Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

restrain the merciless monster, who, in the confidence of his riches, strikes at the very root of liberty, and sets mankind at defiance ? And shall this man escape ? Fathers, it must not be! It must not be, unless you would undermine the very foundations of social safety,

gle justice, and call down anarchy, massacre and ruin, on the Commonwealth!

12. AGAINST THE NOBILITY AND CLERGY OF PROVENCE, FEB. 3, 1789. —

Original Translation from Mirabeau. Honoré Gabriel Riquetti, Comte de Mirabeau, was born at Bignon, in France, on the 9th of March, 1749. The early part of his life was one of disorder and misery. The French Revolu. tion offered a field for his energies. Being rejected, at the time of the elections, by the nobility of Provence, he hired a warehouse, put up this inscription, -“ Mirabeau, woollen-draper," — and was elected deputy from the third estate of Aix. His contemporaries speak of the effect of his eloquence as surprising and irresistible. “He trod the tribune with the supreme authority of a master, and the imperial air of a king.” Personally, he was quite ugly. He himself has said, in a letter to a laly who had not seen him :-“Imagine a tiger scarred with the smallpox, and you may forın some notion of my features." "Ile was a man," says one of his crities, " who, by his qualities no less than by the singularity of his fortune, is destined to take his place in history by the side of the Demosthenes, the Gracchi, and the other kindred spirits of an antiquity whose gigantic characteristics he so frequently reproduced.” He died 1791.

In the French National Assembly, every speaker who addresses that body formally, instead of speaking from his stat, as in the legislative halls of England and the United States, ascends an elevated platform, or pulpit, called a tribune, from which he makes his harangue.

In all countries, in all ages, have aristocrats implacably pursued the friends of the People; and when, by I know not what combination of fortune, such a friend has uprisen from the very bosom of the aristocracy, it has been at him preeminently that they have struck, eager to inspire wider terror by the elevation of their victim. So perished the last of the Gracchi by the hands of the Patricians. But, mortally smitten, he flung dust towards Heaven, calling the avenging Gods to witness: and, from that dust, sprang Marius ; — Marius, less illustrious for having exterminated the Cimbri than for having beaten down the despotism of the nobility in Rome.

But you, Commons, listen to one, who, unseduced by your applauses, yet cherishes them in his heart. Man is strong only by union; happy only by peace. Be firm, not obstinate; courageous, not turbulent; free, not undisciplined; prompt, not precipitate. Stop not except at difficulties of moment; and be then wholly inflexible. But disdain the contentions of self-love, and never thrust into the balance the individual against the country. Above all, hasten, as much as in you lies, the epoch of those States-General, from which you are charged with flinching, — the more acrimoniously charged, the more your accusers dread the results; of those States-General, through which so many pretensions will be scattered, so many rights reestablished, so many evils reformed; of those States-General, in short, through which the monarch himself desires that France should regenerate herself.

For myself, who, in my public career, have had no other fear but that of wrong-doing, — who, girt with my conscience, and armed with my principles, would brave the universe, — whether it shall be my fortune to serve you with my voice and my exertions in the National Assembly, or whether I shall be enabled to aid you there with my prayers only, be sure that the vain clamors, the wrathful menaces, the injurious protestations, — all the convulsions, in a word, of expiring prejudices, shall not on me impose! What! shall he now pause in his civic course, who, first among all the men of France, emphatically proclaimed his opinions on national affairs, at a time when circumstances were much less urgent than now, and the task one of much greater peril ? Never! No measure of outrages shall bear down my patience. I have been, I am, I shall be, even to the tomb, the man of the Public Liberty, the man of the Constitution. If to be such be to become the man of the People rather than of the Nobles, then woe to the privileged orders! For privileges shall have an end, but the People is eternal !

13. NECKER'S FINANCIAL PLAN, Sept. 26, 1789. — Mirabeau. Orig. Translation. Necker, the minister of finance, having proposed an income tax of twenty-five per cent.,

with other measures, in view of the desperate state of the financial affairs of France, the proposition was advocated by Mirabeau, who did not, however, profess to comprehend or endorse all its details. Although a known enemy to the minister, he magnanimously made two speeches in behalf of his measure ; without, however, inducing the Assembly to pass it, until, on the eve of its being rejected, Mirabeau rushed to the Tribune, and poured forth a last appeal, an abridg. ment of which is here given. This speech proved effectual. The Assembly received it with shouts of enthusiasm ; and Necker's plan was adopted. Madame de Stael (Necker's daugbter), who was near Mirabeau at the time of the delivery of this speech, says that “its effect was prodigious."

