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surrendered all pretence to a right of taxation. Upon a free constitution there was but one opinion in France. The absolute monarchy was at an end. It breathed its last without a groan, without struggle, without convulsion. All the struggle, all the dissension arose afterwards upon the preference of a “despotic democracy to a government of reciprocal controul. The triumph of the victorious party was over the principles of a British constitation.
1 have observed the affectation which, for many years past, has prevailed in Paris even to a degree perfectly childish, of idoliziug the memory of your Henry the Fourth. If any thing could put one out of humour with that ornament to the kingly character, it would be this 'overdone style of insidious panegyric. The persons who have worked this engine the most busily, are those who have ended their panegyrics in dethroning his successor and descendant; a man, as good-natured at the least, as Heniry the Fourth ; altogether as fond of his people; and who has done infinitely more to correct the ancient vices of the state than that great monarch did, or we are sure he ever meant to do. Weh it is for Iris panegyrists that they have not him to deal with. For Henry of Navarre was a resolute, active, and politic prince. He possessed indeed great humanity and mildness; but an humanity aud mildness that never stood in the way of his interests. He never sought to be loved without putting himself first in a condition to be feared. Ile used soft language with determined conduct. He asserted and maintained bis authority in the gross, and distributed his acts of concession only in the detail. He spent the income of his prerogatives nobly; but he took care not to break in upon the capital; 'never abandoning for a moment any of the claims, which he made under the fundamental laws, nor sparing to shed the blood of those who opposed bim, often in the field, sometimes upon the scaffold. Because he knew how to make bis 'virtues respected by the ungrate'ful, he has merited the praises of those whom, if they had lived in his time, he would have shut up in 'the Bastile, and brought to punishment along with the regicides whom he hanged after he had famished Paris into a surrender. If these panegyrists are in earnest in their admiration
of Henry the Fourth, they must remember, that they canpot think more highly of him, than he did of the noblesse of France; whose virtue, honour, courage, patriotism, and loyalty were his constant theme.
But the nobility of France are degenerated since the days of Henry the Fourth.—This is possible. But it is more than I can believe to be true in any great degree. I do not pretend to kvow France as correctly as some others; but I have endeavoured through my whole life to make myself acquainted with human nature; otherwise I should be unfit to take even my humble part in the service of mankind. In that study I could not pass by a vast portion of our nature, as it appeared modified in a country but twenty-four miles from the shore of this island. On my best observation, compared with my best enquiries, I found your nobility for the greater part composed of men of an high spirit, and of a delicate sense of honour, both with regard to themselves individually, and with regard to their whole corps, over whom they kept, beyond what is common in other countries, a censorial eye. They were tolerably well-bred; very officious, humane, and hospitable; in their conversation frank and open; with a good military tone; and reasonably tinctured with literature, particularly of the authors in their own language. Many had pretensions far above this description. I speak of those who were generally met with.
As to their behaviour to the inferior classes, they appeared to me to comport themselves towards them wiih good-nature, and with something more nearly approaching to familiarity, than is generally practised with us in the intercourse between the higher and lower ranks of life. To strike any person, even in the most abject condition, was a thing in a manner unknown, and would be highly disgraceful. Instances of other ill-treatment of the humble part of the community were rare; and as to attacks made upon the property or the personal liberty of the commons, I never heard of any whatsoever from them; nor, whilst the laws were in vigour under the ancient government, would such tyranny in subjects have been permitted. As men of landed estates, I had no fault to find with their conduct, though much to reprehend, aud much to wish changed, in many of the old tenures. Where the letting of their land was by rent, I could not discover that their agreements with their farmers were oppressive; nor when they were in partnership with the farmer, as often was the case, have I heard that they had taken the lion's share. The proportions seemed not inequitable. There might be exceptions; but certainly they were exceptions only. I have no reason to believe that in these respects the landed noblesse of France were worse than the landed geutry of this country; certainly in no respect more vexatious than the land-holders, not noble, of their own nation, In cities the nobility had no manner of power; in the country very little. You know, Sir, that much of the civil government, and the police in the most essential parts, was not in the hands of that nobility which presents itself first to our consideration. The revenue, the system and collection of which were the most grievous parts of the French government, was not administered by the men of the sword; nor were they answerable for the vices of its principle, or the vexations, where any such existed, in its management.
