An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution
Adams#: Adams 221.15 Title: An historical and moral view of the origin and progress of the French Revolution : and the effect it has produced in Europe
Author: Wollstonecraft, Mary
This is a lady of a masculine, masterly understanding. Her style is nervous and clear, often elegant: though sometimes too verbose. With a little experience in public affairs and the reading and reflection which would result from it, she would have produced a history without the defects and blemishes pointed out with too much severity perhaps and too little gallantry in the notes.
The improvement, the exaltation of the human character, the perfectibility of man, the perfection of the human faculties are the divine object which her enthusiasm beholds in beatific vision. Alas, how airy and baseless a fabric!
Yet she will not admit of the only means that can accomplish any part of her ardent prophecies: forms of government, so mixed, combined, and balanced as to restrain the passions of all orders of men.
She means Daniel and John, no doubt.
Wollstonecraft's empire of superstition and hypocrisy should be overthrown, happy indeed will it be for the world: but if all religion and all morality should be overthrown with it, what advantage will be gained? The doctrine of human equality is founded entirely in the Christian doctrine that we are all children of the same Father, all accountable to him for our conduct to one another. All equally bound to respect each other's self love.
If nature has no father, no creator, no governor, and men are to perish, inequality is a right and it would be folly in him who possesses or can obtain an advantage to forego it.
i.e. We must get entirely clear of Christianity.
A lady is the writer.
The opinions in this page are those of a weak woman.
Can an army or society move in order without ranks! Are riches to be the only distinction? Is there any distinction more degrading than riches? Good God!
Is the degeneracy of the higher greater than that of the lower orders?
Are those plants all rooted out? Are not factions sown?
It is wealth that produces the inequality of conditions.
There is more wit and point than sense in this.
God grant it!
The edge on these phrases is too sharp to be strong.
Nobles must be peers, or envious.
New notions indeed! And very short lived.
By the court as the insinuation is. but is there proof?
Is this proved?
Thank you, miss!
The indivisible assemblies have done wonders!
They have rallied round this point and made fine work with evils.
The fundamental principle of which is the abolition of all property!
Beccaria says this of every man in all nations.
Why this ambiguity?
When will these instants become hours?
They were forbid by law to trade.
A warning on unnecessary revolutions.
Dissimulation. How could this poor thing avoid the imputation of dissimulation?
The only way in which nobles ever buried their rivalries. And this only by the compulsion of the people.
Partial to the people and versus the court.
Her beauty was chiefly the fiction of flattery.
I never could see it.
She was giddy with vivacity.
Miss Wollstonecraft is too fond of such words.
Where is the evidence of this?
This is no proof.
Those luscious words might have been avoided by a lady.
This is not true. Some thousands of sovereigns in Europe have proved the contrary. But it is the ton to belie princes. Aristocracy is again preparing Barons' Wars under other names. The people I hope will be gainers by them in the end, but the progress is weak.
It is the ton too to belie priests.
This is probably true.
I never heard this in France.
This I never heard.
Corrupt in common with all ranks in Europe: but not more ignorant.
They were debarred from more privileges than they enjoyed.
As often by plebeians as by nobles.
This was a restraint hardly recompensed by his privileges.
The nobles began the innovations.
What is the evidence that the cabinet produced it?
Yes. But this enthusiasm cannot long be kept up.
Is it ascertained whether this measure was offensive or defensive?
The court suspected that Paris meditated the destruction of the King and royal family. Paris suspected the court to intend the dissolution of the National Assembly.
Mutual suspicion is natural and unavoidable in such cases, and rendered incurable by fools on both sides.
I wish this were true: But Alexander and Frederick and Caesar and many others have unhappily proved that freedom is not always superior to discipline.
How can a court in such cases obtain credit for sincerity?
This malignity versus Necker was not merited.
Amiable melancholy questions.
1796. The third essay is now in operation but it is to be feared the three attempts more will not produce the constitution solid as reason.
It is not certain that this cabinet intended more than self defense.
This negligence is evidence that they intended only self defense.
Alas! this has not been always the case. Russians and Prussians have beat Poles, Alexander Athenians, the Romans Germans, all fighting for liberty. This is youthful and female enthusiasm.
Perhaps artfully spread.
Too severe upon the King.
These transports and sympathies are oftener the destruction of liberty than its creators or preservers.
A just sentiment.
May a better arise!
This is always so till universal ruin, distress, and famine convince the people we have been all wrong. This will never do. There must be some power that can unite us, that knows more than we do.
Can there ever be more equality where there is equal wealth? Or less vice and artificial manners? Wealth is the mischief.
Heaven grant it.
The duplicity of democracies, aristocracies and oligarchies is equally great where there is equal wealth and power. Mixed government only can detect these duplicities.
The dissimulation of the King was the constant charge versus Charles I and will be versus all things in like cases.
When will this mistrust be remedied? When the morals are better. When will that be? Perhaps when a great part of the nation is depopulated and arts, manufactures, commerce, and riches destroyed, and then it is to be feared the rage for introducing them again will produce as bad morals and as much distrust as ever.
This intention does not appear.
I saw no more sincerity in any class of people than at courts.
It can never be effected in a great nation of immense wealth and power.
A complication of laws can never be avoided in a great commercial nation. Plato's commonwealth alone can accomplish it only in part.
Miss Wollstonecraft is a deep reasoner.
How shall we mend morals and laws in a rich nation?
Aristides's ambition overturned the constitution of his country.
How came the equality of man sacred but by that revelation that Miss Wollstonecraft endeavors to discredit?
Miss Wollstonecraft is not a whole philosopher.
Pray on what foundation does Miss Wollstonecraft base her morality?
Very bad kings.
Very bad priests.
Would you make the child the judge?
Would you divorce her when she pleased?
