« НазадПродовжити »
Outlines of the Principal Events in the Life of General Lafayette.
Boston. 1825. 8vo. pp. 64. This memoir was first published in the North American Review. The author, Mr George Ticknor, one of the Professors in Harvard University, has since corrected it in some of its facts, and enlarged it by the addition of others. It is now published in the form of a pamphlet, and it comes before the the public with a degree of authenticity, on which they may safely rely. The memoir is peculiariy acceptable to the " American people," at the present time, and in its present form ;-at the present time, because the whole nation have felt deeply, and do still feel deeply, the presence of their illustrious benefactor ;-in its present form, because all wish to learn the interesting facts of his life from an authentic source; and many will now have an opportunity to learn them, who otherwise might not. We may add, morever, that this simple narrative of the principal events in the life of General Lafayette is the more grateful to us, because it presents him in some of the most interesting and trying situations, which he has been called to sustain. And no man has passed through more reverses of fortune, and been called, in the course of them, to sustain more important relations, in the most critical times, than General Lafayette. Is is more grateful still, because it places his character, as connected with some of the most important events of the age, in so many attitudes, and in such strong relief,—all consistent with each other, and all conspiring to bring home the conviction and the sanction of reason, to feelings which before existed.
These “ Outlines," as the title purports, embrace only a part of the facts and events in the life of General Lafayette. But they are some of the most interesting and important. We cannot give our readers an analysis of the pamphlet, because the subject does not admit of analysis. It is a narrative of facts, and a description of events. And we could not relate the one, or describe the other, in fewer words than have been used in the book. Without attempting, therefore, to trace the same outlines which Mr Ticknor has traced, or to fill up
those outlines with collateral information and reflections of our own, we shall select a few of the most striking and important events described in the pamphlet, and give them to our readers in Mr Ticknor's own words.
Many yet live who remember, and all know from history, the desponding situation of the American colonies in 1777. It was at this critical time, that Lafayette first arrived in our country.
The sensation produced by his appearance in this country was, of course, much greater than that produced in Europe by his departure. It still stands forth, as one of the most prominent and important circumstances in our revolutionary contest; and, as has often been said by one who bore no small part in its trials and success, none but those who were then alive, cap believe what an impulse it gave to the hopes of a population almost disheartened by a long series of disasters. And well it might; for it taught us, that in the first rank of the first nobility in Europe, men could still be found, who not only took an interest in our struggle, but were willing to share our sufferings; that our obscure and almost desperate contest for freedom in a remote quarter of the world, could yet find supporters among those, who were the most natural and powerful allies of a splendid despotism; that we were the objects of a regard and interest throughout the world, which would add to our own resources sufficient strength to carry us safely through to final success.
After the American revolution had terminated so successfully to the cause and the principles, which Lafayette had so zealously and efficiently espoused, he returned to France, and was soon called to witness the terrible paroxysms of that nation during the French revolution. But the French people had neither the intelligence nor the virtue of the American people. And the same degree of liberty, which was a blessing to the latter, would have been the greatest curse to the former. Liberty can never precede knowledge and virtue in the people, but it must and will follow them. The influence of Lafayette, therefore, though he was then, as he is now, considered the very Apostle of Liberty, was frequently felt on the side of the crown, bracing and strengthening it against the too violent encroachments of the people. The following extract from Mr Ticknor's memoir will show the part which he was frequently called to sustain during the French revolution, and the manner in which he sustained it. It describes the attack of the populace upon the royal family, at Versailles, on the night of the fifth of October, 1789.
He [Lafayette) arrived at Versailles at ten o'clock at night, after having been on horseback from before daylight in the morning, and and having made, during the whole interval, both at Paris and on the road, incredible exertions to control the multitude and calm the soldiers. • The Marquis de Lafayette at last entered the château,' says Madame de Staël, and passing through the apartment where we were, went to the king. We all pressed round him, as if he were the master of events, and yet the popular party was already more powerful than its chief, and
principles were yielding to factions, or rather were beginning to serve only as their pretexts. M. de Lafayette's manner was perfectly calm; nobody ever saw it otherwise; but his delicacy suffered from the importance of the part he was called to act. He asked for the interior posts of the château, in order that he might ensure their safety. Only the outer posts were granted to him.' This refusal was not disrespectful to him who made the request. It was given, simply because the etiquette of the court reserved the guard of the royal person and family to another body of men. Lafayette, therefore, answered for the National Guards, and for the posts committed to them; hut he could answer for no more; and his pledge was faithfully and desperately redeemed.
Between two and three o'clock, the queen and the royal family went to bed. Lafayette, too, slept after the great fatigues of this fearful day. At half past four, a portion of the populace made their way into the palace by an obscure, interior passage, which had been overlooked, and which was not in that part of the château entrusted to Lafayette. They were evidently led by persons who well knew the secret avenues. Mirabeau's name was afterwards strangely compromised in it, and the form of the infamous Duke of Orleans was repeatedly recognized on the great staircase, pointing the assassins the way to the queen's chamber. They easily found it. Two of her guards were cut down in an instant; and she made her escape almost naked. Lafayette immediately rushed in with the national troops, protected the guards from the brutal populace, and saved the lives of the royal family, which had so nearly been sacrificed to the etiquette of the monarchy.
