the
coalition. At any rate, whatever be the enemy's intentions, our
watchfulness and our efforts, so far from languishing, should become more
vigorous than ever. Too much trust and confidence would ruin

America was the first to make peace, without however detaching herself
officially from the coalition which had been formed to maintain her
quarrel and from which she had derived so many advantages. On the 30th
of November, 1782, in disregard of the treaties but lately concluded
between France and the revolted colonies, the American negotiators signed
with stealthy precipitation the preliminary articles of a special peace,
"thus abandoning France to the dangers of being isolated in negotiations
or in arms." The votes of Congress, as well as the attitude of
Washington, did not justify this disloyal and ungrateful eagerness.
"The articles of the treaty between Great Britain and America," wrote the
general to Chevalier de La Luzerne, French minister at Philadelphia, "are
so far from conclusive as regards a general pacification, that we must
preserve a hostile attitude and remain ready for any contingency, for war
as well as peace."

On the 5th of December, at the opening of Parliament, George III.
announced in the speech from the throne that he had offered to recognize
the independence of the American colonies. "In thus admitting their
separation from the crown of this kingdom, I have sacrificed all my
desires to the wishes and opinion of my people," said the king.
"I humbly pray Almighty God, that Great Britain may not feel the evils
which may flow from so important a dismemberment of its empire, and that
America may be a stranger to the calamities which have before now proved
to the mother-country that monarchy is inseparable from the benefits of
constitutional liberty. Religion, language, interests, affections may
still form a bond of union between the two countries, and I will spare no
pains or attention to promote it." "I was the last man in England to
consent to the Independence of America," said the king to John Adams, who
was the first to represent the new republic at the Court of St. James; "I
will be the last in the world to sanction any violation of it." Honest
and sincere in his concessions as he had been in his persistent
obstinacy, the king supported his ministers against the violent attacks
made upon them in Parliament. The preliminaries of general peace had
been signed at Paris on the 20th of January, 1783.

To the exchange of conquests between France and England was added the
cession to France of the island of Tobago and of the Senegal River with
its dependencies. The territory of Pondicherry and Karikal received some
augmentation. For the first time for more than a hundred years the
English renounced the humiliating conditions so often demanded on the
subject of the harbor of Dunkerque. Spain saw herself confirmed in her
conquest of the Floridas and of the island of Minorca. Holland recovered
all her possessions, except Negapatam.

Peace was made, a glorious and a sweet one for the United States, which,
according to Washington's expression, "saw opening before them a career
that might lead them to become a great people, equally happy and
respected." Despite all the mistakes of the people and the defects every
day more apparent in the form of its government, this noble and healthy
ambition has always been present to the minds of the American nation as
the ultimate aim of their hopes and their endeavors. More than eighty
years after the war of independence, the indomitable energy of the
fathers reappeared in the children, worthy of being called a great people
even when the agonies of a civil war without example denied to them the
happiness which had a while ago been hoped for by the glorious founder of
their liberties as well as of their Constitution.

France came out exhausted from the struggle, but relieved in her own eyes
as well as those of Europe from the humiliation inflicted upon her by the
disastrous Seven Years' War and by the treaty of 1763. She saw
triumphant the cause she had upheld and her enemies sorrow-stricken at
the dismemberment they had suffered. It was a triumph for her arms and
for the generous impulse which had prompted her to support a legitimate
but for a long while doubtful enterprise. A fresh element, however, had
come to add itself to the germs of disturbance, already so fruitful,
which were hatching within her. She had promoted the foundation of a
Republic based upon principles of absolute right; the government had
given way to the ardent sympathy of the nation for a people emancipated
from a long yoke by its deliberate will and its indomitable energy.
France felt her heart still palpitating from the efforts she had
witnessed and shared on behalf of American freedom; the unreflecting
hopes of a blind emulation were already agitating many a mind. "In all
states," said Washington, "there are inflammable materials which a single
spark may kindle." In 1783, on the morrow of the American war, the
inflammable materials everywhere accumulated in France were already
providing means for that immense conflagration in the midst of which the
country well-nigh perished.


We have followed the course of good and bad fortune; we have exhibited
France engaged abroad in a policy at the same time bold and generous,
proceeding from rancor as well as from the sympathetic enthusiasm of the
nation; we have seen the war, at first feebly waged, soon extending over
every sea and into the most distant colonies of the belligerents, though
the European continent was not attacked at any point save the barren rock
of Gibraltar; we have seen the just cause of the United States triumphant
and freedom established in the New World: it is time to inquire what new
shocks had been undergone by France whilst she was supporting far away
the quarrel of the revolted colonies, and what new burdens had come to be
added to the load of difficulties and deceptions which she had seemed to
forget whilst she was fighting England at so many different points. It
was not without great efforts that France had acquired the generous fame
of securing to her allies blessings which she did not herself yet possess
to their full extent; great hopes, and powers fresh and young had been
exhausted in the struggle: at the close of the American war M. Necker was
played out politically as well as M. Turgot.

It was not to supersede the great minister who had fallen that the
Genevese banker had been called to office. M. de Maurepas was still
powerful, still up and doing; he loved power, in spite of his real levity
and his apparent neglectfulness. M. Turgot had often galled him, had
sometimes forced his hand; M. de Clugny, who took the place of the
comptroller-general, had no passion for reform, and cared for nothing but
leading, at the treasury's expense, a magnificently scandalous life;
M. de Malesherbes had been succeeded in the king's household by Marquis
Amelot. "At any rate," said M. de Maurepas, "nobody will accuse me of
having picked him out for his wits."

Profoundly shocked at the irreligious tendencies of the philosophers, the
court was, nevertheless, aweary of the theoricians and of their essays in
reform; it welcomed the new ministers with delight; without fuss, and as
if by a natural recurrence to ancient usage, the edict relative to forced
labor was suspended, the anxieties of the noblesse and of the clergy
subsided; the peasantry knew nothing yet of M. Turgot's fall, but they
soon found out that the evils from which they had imagined they were
delivered continued to press upon them with all their weight. For their
only consolation Clugny opened to them the fatal and disgraceful chances
of the lottery, which became a royal institution. To avoid the
remonstrances of Parliament, the comptroller-general established the new
enterprise by a simple decree of the council. "The entries being
voluntary, the lottery is no tax and can dispense with enregistration,"
it was said. It was only seventy-five years later, in 1841, under the
government of King Louis Philippe and the ministry of M. Humann, that the
lottery was abolished, and this scandalous source of revenue forbidden to
the treasury.