The minister of finance has presented a most alarming picture of the state of our affairs. He has assured us that delay must aggravate the peril; and that a day, an hour, an instant, may render it fatal. We have no plan that can be substituted for that which he proposes. On this plan, therefore, we must fall back. But, have we time, Gentlemen ask, to examine it, to probe it thoroughly, and verify its calculations ? No, no! a thousand times no ! Hap-hazard conjectures, insignificant inquiries, gropings that can but mislead, — these are all that we can give to it now. Shall we therefore miss the decisive moment? Do Gentlemen hope to escape sacrifices and taxation by a plunge into national bankruptcy? What, then, is bankruptcy, but the most cruel, the most iniquitous, most unequal and disastrous of imposts? Listen to me for one moment !

Two centuries of plunder and abuse have dug the abyss which threatens to engulf the Nation. It must be filled up - this terrible chasm. But how? Here is a list of proprietors. Choose from the wealthiest, in order that the smallest number of citizens may be sacrificed. But choose! Shall not a few perish, that the mass of the People may be saved ? Come, then! Here are two thousand Notables, whose property will supply the deficit. Restore order to your finances, peace and prosperity to the Kingdom! Strike! Immolate, without mercy, these unfortunate victims! Hurl them into the abyss !

It closes!

You recoil with dismay from the contemplation. Inconsistent and pusillanimous! What! Do you not perceive that, in decreeing a public bankruptcy, or, what is worse, in rendering it inevitable with

are you,

out decreeing it, you disgrace yourselves by an act a thousand times more criminal, and — folly inconceivable ! - gratuitously criminal ? For, in the shocking alternative I have supposed, at least the deficit would be wiped off. But do you imagine that, in refusing to pay, you shall cease to owe? Think you that the thousands, the millions of men, who will lose in an instant, by the terrible explosion of a bankruptcy, or its revulsion, all that formed the consolation of their lives, and perhaps their sole means of subsistence, - think you that they will leave you to the peaceable fruition of your crime? Stoical spectators of the incalculable evils which this catastrophe would disgorge upon France; impenetrable egotists, who fancy that these convulsions of despair and of misery will pass, as other calamities have passed, and all the more rapidly because of their intense violence,indeed, certain that so many men without bread will leave you tranquilly to the enjoyment of those savory viands, the number and delicacy of which you are so loth to diminish? No! you will perish; and, in the universal conflagration, which you do not shrink from kindling, you will not, in losing your honor, save a single one of your detestable indulgences. This is the way we are going. And I say to you, that the men who, above all others, are interested in the enforcement of these sacrifices which the Government demands, are you yourselves! Vote, then, this subsidy extraordinary; and may it prove sufficient !

Vote it, inasmuch as whatever doubts you may entertain as to the means, doubts vague and unenlightened, — you can have none as to the necessity, or as to our inability to provide – immediately, at least — a substitute. Vote it, because the circumstances of the country admit of no evasion, and we shall be responsible for all delays. Beware of demanding more time! Misfortune accords it never. Why, Gentlemen, it was but the other day, that, in reference to a ridiculous commotion at the Palais-Royal, -a Quixotic insurrection, which never had any importance save in the feeble imaginations or perverse designs of certain faithless men, -you heard these wild words : Catiline is at the gates of Rome, and yet you deliberate!And verily there was neither a Catiline nor à Rome; neither perils nor factions around you. But, to-day, bankruptcy, hideous bankruptcy, is there before you, and threatens to consume you, yourselves, your property, your honor, — and yet you deliberate !

14. ON TIE REFUSAL OF THE CHAMBER OF VACATIONS OF RENNES TO OBEY

THIE DECREES OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, JAN. 9, 1790. - Original Translation from Mirabeau.

Wien, during our session yesterday, those words which you have taught Frenchmen to unlearn orders, privileges fell on my ears ; when a private corporation of one of the Provinces of this Empire spoke to you of the impossibility of consenting to the execution of your decrees, sanctioned by the King ; when certain magistrates declared to you, that their conscience and their honor forbade their obedience to your laws, — I said to myself, Are these, then, dethroned sovereigns, who, in a transport of imprudent but generous pride, are addressing successful usurpers ? No; these are men,

* The & in Palais is mute, and the diphthong ai has the sound of ai in air, before the r is reached. The French pronunciation of Royal may be expressed in English thus : Roh-ah-te-ahl; but the syllables must be fused rapidly in the utterance.