Would you have no women because some are incorrigible prostitutes? Would you have no husbands because some are brutal? Would you have no beauty because it often seduces? Would you have no writers because some like yourself are licentious?
Ay! that's no doubt the grievance.
This and the former part are but juvenile and female rants.
If Christianity could not will the abolition of it?
No age has produced more than those committed by the French reformers.
Witness Marat, Robespierre, Collot, etc.
By Louis XVI and Necker.
No The guillotine is more expeditious: so are the drowning boats.
These were heathen gods, Miss Wollstonecraft. Thank Moses and Jesus that you have better notions of divinity.
This jargon you have adopted in all its energy.
But it is religion and government that have effected this.
Now everything is and we see the effect in France.
Now they are to be bound by no tenures and under no restraints. But taxes are almost as bad as tenures and atheism is worse than even Catholicism if we judge by its effects.
A house 100 foot square all in one room would be more simple than if it had chambers and rooms, garrets and cellars, but would not be so comfortable.
I thank you, Miss Wollstonecraft. May we long enjoy your esteem.
One man alone would be free, but give him a wife and children and they must all lose a part of their liberty.
These leaders were generally as ignorant as their followers, and both leaders and followers are still as ignorant as ever of the form of government which is indispensable to preserve liberty in rich commercial states--and neither will learn.
it would be quite as correct to say that the progress of navigation and commerce and manufactures necessitated men to agree to fixed laws of property, and from those laws knowledge and liberty have increased. But in the course, commerce and wealth have destroyed the institutions that preserved morals as well as property and now all nations and all parties, except a very few individuals, appear to be ignorant of the political organizations and equipoises necessary to preserve liberty, property, life or anything.
Pedants, priests, and sycophants will flatter the people when supreme, an oligarchy or aristocracy as readily and as successfully as they will a despot. How then will you make and execute law? That is the question.
The college and the government will always be connected.
Ah! Riches. How will you manage riches? But by laws: and how make and execute laws?
I hope so: but they must learn to know the emulation of their own hearts and how to control it by checks.
Mrs. Wollstonecraft did not understand this great subject.
Unpopular with one and very popular with two. With what delight did two thirds of the nation talk of the vast advantages to the nation in conquering the America! And what pleasure did they anticipate the ruling America with a rod of iron? And how freely did they express this pleasure in anticipation?
This prosperity has been wholly owing to the knowledge of a sure way of making and executing equal laws by a balanced government.
And how many overturns have succeeded?
Arts, sciences, literature were cultivated in every kind to greater extent than in any other nation under heaven by these benumbed faculties.
1812 The effect is now observable enough, all over the globe. Napoleon and George III have made the effects very striking.
Ah! this oblivion of tomorrow will make a strange republic.
Raptures are very dangerous in republics.
Etiquette is one thing: organization is another. The legislative organ may weaken, disgrace, insult or destroy the executive organ. Mirabeau's eloquence could not prove the contrary.
A sacred word! But how shall it be made? And what shall it be?
This is pathetic. These enthusiasms are contagious. But they must be regulated.
These fevers in republics where all should be cool, reasonable, thinking deliberately, calculating, are deleterious distempers.
Patience, moderation, steadiness, reflection, perseverance, firmness are the necessary qualities of Republicans. When will the metamorphosis take place? Will atheism and infidelity produce it? Will stage players and romance writers produce it? Such have for sometime been legislators in France.
The absolute government of Robespierre or of a majority in the National Assembly or Condorcet have gone as far and farther. But how is liberty known and preserved? But by a government of checks.
There is some truth in this.
This is a trait in that character of that family of Bourbon.
Guillotine. But the drowning boats of the Loire and the langrage of lions and the pikes in the prisons were worse than the guillotine.
Does this weak woman expect that jealousy and envy, ambition and vanity will ever disappear?
Will a nation all ever act for the happiness of the nation?
Whence is this morality to come? If the Christian religion and all the power of government has never produced it what will? Yet this mad woman is for destroying the Christian religion!
An allusion to disgusting reports which I often heard in France.
A fact like this is not to be taken on the credit of any historian. The evidence should have been produced.
Mirabeau. I shall not take the character of this man upon the authority of Miss Wollstonecraft.
But what are morals according to Volney? Not even feelings: mere dry rules of convenience.
Ay! Cast all upon despotism and superstition. Are the cruelties of savages owing to despotism and superstition? Allow the truth that all men are ferocious monsters when their passions are unrestrained. Prepare bridles for them.
Was Achilles servile?
The Turks say that anarchy does more mischief in one night than tyranny in twenty years. It is perhaps nearer the truth to say that tyranny and anarchy are equally cruel and destructive.
It was shrewd to throw the blame on the Bastille: but it is curious to compare the cruelties of the last seven years with all the acts of tyranny of Louis XV and XVI through their whole reigns.
Rival lovers, authors, artists have often committed murders. Witness the League and the Fronde.
Then it is not safe to trust a militia. Who then can we trust?
He had then lately read the Defense.
No opportunity is lost to stigmatize Necker.
His capacity was too large to be duped to destruction by either side. He wanted an English constitution which neither King nor nation would agree to.
Natural enough when checks are taken off.
Of how many falsehoods is the page of history cited in proof? The Romans were never more enlightened than in the times of Manius, Silla, and Caesar, and never so unquiet. The French and English were never more enlightened than in these days and never so uneasy.
There will always be such in such times.
Nations! You have all this to go through if you will have revolutions.
The Viscomte de Noailles has said to me, "When I gave up my nobility with one hand I expected to have received it back again with the other!"
Repentance. The views of the commons were as shallow as those of the nobles or the priests.
i.e. Potent enough to destroy itself and the nation!
Oh, foul confession! Tacitus, Rochefoucault, Mandeville all agree with Miss Wollstonecraft or rather Miss with them.