So much moral weakness and political changeableness, so much poltroonery
or indulgence towards evil and blind passions disquieted serious minds,
and profoundly shook the public credit. The Dutch refused to carry out
the loan for sixty millions which they had negotiated with M. Turgot; the
discount-fund (_caisse d'escompte_) founded by him brought in very slowly
but a moderate portion of the assets required to feed it; the king alone
was ignorant of the prodigalities and irregularities of his minister.
M. de Maurepas began to be uneasy at the public discontent, he thought of
superseding the comptroller-general: the latter had been ill for some
time, on the 22d of October he died. By the advice of M. de Maurepas,
the king sent for M. Necker.

James Necker was born at Geneva in 1732. Engaging in business without
any personal taste for it and by his father's wish, he had been
successful in his enterprises; at forty he was a rich man, and his
banking-house enjoyed great credit when he retired from business, in
1772, in order to devote himself to occupations more in accordance with
his natural inclinations. He was ambitious and disinterested. The great
operations in which he had been concerned had made his name known. He
had propped up the _Compagnie des Indes_ nearly falling to pieces, and
his financial resources had often ministered to the necessities of the
State. "We entreat your assistance in the day of need," wrote Abbe
Terray when he was comptroller-general; "deign to come to our assistance
with a sum which is absolutely necessary." On ceasing to be a banker,
Necker soon gave indications of the direction in which his thoughts
turned; he wrote an indifferent Bloge de Colbert, crowned by the French
Academy, in 1773. He believed that he was destined to wear the mantle of
Louis XIV.'s great minister.

Society and public opinion exercised an ever increasing influence in the
eighteenth century; M. Necker managed to turn it to account. He had
married, in 1764, Mdlle. Suzanne Curchod, a Swiss pastor's daughter,
pretty, well informed, and passionately devoted to her husband, his
successes and his fame. The respectable talents, the liberality, the
large scale of living of M. and Madame Necker attracted round them the
literary and philosophical circle; the religious principles, the
somewhat stiff propriety of Madame Necker maintained in her drawing-room
an intelligent and becoming gravity which was in strong contrast with
the licentious and irreligious frivolity of the conversations customary
among the philosophers as well as the courtiers. Madame Necker paid
continuous and laborious attention to the duties of society. She was
not a Frenchwoman, and she was uncomfortably conscious of it. "When I
came to this country," she wrote to one of her fair friends, "I thought
that literature was the key to everything, that a man cultivated his
mind with books only, and was great by knowledge only." Undeceived by
the very fact of her admiration for her husband, who had not found
leisure to give himself up to his natural taste for literature, and who
remained rather unfamiliar with it, she made it her whole desire to be
of good service to him in the society in which she had been called upon
to live with him. "I hadn't a word to say in society," she writes; "I
didn't even know its language. Obliged, as a woman, to captivate
people's minds, I was ignorant how many shades there are of self-love,
and I offended it when I thought I was flattering it. Always striking
wrong notes and never hitting it off, I saw that my old ideas would
never accord with those I was obliged to acquire; so I have hid my
little capital away, never to see it again, and set about working for my
living and getting together a little stock, if I can." Wit and
knowledge thus painfully achieved are usually devoid of grace and charm.
Madame du Deffand made this a reproach against M. Necker as well as his
wife "He wants one quality, that which is most conducive to
agreeability, a certain readiness which, as it were, provides wits for
those with whom one talks; he doesn't help to bring out what one thinks,
and one is more stupid with him than one is all alone or with other
folks." People of talent, nevertheless, thronged about M. and Madame
Necker. Diderot often went to see them; Galiani, Raynal, Abbe Morellet,
M. Suard, quite young yet, were frequenters of the house; Condorcet did
not set foot in it, passionately enlisted as he was amongst the
disciples of M. Turgot, who were hostile to his successor; Bernardin de
St. Pierre never went thither again from the day when the reading of
_Paul and Virginia_ had sent the company to sleep. "At first everybody
listens in silence," says M. Aime Martin; "by degrees attention flags,
people whisper, people yawn, nobody listens any more; M. de Buffon looks
at his watch and asks for his carriage; the nearest to the door slips
out, Thomas falls asleep, M. Necker smiles to see the ladies crying, and
the ladies ashamed of their tears dare not acknowledge that they have
been interested."

[Illustration: The Reading of "Paul and Virginia."----427]

The persistent admiration of the general public, and fifty imitations
of _Paul and Virginia_ published in a single year, were soon to avenge
Bernardin de St. Pierre for the disdainful yawns of the philosophers.
It is pretty certain that Madame Necker's daughter, little Germaine,
if she were present at the reading, did not fall asleep as M. Thomas did,
and that she was not ashamed of her tears.

Next to M. Buffon, to whom Madame had vowed a sort of cult, and who was
still writing to this faithful friend when he was near his last gasp,
M. Thomas had more right than anybody to fall asleep at her house if he
thought fit. Marmontel alone shared with him the really intimate
friendship of M. and Madame Necker; the former had given up tragedies and
moral tales; a pupil of Voltaire, without the splendor and inexhaustible
vigor of his master, he was less prone to license, and his feelings were
more serious; he was at that time correcting his _Elements de
Litterature,_ but lately published in the _Encyclopaedie,_ and commencing
the _Memoires d'un pere, pour servir d l'instruction de ses enfants_.
Thomas was editing his _Eloges,_ sometimes full of eloquence, often
subtle and delicate, always long, unexceptionable, and wearisome. His
noble character had won him the sincere esteem and affection of Madame
Necker. She, laboriously anxious about the duties politeness requires
from the mistress of a house, went so far as to write down in her tablets
"To recompliment M. Thomas more strongly on the song of France in his
poem of Pierre le Grand." She paid him more precious homage when she
wrote to him: "We were united in our youth in every honorable way; let us
be more than ever united now when ripe age, which diminishes the vivacity
of impressions, augments the force of habit, and let us be more than ever
necessary to one another when we live no longer save in the past and in
the future, for, as regards myself, I, in anticipation, lay no store by
the approbation of the circles which will surround us in our old age, and
I desire nothing among posterity but a tomb to which I may precede M.
Necker, and on which you will write the epitaph. Such resting-place will
be dearer to me than that among the poplars which cover the ashes of

