網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

sufficient for the undertaking, and sent her eldest son for safety to the care of General Washington, she set out, accompanied by her two young daughters, for Germany, all in disguise, and with American passports. They were landed at Altona, and, proceeding immediately to Vienna, obtained an audience of the Emperor, who refused to liberate Lafayette, but, as it now seems probable, against the intentions of his ministers gave them permission to join him in his prison. They went instantly to Olmütz; but before they could enter, they were deprived of whatever they had brought with them to alleviate the miseries of a dungeon, and required, if they should pass its threshold, never again to leave it. Madame de Lafayette's health soon sunk under the complicated sufferings and privations of her loathsome imprisonment, and she wrote to Vienna for permission to pass a week in the capital, to breathe purer air and obtain medical assistance. Two months elapsed before any answer was returned; and then she was told, that no objection would be made to her leaving her husband; but that, if she should do so, she must never return to him. She immediately and formally signed her consent and determination "to share his captivity in all its details ;" and never afterwards made an effort to leave him. Madame de Staël has well observed, when on this point of the history of the French Revolution ;" antiquity offers nothing more admirable, than the conduct of General Lafayette, his wife, and his daughters, in the prison of Olmütz."

One more attempt was made to effect the liberation of Lafayette, and it was made in the place and in the way that might have been expected. When the Emperor of Austria refused the liberty of her husband to Madame de Lafayette, he told her that "his hands were tied." In this remark, the Emperor could, of course, allude to no law or constitution of his empire, and therefore his hands could be tied only by engagements with his allies in the war against France. England was one of these allies, and General Fitzpatrick, in the House of Commons, made a motion for an inquiry into the case, in which he was supported by Colonel Tarlton, who had fought against Lafayette in Virginia. Afterwards, on the 16th of December 1796, General Fitzpatrick renewed his attempt more solemnly, and was supported in it by Wilberforce, by Sheridan, and by Fox, in one of his most powerful and happy speeches; but the motion was lost. One effect, however, unquestionably followed from it :—a solemn and vehement discussion on Lafayette's imprisonment, in which the Emperor of Austria found no apologist, had been held in the face of all Europe; and all Europe, of course, was informed of his sufferings, in the most solemn and authentic way.

the scaffold. The same scaffold was destined for Madame de Lafayette; and she was saved only by the death of Robespierre.

When, therefore, General Clarke was sent from Paris to join Bonaparte in Italy, and negociate a peace with the Austrians, it was understood that he received orders from the Directory to stipulate for the deliverance of the prisoners in Olmütz, since it was impossible for France to consent to such an outrage on the rights of citizenship, as would be implied by their further detention. On opening the negociation, an attempt was made on the part of Austria to compel Lafayette to receive his freedom on conditions prescribed to him; but this he distinctly refused; and, in a document that has often been published, declared with a firmness, which we can hardly believe would have survived such sufferings, that he would never accept his liberation in any way that should compromise his rights and duties, either as a Frenchman, or as an American citizen. Bonaparte often said, that of all the difficulties in this protracted negociation with the Coalition, the greatest was the delivery of Lafayette. He was, however, at last released with his family on the 25th of August, 1797; Madame de Lafayette and her daughters having been confined twenty-two months, and Lafayette himself five years, in a disgraceful spirit of vulgar cruelty and revenge, of which modern history can afford, we trust, very few examples.'

Madame de Lafayette never entirely recovered from it. Her constitution had been crushed by her sufferings; and though she lived ten years afterwards, she never had the health with which she entered the dungeon of Olmütz. She died, at last, at La Grange, in December 1807.

During Lafayette's imprisonment, our own government employed such means as were in its power for his release. The American ministers at the European Courts were instructed to use their exertions to this end; and when Washington found that no success was to be hoped from this quarter, he wrote a letter with his own hand to the Emperor of Austria, interceding in behalf of this early friend of American liberty. The letter is introduced in this place, as reflecting honor on the feelings and character of Washington, and as expressing sentiments not more deeply cherished by him, than by a whole nation.