This is all that can be expected of patriotism. But who were these? Maury or Mounier?
What becomes of the perfectibility of man?
And does this foolish woman expect to get rid of an aristocracy? God Almighty has decreed in the creation of human nature an eternal aristocracy among men. The world is, always has been, and ever will be governed by it. All that policy and legislation can do is to check its force by force. Arm a power above it and another below it: or if you will, one on its right hand the other on its left: both able to say to it, when it grows mad, Maniac! Keep within your limits.
It is artful to impute the morals of France to despotism: but it is sophistry. The truth is 'like people like priest ' is as true as the reverse, 'like priest like people.' 'Like people like rulers' is as true as 'like rulers like people'--wealth and commerce have corrupted all Europe nearly alike and governors and governed are all of a piece. Insomuch that elective governments are in danger of destroying the small remains of honor, faith, and principle, and the regeneration will be only a more complete reprobation.
Morals hitherto have been depraved rather than improved and there is cause to fear will grow worse and worse.
Who shall make and who shall execute these laws?
Who and what shall check these flatterers of foibles and gratifiers of weakness? Permanent institutions alone have ever been found sufficient.
Who and what shall check such daring innovators? Permanent institutions alone can accomplish it where principle fails.
Madness was tracing the road to vice, infamy and misery.
Theatrical actors, romance writers, etc.
And English too.
A suspicious multitude will watch every succession of leaders and set up new rivals to supplant them as long as that multitude have the elections of the executive and senate while principle is wanting.
Integrity of conduct will be certain ruin to rulers when their electors are corrupt.
And there perish without hope, as every one has done. No. No.
Emulation in profligacy, hypocrisy, and villainy there will be. Emulation in virtue can only be where virtue is respected.
And by more debasing artifices under the new.
This I believe, unless they adopt a government better balanced. When cunning is balanced versus cunning, the most cunning will triumph. When force is balanced against force, the strongest will prevail. When cunning and force united are balanced against cunning and force united, reason must be armed to mediate between them. There must be an armed neutrality.
The constant fate of all unbalanced parties.
Fayette, Mounier, etc.
Lyons, Loire, prisons, guillotine: an awful warning to the advocates of Needham's legislation.
They deserve not the stigma. They retreated from certain and useless death.
It is passing strange that all these things did not convince Miss Wollstonecraft that the French nation were incapable of a republican government.
Condorcet and Rochefoucault did more harm than Calonne by their idolatry to Franklin, the weak disciple of Needham. Their simple form of government by causing the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent heads of families has produced complicated evils to the conviction of mankind. This experiment is nearly blown out.
To escape a certain and useless death.
Alas! Poor girl! Vanity and selfishness will never vanish while riches remain at least.
Ignorance and audacity would have triumphed and murdered knowledge and modesty if had stayed?
That is if God Almighty had wrought a greater miracle for the delivery of France than he ever did for the preservation of the Hebrews.
The best talents in France were blind disciples of Franklin and Turgot and led the blind to destruction. I mean Rochefoucault and Condorcet.
All that astonished me in the whole revolution was that all the disasters which overwhelmed the empire and destroyed the repose of Europe were not foreseen and foretold by every man of sense in Europe.
She has condemned them more universally than any other historian that I have read vid. Page 291. Selfish principles, love of glory are not absolutely and universally to be condemned. They are to be condemned when they do wrong but not when they do right. But there were gracious and benevolent principles in this business.
Fraternity implies a common father. Men are not brothers without that idea.
Joel Barlow in his History no doubt on this principle will record Tom Paine as the greatest politician of the revolution.
Yet these sacrifices were all made from jealousy, revenge and vain glory according to Miss Wollstonecraft. vid. page 291.
Ah! Tollendal! Thy filial piety is immortal! I have eaten and drunk in thine apartments. I am proud to say thou wert my disciple and convert to the doctrine of branches. But if Guy Fawkes had put a spark to his powder, it would have been too late for the speaker to call the house to order.
Such resentment and envy exists in every nation and bursts out when fomented. Witness Geneva.
The envy and rancor of the multitude versus the rich is universal and restrained only by fear or necessity. A beggar can never comprehend the reason why another should ride in a coach while he has no bread.
Foreseeing the evils that could not exist they hid themselves very wisely.
Verging towards civil war! Was not the country already in the whirlpool and inextricable from the vortex?
Man always has conducted in the same way when his passions were not restrained.
By what means? By the Christian religion and those very distinctions.
Under color of destroying unnatural distinctions and veteran prejudices, they have destroyed all the institutions to which they owe their superiority to Asia and Africa.
Such parasites and advocates have no doubt done much wrong: but the parasites and advocates of the mob have not done less.
Nations in every stage of society, from savages to the most civilized, are too much addicted to war, and the freer they are, the greater their pride, the stronger their resentment, and the more prone to war. Governments are not more disposed to quarrels than people. Witness the Peloponnesian War and all others. England though free has not been less disposed to war than France, Spain, Germany, Prussia, Russia, though despotic.
I shall be indicted for this garrulity of age and I plead guilty in my 77th year.
As the respect for property wears away, his ferocity will return.
As long as property is secure, distinctions will exist. The distinction of wealth is the greatest and most influential distinction. The distinction of birth has been cultivated as its rival.
This commonplace imputation upon courts is scarcely well founded. Nations are as much addicted to war as courts.
What can secure them but government? Steady government. Laws made and executed.
From the example of France especially.
Where was there ever a better body or soul with so much riches?
Wealth, wealth, how shall we prevent thee from producing this effect? Many are like Indians when rum is to be had; they will get intoxicated. The cup of Circe is irresistible to many. How can they take it away if property is sacred and the cup is one's own?