It was desirable to show what sort of society, cultivated and virtuous,
lively and serious, all in one, the new minister whom Louis XVI. had just
called to his side had managed to get about him. Though friendly with
the philosophers, he did not belong to them, and his wife's piety
frequently irked them. "The conversation was a little constrained
through the strictness of Madame Necker," says Abbe Morellet; "many
subjects could not be touched upon in her presence, and she was
particularly hurt by freedom in religious opinions." Practical
acquaintance with business had put M. Necker on his guard against the
chimerical theories of the economists. Rousseau had exercised more
influence over his mind; the philosopher's wrath against civilization
seemed to have spread to the banker, when the latter wrote in his _Traite
sur le commerce des grains,_ "One would say that a small number of men,
after dividing the land between them, had made laws of union and security
against the multitude, just as they would have made for themselves
shelters in the woods against the wild beasts. What concern of ours are
your laws of property? the most numerous class of citizens might say: we
possess nothing. Your laws of right and wrong? We have nothing to
defend. Your laws of liberty? If we do not work to-morrow, we shall

Public opinion was favorable to M. Necker, his promotion was well
received; it presented, however, great difficulties: he had been a
banker, and hitherto the comptrollers-general had all belonged to the
class of magistrates or superintendents; he was a Protestant, and, as
such, could not hold any office. The clergy were in commotion; they
tried certain remonstrances. "We will give him up to you," said M. de
Maurepas, "if you undertake to pay the debts of the state." The
opposition of the church, however, closed to the new minister an
important opening; at first director of the treasury, then
director-general of finance, M. Necker never received the title of
comptroller-general, and was not admitted to the council. From the
outset, with a disinterestedness not devoid of ostentation, he had
declined the salary attached to his functions. The courtiers looked at
one another in astonishment. It is easy to see that he is a foreigner,
a republican, and a Protestant," people said. M. de Maurepas laughed.
"M. Necker," he declared, "is a maker of gold; he has introduced the
philosopher's stone into the kingdom."

This was for a long while the feeling throughout France. "No
bankruptcies, no new imposts, no loans," M. Turgot had said, and had
looked to economy alone for the resources necessary to restore the
finances. Bolder and less scrupulous, M. Necker, who had no idea of
having recourse to either bankruptcy or imposts, made unreserved use of
the system of loans. During the five years that his ministry lasted, the
successive loans he contracted amounted to nearly five hundred million
livres. There was no security given to insure its repayment to the
lenders. The mere confidence felt in the minister's ability and honesty
had caused the money to flow into the treasury.

M. Necker did not stop there: a foreigner by birth, he felt no respect
for the great tradition of French administration; practised in the
handling of funds, he had conceived as to the internal government of the
finances theories opposed to the old system; the superintendents
established a while ago by Richelieu had become powerful in the central
administration as well as in the provinces, and the comptroller-general
was in the habit of accounting with them; they nearly all belonged to old
and notable families; some of them had attracted the public regard and
esteem. The new minister suppressed several offices and diminished the
importance of some others; he had taken away from M. Trudaine,
administrator of gabels and heavy revenues (_grosses fermes_), the right
of doing business with the king; M. Trudaine sent in his resignation; he
was much respected, and this reform was not approved of. "M. Necker,"
people said, "wants to be assisted by none but removable slaves." At the
same time the treasurers-general, numbering forty-eight, were reduced to
a dozen, and the twenty-seven treasurers of marine and war to two; the
farmings-general (of taxes) were renewed with an advantage to the
treasury of fifteen millions. The posts at court likewise underwent
reform; the courtiers saw at one blow the improper sources of their
revenues in the financial administration cut off, and obsolete and
ridiculous appointments, to which numerous pensions, were attached,
reduced. "Acquisitions of posts, projects of marriage or education,
unforeseen losses, abortive hopes, all such matters had become an
occasion for having recourse to the sovereign's munificence," writes M.
Necker. "One would have said that the royal treasury was bound to do all
the wheedling, all the smoothing-down, all the reparation; and as the
method of pensions, though pushed to the uttermost (the king was at that
time disbursing in that way some twenty-eight millions of livres), could
not satisfy all claims or sufficiently gratify shameful cupidity, other
devices had been hit upon, and would have gone on being hit upon, every
day; interests in the collection of taxes, in the customs, in army
supplies, in the stores, in many pay-offices, in markets of every kind,
and even in the furnishing of hospitals, all was fair game, all was
worthy of the attention of persons often, from their position, the most
above any business of the kind."

The discontent of the great financiers and that of the courtiers was
becoming every day more noisy, without as yet shaking the credit of
M. Necker. "M. Necker wants to govern the kingdom of France like his
little republic of Geneva," people said: "he is making a desert round the
king; each loan is the recompense for something destroyed." "Just so,"
answered M. de Maurepas: "he gives us millions, provided that we allow
him to suppress certain offices." "And if he were to ask permission to
have the superintendents' heads cut off?" "Perhaps we should give it
him," said the veteran minister, laughing. "Find us the philosopher's
stone, as he has done, and I promise you that his Majesty will have you
into the ministry that very day."

M. Necker did not indulge in illusions, he owed to the embarrassments of
the government and to the new burdens created by the American war a
complaisance which his bold attempts would not have met with under other
circumstances. "Nobody will ever know," he himself said, "the
steadfastness I found necessary; I still recall that long and dark
staircase of M. de Maurepas' which I mounted in fear and sadness,
uncertain of succeeding with him as to some new idea which I had in my
mind, and which aimed most frequently at obtaining an increase of revenue
by some just but severe operation. I still recall that upstairs closet,
beneath the roof of Versailles, but over the rooms, and, from its
smallness and its situation, seeming to be really a superfine extract and
abstract of all vanities and ambitions; it was there that reform and
economy had to be discussed with a minister grown old in the pomps and
usages of the court. I remember all the delicate management I had to
employ to succeed, after many a rebuff. At last I would obttin some
indulgences for the commonwealth. I obtained them, I could easily see,
as recompense for the resources I had found during the war. I met with
more courage in dealing with the king. Young and virtuous, he could and
would hear all. The queen, too, lent me a favorable ear, but, all around
their Majesties, in court and city, to how much enmity and hatred did I
not expose myself? There were all kinds of influence and power which I
had to oppose with firmness; there were all sorts of interested factions
with which I had to fight in this perpetual struggle."