"It will readily occur to your majesty, that occasions may sometimes exist, on which official considerations would constrain the chief of a nation to be silent and passive, in relation even to objects which affect his sensibility, and claim his interposition as a man. Finding myself precisely in this situation at present, I take the liberty of writing this private letter to your majesty, being persuaded that my motives will also be my apology for it.

"In common with the people of this country, I retain a strong and cordial sense of the services rendered to them by the Marquis de Lafayette; and my friendship for him has been constant and sincere. It is natural, therefore, that I should sympathise with him and his family in their misfortunes; and endeavor to mitigate the calamities they experience, among which his present confinement is not the least distressing.

"I forbear to enlarge on this delicate subject. Permit me only to submit to your majesty's consideration, whether his long imprisonment, and the confiscation of his estate, and the indigence and dispersion of his family, and the painful anxieties incident to all these circumstances, do not form an assemblage of sufferings which recommend him to the mediation of humanity? Allow me, Sir, on this occasion to be its organ, and to intreat

France was still too little settled to promise peace or safety to Lafayette and his family. They proceeded first to Hamburg; and then, after causing their rights both as French and American citizens to be formally recognised, went to the neighboring neutral territories of Holstein, where they lived in retirement and tranquillity about a year. There they were joined by their eldest son, who came to them from the family of General Washington; there, too, their eldest daughter was married to Latour Maubourg, brother of the person who had shared Lafayette's captivity; and there he first devoted himself with great earnestness to those agricultural pursuits, which have since constituted the occupation and the happiness of his life. From Holstein he went at the formal invitation of the Batavian republic, and established himself for several months at Utrecht in Holland, where he was treated with great consideration and kindness, and where he had the advantage of being nearer to the borders of his own country. While he was thus living tranquil and happy, but anxiously watching the progress of events in France, the revolution of the 18th Brumaire, November 10th, 1799, happened, and promised for a time to settle the government of his country on a safer foundation. He immediately returned to France, and established himself at La Grange; a fine old castle, surrounded by a moderate estate about forty miles from Paris, where he has lived ever since.

When, however, Bonaparte, to whom the revolution of the 18th Brumaire had given supreme control, began to frame his constitution and organise his government, Lafayette perceived, at once, that the principles of freedom would not be permanently respected. He had several interviews and political discussions with the Consul, and was much pressed to accept the place of Senator, with its accompanying revenues, in the new order of things; but he refused, determined not to involve himself in changes, which he already foresaw he should not approve. In 1802, Bonaparte asked to be made First Consul for life; Lafayette voted against it, entered his protest, and sent a letter to Bonaparte himself; and from this moment all intercourse between them ceased. Bonaparte even went so far as to refuse to promote Lafayette's eldest son, and his son-in-law Lasteyrie, though they distinguished themselves repeatedly in the army; and once, when a report of the services of the former in a bulletin was offered him, he erased it with impatience, saying, "These Lafayettes cross my path everywhere."

that he may be permitted to come to this country, on such conditions as your majesty may think it expedient to prescribe.

"As it is a maxim with me not to ask what, under similar circumstances, I would not grant, your majesty will do me the justice to believe, that this request appears to me to correspond with those great principles of magnanimity and wisdom, which form the basis of sound policy and durable glory."

Discouraged, therefore, in every way in which they could be of service to their country, the whole family was at last collected at La Grange, and lived there in the happiest retirement, so long as the despotism of Bonaparte lasted.

The restoration of the Bourbons in 1814 made no change in Lafayette's relations. He presented himself once at court, and was very kindly received; but the government they established was so different from the representative government which he had assisted to form, and sworn to support in 1789, that he did not again present himself at the palace. The Bourbons, by neglecting entirely to understand or conciliate the nation, at the end of a year brought back Bonaparte, who landed the 1st of March, 1815, and reached the capital on the 20th. His appearance in Paris was like a theatrical illusion, and his policy seemed to be to play all men, of all parties, like the characters of a great drama, around him. Immediately on his arrival on the soil of France, he endeavored to win the old friends of French freedom; and the same day that he made his irruption into the ancient palace of the Thuilleries, he appointed Carnot his minister of war, and Carnot was weak enough to accept the appointment with the title of Count. In a similar way, he endeavored to obtain the countenance and co-operation of Lafayette. Joseph Bonaparte, to whom Lafayette had been personally known, and for whom he entertained a personal regard, was employed by the Emperor to consult and conciliate him; but Lafayette would hold no communion with the new order of things. He even refused, though most pressingly solicited, to have an interview with the Emperor; and ended, when still further urged, by positively declaring, that he could never meet him, unless it should be as a representative freely chosen by the people.

On the 22d of April, Napoleon offered to the French nation his Acte Additionel, or an addition, as he chose to consider it, to the constitutions of 1799, 1802, and 1804; confirming thereby the principles of his former despotism, but establishing, among other things, an hereditary chamber of peers, and an elective chamber of representatives. This act was accepted, or pretended to be accepted,

the votes of the French people; but Lafayette entered his solemn protest against it, in the same spirit with which he had protested against the Consulship for life. The very college of Electors, however, who received his protest, unanimously chose him first to be their President, and afterwards to be their Representative; and the Emperor, determined to obtain his influence, or at least his silence, offered him the first peerage in the new chamber he was forming. Lafayette was as true to his principles, as he had often been before, under more difficult circumstances. He accepted the place of representative, and declined the peerage.

As a representative of the people he saw Bonaparte, for the first

time, at the opening of the chambers, on the 7th of June. It is above twelve years since we have met, General," said Napoleon, with great kindness of manner, when he saw Lafayette; but Lafayette received the Emperor with marked distrust; and all his efforts were directed, as he then happily said they should be, "to make the chamber, of which he was a member, a representation of the French people, and not a Napoleon club." Of three candidates for the presidency of the chamber, on the first ballot, Lafayette and Lanjuinais had the highest number of votes; but finding that the Emperor had declared he would not accept Lanjuinais, if he should be chosen, Lafayette used great exertions and obtained a majority for him; to which circumstances compelled Napoleon to submit. From this moment, until after the battle of Waterloo, which happened in twelve days, Lafayette did not make himself prominent in the chamber. He voted for all judicious supplies, on the ground that France was invaded, and that it was the duty of all Frenchmen to defend their country; but he in no way implicated himself in Bonaparte's projects or fortunes, with which it was impossible that he could have any thing in common,

At last, on the 21st of June, Bonaparte arrived from Waterloo, a defeated and desperate man. He was already determined to dissolve the representative body, and, assuming the whole dictatorship of the country, play, at least, one deep and bloody game for power and success. Some of his council, and, among the rest, Regnault de St. Jean d'Angely, who were opposed to this violent measure, informed Lafayette, that it would be taken instantly, and that in two hours the chamber of representatives would cease to exist. There was, of course, not a moment left for consultation or advice; the Emperor, or the chamber, must fall that morning. As soon, therefore, as the session was opened, Lafayette, with the same clear courage and in the same spirit of self-devotion with which he had stood at the bar of the National Assembly in 1792, immediately ascended the tribune for the first time for twenty years, and said these few words, which assuredly would have been his death-warrant, if he had not been supported in them by the assembly he addressed; "When, after an interval of many years, I raise a voice which the friends of free institutions will still recognise, I feel myself called on to speak to you only of the dangers of the country, which you alone have now the power to save. Sinister intimations have been heard; they are unfortunately confirmed. This, therefore, is the moment for us to gather round the ancient tricolored standard; the standard of '89; the standard of freedom, of equal rights, and of public order. Permit then, gentlemen, a veteran in this sacred cause, one who has always been a stranger to the spirit of faction, to offer you a few preparatory resolutions, whose absolute necessity, I trust, you will feel, as I

« 上一頁繼續 »