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

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history of the world," he says, "ought to precede the special history of
its productions; and the details of singular facts touching the life and
habits of animals, or touching the culture and vegetation of plants,
belong perhaps less to natural history than do the general results of the
observations which have been made on the different materials which
compose the terrestrial globe, on the elevations, the depressions, and
the unevennesses of its form, on the movement of the seas, on the
trending of mountains, on the position of quarries, on the rapidity and
effects of the currents of the sea--this is nature on the grand scale."

M. Fleurens truly said, " Bufon aggrandizes every subject he touches."
Born at Montbard in Burgundy on the 7th of September, 1707, Buffon
belonged to a family of wealth and consideration in his province. In his
youth he travelled over Europe with his friend the Duke of Kingston; on
returning home, he applied himself at first to mathematics, with
sufficient success to be appointed at twenty-six years of age, in 1733,
adjunct in the mechanical class at the Academy of Sciences. In 1739, he
received the superintendence of the _Jardin du Roi,_ not long since
enlarged and endowed by Richelieu, and lovingly looked after by the
scholar Dufay, who had just died, himself designating Buffon as his
successor. He had shifted from mechanics to botany, "not," he said,
"that he was very fond of that science, which he had learned and
forgotten three times," but he was aspiring just then to the _Jardin du
Roi;_ his genius was yet seeking its proper direction. "There are some
things for me," he wrote to President De Brosses, "but there are some
against, and especially my age; however, if people would but reflect,
they would see that the superintendence of the _Jardin du Roi_ requires
an active young man, who can stand the sun, who is conversant with plants
and knows the way to make them multiply, who is a bit of a connoisseur in
all the sorts used in demonstration there, and above all who understands
buildings, in such sort that, in my own heart, it appears to me that I
should be exactly made for them: but I have not as yet any great hope."

[Illustration: Buffon 323]

In Buffon's hands the _Jardin du Roi_ was transformed; in proportion as
his mind developed, the requirements of the study appeared to him greater
and greater; he satisfied them fearlessly, getting together collections
at his own expense, opening new galleries, constructing hot-houses, being
constantly seconded by the good-will of Louis XV., who never shrank from
expenses demanded by Buffon's projects. The great naturalist died at
eighty years of age, without having completed his work; but he had
imprinted upon it that indisputable stamp of greatness which was the
distinctive feature of his genius. The _Jardin du Roi,_ which became the
_Jardin des Plantes,_ has remained unique in Europe.

Fully engaged as he was in those useful labors, from the age of thirty,
Buffon gave up living at Paris for the greater part of the year. He had
bought the ruins of the castle of Montbard, the ancient residence of the
Dukes of Burgundy, overlooking his native town. He had built a house
there which soon became dear to him, and which he scarcely ever left for
eight months in the year. There it was, in a pavilion which overhung the
garden planted in terraces, and from which he had a view of the rich
plains of La Brenne, that the great naturalist, carefully dressed by five
o'clock in the morning, meditated the vast plan of his works as he walked
from end to end and side to side. "I passed delightful hours there," he
used to say. When he summoned his secretary, the work of composition was
completed. "M. de Buffon gives reasons for the preference he shows as to
every word in his discourses, without excluding from the discussion even
the smallest particles, the most insignificant conjunctions," says Madame
Necker; "he never forgot that he had written 'the style is the man.'
The language could not be allowed to derogate from the majesty of the
subject. 'I made it a rule,' he used to say, 'to always fix upon the
noblest expressions.'"

It was in this dignified and studious retirement that Buffon quietly
passed his long life. "I dedicated," he says, " twelve, nay, fourteen,
hours to study; it was my whole pleasure. In truth, I devoted myself to
it far more than I troubled myself about fame; fame comes afterwards, if
it may, and it nearly always does."

Buffon did not lack fame; on the appearance of the first three volumes of
his "Histoire naturelle," published in 1749, the breadth of his views,
the beauty of his language, and the strength of his mind excited general
curiosity and admiration. The Sorbonne was in a flutter at certain bold
propositions; Buffon, without being disconcerted, took pains to avoid
condemnation. "I took the liberty," he says in a letter to M. Leblant,
"of writing to the Duke of Nivernais (then ambassador at Rome), who has
replied to me in the most polite and most obliging way in the world; I
hope, therefore, that my book will not be put in the Index, and, in
truth, I have done all I could not to deserve it and to avoid theological
squabbles, which I fear far more than I do the criticisms of physicists
and geometricians." "Out of a hundred and twenty assembled doctors," he
adds before long, "I had a hundred and fifteen, and their resolution even
contains eulogies which I did not expect." Despite certain boldnesses
which had caused anxiety, the Sorbonne had reason to compliment the great
naturalist. The unity of the human race as well as its superior dignity
were already vindicated in these first efforts of Buffon's genius, and
his mind never lost sight of this great verity. "In the human species,"
he says, "the influence of climate shows itself only by slight varieties,
because this species is one, and is very distinctly separated from all
other species; man, white in Europe, black in Africa, yellow in Asia, and
red in America, is only the same man tinged with the hue of climate; as
he is made to reign over the earth, as the whole globe is his domain, it
seems as if his nature were ready prepared for all situations; beneath
the fires of the south, amidst the frosts of the north, he lives, he
multiplies, he is found to be so spread about everywhere from time
immemorial that he appears to affect no climate in particular. . . .
Whatever resemblance there may be between the Hottentot and the monkey,
the interval which separates them is immense, since internally he is
garnished with mind and externally with speech."

Buffon continued his work, adroitly availing himself of the talent and
researches of the numerous co-operators whom he had managed to gather
about him, directing them all with indefatigable vigilance in their
labors and their observations. "Genius is but a greater aptitude for
perseverance," he used to say, himself justifying his definition by the
assiduity of his studies. "I had come to the sixteenth volume of my work
on natural history," he writes with bitter regret, "when a serious and
long illness interrupted for nearly two years the course of my labors.
This shortening of my life, already far advanced, caused one in my works.
I might, in the two years I have lost, have produced two or three volumes
of the history of birds, without abandoning for that my plan of a history
of minerals, on which I have been engaged for several years."

In 1753 Buffon had been nominated a member of the French Academy. He had
begged his friends to vote for his compatriot, Piron, author of the
celebrated comedy _Metromanie,_ at that time an old man and still poor.
"I can wait," said Buffon. "Two days before that fixed for the
election," writes Grimm, "the king sent for President Montesquieu, to
whose lot it had fallen to be director of the Academy on that occasion,
and told him that, understanding that the Academy had cast their eyes
upon M. Piron, and knowing that he was the author of several licentious
works, he desired the Academy to choose some one else to fill the vacant
place. His Majesty at the same time told him that he would not have any
member belonging to the order of advocates."

Buffon was elected, and on the 25th of August, 1754, St. Louis' day, he
was formally received by the Academy; Grimm describes the session.
"M. de Buffon did not confine himself to reminding us that Chancellor
Seguier was a great man, that Cardinal Richelieu was a very great man,
that Kings Louis XIV. and Louis XV. were very great men too, that the
Archbishop of Sens (whom he succeeds) was also a great man, and finally
that all the forty were great men; this celebrated man, disdaining the
stale and heavy eulogies which are generally the substance of this sort
of speech, thought proper to treat of a subject worthy of his pen and
worthy of the Academy. He gave us his ideas on style, and it was said,
in consequence, that the Academy had engaged a writing-master."

"Well-written works are the only ones which will go down to posterity,"
said Buffon in his speech; "quantity of knowledge, singularity of facts,
even novelty in discoveries, are not certain guaranties of immortality;
knowledge, facts, discoveries, are easily abstracted and transferred.
Those things are outside the man; the style is the man himself; the
style, then, cannot be abstracted, or transferred, or tampered with; if
it be elevated, noble, sublime, the author will be equally admired at all
times, for it is only truth that is durable and even eternal."

Never did the great scholar who has been called "the painter of nature"
relax his zeal for painstaking as a writer. "I am every day learning to
write," he would still say at seventy years of age.

To the _Theorie de la Terre,_ the _Idees generales sur les Animaux,_ and
the _Histoire de l'Homme,_ already published when Buffon was elected by
the French Academy, succeeded the twelve volumes of the _Histoire des
Quadrupedes,_ a masterpiece of luminous classifications and incomparable
descriptions; eight volumes on _Oiseaux_ appeared subsequently, a short
time before the _Histoire des Mineraux;_ lastly, a few years before his
death, Buffon gave to the world the _Epoques de la Nature_. "As in civil
history one consults titles, hunts up medals, deciphers antique
inscriptions to determine the epochs of revolutions amongst mankind, and
to fix the date of events in the moral world, so, in natural history, we
must ransack the archives of the universe, drag from the entrails of the
earth the olden monuments, gather together their ruins and collect into a
body of proofs all the indications of physical changes that can guide us
back to the different ages of nature. It is the only way of fixing
certain points in the immensity of space, and of placing a certain number
of memorial-stones on the endless road of time."

"This is what I perceive with my mind's eye," Buffon would say, "thus
forming a chain which, from the summit of Time's ladder, descends right
down to us." "This man," exclaimed Hume, with an admiration which
surprised him out of his scepticism, "this man gives to things which no
human eye has seen a probability almost equal to evidence."

Some of Buffon's theories have been disputed by his successors' science;
as D'Alembert said of Descartes: "If he was mistaken about the laws of
motion, he was the first to divine that there must be some." Buffon
divined the epochs of nature, and by the intuition of his genius,
absolutely unshackled by any religious prejudice, he involuntarily
reverted to the account given in Genesis. "We are persuaded," he says,
"independently of the authority of the sacred books, that man was created
last, and that he only came to wield the sceptre of the earth when that
earth was found worthy of his sway."

It has often been repeated, on the strength of some expressions let fall
by Buffon amongst intimates, that the panorama of nature had shut out
from his eyes the omnipotent God, creator and preserver of the physical
world as well as of the moral law. Wrong has been done the great
naturalist; he had answered beforehand these incorrect opinions as to his
fundamental ideas. "Nature is not a being," he said; "for that being
would be God;" and he adds, "Nature is the system of the laws established
by the Creator." The supreme notion of Providence appears to his eyes in
all its grandeur, when he writes, "The verities of nature were destined
to appear only in course of time, and the Supreme Being kept them to
Himself as the surest means of recalling man to Him when his faith,
declining in the lapse of ages, should become weak; when, remote from his
origin, he might begin to forget it; when, in fine, having become too
familiar with the spectacle of nature, he would no longer be moved by it,
and would come to ignore the Author. It was necessary to confirm from
time to time, and even to enlarge, the idea of God in the mind and heart
of man. Now every new discovery produces this grand effect, every new
step that we make in nature brings us nearer to the Creator. A new
verity is a species of miracle; its effect is the same, and it only
differs from the real miracle in that the latter is a startling stroke
which God strikes instantaneously and rarely, instead of making use of
man to discover and exhibit the marvels which He has hidden in the womb
of Nature, and in that, as these marvels are operating every instant, as
they are open at all times and for all time to his contemplation, God is
constantly recalling him to Himself, not only by the spectacle of the
moment, but, further, by the successive development of His works."

Buffon was still working at eighty years of age; he had undertaken a
dissertation on style, a development of his reception speech at the
French Academy. Great sorrows had crossed his life. Married late to a
young wife whom he loved, he lost her early; she left him a son, brought
up under his wing, and the object of his constant solicitude. Just at
the time of sending him to school, he wrote to Madame Daubenton, wife of
his able and learned co-operator: "I expect Buffonet on Sunday. I have
arranged all his little matters he will have a private room, with a
closet for his man-servant; I have got him a tutor in the school-house
itself, and a little companion of his own age. I do not think that he
will be at all unhappy." And, at a later date, when he is expecting this
son who has reached man's estate, and has been travelling in Europe: "My
son has just arrived; the empress and the grand-duke have treated him
very well, and we shall have some fine minerals, the collection of which
is being at this moment completed. I confess that anxiety about his
return has taken away my sleep and the power of thinking."

When the young Count de Buffon, an officer in the artillery, and at first
warmly favorable to the noble professions of the French Revolution, had,
like his peers, to mount the scaffold of the Terror, he damned with one
word the judges who profaned in his person his father's glory.
"Citizens," he exclaimed from the fatal car, "my name is Buffon." With
less respect for the rights of genius than was shown by the Algerian
pirates who let pass, without opening them, the chests directed to the
great naturalist, the executioner of the Committee of public safety cut
off his son's head.

This last drop of bitterness, and the cruel spectacle of social disorder,
Buffon had been spared; he had died at the _Jardin du Roi_ on the 14th of
April, 1788, preserving at eighty years of age, and even in the
feebleness of ill health, all the powers of his intelligence and the calm
serenity of 'his soul. His last lines dictated to his son were addressed
to Madame Necker, who had been for a long time past on the most intimate
terms with him. Faithful in death to the instincts of order and
regularity which had always controlled his mind even in his boldest
flight, he requested that all the ceremonies of religion should be
fulfilled around his body. His son had it removed to Montbard, where it
lies between his father and his wife.