It would require a volume to make a comparison between the moral characters of the two nations, the French and the English. And after all, which to choose would be difficult for me to decide.
This is a true picture.
I shall be thought a visionary, no doubt: but is not the predominant interest of agriculture and the consequent perpetual demand of the nobility of an increase of the army in France, and the predominant interest of commerce and the consequent continued demand of an augmentation of a navy in England, the true secret of the policy of the two nations? Is not this the secret of the conduct and history of Holland? And is not this the secret of the inscrutable conduct of our American Congress? Commerce has vitiated morals in England more than agriculture in France.
If there is any inferiority of morals in France has it not sprung for the power of pardon and absolution in the priests? Religion has corrupted France more than England.
Wherever riches exist, purse-pride will do the same if family pride were extinct.
The anxiety of elections, the irritations of party politics. The insolence of liberty, the severe studies of Republicanism will destroy this ease and grace and good humor.
4. August 1789.
Every word of all these reproaches is true and well founded.
This always happens.
Under what do they crouch now, in 1812?
A wise observation.
Nothing so infallibly gulls the people and nothing more universally deceives them in the end than this pretended disinterestedness.
This is a very curious leaf!
A curious distinction between a philosopher and a politician! And not without sense.
What did they mean by sacred?
These remarks were the most judicious that were made.
An amusing picture.
He has read the Defense. Pity he had not adopted more of it. They have guillotined them as well as expelled them.
He and they, under that Constitution of 1789, were equally interested to establish an hereditary aristocracy: for such only could defend the people versus king or king versus people as was soon found.
The veto was useless in that constitution: So was the royal office. It could resist nothing. It was no check.
A blind and passive instrument he must be under that constitution whether with or without a veto or be guillotined, as we see he was.
The people will be spurred on too fast by the folly or art of some, to the end of time without a check.
Nothing should be instituted for the gratification of any one, all should be for the public good.
This is very exact.
Their absurdity is not yet exhausted, 1796.
And what governments are to succeed? I fear they will be despotisms instead of monarchies. Turkish republics, Algerian, or Moroccan republics. Tyrants cutting off heads at will â€“ without law or judge. If they will not adopt balanced governments, they will be subdued by military tyrannies.
There is too much truth in this. But it might be worse.
Well enough as wit.
What a consistent government? Two armies in battle array. One a single general, the other a whole nation. Daniel in the lion's den. Shadrach etc. in the fiery furnace.
According to Necker, this pride or ignorance prevented the king from agreeing to a constitution like the British. They have since in 1795 adopted three branches: but still unbalanced and undigested. They must come nearer to a balance or still go wade on in blood.
Fine judges of wisdom!
Who were the patriots?
One party in an assembly will ever form an alliance with the multitude out of doors.
One party will always endeavor to increase this torrent.
The vanity of invention and original genius was ridiculously paraded, because all their system is a servile imitation of Needham.
The Proteus Needham, who changed sides like an Arnold had, no doubt traced the progress of reason and calculated the perfectibility of the human faculties. Oh young woman!
With infallible truth and reason.
Wild enthusiast! The progress of anarchy has nearly convinced the world that her system for the highest stage of civilization is a perfect Golgotha.
With great propriety and justice.
Provisions versus the abuse of the legislative part are equally necessary. The efficiency of the executive cannot be derived but by its independence and its independence cannot be maintained without a negative.
Their unbalanced power has made sad havoc.
This hydra has not only 100 heads but millions of millions. They will sprout to all eternity; as long as there are three men left, one at least will be an aristocrat.
There must be some counterpoise. Wealth is not a prejudice, I suppose. More overbearing passions have degraded mankind still more since the Revolution.
They have since voted that two thirds should be reelected, whether the voters would or no.
Self denying ordinances. Robespierre made a curious use of his exclusion from the legislature.
These secret motions are developed with skill and prove the ignorance of the nobility as well as the King and the people.
Another jealousy very natural.
That public has been since converted. 1796.
So it ought to be.
These motives are well timed.
These however were men very unfit to form a constitution of government.
The veto is given as a weapon of defense, to prevent the executive from being run down by the legislature. It is to defend the Constitution. This ignorant woman knows nothing of the matter. She seems to have half a mind to be an English woman; yet more inclined to be an American. Perhaps her lover gave her Lessons.
Without a veto, an aristocracy will concentrate all authority in themselves.
The independence of the executive power is not a bauble nor glass nor beads. Without it there can be no government, no security for life, liberty, or property.
Dress and government are very properly studied together by a lady: but not by a philosopher or statesman.
As to simplicity, my watch would be more simple if it had but one wheel but it would neither tell the minute nor hour, much less repeat both in the night.
Pageantry and foppery will be practiced where there is wealth and that wealth secure.
She who thinks a veto useless knows not the disposition of popular assemblies to usurp and encroach - an unprincipled chief must be felo de se to use his veto but in self defense.
i.e. To prepare two sieves that the flour may be fine. Popular declaimers with a clapping gallery and obsequious multitude at their beck can intimidate popular assemblies into anything from fear.
Eloquence is but a tool. The check must be provided to the lust of power that uses the tool.
The same faction will overrun both assemblies if both are elective.
It will if it is elective. An hereditary second chamber is the only effectual check to faction in the first, in opulent nations with great armies, navies, churches, revenues, i.e. a great patronage.
The orators in both houses will address themselves to the same prejudices, passions, and feelings among the people. i.e. to the same popularity as France will soon see.
But age is as susceptible of fear as youth and popular clamors and applauding or reprobating galleries are as dangerous to an election of old men as young.
But not more courageous and self denying perhaps.
There is wisdom in this.
There is weight in this.
Something like this has been done in 1795 and a great improvement it is, but not yet well matured.
This is sound sense. Why did not all men foresee this? How could Mr. Burke say that the Constitution of the States General was a good constitution? He certainly understood not the Constitution of the States General: nor had he considered the history of France as connected with and springing out of that constitution. A Ligue and a Fronde should have convinced Mr. Burke that an undefined sovereignty could not be a good constitution. The question never was decided [next page]
whether the sovereignty was in the King or in the States General. Besides, it was never decided in the States General whether the concurrence of the three branches i.e. the nobles, the clergy and the commons, or Tiers Etats, was necessary to a sovereign act, i.e. a legislation act.
This rhapsody is full of sense and nonsense. It is true of France to whom she thinks it peculiar, and it would be equally true of England and every other nation of Europe. What shall I say of America? Oh! my country!
What books? From Needham? And Turgot? And Franklin?
The only equality of man that is true was taught by Jesus: do as you would be done by. The same Jesus taught "render to to Caesar the things that are Caesars."
"Whilst", i.e. to all eternity for so it will be.
It is provoking to see Needham's model called a perfect system of government. It was not Hume's.
Civilization may advance to all eternity and Hume's commonwealth will remain a monument of a greater blockhead than he pronounced Mr Locke to be. If ever there existed a wise fool, a learned idiot, a profound deep-thinking coxcomb, it was David Hume. As much worse than Voltaire and Rousseau, as a sober decent libertine is worse than a rake.
What Americans? Not Franklin, for they adopted his system. Not the first Constitution of Pennsylvania, for they adopted it. Not the Constitution of Massachusetts, New York, or the United States, for they rejected them all for Franklin's, Turgot's, i.e. Needham's. Servile idolatry of Franklin, which was the true source, is called self-sufficiency. They are now as servile imitators of De Mably's dialogue with Lord Stanhope. 1796.
Still call it a sublime theory? horrible!
Still call it extension of truth and reason? Oh horrible!
She had read the Defense too, but to little purpose.
It promised precisely what it performed universal ruin. Devastation and massacre. Such was the equal freedom and general happiness it promised and produced!
The clock would be more simple if you destroyed all the wheels and left only the weights or the spring, but it would not tell the time of day. A city would be more simple if you built it all in one house or barracks without departments and turned all the people in together. The solar system would be more simple if all the planets were destroyed and you left only the sun. The universe would be more simple if it were all in one globe. The earth would be more simple if it were all fire, water, air, or earth, but its inhabitants must perish in either case. The laws would be more simple if all reduced to one "Be it enacted that every man, woman, and child shall do their duty." It is silly to be eternally harping upon simplicity in a form of government. The simplest of all possible governments is a despotism in one. A farmer's barn would be more simple if without apartments and he turned in all together his horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs: yet his haymows would be wasted and his stock killed and gored. A ship would be more simple without a rudder, with but one mast and but one sail. Simplicity is not the summum bonum.
It is provoking to see a legislature, a sovereign, in one house called refined theory. It is a savage theory. A barbarous theory. Indians, Negroes, Tartars, Hottentots would have refined more.
They dreaded too the loyalty of the people and their habitual affection for the king, and their superstitious reverence for the Lords anointed. The holy phial at Rheims was still worshipped. That ampule brought down from heaven by the Holy Ghost in the form of a pigeon.
The mischievous power of the nobility would have been rendered nugatory by 3 branches.
It has regenerated poor Geneva and poor Holland and had like to have regenerated America.
There was in France much real patriotism in nobles, clergy, commons, citizens, and countrymen, and in women as well as men.
Gallantry, grace, theatrical pride, vanity comprehend most of the patriotism I fear in France, and I fear in most other nations.
Natives only to reign in France.
It is cruel to call that insincerity which was effect of terror, duress, and necessity.
His escape was the only way to save his life.
The duplicity of the Assembly was greater than that of the King.
These very deep reflections are of little use. They account for nothing. Ignorance in the King, court, nobility, clergy, philosophers, and commons was the true cause of the errors.
Whether the French are the vainest men or not, English melancholy pride would behave as ill or worse in a revolution.
God grant it.
And does this great lady suppose that such interruptions can be prevented or avoided in any great assembly?
The disinterestedness and benevolence of Louis XVI had appeared on many occasions before this.
Necker. The malice of this lady versus Necker is unworthy of her.
The famous Mr. Wilkes told me in London that Mirabeau affected to be ignorant of his own eloquence and to value himself on his depth of thought. But, says Wilkes, he is a very eloquent man and has no depth of thought at all. Wilkes however seems to have mismeasured him.
Not all. Some were very deliberate.
Buried to rise again in more ghastly forms.
Who shall dare to set limits to the power of the British Navy? said Barry.
How soon was this adulation followed by the guillotine?
This was to be the fate of France too. May liberty at length have the glorious birth.
She has been among the economists, who may be right.
Her American husband then has not taught her to condemn a funding system. But the question is, what is the principal? In paper money, is it the nominal value or the real value? In bank bills, is it the real or the current nominal value?
Paper is always a dangerous expedient. It will soon make a well established government an ill established government.
Paper money never was and never will be conducted with any moderation or any sagacity. Neither the monarchy nor the democracy of France, nor the limited monarchy of England nor the representative democracy of the United States have ever discovered either moderation or sagacity on this subject.
Did this silly woman think it possible for any minister or any king or any national assembly to take decided measures? No! They had ignorantly and madly introduced the despotism of old anarchy and old chaos: and must leave it to fate, fortune, or providence to create order out of this confusion. If there had been moderation or sagacity among them, they [next page]
must have seen that a military power alone could effect it. 1812. A military power has effected it. But how? Not much to the satisfaction and suspect of the moderate and sagacious Miss Wollstonecraft.
Why not wholly?
And who could make such arrangements? The angel Gabriel could not have taken such measures in such an assembly with such a court, clergy, nobility, and mob about it. Poor Necker must be the scapegoat.
This is wisdom!
No man appeared in France with half his energy, unless we except Robespierre, till Napoleon.
No talents were sufficient, and never will be.
Why did not all men know this in season? I know of no improvements in morals since the days of Jesus.
Improvements in physical and metaphysical philosophy have made none in the science of politics. This is still the sport of passions and prejudices, of ambition, avarice, intrigue, faction, caprice, and gallantry as much as ever. Jealousy, envy, and revenge govern with as absolute a sway as ever. Enthusiasm and superstition have lost but little of their power.
Moses never saw the promised land. Witty and pretty enough.
I wish they had. I wish we would. They did, and we do. But they labored to transmit their prejudices, and we to propagate and transmit ours.
Are vanity and weakness soon to vanish?
Necker then was not at all to blame.
This era must be the millennium. Amen and amen! Glorious era come quickly! Men must search their own hearts and confess the emulation that is there: and provide checks to it. The gentlemen must be compelled to agree. They never will from reason and free will. Nothing short of an independent power above them able to check their majorities ever can keep them within bounds. It is the interest and true policy of the people, for their own safety, always to erect and maintain such a power over the gentlemen: and such another under them. Power must be opposed to power, force to force, strength to strength, interest to interest, as well as reason to reason, eloquence to eloquence, and passion to passion.
How could it be helped? They could agree in nothing.
How gained it? She was further from it than ever.
How were these truths ascertained? Forty-nine fiftieths of the nation knew no more about them than the King's menagerie. Among the remaining fiftieth part, there were ten thousand different opinions about the meaning, limitations, restrictions, and exceptions with which they were to be understood. Besides, very few of them appear to have held any idea of one of the most essential truths of all, the drunkenness of absolute power in any assembly of nobles, commons, or mixture of both as well as in an emperor or king. The National Assembly had to contend against the prejudices of nine-tenths of the nation, their own people, their own constraints.
There was no practical knowledge. There was no theory in which a tenth part of the nation could agree. I believe there was more principle than there was practice or theory.
Thank you, miss, for your complaisance to America: you are not quite correct, but no matter.
They were men of experience in popular assemblies as well as theorists.
Aims at perfection will always fall short.
None but an idiot or a madman ever built a government upon a disinterested principle. Such pretensions are false and hollow: all hypocrisy. Like Franklin's will and his article in the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights.
Is it not astonishing that the National Assembly did not foresee that the press would be employed against them? That their own creatures would uncreate their creators? That their own tools would cut their own throats? That their own devils would become their tempters first and tormentors afterwards?
The jests, epigrams, and caricatures did not produce the divisions. The divisions were deep and ineradicable. The divisions produced the jests. Jests and libels were thick and terrible from all parties. Of what party were Marat and Tom Paine and their jests?
And yet, the nation had ascertained the most important political truths! A decree against libels would not have restrained the temper of the times. Libels would have been multiplied by it.
Such a decree would have been epigrammatized more than rustic gaits. Is there any nation that will distinguish between the license and the freedom of the press? Not the English. Nor the Americans most certainly. Neither government can do it and the people will not. I had preached this doctrine a whole year in Congress in 1775 and 1776 before I could prevail upon that body to pass my resolution of the 15th of May 1776 recommending that measure to the people of the states.
How was it possible to bring twenty-five millions of Frenchmen Who had never known or thought of any law but the King's will to rally round any free constitution at all? A constitution is a standard, a pillar, and a bond when it is understood, approved, and beloved. But without this intelligence and attachment, it might as well be a kite or balloon, flying in the air.
These machines called constitutions are not to be taken to pieces and cleaned or mended so easily as a watch.
Did this lady think three months time enough to form a free constitution for twenty five millions of Frenchmen? 300 years would be well spent in procuring so great a blessing, but I doubt whether it will be accomplished in 3,000. Not one of the projects of the Sage of La Mancha was more absurd, ridiculous, or delirious than this of a revolution in France per saltum from a monarchy to a democracy. I thought so in 1785 when it was first talked of. I thought so in all the intermediate time, and I think so in 1812.
This woman sees no difficulties: yet she makes her readers see innumerable and insuperable difficulties. She is a most incongruous creature. She shows in every page things to be impossible which nevertheless she pronounces easy.
All their prejudices were still inveterate.
Their ignorance was total.
How was liberty secured by the Declaration of Rights? No more than their innocence and obedience by the Decalogue, i.e. the Ten Commandments. Besides there were not two men in fifty who believed in those rights. There were in France twenty times as many who believed in the King's divine right.
The disputes were between the people and the people more than between the people and the court. Those who were called the people were for but sharing King, court, nobility, clergy, and all the rich; even the National Assembly itself.
I would rather call the natural, civil, and political rights of man the foundations than the pillars. If they are pillars, they must stand upon a firm foundation. Is a declaration then a foundation? No more than a heap of sand or a pool of water. They stand as firmly without a declaration as with, if nothing more is done. Laws and guardians of laws must be made and guardians to watch one another.
A declaration of these rights will have no more influence than the Ten Commandments without laws executed.
An informal bastion of character.
This decree did neither good nor harm.
Vile slander I believe.
Popular commonplace. Plausible trash.
The supreme head of the executive of a great nation must be inviolable or the laws will never be executed. If such heads are liable to civil actions and criminal persecutions and impeachments the government will easily be ruined. The absurdity consisted in establishing an hereditary executive as a balance to a vast legislature in one National Assembly. You might as well constitute an army to determine every movement by a vote of an 100,000 men and give the General a veto upon each vote. A gladiator in a pit without arms to defend himself against an hundred lions.
Mirabeau probably intended to introduce an hereditary senate between the King and the popular assembly.
No infallibility is implied in the maxim and Mirabeau had more sense than Miss Wollstonecraft. The maxim means no more than that the laws will not impute blame to the King but to his ministers because he can do nothing but by ministers. This policy is for the safety of the people.
It was not for the person but the office that this policy was adopted.
The evils arising from exposing a king to prosecutions civil and criminal are infinitely greater than any that can spring from their inviolability.
The Constitution was not made for Louis XVI but for the nation, for future kings and people. Pusillanimity, no doubt. At that time they could do nothing without the King.
Though she writes handsomely, she shows in every page that she sees nothing to the bottom. She is totally ignorant of the subject. But in this ignorance, she is equaled and indeed surpassed by the greatest men of the age.
All this is splendid nonsense.
It was not mistaken lenity in Mirabeau. He saw that absolute power in the Assembly would be absurd: and meant to give the King a bridle to it, not considering that that bridle was but a silken thread or rather a rope of sand, or a cord of burnt tow.
Nothing less than a numerous body of rich, powerful, able, and hereditary senators placed between that Assembly and the King could have saved him or the constitution. It is indeed very doubtful whether that could have done it.
If they had made this proclamation, they could have done no more than they have done: created the empire of Napoleon.
They have laid the foundation of something. An empire. And destroyed many foundations of other governments.
Joseph might have been spared these epithets. His toleration was to his honor.
And still more if republics generally prevail.
This is wicked misrepresentation. The nation could do nothing at this time but in the name of the King. After all her censures of the Assembly, she allows that their conduct might be politically necessary.
If they had made him responsible, they would have impeached, tried, and guillotined him sooner than they did. His veto and his inviolability, sacred as it was, did not save him.
A miserable experiment of a kingly government if she means a limited monarchy.
All the ages of the world and all the history of courts cannot show more impudent and more bloody and cruel and perfidious examples of Machiavellian cunning than the successive leaders of the French conventions and assemblies for the last seven years.
All this reproach upon all the governments of Europe: in what has it ended? Are the people ameliorated in their condition? Is Napoleon milder than the Bourbons?
The Throne of the Bourbons!
Drones and myrmidons! Words very grateful to discontent, meaning the clergy and the armies. But are the drones diminished? and are not the myrmidons increased three fold?
Her enmity to monarchy and hierarchy is as strong as that of the republicans who beheaded Charles I. It would be laudable if she would reveal to us any way of getting rid of them but by substituting greater evils in Europe.
The great advocates for the rights of expatriation ought not to deny it to a king any more than a subject.
The court misjudged the character of the nation as much as the Assembly did. Both were the dupes of their hopes and their credulity.
The army was become revolutionist. The rights of man had been insinuated into them by their officers as well as by citizens. They had a horror of opposing the nation in a struggle for liberty. They thought it impious against fraternity to fire upon their brothers.
Nor had the Assembly discernment to perceive that the people were neither to be led nor driven.
Court and Assembly equally deceived.
There is great truth in this.
Tyrants they will ever be made to be while they exert their sovereignty by simple majorities, whether collectively or by representation.
How correct this history is, I cannot say. It was very ill-judged, but no body of men judges right in such times. It seems as if nothing could be right but flight and that secretly. Had the King resigned his crown, the Assembly would not and could have accepted it. Had he asked leave to retire out of the kingdom and taken an oath never to return, they would not have consented. They could not. It would have ruined them.
They had instilled into the soldiers such ideas of liberty, equality, fraternity, humanity, and tenderness of blood that I do not believe there was a regiment in the army that would have fired upon the people in obedience to their officers; no, not even to defend the King's castle or his life.
Such cries in such cases come out of the ground. Nobody knows where or by whom conjured up. Like the wind they blow where they list. None knows whence they come nor whither they go.
A dreadful circumstance, whether natural or artificial.
"Few knew." There was not one of the poissoniers, not one of the mob of women, who did not know in what liberty consisted as well as Miss Wollstonecraft, Mr. Condorcet, the Duke de la Rochefoucault, Mr. Turgot, or Dr. Franklin. This is said ore rotundo! I know it. But the mask must be torn off from these imposing visages. And I am stark mad or every one of these was an idiot in the science of government.
Equality, a more fascinating watchword, was equally constant and fraternity, a more enchanting watchword still, was equally constant. Liberty flattered the natural savage. Equality flattered all the pride and vanity of civil life, but fraternity added the moral, the Christian feelings, and melted all into time. Here is a miniature of human nature. This fraternity was set up by men who at the same time annihilated marriage and thereby destroyed the relations of father, son, and brother. And this Madame Wollstonecraft was as good a sister as any of those philosophers was a brother.
How long a time does it require to introduce an alteration in a national character?
The female rabble.
This was an universal sentiment among the soldiers as well as the people. A horror of firing at brother. Nay, the doctrine among the people was, to my certain knowledge, if you were attacked by an highwayman who charged at your person with a pistol at your breast, rather than knock him down or blow his brains out or run him through, you ought to deliver him your purse.
This is not peculiar to Paris. Wherever there are parties, mutual blacking of characters prevails.
Every people is found to have this intriguing character when the mob is resorted to as a power in the state. This intriguing character will forever belong to many in all elective governments and in all times when original power is appealed to.
The Bastille used to be a precaution against such characters.
This ought to be ascertained by evidence, not credited merely on suspicion.
In this whole business, the King was evidentially under duress.
Robespierre begins his career: a more remarkable one than that of Orleans or the King.
The people, the nation.
Bickerings between the women and the soldiers.
Quarrel between National Guard and bodyguard.
A cheerful scene.
His whole life was a proof of his sincerity in this declaration.
Happy had it been for France if he had escaped.
Prowl. This is is not the style of a democratic lady.
Russians raping for the Queen.
I often heard that he was hated even by these heroines.
They are oftener boasted than performed.
