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.1854.]

English are not Metaphysical.

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their desires and projects.' Rousseau and Voltaire eminently serviceable in leading the public sentiment towards the middle of the eighteenth century.

English writers and statesmen having always enjoyed the power of applying their minds to actual circumstances, and of appealing through a free press and free speech also to the public of their day, have never addressed themselves, as French philosophers did, to the cultivation of abstract speculations and general theories. Here and there a writer has been thrown, by his individual tastes and turn of thought, upon the study of political philosophy ; but the Englishman, taken as a public writer, commonly addresses himself to practical legislation rather than to recondite studies or logical analysis and investigation of the relations between mankind and their regulations under authorised powers. Since Lord Bacon there have been few, excepting in our later times Mill, Bentham, and his disciples, who have explored the metaphysics of jurisprudence and moral science in England. Hume dealt in the philosophic treatment of political subjects, but did not work them up into anything like a coherent system. English are not fond of generalities, but get on by their instincts, bit by bit, as need arises.

Alexis thinks that the writers of the period antecedent to the revolution of 1789 were quite as much thrown up by the condition of public sentiment as they were the exciters of it. Nothing comprehensive, in matters of social arrangement, can be effected under a state of things like that of England ; so easy there for a peculiar grievance to get heard, so easy for a local or class interest

VOL. II.

E

to obtain redress against any form of injustice, that legislation must be 'patching. Next to impossible to reorganise a community without a revolution.

Alexis has been at work for about a year in rummaging amid archives, partly in those of the capital, partly in those of the Touraine. In this last town a complete collection is contained of the records of the old Intendance,' under which several provinces were governed. Nothing short of a continuous and laborious poring over the details of Government furnished by these invaluable paperasses could possibly enable a student of the past century to frame to himself any clear conception of the working of the social relations and authorities in old France. There exists no such tableau. The manners of the higher classes and their daily life and habits are well portrayed in heaps of memoirs, and even pretty well understood by our contemporaries. But the whole structure of society, in its relations with the authorised agents of supreme power, including the pressure of those secondary obligations arising out of coutumes du pays, is so little understood as to be scarcely available to a general comprehension of the old French world before 1789.

Alexis says that the reason why the great upheaving of that period has never been to this day sufficiently appreciated, never sufficiently explained, is because the actual living hideousness of the social details and relations of that period, seen from the points of view of a penetrating contemporary looker-on, has never yet been depicted in true colours and with minute particulars. After having dived into the social history of that century, as I have

1854.]

Mirabeau.

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stated, his conviction is that it was impossible that the revolution of 1789 should not burst out. Cause and effect were never more irrevocably associated than in this terrible case. Nothing but the compulsory idleness and obscurity into which Alexis has been thrown since December 1851 would have put even him upon the researches in question. Few perhaps could have addressed themselves to the task with such remarkable powers of interpretation, and with such talents for exploring the connection between thought and action as he is endowed with. Also he is singularly exempt from aristocratical prejudices, and quite capable of sympathising with popular feeling, though naturally not partial to democracy.

February 15.—De Tocqueville came down in close carriage and sat an hour and a half by fireside. Weather horrible. Talked of La Marck's book on Mirabeau ; ' said that the line Mirabeau pursued was perfectly well known to Frenchmen prior to the appearance of La Marck's book; but that the actual details were of course a new revelation, and highly valued accordingly. Asked what we thought of it in England. I told him the leading impression made by the book was the clear perception of the impossibility of effecting any good or coming to terms in any manner of way of the revolutionary leaders with such a Court. That we also had long suspected Mirabeau of being what he was now proved to have been -a man who, imbued though he was with the spirit of revolutionary action and the conviction of the rightfulness of demanding prodigious changes, yet who would

· See Royal and Republican France, by H. Reeve Esq. vol. i.-ED.

willingly have directed the monarch in a method of warding off the terrible consequences of the storm, and who would, if the Court had confided to his hands the task of conciliating the popular feelings, have perhaps preserved the forms of monarchy while affording the requisite concessions to the national demands. But the Court was so steeped in the old sentiment of divine right, and moreover so distrustful of Mirabeau's honour and sagacity (the more so as he was insatiable in his pecuniary requisitions), that they would never place their cause frankly in his hands, nor indeed in anyone else's who was capable of discerning their best interests. Lafayette was regarded as an enemy almost (and was ‘jaloused' by Mirabeau as being so popular) on account of his popular sympathies. De Tocqueville said that so diffused was the spirit of revolution at the period preceding the convocation of the Etats-généraux, that the elder. Mirabeau, who was a very clever and originalminded man, though strongly tinctured with the old feudal prejudices, nevertheless let the fact be seen in the clearest manner in his own writings. He wrote many tracts on public topics, and De Tocqueville says that the tone in which Mirabeau (père) handles these proves that he was perfectly cognisant of the universal spread of revolutionary opinions, and even in some degree influenced by them in his own person. Mirabeau (the son) was so aware of the absolute necessity of proclaiming himself emancipated from the old feudalities, that, among other extravagances of his conduct, he started as a shopkeeper at Marseilles for some time, 1854) Revolution of 1789 could not be averted.

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by way of fraternizing with the bourgeoisie; affichéing his liberalism. De Tocqueville quoted Napoleon as saying in one of his conversations at St. Helena that he had been a spectator from a window of the scene at the Tuileries, on the famous August 10, 1792, and that it was his conviction (Napoleon's) that, even at that stage, the revolution might have been averted—at least, the furious character of it might have been turned aside-by judicious modes of negociation on the part of the King's advisers. De Tocqueville does not concur in Napoleon's opinion. 'Cahiers,' published 1789, contain the whole body of instructions supplied to their respective delegates by the trois états (clergé, noblesse, et Tiers État), on assembling in convocation. Of this entire and voluminous collection (which is deposited in the archives of France) three volumes of extracts are to be bought which were a kind of rédigé of the larger body of documents. In these three volumes De Tocqueville mentioned, one may trace the course of the public sentiment with perfect clearness. Each class demanded a large instalment of constitutional securities; the nobles perhaps demanded the largest amount of all the three. Nothing could be more thoroughgoing than the requisitions which the body of the noblesse charged their delegates to enforce in the Assembly of the États-généraux—'égalisations des charges (taxation), responsabilité des ministres, indépendance des tribunaux, liberté de la personne, garantie de la propriété contre la couronne,' a balancesheet annually of the public expenses and public revenue, and, in fact, all the salient privileges necessary

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