The day dawned as this fearful scene of guilt and bloodshed was passing in the magnificent palace, whose construction had exhausted the revenues of Louis Fourteenth, and which, for a century, had been the most splendid residence in Europe. As soon as it was light, the same furious multitude filled the vast space, which, from the rich materials of which it is formed, passes under the name of the court of marble. They called upon the king, in tones not to be mistaken, to go to Paris; and they called for the queen, who had but just escaped from their daggers, to come out upon the balcony. The king, after a short consultation with his ministers, announced his intention to set out for the capital; but Lafayette was afraid to trust the queen in the midst of the bloodthirsty multitude. He went to her, therefore, with respectful hesitation, and asked her if it were her purpose to accompany the king to Paris. “Yes,' she replied, • although I am aware of the danger.' Are you positively determined ?' • Yes, sir.' Condescend, then, to go out upon the balcony, and suffer me to attend you. Without the king ? she replied, hesitating — Have you observed the threats?' • Yes, Madam, I have; but dare to trust me.' He led her out upon the balcony. It was a moment of great responsibility and great delicacy; but nothing, he felt assured, could be so dangerous as to permit her to set out for Paris, surrounded by that multitude, unless its feelings could be changed. The agitation, the tumult, the cries of the crowd rendered it impossible that his voice should be heard. It was necessary, therefore, to address bimself to the eye, and, turning towards the queen, with that admirable presence of mind, which never yet forsook him, and with that mingled grace and dignity, which were the peculiar inheritance of the ancient court of France, he simply kissed her hand before the vast multitude. An instant of silent astonish
ment followed, but the whole was immediately interpreted, and the air was rent with cries of Long live the queen! Long live the general ! from the same fickle and cruel populace, that only two hours beiore bad embrued their hands in the blood of the guards who defended the life of this same queen.
The attempt to rescue Lafayette from the prison at Olmütz is so interesting in itself, and so beautifully described, we can hardly forbear quoting it entire. But we have only room to say, what most of our readers probably knew before, the attempt proved unsuccessful, and both Lafayette and his romantic deliverers were soon retaken, and all confined in prison, where they suffered the more severely from the increased vigilance of their keepers. After five years' imprisonment at Olmütz, Lafayette was liberated, and returned again to France. He lived in retirement till those critical times came on, which resulted in the abdication of Bonaparte, after the battle of Waterloo. He then took part again in the public counsels. There are periods in the history of every nation, when its destinies seem to be suspended in a trembling balance. A word, a look, or a gesture, at such times, may decide the fate of nations. Of these perilous and portentous moments, France has witnessed more than any other nation for the last fifty years. We insert a description of one, in which Lafayette was conspicuous, and in which, considering the time,-the place, -the occasion,--and the consequences that were to follow from one or another decision, there is a moral sublimity hardly surpassed by any thing in history. The time was when Bonaparte returned from Waterloo, defeated and desperate man;" the place was the Chamber of Representatives of thirty millions of French people ; the occasion was a resolution offered by Lafayette, declaring the chamber to be in permanent session, and all attempts to dissolve it, high treason; and also calling for the four principal ministers to come to the chamber, and explain the state of affairs; the consequences involved, were the existence of the French nation, and the happiness of the French people.
As soon, therefore, as the session was opened, Lafayette, with the same clear courage and in the same spirit of self-devotion, with which he had stood at the bar of the National Assembly in 1792, immediately ascended the Tribune for the first time for twenty years, and said these few words, which assuredly would have been his death warrant, if he had not been supported in them by the assembly he addressed: When, after an interval of many years, I raise a voice which the friends of free institutions will still recognise, I feel myself called upon to speak
to you only of the dangers of the country, which you alone have now the power to save. Sinister intimations have been beard ; they are unfortunately confirmed. This, therefore, is the moment for us to gather round the ancient tricolored standard ; the standard of '89; the standard of freedom, of equal rights, and of public order. Perinit then, gentlemen, a veteran in this sacred cause, one who has always been a stranger to the spirit of faction, to offer you a few preparatory resolutions, whose absolute necessity, I trust, you will feel, as I do.'
The resolutions were adopted. Lucien Bonaparte came to the chamber, and attempted to explain “ the state of affairs; but at length appealed to the feelings of the members.
• It is not Napoleon,' he cried, that is attacked, it is the French people. And a proposition is now made to this people, to abandon their Emperor; to expose the French nation, before the tribunal of the world, to a severe judgment on its levity and inconstancy. No, sir, the honour of this nation shall never be so compromised?' On hearing these words, Lafayette rose. He did not go to the tribune; but spoke, contrary to rule and custom, from his place. His manner was perfectly calm, but marked with the very spirit of rebuke; and he addressed himself, not to the President, but directly to Lucien. The assertion, which has just been uttered, is a calumny. Who shall dare to accuse the French nation of inconstancy to the Emperor Napoleon ? That nation has followed his bloody footsteps through the sands of Egypt and through the wastes of Russia; over fifty fields of battle; in disaster as faithful as in victory; and it is for having thus devotedly followed him, that we now mourn the blood of three millions of Frenchmen.' These few words made an impression on the Assembly, which could not be mistaken or resisted ; and, as Lafayette ended, Lucien himself bowed respectfully to him, and, without resuming his speech, sat down.
The memoir of Lafayette, from which we have already made such copious extracts, closes with a passage, in which the principal events in his life are again alluded io, in a manner expressing the feelings of this whole people. Those events could not have been alluded to, and the feelings of the nation expressed in connexion with them, more happily than in the following passage.
This is the distinguished personage, who, after an absence of eight and thirty years, is now come to visit the nation, for whose independence and freedom he hazarded whatever is most valued in human estimation, almost half a century ago. He comes, too, at the express invitation of the entire people; he is literally the Guest of the Nation ;' but the guest, it should be remembered, of another generation, than the one he originally came to serve. We rejoice at it. We rejoice, in common with the thousands who throng his steps wherever he passes, that we are permitted to offer this tribute of a gratitude and veneration, which cannot be misinterpreted, to one, who suffered with our fathers for our sake; but we rejoice yet more for the moral effect it cannot fail to produce on us, both as individuals and as a people. For it is no com