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the revolution, shrank at the deadly wound inflicted accessible record, (in which case the authenticity or on their feelings and their cause by what they had value of the statement could have been tested,) but deemed a friendly hand. The Christian poet simply on that of private documents, which the seemed to carry away religion and sentiment from reader has no means of examining for himselftheir ranks into those of their opponents. The of conversations with unnamed individuals, the adherents of the revolution hailed with joy and trustworthiness as well as the effect of whose evigratitude the unexpected accession of a new and dence we are obliged to take entirely on credit from potent ally. Discountenanced by conservative our author. We have not the slightest distrust of opinion, and denounced by his old friends of the M. de Lamartine's assurance that he has made a Fauxbourg, M. de Lamartine has been rewarded most scrupulous investigation into the statements by the general acknowledgments with which his from which his narrative has been prepared. countrymen have received his vindication of the Although,” he says, we have not encumbered national character, and his justification of the spirit the narrative with notes, with references, and with which the revolution has made the spirit of the pièces justificatives, there is not one of our stateFrench people.
ments which is not authorized either by authentic Independently, however, of these adventitious memoirs, or by unpublished memoirs, or by autocauses of a momentary notoriety, the History of graph correspondence, which the families of the the Girondins is a work that possesses solid claims principal personages have been pleased to confide to a more durable and extensive reputation. We to us, or by oral and trustworthy information colcannot receive it as a satisfactory history of the lected from the lips of the last survivors of this period of which it treats. In fact the author, great epoch." The consequence of this indispothough he has given it the name of a “history,"sition to encumber the story with the ordinary is content that it should be classed in a humbler proofs of historical accuracy is, that when we get category. " As for the title of this book,” he beyond the most familiar incidents, we never know says in his preface, we have only adopted it for the value of a single statement that is made ; for want of any other word to designate a narrative. instance, whether it is derived from most intelliThis book has none of the pretensions of history, gent and impartial witnesses, or from the most disand must not assume its dignity. It is an inter- credited and heated partisans; whether it is capamediate work between history and memoirs. ble of being supported by a reference to some Events occupy in it a subordinate place to men and indisputable and acknowledged authority, or rests ideas. It is full of personal details. These entirely on the private conversation or letter of details are the physiognomy of characters : it is some survivor of the revolution, whose good faith through them that the latter impress themselves or judgment it is possible that particular circumon the imagination. Great writers have already stances may have led M. de Lamartine to overwritten the chronicles of this memorable epoch. estimate. This is a fault peculiarly to be regretted Others will ere long write them. It will be doing in an author, whose poetical reputation lays him us injustice to compare us with them. They have open to the imputation of not being much in the produced, or will produce, the history of an age : habit of investigating closely, or weighing accuwe have produced nothing but a study of a group rately, the evidences of historical facts ; and the of men, and of some months of the revolution." very character of whose work suggests the suspi
With this scheme of his work before him, M. cion that he may have been ready to take on de Lamartine has not thought it necessary to give insufficient evidence any striking statement that a detailed record of all the events of the period. would heighten the effect of his narrative, or bear He assumes that his reader has already acquired out the view which he has formed of the character this knowledge from other sources. Relying on of some remarkable individual. M. de Lamartine this he has not, as he tells us, scrupled in some promises that, after a while, in case any of his instances to heighten the effect by neglecting the statements should be assailed, he will support them exact order of time. It is much to be regretted, by a mass of proof. We would impress on him however, that such omissions and inversions are that this is a duty, which, even without any call accompanied by more serious defects, which impair of self-defence, it is incumbent on him to disour confidence in the accuracy of the narrative, and charge, in order to stamp on the very face of his consequently in the justice of the views based upon history those outward and visible signs of consciit. The intermediate position between history and entious and laborious truthfulness, which can alone memoirs which the author would assume for his invest it with permanent utility and reputation. work is one which, unfortunately, possesses the But accuracy, unfortunately, is not one of M. claims of neither, as an authority concerning mat- de Lamartine's qualifications for writing history. ters of fact. Its statements are not given, as in Those who are most conversant with the events memoirs, on the author's personal knowledge; nor of the revolution accuse him of frequent exaggerare they drawn, as in a trustworthy history, from ation. Imitating a habit of the ancient historians, original accounts of a known and authentic charac- which is not permitted by the present canons of ter. Incidents, which give an entirely new aspect historical propriety, he does not scruple to embody to some of the principal persons, and to some even his own conception of the feelings of the various of the most important events of the period, are personages of his narrative in imaginary speeches, stated on the authority of no published work, or which he puts into their mouths. In some in
