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Sarah with silver; that he acknowledged that a national bank, with the issue of a limited paper currency, was a great gain to a country; but that the experiment could be successful only in a republic, or under a constitutional monarchy like that of England; for that under a despotism like that of France the bank would always be liable to be plundered by a royal mistress or favourite, and therefore would enjoy no stability of credit. We cannot deny that St. Simon's remarks are very just; but as a matter of fact, Law's scheme effected what his own pet scheme of a national bankruptcy was intended to effect. The debt left by Louis XIV. was in a great measure paid off by the valueless billets which Law furnished to the government; and the present misery inflicted by Law was probably not very much greater than St. Simon was prepared to inflict himself.
Many and bitter as were the disappointments which the regency brought to St. Simon, it also brought him one hour of exquisite triumph. The day came when the first wish of his heart was gratified, and the bastards were reduced to the rank of simple peers. In the first year of his government, the Duke of Orleans, satisfied with having seen the will and codicil of Louis XIV. set aside by an obedient parliament, came to a sort of compromise with the Duke of Maine, and permitted him to continue his office of personal guardian of the young king, and to enjoy a rank above the peers and immediately inferior to that of the princes of the blood. St. Simon was deeply mortified at this: the very point which it had once seemed to him so monstrous in Louis XIV. to concede, was now conceded by St. Simon's intimate friend the Duke of Orleans; however, a good day was coming. The Duke and Duchess of Maine entered into intrigues with the leaders of the parliament; and the regent determined on a bold and final measure. He was stimulated to venture on it by the Prince of Condé, who was desirous of obtaining the post of confidence about the king's person held by the Duke of Maine. He had sounded St. Simon on the subject'; but to his great surprise, found St. Simon little disposed to second him, and full of the difficulty and dishonesty of upsetting the king's will in this respect; until Condé hinted that, if this change was effected, another would accompany it, and that the bastards would at the same time be reduced to the rank of peers. Immediately St. Simon changed, and found no longer either danger or dishonesty in setting aside the whole of the late king's dispositions in favour of the Duke of Maine. The parliament was summoned to the “ bed of justice” at the Tuileries. St. Simon cannot contain his transports of joy; he hangs over the minutest details of this glorious event. He carefully records that
his triumph was accomplished on Friday morning, the 20th of August 1718. He draws a plan of the chamber in which the sitting was held, and shows exactly how those present were arranged. He lingers over every preparatory step; until at last he brings us to the great announcement, made by the chancellor, that the bastards were reduced to their proper rank. He describes how every word was eagerly caught up by the ears of the listeners; but no one felt the same deep intense joy that he did. “I was,” he says, “ dying of joy; and thought I should have fainted; my heart, dilated in excess, could find no further room to swell. The violence I had to exert to prevent my feelings displaying themselves was infinite; but still this torment was delicious. I reckoned up the years of servitude, the mournful days in which, dragged as a victim to the parliament, I had served so often to the bastards as a cause of self-gratulation. I went over the different steps by which they had risen above the rest of the peers; I tried to estimate the depth of their fall. I knew I owed all the triumph to myself, and thanked myself for being the cause of all that was being done. I considered the glorious splendour of all this happening in presence of the king and of so august an assembly, and triumphed and was avenged. I revelled in my vengeance; still I did not fail to listen to the reading of the sentence, every word of which sounded on my heart like the bow on an instrument, or to examine the different impressions it was making on each of those around me.” If it were not for a few such moments of keen enjoyment, human nature would perhaps be too weak to go through the harassing combats of public life. At any rate, we seem to know St. Simon much better than before when we have read this frank confession of what passed in his heart; nor can we fail to remark how native and unfailing must have been his love of observing and dissecting the thoughts of other men, when he could manage to indulge it even in a moment of such absorbing and acute feeling.
In the last years of the fatal administration of Dubois, St. Simon had the mortification of seeing the step undone, and the bastards restored to their place above the peerage. He had also the mortification, almost equally deep, of seeing the bull Unigenitus registered by the parliament, and made a part of the law of France; an object at which Louis XIV. had aimed in vain, even in the plenitude of his power, but which was now effected without opposition at the bidding of an ecclesiastic who had purchased a cardinal's hat with money received by him as a bribe from a foreign power, and who waited till he had attained the rank of archbishop, to avow his mistress openly. St. Simon retired to the seclusion of his country-seat,
and made no attempt to interfere with matters of state. At last the death of Dubois recalled him to the side of the Duke of Orleans ; but he had hardly resumed his old post of confidential adviser of the regent, when that prince died, in December 1723. At this point St. Simon brings his memoirs to a conclusion. He wisely determined that they should end at some particular period; and not continue to a wearisome length, protracted by the garrulity of old age, after the writer had relinquished that personal familiarity with the great world which is the foundation of their excellence. Having, shortly after the death of the regent, received a hint from Fleury that his attendance at Versailles would not in future be wished for, he withdrew to his country-seat; and spent the remainder of his long life in shaping, correcting, and polishing his memoirs. He died in 1755, at the age of eighty.
At the conclusion of his memoirs, St. Simon addresses his readers, and claims for what he has written the merit of truth. It was the love of truth, he says, that had injured his worldly prospects. He asks that his readers should, as a recompense to him for his disinterested conduct, put a generous confidence in what he has written. As for impartiality, he makes no pretensions to what he considers an impossibility, as it was not in his nature to hate or to love slightly. All that he wishes us to believe is, that in stating his aversions he has not stated them unfairly; that he has not consciously made bad worse in order to add to the effect of his descriptions. Most readers in these days will, we think, be inclined to give St. Simon credit for the virtue he claims. The general impression left by the memoirs is certainly not that their author was a malevolent man. On the contrary, the more we read of them, and the more we enter into the whole character of the writer, the higher is our opinion of him, not only as a man of genius, but as a man of sense and honour.
Undoubtedly it is impossible that in a gallery of so many hundred portraits all should be likenesses. St. Simon must often have done injustice,-have seen qualities distorted,—have estimated motives inaccurately,--have been the victim of his own great powers of observation and delineation. The editors of a
. recent edition of The Memoirs of the Marquis of Dangeau, the court-loving contemporary of St. Simon, invite attention to the dull pages of that panegyrist, as a means of correcting many false conceptions to which the Memoirs of St. Simon would be likely to give birth, and of thus doing justice to all whom St. Simon maligned. St. Simon is not to be set right in this way. He is so incomparably the ablest, shrewdest, acutest writer of his time; his point of judgment is so much the most right; his
position as an observer so much the most favourable,—that he will always stand alone. It is at once the prerogative, and the greatest responsibility, of genius, that the stamp which it places on men and things is almost ineradicable. To the end of time men will think of those whom St. Simon painted in the light in which he regarded them. The only really available means of aiding our judgment when we come to examine these successive portraits is, to keep before our minds all that we know of the author. We cannot tell how much or how little epithets laudatory or depreciatory are deserved when bestowed by him on individuals not known to us otherwise, or known to us only through persons far less fit to judge than St. Simon. But we can gain a general notion of what St. Simon was; and that will, on the whole, enable us with tolerable success to measure the probable degree of his approach to the real truth.
ART. VIII.-THE FOREIGN POLICY OF THE ENGLISH
Correspondence relating to the Affairs of Naples. Parl. Paper. 1857. Papers relating to the Proceedings at Canton. Parl. Paper. 1857. We are not Ministerial partisans. We are not members of “ Her Majesty's Opposition.” We feel as little inclination to blame every thing that has been done, as to find fault with whatever it is suggested might have been done instead. We can no more follow the Government in all their proceedings than the Tories in all their criticisms. Neither party shall drag us through their mire. We think Ministers very open to attack for certain actions and omissions. But if any thing could induce us to give them plenary absolution and a general letter of license, it would be the reckless and unprincipled manner in which they are assailed by their professional antagonists on every occasion, and for every thing they do or leave undone. If any thing could transform us from our proper character as public watchmen and censors into thick-and-thin supporters of the powers that be, it would be the indiscriminate and perpetual warfare carried on against them by the powers that wish to be—but are not. It is difficult to watch the conduct and language of the Opposition without coming to the conclusion, that their censures are suggested less by their opinions than by their position ; that, had they been in the place of
Ministers, they would have acted as Ministers have done; and that, had Ministers taken the precise course now recommended by the Opposition, they would have been assailed by the Opposition for having done so. All this does great harm : it makes the country sick and weary of ordinary parliamentary encounters; it saves Ministers from blame and punishment where they really deserve it; and induces thoughtful people to retain and forgive them, from the consideration what manner of men are those who are their antagonists, and would therefore, in case of a defeat, be their successors.
We fully believe the members of the actual Government to be in the main honourable and just men ; aiming at nothing but what they deem right and fair, earnestly desirous to promote the welfare and credit of their country, and anxious that other nations should be prosperous and happy likewise ; but not very hopeful of human progress, and greatly disposed to mistrust popular action in every country but their own. The faults we find with them in relation to foreign politics their opponents share in a far more liberal measure: these are, the want of a clear and settled principle of action; want of adequate power to carry out their views; and want of care, and, if not of conscience, at least of a sufficiently solemn sense of responsibility, in their diplomatic appointments. The first is an intellectual defect; the last a moral delinquency; the other is a misfortune, for which partly their own want of resolution, partly the unscrupulous tactics of their rivals, and principally a general dereliction of duty on the part of the constituencies, are to blame.
It is the fashion, we know, with a large number of politicians, both in and out of parliament, to contrast Lord Palmerston's foreign policy unfavourably with that of his quondam rival and recent colleague, Lord Aberdeen, in a manner and to a degree scarcely warranted by what we know of the actual results of each. Lord Palmerston is one of those men, to be found in all walks of life, who, for some reason or other, enjoy a reputation which is by no means borne out by the facts of their career, so far at least as those facts are patent to the world. He is very generally regarded on the Continent, and very generally represented here, as one of the most uncomfortable and dangerous foreign ministers this country ever possessed- litigious, pertinacious, aggressive, and imperious ; always inclined to assert the pretensions of Great Britain too haughtily, and to push them too far; quick in resentment, prompt in interference, and extreme in his demands; luxuriating in hot-water; revelling in angry protocols; and always on the verge of a quarrel with one neighbour or another.