Denying, as I am well warranted to do, that the nobility had any considerable share in the oppression of the people, in cases in which real oppression existed, I am ready to admit that they were not without considerable faults and errors. A foolish imitation of the worst part of the manuers of England, which impaired their natural character without substituting in its place what perhaps they meant, has certainly rendered them worse than formerly they were. Habitual dissoluteness of manners continued beyond the pardonable period of life, was more common amongst them than it is wi us; and it reigned with the less hope of remedy, though possibly with something of less mischief, by being covered with more exterior decorum. They countenanced too much that licentious philosophy which has helped to bring on their ruin. There was another error amongst them more fatal. Those of the commons, who approached to or exceeded many of the nobility in point of wealth, were not fully admitted to the rank and estimation which wealth, in reason and good policy, ought to bestow in every country; though I think not equally with that of other nobility. The two kinds
'of'aristocracy were too punctiliously kept asunder; less so, however, than in Germany and some other nations.
This separation, as I have already taken the liberty of suggesting to you, I conceive to be one principal cause of the destruction of the old nobility. The military, 'particularly, was too exclusively reserved for men of family. But after all, this was an error in opinion, which a con'Aicting opinion would have rectified. A permanent assembly, in which the commons had their share of power, would soon abolish whatever was too'invidious and insulting in these distinctions; and even the faults in the morals of the nobility would have been probably corrected by 'the greater varieties of occupation and pursuit to which á constitution by orders would have given 'rise.
All this violent cry against the nobility I 'take to be a mere work of art. To be honoured and even privileged 'by the laws, opinions, and inveterate usages of our country, growing out of the prejudice of ages, 'has nothing to provoke horror and indignation in any man. Even to be too tenacious of those privileges, is not absolutely a crime. "The strong struggle in every individual to preserve possession of what he has found to belong to him and to dis'tinguish him, is one of the securities against injustice and despotism implanted in our nature. It operates as an in'stinct to secure property, and to preserve communities in a settled state. What is there to shock in this ? Nobility ‘is a graceful ornament to the civil order. It is the Coriothiau capital of polished society. Omnes boni nobilitati semper favemus, was the saying of a wise and good man. It is indeed one sign of a liberal and benevolent miud to incline to it with some sort of partial propensity. He feels no ennobling principle in his owu heart who wishes to level all the artificial institutions which have been adopted for giving a body to opinion, and permanence to 'fugitive esteem. It is a sour, malignaut, envious disposition, without taste for the reality or for any image or representation of virtue, 'that sees with joy the unmerited fall of what bad long flourished in splendour and in honour. I do not like to see any thing destroyed; any void produced in society; any ruiu on the face of the land. It was therefore with no disappoiutuent or dissatisfaction that my enquiries and observation did not present to me any incorrigible vices in the noblesse of France, or any abuse which could not be removed by a reform very short of abolition. Your noblesse did not deserve punishmeist; but to degrade is to punish.
It was with the same satisfaction I found that the result of my enquiry concerning your clergy was not dissimilar. It is no soothing news to my ears, that great bodies of men are incurably corrupt. It is not with much credulity I listen to any, when they speak evil of those whom they are going to plunder. I rather suspect that vices are feigned or exaggerated, when profit is looked for in their punishment. An enemy is a bad wituess : a robber is a worse. Vices and abuses there were undoubtedly in that order, and must be. It was an old establishment, and not frequently revised. But I saw no crimes in the indi.viduals that merited confiscation in their substance, nor those cruel insults and degradations, and that unnatural persecution which have been substituted in the place of meliorating regulation.
If there had been any just cause for this new religious persecution, the atheistic libellers, who act as trumpeters to animate the populace to plunder, do not love any body so much as not to dwell
with complacence on the vices of the existing clergy. This they have not done. They find themselves obliged to rake into the histories of former ages, which they have ransacked with a malignant aud profligate industry, for every instance of oppression and persecution which has been made by that body or in its favour, in order to justify, upon very iniquitous, because very illogical principles of retaliation, their own persecutions, and their own cruelties. After destroying all other genealogies and family distinctions, they invent a sort of pedigree of crimes. It is not very just to chastise men for the offences of their natural ancestors; but to take the fiction of ancestry in a corporate succession, as a ground for punishing men who have no relation to guilty acts, except in names and general descriptions, is a sort of re. finement in injustice belonging to the philosophy of this enlightened age. The Assembly punishes men, many, if not most, of whom abhor the violent conduct of ecclesias. tics in former times as much as their present persecutors