stances an ordinary acquaintance with the history accurately be described as the “ History of the of the revolution exposes inaccuracies which are Rise of the French Republic.” It comprises the not to be attributed to any bias or misconception, period commencing with the establishment of the but to sheer carelessness. But even with these constitution of 1791 ; contiuuilig through the varivery serious defects, this work remains a most val- ous occurrences that led to the downfall of that uable contribution to our knowledge of the revolu- constitution, the foundation of a republic in its tion. Imperfect as a history, it is a striking and place, the struggles of factions in the Convention, instructive historical study. It brings before us the gradual consolidation of power in the hands of that most stirring and important period with a the committee of public safety; and closing with clearness and vividness that all previous descrip- the fall of Robespierre. After this begins the sections, except some of Carlyle's, have failed to ond period ; which may properly be designated as realize : it presents us on the same page with dis- that of the decline and fall of the republic. tinct, highly-finished sketches of the principal actors, The narrative of this period is prefaced by a and with a careful and deliberate judgment on the review of the state of affairs at its commencement, causes, the nature, and consequences of the events. and an account of some events which immediately These are the objects at which the author has evi- preceded the adoption of the constitution of 1791, dently aimed ; and he has, in our opinion, attained and determined its fate, even before it came into them with greater success than any other writer being. The death of Mirabeau in the April of on the revolution. Skill and power in the repre- that year deprived France of the only statesman sentation of remarkable scenes and incidents was who possessed the capacity to guide his country an excellence which M. de Lamartine's descriptive through the revolution, and enjoyed the amount of powers gave us reason to anticipate ; and he has public confidence, which is an equally necessary combined this excellence with more discrimination condition for success. We cannot concur with and justice in his estimate of characters and events M. de Lamartine, that the energies and utility of than we were prepared for. Though occasionally Mirabeau were exhausted ; and that his efforts to too apt to judge one man somewhat too harshly, give stability to the new institutions of his couutry or to elevate another into a species of imaginary must have failed. Whatever may be said of pophero—though often bewildered by the vastness of ular fickleness and of the ephemeral nature of revthe subject, or misled by his own ardent tempera-olutionary reputations, the first want of the public ment-M. de Lamartine seems to us on the whole is a leader ; and, when a man of Mirabeau's genius to have brought to the consideration of the revo- had actually been accepted by the people as its lution a more candid spirit aud more wholesome habitual leader, a moral power had been created sympathies, than any preceding writer. It is which might, perhaps, have arrested or diverted great and rare merit in a Frenchman writing on even the movement of the French revolution. His that subject in the present day, to be able on the death left the Assembly in a state of disorganizaone hand to appreciate the grandeur and justice of tion, which continued during the remaining months the revolution without silencing the suggestions of of its existence. Among the various subordinate human feeling and the simple dictates of morality; orators to whom the removal of their chief gave a and on the other to give full scope to pity and jus- momentary superiority, the foremost place fell to tice towards individuals without allowing those the amiable and pure-minded Barnave, who, withsentiments to abate the ardor of his sympathy with out any of the qualities of a statesman, possessed that succession of efforts by which, at an immense the merit of a clear and effective style of speaking. cost of personal suffering and wrong, the safety
“ Still in the shade and in the rear of the leaders and happiness of a great people were secured. The period comprised in these eight volumes is of the National Assembly, a man almost unknown
began to bestir himself, moved by unquiet thoughts the most eventful period of the revolution. The
that seemed to forbid him silence and repose ; on author selected an incorrect designation when he every occasion he tried to speak, and attacked every called his work a “History of the Girondins." speaker indifferently, even Mirabeau. Hurled from The characters and fortunes of the particular body the tribune, he mounted it again the next day; humof men known by that appellation in no respect bled by sarcasms, stifled by murmurs, disavowed by form the sole or even principal subject of the work. all parties, lost to sight amid the great athletes who No especial pains are devoted to the elucidation of wearied. You might have said that some secret
fixed the public attention, he was ever beaten, never their policy and position. Instead of being brought and prophetic genius revealed to him beforehand the into a more prominent position than that which vanity of all these talents, the omnipotence of will they have occupied in previous histories, or being and patience, and that a voice heard by him alone invested with any peculiar interest, they are thrown whispered to him in his soul, • These men who rather more into the background, and, if anything, despise thee are thine ; all the windings of this revdeprived of their real importance and consideration olution, which does not choose to look at thee, will The existence of their party does not even mark inevitable extreme in which every impulse ends.'
end in thee ; for thou art placed in its path as the the chronological limits of the work. The narra- That man was Robespierre. tive commences before their rise, and is continued long after their disappearance. It might with Nothing in Robespierre's exterior gave any inmuch more propriety be called a History or Robes- dication of the superiority which he was destined pierre than of the Girondins ; but it would most to command; there was nothing even to attract
the attention of the observer. His appearance is place himself at the head of that portion of his
blunders of the Duc de Choiseul, and the perverse
“The republic, had it then been legally estabcould appreciate. They saw the king, in the midst rights, and in full possession of power, would have of professions of attachment to the new order of been quite other than the republic which nine months things, suddenly quit his capital, and endeavor to afterwards was the perfidious and atrocious conquest
of the insurrection of the 10th of August. It would course taken by the Assembly was the very worst have been exposed, no doubt, to the agitation insep- of all that lay before it. To confer the royal prearable from the birth of a new order of things. It rogative on a king who had just declared, by his would not have escaped the disasters natural to a words and acts, his entire alienation from his peocountry in its first movements, when frenzied by the very magnitude of its dangers. But it would have ple, and his disaffection to free institutions, was been the child of law, instead of sedition ; of right, simply to render monarchy and the new constitution instead of violence ; of deliberation instead of insur- impossible. The step, though dictated by some rection. This alone would have changed the un- surviving respect and regard for Louis, was, in toward conditions of its existence and its future. It truth, the most cruel act that could have been done must have been stirring ; but it might have remained towards him. “ It crowned him," says our author, pure.
“ with suspicion and insult—it nailed him to the “See what an entire change would have been made by the one fact of its having been legally and throne, and made that throue the instrument of deliberately proclaimed. There would have been his torture, and finally of his death.” On the other no 10th of August; the fraud and tyranny of the hand, at this period the king might yet have saved commune of Paris, the massacre of the guards, the himself. “On his return from Varennes, he should attack on the palace, the king's flight to the Assem- have abdicated. The revolution would have bly, the outrages with which he was there loaded; adopted his son, and brought him up in its own and lastly, his imprisonment in the temple, would
likeness. He did not abdicate- he submitted to all have been avoided. The republic would not have killed a king, a queen, an innocent child, and receive a pardon from his people—he swore to exa virtuous princess. It would have had no massa- ecute a constitution from which he had run away cres of September, that St. Bartholomew of the he was a pardoned king. Europe looked on people, which forever stains the robe of liberty. It him thenceforth only as a fugitive from the throne would not have been baptized with the blood of brought back to his punishment—the nation as 300,000 victims. It would not have placed the traitor—and the revolution as a puppet.” people's are in the hands of a revolutionary tribunal, to be used by it to immolate an entire generation,
Brought back a prisoner, amid the execrations in order to make room for an idea. The Girondins, of his people, the king, after some weeks of concoming pure into power, would have had much finement in his palace, and an entire abeyance of more strength to combat the demagogues. The his prerogatives, was restored to liberty, in order republic, calınly established, would have awed to enable him to give a free assent to the constiEurope in a very different manner from a riot, tution. He gave that assent, figured in the cereauthorized by murder and assassination. might have been avoided; or, if inevitable, would mony of the inauguration, swore to the constitution, have been more unanimous and triumphant. Our and was immediately placed in the unrestricted generals would not have been massacred by their exercise of all the powers it vested in him. Under soldiers amid cries of treachery. The popular these circumstances, the Constituent Assembly sepspirit would everywhere have fought on our side, arated ; and the Legislative Assembly, composed and the horror excited by our days of August, of an entirely fresh set of men, utterly inexperienced September, and January, would not have repelled in public affairs, entered, in conjunction with this from our standards the nations attracted to them by incapable, discredited, and alienated king, on the our doctrines; and thus would a single change in the origin of the republic have changed the fate of management of affairs, and the government of the revolution.”—(Vol. i., p. 320.)
Among the new characters who now appeared Undoubtedly, if the experiment of a republic on the political stage, there was one particular body were a matter of necessity, it would have been far of men, which had been preceded by a great, though better that it should have been tried under the cir- vague reputation, for ability. These were the cumstances desired by M. de Lamartine. But it deputies of the department of the Gironde, chiefly seems to us that the Assembly, by boldly declaring young lawyers from the city of Bordeaux, which the throne vacant on the occasion of the king's its commercial wealth, the legal body attached to flight to Varennes, might have given the constitu- its parliament, and the influence of its successive tion of 1791 a fair chance of stability. If the eminent writers, had combined to render the centre young dauphin had been placed on the throne, of considerable refinement, intelligence, and activity. the popular leaders might have wielded the execu- On arriving at Paris, they naturally formed the active power under the name of a regency, and have quaintance of other deputies of similar opinions, gradually fashioned the monarchy to work harmo- and were eagerly sought out by public men who niously under the new constitution. Or the crown aspired to consideration. Buzot, Petion, Brissot, might have been transferred to the younger branch and other ardent advocates of republican doctrines, of the royal family; and in this case the undoubted already constituted a circle, which three or four popular sympathies of the Duke of Orleans would times every week collected round Roland and his probably have rendered his exercise of the consti- distinguished wife. To this society the deputies tutional powers of the monarchy endurable to the of the Gironde attached themselves; and similarpeople, because compatible with the maintenance ity of opinions and social communication speedily of the changes effected by the revolation.
formed out of these materials the nucleus of a poWhich of these courses would have commanded litical party, to which the eminence of these deputhe public assent can now only be matter of specu- ties gave the name of Girondins. Of this party lation. We agree with M. de Lamartine, that the Brissot was the statesman who directed its general
policy; while Petion, who had now attained the most brilliant of all the orators of the revolution. influential office of Mayor of Paris, was its man of In this respect the admiration of those who beaction and practical experience.
longed to his party is supported by the opinion of M. de Lamartine has evidently no great opinion Madame de Stael, a most competent judge, whose of Brissot, whom he describes as a needy literary political opinions were adverse to the Girondins, adventurer, who had not passed quite unsoiled and is justified by the reports of his speeches that through the necessities and intrigues of his early have reached us. life. But the vague imputations which are thus cast on the integrity of Brissot, are repelled by the sentiment of his own greatness, he lodged with three
“ Obscure, unknown, modest, without any prerespect which was felt for him by the purest of his of his colleagues from the south in a little lodging party, and which Madame Roland expresses in her of the Rue des Jeuneurs, and afterwards in a retired inemoirs as the result of an intimate knowledge of house in a suburb surrounded by the gardens of him; and by the steadiness and honesty of his con- Tivoli. His letters to his family are filled with the duct throughout the period during which it was most humblest details of domestic management. He can exposed to the public eye. He was well-informed, penses with a strict economy. A few louis, which
scarcely contrive to live. He watches his least exindustrious, and bold. Nevertheless, though a he has asked of his sister, appear a sum sufficient respectable member, he was a very weak head of to support him a long time. He writes to have a a party. His views were confused, his system ill- little linen sent him in the cheapest manner. He considered and incomplete, his conduct singularly never thinks of fortune, not even of glory. He unskilful, and the influence which he undoubtedly goes to the post to which duty calls him. In his possessed in his party was one of the first and patriotic simplicity, he is terrified by the mission
which Bordeaux imposes on him. An antique probsurest presages and causes of its ill-success.