"Alas!" Madame Necker would say, "my heart and my regrets are ever
yearning for a world in which beneficence should be the first of virtues.
What reflections do I not make on our own particular case! I thought to
see a golden age under so pure an administration; I see only an age of
iron. All resolves itself into doing as little harm as possible." 0 the
grievous bitterness of past illusions! Madame Necker consoled herself
for the enmity of the court and for the impotence of that beneficence
which had been her dream by undertaking on her own account a difficult
reform, that of the hospitals of Paris, scenes, as yet, of an almost
savage disorderliness. The sight of sick, dead, and dying huddled
together in the same bed had excited the horror and the pity of Madame
Necker. She opened a little hospital, supported at her expense and under
her own direction, which still bears the name of Necker Hospital, and
which served as a model for the reforms attempted in the great public
establishments. M. Necker could not deny himself the pleasure of
rendering homage to his wife's efforts in a report to the king; the
ridicule thrown upon this honest but injudicious gush of conjugal pride
proved the truth of what Madame Necker herself said. "I did not know the
language of this country. What was called frankness in Switzerland
became egotism at Paris."

[Illustration: Necker Hospital----432]

The active charity of Madame Necker had won her the esteem of the
Archbishop of Paris, Christopher de Beaumont, a virtuous, fanatical
priest; he had gained a great lawsuit against the city of Paris, which
had to pay him a sum of three hundred thousand livres. "It is our wish,"
said the archbishop, "that M. Necker should dispose of these funds to the
greatest advantage for the state, trusting to his zeal, his love of good,
and his wisdom, for the most useful employment of the said funds, and
desiring further that no account be required of him, as to such
employment, by any person whatsoever." The prelate's three hundred
thousand livres were devoted to the internal repairs of the Hotel-Dieu.
"How is it," people asked, "that the archbishop thinks so highly of M.
Necker, and even dines with him?" "0!" answered the wicked wags, "it is
because M. Necker is not a Jansenist, he is only a Protestant."

Notwithstanding this unusual tolerance on the part of Christopher de
Beaumont, his Protestantism often placed M. Necker in an awkward
position. "The title of liberator of your Protestant brethren would be a
flattering one for you," said one of the pamphlets of the day, "and it
would be yours forever, if you could manage to obtain for them a civil
existence, to procure for them the privileges of a citizen, liberty and
tolerance. You are sure of a diminution in the power of the clergy.
Your vigorous edict regarding hospitals will pave the way for the ruin of
their credit and their wealth; you have opened the trenches against them,
the great blow has been struck. All else will not fail to succumb; you
will put all the credit of the state and all the money of France in the
hands of Protestant bankers, Genevese, English, and Dutch. Contempt will
be the lot of the clergy, your brethren will be held in consideration.
These points of view are full of genius, you will bring great address to
bear upon them." M. Necker was at the same time accused of being
favorable to England. "M. Necker is our best and our last friend on the
Continent," Burke had said in the House of Commons. Knowing better than
anybody the burdens which the war imposed upon the state, and which he
alone had managed to find the means of supporting, M. Necker desired
peace. It was for Catholics and philosophers that the honor was reserved
of restoring to Protestants the first right of citizens, recognition of
their marriages and a civil status for their children. The court, the
parliaments, and the financiers were leagued against M. Necker. "Who,
pray, is this adventurer," cried the fiery Epremesnil, "who is this
charlatan who dares to mete out the patriotism of the French magistracy,
who dares to suppose them lukewarm in their attachments and to denounce
them to a young king?" The assessment of the twentieths (tax) had raised
great storms; the mass of citizens were taxed rigorously, but the
privileged had preserved the right of themselves making a declaration of
their possessions; a decree of the council ordered verification of the
income from properties. The Parliaments burst out into remonstrances.
"Every owner of property has the right to grant subsidies by himself or
by his representatives," said the Parliament of Paris; "if he do not
exercise this right as a member of a national body, it must be reverted
to indirectly, otherwise he is no longer master of his own, he is no
longer undisturbed owner." Confidence in personal declarations, then, is
the only indemnity for the right, which the nation has not exercised but
has not lost, of itself granting and assessing the twentieths. A bold
principle, even in a free state, and one on which the income-tax rests in
England, but an untenable principle, without absolute equality on the
part of all citizens and a common right to have their consent asked to
the imposts laid upon them.

M. Necker did not belong to the court; he had never lived there, he did
not set foot therein when he became minister. A while ago Colbert and
Louvois had founded families and taken rank among the great lords who
were jealous of their power and their wealth. Under Louis XVI., the
court itself was divided, and one of the queen's particular friends,
Baron do Besenval, said, without mincing the matter, in his Memoires: "I
grant that the depredations of the great lords who are at the head of the
king's household are enormous, revolting. . . . Necker has on his
side the depreciation into which the great lords have fallen; it is such
that they are certainly not to be dreaded, and that their opinion does
not deserve to be taken into consideration in any political speculation."

M. Necker had a regard for public opinion, indeed he attached great
importance to it, but he took its influence to be more extensive and its
authority to rest on a broader bottom than the court or the parliaments
would allow. "The social spirit, the love of regard and of praise," said
he, "have raised up in France a tribunal at which all men who draw its
eyes upon them are obliged to appear: there public opinion, as from the
height of a throne, decrees prizes and crowns, makes and unmakes
reputations. A support is wanted against the vacillations of ministers,
and this important support is only to be expected from progress in the
enlightenment and resisting power of public opinion. Virtues are more
than ever in want of a stage, and it becomes essential that public
opinion should rouse the actors; it must be supported, then, this
opinion, it must be enlightened, it must be summoned to the aid of ideas
which concern the happiness of men."