whose arrogant pretensions have too long been an insult to all ideas of social order ; champions, even more interested than audacious, of a system which has cost France centuries of oppression, public and private, political and fiscal, feudal and judicial, — and whose hope is to make us regret and revive that system. The people of Brittany have sent among you sixty-six representatives, who assure you that the new Constitution crowns all their wishes ; — and here come eleven Judges of the Province, who cannot consent that you should be the benefactors of their country. They have disobeyed your laws; and they pride themselves on their disobedience, and believe it will make their names honored by posterity. No, Gentlemen, the remembrance of their folly will not pass to posterity. What avail their pigmy efforts to brace themselves against the progress of a Revolution the grandest and most glorious in the world's history, and one that must infallibly change the face of the globe and the lot of humanity ? Strange presumption, that would arrest liberty in its course, and roll back the destinies of a great Nation!

It is not to antiquated transactions, - it is not to musty treaties, wherein fraud combined with force to chain men to the car of certain haughty masters, — that the National Assembly have resorted, in their investigations into popular rights. The titles we offer are more imposing by far; ancient as time, sacred and imprescriptible as Nature ! What! Must the terms of the marriage contract of one Anne of Brittăny make the People of that Province slaves to the Nobles till the consummation of the ages ? These refractory magistrates speak of the statutes which“ immutably fix our powers of legislation.” Immutably fix ! 0, how that word tears the veil from their innermost thoughts! How would they like to have abuses immutable upon the earth, and evil eternal! Indeed, what is lacking to their felicity but the perpetuity of that feudal scourge, which unhappily has lasted only six centuries? But it is in vain that they rage. All now is changed or changing. There is nothing immutable save reason - save the sovereignty of the People — save the inviolability of its decrees !

15. IN REPLY TO THOSE WHO DENIED THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY THE LEGIT

IMATE POWERS OF A NATIONAL CONVENTION, APRIL 19, 1790. - Mirabeau. Original Translation.

It is with difficulty, Gentlemen, that I can repress an emotion of indignation, when I hear hostile rhetoricians continually oppose the Nation to the National Assembly, and endeavor to excite a sort of rivalry between them. As if it were not through the National Assembly that the Nation had recognized, recovered, reconquered its rights! As if it were not through the National Assembly that the French had, in truth, become a Nation! As if, surrounded by the monuments of our labors, our dangers, our services, we could become suspected by the People — formidable to the liberties of the People ! As if the regards of two worlds upon you fixed, as if the spectacle of your glory, as if the gratitude of so many millions, as if the very pride of a generous conscience, which would have to blush too deeply to belie itself, were not a sufficient guarantee of your fidelity, of your patriotism, of your virtue ! !

Commissioned to form a Constitution for France, I will not ask whether, with that authority, we did not receive also the power to do all that was necessary to complete, establish, and confirm that Constitution. I will not ask, ought we to have lost in pusillanimous consultations the time of action, while nascent Liberty would have received her death-blow? But if Gentlemen insist on demanding when and how, from simple deputies of bailiwicks, we became all at once transformed into a National Convention, I reply, It was on that day, when, finding the hall where we were to assemble closed, and bristling and polluted with bayonets, we resorted to the first place where we could reünite, to swear to perish rather than submit to such an order of things! That day, if we were not a National Convention, we became one; became one for the destruction of arbitrary power, and for the defence of the rights of the Nation from all violence. The strivings of Despotism which we have quelled, the perils which we have averted, the violence which we have repressed, — these are our titles ! Our successes have consecrated them ; the adhesion, so often renewed, of all parts of the Empire, has legitimized and sanctified them. Summoned to its task by the irresistible tocsin of necessity, our National Convention is above all imitation, as it is above all authority. It is accountable only to itself, and can be judged only by posterity.

Gentlemen, you all remember the instance of that Roman, who, to save his country from a dangerous conspiracy, had been constrained to overstep the powers conferred on him by the laws. A captious Tribune exacted of him the oath that he had respected those laws; hoping, by this insidious demand, to drive the Consul to the alternative of perjury or of an embarrassing avowal. Swear,” said the Tribune, “that you have observed the laws.” “I swear,” replied the great man, · I swear that I have saved the Republic." Gentlemen, I swear that you have saved France !

16. ON BEING SUSPECTED OF RECEIVING OVERTURES FROM THE COURT, MAY

22, 1790. — Mirabeau. Original Translation. It would be an important step towards the reconciliation of political opponents, if they would clearly signify on what points they agree, and on what they differ. To this end, friendly discussions avail more, far more, than calumnious insinuations, furious invectives, the acerbities of

« НазадПродовжити »