Buffon had lived long, he had accomplished in peace his great work, he
had reaped the fruits of it. On the eve of the terrible shocks whereof
no presage disturbed his spirit, "directed for fifty years towards the
great objects of nature," the illustrious scholar had been permitted to
see his statue placed during his lifetime in the _Jardin du Roi_. On
sending to the Empress Catherine his bust which she had asked him for,
he wrote to his son who had charge of it: "I forgot to remark to you,
whilst talking of bust and effigy, that, by the king's order, they have
put at the bottom of my statue the following inscription: _Majestati
naturae par ingenium_ (Genius to match the majesty of nature). It is not
from pride that I send you this, but perhaps Her Majesty will have it put
at the bottom of the bust."

"How many great men do you reckon?" Buffon was asked one day. "Five,"
answered he at once: " Newton, Bacon, Leibnitz, Montesquieu, and myself."

This self-appreciation, fostered by the homage of his contemporaries,
which showed itself in Buffon undisguisedly with an air of ingenuous
satisfaction, had poisoned a life already extinguished ten years before
amidst the bitterest agonies. Taking up arms against a society in which
he had not found his proper place, Jean Jacques Rousseau had attacked the
present as well as the past, the Encyclopaedists as well as the old
social organization. It was from the first his distinctive trait to
voluntarily create a desert around him. The eighteenth century was in
its nature easily seduced; liberal, generous, and open to allurements, it
delighted in intellectual contentions, even the most dangerous and the
most daring; it welcomed with alacrity all those who thus contributed to
its pleasures. The charming drawing-rooms of Madame Geoffrin, of Madame
du Deffand, of Madlle. Lespinasse, belonged of right to philosophy.
"Being men of the world as well as of letters, the philosophers of the
eighteenth century had passed their lives in the pleasantest and most
brilliant regions of that society which was so much attacked by them.
It had welcomed them, made them famous; they had mingled in all the
pleasures of its elegant and agreeable existence; they shared in all its
tastes, its manners, all the refinements, all the susceptibilities of a
civilization at the same time old and rejuvenated, aristocratic and
literary; they were of that old regimen which was demolished by their
hands. The philosophical circle was everywhere, amongst the people of
the court, of the church, of the long robe, of finance; haughty here,
complaisant there, at one time indoctrinating, at another amusing its
hosts, but everywhere young, active, confident, recruiting and battling
everywhere, penetrating and fascinating the whole of society " [M.
Guizot, Madame la comtesse de Rumford]. Rousseau never took his place in
this circle; in this society he marched in front like a pioneer of new
times, attacking tentatively all that he encountered on his way. "Nobody
was ever at one and the same time more factious and more dictatorial," is
the clever dictum of M. Saint Marc Girardin.

Rousseau was not a Frenchman: French society always felt that, in
consequence of certain impressions of his early youth which were never to
be effaced. Born at Geneva on the 28th of June, 1712, in a family of the
lower middle class, and brought up in the first instance by an
intelligent and a pious mother, he was placed, like Voltaire and Diderot,
in an attorney's office. Dismissed with disgrace "as good for nothing
but to ply the file," the young man was bound apprentice to an engraver,
"a clownish and violent fellow," says Rousseau, "who succeeded very
shortly in dulling all the brightness of my boyhood, brutalizing my
lively and loving character, and reducing me in spirit, as I was in
fortune, to my real position of an apprentice."

Rousseau was barely sixteen when he began that roving existence which is
so attractive to young people, so hateful in ripe age, and which lasted
as long as his life. Flying from his master whose brutality he dreaded,
and taking refuge at Oharmettes in Savoy with a woman whom he at first
loved passionately, only to leave her subsequently with disgust, he had
reached the age of one and twenty, and had already gone through many
adventures when he set out, heart-sore and depraved, to seek at Paris a
means of subsistence. He had invented a new system of musical notation;
the Academy of Sciences, which had lent him a favorable ear, did not
consider the discovery useful. Some persons had taken an interest in
him, but Rousseau could never keep his friends; and he had many, zealous
and devoted. He was sent to Venice as secretary to the French ambassador
M. de Montaigu. He soon quarrelled with the ambassador and returned to
Paris. He found his way into the house of Madame Dupin, wife of a rich
farmer-general (of taxes). He was considered clever; he wrote little
plays, which he set to music. Enthusiastically welcomed by the friends
of Madame Dupin, he contributed to their amusements. "We began with the
_Engagement temeraire,_" says Madame d'Epinay in her Memoires: "it is a
new play by M. Rousseau, a friend of M. de Francueil's, who introduced
him to us. The author played a part in his piece. Though it is only a
society play, it was a great success. I doubt, however, whether it would
be successful at the theatre, but it is the work of a clever man and no
ordinary man. I do not quite know, though, whether it is what I saw of
the author or of the piece that made me think so. He is complimentary
without being polite, or at least without having the air of it. He seems
to be ignorant of the usages of society, but it is easy to see that he
has infinite wit. He has a brown complexion, and eyes full of fire light
up his face. When he has been speaking and you watch him, you think him
good-looking; but when you recall him to memory, it is always as a plain
man. He is said to be in bad health; it is probably that which gives him
from time to time a wild look."

It was amid this brilliant intimacy, humiliating and pleasant at the same
time, that Rousseau published his _Discours sur les Sciences et les
Arts_. It has been disputed whether the inspiration was such as he
claimed for this production, the first great work which he had ever
undertaken and which was to determine the direction of his thoughts.
"I was going to see Diderot at Vincennes," he says, "and, as I walked, I
was turning over the leaves of the _Mercure de France,_ when I stumbled
upon this question proposed by the Academy of Dijon: Whether the advance
of sciences and arts has contributed to the corruption or purification of
morals. All at once I felt my mind dazzled by a thousand lights, crowds
of ideas presented themselves at once with a force and a confusion which
threw me into indescribable bewilderment; I felt my head seized with a
giddiness like intoxication, a violent palpitation came over me, my bosom
began to heave. Unable to breathe any longer as I walked, I flung myself
down under one of the trees in the avenue, and there spent half an hour
in such agitation that, on rising up, I found all the front of my
waistcoat wet with tears without my having had an idea that I had shed
any." Whether it were by natural intuition or the advice of Diderot,
Jean Jacques had found his weapons; poor and obscure as he was, he
attacked openly the brilliant and corrupt society which had welcomed him
for its amusement. Spiritualistic at heart and nurtured upon Holy
Scripture in his pious childhood, he felt a sincere repugnance for the
elegant or cynical materialism which was every day more and more creeping
over the eighteenth century. "Sciences and arts have corrupted the
world," he said, and he put forward, as proof of it, the falsity of the
social code, the immorality of private life, the frivolity of the
drawing-rooms into which he had been admitted. "Suspicions,
heart-burnings, apprehensions, coldness, reserve, hatred, treason, lurk
incessantly beneath that uniform and perfidious veil of politeness, under
that so much vaunted urbanity which we owe to the enlightenment of our

Rousseau had launched his paradox; the frivolous and polite society which
he attacked was amused at it without being troubled by it: it was a new
field of battle opened for brilliant jousts of wit; he had his partisans
and his admirers. In the discussion which ensued, Jean Jacques showed
himself more sensible and moderate than he had been in the first
exposition of his idea; he had wanted to strike, to astonish he soon
modified the violence of his assertions. "Let us guard against
concluding that we must now burn all libraries and pull down the
universities and academies," he wrote to King Stanislaus: "we should only
plunge Europe once more into barbarism, and morals would gain nothing by
it. The vices would remain with us, and we should have ignorance
besides. In vain would you aspire to destroy the sources of the evil;
in vain would you remove the elements of vanity, indolence, and luxury;
in vain would you even bring men back to that primal equality, the
preserver of innocence and the source of all virtue: their hearts once
spoiled will be so forever. There is no remedy now save some great
revolution, almost as much to be feared as the evil which it might cure,
and one which it were blamable to desire and impossible to forecast. Let
us, then, leave the sciences and arts to assuage, in some degree, the
ferocity of the men they have corrupted. . .. The enlightenment of the
wicked is at any rate less to be feared than his brutal stupidity."

Rousseau here showed the characteristic which invariably distinguished
him from the philosophers, and which ended by establishing deep enmity
between them and him. The eighteenth century espied certain evils,
certain sores in the social and political condition, believed in a cure,
and blindly relied on the power of its own theories. Rousseau, more
earnest, often more sincere, made a better diagnosis of the complaint; he
described its horrible character and the dangerousness of it, he saw no
remedy and he pointed none out. Profound and grievous impotence, whose
utmost hope is an impossible recurrence to the primitive state of
savagery! "In the private opinion of our adversaries," says M. Roy de
Collard eloquently, "it was a thoughtless thing, on the great day of
creation, to let man loose, a free and intelligent agent, into the midst
of the universe; thence the mischief and the mistake. A higher wisdom
comes forward to repair the error of Providence, to restrain His
thoughtless liberality, and to render to prudently mutilated mankind the
service of elevating it to the happy innocence of the brute."

Before Rousseau, and better than he, Christianity had recognized and
proclaimed the evil; but it had at the same time announced to the world a
remedy and a Saviour.

Henceforth Rousseau had chosen his own road: giving up the drawing-rooms
and the habits of that elegant society for which he was not born and the
admiration of which had developed his pride, he made up his mind to live
independent, copying music to get his bread, now and then smitten with
the women of the world who sought him out in his retirement,--in love
with Madame d'Epinay and Madame d'Houdetot, anon returning to the coarse
servant-wench whom he had but lately made his wife, and whose children he
had put in the foundling-hospital. Music at that time absorbed all
minds. Rousseau brought out a little opera entitled _Le Devin de
village_ (The Village Wizard), which had a great success. It was played
at Fontainebleau before the king. "I was there that day," writes
Rousseau, "in the same untidy array which was usual with me; a great deal
of beard and wig rather badly trimmed. Taking this want of decency for
an act of courage, I entered in this state the very room into which would
come, a short time afterwards, the king, the queen, the royal family, and
all the court. . . . When the lights were lit, seeing myself in this.
array in the midst of people all extensively got up, I began to be ill at
ease; I asked myself if I were in my proper place, if I were properly
dressed, and, after a few moments' disquietude, I answered yes, with an
intrepidity which arose perhaps more from the impossibility of getting
out of it than from the force of my arguments. After this little
dialogue, I plucked up so much, that I should have been quite intrepid if
there had been any need of it. But, whether it were the effect of the
master's presence or natural kindness of heart, I observed nothing but
what was obliging and civil in the curiosity of which I was the object.
I was steeled against all their gibes, but their caressing air, which I
had not expected, overcame me so completely, that I trembled like a child
when things began. I heard all about me a whispering of women who seemed
to me as beautiful as angels, and who said to one another below their
breath, 'This is charming, this is enchanting: there is not a note that
does not appeal to the heart.' The, pleasure of causing emotion in so
many lovable persons moved me myself to tears."

The emotions of the eighteenth century were vivid and easily roused;
fastening upon everything without any earnest purpose, and without any
great sense of responsibility, it grew as hot over a musical dispute as
over the gravest questions of morality or philosophy. Grimm had attacked
French music, Rousseau supported his thesis by a _Lettre sur la Musique_.
It was the moment of the great quarrel between the Parliament and the
clergy. "When my letter appeared, there was no more excitement save
against me," says Rousseau; "it was such that the nation has never
recovered from it. When people read that this pamphlet probably
prevented a revolution in the state, they will fancy they must be
dreaming." And Grimm adds in his correspondence: "The Italian actors who
have been playing for the last ten months on the stage of the Opera de
Paris and who are called here bouffons, have so absorbed the attention of
Paris that the Parliament, in spite of all its measures and proceedings
which should have earned it celebrity, could not but fall into complete
oblivion. A wit has said that the arrival of Manelli saved us from a
civil war; and Jean Jacques Rousseau of Geneva, whom his friends have
dubbed the citizen of citizens (_le citoyen par excellence_), that
eloquent and bilious foe of the sciences, has just set fire to the four
corners of Paris with a _Lettre sur la Musique,_ in which he proves that
it is impossible to set French words to music. . . . What is not easy
to believe, and is none the less true for all that, is that M. Rousseau
was afraid of being banished for this pamphlet. It would have been odd
to see Rousseau banished for having spoken ill of French music, after
having with impunity dealt with the most delicate political matter."

Rousseau had just printed his _Discours sur l'Inegalite des conditions,_
a new and violent picture of the corruptions of human society.
"Inequality being almost nil in a state of nature," he says, "it derives
its force and increment from the development of our faculties and from
the progress of the human mind . . . according to the poet it is gold
and silver, but according to the philosopher it is iron and corn which
have civilized men and ruined the human race."