M. Necker thought the moment had come for giving public opinion the
summons of which he recognized the necessity he felt himself shaken at
court, weakened in the regard of M. de Maurepas, who was still puissant
in spite of his great age, and jealous of him as he had been of M.
Turgot; he had made up his mind, he said, to let the nation know how its
affairs had been managed, and in the early days of the year 1781 he
published his _Compte rendu au roi_.

It was a bold innovation; hitherto the administration of the finances had
been carefully concealed from the eyes of the public as the greatest
secret in the affairs of state; for the first time the nation was called
upon to take cognizance of the position of the public estate, and,
consequently, pass judgment upon its administration. "The principal
cause of the financial prosperity of England, in the very midst of war,
said the minister, "is to be found in the confidence with which the
English regard their administration and the source of the government's
credit." The annual publication of a financial report was, M. Necker
thought, likely to inspire the same confidence in France. It was paying
a great compliment to public opinion to attribute to it the power derived
from free institutions and to expect from satisfied curiosity the serious
results of a control as active as it was minute.

The Report to the king was, moreover, not of a nature to stand the
investigation of a parliamentary committee. In publishing it M. Necker
had a double end in view. He wanted, by an able exposition of the
condition of the treasury, to steady the public credit which was
beginning to totter, to bring in fresh subscribers for the loans which
were so necessary to support the charges of the war; he wanted at the
same time to call to mind the benefits and successes of his own
administration, to restore the courage of his friends and reduce his
enemies to silence. With this complication of intentions, he had drawn
up a report on the ordinary state of expenditure and receipts, designedly
omitting the immense sacrifices demanded by the land and sea armaments as
well as the advances made to the United States. He thus arrived, by a
process rather ingenious than honest, at the establishment of a budget
showing a surplus of ten million livres. The maliciousness of M. de
Maurepas found a field for its exercise in the calculations which he had
officially overhauled in council. The Report was in a cover of blue
marbled paper. Have you read the _Conte bleu_ (a lying story)?" he
asked everybody who went to see him; and, when he was told of the great
effect which M. Necker's work was producing on the public: "I know, I
know," said the veteran minister, shrugging his shoulders, "we have
fallen from Turgomancy into Necromancy."

M. Necker had boldly defied the malevolence of his enemies. "I have
never," said he, "offered sacrifice to influence or power. I have
disdained to indulge vanity. I have renounced the sweetest of private
pleasures, that of serving my friends or winning the gratitude of those
who are about me. If anybody owes to my mere favor a place, a post, let
us have the name." He enumerated all the services he had rendered to the
king, to the state, to the nation, with that somewhat pompous
satisfaction which was afterwards discernible in his Memoires. There it
was that he wrote: "Perhaps he who contributed, by his energies, to keep
off new imposts during five such expensive years; he who was able to
devote to all useful works the funds which had been employed upon them in
the most tranquil times; he who gratified the king's heart by providing
him with the means of distributing among his provinces the same aids as
during the war, and even greater; he who, at the same time, proffered to
the monarch's amiable impatience the resources necessary in order to
commence, in the midst of war, the improvement of the prisons and the
hospitals; he who indulged his generous inclinations by inspiring him
with the desire of extinguishing the remnants of serfage; he who,
rendering homage to the monarch's character, seconded his disposition
towards order and economy; he who pleaded for the establishment of
paternal administrations in which the simplest dwellers in the
country-places might have some share; he who, by manifold cares, by
manifold details, caused the prince's name to be blest even in the hovels
of the poor,--perhaps such a servant has some right to dare, without
blushing, to point out, as one of the first rules of administration, love
and care for the people."

"On the whole," says M. Droz, with much justice, in his excellent
_Histoire du regne de Louis XVI.,_ "the Report was a very ingenious work,
which appeared to prove a great deal and proved nothing." M. Necker,
however, had made no mistake about the effect which might be produced by
this confidence, apparently so bold, as to the condition of affairs in a
single year, 1781, the loans amounted to two hundred and thirty-six
millions, thus exceeding in a few months the figures reached in the four
previous years. A chorus of praises arose even in England, reflected
from the minister on to his sovereign. "It is in economy," said Mr.
Burke, "that Louis XVI. has found resources sufficient to keep up the
war. In the first two years of this war, he imposed no burden on his
people. The third year has arrived, there has as yet been no question of
any impost, indeed I believe that those which are a matter of course in
time of war have not yet been put on. I apprehend that in the long run
it will no doubt be necessary for France to have recourse to imposts, but
these three years saved will scatter their beneficent influence over a
whole century. The French people feel the blessing of having a master
and minister devoted to economy; economy has induced this monarch to
trench upon his own splendor rather than upon his people's subsistence.
He has found in the suppression of a great number of places a resource
for continuing the war without increasing his expenses. He has stripped
himself of the magnificence and pomp of royalty, but he has manned a
navy; he has reduced the number of persons in his private service, but he
has increased that of his vessels. Louis XVI., like a patriotic king,
has shown sufficient firmness to protect M. Necker, a foreigner, without
support or connection at court, who owes his elevation to nothing but his
own merit and the discernment of the sovereign who had sagacity enough to
discover him, and to his wisdom which can appreciate him. It is a noble
example to follow: if we would conquer France, it is on this ground and
with her own weapons that we must fight her: economy and reforms."

It was those reforms, for which the English orator gave credit to
M. Necker and Louis XVI., that rendered the minister's fall more imminent
every day. He had driven into coalition against him the powerful
influences of the courtiers, of the old families whose hereditary
destination was office in the administration, and of the parliament
everywhere irritated and anxious. He had lessened the fortunes and
position of the two former classes, and his measures tended to strip the
magistracy of the authority whereof they were so jealous. "When
circumstances require it," M. Necker had said in the Report, "the
augmentation of imposts is in the hands of the king, for it is the power
to order them which constitutes sovereign greatness;" and, in a secret
Memoire which saw publicity by perfidious means: "The imposts are at
their height, and minds are more than ever turned towards administrative
subjects. The result is a restless and confused criticism which adds
constant fuel to the desire felt by the parliaments to have a hand in the
matter. This feeling on their part becomes more and more manifest, and
they set to work, like all those bodies that wish to acquire power, by
speaking in the name of the people, calling themselves defenders of the
nation's rights; there can be no doubt but that, though they are strong
neither in knowledge nor in pure love for the well-being of the state,
they will put themselves forward on all occasions as long as they believe
that they are supported by public opinion. It is necessary, therefore,
either to take this support away from them, or to prepare for repeated
contests which will disturb the tranquillity of your Majesty's reign, and
will lead successively either to a degradation of authority or to extreme
measures of which one cannot exactly estimate the consequences."