I dont find that she allows anything but mock patriotism yet. When shall we come to the patriotism?
Why not by their own intemperance and idleness?
The mob will always have courtiers as servile as those of kings.
Wisdom etc. can only be expected from those who are protected: by checks, never from unbridled majorities. The obedience of the people will follow the present power.
They wished as much as the gang to have the King in their power.
By their passions, their avarice and ambition, and their fears.
Happy harmony between the legislators and the people, no doubt it was called.
No doubt a popular national wish, nor foreseeing the consequences.
An assembly in the power and under the influence of Paris expected to act with integrity! Paris dictated all their decrees! The members dared not give offence to the ruling majority in Paris.
Ay. The multitude of Paris were the real government, the ruling power at that time.
Strictly true. The minority by their alliance with Paris overawed the majority.
This trick, however stale, will always be successful.
Many such there always will be.
The minority, by crying out for more freedom, will allways gain the people and undermine the majority.
The nation did not see this. The people of Paris were considered as the nation.
Such will always be the effects of a government in one assembly.
The public mind should always be consulted but not always followed. It should be informed and conducted by rational and honest means.
I hope not.
So be it.
The transports are contagious. The firmest minds can hardly resist.
An observation more profound than common in this work.
They wanted to shine in the eyes of the ladies of Paris, as well as of the multitude.
Such it has been ever since. 1796
I suspected in the former page the motives of Mirabeau and others.
Built Since I left France.
This is the burden of her song. If the world grows wiser, it will grow more sensible of the emulation of the human heart and provide checks to it.
The understanding will only make rivalries more subtle and scientific and the passions will never be prevented; they can only be balanced.
No doubt all those things were contrived.
That will with a whisp has led them into many a black bog. Now De Mably with his plural executive is doing the same. 1796
It was no doubt intended to get the members into the power of the popular party, and Brissot and the other delegates of great cities such as Bordeaux, Lyons, Marseilles, Nantes, etc., not foreseeing the rivalry of cities to which they afterwards fell a sacrifice, were at this time for removing to Paris.
Mounier, Lally, Tollendal, bicamerists despairing of their cause from the terror of a Paris mob, most probably.
Mirabeau, if he was not a single assembly man, was a dupe of his love of the pleasures of Paris and his passion to be admired.
The removal to Paris surrendered the sovereignty to libels and riots.
And secretly hired and taught them.
This was a tyranny as absolute as that they complained of.
They could yet do nothing without him.
Nothing better than this has yet appeared.
The theory they adopted was the weakest that ever has been thought of in the world.
What writers? Rousseau? De Mably? Condorcet? I trow not.
This can only be done by equal laws equally executed.
This polish and improvement is nothing if his passions are not restrained by checks.
Hereditary distinctions among the Greeks and Romans and in all Europe since their times have been essential to the liberty that has been enjoyed.
The distinction of property will have more influence than all the rest in commercial countries if it is not rivaled by some other distinction.
No part of the citizens ought ever to be precluded from a chance of improvement.
The higher class, by insisting on their property and by engaging the lower class to unite with them in this principle, secured most of the liberty enjoyed in Europe.
This code will make knowledge more general, but how much more general is still a problem.
So be it.
This ought to be.
But the question is who shall be the guardian of the law? And what shall secure its efficacy and energy?
After America had first adopted them.
But hereditary wealth first began to demand them. Witness the barons who demanded Magna Charta.
This is much doubted.
This is commonplace cant: but very probably vulgar error.
The parasites of the people will excite war as often as these of courts.
Has the republic lessened these horrors or are her councils better?
Will Europe be more safe from a French republic than from a French monarchy?
So be it.
So be it.
So may it be: and so it may be.
This is not true. They have all a system of policy.
If confusion cannot be otherwise avoided, absolute governments will always be resorted to, for confusion is more intolerable. Let Sam Adams say what he will.
Cities have advanced liberty and knowledge by setting up kings to control nobles.
And the cities have enabled them to do it as a security against their own mobs, as well as against the nobility.
Of the nobles rather.
Freedom of talents, industry, and commerce infallibly produce inequalities as great as any that have existed.
This woman's head runs forever on love.
This observation is new to me, and it may be just.
The French Republicans have imitated this policy.
Rather of commerce.
Paris will perish before a Republican government can be established in France.
This is not so clear.
Since the existence of courts, the barons have been humbled and the People liberated from villainage.
It is wealth and commerce, not courts, that has done this.
Courts are not more splendid now in proportion than the courts of the barons were in the times of deadly feuds.
Ay! Now you come to something to the purpose.
This aristocracy of wealth is now destroying the aristocracy of birth. That is all, unless it should destroy the aristocracy of genius, talents, and merits too.
Thus, money is getting the better both of birth and merit.
Ay! Destroy all arts and manufactures as well as commence and build Plato's Republic.
What sacred feelings! What divine feelings! Is there anything sacred, anything divine! Miss Wollstonecraft?
Thy law the execution on the wheel of two officers for crimes.
Ay! Lay all the blame on the court.
This you learn from Rousseau, but it is not true.
I hope improvements are making but I wish to see the fruit of them before I depend too much upon them.
This word simplicity in the course of seven years has murdered its millions and produced more horrors than monarchy did in a century. As if all excellence and perfection consisted in simplicity. A woman would be more simple if she had but one eye or one breast: yet Nature chose she should have two as more convenient as well as ornamental. A man would be more simple with but one ear, one arm, one leg. Shall a legislature have but one chamber then, merely because it is more simple? A wagon would be more simple if it went upon one wheel: yet no art could prevent it from oversetting at every step.
There can be none more simple than despotism. The triple complication, not simplicity, is to be sought for.
This nasty rhetoric could be learned only in France. By an English lady, it could be only written in the Temple of Cloacina at her devotion to the goddess.