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ence over the national prosperity. While, however, this must be fully conceded, it is equally certain that the impetus to which the reaction owed its strength, proceeded from England; and that it was English literature which taught the lessons of political liberty, first to France, and through France to the rest of Europe.203 On this account, and not at all from mere literary curiosity, I have traced with some minuteness that union between the French and English minds, which, though often noticed, has never been examined with the care its importance deserves. The circumstances which reinforced this vast movement will be related towards the end of the volume; at present I will confine myself to its first great consequence, namely, the establishment of a complete schism between the literary men of France, and the classes who exclusively governed the country.

Those eminent Frenchmen who now turned their attention to England, found in its literature, in the structure of its society, and in its government, many peculiarities of which their own country furnished no example. They heard political and religious questions of the greatest moment debated with a boldness unknown in any other part of Europe. They heard dissenters and churchmen, whigs and tories, handling the most dangerous topics, and treating them with unlimited freedom. They heard public disputes respecting matters which no one in France dared to discuss; mysteries of state and mysteries of creed unfolded and rudely exposed to the popular gaze. And, what to Frenchmen of that age must have been equally amazing, they not only found a public press possessing some degree of freedom, but they found that within the very walls of parliament, the administration of the crown was assailed with complete impunity, the character of its chosen servants constantly aspersed, and, strange to say, even

the management of its revenues effectually controlled. 203

The successors of the age of Louis XIV. seeing these things, and seeing, moreover, that the civilization of the country increased as the authority of the upper classes and of the crown diminished, were unable to restrain their wonder at so novel and exciting a spectacle. “The English nation,” says Voltaire, “is the only one on the earth, which, by resisting its kings, has succeeded in

209 M. Lerminier (Philos. du Droit, vol. i. p. 19) says of England," cette île célebre donne à l'Europe l'enseignement de la liberté politique ; elle en fut l'école au dixhuitième siècle pour tout ce que l'Europe eut de penseurs." See also Soulavie, Règne de Louis XVI, vol. iii. p. 161; Mém. Marmontel, vol. iv. pp. 38, 39; Staudlin, Gesch. der theolog. Wissenschaften, vol. ii. p. 291.

203 Hume, who was acquainted with several eminent Frenchmen who visited Eng. land, says (Philosophical Works, vol. iii. p. 8), “ nothing is more apt to surprise a foreigner than the extreme liberty which we enjoy in this country, of communicating whatever we please to the public, and of openly censuring every measure entered into by the king or his ministers.”


lessening their power.

“How I love the boldness of the English ! how I love men who say what they think !"205 The English, says Le Blanc, are willing to have a king, provided they are not'obliged to obey him.206 The immediate object of their government, says Montesquieu, is political liberty ;207 they possess more freedom than any Republic;206 and their system is in fact a republic disguised as a monarchy.209 Grosley, struck with amazement, exclaims, “ Property is in England a thing sacred, which the laws protect from all encroachment, not only from engineers, inspectors, and other people of that stamp, but even from the king himself.”210 Mably, in the most celebrated of all his works, says, “the Hanoverians are only able to reign in England because the people are free, and believe they have a right to dispose of the crown. But if the kings were to claim the same power as the Stuarts, if they were to believe that the crown belonged to them by divine right, they would be condemning themselves, and confessing that they were occupying a place which is not their own."211 In England, says Helvétius, the people are respected; every citizen can take some part in the management of affairs; and authors are allowed to enlighten the public respecting its own interests.218 And Brissot, who had made these matters his especial study, cries out, “Admirable constitution ! which can only be disparaged either by men who

204 “ La nation anglaise est la seule de la terre qui soit parvenue à régler le pouvoir des rois en leur résistant.” Lettre VIII sur les Anglais, in Euvres de Voltaire, vol. xxvi. p. 37.

205 "Que j'aime la hardiesse anglaise ! que j'aime les gens qui disent ce qu'ils pensent!” Letter from Voltaire, in Correspond. de Dudeffand, vol. ii. p. 263. For other instances of his admiration of England, see Euvres de Voltaire, vol. xl. pp. 105-109; vol. li. pp. 137, 390 ; vol. liv. pp. 298, 392; vol. Ivi. pp. 162, 163, 195, 196, 270; vol. lvii. p. 500; vol. lviii. pp. 128, 267; vol. lix. pp. 265, 361; vol. lx. p. 501 ; vol. Ixi. pp. 43, 73, 129, 140, 474, 475; vol. lxii. pp. 343, 379, 392; vol. lxii. pp. 128, 146, 190, 196, 226, 237, 415; vol. lxiv. pp. 36, 96, 269; vol. lxvi. pp. 93, 159; vol. lxvii. pp. 353, 484.