In order to apply a remedy to the evils he demonstrated as well as to
those which he foresaw, M. Necker had borrowed some shreds from the great
system of local assemblies devised by M. Turgot; he had proposed to the
king and already organized in Berry the formation of provincial
assemblies, recruited in every district (_generalite_) from among the
three orders of the noblesse, the clergy, and the third estate. A part
of the members were to be chosen by the king; these were commissioned to
elect their colleagues, and the assembly was afterwards to fill up its
own vacancies as they occurred. The provincial administration was thus
confided almost entirely to the assemblies. That of Berry had already
abolished forced labor, and collected two hundred thousand livres by
voluntary contribution for objects of public utility. The assembly of
Haute-Guyenne was in course of formation. The districts (_generalites_)
of Grenoble, Montauban, and Moulins claimed the same privilege. The
parliaments were wroth to see this assault upon their power. Louis XVI.
had hesitated a long while before authorizing the attempt. "The
presidents-born, the councillors, the members of the states-districts
(_pays d'etats_), do not add to the happiness of Frenchmen in the
districts which are under their administration," wrote the king in his
marginal notes to M. Necker's scheme. "Most certainly Brittany, with its
states, is not happier than Normandy which happens to be without them.
The most just and most natural among the powers of the parliaments is
that of hanging robbers of the finances. In the event of provincial
administrations, it must not be taken away. It concerns and appertains
to the repose of my people to preserve privileges."

The instinct of absolute power and the traditions of the kingship
struggled in the narrow mind and honest heart of Louis XVI. against the
sincere desire to ameliorate the position of his people and against a
vague impression of new requirements. It was to the former of these
motives that M. de Vergennes appealed in his Note to the king on the
effect of the Report. "Your Majesty," he said, "is enjoying the
tranquillity which you owe to the long experience of your ancestors, and
to the painful labors of the great ministers who succeeded in
establishing subordination and general respect in France. There is no
longer in France clergy, or noblesse, or third estate; the distinction is
factitious, merely representative and without real meaning; the monarch
speaks, all else are people, and all else obey.

"M. Necker does not appear content with this happy state of things. Our
inevitable evils and the abuses flowing from such a position are in his
eyes monstrosities; a foreigner, a republican, and a Protestant, instead
of being struck with the majestic totality of this harmony, he sees only
the discordants, and he makes out of them a totality which he desires to
have the pleasure and the distinction of reforming in order to obtain for
himself the fame of a Solon or a Lycurgus.

"Your Majesty, Sir, told me to open my heart to you: a contest has begun
between the regimen of France and the regimen of M. Necker. If his ideas
should triumph over those which have been consecrated by long experience,
after the precedent of Law, of Mazarin, and of the Lorraine princes,
M. Necker, with his Genevese and Protestant plans, is quite prepared to
set up in France a system in the finance, or a league in the state, or a
'Fronde' against the established administration. He has conducted the
king's affairs in a manner so contrary to that of his predecessors that
he is at this moment suspected by the clergy, hateful to the grandees of
the state, hounded to the death by the heads of finance (_la haute
finance_), dishonored amongst the magistracy. His Report, on the whole,
is a mere appeal to the people, the pernicious consequences whereof to
this monarchy cannot as yet be felt or foreseen. M. Necker, it is true,
has won golden opinions from the philosophy and the innovators of these
days, but your Majesty has long ago appraised the character of such
support. In his Report M. Necker lays it down that advantage has been
taken of the veil drawn over the state of the finances in order to
obtain, amidst the general confusion, a credit which the state would not
otherwise be entitled to. It is a new position, and a remarkable one in
our history is that of M. Necker teaching the party he calls public
opinion that under a good king, under a monarch beloved of the people,
the minister of finance has become the sole hope, the sole security, by
his moral qualities, of the lenders and experts who watch the government.
It will be long before your Majesty will close up the wound inflicted
upon the dignity of the throne by the hand of the very person in the
official position to preserve it and make it respected by the people."

The adroit malevolence of M. de Vergennes had managed to involve in one
and the same condemnation the bold innovations of M. Necker and the
faults he had committed from a self-conceit which was sensitive and
frequently hurt. He, had not mentioned M. de Maurepas in his long
exposition of public administration, and it was upon the virtue of the
finance-minister that he had rested all the fabric of public confidence.
The contest was every day becoming fiercer and the parties warmer. The
useful reforms, the generous concern for the woes and the wants of the
people, the initiative of which belonged to M. Necker, but which the king
always regarded with favor, were by turns exclusively attributed to the
minister and to Louis XVI. in the pamphlets published every day. Madame
Necker became anxious and heartbroken at the vexation which such attacks
caused her husband. "The slightest cloud upon his character was the
greatest suffering the affairs of life could cause him," writes Madame de
Stael; "the worldly aim of all his actions, the land-breeze which sped
his bark, was love of reputation." Madame Necker took it into her head
to write, without her husband's knowledge, to M. de Maurepas to complain
of the libels spread about against M. Necker, and ask him to take the
necessary measures against these anonymous publications this was
appealing to the very man who secretly encouraged them.. Although Madame
Necker had plenty of wits, she, bred in the mountains of Switzerland, had
no conception of such an idiosyncrasy as that of M. de Maurepas, a man
who saw in an outspoken expression of feeling only an opportunity of
discovering the vulnerable point. As soon as he knew M. Necker's
susceptibility he flattered himself that, by irritating it, he would
drive him to give in his resignation." [_onsiderations sur la Revolution
frangaise,_t. i. p. 105.]