The singularity of his paradox had worn off; Rousseau no longer
astounded, he shocked the good sense as well as the aspirations,
superficial or generous, of the eighteenth century. The _Discours sur
l'Inegalite des conditions_ was not a success. "I have received, sir,
your new book against the human race," wrote Voltaire; "I thank you for
it. You will please men to whom you tell truths about them, and you will
not make them any better. Never was so much good wit expended in the
desire to make beasts of us; one feels disposed to walk on all fours when
one reads your work. However, as it is more than sixty years since I
lost the knack, I unfortunately find it impossible to recover it, and I
leave that natural gait to those who are better fitted for it than you or
I. No more can I embark upon a visit to the savages of Canada, first,
because the illnesses to which I am subject render a European doctor
necessary to me; secondly, because war has been introduced into that
country, and because the examples of our nations have rendered the
savages almost as wicked as ourselves. I shall confine myself to being a
peaceable savage in the solitude I have selected hard by your own
country, where you ought to be."

Rousseau had, indeed, thought of returning and settling at Geneva. In
1754, during a trip he made thither, he renounced the Catholic faith
which he had embraced at sixteen under the influence of Madame de Warens,
without any more conviction than he carried with him in his fresh
abjuration. "Ashamed," says he, "at being excluded from my rights of
citizenship by the profession of a cult other than that of my fathers, I
resolved to resume the latter openly. I considered that the Gospel was
the same for all Christians, and that, as the fundamental difference of
dogma arose from meddling with explanations of what could not be
understood, it appertained in every country to the sovereigns alone to
fix both the cult and the unintelligible dogma, and that, consequently,
it was the duty of the citizen to accept the dogma and follow the cult
prescribed by law." Strange eccentricity of the human mind! The
shackles of civilization are oppressive to Rousseau, and yet he would
impose the yoke of the state upon consciences. The natural man does not
reflect, and does not discuss his religion; whilst seeking to recover the
obliterated ideal of nature, the philosopher halts on the road at the
principles of Louis XIV. touching religious liberties.

[Illustration: Rousseau and Madame D'Epinay----338]

Madame d'Epinay had offered Rousseau a retreat in her little house, the
Hermitage. There it was that he began the tale of _La Nouvelle Heloise,_
which was finished at Marshal de Montmorency's, when the susceptible and
cranky temper of the philosopher had justified the malevolent predictions
of Grimm. The latter had but lately said to Madame d'Epinay "I see in
Rousseau nothing but pride concealed everywhere about him; you will do
him a very sorry service in giving him a home at the Hermitage, but you
will do yourself a still more sorry one. Solitude will complete the
blackening of his imagination; he will fancy all his friends unjust,
ungrateful, and you first of all, if you once refuse to be at his beck
and call; he will accuse you of having bothered him to live under your
roof and of having prevented him from yielding to the wishes of his
country. I already see the germ of these accusations in the turn of the
letters you have shown me."

Rousseau quarrelled with Madame d'Epinay, and shortly afterwards with all
the philosophical circle: Grimm, Helvetius, D'Holbach, Diderot; his
quarrels with the last were already of old date, they had made some
noise. "Good God!" said the Duke of Castries in astonishment, "wherever
I go I hear of nothing but this Rousseau and this Diderot! Did anybody
ever? Fellows who are nobody, fellows who have no house, who lodge on a
third floor! Positively, one can't stand that sort of thing!" The
rupture was at last complete, it extended to Grimm as well as to Diderot.
"Nobody can put himself in my place," wrote Rousseau, "and nobody will
see that I am a being apart, who has not the character, the maxims, the
resources of the rest of them, and who must not be judged by their

Rousseau was right; he was a being apart; and the philosophers could not
forgive him for his independence. His merits as well as his defects
annoyed them equally: his "Lettre contre les Spectacles" had exasperated
Voltaire, the stage at Deuces as in danger. "It is against that Jean
Jacques of yours that I am most enraged," he writes in his correspondence
with D'Alembert: "he has written several letters against the scandal to
deacons of the Church of Geneva, to my ironmonger, to my cobbler. This
arch-maniac, who might have been something if he had left himself in your
hands, has some notion of standing aloof: he writes against theatricals
after having done a bad play; he writes against France which is a mother
to him; he picks up four or five rotten old hoops off Diogenes' tub and
gets inside them to bay; he cuts his friends; he writes to me myself the
most impertinent letter that ever fanatic scrawled. He writes to me in
so many words, 'You have corrupted Geneva in requital of the asylum she
gave you;' as if I cared to soften the manners of Geneva, as if I wanted
an asylum, as if I had taken any in that city of Socinian preachers, as
if I were under any obligation to that city!"

More moderate and more equitable than Voltaire, D'Alembert felt the
danger of discord amongst the philosophical party. In vain he wrote to
the irritated poet: "I come to Jean Jacques, not Jean Jacques Lefranc de
Pompignan, who thinks he is somebody, but to Jean Jacques Rousseau, who
thinks be is a cynic, and who is only inconsistent and ridiculous. I
grant that he has written you an impertinent letter; I grant that you and
your friends have reason to complain of that; in spite of all this,
however, I do not approve of your declaring openly against him, as you
are doing, and, thereanent, I need only quote to you your own words:
'What will become of the little flock, if it is divided and scattered?'
We do not find that Plato, or Aristotle, or Sophocles, or Euripides,
wrote against Diogenes, although Diogenes said something insulting to
them all. Jean Jacques is a sick man with a good deal of wit, and one
who only has wit when he has fever; he must neither be cured nor have his
feelings hurt." Voltaire replied with haughty temper to these wise
counsels, and the philosophers remained forever embroiled with Rousseau.

Isolated henceforth by the good as well as by the evil tendencies of his
nature, Jean Jacques stood alone against the philosophical circle which
he had dropped, as well as against the Protestant or Catholic clergy
whose creeds he often offended. He had just published _Le Contrat
Social,_ "The Gospel,"; says M. Saint-Marc Girardin, "of the theory as to
the sovereignty of the state representing the sovereignty of the people."
The governing powers of the time had some presentiment of its danger;
they had vaguely comprehended what weapons might be sought therein by
revolutionary instincts and interests; their anxiety and their anger as
yet brooded silently; the director of publications (_de la librairie_),
M. de Malesherbes, was one of the friends and almost one of the disciples
of Rousseau whom he shielded; he himself corrected the proofs of the
_Emile_ which Rousseau had just finished. The book had barely begun to
appear, when, on the 8th of June, 1762, Rousseau was awakened by a
message from la Marchale de Luxembourg: the Parliament had ordered
_Emile_ to be burned, and its author arrested. Rousseau took flight,
reckoning upon finding refuge at Geneva. The influence of the French
government pursued him thither; the Grand Council condemned _Emile_.
One single copy had arrived at Geneva it was this which was burned by the
hand of the common hangman, nine days after the, burning at Paris in the
Place de Greve. "The Contrat Social has received its whipping on the
back of Emile," was the saying at Geneva. "At the instigation of M. de
Voltaire they have avenged upon me the cause of God," Jean Jacques

Rousseau rashly put his name to his book; Voltaire was more prudent.
One day, having been imprisoned for some verses which were not his, he
had taken the resolution to impudently repudiate the paternity of his own
works. "You must never publish anything under your own name," he wrote
to Helvetius; "La Pucelle was none of my doing, of course. Master Joly
de Fleury will make a fine thing of his requisition; I shall tell him
that he is a calumniator, that La Pucelle is his own doing, which he
wants to put down to me out of spite."

Geneva refused asylum to the proscribed philosopher; he was warned of
hostile intentions on the part of the magnific signiors of Berne.
Neuchatel and the King of Prussia's protection alone were left; thither
he went for refuge. Received with open arms by the governor, my lord
Marshal (Keith), he wrote thence to the premier syndic Favre a letter
abdicating his rights of burghership and citizenship in the town of
Geneva. "I have neglected nothing," he said, "to gain the love of my
compatriots; nobody could have had worse success. I desire to indulge
them even in their hate; the last sacrifice remaining for me to make is
that of a name which was dear to me."

Some excitement, nevertheless, prevailed at Geneva; Rousseau had
partisans there. The success of _Emile_ had been immense at Paris, and
was destined to exerciso a serious influence upon the education of a
whole generation. It is good," wrote Voltaire, "that the brethren should
know that yesterday six hundred persons came, for the third time, to
protest on behalf of Jean Jacques against the Council of Geneva, which
had dared to condemn the Vicaire savoyard." The Genevese magistrates
thought it worth while to defend their acts; the _Lettres ecrites de la
Campagne,_ published to that end, were the work of the attorney-general
Robert Tronchin. Rousseau replied to them in the _Lettres de la
Montagne,_ with a glowing eloquence having a spice of irony. He hurled
his missiles at Voltaire, whom, with weakly exaggeration, he accused of
being the author of all his misfortunes. "Those gentlemen of the Grand
Council," he said, "see M. de Voltaire so often, how is it that he did
not inspire them with a little of that tolerance which he is incessantly
preaching, and of which he sometimes has need? If they had consulted him
a little on this matter, it appears to me that he might have addressed
them pretty nearly thus: 'Gentlemen, it is not the arguers who do harm;
philosophy can gang its ain gait without risk;' the people either do not
hear it at all or let it babble on, and pay it back all the disdain it
feels for them. I do not argue myself, but others argue, and what harm
comes of it? We have arranged that my great influence in the court and
my pretended omnipotence should serve you as a pretext for allowing a
free, peaceful course to the sportive jests of my advanced years; that is
a good thing, but do not, for all that, burn graver writings, for that
would be too shocking. I have so often preached tolerance! It must not
be always required of others and never displayed towards them. This poor
creature believes in God, let us pass over that; he will not make a sect.
He is a bore; all arguers are. If all bores of books were to be burned,
the whole country would have to be made into one great fireplace. Come,
come, let us leave those to argue who leave us to joke; let us burn
neither people nor books and remain at peace, that is my advice. That,
in my opinion, is what might have been said, only in better style, by M.
Voltaire, and it would not have been, as it seems to me, the worst advice
he could have given."

My lord Marshal had left Neuchatel; Rousseau no longer felt safe there;
he made up his mind to settle in the Island of St. Pierre, in the middle
of the Lake of Bienne. Before long an order from the Bernese senate
obliged, him to quit it "within four and twenty hours, and with a
prohibition against ever returning, under the heaviest penalties."
Rousseau went through Paris and took refuge in England, whither he was
invited by the friendliness of the historian Hume. There it was that he
began writing his _Confessions_.

Already the reason of the unhappy philosopher, clouded as it had
sometimes been by the violence of his emotions, was beginning to be
shaken at the foundations; he believed himself to be the victim of an
immense conspiracy, at the head of which was his friend Hume. The latter
flew into a rage; he wrote to Baron d'Holbach: "My dear Baron, Rousseau
is a scoundrel." Rousseau was by this time mad.

He returned to France. The Prince of Conti, faithful to his
philosophical affections, quartered him at the castle of Trye, near
Gisors. Thence he returned to Paris, still persecuted, he said, by
invisible enemies. Retiring, finally, to the pavilion of Ermenonville,
which had been offered to him by M. de Girardin, he died there at the age
of sixty-six, sinking even more beneath imaginary woes than under the
real sorrows and bitter deceptions of his life. The disproportion
between his intellect and his character, between the boundless pride and
the impassioned weakness of his spirit, had little by little estranged
his friends and worn out the admiration of his contemporaries. By his
writings Rousseau acted more powerfully upon posterity than upon his own
times: his personality had ceased to do his genius injustice.

He belonged moreover and by anticipation to a new era; from the restless
working of his mind, as well as from his moral and political tendencies,
he was no longer of the eighteenth century properly speaking, though the
majority of the philosophers outlived him; his work was not their work,
their world was never his. He had attempted a noble reaction, but one
which was fundamentally and in reality impossible. The impress of his
early education had never been thoroughly effaced: he believed in God, he
had been nurtured upon the Gospel in childhood, he admired the morality
and the life of Jesus Christ; but he stopped at the boundaries of
adoration and submission. "The spirit of Jean Jacques Rousseau inhabits
the moral world, but not that other which is above," M. Joubert has said
in his _Pensees_. The weapons were insufficient and the champion was too
feeble for the contest; the spirit of the moral world was vanquished as a
foregone conclusion. Against the systematic infidelity which was more
and more creeping over the eighteenth century, the Christian faith alone,
with all its forces, could fight and triumph. But the Christian faith
was obscured and enfeebled, it clung to the vessel's rigging instead of
defending its powerful hull; the flood was rising meanwhile, and the
dikes were breaking one after, another. The religious belief of the
Savoyard vicar, imperfect and inconsistent, such as it is set forth in
_Emile,_ and that sincere love of nature which was recovered by Rousseau
in his solitude, remained powerless to guide the soul and regulate life.

"What the eighteenth century lacked [M. Guizot, _Melanges biographiques_
(Madame la Comtesse de Rumford)], "what there was of superficiality in
its ideas and of decay in its morals, of senselessness in its pretensions
and of futility in its creative power, has been strikingly revealed to us
by experience; we have learned it to our cost. We know, we feel the evil
bequeathed to us by that memorable epoch. It preached doubt, egotism,
materialism. It laid for some time an impure and blasting hand upon
noble and beautiful phases of human life. But if the eighteenth century
had done only that, if such had been merely its chief characteristic, can
any one suppose that it would have carried in its wake so many and such
important matters, that it would have so moved the world? It was far
superior to all its sceptics, to all its cynics. What do I say?
Superior? Nay, it was essentially opposed to them and continually gave
them the lie. Despite the weakness of its morals, the frivolity of its
forms, the mere dry bones of such and such of its doctrines, despite its
critical and destructive tendency, it was an ardent and a sincere
century, a century of faith and disinterestedness. It had faith in the
truth, for it claimed the right thereof to reign in this world. It had
faith in humanity, for it recognized the right thereof to perfect itself
and would have had that right exercised without obstruction. It erred,
it lost itself amid this twofold confidence; it attempted what was far
beyond its right and power; it misjudged the moral nature of man and the
conditions of the social state. Its ideas as well as its works
contracted the blemish of its views. But, granted so much, the original
idea, dominant in the eighteenth century, the belief that man, truth, and
society are made for one another, worthy of one another, and called upon
to form a union, this correct and salutary belief rises up and overtops
all its history. That belief it was the first to proclaim and would fain
have realized. Hence its power and its popularity over the whole face of
the earth. Hence also, to descend from great things to small, and from
the destiny of man to that of the drawing-room, hence the seductiveness
of that epoch and the charm it scattered over social, life. Never before
were seen all the conditions, all the classes that form the flower of a
great people, however diverse they might have been in their history and
still were in their interests, thus forgetting their past, their
personality, in order to draw near to one another, to unite in a
communion of the sweetest manners, and solely occupied in pleasing one
another, in rejoicing and hoping together during fifty years which were
to end in the most terrible conflicts between them."

At the death of King Louis XV., in 1774, the easy-mannered joyance, the
peaceful and brilliant charm of fashionable and philosophical society
were reaching their end: the time of stern realities was approaching with
long strides.


[Illustration: Louis XVI.----347]

Louis XV. was dead; France breathed once more; she was weary of the
weakness as well as of the irregularities of the king who had untaught
her her respect for him, and she turned with joyous hope towards his
successor, barely twenty years of age, but already loved and impatiently
awaited by his people. "He must be called Louis le Desire," was the
saying in the streets before the death-rattle of Louis XV. had summoned
his grandson to the throne. The feeling of dread which had seized the
young king was more prophetic than the nation's joy. At the news that
Louis XV. had just heaved his last sigh in the arms of his pious
daughters, Louis XVI. and Maria Antoinette both flung themselves on their
knees, exclaiming, "O God, protect us, direct us, we are too young."

The monarch's youth did not scare the country, itself everywhere animated
and excited by a breath of youth. There were congratulations on escaping
from the well-known troubles of a regency; the king's ingenuous
inexperience, moreover, opened a vast field for the most contradictory
hopes. The philosophers counted upon taking possession of the mind of a
good young sovereign, who was said to have his heart set upon his
people's happiness; the clergy and the Jesuits themselves expected
everything from the young prince's pious education; the old parliaments,
mutilated, crushed down, began to raise up their heads again, while the
economists were already preparing their most daring projects. Like
literature, the arts had got the start, in the new path, of the
politicians and the magistrates. M. Turgot and M. de Malesherbes had
not yet laid their enterprising hands upon the old fabric of French
administration, and already painting, sculpture, architecture, and music
had shaken off the shackles of the past. The conventional graces of
Vanloo, of Watteau, of Boucher, of Fragonard, had given place to a
severer school. Greuze was putting upon canvas the characters and ideas
of Diderot's _Drame naturel;_ but Vien, in France, was seconding the
efforts of Winkelman and of Raphael Mengs in Italy; he led his pupils
back to the study of ancient art; he had trained Regnault, Vincent,
Menageot, and lastly Louis David, destined to become the chief of the
modern school; Julien, Houdon, the last of the Coustous, were following
the same road in sculpture Soufflot, an old man by this time, was
superintending the completion of the church of St. Genevieve, dedicated
by Louis XV. to the commemoration of his recovery at Metz, and destined,
from the majestic simplicity of its lines, to the doubtful honor of
becoming the Pantheon of the revolution; Servandoni had died a short time
since, leaving to the church of St. Sulpice the care of preserving his
memory; everywhere were rising charming mansions imitated from the
palaces of Rome. The painters, the sculptors, and the architects of
France were sufficient for her glory; only Gretry and Monsigny upheld the
honor of that French music which was attacked by Grimm and by Jean
Jacques Rousseau; but it was at Paris that the great quarrel went on
between the Italians and the Germans; Piccini and Gluck divided society,
wherein their rivalry excited violent passions. Everywhere and on, all
questions, intellectual movement was becoming animated with fresh ardor;
France was marching towards the region of storms, in the blindness of her
confidence and _joyante;_ the atmosphere seemed purer since Madame
Dubarry had been sent to a convent by one of the first orders of young
Louis XVI.

Already, however, far-seeing spirits were disquieted; scarcely had he
mounted the throne, when the king summoned to his side, as his minister,
M. de Maurepas, but lately banished by Louis XV., in 1749, on a charge of
having tolerated, if not himself written, songs disrespectful towards
Madame de Pompadour. "The first day," said the disgraced minister, "I
was nettled; the second, I was comforted."

M. de Maurepas, grandson of Chancellor Pontchartrain, had been provided
for, at fourteen years of age, by Louis XIV. with the reversion of the
ministry of marine, which had been held by his father, and had led a
frivolous and pleasant life; through good fortune and evil fortune he
clung to the court; when he was recalled thither, at the age of sixty-
three, on the suggestion of Madame Adelaide, the queen's aunt, and of the
dukes of Aiguillon and La Vrilliere, both of them ministers and relations
of his, he made up his mind that he would never leave it again. On
arriving at Versailles, he used the expression, "premier minister."
"Not at all," said the king abruptly. "O, very well," replied M. de
Maurepas, "then to teach your Majesty to do without one." Nobody,
however, did any business with Louis XVI. without his being present,
and his address was sufficient to keep at a distance or diminish the
influence of the princesses as well as of the queen. Marie Antoinette
had insisted upon the recall of M. de Choiseul, who had arranged her
marriage and who had remained faithful to the Austrian alliance. The
king had refused angrily. The sinister accusations which had but lately
been current as to the causes of the dauphin's death had never been
forgotten by his son.

An able man, in spite of his incurable levity, M. de Maurepas soon
sacrificed the Duke of Aiguillon to the queen's resentment; the people
attached to the old court accused her of despising etiquette; it was said
that she had laughed when she received the respectful condolence of aged
dames looking like beguines in their coifs; already there circulated
amongst the public bitter ditties, such as,

My little queen, not twenty-one,
Maltreat the folks, as you've begun,
And o'er the border you shall run. . . .

The Duke of Aiguillon, always hostile to the Choiseuls and the House of
Austria, had lent his countenance to the murmurs; Marie Antoinette was
annoyed, and, in her turn, fostered the distrust felt by the people
towards the late ministers of Louis XV. In the place of the Duke of
Aiguillon, who had the ministry of war and that of foreign affairs both
together, the Count of Muy and the Count of Vergennes were called to
power. Some weeks later, the obscure minister of marine, M. de Boynes,
made way for the superintendent of the district (generalite) of Limoges,
M. Turgot.

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, born at Paris on the 10th of May, 1727, was
already known and everywhere esteemed, when M. de Maurepas, at the
instance, it is said, of his wife whom he consulted on all occasions,
summoned him to the ministry. He belonged to an ancient and important
family by whom he had been intended for the Church. When a pupil at
Louis-le-Grand college, he spent his allowance so quickly that his
parents became alarmed; they learned before long that the young man
shared all he received amongst out-of-college pupils too poor to buy

This noble concern for the wants of others, as well as his rare gifts
of intellect, had gained young Turgot devoted friends. He was already
leaning towards philosophy, and he announced to his fellow-pupils his
intention of giving up his ecclesiastical status; he was a prior of
Sorbonne; the majority disapproved of it. "Thou'rt but a younger son of
a Norman family," they said, "and, consequently, poor. Thou'rt certain
to get excellent abbotries and to be a bishop early. Then thou'lt be
able to realize thy fine dreams of administration and to become a
statesman at thy leisure, whilst doing all manner of good in thy diocese.
It depends on thyself alone to make thyself useful to thy country, to
acquire a high reputation, perhaps to carve thy way to the ministry; if
thou enter the magistracy, as thou desirest, thou breakest the plank
which is under thy feet, thou'lt be confined to hearing causes, and
thou'lt waste thy genius, which is fitted for the most important public
affairs." "I am very fond of you," my dear friends," replied M. Turgot,
"but I don't quite understand what you are made of. As for me, it would
be impossible for me to devote myself to wearing a mask all my life." He
became councillor-substitute to the attorney-general, and before long
councillor in the Parliament, on the 30th of December, 1752. Master of
requests in 1753, he consented to sit in the King's Chamber, when the
Parliament suspended the administration of justice. "The Court," he
said, "is exceeding its powers." A sense of equity thus enlisted him in
the service of absolute government. He dreaded, moreover, the corporate
spirit, which he considered narrow and intolerant. "When you say, We,"
he would often repeat, "do not be surprised that the public should
answer, You."

Intimately connected with the most esteemed magistrates and economists,
such as MM. Trudaine, Quesnay, and Gournay, at the same time that he was
writing in the _Encyclopaedia,_ and constantly occupied in useful work,
Turgot was not yet five and thirty when he was appointed superintendent
of the district of Limoges. There, the rare faculties of his mind and
his sincere love of good found their natural field; the country was poor,
crushed under imposts, badly intersected by roads badly kept, inhabited
by an ignorant populace, violently hostile to the recruitment of the
militia. He encouraged agriculture, distributed the talliages more
equitably, amended the old roads and constructed new ones, abolished
forced labor (_corvees_), provided for the wants of the poor and wretched
during the dearth of 1770 and 1771, and declined, successively, the
superintendentship of Rouen, of Lyons, and of Bordeaux, in order that he
might be able to complete the useful tasks he had begun at Limoges. It
was in that district, which had become dear to him, that he was sought
out by the kindly remembrance of Abbe de Wry, his boyhood's friend, who
was intimate with Madame de Maurepas. Scarcely had he been installed in
the department of marine and begun to conceive vast plans, when the late
ministers of Louis XV. succumbed at last beneath the popular hatred; in
the place of Abbe Terray, M. Turgot became comptroller-general.

The old parliamentarians were triumphant; at the same time as Abbe
Terray, Chancellor Maupeou was disgraced, and the judicial system he had
founded fell with him. Unpopular from the first, the Maupeou Parliament
had remained in the nation's eyes the image of absolute power corrupted
and corrupting. The suit between Beaumarchais and Councillor Goezman had
contributed to decry it, thanks to the uproar the able pamphleteer had
managed to cause; the families of the former magistrates were powerful,
numerous, esteemed, and they put pressure upon public opinion; M. de
Maurepas determined to retract the last absolutist attempt of Louis XV.'s
reign; his first care was to send and demand of Chancellor Maupeou the
surrender of the seals. "I know what you have come to tell me," said the
latter to the Duke of La Vrilliere, who was usually charged with this
painful mission, "but I am and shall continue to be chancellor of
France," and he kept his seat whilst addressing the minister, in
accordance with his official privilege. He handed to the duke the
casket of seals, which the latter was to take straight to M. de
Miromesnil. "I had gained the king a great cause," said Maupeou; "he is
pleased to reopen a question which was decided; as to that he is master."
Imperturbable and haughty as ever, he retired to his estate at Thuit,
near the Andelys, where he drew up a justificatory memorandum of his
ministry, which he had put into the king's hands, without ever attempting
to enter the court or Paris again; he died in the country, at the outset
of the revolutionary storms, on the 29th of July, 1792, just as he had
made the State a patriotic present of 800,000 livres. At the moment when
the populace were burning him in effigy in the streets of Paris together
with Abbe Terray, when he saw the recall of the parliamentarians, and the
work of his whole life destroyed, he repeated with his usual coolness:
"If the king is pleased to lose his kingdom--well, he is master."

Abbe Terray had been less proud, and was more harshly treated. It was in
vain that he sought to dazzle the young king with ably prepared
memorials. "I can do no more," he said, "to add to the receipts, which I
have increased by sixty millions; I can do no more to keep down the.
debts, which I have reduced by twenty millions. . . . It is for you,
Sir, to relieve your people by reducing the expenses. This work, which
is worthy of your kind heart, was reserved for you." Abbe Terray had to
refund nearly 900,000 livres to the public treasury. Being recognized by
the mob as he was passing over the Seine in a ferry-boat, he had some
difficulty in escaping from the hands of those who would have hurled him
into the river.

The contrast was great between the crafty and unscrupulous ability of the
disgraced comptroller-general and the complete disinterestedness, large
views, and noble desire of good which animated his successor. After his
first interview with the king, at Compiegne, M. Turgot wrote to Louis
XVI.:--"Your Majesty has been graciously pleased to permit me to place
before your eyes the engagement you took upon yourself, to support me in
the execution of plans of economy which are at all times, and now more
than ever, indispensable. I confine myself for the moment, Sir, to
reminding you of these three expressions: 1. No bankruptcies; 2. No
augmentation of imposts; 3. No loans. No bankruptcy, either avowed or
masked by forced reductions. No augmentation of imposts the reason for
that lies in the condition of your people, and still more in your
Majesty's own heart. No loans; because every loan always diminishes the
disposable revenue: it necessitates, at the end of a certain time, either
bankruptcy or augmentation of imposts. . . . Your Majesty will not
forget that, when I accepted the office of comptroller-general, I
perceived all the preciousness of the confidence with which you honor me;
. . . but, at the same time I perceived all the danger to which I was
exposing myself. I foresaw that I should have to fight single-handed
against abuses of every sort, against the efforts of such as gain by
those abuses, against the host of the prejudiced who oppose every reform,
and who, in the hands of interested persons, are so powerful a means of
perpetuating disorder. I shall be feared, shall be even hated by the
greater part of the court, by all that solicit favors. . . . This
people to whom I shall have sacrificed myself is so easy to deceive, that
I shall perhaps incur its hatred through the very measures I shall take
to defend it against harassment. I shall be calumniated, and perhaps
with sufficient plausibility to rob me of your Majesty's confidence.
. . . You will remember that it is on the strength of your promises
that I undertake a burden perhaps beyond my strength; that it is to you
personally, to the honest man, to the just and good man, rather than to
the king, that I commit myself."

It is to the honor of Louis XVI. that the virtuous men who served him,
often with sorrow and without hoping anything from their efforts, always
preserved their confidence in his intentions. "It is quite encouraging,"
wrote M. Turgot to one of his friends, "to have to serve a king who is
really an honest and a well-meaning man." The burden of the necessary
reforms was beyond the strength of the minister as well as of the
sovereign; the violence of opposing currents was soon about to paralyze
their genuine efforts and their generous hopes.

M. Turgot set to work at once. Whilst governing his district of Limoges,
he had matured numerous plans and shaped extensive theories. He belonged
to his times and to the school of the philosophers as regarded his
contempt for tradition and history; it was to natural rights alone, to
the innate and primitive requirements of mankind, that he traced back his
principles and referred as the basis for all his attempts. "The rights
of associated men are not founded upon their history but upon their
nature," says the _Memoire au Roi sur les Municipalites,_ drawn up under
the eye of Turgot. By this time he desired no more to reform old France;
he wanted a new France. "Before ten years are over," he would say, "the
nation will not be recognizable, thanks to enlightenment. This chaos
will have assumed a distinct form. Your Majesty will have quite a new
people, and the first of peoples." A profound error, which was that of
the whole Revolution, and the consequences of which would have been
immediately fatal; if the powerful instinct of conservatism and of
natural respect for the past had not maintained between the regimen which
was crumbling away and the new fabric connections more powerful and more
numerous than their friends as well as their enemies were aware of.

Two fundamental principles regulated the financial system of M. Turgot,
economy in expenditure and freedom in trade; everywhere he ferreted out
abuses, abolishing useless offices and payments, exacting from the entire
administration that strict probity of which he set the example. Louis
XVI. supported him conscientiously at that time in all his reforms; the
public made fun of it. "The king," it was said, "when he considers
himself an abuse, will be one no longer." At the same time, a decree of
September 13, 1774, re-established at home that freedom of trade in grain
which had been suspended by Abbe Terray, and the edict of April, 1776,
founded freedom of trade in wine. "It is by trade alone, and by free
trade, that the inequality of harvests can be corrected," said the
minister in the preamble of his decree. "I have just read M. Turgot's
masterpiece," wrote Voltaire to D'Alembert "it seems to reveal to us new
heavens and a new earth." It was on account of his financial innovations
that the comptroller-general particularly dreaded the return of the old
Parliament, with which he saw himself threatened every day. "I fear
opposition from the Parliament," he said to the king. "Fear nothing,"
replied the king warmly, "I will stand by you;" and, passing over the
objections of the best politician amongst his ministers, he yielded to M.
de Maurepas, who yielded to public opinion. On the 12th of November,
1774, the old Parliament was formally restored.

The king appeared at the bed of justice; the princes, the dukes, and the
peers were present; the magistrates were introduced. "The king my
grandfather," said Louis XVI., "compelled by your resistance to his
repeated orders, did what the maintenance of his authority and the
obligation of rendering justice to his people required of his wisdom.
Today I recall you to functions which you never ought to have given up.
Appreciate all the value of my bounties, and do not forget them." At the
same time the keeper of the seals read out an edict which subjected the
restored Parliament to the same jurisdiction which had controlled the
Maupeou Parliament. The latter had been sent to Versailles to form a
grand council there.

Stern words are but a sorry cloak for feeble actions: the restored
magistrates grumbled at the narrow limits imposed upon their authority;
the Duke of Orleans, the Duke of Chartres, the Prince of Conti supported
their complaints; it was in vain that the king for some time met them
with refusals; threats soon gave place to concessions; and the
parliaments everywhere reconstituted, enfeebled in the eyes of public
opinion, but more than ever obstinate and Fronde-like, found themselves
free to harass, without doing any good, the march of an administration
becoming every day more difficult. "Your Parliament may make
barricades," Lord Chesterfield had remarked contemptuously to
Montesquieu, "it will never raise barriers."

M. Turgot, meanwhile, was continuing his labors, preparing a project for
equitable redistribution of the talliage and his grand system of a
graduated scale (_hierarchie_) of municipal assemblies, commencing with
the parish, to culminate in a general meeting of delegates from each
province; he threatened, in the course of his reforms, the privileges of
the noblesse and of the clergy, and gave his mind anxiously to the
instruction of the people, whose condition and welfare he wanted to
simultaneously elevate and augment; already there was a buzz of murmurs
against him, confined as yet to the courtiers, when the dearness of bread
and the distress which ensued till the spring of 1775 furnished his
adversaries with a convenient pretext. Up to that time the attacks had
been cautious and purely theoretical. M. Necker, an able banker from
Geneva, for a long while settled in Paris, hand and glove with the
philosophers, and keeping up, moreover, a great establishment, had
brought to the comptroller-general a work which he had just finished on
the trade in grain; on many points he did not share M. Turgot's opinions.
"Be kind enough to ascertain for yourself," said the banker to the
minister, "whether the book can be published without inconvenience to the
government." M. Turgot was proud and sometimes rude. "Publish, sir,
publish," said he, without offering his hand to take the manuscript; "the
public shall decide." M. Necker, out of pique, published his book; it
had an immense sale; other pamphlets, more violent and less solid, had
already appeared; at the same moment a riot, which seemed to have been
planned and to be under certain guidance, broke out in several parts of
France. Drunken men shouted about the public thoroughfares, "Bread!
cheap bread!"

Burgundy had always been restless and easily excited. It was at Dijon
that the insurrection began; on the 20th of April, the peasantry moved
upon the town and smashed the furniture of a councillor in the Maupeou
Parliament, who was accused of monopoly; they were already overflowing
the streets; exasperated by the cruel answer of the governor, M. de la
Tour du Pin: "You want something to eat? Go and graze; the grass is just
coming up." The burgesses trembled in their houses; the bishop threw
himself in the madmen's way and succeeded in calming them with his
exhortations. The disturbance had spread to Pontoise; there the riot
broke out on the 1st of May, the market was pillaged; and the 2d, at
Versailles, a mob collected under the balcony of the castle. Everywhere
ruffians of sinister appearance mingled with the mob, exciting its
passions and urging it to acts of violence: the same men, such as are
only seen in troublous days, were at the same time scouring Brie,
Soissonnais, Vexin, and Upper Normandy; already barns had been burned and
wheat thrown into the river; sacks of flour were ripped to pieces before
the king's eyes, at Versailles. In his excitement and dismay he promised
the mob that the bread-rate should for the future be fixed at two sous;
the rioters rushed to Paris.

M. Turgot had been confined to his bed for some months by an attack of
gout; the Paris bakers' shops had already been pillaged; the rioters had
entered simultaneously by several gates, badly guarded; only one bakery,
the owner of which had taken the precaution of putting over the door a
notice with shop to let on it, had escaped the madmen. The
comptroller-general had himself put into his carriage and driven to
Versailles: at his advice the king withdrew his rash concession; the
current price of bread was maintained. "No firing upon them," Louis XVI.
insisted. The lieutenant of police, Lenoir, had shown weakness and
inefficiency; Marshal Biron was intrusted with the repression of the
riot. He occupied all the main thoroughfares and cross-roads; sentries
were placed at the bakers' doors; those who had hidden themselves were
compelled to bake. The _octroi_ dues on grain were at the same time
suspended at all the markets; wheat was already going down; when the
Parisians went out of doors to see the riot, they couldn't find any.
"Well done, general in command of the flour (_general des farina_)," said
the tremblers, admiring the military arrangements of Marshal Biron.

The Parliament had caused to be placarded a decree against street
assemblies, at the same time requesting the king to lower the price of
bread. The result was deplorable; the severe resolution, of the council
was placarded beside the proclamation of the Parliament; the magistrates
were summoned to Versailles. The prosecution of offenders was forbidden
them; it was intrusted to the provost's department. "The proceedings of
the brigands appear to be combined," said the keeper of the seals; "their
approach is announced; public rumors indicate the day, the hour, the
places at which they are to commit their outrages. It would seem as if
there were a plan formed to lay waste the country-places, intercept
navigation, prevent the carriage of wheat on the high-roads, in order to
starve out the large towns, and especially the city of Paris." The king
at the same time forbade any "remonstrance." I rely," said he on
dismissing the court, "upon your placing no obstacle or hinderance in the
way of the measures I have taken, in order that no similar event may
occur during the period of my reign."

The troubles were everywhere subsiding, the merchants were recovering
their spirits. M. Turgot had at once sent fifty thousand francs to a
trader whom the rioters had robbed of a boat full of wheat which they had
flung into the river; two of the insurgents were at the same time hanged
at Paris on a gallows forty feet high; and a notice was sent to the
parish priests, which they were to read from the pulpit in order to
enlighten the people as to the folly of such outbreaks and as to the
conditions of the trade in grain. "My people, when they know the authors
of the trouble, will regard them with horror," said the royal circular.
The authors of the trouble have remained unknown; to his last day M.
Turgot believed in the existence of a plot concocted by the Prince of
Conti, with the design of overthrowing him.

Severities were hateful to the king; he had misjudged his own character,
when, at the outset of his reign, he had desired the appellation of Louis
le Severe. "Have we nothing to reproach ourselves with in these
measures?" he was incessantly asking M. Turgot, who was as conscientious
but more resolute than his master. An amnesty preceded the coronation,
which was to take place at Rheims on the 11th of June, 1775.

A grave question presented itself as regarded the king's oath: should he
swear, as the majority of his predecessors had sworn, to exterminate
heretics? M. Turgot had aroused Louis XVI.'s scruples upon this subject.
"Tolerance ought to appear expedient in point of policy for even an
infidel prince," he said; "but it ought to be regarded as a sacred duty
for a religious prince." His opinion had been warmly supported by M. de
Malesherbes, premier president of the Court of Aids. The king in his
perplexity consulted M. de Maurepas. "M. Turgot is right," said the
minister, "but he is too bold. What he proposes could hardly be
attempted by a prince who came to the throne at a ripe age and in
tranquil times. That is not your position. The fanatics are more to be
dreaded than the heretics. The latter are accustomed to their present
condition. It will always be easy for you not to employ persecution.
Those old formulas, of which nobody takes any notice, are no longer
considered to be binding." The king yielded; he made no change in the
form of the oath, and confined himself to stammering out a few incoherent
words. At the coronation of Louis XV. the people, heretofore admitted
freely to the cathedral, had been excluded; at the coronation of Louis
XVI. the officiator, who was the coadjutor of Rheims, omitted the usual
formula addressed to the whole assembly, "Will you have this king for
your king?" This insolent neglect was soon to be replied to by the
sinister echo of the sovereignty of the people. The clergy, scared by M.
Turgot's liberal tendencies, reiterated their appeals to the king against
the liberties tacitly accorded to Protestants. "Finish," they said to
Louis XVI., "the work which Louis the Great began, and which Louis the
Well-beloved continued." The king answered with vague assurances;
already MM. Turgot and de Malesherbes were entertaining him with a
project which conceded to Protestants the civil status.

M. de Malesherhes, indeed, had been for some months past seconding his
friend in the weighty task which the latter had undertaken. Born at
Paris on the 6th of December, 1721, son of the chancellor William de
Lamoignon, and for the last twenty-three years premier president in the
Court of Aids, Malesherbes had invariably fought on behalf of honest
right and sound liberty; popularity had followed him in exile; it had
increased continually since the accession of Louis XVI., who lost no time
in recalling him; he had just presented to the king a remarkable
memorandum touching the reform of the fiscal regimen, when M. Turgot
proposed to the king to call him to the ministry in the place of the Duke
of La Vrilliere. M. de Maurepas made no objection. "He will be the link
of the ministry," he said, "because he has the eloquence of tongue and of
heart." "Rest assured," wrote Mdlle. de Lespinasse, "that what is well
will be done and will be done well. Never, no never, were two more
enlightened, more disinterested, more virtuous men more powerfully knit
together in a greater and a higher cause." The first care of M. de.
Malesherbes was to protest against the sealed letters (_lettres de
cachet_--summary arrest), the application whereof he was for putting in
the hands of a special tribunal; he visited the Bastille, releasing the
prisoners confined on simple suspicion. He had already dared to advise
the king to a convocation of the states-general. "In France," he had
written to Louis XVI., "the nation has always had a deep sense of its
right and its liberty. Our maxims have been more than once recognized by
our kings; they have even gloried in being the sovereigns of a free
people. Meanwhile, the articles of this liberty have never been reduced
to writing, and the real power, the power of arms, which, under a feudal
government, was in the hands of the grandees, has been completely centred
in the kingly power. . . . We ought not to hide from you, Sir, that
the way which would be most simple, most natural, and most in conformity
with the constitution of this monarchy, would be to hear the nation
itself in full assembly, and nobody should have the poltroonery to use
any other language to you; nobody should leave you in ignorance that the
unanimous wish of the nation is to obtain states-general or at the least
states-provincial. . . . Deign to consider, Sir, that on the day you
grant this precious liberty to your people it may be said that a treaty
has been concluded between king and nation against ministers and
magistrates: against the ministers, if there be any perverted enough to
wish to conceal from you the truth; against the magistrates, if there
ever be any ambitious enough to pretend to have the exclusive right of
telling you it."

Almost the whole ministry was in the hands of reformers; a sincere desire
to do good impelled the king towards those who promised him the happiness
of his people. Marshal Muy had succumbed to a painful operation. "Sir,"
he had said to Louis XVI., before placing himself in the surgeon's hands,
"in a fortnight I shall be at your Majesty's feet or with your august
father." He had succumbed. M. Turgot spoke to M. de Maurepas of the
Duke of St. Germain. "Propose him to the king," said the minister,
adding his favorite phrase "one can but try."

In the case of government, trials are often a dangerous thing. M. de St.
Germain, born in the Jura in 1707, and entered first of all amongst the
Jesuits, had afterwards devoted himself to the career of arms: he had
served the Elector Palatine, Maria Theresa, and the Elector of Bavaria;
enrolled finally by Marshal Saxe, he had distinguished himself under his
orders; as lieutenant-general during the Seven Years' War, he had brought
up his divisionn at Rosbach more quickly than his colleagues had theirs,
he had fled less far than the others before the enemy; but his character
was difficult, suspicious, exacting; he was always seeing everywhere
plots concocted to ruin him. "I am persecuted to the death," he would
say. He entered the service of Denmark: returning to France and in
poverty, he lived in Alsace on the retired list; it was there that the
king's summons came to find him out. In his solitude M. de St. Germain
had conceived a thousand projects of reform; he wanted to apply them all
at once. He made no sort of case of the picked corps and suppressed the
majority of them, thus irritating, likewise, all the privileged. "M. de
St. Germain," wrote Frederick II. to Voltaire, "had great and noble plans
very advantageous for your Welches; but everybody thwarted him, because
the reforms he proposed would have entailed a strictness which was
repugnant to them on ten thousand sluggards, well frogged, well laced."
The enthusiasm which had been excited by the new minister of war had
disappeared from amongst the officers; he lost the hearts of the soldiers
by wanting to establish in the army the corporal punishments in use
amongst the German armies in which he had served. The feeling was so
strong, that the attempt was abandoned. "In the matter of sabres," said
a grenadier, "I like only the edge." Violent and weak both together, in
spite of his real merit and his genuine worth, often giving up wise
resolutions out of sheer embarrassment, he nearly always failed in what
he undertook; the outcries against the reformers were increased thereby;
the faults of M. de St. Germain were put down to M. Turgot.

It was against the latter indeed, that the courtiers' anger and M. de
Maurepas' growing jealousy were directed. "Once upon a time there was
in France," said a ,pamphlet, entitled _Le Songe de M. de Maurepas,_
attributed to Monsieur, the king's brother,--"there was in France a
certain man, clumsy, crass, heavy, born with more of rudeness than of
character, more of obstinacy than of firmness, of impetuosity than of
tact, a charlatan in administration as well as in virtue, made to bring
the one into disrepute and the other into disgust, in other respects shy
from self-conceit, timid from pride, as unfamiliar with men, whom he had
never known, as with public affairs, which he had always seen askew; his
name was Turgot. He was one of those half-thinking brains which adopt
all visions, all manias of a gigantic sort. He was believed to be deep,
he was really shallow; night and day he was raving of philosophy,
liberty, equality, net product." "He is too much (trop fort) for me," M.
de Maurepas would often say. "A man must be possessed (or inspired--
_enrage_)," wrote Malesherbes, "to force, at one and the same time, the
hand of the king, of M. de Maurepas, of the whole court and of the

Perhaps the task was above human strength; it was certainly beyond that
of M. Turgot. Ever occupied with the public weal, he turned his mind to
every subject, issuing a multiplicity of decrees, sometimes with rather
chimerical hopes. He had proposed to the king six edicts; two were
extremely important; the first abolished jurorships (_jurandes_) and
masterships (_maitrises_) among the workmen. "The king," said the
preamble, "wishes to secure to all his subjects, and especially to the
humblest, to those who have no property but their labor and their
industry, the full and entire enjoyment of their rights, and to reform,
consequently, the institutions which strike at those rights, and which,
in spite of their antiquity, have failed to be legalized by time,
opinion, and even the acts of authority." The second substituted for
forced labor on roads and highways an impost to which all proprietors
were equally liable.

This was the first step towards equal redistribution of taxes; great was
the explosion of disquietude and wrath on the part of the privileged; it
showed itself first in the council, by the mouth of M. de Miromesnil;
Turgot sprang up with animation. "The keeper of the seals," he said,
"seems to adopt the principle that, by the constitution of the state, the
noblesse ought to be exempt from all taxation. This idea will appear a
paradox to the majority of the nation. The commoners (_roturiers_) are
certainly the greatest number, and we are no longer in the days when
their voices did not count." The king listened to the discussion in
silence. "Come," he exclaimed abruptly, "I see that there are only M.
Turgot and I here who love the people," and he signed the edicts.

The Parliament, like the noblesse, had taken up the cudgels; they made
representation after representation. "The populace of France," said the
court boldly, "is liable to talliage and forced labor at will, and that
is a part of the constitution which the king cannot change." Louis XVI.
summoned the Parliament to Versailles, and had the edicts enregistered at
a bed of justice. "It is a bed of beneficence!" exclaimed Voltaire, a
passionate admirer of Turgot.

The comptroller-general was triumphant; but his victory was but the
prelude to his fall. Too many enemies were leagued against him,
irritated both by the noblest qualities of his character, and at the same
time by the natural defects of his manners. Possessed of love "for a
beautiful ideal, of a rage for perfection," M. Turgot had wanted to
attempt everything, undertake everything, reform everything at one blow.
He fought single-handed. M. de Malesherbes, firm as a rock at the head
of the Court of Aids, supported as he was by the traditions and corporate
feeling of the magistracy, had shown weakness as a minister. "I could
offer the king only uprightness and good-heartedness," he said himself,
"two qualities insufficient to make a minister, even a mediocre one."
The courtiers, in fact, called him "good-heart" (_bonhomme_). "M. de
Malesherbes has doubts about everything," wrote Madame du Deffand; "M.
Turgot has doubts about nothing." M. de Maurepas having, of set purpose,
got up rather a serious quarrel with him, Malesherbes sent in his
resignation to the king; the latter pressed him to withdraw it: the
minister remained inflexible. "You are better off than I," said Louis
XVI. at last, "you can abdicate."

For a long while the king had remained faithful to M. Turgot. "People
may say what they like," he would repeat, with sincere conviction, "but
he is an honest man!" Infamous means were employed, it is said, with the
king; he was shown forged letters, purporting to come from M. Turgot,
intercepted at the post and containing opinions calculated to wound his
Majesty himself. To pacify the jealousy of M. de Maurepas, Turgot had
given up his privilege of working alone with the king. Left to the
adroit manoeuvres of his old minister, Louis XVI. fell away by degrees
from the troublesome reformer against whom were leagued all those who
were about him. The queen had small liking for M. Turgot, whose strict
economy had cut down the expenses of her household; contrary to their
usual practice, her most trusted servants abetted the animosity of M. de
Maurepas. "I confess that I am not sorry for these departures," wrote
Marie Antoinette to her mother, after the fall of M. Turgot, "but I have
had nothing to do with them." "Sir," M. Turgot had written to Louis
XVI., "monarchs governed by courtiers have but to choose between the fate
of Charles I. and that of Charles XI." The coolness went on increasing
between the king and his minister. On the 12th of May, 1776, the
comptroller-general entered the king's closet; he had come to speak to
him about a new project for an edict; the exposition of reasons was, as
usual, a choice morsel of political philosophy. "Another commentary!"
said the king with temper. He listened, however. When the
comptroller-general had finished, "Is that all?" asked the king. "Yes,
Sir." "So much the better," and he showed the minister out. A few hours
later, M. Turgot received his dismissal.

[Illustration: Turgot's Dismissal----367]

He was at his desk, drawing up an important decree; he laid down his pen,
saying quietly, "My successor will finish;" and when M. de Maurepas
hypocritically expressed his regret, "I retire," said M. Turgot, "without
having to reproach myself with feebleness, or falseness, or
dissimulation." He wrote to the king: "I have done, Sir, what I believed
to be my duty in setting before you, with unreserved and unexampled
frankness, the difficulty of the position in which I stood and what I
thought of your own. If I had not done so, I should have considered
myself to have behaved culpably towards you. You, no doubt, have come to
a different conclusion, since you have withdrawn your confidence from me;
but, even if I were mistaken, you cannot, Sir, but do justice to the
feeling by which I was guided. All I desire, Sir, is that you may always
be able to believe that I was short-sighted, and that I pointed out to
you merely fanciful dangers. I hope that time may not justify me, and
that your reign may be as happy and as tranquil, for yourself and your
people, as they flattered themselves it would be, in accordance with your
principles of justice and beneficence."

Useless wishes, belied in advance by the previsions of M. Turgot himself.
He had espied the danger and sounded some of the chasms just yawning
beneath the feet of the nation as well as of the king; he committed the
noble error of believing in the instant and supreme influence of justice
and reason. "Sir," said he to Louis XVI., "you ought to govern, like
God, by general laws." Had he been longer in power, M. Turgot would
still have failed in his designs. The life of one man was too short, and
the hand of one man too weak to modify the course of events, fruit slowly
ripened during so many centuries. It was to the honor of M. Turgot that
he discerned the mischief and would fain have applied the proper remedy.
He was often mistaken about the means, oftener still about the strength
he had at disposal. He had the good fortune to die early, still sad and
anxious about the fate of his country, without having been a witness of
the catastrophes he had foreseen and of the sufferings as well as
wreckage through which France must pass before touching at the haven he
would fain have opened to her.

The joy of the courtiers was great, at Versailles, when the news arrived
of M. Turgot's fall; the public regretted it but little: the inflexible
severity of his principles which he never veiled by grace of manners,
a certain disquietude occasioned by the chimerical views which were
attributed to him, had alienated many people from him. His real friends
were in consternation. "I was but lately rejoicing," said Abbe Very, "at
the idea that the work was going on of coolly repairing a fine edifice
which time had damaged. Henceforth, the most that will be done will be
to see after repairing a few of its cracks. I no longer indulge in hopes
of its restoration; I cannot but apprehend its downfall sooner or later."
"O, what news I hear!" writes Voltaire to D'Alembert; "France would have
been too fortunate. What will become of us? I am quite upset. I see
nothing but death for me to look forward to, now that M. Turgot is out of
office. It is a thunderbolt fallen upon my brain and upon my heart."

A few months later M. de St. Germain retired in his turn, not to Alsace
again, but to the Arsenal with forty thousand livres for pension. The
first, the great attempt at reform had failed. "M. de Malesherbes lacked
will to remain in power," said Abbe Wry, "M. Turgot conciliatoriness
(_conciliabilite_), and M. de Maurepas soul enough to follow his lights."
"M. de Malesherbes," wrote Condorcet, "has, either from inclination or
from default of mental rectitude, a bias towards eccentric and
paradoxical ideas; he discovers in his mind numberless arguments for and
against, but never discovers a single one to decide him. In his private
capacity he had employed his eloquence in proving to the king and the
ministers that the good of the nation was the one thing needful to be
thought of; when he became minister, he employed it in proving that this
good was impossible." "I understand two things in the matter of war,"
said M. de St. Germain just before he became minister, "to obey and to
command; but, if it comes to advising, I don't know anything about it."
He was, indeed, a bad adviser; and with the best intentions he had no
idea either how to command or how to make himself obeyed. M. Turgot had
correctly estimated the disorder of affairs, when he wrote to the king on
the 30th of April, a fortnight before his disgrace: "Sir, the parliaments
are already in better heart, more audacious, more implicated in the
cabals of the court than they were in 1770, after twenty years of
enterprise and success. Minds are a thousand times more excited upon all
sorts of matters, and your ministry is almost as divided and as feeble as
that of your predecessor. Consider, Sir, that, in the course of nature,
you have fifty years to reign, and reflect what progress may be made by a
disorder which, in twenty years, has reached the pitch at which we see

Turgot and Malesherbes had fallen; they had vainly attempted to make the
soundest as well as the most moderate principles of pure philosophy
triumphant in the government; at home a new attempt, bolder and at the
same time more practical, was soon about to resuscitate for a while the
hopes of liberal minds; abroad and in a new world there was already a
commencement of events which were about to bring to France a revival of
glory and to shed on the reign of Louis XVI. a moment's legitimate and
brilliant lustre.

INDEPENDENCE. 1775-1783.

"Two things, great and difficult as they may be, are a man's duty and may
establish his fame. To support misfortune and be sturdily resigned to
it; to believe in the good and trust in it perseveringly. [M. Guizot,

"There is a sight as fine and not less salutary than that of a virtuous
man at grips with adversity; it is the sight of a virtuous man at the
head of a good cause and securing its triumph.

"If ever cause were just and had a right to success, it was that of the
English colonies which rose in insurrection to become the United States
of America. Opposition, in their case, preceded insurrection.

"Their opposition was founded on historic right and on facts, on rational
right and on ideas.

"It is to the honor of England that she had deposited in the cradle of
her colonies the germ of their liberty; almost all, at their foundation,
received charters which conferred upon the colonists the franchises of
the mother-country.

"At the same time with legal rights, the colonists had creeds. It was
not only as Englishmen, but as Christians, that they wanted to be free,
and they had their faith even more at heart than their charters. Their
rights would not have disappeared, even had they lacked their charters.
By the mere impulse of their souls, with the assistance of divine grace,
they would have derived them from a sublimer source and one inaccessible
to human power, for they cherished feelings that soared beyond even the
institutions of which they showed themselves to be so jealous.

"Such, in the English colonies, was the happy condition of man and of
society, when England, by an arrogant piece of aggression, attempted to
dispose, without their consent, of their fortunes and their destiny."

The uneasiness in the relations between the mother-country and the
colonies was of old date; and the danger which England ran of seeing her
great settlements beyond the sea separating from her had for some time
past struck the more clear-sighted. "Colonies are like fruits which
remain on the tree only until they are ripe," said M. Turgot in 1750;
"when they have become self-sufficing, they do as Carthage did, as
America will one day do." It was in the war between England and France
for the possession of Canada that the Americans made the first trial of
their strength.

Alliance was concluded between the different colonies; Virginia marched
in tune with Massachusetts; the pride of a new power, young and already
victorious, animated the troops which marched to the conquest of Canada.
"If we manage to remove from Canada these turbulent Gauls," exclaimed
John Adams, "our territory, in a century, will be more populous than
England herself. Then all Europe will be powerless to subjugate us."
"I am astounded," said the Duke of Choiseul to the English negotiator who
arrived at Paris in 1761, "I am astounded that your great Pitt should
attach so much importance to the acquisition of Canada, a territory too
scantily peopled to ever become dangerous for you, and one which, in our
hands, would serve to keep your colonies in a state of dependence from
which they will not fail to free themselves the moment Canada is ceded to
you." A pamphlet attributed to Burke proposed to leave Canada to France
with the avowed aim of maintaining on the border of the American
provinces an object of anxiety and an everthreatening enemy.

America protested its loyalty and rejected with indignation all idea of
separation. "It is said that the development of the strength of the
colonies may render them more dangerous and bring them to declare their
independence," wrote Franklin in 1760; "such fears are chimerical. So
many causes are against their union, that I do not hesitate to declare it
not only improbable but impossible; I say impossible--without the most
provoking tyranny and oppression. As long as the government is mild and
just, as long as there is security for civil and religious interests, the
Americans will be respectful and submissive subjects. The waves only
rise when the wind blows."

In England, many distinguished minds doubted whether the government of
the mother-country would manage to preserve the discretion and moderation
claimed by Franklin. "Notwithstanding all you say of your loyalty, you
Americans," observed Lord Camden to Franklin himself, "I know that some
day you will shake off the ties which unite you to us, and you will raise
the standard of independence." "No such idea exists or will enter into
the heads of the Americans," answered Franklin, "unless you maltreat them
quite scandalously." "That is true," rejoined the other, "and it is
exactly one of the causes which I foresee, and which will bring on the

The Seven Years' War was ended, shamefully and sadly for France; M. de
Choiseul, who had concluded peace with regret and a bitter pang, was
ardently pursuing every means of taking his revenge. To foment
disturbances between England and her colonies appeared to him an
efficacious and a natural way of gratifying his feelings. "There is
great difficulty in governing States in the days in which we live," he
wrote to M. Durand, at that time French minister in London; "still
greater difficulty in governing those of America; and the difficulty
approaches impossibility as regards those of Asia. I am very much
astonished that England, which is but a very small spot in Europe, should
hold dominion over more than a third of America, and that her dominion
should have no other object but that of trade. . . . As long as the
vast American possessions contribute no subsidies for the support of the
mother-country, private persons in England will still grow rich for some
time on the trade with America, but the State will be undone for want of
means to keep together a too extended power; if, on the contrary, England
proposes to establish imposts in her American domains, when they are more
extensive and perhaps more populous than the mother-country, when they
have fishing, woods, navigation, corn, iron, they will easily part
asunder from her, without any fear of chastisement, for England could not
undertake a war against them to chastise them." He encouraged his agents
to keep him informed as to the state of feeling in America, welcoming and
studying all projects, even the most fantastic, that might be hostile to

When M. de Choiseul was thus writing to M. Durand, the English government
had already justified the fears of its wisest and most sagacious friends.
On the 7th of March, 1765, after a short and unimportant debate,
Parliament, on the motion of Mr. George Grenville, then first lord of the
treasury, had extended to the American colonies the stamp-tax everywhere
in force in England. The proposal had been brought forward in the
preceding year, but the protests of the colonists had for some time
retarded its discussion. "The Americans are an ungrateful people," said
Townshend; "they are children settled in life by our care and nurtured by
our indulgence." Pitt was absent. Colonel Barre rose: "Settled by your
care!" he exclaimed; "nay, it was your oppression which drove them to
America; to escape from your tyranny, they exposed themselves in the
desert to all the ills that human nature can endure! Nurtured by your
indulgence! Nay, they have grown by reason of your indifference; and do
not forget that these people, loyal as they are, are as jealous as they
were at the first of their liberties, and remain animated by the same
spirit that caused the exile of their ancestors." This was the only
protest. "Nobody voted on the other side in the House of Lords," said
George Grenville at a later period.

In America the effect was terrible and the dismay profound. The Virginia
House was in session; nobody dared to speak against a measure which
struck at all the privileges of the colonies and went to the hearts of
the loyal gentlemen still passionately attached to the mother-country.
A young barrister, Patrick Henry, hardly known hitherto, rose at last,
and in an unsteady voice said, "I propose to the vote of the Assembly the
following resolutions: 'Only the general Assembly of this colony has the
right and power to impose taxes on the inhabitants of this colony; every
attempt to invest with this power any person or body whatever other than
the said general Assembly has a manifest tendency to destroy at one and
the same time British and American liberties.'" Then becoming more and
more animated and rising to eloquence by sheer force of passion: "Tarquin
and Caesar," he exclaimed, "had each their Brutus; Charles I. had his
Cromwell, and George III. . . ." "Treason! treason!" was shouted on
all sides . . . "will doubtless profit by their example," continued
Patrick Henry proudly, without allowing himself to be moved by the wrath
of the government's friends. His resolutions were voted by 20 to 19.

The excitement in America was communicated to England; it served the
political purposes and passions of Mr. Pitt; he boldly proposed in the
House of Commons the repeal of the stamp-tax. "The colonists," he said,
"are subjects of this realm, having, like yourselves, a title to the
special privileges of Englishmen; they are bound by the English laws,
and, in the same measure as yourselves, have a right to the liberties of
this country. The Americans are the sons and not the bastards of
England. . . . When in this House we grant subsidies to his Majesty,
we dispose of that which is our own; but the Americans are not
represented here: when we impose a tax upon them, what is it we do? We,
the Commons of England, give what to his Majesty! Our own personal
property? No; we give away the property of the Commons of America.
There is absurdity in the very terms."

The bill was repealed, and agitation was calmed for a while in America.
But ere long, Mr. Pitt resumed office under the title of Lord Chatham,
and with office he adopted other views as to the taxes to be imposed;
in vain he sought to disguise them under the form of custom-house duties;
the taxes on tea, glass, paper, excited in America the same indignation
as the stamp-tax. Resistance was everywhere organized.

"Between 1767 and 1771 patriotic leagues were everywhere formed against
the consumption of English merchandise and the exportation of American
produce; all exchange ceased between the mother-country and the colonies.
To extinguish the source of England's riches in America, and to force her
to open her eyes to her madness, the colonists shrank from no privation
and no sacrifice: luxury had vanished, rich and poor welcomed ruin rather
than give up their political rights" [M. Cornelis de Witt, _Histoire de
Washington_]. "I expect nothing more from petitions to the king," said
Washington, already one of the most steadfast champions of American
liberties, "and I would oppose them if they were calculated to suspend
the execution of the pact of non-importation. As sure as I live, there
is no relief to be expected for us but from the straits of Great Britain.
I believe, or at least I hope, that there is enough public virtue still
remaining among us to make us deny ourselves everything but the bare
necessaries of life in order to obtain justice. This we have a right to
do, and no power on earth can force us to a change of conduct short of
being reduced to the most abject slavery. . . ." He added, in a
spirit of strict justice: "As to the pact of non-exportation, that is
another thing; I confess that I have doubts of its being legitimate. We
owe considerable sums to Great Britain; we can only pay them with our
produce. To have a right to accuse others of injustice, we must be just
ourselves; and how can we be so if we refuse to pay our debts to Great
Britain? That is what I cannot make out."

The opposition was as yet within the law, and the national effort was as
orderly as it was impassioned. "There is agitation, there are meetings,
there is mutual encouragement to the struggle, the provinces concert
opposition together, the wrath against Great Britain grows and the abyss
begins to yawn; but such are the habits of order among this people, that,
in the midst of this immense ferment among the nation, it is scarcely
possible to pick out even a few acts of violence here and there; up to
the day when the uprising becomes general, the government of George III.
can scarcely find, even in the great centres of opposition, such as
Boston, any specious pretexts for its own violence" [M. Cornelis de Witt,
_Histoire de Washington_]. The declaration of independence was by this
time becoming inevitable when Washington and Jefferson were still writing
in this strain:

Washington to Capt. Mackenzie.

"You are taught to believe that the people of Massachusetts are a people
of rebels in revolt for independence, and what not. Permit me to tell
you, my good friend, that you are mistaken, grossly mistaken. . . .
I can testify, as a fact, that independence is neither the wish nor the
interest of this colony or of any other on the continent, separately or
collectively. But at the same time you may rely upon it that none of
them will ever submit to the loss of those privileges, of those precious
rights which are essential to the happiness of every free State, and
without which liberty, property, life itself, are devoid of any

Jefferson to Mr. Randolph.

"Believe me, my dear sir, there is not in the whole British empire a man
who cherishes more cordially than I do the union with Great Britain.
But, by the God who made me, I would cease to live rather than accept
that union on the terms proposed by Parliament. We lack neither motives
nor power to declare and maintain our separation. It is the will alone
that we lack, and that is growing little by little under the hand of our

It was indeed growing. Lord Chatham had been but a short time in office;
Lord North, on becoming prime minister, zealously promoted the desires of
George III. in Parliament and throughout the country. The opposition,
headed by Lord Chatham, protested in the name of the eternal principles
of justice and liberty against the measures adopted towards the colonies.
"Liberty," said Lord Chatham, "is pledged to liberty; they are
indissolubly allied in this great cause, it is the alliance between God
and nature, immutable, eternal, as the light in the firmament of heaven!
Have a care; foreign war is suspended over your heads by a thin and
fragile thread; Spain and France are watching over your conduct, waiting
for the fruit of your blunders; they keep their eyes fixed on America,
and are more concerned with the dispositions of your colonies than with
their own affairs, whatever they may be. I repeat to you, my lords, if
ministers persist in their fatal counsels, I do not say that they may
alienate the affections of its subjects, but I affirm that they will
destroy the greatness of the crown; I do not say that the king will be
betrayed, I affirm that the country will be ruined!"

Franklin was present at this scene. Sent to England by his
fellow-countrymen to support their petitions by his persuasive and
dexterous eloquence, he watched with intelligent interest the disposition
of the Continent towards his country. "All Europe seems to be on our
side," he wrote; "but Europe has its own reasons: it considers itself
threatened by the power of England, and it would like to see her divided
against herself. Our prudence will retard for a long time yet, I hope,
the satisfaction which our enemies expect from our dissensions. . . .
Prudence, patience, discretion; when the catastrophe arrives, it must be
clear to all mankind that the fault is not on our side."

[Illustration: Destruction of the Tea----378]

The catastrophe was becoming imminent. Already a riot at Boston had led
to throwing into the sea a cargo of tea which had arrived on board two
English vessels, and which the governor had refused to send away at once
as the populace desired; already, on the summons of the Virginia
Convention, a general Congress of all the provinces had met at
Philadelphia; at the head of the legal resistance as well as of the later
rebellion in arms marched the Puritans of New England and the sons of the
Cavaliers settled in Virginia; the opposition, tumultuous and popular in
the North, parliamentary and political in the South, was everywhere
animated by the same spirit and the same zeal. "I do not pretend to
indicate precisely what line must be drawn between Great Britain and the
colonies," wrote Washington to one of his friends, "but it is most
decidedly my opinion that one must be drawn, and our rights definitively
secured." He had but lately said: "Nobody ought to hesitate a moment to
employ arms in defence of interests so precious, so sacred, but arms
ought to be our last resource."

The day had come when this was the only resource henceforth remaining to
the Americans. Stubborn and irritated, George III. and his government
heaped vexatious measures one upon another, feeling sure of crushing down
the resistance of the colonists by the ruin of their commerce as well as
of their liberties. "We must fight," exclaimed Patrick Henry at the
Virginia Convention, "I repeat it, we must fight; an appeal to arms and
to the God of Hosts, that is all we have left." Armed resistance was
already being organized, in the teeth of many obstacles and
notwithstanding active or tacit opposition on the part of a considerable
portion of the people.

It was time to act. On the 18th of April, 1775, at night, a picked body
of the English garrison of Boston left the town by order of General Gage,
governor of Massachusetts. The soldiers were as yet in ignorance of
their destination, but the American patriots had divined it. The
governor had ordered the gates to be closed; some of the inhabitants,
however, having found means of escaping, had spread the alarm in the
country; already men were repairing in silence to posts assigned in
anticipation. When the king's troops, on approaching Lexington, expected
to lay hands upon two of the principal movers, Samuel Adams and John
Hancock, they came into collision, in the night, with a corps of militia
blocking the way. The Americans taking no notice of the order given them
to retire, the English troops, at the instigation of their officers,
fired; a few men fell; war was begun between England and America. That
very evening, Colonel Smith, whilst proceeding to seize the ammunition
depot at Concord, found himself successively attacked by detachments
hastily formed in all the villages; he fell back in disorder beneath the
guns of Boston.

Some few days later the town was besieged by an American army, and the
Congress, meeting at Philadelphia, appointed Washington "to be general-
in-chief of all the forces of the united colonies, of all that had been
or should be levied, and of all others that should voluntarily offer
their services or join the said army to defend American liberty and to
repulse every attack directed against it."

George Washington was born on the 22d of February,

1732, on the banks of the Potomac, at Bridge's Creek, in the county of
Westmoreland in Virginia. He belonged to a family of consideration among
the planters of Virginia, descended from that race of country gentlemen
who had but lately effected the revolution in England. He lost his
father early, and was brought up by a distinguished, firm, and judicious
mother, for whom he always preserved equal affection and respect.
Intended for the life of a surveyor of the still uncleared lands of
Western America, he had led, from his youth up, a life of freedom and
hardship; at nineteen, during the Canadian war, he had taken his place in
the militia of his country, and we have seen how he fought with credit at
the side of General Braddock. On returning home at the end of the war
and settling at Mount Vernon, which had been bequeathed to him by his
eldest brother, he had become a great agriculturist and great hunter,
esteemed by all, loved by those who knew him, actively engaged in his own
business as well as that of his colony, and already an object of
confidence as well as hope to his fellow-citizens. In 1774, on the eve
of the great struggle, Patrick Henry, on leaving the first Congress
formed to prepare for it, replied to those who asked which was the
foremost man in the Congress: "If you speak of eloquence, Mr. Rutledge of
South Carolina is the greatest orator; but, if you speak of solid
knowledge of things and of sound judgment, Colonel Washington is
indisputably the greatest man in the Assembly." "Capable of rising to
the highest destinies, he could have ignored himself without a struggle,
and found in the culture of his lands satisfaction for those powerful
faculties which were to suffice for the command of armies and for the
foundation of a government. But when the occasion offered, when the need
came, without any effort on his own part, without surprise on the part of
others, the sagacious planter turned out a great man; he had in a
superior degree the two qualities which in active life render men capable
of great things: he could believe firmly in his own ideas, and act
resolutely upon them, without fearing to take the responsibility." [M.
Guizot, _Washington_].

He was, however, deeply moved and troubled at the commencement of a
contest of which he foresaw the difficulties and the trials, without
fathoming their full extent, and it was not without a struggle that he
accepted the power confided to him by Congress. "Believe me, my dear
Patsy," he wrote to his wife, "I have done all I could to screen myself
from this high mark of honor, not only because it cost me much to
separate myself from you and from my family, but also because I felt that
this task was beyond my strength." When the new general arrived before
Boston to take command of the confused and undisciplined masses which
were hurrying up to the American camp, he heard that an engagement had
taken place on the 16th of June on the heights of Bunker's Hill, which
commanded the town; the Americans who had seized the positions had
defended them so bravely that the English had lost nearly a thousand men
before they carried the batteries. A few months later, after unheard of
efforts on the general's part to constitute and train his army, he had
taken possession of all the environs of the place, and General Howe, who
had superseded General Gage, evacuated Boston (March 17, 1776).

Every step was leading to the declaration of independence. "If everybody
were of my opinion," wrote Washington in the month of February, 1776,
"the English ministers would learn in few words what we want to arrive
at. I should set forth simply, and without periphrasis, our grievances
and our resolution to have justice. I should tell them that we have long
and ardently desired an honorable reconciliation, and that it has been
refused. I should add that we have conducted ourselves as faithful
subjects, that the feeling of liberty is too strong in our hearts to let
us ever submit to slavery, and that we are quite determined to burst
every bond with an unjust and unnatural government, if our enslavement
alone will satisfy a tyrant and his diabolical ministry. And I should
tell them all this not in covert terms, but in language as plain as the
light of the sun at full noon."

Many people still hesitated, from timidity, from foreseeing the
sufferings which war would inevitably entail on America, from hereditary,
faithful attachment to the mother-country. "Gentlemen," had but lately
been observed by Mr. Dickinson, deputy from Pennsylvania, at the reading
of the scheme of a solemn declaration justifying the taking up of arms,
"there is but one word in this paper of which I disapprove--Congress."
"And as for me, Mr. President," said Mr. Harrison, rising, "there is but
one word in this paper of which I approve--Congress."

Deeds had become bolder than words. "We have hitherto made war by
halves," wrote John Adams to General Gates; "you will see in to-morrow's
papers that for the future we shall probably venture to make it by three-
quarters. The continental navy, the provincial navies, have been
authorized to cruise against English property throughout the whole extent
of the ocean. Learn, for your governance, that this is not Independence.
Far from it! If one of the next couriers should bring you word of
unlimited freedom of commerce with all nations, take good care not to
call that Independence. Nothing of the sort! Independence is a spectre
of such awful mien that the mere sight of it might make a delicate person

Independence was not yet declared, and already, at the end of their
proclamations, instead of the time-honored formula, 'God save the king!'
the Virginians had adopted the proudly significant phrase, 'God save the
liberties of America!'

The great day came, however, when the Congress resolved to give its true
name to the war which the colonies had been for more than a year
maintaining against the mothercountry. After a discussion which lasted
three days, the scheme drawn up by Jefferson, for the declaration of
Independence, was adopted by a large majority. The solemn proclamation
of it was determined upon on the 4th of July, and that day has remained
the national festival of the United States of America. John Adams made
no mistake when, in the transport of his patriotic joy, he wrote to his
wife: "I am inclined to believe that this day will be celebrated by
generations to come as the great anniversary of the nation. It should be
kept as the day of deliverance by solemn thanksgivings to the Almighty.
It should be kept with pomp, to the sound of cannon and of bells, with
games, with bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to
the other, for ever. You will think me carried away by my enthusiasm;
but no, I take into account, perfectly, the pains, the blood, the
treasure we shall have to expend to maintain this declaration, to uphold
and defend these States; but through all these shadows I perceive rays of
ravishing light and joy, I feel that the end is worth all the means and
far more, and that posterity will rejoice over this event with songs of
triumph, even though we should have cause to repent of it, which will not
be, I trust in God."

The declaration of American Independence was solemn and grave; it began
with an appeal to those natural rights which the eighteenth century had
everywhere learned to claim. "We hold as self-evident all these truths,"
said the Congress of united colonies: "All men are created equal, they
are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among those
rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments are
established amongst men to guarantee those rights, and their just power
emanates from the consent of the governed."

To this declaration of the inalienable right of people to choose their
own government for the greatest security and greatest happiness of the
governed, succeeded an enumeration of the grievances which made it
forever impossible for the American colonists to render obedience to the
king of Great Britain; the list was long and overwhelming; it ended with
this declaration: "Wherefore we, the representatives of the United States
of America, met together in general Congress, calling the Supreme Judge
of the universe to witness the uprightness of our intentions, do solemnly
publish and declare in the name of the good people of these colonies,
that the United colonies are and have a right to be free and independent
States, that they are released from all allegiance to the crown of Great
Britain, and that every political tie between them and Great Britain is
and ought to be entirely dissolved. . . . Full of firm confidence in
the protection of Divine Providence, we pledge, mutually, to the
maintenance of this declaration our lives, our fortunes, and our most
sacred possession, our honor."

The die was cast, and retreat cut off for the timid and the malcontent;
through a course of alternate successes and reverses Washington had kept
up hostilities during the rough campaign of 1776. Many a time he had
thought the game lost, and he had found himself under the necessity of
abandoning posts he had mastered to fall back upon Philadelphia. "What
will you do if Philadelphia is taken?" he was asked. "We will retire
beyond the Susquehanna, and then, if necessary, beyond the Alleghanies,"
answered the general without hesitation. Unwavering in his patriotic
faith and resolution, he relied upon the savage resources and the vast
wildernesses of his native country to wear out at last the patience and
courage of the English generals. At the end of the campaign, Washington,
suddenly resuming the offensive, had beaten the king's troops at Trenton
and at Princeton one after the other. This brilliant action had restored
the affairs of the Americans, and was a preparatory step to the formation
of a new army. On the 30th of December, 1776, Washington was invested by
Congress with the full powers of a dictator.

Europe, meanwhile, was following with increasing interest the
vicissitudes of a struggle which at a distance had from the first
appeared to the most experienced an unequal one. "Let us not anticipate
events, but content ourselves with learning them when they occur," said a
letter, in 1775, to M. de Guines, ambassador in London, from Louis XVI.'s
minister for foreign affairs, M. de Vergennes: "I prefer to follow, as a
quiet observer; the course of events rather than try to produce them."
He had but lately said with prophetic anxiety: "Far from seeking to
profit by the embarrassment in which England finds herself on account of
affairs in America, we should rather desire to extricate her. The spirit
of revolt, in whatever spot it breaks out, is always of dangerous
precedent; it is with moral as with physical diseases, both may become
contagious. This consideration should induce us to take care that the
spirit of independence, which is causing so terrible an explosion in
North America, have no power to communicate itself to points interesting
to us in this hemisphere."

For a moment French diplomatists had been seriously disconcerted;
remembrance of the surprise in 1755, when England had commenced
hostilities without declaring war, still troubled men's minds. Count de
Guines wrote to M. de Vergennes "Lord Rochford confided to me yesterday
that numbers of persons on both sides were perfectly convinced that the
way to put a stop to this war in America was to declare it against
France, and that he saw with pain that opinion gaining ground. I assure
you, sir, that all which is said for is very extraordinary and far from
encouraging. The partisans of this plan argue that fear of a war,
disastrous for England, which might end by putting France once more in
possession of Canada, would be the most certain bugbear for America,
where the propinquity of our religion and our government is excessively
apprehended; they say, in fact, that the Americans, forced by a war to
give up their project of liberty and to decide between us and them, would
certainly give them the preference."

The question of Canada was always, indeed, an anxious one for the
American colonists; Washington had detached in that direction a body of
troops which had been repulsed with loss. M. de Vergennes had determined
to keep in the United States a semi-official agent, M. de Bonvouloir,
commissioned to furnish the ministry with information as to the state of
affairs. On sending Count de Guines the necessary instructions, the
minister wrote on the 7th of August, 1775: "One of the most essential
objects is to reassure the Americans on the score of the dread which they
are no doubt taught to feel of us. Canada is the point of jealousy for
them; they must be made to understand that we have no thought at all

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