206 “ Ils veulent un roi, aux conditions, pour ainsi dire, de ne lui point obéir." Le Blanc, Lettres d'un François, vol. i. p. 210.

207 “ Il y a aussi une nation dans le monde qui a pour objet direct de sa constitution la liberté politique.” Esprit des Lois, livre xi. chap. v. in Euvres de Montes. quieu, p. 264. Conversely De Staël (Consid. sur la Rév. vol. iii. p. 261), “la liberté politique est le moyen suprême."

203 “ L'Angleterre est à présent le plus libre pays qui soit au monde, je n'en ex. cepte aucune république." Notes sur l'Angleterre, in Euvres de Montesquieu, p. 632.

200 “Une nation où la république se cache sous la forme de la monarchie." Esprit des Lois, livre v. chap. xix. in Euvres de Montesquieu, p. 225; also quoted in Bancroft's American Revolution, vol. ii. P.

36. Grozley's

's Tour to London, vol. i. pp. 16, 17. 211 Mably, Observ. sur l'Hist. de France, vol. ii. p. 185.

212 Helvétius de l'Esprit, vol. i. pp. 102, 199: "un pays où le peuple est respecté comme en Angleterre ; ... un pays où chaque citoyen a part au maniement des affaires générales, où tout homme d'esprit peut éclairer le public sur ses véritables intérêts."



know it not, or else by those whose tongues are bridled by sla

Such were the opinions of some of the most celebrated Frenchmen of that time; and it would be easy to fill a volume with similar extracts. But, what I now rather wish to do is, to point out the first great consequence of this new and sudden admiration for a country which, in the preceding age, had been held in profound contempt. The events which followed are, indeed, of an importance impossible to exaggerate; since they brought about that rupture between the intellectual and governing classes, of which the Revolution itself was but a temporary episode.

The great Frenchmen of the eighteenth century being stimulated by the example of England into a love of progress, naturally came into collision with the governing classes, among whom the old stationary spirit still prevailed. This opposition was a wholesome reaction against that disgraceful servility for which, in the reign of Louis XIV., literary men had been remarkable ; and if the contest which ensued had been conducted with any thing approaching to moderation, the ultimate result would have been highly beneficial; since it would have secured that divergence between the speculative and practical classes which, as we have already seen, is essential to maintain the balance of civilization, and to prevent either side from acquiring a dangerous predominance. But, unfortunately, the nobles and clergy had been so long accustomed to power, that they could not brook the slightest contradiction from those great writers, whom they ignorantly despised as their inferiors. Hence it was, that when the most illustrious Frenchmen of the eighteenth century attempted to infuse into the literature of their country a spirit of inquiry similar to that which existed in England, the ruling classes became roused into a hatred and jealousy which broke all bounds, and gave rise to that crusade against knowledge which forms the second principal precursor of the French Revolution.

The extent of that cruel persecution to which literature was now exposed, can only be fully appreciated by those who have minutely studied the history of France in the eighteenth century. For it was not a stray case of oppression, which occurred here and there; but it was a prolonged and systematic attempt to stifle all inquiry, and punish all inquirers. If a list were drawn up of all the literary men who wrote during the seventy years succeeding the death of Louis XIV., it would be found, that at least nine out of every ten had suffered from the government some grievous injury; and that a majority of them had been actually thrown into prison. Indeed, in saying thus much, I am under stating the real facts of the case; for I question if one literary man out of fifty escaped with entire impunity. Certainly, my own knowledge of those times, though carefully collected, is not so complete as I could have wished; but, among those authors who were punished, I find the name of nearly every Frenchman whose writings have survived the age in which they were produced. Among those who suffered either confiscation, or imprisonment, or exile, or fines, or the suppression of their works, or the ignominy of being forced to recant what they had written, I find, besides a host of inferior writers, the names of Beaumarchais, Berruyer, Bougeant, Buffon, D'Alembert, Diderot, Duclos, Freret, Helvétius, La Harpe, Linguet, Mably, Marmontel, Montesquieu, Mercier, Morellet, Raynal, Rousseau, Suard, Thomas, and Voltaire.

213 Mém. de Brissot, vol. ii. p. 25. VOL. 1.-34

The mere recital of this list is pregnant with instruction. To suppose

that all these eminent men deserved the treatment they received, would, even in the absence of direct evidence, be a manifest absurdity ; since it would involve the supposition, that a schism having taken place between two classes, the weaker class was altogether wrong, and the stronger altogether right. Fortunately, however, there is no necessity for resorting to any merely speculative argument respecting the probable merits of the two parties. The accusations brought against these great men are before the world ; the penalties inflicted are equally well known; and, by putting these together, we may form some idea of the state of society, in which such things could be openly practised.

Voltaire, almost immediately after the death of Louis XIV., was falsely charged with having composed a libel on that prince; and, for this imaginary offence, he, without the pretence of a trial, and without even the shadow of a proof, was thrown into the Bastille, where he was confined more than twelve months.214 Shortly after he was released, there was put upon him a still more grievous insult; the occurrence, and, above all, the impunity of which, supply striking evidence as to the state of society in which such things were permitted. • Voltaire, at the table of the Duke de Sully, was deliberately insulted by the Chevalier de Rohan Chabot, one of those impudent and dissolute nobles who then abounded in Paris. The duke, though the outrage was committed in his own house, in his own presence,

his own guest, would not interfere; but seemed to consider that a poor poet was honoured by being in any way noticed by a man

34 Condorcet, Vie de Voltaire, pp. 118, 119; Duvernet, Vie de Voltaire, pp. 80, 32; Longchamp et Wagnière, Mém. sur Voltaire, vol. i. p. 22.

and upon


rank. But, as Voltaire, in the heat of the moment, let fall one of those stinging retorts which were the terror of his enemies, the chevalier determined to visit him with further punishment. The course he adopted was characteristic of the man, and of the class to which he belonged. He caused Voltaire to be seized in the streets of Paris, and in his presence ignominiously beaten, he himself regulating the number of blows of which the chastisement was to consist. Voltaire, smarting under the insult, demanded that satisfaction which it was customary to give. This, however, did not enter into the plan of his noble assailer, who not only refused to meet him in the field, but actually obtained an order, by which he was confined in the Bastille for six months, and at the end of that time was directed to quit the country.215

Thus it was that Voltaire, having first been imprisoned for a libel which he never wrote, and having then been publicly beaten because he retorted an insult wantonly put upon him, was now sentenced to another imprisonment, through the influence of the very man by whom he had been attacked. The exile which followed the imprisonment seems to have been soon remitted ; as, shortly after these events, we find Voltaire again in France, preparing for publication his first historical work, a life of Charles XII. In this, there are none of those attacks on Christianity which gave offence in his subsequent writings; nor does it contain the least reflection upon the arbitrary government under which he had suffered. The French authorities at first granted that permission, without which no book could then be published; but, as soon as it was actually printed, the license was withdrawn, and the history forbidden to be circulated. 216 The next attempt of Voltaire was one of much greater value; it was therefore repulsed still more sharply. During his residence in England, his inquisitive mind had been deeply interested by a state of things so different from any he had hitherto seen; and he now published an account of that remarkable people, from whose literature he had learned many important truths. His work, which he called Philosophic Letters, was received with general applause; but, unfortunately for himself, he adopted

216 Duvernet, Vie de Voltaire, pp. 46-48; Condorcet, Vie de Voltaire, pp. 125, 126. Compare vol. lvi. p. 162; Lepan, Vie de Voltaire, 1837, pp. 70, 71; and Biog. Univ. vol. xlix. p. 468. Duvernet, who, writing from materials supplied by Voltaire, had the best means of information, gives a specimen of the fine feeling of a French duke in the eighteenth century. He says, that, directly after Rohan had inflicted this public chastisement, “ Voltaire rentre dans l'hôtel, demande au duc de Sully de regarder cet outrage fait à l'un de ses convives, comme fait à lui-même: il le sollicito de se joindre à lui pour en poursuivre la vengeance, et de venir chez un commissaire en certifier la déposition. Le duc de Sully se refuse a tout."

216 “ L'Histoire de Charles XII, dont on avait arrêté une première édition après l'avoir autorisée." Biog. Univ. vol. xlix. p. 470. Comp. Nichols's Lit. Anec. vol. i. p. 388.

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