M. Necker had gained a victory over M. de Maurepas when he succeeded in
getting M. de Sartines and the Prince of Montbarrey superseded by MM. de
Castries and de Segur. Late lieutenant of police, with no knowledge of
administration, M. de Sartines, by turns rash and hesitating, had failed
in the difficult department of the ministry of marine during a distant
war waged on every sea; to him were attributed the unsatisfatory results
obtained by the great armaments of France; he was engaged in the intrigue
against M. Necker. The latter relied upon the influence of the queen,
who supported MM. de Castries and de Segur, both friends of hers. M. de
Sartines was disgraced; he dragged down with him in his fall the Prince
of Montbarrey, the heretofore indifferent lieutenant of M. de Saint-
Germain. M. de Maurepas was growing feeble, the friends of M. Necker
declared that he drivelled, and the latter already aspired to the aged
minister's place. As a first step, the director-general of finance
boldly demanded to be henceforth admitted to the council.

Louis XVI. hesitated, perplexed and buffeted between contrary influences
and desires. He was grateful to M. Necker for the courageous
suppressions he had accomplished, and for the useful reforms whereof the
honor was to remain inseparable from his name; it was at M. Necker's
advice that he had abolished mortmain in his dominions. A remnant of
feudal serfdom still deprived certain of the rural classes, subject to
the tenement law, of the right to marry or bequeath what they possessed
to their children without permission of their lord. If they left the
land which made them liable to this tyranny, their heritage reverted of
right to the proprietor of the fief. Perfectly admitting the iniquity of
the practice, Louis XVI. did not want to strike a blow at the principle
of property; he confined himself to giving a precedent which the
Parliament enregistered with this reservation: "Without there being
anything in the present edict which can in any way interfere with the
rights of lords." A considerable number of noblemen imitated the
sovereign; many held out, amongst others the chapter of St. Claude; the
enfranchisement of the serfs of the Jura, in whose favor Voltaire had but
lately pleaded, would have cost the chapter twenty-five thousand livres a
year; the monks demanded an indemnification from government. The body
serfs, who were in all places persecuted by the signiorial rights, and
who could not make wills even on free soil, found themselves everywhere
enfranchised from this harsh law. Louis XVI. abolished the _droit de
suite_ (henchman-law), as well as the use of the preparatory question or
preliminary torture applied to defendants. The regimen of prisons was at
the same time ameliorated, the dark dungeons of old times restored to
daylight the wretches who were still confined in them.

So many useful and beneficent measures, in harmony with the king's honest
and generous desires, but opposed to the prejudices still potent in many
minds and against the interests of many people, kept up about M. Necker,
for all the esteem and confidence of the general public, powerful
hatreds, ably served: his admission to the council was decidedly refused.
"You may be admitted," said M. de Maurepas with his, usual malice, "if
you please to abjure the errors of Calvin." M. Necker did not deign to
reply. "You who, being quite certain that I would not consent, proposed
to me a change of religion in order to smooth away the obstacles you put
in my path," says M. Necker in his Memoires, "what would you not have
thought me worthy of after such baseness? It was rather in respect of
the vast finance-administration that this scruple should have been
raised. Up to the moment when it was intrusted to me, it was uncertain
whether I was worth an exception to the general rules. What new
obligation could be imposed upon him who held the post before promising?"

"If I was passionately attached to the place I occupied," says M: Necker
again, "it is on grounds for which I have no reason to blush. I
considered that the administrator of finance, who is responsible on his
honor for ways and means, ought, for the welfare of the state and for his
own reputation, to be invited, especially after several years' ministry,
to the deliberations touching peace and war, and I looked upon it as very
important that he should be able to join his reflections to those of the
king's other servants: A place in the council may, as a general rule, be
a matter in which self-love is interested; but I am going to say a proud
thing: when one has cherished another passion, when one has sought praise
and glory, when one has followed after those triumphs which belong to
one's self alone, one regards rather coolly such functions as are shared
with others."

"Your Majesty saw that M. Necker, in his dangerous proposal, was sticking
to his place with a tenacity which lacks neither reason nor method," said
M. de Vergennes in a secret Note addressed to the king; "he aspires to
new favors, calculated from their nature to scare and rouse that long
array of enemies by whom his religion, his birth, his wife, the epochs
and improvements of their fortune, are, at every moment of his
administration, exposed to the laughter or the scrutiny of the public.
Your Majesty finds yourself once more in the position in which you were
with respect to M. Turgot, when you thought proper to accelerate his
retirement; the same dangers and the same inconveniences arise from the
nature of their analogous systems."

It was paying M. Necker a great compliment to set his financial talents
on a par with the grand views, noble schemes, and absolute
disinterestedness of M. Turgot. Nevertheless, when the latter fell,
public opinion had become, if not hostile, at any rate indifferent to
him; it still remained faithful to M. Necker. Withdrawing his
pretensions to admission into the council, the director-general of
finance was very urgent to obtain other marks of the royal confidence,
necessary, he said, to keep up the authority of his administration.
M. de Maurepas had no longer the pretext of religion, but he hit upon
others which wounded M. Necker deeply; the latter wrote to the king on a
small sheet of common paper, without heading or separate line, and as if
he were suddenly resuming all the forms of republicanism: "The
conversation I have had with M. de Maurepas permits me to no longer defer
placing my resignation in the king's hands. I feel my heart quite
lacerated by it, and I dare to hope that his Majesty will deign to.
preserve some remembrance of five years' successful but painful toil, and
especially of the boundless zeal with which I devoted myself to his
service." [May 19, 1783.]

M. Necker had been treated less harshly than M. Turgot. The king
accepted his resignation without having provoked it. The queen made some
efforts to retain him, but M. Necker remained inflexible. "Reserved as
he was," says his daughter, "he had a proud disposition, a sensitive
spirit; he was a man of energy in his whole style of sentiments." The
fallen minister retired to his country-house at St. Ouen.

