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was such, that his representations must always be read with very great caution. You have the work of D'Anquetil on the subject.
The whole account is very well given by Wraxall, and to him I refer you. You will find in Lacretelle a concise and intelligible detail of it.
The sum and substance of this part of the history is, that the second Duke of Guise had ability enough to get himself considered as the defender of the Roman Catholic religion ; to form an union in support of it, without any authority from the crown; to point the zeal of the Catholics against the king as an enemy to the faith; to avail himself of the vices and indolence of the prince; and to improve every favourable circumstance so successfully, as at last almost to mount the throne amid an insurrection at Paris; finally (though he did not then mount the throne), to resume his plans, after the king's escape from the capital, and to urge on his projects, till he was at last himself assassinated by order of the wretched monarch, who could see, as he thought, no other expedient to preserve longer his crown, his liberty, or his life.
Of transactions like these there is, evidently, no part that may not be instructive. I cannot enter into any narrative, but I will, as before, offer some general remarks, to be left for your consideration, when you come to read the history yourselves. How, for instance, could such an armed union as this of the League, ever make its appearance without being instantly put down by the crown? How could it be ever joined by men who did not, from the first, mean to alter the government, or at least to change the monarch?
Questions like these will show you the importance of these transactions, for they involve in their consideration many points that will always be of importance to every good citizen and every good government that can be found among mankind.
From a note in Sully, where these transactions are alluded to, it may be collected, that there are several MSS, in the king's library at Paris, that would throw great light on the first origin and progress of this unconstitutional combination. But even in Maimbourg, the reader will find (and given apparently, upon sufficient authority) the first draft of this
asssociation (afterwards called the “League”), which the Duke of Guise caused to be circulated in a part of France. It is not known to, or at least is not noticed by, the great historians; but it appears to me remarkable, as enabling us to observe the manner by which men may be gradually led from one step to another, till they arrive ultimately at positive rebellion.
The terms of the first association, as given by Maimbourg, not by the great historians, appear to express nothing but devotion to the Catholic religion, and loyalty to the monarch. The difficulty must always have been, how to throw power into the hands of the Duke of Guise.
In the articles, therefore, there is a chief of the League mentioned, and but slightly; only twice with any distinctness, and always in subordination to the king. The strongest expression is this: “The chief of the aforesaid association, who is Monsieur D’Humiers, to whom we promise to render all honour and obedience,” &c. This chief might evidently have been afterwards altered, and made the Duc de Guise. But in the celebrated formulary of the League, which was at last, and afterwards circulated and signed, as it is given by Mezeray, D'Aubigné, and Davila, and as it is understood by De Thou, though there is the same spirit of devotion to the Roman Catholic religion, and of loyalty to the king, there is an unlimited obedience distinctly acknowledged to the head of the League; and with these remarkable words annexed, “ without exception of persons.” That is, an obedience was acknowledged, unknown to the constitution of the realm, without bounds; and that ultimately attached itself, not to the king, but to the chief of the League, and to him alone, “ without exception of persons.”
Here, therefore, is one of those instances in history, which are to teach men very carefully to watch over the erection of any power unknown to the constitution of their country, any power which may be brought into competition with the existing authorities. How careful they must be on this point, if they really mean only to improve that constitution, and do not mean eventually to overthrow it. This is my first observation, but the history of this League exhibits, among many lessons, another that may be mentioned.
The intolerance of the Roman Catholics, and the zeal of their preachers, was of great and indeed of indispensable service to the Duke of Guise, in the gradual prosecution of his ambitious designs. During the first part of the history of these civil wars, the Roman Catholic clergy enforced the doctrines of intolerance against the Protestants, and united with the court; that is, they inflamed the animosities of the parties, and, in fact, did every injury to the state and to religion, that was possible. During the latter part, the same clergy were employed in the cause of the League, opposed to the Protestants indeed, and engaged in support of the supposed cause of religion, but opposed to the king also.
“ The king is no good Catholic,” said the preachers. “ Religion will be destroyed among us.”
I quote from the historian. Examples of this kind in history have taught statesmen most anxiously to deprecate, at all times, the interference of the ministers of religion in the politics of the state.
Their zeal may be virtuous, and often is, but they see every thing through the mist of that zeal; they exaggerate, they inflame the people, they inflame themselves; they set into motion a principle (the religious principle), against which, if it once becomes inflamed, no other principle of reason or propriety can be successfully opposed. They have been naturally accustomed to look in one direction, and they are therefore, though men of education, seldom able to take a view, sufficiently extended, of the general interests of the community. This was the opinion even of Lord Clarendon.
Such statesmen, therefore, as have meant ill, have often converted men of this sacred character into instruments to serve their own political purposes; and such statesmen as have endeavoured well, have but too often found them impediments to their designs. All history enforces upon the attention disagreeable conclusions of this nature, and pious and good men should be aware of it; though I cannot mean that men, because they are clergymen, should cease to be citizens. I state the lessons and monitions of history, more particularly of this period of history. The impression which it had left on the mind of Mr. Burke must have been of this kind; for when the late Dr. Price, about the beginning of the French Revolution, preached a sort of political discourse at the Old Jewry, which he afterwards published, Mr. Burke was immediately reminded of the very times we are now considering—the times of the League in France. He mentions them along with the solemn League and Covenant, so memorable in the history of Scotland and England; and he admonishes the doctor, that men like him, men of his sacred profession, were unacquainted with the world, and had nothing of politics but the passions they excite.
Another observation must also be made. The Duke of Guise found a no less effective, though more unworthy support in the king and in the court itself, than he did in the clergy; that is, he found a support in their profligacy, their waste of public money, their scandalous disposal of places of trust and honour, and their total disregard of public opinion.
These vices produced in the people that effect, which they have invariably done, and which they can never fail to do. It is possible that circumstances may not be sufficiently critical to produce, exactly at the time, insurrections and revolutions, but the materials for these most dreadful calamities are always ready, when such flagitious conduct has been at all persevered in.
The great on these occasions have no right to blame the populace; they have themselves first exhibited the vices and crimes, to the commission of which they were more particularly liable; and the vulgar do no more, when they break out, in their turn, into acts of brutality and ferocity. Manners and principles are propagated downwards, and on this account the lower orders, to a considerable extent, become what they are made by the example of their superiors. This example may be vicious, or may be virtuous; in either case, it cannot but have influence.
Lastly, I must remark, that there are several parts of this history of the League, that seem almost to have announced to us, two centuries ago, the unhappy events of modern times.
When we turn, for example, to the account of the day of the barricadoes in Paris, we have the siege of the Louvre, the Swiss guards, the flight of the king, the tumultuous
capital, the committees, and other particulars, that might almost lead us to imagine, that we were but reading a detail of the transactions that lately took place in the very same metropolis; that, in fact, we were engaged in the perusal of the horrors of the French Revolution.
Such are, I think, some of the general reflections which belong to these civil and religious wars in France, in both their different stages, before and after the project of the League.
I must now leave you to read the history for yourselves. I may observe, indeed, before you do so, that these scenes have been always recommended to the interest and curiosity of mankind, not only because they have exhibited in the strongest manner, the workings of the two great passions of civil and religious hate, but because times so extraordinary were calculated to produce, and did produce, characters the most extraordinary; fierce crimes, unbridled licentiousness, but accompanied with great courage and ability in the one sex, and with genius and spirit in the other. These have always more particularly marked this singular era, and have, therefore, had a charm for the readers of history, not derived, I fear, from any very respectable desire either of philosophic entertainment or instruction.
Brantome has been always read, but in the Memoirs of the House of Valois, by Wraxall, may be found an ample specimen of the characters and anecdotes which belong to this part of history; and you may in this work occupy yourselves more than sufficiently in a species of reading, by which every one, I fear, may be amused, and no one, I am sure, can be improved.
I must here close my account of these civil and religious wars, which will be found, when perused, too busy in events, and too fertile in character, to be treated in any other but this indistinct and general manner.
But as the student is thus supposed to approach the great subject of the civil and religious wars, by which in France, and every where in Europe, these ages were distinguished, I cannot conclude this part of my lecture without making one observation more, however obvious ; it is this : that the theatre of the world is not the place where we are to look for