ity breaks forth in ihe confidential épanchements of Another striking member of the new party was this correspondence with his friends. His family Fauchet, the constitutional bishop of Calvados. M. have some claims to press on the ministers : he rede Lamartine is eloquent is his description of the fuses to ask anything for them, for fear that asking true and generous character and commanding aspect justice should appear in his mouth to be extorting a of the republican, who, in his zeal for his political favor. 'I have tied myself down in this respect to creed, never swerved from his Christian faith. Is- the utmost nicety; I have made myself a law,' he nard, one of the deputies of Provence, was one of says to his brother-in-law, M. Alluaud of Limoges,
who had been a second father to him. the most brilliant of the orators of the new Assem
"All these private communications between Vergbly, and certainly one of the least wise. “He niaud, his sister, and his brother-in-law, breathe had ever in his mind the ideal of a Gracchus; he simplicity, tenderness of heart, and home. The had the courage of one in his heart, and the tone roots of the public man spring out of a soil of pure in his voice. Still very young, his eloquence morality. No trace of factious feeling, of republican boiled like his blood ; his speech was the fire of fanaticism, of hatred to the king, discover themselves passion, colored by the imagination of the south ; of the queen with tenderness, of Louis XVI. with
in the innermost feelings of Vergniaud. He speaks his words burst out like quick throbbings of impa- pity. The equivocal conduct of the king," he tience. He was the ardor of the revolution per-writes in June, 1792, increases our danger and his sonified. The Assembly followed him out of own. They assure me that he comes to-day to the breath, and reached his excitement before it arrived Assembly. If he does not pronounce himself in a at his conclusions. His speeches were magnificent decisive manner he is bringing himself 10 some sad odes, which elevated discussion into poetry, and catastrophe. Many an effort will have to be made enthusiasm into convulsion ; his gestures belonged looked on as so many treasons. And a little further,
to plunge in oblivion so many false steps, which are rather to the tripod than the tribune : he was the descending from his pity for the king to his own doDanton, as Vergniaud was the Mirabeau, of the mestic situation, I have no money,' he writes; Gironde.”—(Vol. i., p. 271.)
'my old creditors in Paris dun me; I pay them a The famous triumvirate of the Gironde, as they little every month ; rents are high; it is impossible were called, were three young advocates who had for me to pay for everything. This young man, been elected deputies of Bordeaux. The least where to lay his head in the empire which he was
who with a gesture crushed a throne, searce knew conspicuous and effective, as an orator, was Gen
shaking." sonné, to whose calm, just frame of mind, and
patient industry, his party were in the habit of con- He had been brought up at a Jesuit college, at fiding the task of drawing up reports and similar the expense of Turgot, who was then Intendant of documents. “ An unbending logic, a bitter and the Limousin ; had been intended for the church, cutting irony, were the two characteristics of Gen- from which he shrunk at the last moment, and sonné's talents.” A far more effective speaker went to Bordeaux to study the law, at the expense was Gaudet, who, at a very early age, had acquired of his brother-in-law and the president Dupaty, a high position in his profession. His vehement | who became his zealous patron. His early efforts eloquence carried away the Assembly; of all his were crowned with success. party he was the most dreaded by the Court and the Mountain. But the renown of these com- when he strips himself of it, and sells the little in
Scarcely has he made a little by his profession, petitors was at once eclipsed by the indisputable heritance which he had got from his mother, to pay superiority of Vergniaud, whom the unanimous the debts of his late father. By the sacrifice of all opinion of his contemporaries recognized as the he possesses he redeems his father's memory : he