He was accompanied thither by the respect and regret of the public, and
the most touching proofs of their esteem. "You would have said, to see
the universal astonishment, that never was news so unexpected as that of
M. Necker's resignation," writes Grimm in his _Correspondance
litteraire;_ "consternation was depicted on every face; those who felt
otherwise were in a very small minority; they would have blushed to show
it. The walks, the cafes, all the public thoroughfares were full of
people, but an extraordinary silence prevailed. People looked at one
another, and mournfully wrung one another's hands, as if in the presence,
I would say, of a public calamity, were it not that these first moments
of distress resembled rather the grief of a disconsolate family which has
just lost the object and the mainstay of its hopes. The same evening
they gave, at the Comedie-Francaise, a performance of the _Partie de
Chasse de Henri IV_. I have often seen at the play in Paris allusions to
passing events caught up with great cleverness, but I never saw any which
were so with such palpable and general an interest. Every piece of
applause, when there was anything concerning Sully, seemed, so to speak,
to bear a special character, a shade appropriate to the sentiment the
audience felt; it was by turns that of sorrow and sadness, of gratitude
and respect; the applause often came so as to interrupt the actor the
moment it was foreseen that the sequel of a speech might be applicable to
the public feeling towards M. Necker. The players have been to make
their excuses to the lieutenant of police, they established their
innocence by proving that the piece had been on the list for a week.
They have been forgiven, and it was thought enough to take this
opportunity of warning the journalists not to speak of M. Necker for the
future-well or ill."

M. Necker derived some balm from these manifestations of public feeling,
but the love of power, the ambition that prompted the work he had
undertaken, the bitterness of hopes deceived still possessed his soul.
When he entered his study at St. Ouen, and saw on his desk the memoranda
of his schemes, his plans for reforming the gabel, for suppressing
custom-houses, for extending provincial assemblies, he threw himself back
in his arm-chair, and, dropping the papers he held in his hand, burst
into tears. Like him, M. Turgot had wept when he heard of the
re-establishment of forced labor and jurands.

"I quitted office," says M. Necker, "leaving funds secured for a whole
year; I quitted it when there were in the royal treasury more ready money
and more realizable effects than had ever been there within the memory of
man, and at a moment when the public confidence, completely restored, had
risen to the highest pitch.

"Under other circumstances I should have been more appreciated; but it is
when one can be rejected and when one is no longer essentially necessary
that one is permitted to fall back upon one's own reflections. Now there
is a contemptible feeling which may be easily found lurking in the
recesses of the human heart, that of preferring for one's retirement the
moment at which one might enjoy the embarrassment of one's successor. I
should have been forever ashamed of such conduct; I chose that which was
alone becoming for him who, having clung to his place from honorable
motives, cannot, on quitting it, sever himself for one instant from the

M. Necker fell with the fixed intention and firm hope of soon regaining
power. He had not calculated either the strength or inveteracy of his
enemies, or the changeableness of that public opinion on which he relied.
Before the distresses of the state forced Louis XVI. to recall a minister
whom he had deeply wounded, the evils which the latter had sought to
palliate would have increased with frightful rapidity, and the remedy
would have slipped definitively out of hands too feeble for the immense
burden they were still ambitious to bear.


We leave behind us the great and serious attempts at reform. The vast
projects of M. Turgot, seriously meant and founded on reason, for all
their somewhat imaginative range, had become, in M. Necker's hands,
financial expedients or necessary remedies, honorably applied to the most
salient evils; the future, however, occupied the mind of the minister
just fallen; he did not content himself with the facile gratifications of
a temporary and disputed power, he had wanted to reform, he had hoped to
found; his successors did not raise so high their real desires and hopes.
M. Turgot had believed in the eternal potency of abstract laws; he had
relied upon justice and reason to stop the kingdom and the nation on the
brink of the abyss; M. Necker had nursed the illusion that his courage
and his intelligence, his probity and his reputation would suffice for
all needs and exorcise all dangers; both of them had found themselves
thwarted in their projects, deceived in their hopes, and finally
abandoned by a monarch as weak and undecided as he was honest and good.
M. de Turgot had lately died (March 20, 1781), in bitter sorrow and
anxiety; M. Necker was waiting, in his retirement at St. Ouen, for public
opinion, bringing its weight to bear upon the king's will, to recall him
to office. M. de Maurepas was laughing in that little closet at
Versailles which he hardly quitted any more: "The man impossible to
replace is still unborn," he would say to those who were alarmed at M.
Necker's resignation. M. Joly de Fleury, councillor of state, was
summoned to the finance-department; but so strong was the current of
popular opinion that he did not take up his quarters in the residence of
the comptroller-general, and considered himself bound to pay M. Necker a
visit at St. Ouen.

Before experience had been long enough to demonstrate the error committed
by M. de Maurepas in depriving the king of M. Necker's able and honest
services, the veteran minister was dead (November 21, 1784). In the
teeth of all inclinations opposed to his influence, he had managed to the
last to preserve his sway over the mind of Louis XVI.: prudent, moderate,
imperturbable in the evenness of his easy and at the same time sarcastic
temper, he had let slide, so far as he was concerned, the reformers and
their projects, the foreign war, the wrath of the parliaments, the
remonstrances of the clergy, without troubling himself at any shock,
without ever persisting to obstinacy in any course, ready to modify his
policy according to circumstances and the quarter from which the wind
blew, always master, at bottom, in the successive cabinets, and
preserving over all the ministers, whoever they might be, an ascendency
more real than it appeared. The king regretted him sincerely. "Ah!"
said he, "I shall no more hear, every morning, my friend over my head."
The influence of M. de Maurepas had often been fatal; he had remained,
however, like a pilot still holding with feeble hand the rudder he had
handled for so long. After him, all direction and all predominance of
mind disappeared from the conduct of the government. "The loss is more
than we can afford," said clear-sighted folks already.

For a moment, and almost without consideration, the king was tempted to
expand his wings and take the government into his own hands; he had a
liking for and confidence in M. de Vergennes; but the latter, a man of
capacity in the affairs of his own department and much esteemed in
Europe, was timid, devoid of ambition and always disposed to shift
responsibility into the hands of absolute power. Notwithstanding some
bolder attempts, the death of M. de Maurepas did not seriously augment
his authority. The financial difficulties went on getting worse; on
principle and from habit, the new comptroller-general, like M. de
Vergennes, was favorable to the traditional maxims and practices of the
old French administration; he was, however, dragged into the system of
loans by the necessities of the state, as well as by the ideas impressed
upon men's minds by M. Necker. To loans succeeded imposts; the dues and
taxes were increased uniformly, without regard for privileges and the
burdens of different provinces; the Parliament of Paris, in the body of
which the comptroller-general counted many relatives and friends, had
enregistered the new edicts without difficulty; the Parliament of
Besangon protested, and its resistance went so far as to place the

Book of the day: