Abbildungen der Seite


the Austrians, and driven them out. Boufflers, and after him the duc de Richelieu, aided by the populace, were enabled to preserve the town. But to Genoa was limited their footing on Italian soil. The imperialists even penetrated into Provence. And when the chevalier de Belleisle attempted to force the passes of the Alps, he was defeated at Exilles, and slain, with the greater part of his soldiers. By sea, the French lost almost their last ship of war. Their very coasts were insulted : and Port l'Orient, the seat of their East India trade, had almost capitulated to the English. There was lassitude in the movements of each belligerent. France made frequent overtures for peace. Philip V. of Spain was dead; Ferdinand VI., his successor, was not inclined to spend the resources of his kingdom in order to procure his step-brother, Don Philip, a principality in Italy. To establish this prince, the brother of Don Carlos, in Parma, was the original pretext for Spain's joining in the war against the emperor. England was, perhaps, the country least pacifically inclined. Holland, however, in terror at the successes of the French in Flanders, used every influence and entreaty to ward off their danger by a peace. The allies were obstinate, seeing France now stand alone, whilst Russia was marching to their aid. In the spring of 1748, however, mareschal Saxe unvested Maestricht: the prospect of this last fortress falling, rendered the enemies of France more inclined to listen to her overtures. Negotiations commenced; and when they did, it appeared as if no cause of difference had existed to produce so prolonged and calamitous a war. Hostilities ceased in May; and in October was signed the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. France made no demand. Her ambassador declared that his orders were to make peace not for a merchant but a king. Louis not only yielded all his conquests in Flanders, but allowed that stipulation, so disgraceful to the country, of rendering the port of Dunkirk useless, to be inserted. Savoy was given up to the king of Sardinia. In exchange for these, Don Philip of Spain was established in the duchy of Parma; Maria. Theresa recovered Austrian Flanders; England, giving up Louisburg in North America, kept Acadia. Such was the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle; which, recompensing neither France nor England for their enormous expenditure of blood and treasure, at least achieved one aim of the latter, in preserving the unity of the Austrian dominion, establishing the heroic Maria. Theresa on her throne, and thus preserving the due balance of power in the east of Europe.



WE have hitherto sailed down the stream of French his. tory, from the obscure wilderness of its rise, through the rugged and picturesque gorges, the breaks and rapids of its middle course, to the wide majestic flow of the monarchy in its latter days. Embarked upon its tide, with calm around and before, we now begin to perceive that the current grows suddenly more rapid, and that, without any apparent or ex ternal cause, we are hurried along with a swiftness at once menacing and unaccountable. Although not within hearing, we are yet within the influence of the distant cataract.

The very men who lived in those days began to perceive the movement; not only the philosopher and reflecting man, but Louis XV. himself. “The monarchy is very old,” said he, “but it will last my time:” a selfish remark, no doubt. But could he have stopped the current of its decline? And was not his conscious powerlessness, more than his selfishness, the prompter of his thought? His subjects, his compatriots, took precisely the same view: nor class nor individual knew whither they tended; but all were dissatisfied and ill at ease. A change was necessary, it was inevitable: the acts of every one—of king, of priest, of minister, of noble, of parliament, of writer—all henceforth worked to bring about and hasten this change. The king degraded royalty by his dissoluteness, and weakened it by his profusion. The minister, turning away from the task of internal administration in disgust, directed his views abroad, and sought to gild his day of triumph by the trophies of a war, undertaken under some idle pretext of supporting the balance of power. The noble. like the monarch, degraded his order, and showed himself pressing on the lower classes, not for any public end, but for his own private gratification. The legists defended the cause of religious liberty and their own independence, indeed, but did so selfishly and blindly. The writer flattered royalty and aristocracy, and, at this price, was allowed to attack religion, the court finding itself in opposition to the priest hood. The priesthood itself increased its odium as a privi leged class, by its intemperance, its ignorance, its absurdity and its scandal.


In such a gencral abandonment of the ancient system, such a despair of supporting it, it is absurd to ascribe to any particular class the catastrophe in which the epoch ended. None set about revolutionizing intentionally; but each stirred when it found its place irksome; each, where and how it had the power. As the noblesse had proved malcontent at one time the magistracy at another, so now a new combination of so ciety, the lettered class, rebelled with better success, for universal sympathy supported them; and step the first was taken in revolution. - .

It has already been stated, that when all hostility against royal power ceased, the frowardness of opposition took refuge in Jansenism. This was in fact the second position taken up in France against sacerdotal tyranny: the first was Calvinism; its defeat has been recorded. And after it to resuscitate reform became impossible, because it must savor of Calvinism, which was hated as ignoble, as fanatical, as disloyal, and, above all, as past: for though zeal may innovate, it scorns mere imitation. Jansenism had not much more success: the base of its religious creed, at least, was narrow and sophistical; it suited legal heads, but was incomprehensible to the people. The third and last stand against papal supremacy was taken on the broad ground of infidelity; and the philosophers of the eighteenth century might plead that they were driven to this, as the last and only resource against the intolerance and tyranny of the priesthood.

The ecclesiastical power was, at the present epoch, the most prominent, the most felt; it was the vanguard of oppression. Not only was it guilty of those gross instances of injustice and crime, the breaking of Calas on the wheel, the execution of La Barre for pretended sacrilege,_enormities equal to those which sully the dark ages, but it also wreaked its petty despotism in being the torment, the spy, and the bugbear of domestic and social life. This chapter will contain an account of its arrogant pretensions, and of that absurd and fatuous conduct which disgusted the whole kingdom with the very name and institution of religion. It united the most odious attributes of the police and the censorship, and it peculiarly galled that rising and active intellect which characterized the society of the capital, That society combined the aristocracies of talent and of birth; it had now become the public;-at least its representative. Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, D'Alembert, were far more the organs than the teachers of this society. In attacking the church they acted in self-defence, for that church was determined to allow them neither liberty of speech nor of writing; it presented itself as a wall against the advance of knowledge and of enlightenment. The heads of the church began the war, and put the creed, which they professed and represented, to the same risk that their usurped tyranny incurred. To separate the cause of religion from that of Catholicism had been tried by Hugue. not and Jansenist, and they had both failed: the sole and unfortunate alternative that remained was to attack religion itself, to confound creed and hierarchy. That alternative was embraced. Infidelity reared its standard: Voltaire poured forth his volumes; the Encyclopédie appeared; Diderot, D'Alembert, Condillac, formed new principles of mental science and moral conduct independent of religion. Vain these were, indeed, and baseless, but novelty and the exigence of the moment gave them force. The philosophers conquered. We have to regret that triumph; inasmuch as the impiety that blend edwith the principles of freedom was one great cause of their bearing such bitter fruit, and being blighted by so sudden a decay. But, in the guilt of having caused that lawnentable state of impiety and demoralization, the Catholic church and priesthood of France must share, at least in an equal degree with her philosophers and men of learning. France was now governed by madame de Pompadour. She was certainly a woman of talent. The empire which she held over Louis XV., long after her charms had ceased to fascinate him, proves this. She bound him, as she says herself, “in the chains of habit.” Her boudoir became the councilchamber, the ministers her creatures. The king was present at each determination, but was spared the trouble of either thinking or speaking. It was Pompadour who appointed generals and bishops, proposed laws and plans of campaigns. After a glorious victory, it is a complimentary letter from the mistress that we find coming to reward the triumph of the hero. This paramount influence the duchess of Pompadour had the art to wield, taking from the monarch merely that power which was irksome, and leaving him all the liberty that he could desire. Thus she had no womanish jealousy, and cared little to monopolize his heart. She permitted him even to form the disgraceful parc-aua-cerfs, as an establishment containing a royal seraglio was called. From the base and ineffable debauch of such a haunt, Louis would recur to the chamber of La Pompadour, for the more refined entertainments of conversation. The mistress was not a stranger to the intellectual movement, the new ideas, of the day. Woltaire was amongst those who paid court to her. His muse was oft invoked to celebrate her wit as well as beauty: and even a paragraph of grave history is devoted by him to her


adulation. Montesquieu presented her with his “Esprit des Lois;” and Diderot begged her interference when the printing of the “Encyclopédie” was stopped. It is well known that she protected Quesnay, the founder of the sect of Politiçal Economists. She introduced him even to the monarch, and contributed not a little to bring into notice these at once abstruse and practical studies. To the last she protected Quesnel, and was to him a faster friend than madame de Maintenon had proved to poor Racine. La Pompadour, thus in connexion with the philosophers, naturally adopted their prominent ideas. These, as we have seen, were directed against the church. Accordingly, in 1749 appeared the edict of mainmorte, forbidding any new conventual establishments without royal permission; also incapacitating them from inheriting or acquiring any increase of territory. This law, taken by the learned from the English statute-book, was indeed called for at a time that the church possessed more than one third of the entire landed property of the kingdom. The royal tenth, called afterwards a twentieth, had begun to be levied during the war, and was now continued upon the privileged classes. The clergy made a stubborn resistance to the tax. Unfortunately, at this critical period, a prelate, of tenacious character and narrow intellect, was promoted to the important post of archbishop of Paris. In Christophe de Beaumont the Jesuits immediately found a stay and a firm support; and under the shadow of his power, and the instrumentality of his arm, they soon began to harass their enemies. A letter was written in this year (1749) from madame de Pompadour to the French ambassador at Rome, to the effect that he might procure the relics of some saint for the chapel of St. Cyr, but take care that the said dead saint should not have two left legs, as was the case with the last importation of the kind. The letter continues, “The clergy of France grow daily more turbulent. If they were masters, we should see the dragonnades of Louis XIV. renewed; but, thanks to heaven, our most Christian king is neither devotee nor persecutor: he has no authority over consciences, he says, and wants none—the good prince As for me, I hate intolerant priests; and, were I a sovereign, would never persecute any save the persecutors.” Such were the sentiments of those in power, when the archbishop of Paris began his crusade against conscience. ..One should have thought that at such a time all believers should have united their efforts to ward off impiety. But no. it was against the latent and almost extinct sect of Jansenism o gole de Beaumont directed his blows. He invent.—12

« ZurückWeiter »